The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, , at sacred-texts.com
The Ophites should hold by right the first place amongst the schools we are considering, for that impartial and acute historian of the Gnosis, Hippolytus, styles them, "The Naaseni who specially call themselves 'Gnostics.' But inasmuch as this deception of theirs is multiform and has many heads (a play upon their name of serpent-followers), like the Hydra of fable, if I smite all the heads at once with the wand of Truth, I shall destroy the whole serpent, for all the other sects differ but little from this one in essentials." He therefore commences his history of the Gnostic heresies, properly so called, with a minute account of this one, illustrated with copious extracts from their text-books; on account of their antiquity and importance bestowing much more of his space upon them than upon any other of their offshoots or competitors.
Their strange-sounding title "Naaseni"--"Followers of the Naas" (the only way in which the Greek, from its want of aspirate letters, could write the Hebrew Nachash, "Serpent")was literally rendered by "Ophites," the name which has ever since served to designate them. They first assumed a definite existence about the same time as the Basilidans, in the middle of the second century, although the elements of the doctrine are derived from a source much more remote. That source was the secret doctrines taught in the various Pagan Mysteries; and likewise certain philosophic theories of the Greeks, although certainly not to the same extent as the learned Hippolytus labours so ingeniously to demonstrate.
In support of this statement I shall proceed to quote from the same Father some curious examples of the method in which the Naaseni pretended to recognise their own "knowledge" in the esoteric religions of antiquity. After quoting a long passage from Pindar about the conflicting theories as to the creation of the First Man * and the names given to him by different nations, the Ophite text-book continues:
"This was the Man brought forth by the Earth spontaneously; but he lay without breath, without motion, without stirring, like a statue; being made after the image of their Adamas above, the subject of their hymns, through the agency of several Powers, concerning each one of whom they narrate a long fable. But in order that the Man above might be obtained, 'from whom is every tribe upon the Earth, and likewise in the Heavens,' there was given unto him a soul, that through this soul the image of the Man above might suffer and be chastened in bondage. As to the nature and source of this soul sent down to animate this image, the Ophite theory is derived not from Scripture, but from the doctrine of the Mysteries. 'The Gospel according to the Egyptians' is their text-book on this point. They premise that the nature of the soul is extremely difficult to investigate by reason of its inherent changeableness, never abiding fixedly in the same place, habits, or passion: and they adopt in this particular the notions of the Assyrian mystics. It is a question with them whether the soul comes from the 'Pre-existing,' or from the 'Self-begotten One,' or from the 'Effusion of Chaos.' They adopt the Assyrian division of the soul as being both one and threefold! For all Nature longs for a soul; the soul is the efficient cause of all things that grow, are nourished and have action. For without a soul, growth and nutrition are impossible; even stones have a soul, for they possess the faculty of growth, and this faculty cannot exist without nutrition. All things therefore in Heaven or Earth, and in the Abyss, are eager after a soul. This soul the Assyrians call 'Adonis,' 'Endymion,' 'Attis'; and hence arose the fable of the love of Venus for Adonis; Venus signifying generation. The love of Proserpine for Adonis means that the soul is mortal if separated from Venus; that is, from generation. When the Moon is enamoured of Endymion, it is Nature herself desiring a more sublime soul. When the Mother of the gods emasculates her lover, Attis, it signifies the Power
above recalling into itself the male energy of the soul. For the Man that is above is of both sexes." [On this account they most vehemently denounce all intercourse with women.] "Attis was deprived of his virility, that is, was divested of his lower, earthly, part, and then translated to the Upper World, 'where is neither male nor female, but a new creature,' the Man above, of two sexes. And to this truth not only Rhea, but all creation, beareth testimony. And to this cloth Paul refer in Romans (i. 20-27): (where they strangely pervert his expression ἀσχημοσύνη, as signifying that heavenly, sublime, felicity, that absence of all form which is the real source of every form). These same verses of Paul, according to them, contain the key to their whole system, and to their 'Mystery of Celestial Pleasure.' For the promise of 'Washing' applies to none save the man who is introduced into the eternal pleasure, 'being washed with the True Water, and anointed with the Unction that cannot be spoken.' The Phrygian Mysteries, equally with the Assyrian, teach the same great truth, when they teach the blessed nature of things past, present, and to come, hidden and yet manifested; the 'true kingdom that is within you.' To the same effect they bring forward the Gospel of Thomas, which has, 'He that seeketh shall find me amongst children from seven years downwards, for in the fourteenth generation, being hidden, I will manifest myself.' [Although in reality this is not a maxim of Christ's, but a maxim of Hippocrates. 'The boy at seven years of age is the half of his father,'--in stature.]
"The Egyptians were, after the Phrygians, the most ancient of mankind, and the first establishers of mysteries. The Ophites explain as follows the esoteric doctrine concerning Isis, and the genital member of Osiris, lost, sought after, and enveloped by her seven times in a black (or dark blue) * vestment. Osiris is the element Water; Nature seven times enveloped in an etherial robe, that is, the seven planetary spheres, stands for Generation and Change, or Creation transformed by the ineffable, formless, imageless, incomprehensible Deity. The same is implied in the words of Scripture, 'The righteous man shall fall seven times, and shall rise again'--his
all signifying the revolutions of the planets put in motion by the All-mover.
"They likewise discourse concerning the essence (or existence) of the 'Seed,' * the final cause of all things that exist, although itself none of them, and yet making and generating all things; or, as they themselves express it, 'I become what I will, and am what I am; therefore I say that moving all, I am myself immovable.' For it continues what it is, making all things, although itself is made nothing of all that exist. To this doctrine the Saviour's words refer, 'Why callest thou me good? One only is good, my Father which is in Heaven, who maketh the sun to shine upon the just and upon the unjust, and sendeth His rain upon the sinners and upon the righteous.' And this is the great and unknown Mystery, hidden amongst the Egyptians and yet manifested, for Osiris standeth in his temple before Isis, having his secret part exposed and pointed upwards, and crowned with all the fruits of the creation. And for this cause, the same member [the Phallus] holds the first position in the most sacred places, being shown forth unto the world, 'like a light set upon a candlestick': it is set up on the housetops, and in the streets, and for landmarks. It is a blessing acknowledged and proclaimed by all, for they call it the 'Bringer of Luck' (ἀγαθηφόρον),--not understanding what they say. This mystery the Greeks got from Egypt, and observe unto this day. For by this symbol they represent Hermes; and they entitle that god 'Logicos,' for he is the interpreter and Creator of things made, in making, and to be made; and he is represented by this his proper symbol. And that this is the Hermes, guide, companion, and author of souls, Homer hath perceived, for he saith (Od. xxiv. 1-2)--
not meaning those of Penelope's suitors, but of us the awakened and admonished.
we have fallen, namely, from the Primal Man, the Adamas
that is above, into this vessel of clay, and become the servants of the Demiurgus, of Ildabaoth, the God of Fire, the Fourth in number (for by this name they call the creator of the 'World of Species,' κοσμὸς ἰδικός).
"In his hand his wand Beauteous, all golden, by whose potency the eyes of mortals he at pleasure lulls to sleep, or rouses others from their slumber. For He is the sole author of life and death, therefore is it written, 'Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron.' But Homer wishing to embellish the incomprehensible reality of the nature of the Logos, has given to him a rod of gold, not of iron. Some He casts into slumber, others he awakens, and makes them aware of their condition: 'Awake thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' For this is the Christ that is figured within all the sons of men by the unfigured Logos. This is the great and profound mystery of the Eleusinian rites, the cry, ϒΕ ΚϒΕ, Rain! Conceive! All things are subject unto Him, for their sound is gone forth unto all lands.' And again, this is the hidden sense of Homer's
[paragraph continues] That is, the souls in a continuous line, as the poet goes on to express by the simile--
[paragraph continues] That is, the souls fallen down from the Rock above, namely from the Adamas. This is the Adamas, the chief corner-stone, 'which is made the head of the corner,' because in the head is placed the formative substance, the brain, out of which all generation proceeds. 'I will set the Adamant in the foundations of Zion' is allegorical for setting the figure of the Man (in the soul). And the text, 'This Adamas is firmly held by teeth in the wall,' is the Inner Man that is signified, the stone cut without hands,' which hath fallen down from the Adamas above into this earthly potter's vessel, this figure of forgetfulness. *
"The souls follow Hermes, or the Logos.
[paragraph continues] That is, he leads them to the everlasting places where no ill comes; for whither were they going?
"This 'Ocean' signifies the generation of gods and the generation of men, ever tossing in a perpetual flow and ebb. When it runs downwards it is the generation of men; when it tosses itself upwards against its boundary, * the rock Leucas, it is the generation of gods. 'For this cause,' saith the Wise One, 'I have said ye are gods and the children of the Most Highest, when ye shall make haste to flee out of Egypt, and shall come beyond the Red Sea into the Wilderness'; that is, out of this earthly mixture (or confusion) up to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living. 'But if ye return into Egypt (or, into this earthly nature) ye shall die.' 'Egypt' being the prison of the body. This is the mighty Jordan which, flowing downwards, hindered the flight of the Children of Israel; but which Jesus (i.e. Joshua) turned, and made to flow upwards."
"Following guides like those just cited, these very strange fellows the Gnostics (observes Hippolytus), the inventors of a new art of grammar (or, criticism), extol beyond all expression their prophet Homer, who hath foreshown these doctrines unto them: and, by seducing those ignorant of the Holy Scriptures into such-like fancies, they make fools of them in the manner described."
"Another of their maxims is that 'Whoso saith that the All cometh from One is grossly deceived; but he that saith that the All cometh from Three, hath the true key to the system of the universe. For there is one nature of the Man that is above, Adamas; one mortal here below; one without a king, the generation existing up above, where is Mariam the Sought-After, and Jothor the great and wise, and Sephora, she that
seeth, and Moses, whose offspring is not in Egypt, for his sons were born unto him in the land of Midian. Neither hath this truth escaped Homer, for he sings--
[paragraph continues] For it is necessary that the Great Ones (τὰ μεγέθη) should be expressed in words, but in such wise that "hearing men may not hear, and seeing they may not perceive." For if the Great Ones were not uttered, the world could not exist. These three most sublime names are, KAVLACAV, SAVLASAV, ZEESAR. Kavlacav is the name of the Adamas who is above; Savlasav of him who is below, mortal; Zeesar of the Jordan that floweth upwards. This is He that pervades all things, being at once male and female, named by the Greeks Geryon, as having three bodies and flowing out of the Earth: whom the Greeks also call "The Moon's celestial horn," because he has mixed and tempered all things [a play upon the similar sounding words κέρας and κρᾶσις]. "For all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made, and what was made in him is Life." This Life is the life unspeakable, the generation of the Perfect Man, unknown to former ages. The "Nothing" that was made without him is the World of Species, for that world was made without him by the Third and by the Fourth One. * This is the Cup (condy) of Joseph, "out of which the king doth drink and use divination." Of this also do the Greeks (Anacreon) sing in Bacchic frenzy,
[paragraph continues] Here Anacreon's dumb cup utters the unspeakable mystery, for it tells him to what country he shall belong, that is, whether to the Spiritual or to the Carnal world. This also is the "Water changed into wine," at the famous wedding at Cana, when Jesus manifested the kingdom of Heaven--that kingdom which is
hidden within every man, like the leaven sufficient for the three measures. Here likewise is the unspeakable secret of the Samothracian Mysteries, which none but we the "Perfect" are able to understand, for the Samothracians expressly mention the Adamas who is above--the Primal Man. For in the Temple of the Samothracians stand two naked men, having their hands and their genital members elevated towards heaven, * like the Hermes of Cyllene. These two statues represent the Primal Man, and the Spiritual Man after he is "born again, and made like unto Him every whit."'
"This is the true sense of the Saviour's words, 'Unless ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven'; and 'Though ye shall drink of the cup that I drink of, whither I go ye shall not be able to enter.' For He knew the nature of His disciples, and that every one must abide in his own nature. For out of the Twelve Tribes he chose the Twelve Disciples; for which cause not all who heard their teaching received or understood the same; for that which is not according to Nature is contrary to Nature. Him (Adamas) do the Phrygians name 'Corybas,' for he descends from the Head (cory) who is above, the Supernal Brain; and permeates the All in a manner incomprehensible. And, as the Prophet hath it, 'Ye have heard his voice, but ye have not beheld his form'; that is, the Image coming down from the Formless One above no one knows, for it is hidden within an earthen vessel. This is as the Psalmist hath it: 'The God dwelling in the great
flood, and crying aloud out of the waters of the sea'; that is, He cries aloud out of the multiform confusion (or, medley) of things mortal unto the Formless One who is above, 'Save my First-born from the lions.' [And in the same sense do they interpret all the similes concerning 'waterfloods,' and the promises of the Deity's never forgetting His chosen people.]
"The Ascension or Regeneration, that is, the conversion of the Carnal Man into the Spiritual, is thus explained by means of a curious perversion of words taken from different Psalms: 'Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people, He is the King of Glory, mighty in battle.' Battle signifies the war in your members ever being waged within this earthly creature made up of conflicting elements. This is the gate seen by Jacob as he was journeying into Mesopotamia; that is, the young man growing up out of the boy, and Mesopotamia signifies the stream of the Great Ocean which flows out of the middle of the Perfect Man. The same deity is called by the Phrygians PAPA, because He appeased the confusion and chaotic tumult which prevailed before His coming. For this name is the unanimous cry παῦε, παῦε, * of all things in Heaven, in Earth, and under the Earth, calling upon Him to appease the discord, and to 'send peace to men that were afar off'--that is, to the earthly and mortal--'and to them that were near' that is, to the spiritual and perfect. He is likewise called 'dead' by the Phrygians, inasmuch as he is buried within the tomb of the body; to which circumstance also apply the words, 'Ye are whited sepulchres, full of dead men's bones and all manner of uncleanness; because the Living Man doth not dwell within you.'
"'The dead shall rise from their graves' signifies that the Earthly Man shall be born again spiritual. Unless they pass
through this 'Gate' all continue dead, but him that hath passed through the Phrygians call a god, for he becomes a god, having passed through the Gate into Heaven. Paul means the same by his 'being caught up into the third heaven, and hearing unutterable things.' Again, 'the publicans and harlots shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven before you,' where publicans means the Gentiles 'upon whom the ends of the world have come'; * where 'ends' are the seeds of the universe scattered about by the Formless One, as is set forth by the Saviour, 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,' declaring that none but the perfect Gnostics can comprehend this mystery.
"Those beloved by the Formless One are Pearls in this vessel of clay; and to them refers the precept, 'Cast not that which is holy to the dogs; neither throw your pearls before swine;' meaning sexual intercourse with women--an act fit only for dogs and swine. He is also called Αἰπόλος by the Phrygians, not because he really kept flocks, as the profane fancy, but because he is ὁ αἰεὶ πολῶν, 'he that ever turns' the universe in its due revolutions, whence the phrase, the 'poles' of heaven. And Homer (Od. iv. 384-85) says--
"He is likewise styled 'Fruitful,' because 'the children of the widow shall be more than those of her that hath a husband;' that is, the spiritual who are born again, being immortal, are in number more (though but few of them are born into this life) than the carnal, who, in spite of their present multitude, do all perish utterly at last.
"The knowledge of the Perfect Man is very deep, and hard to be attained to. 'The beginning of perfection is the knowledge of man, but absolute perfection is the knowledge of God.' He (Adamas) is designated by the Phrygians as, the 'Green Wheat-ear cut off'; on this account, at the Eleusinian rites, the initiated hold up in silence to the Directors the wondrous mystery, the green ear of wheat. This wheat-ear is the Perfect Son descended from the Adamas above, the Great Giver
of light, like the Hierophant himself. This latter is not actually castrated like Attis, but emasculated by the use of hemlock, so that he despises all carnal pleasure; and whilst celebrating the mysteries amidst blazing torches, he cries aloud, 'The holy Brimo hath borne a sacred son, Brimos'--alluding to the Spiritual Birth. The rites are therefore named 'Eleusinian' and 'Anactorian,' from the Greek words signifying Coming and Ascending. This is what the initiated themselves declare concerning the mysteries of Proserpine; and of the road leading the defunct down to her the poet (Amphis) hath--
"These are the Lesser Mysteries, of earthly origin, 'in which men ought to rest themselves for a while, and then proceed to the Greater Mysteries,' that is, to heavenly regeneration.
"The Father of the All is furthermore called by the Phrygians 'Amygdalus,' the Almond Tree; not meaning the natural tree, but the Pre-existing One, who, having within himself the Perfect Fruit pulsating and moving about in his depths, tore open (διήμυξε) his bosom, and brought forth the Invisible, Ineffable Son, of whom we are treating. * He is moreover denominated the 'Piper,' because that which is born is the harmonious Spirit [or, breath, the Greek affording no distinction between the two senses of the word.] The Spirit is likewise called the Father, and the Son begotten by the Father; for the worship of the Perfect is not carnal, but spiritual: therefore, 'Neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain shall ye worship any more.
"This is the mystery of the Incomprehensible One, furnished with innumerable eyes, whom all Nature longeth after in different ways. [Perhaps an allusion to the Brahminical figure of Indra, god of the heavens.] This is the 'Word of God,' that is, the
word of the declaration of his great power: 'Wherefore it shall be sealed up, and veiled, and hidden, lying in the dwelling-place, where is established the Root of all the Æons, Powers, thoughts [Platonic Ideas], gods, angels, spirit-messengers that are, that are not, begotten, unbegotten, comprehensible, incomprehensible, of the years, months, days, hours, moments, whence Time begins to grow and increase by particles. For a moment (or geometrical point), itself being nothing, made of nothing, indivisible, grows by accretion into a magnitude incomprehensible.' This is the Kingdom of Heaven, the grain of mustard seed, the Indivisible Point existing within every one, but only known unto the Spiritual Man.
"'There is neither speech nor language, but their voices are heard amongst them,' signifies that whatever men say or do, has all a spiritual meaning to the Perfect; even the actors in the theatre utter nothing without the intervention of the Deity. For when the audience are seated, and the actor comes upon the stage, clad in a gorgeous robe and twanging his lyre, he sings thus a great mystery without knowing what he says--'Whether thou be the offspring of Saturn, or of blessed Jove, or of the mighty Rhea, hail! Thee Assyrians call the thrice-desired Adamas; whilst Egypt styles Thee Osiris; the Greeks in their wisdom (esoteric knowledge) the Moon's Holy Horn; the Samothracians, the venerable Adamnas; the Hæmonians, Corybas; the Phrygians, at one time, Papa, the Dead One; at another, the God, or the Barren One, or the Green Wheat-ear cut off; or him whom the fruitful Almond Tree poses the man playing on the pipe.' He is the multiform Attis, whom they thus describe in their hymns: 'I will sing of Attis, the favourite of Rhea, with the clashing of cymbals, the bellowing of the Idæan pipe of the Curetes, and will intermingle the sound of Phœbus’ lyre. Evoe! Evau! Thou that art like unto Pan, unto Bacchus, thou Shepherd of the white stars!'
"For these" (adds Hippolytus) "and other such like reasons, these Ophites frequent the Mysteries of the Great Mother, fancying that by means of what is done there they can see through the whole secret. But in reality they have not the least advantage over other people, except that they are not
emasculated, and yet they act as though they were. For they most strictly forbid all intercourse with women, and in every other respect, as we have fully described, they do the same things as the eunuchs, the regular priests of Rhea."
After giving an account of their worship and glorification of the Serpent (which I shall extract when treating of the Agathodæmon religion) Hippolytus thus continues:--"The foregoing is a sample of the insane, absurd, and interminable theories of the sect. But to show up, as far as lies in our power, their unknowing 'knowledge,' the following hymn * is here inserted, as containing a summary of the whole creed:--
"This, therefore, is the system (or pretension) of the Naaseni, who designate themselves 'the Gnostics.' But this
deception of theirs being multiform, and having many heads like the Hydra of fable, if I smite all the heads at a single blow with the wand of Truth, I shall destroy the whole serpent, for all the other sects differ but little from this in essentials."
Hippolytus has not given a connected analysis of the Ophite system; he probably deemed it superfluous labour, as having been already done with much exactness by Irenæus in his great work, to which the former occasionally refers as being then in everybody's hands. To the Bishop of Lugdunum, therefore, we must apply for this information, which will be found given at much length in Chapters xxxi.–xxxiii. of the First Book of his History. He states that the Ophites, like other Gnostics, rejected the Old Testament altogether as the work of a subordinate divinity, and containing nothing of the revelations of their Sophia, or Divine Wisdom; whilst they held that the New, although originally of higher authority, had been so corrupted by the interpolations of the Apostles as to have lost all value as a revelation of Divine truth. They drew the chief supports of their tenets out of the various "Testaments" and similar books then current, and ascribed to the Patriarchs and the most ancient Prophets, for example, the book of Enoch.
The primary article of this doctrine was the Emanation of all things from the One Supreme, long utterly unknown to mankind, and at last only revealed to a very small number capable of receiving such enlightenment. Hence he is named Bythos, "Profundity," to express his unfathomable, inscrutable nature. Following the Zoroastrian and the Kabbalistic nomenclature they also designated Him as the "Fountain of Light," and "The Primal Man," giving for reason of the latter title that "Man was created after the image of God," which proved the nature of the prototype.
The Beginning of Creation, that is, the Primal Idea, or Emanation, was the "thought," Ennoia, of Bythos, who bears also the significant name of Sige, "Silence." This Idea being the first act of creation of the Primal Man, is therefore properly denominated the "Second Man." Ennoia is the consort (compare the Hindoo Darga) of Bythos, and she produced Pneuma, "the
[paragraph continues] Spirit," who, being the source of all created things, is entitled "the Mother of all living," and likewise Sophia, the wisdom from on high. As the mother of all living, Sophia is the medium between the intellectual and material worlds. In consequence of this, when Bythos and Ennoia, charmed with her beauty, furnished her with the divine Light, Sophia produced two new Emanations--the one perfect, Christos, the other imperfect, Sophia-Achamoth. (This scheme resembles the Buddhistic; Bythos answering to the First Buddha; Sige, Sophia, Christos, Achamoth, Ildabaoth, to the successive other Five.)
Of these emanations Christos was designed for the guide of all who proceed from God; Achamoth, for the guide of all proceeding out of matter; nevertheless, the Perfect One was intended to assist and lead upwards his imperfect sister.
Furthermore, the Spirit rests upon Chaos, or the waters of Creation, which are Matter, Water, Darkness, the Abyss. This Chaos was devoid of all life, for life proceeds ultimately from the Supreme, who has no connection whatever with Matter. Neither could his purely intellectual daughter, Sophia, act directly upon it; she therefore employed for agent her own emanation, Achamoth, whose mixed imperfect nature fitted her for that office.
This First Tetrad, Bythos, Ennoia, Sige, Sophia, were in the meantime creating Ecclesia, the Idea of the Holy Church. But the imperfect Achamoth upon descending into Chaos, lost her way there, and became ambitious of creating a world entirely for herself. She floated about in the Abyss, delighted at imparting life and motion to the inert elements, until she became so hopelessly entangled in Matter as to be unable to extricate herself from its trammels. In this condition she produced the creator of the material world, the Demiurgus, Ildabaoth.
But after this event, Achamoth feeling the intolerable burden of her material part, after long and repeated efforts, at length struggled forth out of Chaos. She had never belonged to the Pleroma, but she attained to the "Middle Space"; where she entirely shook off her material part, and determined to erect a barrier between the World of Intelligence and the World of
[paragraph continues] Matter. Ildabaoth, "Son of Darkness," creator and tyrant of the Lower World, followed the example of Bythos in producing subordinate Emanations. First of all he generated an Angel in his own likeness; this Angel a second; and so on up to the number of six. These are all reflexions one of the other; but they inhabit, with their father, Ildabaoth, seven different regions; to which the Middle Space, dominion of their origin Achamoth, forms the eighth. Their names are Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi, Ouraios, Astaphaios. They became the Genii of the seven worlds, or planetary spheres. The first four names are the mystic titles of the God of the Jews--degraded thus by the Ophites into appellations of the subordinates of the Creator; the two last signify the forces of Fire and Water.
In this degradation of the names most sacred in the Jewish theology, is clearly to be recognised, the very teaching of those "dreamers" reprobated by Jude, v. 8 for despising "Dominion," and speaking evil of "Dignities." For "Dominion" is the "Empire" in the Sephiroth (see page 35) to which the Kabbala assigned the title Adonai. Now we find here the Ophites making Adonai the third son of Ildabaoth, a malevolent Genius, and like his father and brethren, the eternal adversary of the Christ. The "Dignities" mean the other personages of the Sephiroth, similarly dishonoured by the new doctrine. Jude shows plainly whom he had in view by contrasting in the next verse the audacity of these "blasphemers" with the respect shown by the Archanged Michael towards his opponent on account of his angelic nature, however fallen from his high estate. By a most singular coincidence (much too close to have been merely accidental), Jude's censure, nay, his very expressions are repeated by Peter in his second Epistle (ii. 10). If either of these Epistles were really written by the Apostles whose names they bear, these passages bring to light the very early existence of this school of Gnosticism, which indeed may have been founded before the promulgation of Christianity. But to return to the operations of Ildabaoth. Besides the Spirits above mentioned, he generated Archangels, Angels, Virtues, and Powers presiding over all the details of the creation. Ildabaoth was far from being a pure spirit; ambition
and pride dominated in his composition. He therefore resolved to break off all connection with his mother, Achamoth, and to create a world entirely for himself. Aided by his own Six Spirits, he created Man, intending him for the image of his power; but he failed utterly in his work, his Man proving a vast, soulless monster, crawling upon the earth. The Six Spirits were obliged to bring their work again before their father, to be animated: he did so by communicating the ray of Divine Light which he himself had inherited from Achamoth, who by this loss punished him for his pride and self-sufficiency.
Man, thus favoured by Achamoth at the expense of her own son, followed the impulse of the Divine Light that she had transferred to him, collected a further supply out of the creation with which it was intermingled, and began to present not the image of his creator Ildabaoth, but rather that of the Supreme Being, the "Primal Man." At this spectacle the Demiurgus was filled with rage and envy at having produced a being so superior to himself. His looks, inspired by his passions, were reflected in the Abyss, as in a mirror, the image became instinct with life, and forth arose "Satan Serpent-formed," Ophiomorphos, the embodiment of envy and cunning. He is the combination of all that is most base in matter with the hate, envy and craft of Spiritual Intelligence. Out of their normal hatred for Judaism, the Ophites gave this being the name of Michael, the guardian angel of the Jewish nation according to Daniel (v. 21). But they also called him Samiel, the Hebrew name of the Prince of the Devils.
In consequence of his spite at the creation of Man, Ildabaoth set to work to create the three kingdoms of Nature, the Animal, the Vegetable, and the Mineral; with all the defects and evils they now exhibit. Next, in order to regain possession of the best of things, he resolved to confine Man within his own exclusive domain. In order to detach him from his protectress Achamoth, and from the celestial region, he forbade him to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, which could reveal the mysteries and confer on him the graces from above. But Achamoth, in order to defeat his scheme, sent her own Genius, Ophis, in the form
of a serpent to induce him to transgress the commandment, and so to break the Law of Jealousy. Though not so stated, it would appear that the serpent-form was put on by Achamoth's minister in order to escape the vigilance of Ildabaoth, under the disguise of his offspring Satan, Ophiomorphos.
Enlightened by eating the forbidden fruit, Man became capable of comprehending heavenly things. Nevertheless Ildabaoth was sufficiently powerful to revenge himself, which he did by shutting up the First Pair in the prison-house of Matter, that is, in the body, so unworthy of his nature, wherein Man is still enthralled. Achamoth, however, continued to protect him: she had extracted from his composition and absorbed into herself the divine Spark of Light; and ceased not to supply him therewith, and defend him in all his trials.
And of this there was full need. A new enemy had come into the field against Man, the Genius Ophis whom Ildabaoth had seized, and punished for his share in the affair of the Tree of Knowledge, by casting him down into the Abyss; and who, contaminated by his immersion in Matter, became converted into the exact image of his fellow-prisoner, Ophiomorphos. The former was the type, the latter the antitype, and the two are often confounded together. Thus we get a third dualism into the scheme. Sophia and Sophia-Achamoth, Adam-Kadmon and Adam, Ophis and Ophiomorphos. Ophis, at first Man's friend, now began to hate him as the cause (though innocent) of his own degradation. With Ildabaoth, and his Sons, he continually seeks to chain him to the body, by inspiring him with all manner of corrupt desires, more especially earthly love and the appetites. But Achamoth supplies Man with the divine Light, through which he became sensible of his Nakedness, that is, of the misery of his condition of imprisonment in this body of death, where his only consolation is the hope of ultimate release.
But the seductions of Ildabaoth and his crew gained over all the offspring of Adam, except Seth, the true type of the Spiritual Man: and his posterity kept alive the seed of Light and the knowledge of divine Truth throughout all the generations following. When they in the Wilderness received
the commandments and institutions of Ildabaoth and his Sons, the Planetary Genii, and afterwards the teaching of the Prophets, inspired from the same source, Achamoth infused into their predictions something higher, comprehended not even by their Lord, and made them preach the advent of the Primal Man, the eternal Æon, the heavenly Christ. [The same notion was a favourite one with the Mediæval Cathari.]
Achamoth was so afflicted at the condition of Man that she never rested until she had prevailed on her mother, the celestial Sophia, to move Bythos into sending down the Christ to the aid of the Spiritual Sons of Seth. Ildabaoth himself had been caused to make ready the way for his coming through his own minister, John the Baptist; in the belief that the kingdom Christ came to establish was merely a temporal one: a supposition fostered in him by the contrivance of Achamoth. Besides inducing him to send the Precursor, she made him cause the birth of the Man Jesus by the Virgin Mary; because the creation of a material person could only be the work of the Demiurgus; not falling within the province of a higher power. As soon as the Man Jesus was born, the Christ, uniting himself with Sophia, descended through the seven planetary regions, assuming in each an analogous form, thus concealing his true nature from their presiding Genii, whilst he attracted into himself the sparks of the divine Light they still retained in their essence. [These "analogous forms" are explained by the fact that the Ophite Diagramma figured Michael as a lion, Suriel as a bull, Raphael as a serpent, Gabriel as an eagle, Sabaoth as a bear, Erataoth as a dog, Ouriel as an ass.] In this manner the Christ entered into the man Jesus at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan. From this time forth Jesus began to work miracles; before that He had been entirely ignorant of his own mission. But Ildabaoth at last discovering that he was subverting his own kingdom upon earth, stirred up the Jews against him, and caused him to be put to death. When he was on the cross, the Christ and Sophia left his body, and returned to their own place. Upon his death the Two took the Man Jesus, abandoned his Material body to the earth, and gave him a new one made out of the Æther. Thenceforth he consisted
merely of soul and spirit, which was the cause why the Disciples did not recognise him after his resurrection. During his sojourn upon earth of eighteen months after he had risen, he received from Sophia that perfect knowledge, the true Gnosis, which he communicated to the small portion of the Apostles who were capable of receiving the same. Thence, ascending up into the Middle Space, he sat down upon the right hand of Ildabaoth although unperceived by him, and there he is collecting all souls that have been purified through the knowledge of Christ. When he shall have collected all the Spiritual, all the Light, out of Ildabaoth's empire, Redemption is accomplished and the end of the world arrived: which means nothing else than the reabsorption of all Light into the Pleroma from which it had originally descended.
The sect were divided in their opinions as to the nature of Ophis. Although agreed that this genius was in the beginning the minister of Achamoth, the Ophites of Theodoret's time held that he had been converted into the enemy of Man; although by inducing him to break the commandment of Ildabaoth he had proved the final cause of Man's deliverance from his power. But all these nice distinctions, and complicated machinery of Redemption were the invention of the later schools: unknown to the sect described by Hippolytus. For the primitive Ophites, retaining the Egyptian veneration for the Agathodæmon, regarded their serpent, The Naas, as identical with either Sophia, or the Christ. That writer says positively "the Naas (Hebrew, Nachash) is the only thing they worship, whence they are denominated Naaseni. Even two centuries later when Epiphanius wrote, they employed a living tame serpent to encircle and consecrate the loaves that were to be eaten at the Eucharistic supper. Again Tertullian has (In Præscript.) "Serpentem magnificant in tantum ut etiam Christo præferant"--a passage that suggests that their ophis was connected with the antique Solar Genius of the Pharaonic religion. It was a peculiarity of the Egyptians that, like the present Hindoos, they were divided, as it were, into sects, each of which adopted some one deity out of the Pantheon for the exclusive object of worship, paying no regard to all the
rest. As in modern Hindooism Vishnu and Siva have engrossed the religion of the country, so in the Egypt of the first Christian century Anubis and Cnuph had become the sole objects of Egyptian veneration, as the monuments hereafter to be reviewed will abundantly evince.
To establish the identity of their Ophis with the Saviour, his followers adduced the words of St. John, "For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." All this proves that the section of the Ophites which regarded the serpent as evil by its nature, had been led astray from the primitive doctrine of their sect by the prevailing Zoroastrian and Jewish notions upon that subject. The creed of the original Gnostics, the Naaseni, gave a very different view of the nature of the serpent considered merely as a type; a fact which shall be established in the section on the Agathodæmon worship.
Epiphanius gives the following abstract of their doctrine to explain their reverence for the serpent as the true author of divine knowledge. "The Supreme Æon having produced other Æons, one of these, a female, named Prunicos (i.e. Concupiscence), descended into the waters of the abyss: whence, not being able to extricate herself, she remained suspended in the Middle Space, being too much clogged by matter to return above, and yet not sinking lower where there was nothing cognate to her nature. In this condition she produced Ildabaoth, the God of the Jews; and he in his turn seven Æons or Angels, who created the seven heavens. From these seven Æons Ildabaoth shut up all that was above, lest they should know of anything superior to himself. The seven Æons then created Man in the image of their Father, but prone, and crawling upon earth like a worm. But the Heavenly Mother, Prunicos, wishing to deprive Ildabaoth of the power wherewith she had unadvisedly invested him, infused into Man a celestial spark--the soul. Straightway man rose up on his feet, soared in mind beyond the limits of the eight spheres, and glorified the Supreme Father, Him who is above Ildabaoth. Hence Ildabaoth, full of jealousy, cast down his eyes upon the lower layer of Matter, and begat a Virtue, whom they call his Son. Eve,
listening to him as the Son of God, was easily persuaded to eat of the Tree of Knowledge." Such is the brief summary of Ophite tenets, as given by Epiphanius. The details of the elaborate system given in the preceding pages are extracted from Theodoret who flourished half a century later.
82:* "But the Libyans held that Iarbas was the first-born of men; he who, rising up out of their droughty plains, first gathered the sweet dates of Jove. And even in our day, the Nile fattening the mud of Egypt, p. 83 and giving life to things clothed with flesh, through his moist heat breeds living creatures. The Assyrians pretend that the First Man arose in their country, Oannes, the eater of fish; but the Chaldeans say he was Adam."
84:* Μέλας has both these meanings.
85:* The "Seed of the World" in the Basilidan system, as already explained (p. 73).
86:* Meaning the Body, in which the Inner Man imprisoned has lost all recollection of leis primal source.
87:* The Basilidan "Boundary Spirit," or Holy Ghost (p. 76).
88:* Ildabaoth, the God of Fire.
89:* A valuable notice of the type under which the Cabiri were represented in this the most venerated of all the Grecian sanctuaries. It is curiously illustrated by Ficoroni's bronze group, figured in his "Memorie di Labico," and given to the Kircherian Museum. A female, half-draped in a star-spangled robe, rests her hands on the shoulders of twin youths, similarly arrecti, with the ears and standing-up hair of fauns, one holds a horn, the other the handle of a vase. The base is inscribed in very archaic letters--
DINDIA MAGOLNIA FIEA DEDIT NOVIOS PLAVTIOS MED ROMAI FECID
where it will be seen that Dindia uses the metronymic after the Etruscan fashion. This group, six inches high, served for handle to the lid of a cylindrical pyxis, two palms deep, resting on three lion's claws. With it was found a mirror, the back engraved with the combat of Pollux and Amycus, LOSNA with her crescent standing in the middle, the names in regular Etruscan.
90:* A subsequent thousand years' experience of the blessings of ecclesiastical rule has furnished Walter de Mapes with a more humorous etymology for this title--
91:* A play upon τελώναι and τέλη.
92:* Some lurking tradition of this mystery may have suggested the machine of the almond (machina della mandola) containing the Archangel Gabriel, in the spectacle of the Annunciation constructed by Brunelleschi for the church of Sta. Croce. See Vasari's detailed account of this remarkable example of a miracle-play.
94:* This hymn is written in anapæstic verses; its text is in many places hopelessly corrupted by the transcriber. I have therefore often been obliged to conjecture the original sense.
94:† An enunciation of the fundamental doctrine "All is Three," already stated by Hippolytus.
94:‡ That is, will disclose to the faithful the different figures of the Archons of the lower spheres, a promise fulfilled at much length by the author of the Pistis-Sophia.