Category Archives: Egypt

The Hidden History of Greco-Roman Vegetarianism

If asked about ancient Greece or Rome, the average American conjures images of famous battles, myths, and Hollywood movies. However, overlooked by the majority of modern Americans is the hidden history of ancient Greek and Roman vegetarianism and the ageless debate upon what justice is due animals. Many people assume that the predominant omnivorous diet has been the accepted diet from past to present, but history tells a different story. In addition, past philosophers reveal a fierce debate not only over diet, but about the notion of justice and to whom it applies. The debate has not ended, but in order to know where the future of this debate should go, this past should be known by all participants.

Plato

Before diving into the teachings of the Greek and Roman philosophers, it is important that the Greek and Roman diet be understood. For the Greeks and Romans, cereals, vegetables, and fruit composed much of their diet. The meat that was consumed was usually fish, fowl, or pigs, which were the cheapest and most convenient animals people could kill for their flesh. However, only the wealthiest citizens could afford to eat large amounts of meat on a regular basis.

The first philosopher in the West to create a lasting vegetarian legacy was the Greek teacher Pythagoras. He was born on the island of Samos in 580 BCE and studied in what are now the countries of Greece, Egypt, and Iraq before establishing his school in southern Italy at the city of Croton. While Pythagoras is famous for his contributions to math, music, science, and philosophy, it is his philosophy that is of particular interest. He taught that all animals, not just humans, had souls, which were immortal and reincarnated after death. Since a human might become an animal at death, and an animal might become a human, Pythagoras believed that killing and eating non-human animals sullied the soul and prevented union with a higher form of reality. Additionally, he felt that eating meat was unhealthy and made humans wage war against one another. For these reasons, he abstained from meat and encouraged others to do likewise, perhaps making him one of the earliest campaigners for ethical vegetarianism.

The Greek philosopher Plato (428/427-348/347 BCE) was influenced by Pythagorean concepts but did not go as far as Pythagoras did. It is unclear exactly what his diet consisted of, but Plato’s teachings asserted only humans had immortal souls and that the universe was for human use. Yet, in The Republic, Plato’s character Socrates asserted that the ideal city was a vegetarian city on the grounds that meat was a luxury leading to decadence and war. Thus, to Plato, abstention from flesh is warranted out of a desire for peace and an avoidance of indulgent, excessive living.

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BCE) also felt the universe was for human use and that only human souls were immortal. Additionally, he argued in favor of a hierarchy of beings in which plants occupied the lowest rung of the ladder and humans the highest. In this hierarchy, Aristotle argued that women were lesser compared to men and some humans were natural slaves. As for animals, as Norm Phelps in The Longest Strugglepoints out, Aristotle reasoned that there was no ethical obligation to animals because they were irrational. Colin Spencer, in The Heretic’s Feast, noted that Aristotle argued non-human animals could not manage themselves without human aid in spite of all evidence to the contrary. In short, Aristotle established many reasons used against giving proper justice to non-human and human animals alike.

Aristotle was not the only philosopher to advance some of these views. According to Spencer, the founder of Stoicism, Zeno (c. 335-c. 263 BCE), like Aristotle, argued that there was a hierarchy of beings with plants lowest and humans highest. Similarly, Spencer said Zeno declared animals undeserving of justice due to their inability to reason, but, unlike Aristotle, he sustained himself on a diet of bread, honey, and water. Zeno demonstrated that people have embraced a vegetarian diet for many reasons and while they may not be out of concern for animals, the vegetarian diet itself was seen as providing a wholesome way of life.

A contemporary of Zeno’s was the philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BCE). Epicurus agreed that the universe was for humans. Spencer said Epicurus differed from the above philosophers by arguing that souls cease to exist at death; thus, death was nothing to fear. Another core element to his philosophy was a belief in the goodness of pleasure and the evil of pain. He thought that desire caused pain, and human dependence on temporary pleasures deprived them of true pleasure. Because of this belief, Epicurus did not eat meat as it was a luxury that distracted people from a better life. However, he made no prohibition against eating flesh, which allowed the practice to continue among adopters of his creed. While he lack a stated prohibition, his personal example illustrated what he thought was the ideal way to live, and so, like Zeno, provided another historical support in favor of the vegetarian diet.

Arguing against Aristotle’s views on animals was Aristotle’s pupil and friend Theophrastus (c. 372-c. 287 BCE), a Greek biologist and philosopher. Theophrastus argued that killing animals for food was wasteful and morally wrong. Hypothesizing as to the origin of flesh eating, he argued that war must have forced humans to eat meat by ruining the crops that they otherwise would have eaten. Unlike his teacher, Theophrastus proclaimed that animal sacrifices angered the gods and turned humanity towards atheism. Clearly, religious arguments have long been used as motivation to pursue a vegetarian diet.

Preserving the legacy of Pythagoras was the poet and moralist Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE). Ovid was a Pythagorean-influenced Stoic, who was exiled to Tomis in 8 CE by the emperor Augustus. In his poem Metamorphoses, Ovid evoked the passionate pleas of Pythagoras for people to abandon animal sacrifice and abstain from eating flesh. These passages kept the memory of Pythagoras alive and served as testament to Ovid’s own vegetarian lifestyle.

Influenced by Pythagoras and Epicurus, the Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BCE-65 CE) adopted a vegetarian diet. Spencer states that Seneca denounced the cruelty of the games used by Rome to distract the citizenry and challenged the decadence of his time. Seneca was forced to hide his vegetarianism for a time under the emperor Caligula due to Caligula’s distrust. Under the emperor Nero, his former student, Seneca was forced to commit suicide at age 60, due either to rumors in the court or Nero’s jealousy.

Another Greek philosopher who argued on behalf of animals was the biographer and philosopher Plutarch (46-c. 120 CE). Influenced by Pythagorean philosophy, Plutarch adopted a vegetarian diet and wrote several essays in favor of vegetarianism as well as arguing that animals were rational and deserving of consideration. In particular, his essay On the Eating of Flesh is noteworthy for some arguments familiar to today’s vegetarians, such as the inefficiency of the human digestive system to handle flesh or the fact that humans lack the claws and fangs necessary for to the satisfaction of a carnivorous appetite. For these reasons, Plutarch is truly noteworthy as one of the earliest advocates of animal issues.

After Plutarch, the Greek philosopher Plotinus (205-270 CE) combined Pythagoreanism, Platonism, and Stoicism into a school of philosophy called Neoplatonism. He taught that all animals feel pain and pleasure, not just humans. According to Jon Gregerson, author of Vegetarianism: A History, Plotinus believed in order for humans to unite with the Supreme Reality, humans had to treat all animals with compassion. Seeking to practice what he preached, Plotinus avoided medicine made from animals. He allowed for the wearing of wool and the use of animals for farm labor, but he mandated humane treatment.

Continuing the work of Plotinus was the great Phoenician author and philosopher Porphyry (c. 232-c. 305 CE). He argued with observational and historical evidence in defense of vegetarianism and the rationality of animals. According to Spencer, in On the Impropriety of Killing Living Beings for Food, Porphyry argued meat eating encouraged violence, demonstrated the ability of animals to reason, and argued that justice should be extended to them. Like Plutarch, Porphyry ranks as one of the greatest voices for early Western vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism and animal rights have a long history in Western civilization stretching to antiquity that is unknown or forgotten by many people today. What this hidden history teaches is that many Greeks and Romans survived without eating animal flesh or using animal products. Likewise, it teaches that arguments for and against animal rights are as ancient as Greek philosophy. It demonstrates that many of the same reasons for not eating flesh today are the same as those in the past whether out of spirituality, health, peace, or justice. Furthermore, the modern animal rights movement is built upon this past. Finally, this information presents important voices that should be considered in the debate on vegetarianism and animal rights.

Nathan Morgan

Nathan Morgan, a 2010 graduate of Montana State University Billings, gave a paper on the topic of vegetarianism in the classical world at a recent animal welfare conference in Minneapolis.

Bust of Plato

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The Secret Lineage of Mary Magdalene – Poem

In hidden whispers, tales unfold,
Of Mary Magdalene, her lineage untold.
Gnostic visions, veiled in mist,
A sacred journey, her essence kissed.

Born of ancient mystic kin,
Her bloodline woven, a sacred spin.
A vessel of truths, she carried the lore,
From realms beyond, she did explore.

From desert sands to starlit skies,
Her wisdom soared, where angels rise.
In sacred union, she found her way,
An alchemical dance, night to day.

Gnostic flame, a torch she bore,
Through timeless realms, forevermore.
Her secret lineage, a cosmic thread,
Woven in stars, where mystics tread.

Divine feminine, a cosmic guide,
In her presence, seekers abide.
Mary Magdalene, keeper of keys,
Unveils the secrets, across all seas.

Through aeons passed, her light shines bright,
A beacon of truth, in the depths of night.
Gnostic whispers, a sacred rhyme,
Mary’s lineage transcends all time.

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Gnostic Lion Symbolism

The symbolism of the lion in Gnostic tradition carries significant meaning and can be traced back to ancient times. The Gnostics were a diverse group of religious and philosophical movements that emerged in the Hellenistic period and flourished during the first few centuries CE. They sought spiritual enlightenment and believed in the existence of a hidden, divine knowledge (gnosis) that could liberate individuals from the constraints of the material world.

In Gnosticism, the lion symbolizes various concepts and archetypal forces. Here is a historical overview of the symbolism of the lion in Gnostic tradition:

  1. Solar Symbolism: The lion is often associated with solar symbolism, representing the power and radiance of the sun. In many ancient cultures, including Egyptian and Persian, the lion was considered a solar creature, associated with the sun god. The Gnostics adopted this solar symbolism and viewed the lion as a symbol of the divine light and enlightenment.
  2. Regal Authority: The lion is renowned for its strength, courage, and dominance, making it a symbol of regal authority. In Gnosticism, the lion represents the power and sovereignty of the divine. It signifies the spiritual king or ruler, often identified with the supreme deity or the divine spark within each individual. The lion’s regal qualities embody the divine authority that Gnostics sought to reconnect with.
  3. Christological Symbolism: The Gnostics incorporated Christian themes and concepts into their belief system. In this context, the lion became a symbol of Christ, the “Lion of Judah.” Just as the lion is the king of the animal kingdom, Christ is seen as the supreme ruler and the embodiment of divine authority. The Gnostic lion represents the Christ within, the divine spark that exists in every individual.
  4. Archontic Forces: In some Gnostic texts, the lion is also associated with archontic forces, which are considered to be oppressive, lower-dimensional entities that hinder spiritual progress. These archontic forces are often depicted as lion-like creatures or associated with the lion’s attributes. The Gnostic lion, in this sense, symbolizes the struggle against these negative forces, the overcoming of which leads to spiritual liberation.
  5. Alchemical Transformation: Gnosticism incorporates elements of alchemical symbolism, and the lion is linked to the alchemical process of transformation. The lion represents the prima materia, the raw material that undergoes the alchemical process to attain spiritual enlightenment. This process involves purifying and refining the lion’s qualities, such as strength and dominance, into higher spiritual virtues.
  6. Dualistic Nature: Gnosticism often presents a dualistic worldview, emphasizing the conflict between the spiritual and the material realms. The lion symbolizes this dualistic nature, representing both the divine and the earthly. It embodies the struggle to transcend the limitations of the material world and to reconnect with the divine essence.

Throughout Gnostic tradition, the symbolism of the lion carries multiple layers of meaning, encompassing solar symbolism, regal authority, Christological significance, archontic forces, alchemical transformation, and dualistic nature. The lion serves as a powerful emblem that encapsulates the Gnostic quest for divine knowledge, spiritual liberation, and the reconciliation of the divine and material realms.

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Nazorean Wisdom Unveiled

Once upon a time, in a quaint village nestled amidst rolling hills, there lived a community known as the Nazoreans. They were a group of individuals who were revered by the villagers for their profound wisdom and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

The Nazoreans were believed to be the branches of a timeless perennial wisdom that had been passed down through the ages. They were the custodians of ancient teachings and were entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and disseminating this invaluable wisdom to future generations.

From an early age, the Nazorean children were initiated into a rigorous training regimen. They would gather in a sacred grove, surrounded by ancient trees, to learn from the wise elders who imparted their knowledge with great reverence and care. The children were taught the secrets of the universe, the interconnectedness of all things, and the importance of living in harmony with nature.

As they grew older, the Nazoreans embarked on individual quests to deepen their understanding of the perennial wisdom. They traveled far and wide, seeking out ancient texts, studying under enlightened masters, and engaging in contemplative practices to unlock the hidden truths of existence.

Each Nazorean developed their unique area of expertise. Some delved into the mysteries of the stars, mapping constellations and deciphering the celestial language. Others immersed themselves in the healing arts, exploring the delicate balance between the body, mind, and spirit. Some studied the ancient scriptures and religious texts, drawing out the underlying spiritual principles that transcended time and culture.

Despite their diverse paths, the Nazoreans remained connected through a common thread—their unwavering commitment to the pursuit of wisdom and the greater good of humanity. They would periodically gather in the village square, where the elders would share their newfound insights and engage in spirited discussions that challenged and expanded their understanding.

The village revered the Nazoreans as beacons of knowledge and enlightenment. They sought their counsel in times of trouble and celebrated their achievements as if they were the triumphs of the entire community. The Nazoreans, in turn, embraced their role with humility, recognizing that the wisdom they possessed was not for personal gain but for the betterment of all.

As time passed, the village thrived under the guidance of the Nazoreans. Their wisdom permeated every aspect of life, shaping the values, customs, and relationships of the community. The villagers grew in their understanding of themselves and the world around them, finding solace and inspiration in the timeless teachings of the Nazoreans.

Generations came and went, but the perennial wisdom of the Nazoreans continued to flow like an eternal river. The village became a sanctuary of knowledge, a place where seekers from far and wide would come to drink from the well of wisdom that the Nazoreans had nurtured.

And so, the story of the Nazoreans as the branches of the timeless perennial wisdom of the ages became etched in the annals of history. Their legacy lived on, a testament to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder that the pursuit of wisdom was a lifelong journey that transcended the boundaries of time and space.

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The School of Alexandria & the Gnostics

In the apostolic age, before the appearance of the Gnostic movement as a school (or schools), or as separate sects, the apostles dealt with false teachings similar to the Gnostic systems, as in 1 John and the pastoral epistles.

The study of Gnosticism entered a new phase, however, with the discovery of a large collection of Coptic Gnostic documents found at Nag-Hammadi (Chenoboskion) in Upper-Egypt in 1945. Before this discovery all our information on the Gnostic sects and doctrines relied on anti-Gnostic writings, such as those of SS. Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius. This discovery has made available a wealth of original documents that are being studied now for the first time.

GNOSIS AND Gnosticism

Charles W. Hedrick states, “In general, the term gnosticism is applied to a series of widespread and rather diverse religio-philosophical movements in late antiquity and nevertheless are understood to have some similarities. Although a precise definition of gnosticism and a clear dating for its emergence in the Hellenistic world are still matters of scholarly debate, working definitions have generally included certain elements. It is understood to have an anti-cosmic or world-rejecting stance… The ignorant or slumbering spiritual elements reside in the material, in humankind, like dying embers in a cold fire-pit.”

Ever since the first international conference on the origins of gnosticism held at Messina, Italy, in 1966, scholars have made a distinction between gnosis and gnosticism. The term gnosticism is reserved for the developed gnostic systems of the second century A.D, while gnosis is used when referring to similar phenomena prior to the second century. This distinction, however, has not generally been followed.

Gnosticism is a modern term, not attested to in antiquity. Even the term gnostic (Gr., gnostikos “knower”), as found in patristic writings, was never used to indicate a general spiritual movement but rather applied only to a single, particular sect.

Gnosticism designates a complex religious and philosophical movement that started probably before Christianity and flourished from about 100 to 700 A.D. There were many Christian, Jewish and pagan Gnostic sects that stressed salvation through a secret “knowledge” or “Gnosis.” The term “Gnostics” was first applied by second and third century patristic writers to a large number of teachers, such as Valentinus, Basilides and many others; all of whom were regarded by the Church Fathers as Christian heretics. Although Marcion and his community stand somewhat apart, certain features are common to the movement as a whole.

Today gnosticism is defined as a religion in its own right, whose myths state that the Unknown God is not the creator (Demiurge, YHVH); that the world is an error, the consequence of a fall and split within the deity; and that man, spiritual man, is alien to the natural world and related to the deity, and he becomes conscious of his deepest self when he hears the word of revelation. Unconsciousness, not sin or guilt, is the cause of evil.

The word “gnosis”

The Greek word gnosis is derived from the Indo-European root “gno,” and is also preserved in English word “know,” and Sankrit word “jnana,” which means “knowledge.” The term has long been used in comparative religion to indicate a current of antiquity that stressed awareness of the divine mysteries. This was held to be obtained either by direct experience of a revelation or by initiation into the secret, esoteric tradition of such revelations .

Pre-Christian Gnosis

The experience of gnosis was highly esteemed at the beginning of our era in various religious and philosophical circles of Aramaic and Greco-Roman civilization.

  1. It is a key word in the scrolls of the Jewish Essene sect found at Qumran.
  2. Gnosis was used in Greek to indicate self-awareness. The inscription on the temple in Delphi reads “gnothi seauton” (know yourself). A saying in a recently discovered Armenian collection attributed to Hermes Trismegistos (“thrice-greatest Hermes,” identified with the Egyptian god Thoth) is “He who knows himself, knows the All.” The author of Poimandres expresses the same insight: “Let spiritual man know himself, then he will know that he is immortal and that Eros is the origin of death, and he will know the All.” And to illustrate this saying the author tells the story of a divine being, Anthropos (Man), who becomes enamored of the world of (lower) nature and so falls into a material body. Most Hermetic treatises take up a short saying and expound on it in this manner. They also preserve the impact of Egyptian mythology.
  3. The Platonists interpreted gnosis as meaning that man, by turning his attention inward, could abstract from the sense perception and passion to uncover reason to know the being.
  4. In contrast, the Stoics argued that man could only know himself by looking outwards to the providence and harmony of the cosmos and so discover that man is a part of a whole (the Stoa is holistic).
  5. Undogmatic skeptics, who were against both schools, proved that man could not know anything with certainty, especially about God, and therefore he should humbly acknowledge his limitations. Under their influence, the Platonists admitted that the One God of Parmenides, who is Being itself, cannot possibly be known and therefore is invisible, unutterable, and unknowable. The only gnosis of this Agnostos Theos (Unknown God) is the awareness that He cannot be known. In Greek, estin autou Gnosis he agnostia. As a result, many were led to the realization that God or the gods must reveal Himself or themselves in order to be perceived. Gnosis thus became an intuitive knowledge of immediate revelation or of an esoteric tradition of such revelation for the elect. Christian Gnosis

W.H.C. Frend believes that gnosis held a worthy, if limited place, in the Jewish and the earliest Christian scales of values. “Knowing” God to Jews meant acknowledging that Yahweh was God and recognizing the acts of God. Indeed, the Septuagint describes God as the “God of knowledge” (1 Sam. 2:3), and the word “gnosis” is used to denote this. The representative and teacher of gnosis is the pious sage and Servant of the Lord (Is. 53:11), and gnosis is denied to the worldly-minded and to sinners.

According to the holy Scriptures the first man used to enjoy “the sound (voice) of the Lord God walking in the garden” (Gen. 3:8). God used to meet His most beloved creature, man, and granted him the true knowledge of Himself, His mysteries, and His will. Even after the fall of man, God started a dialogue with Adam and Eve and offered them the knowledge of His redeeming plan. God directed creation towards natural law, the prophets’ sayings, and towards Himself to reveal knowledge. As sin is an obstacle for attaining knowledge, God, the Logos Himself, came to our world to destroy its dominion over our hearts and to establish His divine kingdom, revealing his super knowledge through the work of his Holy Spirit in our sanctified inner man. The New Testament concentrates on the divine revelation as the source of our knowledge, which is realized within our inner man through personal fellowship with Christ as members of His Holy Body, His Church.

In other words, we can summarize our concept of Christian knowledge as follows:

  1. The Incarnate Word of God is the source of knowledge.
  2. Knowledge is received through the Church, as the body of Christ, especially by participation in the Eucharist.
  3. Knowledge is revealed in our inner man, if it has been purified and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
  4. The knowledge of God and His eternal glory can be realized partially in this world, through our unity with the Father in His Only-Begotten Son, by the work of the Holy Spirit, and completed in the world to come.

Gnosticism ORIGINS

Some German scholars, such as R. Reitzenstein, W. Bousset and R. Bultmann, have strongly supported the concept of pre-Christian Gnosticism. The sophisticated second-century religio-philosophical systems did not get that way overnight, since it would appear that a certain amount of lead time is required for their development. Those scholars believe that gnosticism is of Iranian origin. This hypothesis has been abandoned; the alleged Iranian mystery of the “saved savior” has been disproved. At present, many scholars are inclined to believe that gnosticism is built upon Hellenistic-Jewish foundations and can be traced to centers like Alexandria, which had a large Jewish population. Polemics in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, who himself was an opponent of local heresies, make it clear that he knew Jewish groups that had already formulated certain basic elements of gnosticism, though a consistent system did not yet exist in pre-Christian times.

Brian E. Daley writes, “It (Gnosticism) was rather a type of elitist religious thought, present in Jewish and philosophical pagan circles, as well as a fairly wide range of Christian ones that claimed privileged access to a kind of knowledge that could revolutionize the believer’s understanding of existence. John Ferguson states, “Gnosticism is thus to be seen as a trend or tendency rather than as a well- defined philosophical or religious stance.”

In Christianity, the movement appeared first as a school (or schools) of thought within the Church, which posed a serious problem both to the interpretation of the gospel, and the life and the worship of believers. It soon established itself in all principal centers of Christianity; and by the end of the second century the Gnostics had mostly become separate sects.

Gnosticism in various forms persisted for several centuries. The sect of the Manichees, founded by Mani, a Persian of the 3rd century, spread as far as Turkestan and survived there until the 13th century; meanwhile the possibly related sects of the Albigenses and Cathari had appeared in France, Germany and Italy. One sect of Gnostics, the Mandaeans, has survived in Mesopotamia until the present day.

Gnostic teachings

Although the Gnostics shared certain basic convictions, they disagreed with each other on practically everything else.

  1. Most of the Gnostic schools were thoroughly dualistic, setting an infinite chasm between the spiritual world and the world of matter. They agreed in refusing to attribute the origin of the material order to the ultimate God, the God of goodness. Their systems were based on the inseparable division and antagonism between the Demiurge or “creator god” and the supreme unknowable Divine Being.

This belief had its effect on the concept of “salvation.” All the Gnostic groups were agreed that redemption was a possibility – that it was possible for us to ‘wake up,’ free our souls (the spiritual element) from our bodies (the material element), and negotiate successfully the perilous path which leads to our spiritual home.

  1. In some systems the creation of the material universe is believed to result from the fall of Sophia (wisdom); this creation is viewed as evil. From the Divine Being, the Demiurge was derived by a longer or shorter series of emanations or “aeons.” He, through some mischance or fall among the higher aeons, was the immediate source of creation and ruled the world, which was therefore imperfect and antagonistic to what was truly spiritual.

The Samaritans, the last survivors of the ten tribes of northern Israel, were and are heterodox Jews who keep the Law while rejecting the rest of the Bible. They transmit a certain tradition about Wisdom as the personal creator of the world. According to Simon, Wisdom, the spouse of the Lord, was called the Holy Spirit and is God’s first idea, the mother of all. She descended to the lower regions and gave birth to the angels by whom the world was created. She was overwhelmed and detained by these world powers so that she could not return to her abode. She was even incarnated and reincarnated in human bodies, such as that of the Helen of Greek mythology and poetry. Finally, she came to dwell as a whore in a brothel in Tyre, Phoenicia, where Simon, “the great power” of God, found and redeemed her. In the Apocryphon of John as well as in the school of Valentinus, this Sophia model has been combined with the Anthropos model. Both are pre-Christian in origin.

  1. Usually Gnostics divided men into two or three classes:

a. The “spiritual” (pneumatics) are those who have illuminated souls. Into the constitution of some men there had entered a seed or spark of Divine spiritual substance, and through “gnosis” this spiritual element might be rescued from its evil, material environment and be assured of a return to its home in the Divine Being. They were freed by knowledge from the constraints of ignorance, the Law, and the fears of the coming judgment.

The leaders were teachers, both men and women, not ecclesiastics. They were regarded as servants of Demiurge, and fit only to exercise authority over the mass of uninitiated Christians.

b. The “fleshy” (hylics) or “material,” are slaves of matter, and are earthbound. To those ignorant faithful, the ordinary Christians, Christ had appeared on earth and revealed the truths in the four gospels, but these truths were no more than the pabulum of the nursery. To the Gnostics He had revealed far more; and thus they could produce a large number of non-canonical Gospels and similar treatises to prove it. This was what Christ had really taught, this was the true Christianity; not a system which asked only simple faith, but a system which demanded intellectual understanding and secret knowledge, a system not for the many, but for a few; a system not for sleep-walkers, but for spiritual athletes; a system not for believers, but for knowers .

c. The Gnostics add a psychic, intermediate class.

Some scholars have sharply criticized St. Clement of Alexandria, considering that he was affected by Gnosticism in making a distinction between classes of Christians: on the one hand, there is the unsophisticated beginner who clings to the externalities of the faith; on the other hand, there is the advanced gnostic Christian who beholds the mysteries of God and abides in communion with God through a heart full of understanding. These detect a Stoic influence at this point, the Stoic discrimination of those who are advancing. Other scholars believe that he distinguishes between them, but not as two classes. On the contrary he believes that all Christians are babies in Christ, and in need of continuous learning. He also, in opposing Gnosticism, believes that none, except Jesus Christ is perfect. G. Florovsky says that St. Clement does not make a distinction among classes, but reinforces the dynamic nature of spiritual growth from being “babes” in Christ to constant growth in the faith: spiritually and intellectually.

St. Clement states that all Christians who receive baptism are babies in Christ and are in need of constant growth through the teaching and the training of the Paidagogos. He says, ‘Pedagogy is a training of children’ and then raises the question who those are that the Scripture calls ‘children.’ They are not, as the Gnostics claim, only those who live on a lower level of Christian faith whereas the Gnostics alone are perfect Christians. All those who are redeemed and reborn by baptism are children of God: ‘Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal.’

Here I quote some sayings of St. Clement concerning spiritual childhood:

Therefore the name “childhood” is for us a life-long season of spring, because the truth abiding in us is ageless and our being made to overflow with that truth, is ageless too. For wisdom is ever fruitful. Ever fixed unchangeable on the same truths, ever constant.

You have become old in superstition; as young, enter into the practice of piety. God regards you as innocent children.

The Educator and Teacher is there naming us little ones, meaning that we are more ready for salvation than the worldly wise who, believing themselves wise, have blinded their own eyes.

We ought now to be in a position to understand that the name ‘little one’ is not used in the sense of lacking intelligence. Childishness means that, but ‘little one’ really means ‘one newly become gentle,’ just as the word ‘gentle’ means being mild-mannered. So, a ‘little one’ means one just recently become gentle and meek of disposition.

Childlikeness is the foundation for simplicity and truthfulness. ‘For upon whom shall I look,’ it is said in the Scripture, ‘if not the meek and the peaceful?’ (Isa. 66:2)

But whatever partakes of eternity assumes, by that very fact, the qualities of the incorruptible; therefore, the name ‘childhood’ is for us a life-long spring time, because the truth abiding in us is ageless and our being, made to overflow with that truth, is ageless, too.

‘The children,’ the Scripture says, ‘shall be put upon the shoulders, and they shall be comforted on the knees, as one whom the mother comforts, so will I comfort you’ (Isa. 66:12,13). A mother draws her children near her; we seek our mother, the Church.

‘Now that I have become a man,’ Paul continues, ‘I have put away the things of a child.’ He is not referring to the growing stature that comes with age, nor yet to any definite period of time, nor even to any secret teaching reserved only for men and the more mature when he claims that he left and put away all childishness. Rather, he means to say that those who live by the Law are childish in the sense that they are subject to fear, like children afraid of ghosts, while those who are obedient to the Word and are completely free are, in his opinion, men.

Concerning perfection, St. Clement believes that the Gnostics attain a kind of perfection, even while they are living here in this world, for by the divine grace they become Christlike. He also assures that no man is perfect in all things at once. “I know no one of men perfect in all things at once, while still human, though according to the mere letter of the Law, except Him alone who for us clothed Himself with humanity… But Gnostic perfection in the case of the legal man is the acceptance of the Gospel, that he that after the Law may be perfect.”

  1. The secret knowledge that the Gnostics claimed to possess was acquired, not by perseverance in moral rectitude, but by a sudden illumination that enabled them to understand the ways of God, the universe, and themselves. It was knowledge that freed them and revealed the mysteries of truth, and rent the veil which concealed how God controlled the creation.
  2. Despite their reliance on the methods and attitudes of current philosophy, they claimed to have succeeded contemptuously as not “having the possibility” of understanding reality. “We alone know the unutterable mysteries of the spirit,” the Nassene (Snake) sect claimed (c. 200). Only its initiates could bring order into “the disorder of the world.” Gnostics claimed that they were the “true brothers” on whom the love of the Father had been poured out.
  3. Many of the Nag-Hammadi writings are Christ-centered. Their understanding of Christ, the Scriptures and man differed fundamentally from that of members of the Church. The function of Christ was to come as the emissary of the supreme God, bringing “gnosis.” As a Divine Being, He neither assumed a properly human body nor died, but either temporarily inhabited a human being (Jesus) or assumed a merely phantasmal human appearance.

One form of Gnosticism was “Docetism,” a heresy that threatened the young church. The Greek word “dokein” means “to seem,” or “appear to be.” Docetists believed that Jesus Christ was not a real man but only seemed to be so; according to them, He did not have a body, but simply passed through the Virgin without being fashioned of her substance.

According to St. Irenaeus, Saturninus (c. 120) “declared that the Savior was unborn, incorporeal and without form … For to marry and bear children, he says, is of Satan.”

Valentinus (2nd century) also taught that Christ united himself with the man Jesus who was born through Mary and not of Mary. He passed through her as through a channel.

Marcion’s doctrine was that Jesus did not have a human soul nor an earthly body. He was not born of Mary, but appeared suddenly in Judaea with imaginary flesh, a full grown man ready to start immediately his ministry.

Appeles conceded genuine flesh to Christ, but a celestial body. It came down from heaven into this world, and not of Mary.

  1. The Gnostics and their orthodox opponents hotly debated the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. This went to the heart of the rival schemes of salvation. Was the Old Testament the prefiguration or introduction to the New, as in Hebrews 10, or was it wholly alien – the work of an inferior being or an evil archon?

The great Egyptian Gnostics seem to all have been of Jewish birth. The adherents of Basilides claimed, “We are no longer Jews and not yet Christians.” The followers of Valentinus reported, “When we were Hebrews, we were orphans.” Nevertheless, Basilides and Valentinus both proclaimed a God beyond the Old Testament God.

The teaching of the Gnostics concerning the antagonism that exists between the Law and the Gospel called forth a vigorous reaction on the part of ecclesiastical writers, especially the Alexandrian Fathers.

The Alexandrian Fathers emphatically stressed the fundamental unity of both phases of revelation. St. Clement of Alexandria expressed his views on this point in no uncertain terms: the two Testaments form but one single saving Testament, given by one God by means of one Lord and which, in spite of the diversity of ages and generations, extends from the constitution of the world unto us. Origen inculcates the unity of authorship of both revelations. One is not surprised to find that St. Cyril subscribed to similar tenets, following the Alexandrian tradition.

The immediate consequence of the common origin of both Testaments is the doctrine that the teachings of the Law and the Prophets are in perfect agreement with that of Christ and the apostles. Ecclesiastic writers describe it in terms of a comparison borrowed from music. St. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the ecclesiastical symphony of the two choirs – the Old and the New Testaments – and of the choristers of which they are formed. Origen opposes heresy by stating, “the sublimity of gospel-preaching, filled with the symphony of the doctrines common to the Testaments that are styled Old and New.” He also writes, “the whole of Scripture is but one single instrument of God, perfect and harmonious, which renders one consonance that is formed of different sounds.”

The early Fathers stressed the harmony of both Testaments to the extent of claiming that they are identical. No writer of the early period claimed that the apostles’ knowledge was superior to that of the prophets. St. Clement of Alexandria describes the charism of the apostles by analogy to that of the prophets: the apostles, he argues, were prophtai and dixaio at the same time, who “share the fragrant anointing of the Holy Spirit by means of prophecy;” Nobody will ever equal the prophets and the disciples of the Spirit.

Origen is much more explicit, teaching ex professo that the knowledge possessed by the perfect in times preceding Christ’s advent was not less than that of the apostles who were instructed by Christ. For according to St. Paul, the revelation of mysteries is made to the apostles by means of the prophetic writings. The prophets, thanks to their wisdom, must certainly have understood their own statements; hence, they grasped what was manifested to the apostles. It is true that the mode of knowledge is different since the prophets contemplated the mysteries before they were realized, whereas the apostles beheld them as already accomplished. However, this difference is only accidental; Christians, who will witness Christ’s second coming will know nothing more than the apostles who foretold of this event; similarly, the wisdom of the apostles could not have outstripped that of the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.

St. Cyril speaks in glowing terms about the prophets and the excellence of their knowledge, but he very rarely institutes a comparison between them and the apostles. On one occasion, however, he confesses that he felt “inclined to crown Isaias not only with the grace of prophecy but also with the prerogatives of the apostles … The views to which the older Alexandrians had committed themselves practically deny all real development of the faith; the patriarchs, prophets and apostles were all endowed with equal knowledge and their predictions already contained the whole of Christ’s doctrine. On the other hand, St. Cyril, shows leanings which can be interpreted as somewhat favoring the idea of a real development; as we shall see, he espouses the idea that a gradual spiritualization of religion takes place during the prophetic period. Statements made by him with reference to the superiority of the gospel to the old dispensation show that he was conscious of the fact that further development took place in New Testament times. He clung to the doctrine favoring the identity of both Testaments. In his very first exegetical work St. Cyril writes, “The New Testament is sister to and closely related to the Mosaic oracles; indeed it is composed of the selfsame elements. We can show that the “life in Christ” is not remote from conduct in accordance with the Law, provided that the ancient ordinances are given a spiritual interpretation.”

  1. Fr. Matthias F. Wahba in his thesis, “The doctrine of Sanctification in relation to Marriage according to St. Athanasius,” dealt with the Gnostics’ view of marriage. He states that St. Clement explained that the Gnostic’s duelist view of creation led to two opposing attitudes toward marriage and sexuality: the extreme of a rigorous and negative asceticism on the one hand, and a licentious antinomianism on the other. Both repudiate nature; the one through abstention and the other through excess.

St. Clement believes that they regarded birth as evil because the world is evil. It is the evil creator of the material universe who gave the command, “Increase and multiply,” (Gen. 1:28) to fill the world with brutish men and women. They asserted that no spiritual, or even psychic (ordinary), believer in the Gospel would engage in sexual intercourse, and thereby increase the number of the brutish who are in any case predetermined to damnation.

Ascetic Gnostics placed a great reliance on the Gospel according to the Egyptians. For example, in a dialogue between Jesus and Salome, she asks, “Until when shall men die?” He answers her, “As long as women bear children.” In another passage, Jesus says, “I come to destroy the works of the female.”

At the other extreme were the licentious groups. They denounced private property, marriage, and the repressive nature of the Decalogue. “The followers of Carpocrates and (his son) Epiphanes,” says Clement, “think that wives should be common property.”

Midway between the two extremes, the rigidly ascetic and the freely licentious, were Basilides and Valentinus. Basilides and his son Isidore allowed marriage on the ground that it is better to marry than to burn (cf. 1 Cor. 7.9), but marriage was to be avoided by the man who was ambitious to attain perfection. After his death, Basilides’ followers departed from their master’s teaching and fell into licentious ways, “by living lewder lives than the most uncontrolled heathen, they brought blasphemy upon his name.” According to St. Irenaeus, Basilides taught that the practice of all lusts was a matter of indifference, and said, “Marrying and bearing children are from Satan.” Gnosticism, then, could not sanctify marriage as long as it had such an attitude towards matter and body; both, for the Gnostics, are evil. The Gnostic texts of Nag-Hammadi agree that marriage and procreation, as instigated by archontic powers, have no place in the perfect life.

Gnosticism was never interested in ethics and morality. As pneumatics, the Gnostics believed that they would be saved, not by means of conduct, but because they were spiritual by nature. On the contrary, St. Clement states, “works follow knowledge, as the shadow follows the body.”

Gnostics generally regarded the world of ordinary experience and work as having only a low grade of reality, and promised escape from matter and union to the transcendent source of being to the favored few who accepted the esoteric knowledge that the group possessed.

Finally, we can acknowledge the Alexandrians’ struggle against Gnosticism from Origen who debated with a certain bishop, Heracleides, that Gnosticism was about to reappear in a new guise as a rival universal religion molded by a genius Mani. Athanasius, also, repeatedly mentions Mani together with Marcion and Valentinus as schismatic groups.

Gnosticism and Alexandria

The most important center of Gnosticism was Alexandria which had became the heir of Jewish traditions, classical thought, and the old mysticism of oriental religions. It was in Alexandria that the greatest doctors of Gnosticism – Basilides, Carpocrates and Valentinus -flourished. St. Athanasius frequently refers to them, as well as to Marcion, warning of their danger to Christian doctrine. St. Clement of Alexandria, “the most reliable of early Christian writers on Gnosticism,” provides us with a systematic analysis of the various sects.

  1. Basilides

Basilides was a theologian of Gnostic tendencies, according to St. Irenaeus, and a teacher at Alexandria. His work fell within the reigns of Hadrian (117-138) and Antoninus Pius (138-161). He and Isidore, his son and disciple, were prodigious workers. Basilides wrote a gospel, of which we have only one fragment. Origen says that this heretic had the audacity to write a gospel, and this work is mentioned by St. Ambrose and St. Jerome. It is possible that Basilides reworked the canonical Gospels to make them favorable to Gnostic doctrine. He also wrote a biblical commentary, the Exegetica, in twenty-four books; and some Odes.

His system is difficult to reconstruct, since only fragments of his writings survive, and conflicting accounts are given by SS. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus. According to Hippolytus, Basilides taught a wholly transcendent God, who created an evolving universe and planted in it an elect race. Besides biblical material he used secret traditions supposedly derived from St. Peter and St. Matthias, some Gnostic doctrines, and elements of Platonic and Stoic philosophy.

According to Basilides, when the time was right, Jesus was enlightened at His baptism in the river Jordan (a typically Jewish-Christian notion). Jesus is considered to be the prototype of all spiritual men who through His revealing word became conscious of the innermost being, the Spirit, and rose up to the spiritual realm. When the entire third sonship (the Spirit in the spiritual man) has redeemed itself, God will take pity on the world, and he will allow the descent of “the great unconsciousness” upon the rest of mankind. Thereafter, no one will have even an inkling that there was ever anything like the Spirit. Basilides foresaw a godless and classless society.

Basilides seems to have been one of those many liberal Jews who had left behind the concept of a personal Lord as a belief in the Unknown God. He looked to Yahweh as an aggressive deity and the Jews as a people who took after him, aspiring to subjugate other nations. Basilides hated Judaism as he knew it in his own time and makes no claim for his followers that they were a ”new Israel,” perhaps an interesting comment on feelings in Alexandria during the years between the Jewish rebellion of 115 AD and the up-rising of Bar Kochba in A.D 132. Nevertheless, Basilides was basically Jewish in his attitudes. His followers in St. Irenaeus’ day are recorded as asserting that ”while they were no longer Jews, they were more than Christians,” as though for them Judaism was still a norm.

Basilides’ concerns, however, were moral as well as metaphysical. He aimed at explaining the paradox of divine goodness and human suffering – why must a Christian who had supposedly been redeemed by Christ undergo a martyr’s death? Basilides was quoted by St. Clement as stating that even the man Jesus of Nazareth, had sinned, hence the crucifixion! All suffering, Basilides asserted was the result of sin. Individual confessors might not be grievous sinners but they possess a capacity and desire to sin. Their sufferings might be regarded therefore as those of a child who suffers simply because of an innate sinful quality or perhaps through sin committed in a previous life. Suffering and death therefore, were forms of atonement. In due time a heavenly light would descend and raise up Jesus to summon the elect; they will ascend to the highest heaven, while other beings come to rest in destinations appropriate to their capacities. He was accused of teaching Docetism, Metempsychosis, and other doctrines that were later condemned. His followers soon formed a separate sect; but his own teachings may perhaps have been typical of an ill-defined and speculative theology that was prevalent in Alexandria in his day.

Basilides accepted the Platonic view of “providence,” that in no sense could providence be held responsible for evil. Evil, therefore, was independent of God and resulted from the actions of another deity, namely the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, the chief of the creator angels. True Christians would therefore reject the Old Testament and confess Christ, but not Jesus as crucified because that was merely material worship. They would identify themselves with the spiritual Christ as spirit to spirit. Similarly, Scripture was to be interpreted spiritually through the use of allegory on which the words of Homer “the poet” as well as of Paul “the apostle” could throw light on its true meaning. This demanded mastery of a range of Greek philosophy and poetry as well as of existing Jewish and Christian exegesis.

J Quasten states that the following practical conclusions can be drawn from the summary of Basilides’ teaching which St. Irenaeus mentions:

a. Knowledge (gnosis) proceeds from the principalities which form the world.

b. Only a few, one in a thousand, two in ten thousand, are able to possess the true knowledge.

c. Mysteries should be kept secret.

d. Martyrdom is futile.

e. Redemption affects only the souls, and not the body, which is subject to corruption.

f. Every action, even the most heinous sins of lust, is a matter of perfect indifference.

g. The Christian should not confess Christ the crucified but Jesus, who was sent by the Father. Otherwise he remains a slave and under the power of those who formed our bodies.

h. Pagan sacrifices ought to be despised, but can be used without any scruple because they are nothing.

  1. CARPOCRATES

He was a Gnostic teacher of the 2nd century who was probably a native of Alexandria. His disciples, the “Carpocratians,” who survived until the 4th century, preached a licentious ethic, the transmigration of souls, and the doctrine that Jesus was born by natural generation. His son Epiphanes wrote a treatise “On Justice,” in which, under the influence of Plato’s “Republic”, he advocated a community of women and gods. However, this tradition about Carpocrates has been disputed, and may possibly rest on a confused account of a cult of the Egyptian deity Harpocrates.

According to St. Irenaeus, Carporates and his followers maintained that the world and the things which are there-in were created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. They also held that Jesus was the son of Joseph and was just like other men with the exception that he differed from them in that his soul was steadfast and pure so he remembered perfectly those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God. On this account, a power descended upon him from the Father by which he might escape from the creators of the world; they also said that He, after passing through them all and remaining in all points free, ascended again to him. This position of Jesus was by no means unique because in the same way the soul which is like that of Christ can despise those rulers who were the creators of the world, and in like manner receives power for accomplishing the same result. This idea appealed so much to some of the Carpocratians that some of them arrogantly declared themselves to be similar to Jesus, while others haughtily maintained that they were superior to his disciples, such as Peter, Paul and the rest of the apostles.

Images of some of them were painted or made with them having a likeness of Christ, and portraying Jesus among them. They crowned these images and set them up along with the images of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle and others. They also had other modes of honoring these images in the same manner as the gentiles.

The Carpocratians also practiced magical arts and incantations, philters and love potions, and had recourse to spirits, dreams, demons and other abominations, declaring that they possessed power to rule over not only the princes of this world but also over the things in it. Carpocrates was a contemporary of Valentinus because according to St. Irenaeus one of his women disciples, Marcellina, went to Rome during the reign of Pope Anicetus (154-165 AD), and seduced many.

  1. Valentinus

The greatest Gnostic of all time was the poet Valentinus. Despite his Latin name, he was born in the Nile Delta around the year 100 A.D and educated in Alexandria. He created an academy for free research, which in turn formed a loose network of local groups within institutional religion. Even among his opponents Valentinus became renowned for his eloquence and genius. He was probably the most influential of the Gnostics and had a very large following (frequentissimum collegium inter haereticos). Several of his disciples founded schools of their own. They included Theodotus in the East, and Ptolemaeus, Heracleon, Florinus, and Marcus in the West, all contributed to the spread and development of Gnosticism in Italy, Alexandria, and Gaul respectively, down to the end of the century.

According to St. Irenaeus and others he was a native of Egypt whose disciples claimed that he had been taught by Theodas, a pupil of St. Paul. He lived in Rome from c. A.D 136 to c. 165 and had hopes of being elected Bishop “on account of his intellectual force and eloquence” (quia et ingenio poterat et eloquio) St. Jerome, by no means one of the kindest critics, wrote of him, ”No one can bring heresy into being unless he is possessed by the nature of an outstanding intellect and has gifts provided by God. Such a person was Valentinus.”

Until the discovery of the Nag-Hammadi library, Valentinus’s ideas could be guessed only from accounts given by his opponents, especially St. Irenaeus. Though no work actually bears his name, a group of four works from Nag-Hammadi – the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of Philip, the Exegesis on the Soul, and the Treatise on Resurrection to Rheginus – appear to have close affinities with each other and correspond to some extent with St. Irenaeus’ account of Valentinus’s ideas. Another important treatise, The Teachings of Silvanus, seems to have been contemporary with Valentinus and may also reflect some aspects of his thought. The Gospel of Truth, a meditation on the true eternal gospel proclaimed by Christ to awaken man’s innermost being (the unconscious Spirit) was probably written by Valentinus himself around A.D 150. His most influential production was a systematic theology known to us only in the developed and modified form given down to us by his disciples. It appears to have been based on the Ophite system and to have incorporated Platonic and Pythagorean elements. Valentinus, like Basilides, saw God as a single, transcendent, and utterly unknowable Being, but originating not from “absolutely nothing” but from the Primal Cause or Depth (Bythos). After countless ages Depth emanated his spouse, called Womb or Silence (Sige) and eventually these two, representing Male and Female principles, brought forth the Christ, or Logos, upon whom all aeons (half ideas, half angels) depend and through whom the All is coherent and connected. He also states that the couple – Depth and Silence – emanate Understanding (Nous) and Truth (Aletheia). From these follow Word and Life, and Man and Church, and eventually thirty Aeons are produced, pair by pair, male and female (compare Gen. 1:27), representing Christian (or Jewish) concepts and virtues to complete the heavenly or spiritual world or Pleroma. The last aeon was Wisdom (Sophia). She, desiring to know the unknowable Father, fell into the darkness of despair and gave birth to a premature and malformed infant laldabaoth (probably ”Child of Chaos”), by whom the universe with all its imperfections was created. Thus the visible world owes its origin to the fall of Sophia, the youngest of these, whose ultimate offspring was the Demiurge who was identified with the God of the Old Testament. The subsequent struggle between laldabaoth and Wisdom was responsible for the mixture of good and evil, virtues and passions, in the world and in individuals. A Savior, Jesus, is sent to Wisdom. He “forms Wisdom according to understanding” and separates her from her passions, and thus sets in train the events that lead to similar processes of salvation in the visible universe.

Redemption was effected by Christ, who united Himself with the man Jesus (either at his conception or at His baptism) to bring man the redeeming knowledge (gnosis) of His origin and destiny. This gnosis, however, is given only to spiritual men or the “pneumatics,” i.e. the Valentinians who enter the pleroma through it, whereas other Christians (called “psychics” after 1 Cor. 2.14 etc.) attain by faith and good works only the middle realm of the Demiurge; the rest of mankind (called “hylics”, being engrossed in matter) are given over to eternal perdition.

On the basis of this metaphysical view, Valentinus and his followers valued both sex and marriage, at least for the pneumatics. A preserved fragment from the school of Valentinus gives the following interpretation of Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of John that the Christian’s life is in the world but is not from it (John. 17:116): “Whosoever is in the world and has not loved a woman so as to become one with her, is not out of the Truth, and will attain the Truth; but he who is from the world and unites with a woman, will not attain the Truth, because he made sex out of concupiscence alone.” The Valentinians permitted intercourse only between men and women who were able to experience it as a mystery and a sacrament, namely, those who were pneumatics. They forbade it between those whom they called psychics (Jews and Catholics) or hylics (materialists), because these two lower classes knew nothing but libido. As the only early Christian on record who spoke lovingly about sexual intercourse and womanhood, Valentinus must have been a great lover.

The Jung Codex contains five Valentinian writings:

  1. The Prayer of the Apostle Paul.
  2. The Apocryphon of James is a letter purporting to contain revelations of the risen Jesus, written by James, his brother. In reality, it contains Valentinian speculations grafted onto the root and fatness of the olive tree planted beside the waters of the Nile by Hebrew missionaries from Jerusalem (c. 160).
  3. The Gospel of Truth.
  4. The Epistle to Rheginos concerning the Resurrection is an explanation of Paul’s views: already, here and now, man anticipates eternal life, and after death he will receive an ethereal body.
  5. The Tripartite Treatise is a systematic and consistent exposition of the history of the All. It describes how the Spirit evolves through the inferno of a materialistic (pagan or “hylic”) phase and the purgatory of a moral (Jewish and Catholic or “psychic”) phase to the coming of Christ, who inaugurates the paradiso of final consummation, in which spiritual man becomes conscious of himself and of his identity with the Unknown God. The author, a leader of the Italic (Roman) school of Valentinianism, was most likely Heracleon (c. 170). It was against this shade of Valentinian gnosis that Plotinus, the Neoplatonic philosopher, wrote his pamphlet Against the Gnostics (c. 250).
  6. The Manichaeans

In the second half of the third century, the great Gnostic Mani (216-277) sent his missionaries Papos and Thomas to Egypt, where they settled in Lycopolis, on the Nile above the Thebaid in Middle Egypt. There they proselytized among the pupils of the Platonic philosopher Alexander of Lycopolis, who wrote a preserved treatise against them. They also seem to have translated, or to have had translated, the Manichaean writings found at Madinat Madi in 1930-1931 (kephalaia, psalms, homilies, etc.) from East Aramaic into sub-Akmimic, the Coptic dialect of Lycopolis and the surroundings.

According to Valentinus, every man has a guardian angel or Self who gives gnosis to his counterpart, but also needs the man or woman to whom he belongs because he cannot enter the pleroma, the spiritual world, without his other half. Mani taught that every Manichaean has a twin, who inspires him and leads him to the light, but at the same time Mani held that the eternal Jesus suffers in matter and is to be redeemed by the Gnostic. Jacob Boehme says that God is an ocean of light and darkness, love and ire, who wants to become conscious in man.

The God of gnosticism is Being in movement.

WHY DID GNOSTICISM SPREAD IN ALEXANDRIA?

There are at least five reasons for the success of Gnosticism in Alexandria, especially in the early centuries:

  1. In contrast to other religions, Gnosticism first appeared in the city not as a religious sect or school but as an attitude accepted by some pagans, Jews and even Christians. The Gnostics took advantage of the importance of Alexandria as a center of interchange of religious ideas and as the intellectual meeting point between Jew and Greek.
  2. The pseudo-Christian Gnostic sects could offer a religious system, with a guaranteed way of salvation, and much more similar to the pagan systems, from which the converts were changing.
  3. The Gnostics tried to answer the following problems:

If God was Goodness, why was there evil in the world, unless the matter from which it was created was irredeemably bad?

If God is good, who created the evil?

If the universe was not governed by Fate, how did one explain calamity, sickness, and sudden death?

What was the use of attempting to practice moral excellence when one might be swept away overnight?

  1. Gnosticism provided the well-educated members with the sense of superiority, as they felt that they alone are trust-worthy of the divine mysteries.
  2. Many of the founders of the Christian Gnostics belonged to Pre-Christian Gnosticism, who instead of surrendering their former beliefs, they only added some Christian doctrines to their Gnostic views. They also were very interested in literature, thus they wrote many apocryphal gospels, epistles and apocalypses and attributed many of it to St. Mary, the disciples, and the apostles, which had a tremendous effect because of its popular content.

The Alexandrian fathers and gnosticism

The Christian ministers and teachers of the first centuries were forced to keep a continual eye on Gnosticism, which was a threat, a rival rather than an influence.

Gnosticism was a vital part of the thought-world of St. Clement; much of his writing was polemic against it, and at the same time it influenced his categories of thought.

St. Clement’s objection to Gnosticism is that it lay outside the church and is offensive to human freedom of will and common sense. In his own optimistic outlook, St. Clement believes that humans are reasonable beings. Christianity had to be interpreted in terms of the ultimate harmony between Scripture and philosophy. Therefore, Gnostic dualism, libertinism, and fatalism could not be the true Christian revelation.

W.H.C. Frend writes,

Faith remained the foundation of Christianity, but the Christian advanced from faith towards knowledge, that is, an ever-deeper understanding of the Word of God, not achieved in a sudden flash of illumination, but through a life dedicated to obedience to God’s will. Thus it was that the believer became “like God” enjoying a freedom from all passions that hindered the soul’s ascent to perfection and deification. Few could attain this state. Clement’s Gnostic was as much the member of a spiritual elite as the Gnostic’s counterpart and shared the latter’s ultimate aim. The differences between Clement and the Alexandrian Gnostics were, however, equally important. Clement’s religion was monotheist as well as being church-oriented and he was profoundly influenced by Philo’s Platonism. For him also, God was absolutely transcendent, “unity but beyond unity, transcending the monad,” and embracing all reality and infinitely greater than all his works. He could be known, however, through his Son, or Word (Logos), not a Demiurge or lesser creator-god, but his image, mind, and reason, inseparable from himself. As J.N.D. Kelly pointed out, “the Word was like the Nous of middle-Platonism and Neo-Platonism; the Word was at once unity and plurality, comprising in Himself, His Father’s ideas and also the active forces by which He animates the world of creatures.” He reflected God rather than contrasted with God, while the Spirit was light issuing from Him, to illuminate the faithful (through the prophets and philosophers) pervading the world and drawing humans towards God. There was no dualism in Clement’s religion. For him, the Trinity consisted of a hierarchy of three graded Beings, and from that concept – derived from Platonism – depended much of the remainder of his theological teaching.

In addition, Clement had an optimistic view of human beings and their relation to God. The world was created by God and therefore was good. Man and woman had been made in the image of God, and had the means within themselves to progress toward God. There was no “natural evil” and no impassable categories of Spiritual Men, Psychics, and Hylics as in the Gnostic systems. Christ was Teacher (paidagogos) of humankind rather than Illuminator of the few. Understanding – itself the fruit of moral progress – was true Gnosis.

St. Clement loathed the Gnostics, not least the Carpocratians, for their fatalism and libertinism.

ST. CLEMENT’S VIEW OF GNOSIS OR “knowledge”

It is no exaggeration to praise St. Clement as the founder of speculative theology. If we compare him to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, it is evident that he represents an altogether different type of teacher. St. Irenaeus was the man of tradition, who derived his doctrine from apostolic preaching and regarded every influence from the surrounding culture and philosophy as a danger to the faith. St. Clement was the courageous and successful pioneer of a school that purposed to protect faith by making use of philosophy. Together with St. Irenaeus he fought against the false Gnosis. However, St. Clement did not remain merely negative against the false gnosis; he set up a true and Christian Gnosis.

Before St. Clement, the word “Gnostic” was identified as a heretic, for throughout the first two centuries, some heresies appeared under the title “Gnostics” in various forms. They believed – that knowledge (gnosis) is the main way of salvation. The reaction of many church leaders (such as Tertullian) was to attack “knowledge” and “philosophy” as enemies of “faith.” The School of Alexandria faced the Gnostic heresies, which were spread in the East, not by attacking “knowledge” (gnosis), but by giving a new concept of “knowledge” that helps believers even in their faith. The Alexandrian School adopted philosophy as a way that leads to faith, and looked to knowledge as a divine gift.

St. Clement of Alexandria emphasizes the following:

I. The title “Gnostic” does not refer to a heretic but to the orthodox Christian who attains the divine gnosis (knowledge) from the Holy Spirit, by illumination through Christ (the Logos) in the light of the tradition of the church. St. Clement writes, “Here are the notes that characterize our Gnostic: first, contemplation; then the fulfillment of the precepts; finally the instruction of good men. When these qualities are encountered in a man, he is a perfect Gnostic. But if one of them is missing, then his Gnostic is crippled.” According to Walter Volker, while St. Clement’s gnosis is animated by a basic concern for regulating one’s life, it is above all a knowledge of the Scriptures in which everything is illuminated through Christ (the Logos), in the light of the tradition of the Church.

II. Gnosis is the principle and author of every action conforming to the Logos.

III. The Gnostic is called to know God (ginoskein) or epignonai, to see God, and to possess Him.

IV. It is to the extent that the Gnostic attains this state that he becomes the equal of the angels.

V. The grace of gnosis comes from the Father through the Son.

VI. Christ is the source of knowledge (gnosis), who grants us His knowledge through baptism, by making God known to us from the fact that the eyes of our souls are purified.

VII. Christ gives us gnosis also through reading the Scriptures.

VIII. The true Gnostic desires knowledge, struggles to practice goodness not in fear but in love. He is full of love towards God and men, fulfills the will of God, a man of prayer, witnessing to God daily (as a martyr), and never fears death.

IX. Those who know (the Son) are called sons and gods. The Logos of God was made man so that you might learn how man can become god.

This information was reposted from : https://www.copticchurch.net/patrology/schoolofalex/I-Intro/chapter4.html

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Queen Scota – Egyptian Queen of Scotland

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful and brave princess, who was known as Scota. She was the daughter of Pharaoh Ankhanaton.

The princess had heard many tales about the far away lands of Scotland, and she had a dream of exploring these unknown places. She decided to set off on an adventure, so she gathered her loyal servants and sailed away from the shores of Egypt.

During the journey, Scota and her entourage faced many perils, but her strength and courage kept them all safe. After a long and difficult voyage, they finally reached the shores of Scotland.

The princess was delighted by the beauty of her new home, and determined to make it her own. She sought out the local chieftains and forged alliances, offering them her friendship in exchange for their loyalty.

In time, the princess’s presence had a major impact in the region. The people of Scotland adopted the culture and religious teachings of Egypt, and Scota’s name passed into history as the beloved founder of the Scots people.

Over time, her legacy and influence only increased, and the stories about this beautiful and brave princess lived on for centuries. Even today, when people think of Scotland, the name of Scota is remembered fondly.

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Serpent in the Sky (book) The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt

Serpent in the Sky is a non-fiction book by John Anthony West that presents an alternative take on the history of ancient Egypt. Drawing on an impressive range of disciplines and sources, West argues that the civilization of ancient Egypt was not the work of humans alone, but of a much more highly advanced and “lost” civilization. In an insightful and groundbreaking exploration of ancient civilizations, West brings together the available evidence to suggest the possibility of a much older and much more mysterious origin of the Giza complex — one with monumental implications involving extraterrestrial contacts, a history of advanced science, and a possible source of the culture’s accelerated evolutionary conditions. West’s provocative and original hypothesis will challenge long held notions of mankind’s artificial boundaries of time, knowledge and discoveries.

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Ruda and Rudra: Parallels in Pre-Islamic and Vedic Society

For centuries, scholars have studied the similarities and differences between the polytheistic religions of the ancient world. One of the most interesting such comparisons is of Ruda and Rudra, two deities that each have roots in both the pre-Islamic era and the Vedic period. Through analysis of their shared gods, this article seeks to identify any possible commonalities of religious symbolism and practices in both regions.

Rudaw or Ruda is thought to be one of the chief gods in the ancient pre-Islamic polytheistic religion. He is said to have been a warlike god who brought violence and destruction to those who did not honor him. Rudra, meanwhile, is found within the Vedic religion and is thought to emerge from Indo-Aryan culture. He is known as the “storm god”, who symbolizes fear and the destructive power of nature and of the gods.

One key similarity between Ruda/Rudaw and Rudra is the symbolic relationship between violence and power. In both gods’ stories, there is an assumption that violence is necessary in order to maintain order and power in a community. This links back to the concept of “divine retribution,” a belief that the gods will punish those who have done wrong or have forgotten their devotion to the gods. This concept is found in both pre-Islamic and Vedic religions.

Another commonality between Rudaw and Rudra can be found in their dual-faced nature. Rudaw was thought to have two faces: a benevolent one, and a cruel one. This duality was seen as a reflection of the power of Rudaw. Similarly, Rudra is also said to be two- faced: a responsible and an indulgent one. This duality is often seen as an indication of Rudra’s complex nature, as well as a representation of the balance of power. 

Finally, both gods are associated with the moon, which holds a special significance in various ancient religions. For Rudaw, the moon symbolizes the cycle of life and death, as well as the power to create and destroy. For Rudra, the moon is a reminder of the never-ending cycle of life and death, as well as the power of the gods.

Despite some distinctions between Rudaw and Rudra, there are certainly a number of similarities to be drawn between them. Beyond the obvious comparison of the two gods, these similarities suggest a shared belief system in pre-Islamic and Vedic societies. Whether or not these connections had an influence or effect on one another remains an open question. 

Ultimately, it is clear that there are a number of similarities between Ruda and Rudra and their associated religions. Through an examination of their shared symbolism and practices, it is possible to gain insight into the common beliefs of pre-Islamic and Vedic societies.

The Body is the Garden of Eden

The body is the Garden of Eden. The Head is the “Heaved Up Place” or the Dome of Heaven. The CSF (CerebroSpinal Fluid) is the river Gihon (Nile) one of the four rivers in the Garden of Eden mentioned in GeneISIS Chapter 2. It encompasses the land of EthiOpia which is the Etheric Optical or Optic Thalamus aka the Light Of The World. Accessed thru the Tree of Life aka the Vegus (Negus/King) Nerve. The 4 Rivers are in the Human anATOMy (Adam/Man). They are 4 heads that break off from the One River of Life which is SALiva/SALt/SALvation. The River of Saliva starting in the mouth is under the Pituitary (Peter) and above the Vegus Nerve which is connected to it. Both are associated with the Tree of Life.

The mouth eats the food of earth, breathes air, is wet with water. And speaks the word of Fire (4 elements).

 Euphrates is the Blood Stream. It means “Good to Cross” and is referring to the heart barrier Torus field which shapes the sign of the Cross.

The Pison is the URinary tract. UR means Gold. It went thru the land of Havilah (possibly India) which scriptures mentions as having gold. Abraham also was from the land of UR.

The Hiddikel River which is the Tigris is the digestive tract that runs thru Babylon, if it becomes corrupted it poisons the whole world/body. 

The Gihon/Nile is the CSF that flows up stream (Up the Spine/Micro Cosmic Orbit). It is also called the Chrism or Luminous Ether (5th Element that reaches the Medulla/Mouth Of God) which is the Anointing Oil, and is where we get the word Christ. Our Pineal Gland is constantly being bathed or Anointed with CSF. Gihon means “to burst forth”. 

The Semen (as welll as all other Oils secreted from the various glands) is considered an extension of the Life-Giving Chrism. Oil backwards is Lio/Leo/Lion. The Libido energy has long been thought of as a Lion. Consider the Nazarite Samson who conquered the Lion in order to get the Honey. In the Gospel Of Thomas Christ says: “Blessed is the Man who eats the Lion so the Lion can become Man. But woe to the man who is eaten of the Lion before the Lion becomes Man”

The Conquering Lion of Judah, like the Buddha has conquered the Lion within. The Bible also tells us to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a roaring Lion.

Most human bodies today function under the order of the god of this world. The secrets of Eden long forgotten but occasionally revealed by Great Awakened Beings.

Few are they who find the Way.

One of the hidden reasons for the practice of celibacy (Brahmacharya) in the seminary (semen-ary)  has to do with the refining of semenial fluid thru  sexual transmutation and raising up the Chrism. Sending Moses up the Nile… The fish/ seed that flows up stream until it reaches the land of milk (feminine lunar magnetic serotonin/melatonin ) and honey( masculine solar electric D.M.T/Divine Mental Transmutation)

The Mind of Is-Ra-El/ Single Eye of Eyesus which is unlocked in the Pineal/Penial discovered in GeneISIS 32.30 By Jacob who saw God face to face and lived. He was the grandson of SarAbram (Cerebrum) the Brahmins who became Fathers and Mothers of a New Race. 

Let thine Eye Be Single (MAAThew 6.22). 

In the New Testament the CSF is the Jordan/Yardin/Garden River. The Garden is protected with a sword of Fire. Christ said His baptism was one of Fire and Spirit. When our Pineal Gland is Baptized in the Jordan by being bathed in Chrism. The Oil sparks the Fire of Life and man literally receives the Holy Breath/Spirit. Higher Quality Chrism creates a greater flame and burns hotter. Christ said “those who are close to I are close to a Flame.”

To feed the flame you must use the reSPIRITory system to connect to Source Power and L.O.V.E (Law Of Vibrational Energy)… Man does not live off of bread alone but by the Word/vibration/Prana/life force that proceeds from the Mouth Of God (Medulla Oblangata at the base of the Skull/Golgotha.) The word EAT is hidden in the words brEATh and dEATh. These are the real names for the 2 trees ???? ???? in the garden. Physical orgasm drains the life force and brings death (tree of the knowledge of good and evil which is duality of birth and death), whereas using the breath raises the Chrism up the spine (Tree Of Life) and brings the blood/soul up to the head/Heaven where Khrist sits on the Throne in the center of the Brain surrounded by 12 cranial nerves (disciples) who are His “judges” . This is the Yoke/Yoga of Light that was taught by the Master Jesus and many other awakened Sons of the Most High.

Like the Apostle Paul who also knew the code of the 2 Trees and taught about the Fruit of the Spirit/Breath. One of them being Self Control which can be seen as Pranayama/Life-Force-Control/ Breath-Work/Shamanic Breathing.

The ancients spoke of healing through synchronized Breath with the Healer.

Let this same Mind that was in  Yahshua also be in YOU.  He left us the Sign of Jonah. Jonah means Dove which is a symbol of the Crown Chakra/Holy Spirit. Jonah is hidden in the belly of the fish/seed and must be raised up so that He can Speak the Word of Salvation to the “Gentiles” and save them with the At-One-Ment of Inner Anointing/Crystalizing/Christalizing. Why do you think he (Jonah) had the people of Niniveh fast pray and meditate for three days? He was teaching the same process God just took him thru. The same wilderness of meditation the Christ was in for 40 days. As Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness of meditation so the Seed of Man must also be lifted up.

Read the book of RA-veilations (Revelations)  and understand that the Mark of the Father is in the Forehead. 

The hidden message in the Name RasTafari is “The Mark/Sign/Seal in the Head is Worthy of Reverence”

Swami Paramahansa Yogananda said: “The Spine and the Brain are the altars of God”

Written by Ras Imon Shamaiwan

The Story of Mary Magdalene and the First Easter Egg

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the Easter egg is a pagan symbol.

The Easter egg in Christian tradition has a much humbler origin, and nothing to do with ancient pagan practices.

One tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that following the death and resurrection of Jesus, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by the Roman Emperor Tiberius.

Her purpose was to protest to him that his governor in Judea, Pontius Pilate, and the two high priests, had conspired and executed an innocent man, namely Jesus Christ.

According to this tradition, after the Ascension of Jesus, Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with “Christ has risen,” whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red.

This tradition of Mary Magdalene visiting Caesar Tiberius can be found in the Gospel of Nicodemus but it does not mention eggs:

Mary Magdalene said, weeping: Hear, O peoples, tribes, and tongues, and learn to what death the lawless Jews have delivered Him Who did them ten thousand good deeds. Hear, and be astonished. Who will let these things be heard by all the world? I shall go alone to Rome, to the Caesar. I shall show him what evil Pilate hath done in obeying the lawless Jews. (the Gospel of Nicodemus)

This she did. Going to Tiberius, she handed him an egg, saying: “Christ is risen.” It was the custom to give gifts to Caesar, but usually not something like an egg! Tiberius would not take the egg, but asked to know why she had offered it to him. Saint Mary explained that just as life is in an egg, so Christ the Life lay in the tomb. And as the chick breaks out of the “stone” of the shell, so Jesus came forth from the stone tomb in triumph over death. Taken aback, Tiberius demanded a sign that her words were true. Instantly the egg turned scarlet in Saint Mary’s hand, and she then spoke of Christ granting life through the shedding of His blood. It is from this incident that we have the custom of Easter eggs, which in the Eastern Churches are always bright red.

Learning of this offering by Mary Magdalene, the early Christians imitated her, presenting each other with eggs. Hence, eggs began to be used by Christians in the earliest centuries as a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ and of the regeneration of Christians for a new and a better life along with it.

For Orthodox Christians, the egg symbolizes the empty rock tomb from which Jesus Christ arose after Ηis Crucifixion.

Consider the following words from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Because the use of eggs was forbidden during Lent, they were brought to the table on Easter Day, colored red to symbolize the Easter joy. This custom is found not only in the Latin but also in the Oriental Churches.”

Traditionally, Easter eggs are dyed throughout the Orthodox Christian world on Holy Thursday, and they are dyed red to represent the redeeming blood of Christ that was shed on the Cross, the white egg (before being dyed) represents the white marble tomb were Christ’s body was laid after He was taken down from the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolises the sealed tomb of Christ

Easter : The awakening and raising to spiritual consciousness of the divine mind in man, which has been dead in trespasses and sins and buried in the tomb of materiality.

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