THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 10, August, 1968
(Pages 301-310; Size: 31K)
(Number 10 of a 36-part series)

THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(13)

GNOSIS AND CHRISTIANITY:
Christos and Sophia Achamoth

TO return to our Sophia-Achamoth and the belief of the genuine, primitive Christians. After having produced Ilda-Baoth ... Sophia-Achamoth suffered so much from the contact with matter, that after extraordinary struggles she escapes at last out of the muddy chaos. Although unacquainted with the pleroma, the region of her mother, she reached the middle space and succeeded in shaking off the material parts which have stuck to her spiritual nature; after which she immediately built a strong barrier between the world of intelligences (spirits) and the world of matter. Ilda-Baoth, is thus the "son of darkness," the creator of our sinful world (the physical portion of it). He follows the example of Bythos and produces from himself six stellar spirits (sons). They are all in his own image, and reflections one of the other, which become darker as they successively recede from their father. With the latter, they all inhabit seven regions disposed like a ladder, beginning under the middle space, the region of their mother, Sophia-Achamoth, and ending with our earth, the seventh region. Thus they are the genii of the seven planetary spheres of which the lowest is the region of our earth (the sphere which surrounds it, our æther). The respective names of these genii of the spheres are Iòve (Jehovah), Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi, Ouraios, Astaphaios. The first four, as every one knows, are the mystic names of the Jewish "Lord God,"(1) he being, as C. W. King expresses it, "thus degraded by the Ophites into the appellations of the subordinates of the Creator"; "the two last names are those of the genii of fire and water."

Ilda-Baoth, whom several sects regarded as the God of Moses, was not a pure spirit; he was ambitious and proud, and rejecting the spiritual light of the middle space offered him by his mother Sophia-Achamoth, he set himself to create a world of his own. Aided by his sons, the six planetary genii, he fabricated man, but this one proved a failure. It was a monster, soulless, ignorant, and crawling on all fours on the ground like a material beast. Ilda-Baoth was forced to implore the help of his spiritual mother. She communicated to him a ray of her divine light, and so animated man and endowed him with a soul. And now began the animosity of Ilda-Baoth toward his own creature. Following the impulse of the divine light, man soared higher and higher in his aspirations; very soon he began presenting not the image of his Creator Ilda-Baoth but rather that of the Supreme Being, the "primitive man," Ennoia. Then the Demiurgus was filled with rage and envy; and fixing his jealous eye on the abyss of matter, his looks envenomed with passion were suddenly reflected in it as in a mirror; the relation became animate, and there arose out of the abyss Satan, serpent, Ophiomorphos -- "the embodiment of envy and of cunning. He is the union of all that is most base in matter, with the hate, envy, and craft of a spiritual intelligence."

After that, always in spite at the perfection of man, Ilda-Baoth created the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, vegetable, and animal, with all evil instincts and properties. Impotent to annihilate the Tree of Knowledge, which grows in his sphere as in every one of the planetary regions, but bent upon detaching "man" from his spiritual protectress, Ilda-Baoth forbade him to eat of its fruit, for fear it should reveal to mankind the mysteries of the superior world. But Sophia-Achamoth, who loved and protected the man whom she had animated, sent her own genius Ophis, in the form of a serpent to induce man to transgress the selfish and unjust command. And "man" suddenly became capable of comprehending the mysteries of creation.

Ilda-Baoth revenged himself by punishing the first pair, for man, through his knowledge, had already provided for himself a companion out of his spiritual and material half. He imprisoned man and woman in a dungeon of matter, in the body so unworthy of his nature, wherein man is still enthralled. But Achamoth protected him still. She established between her celestial region and "man," a current of divine light, and kept constantly supplying him with this spiritual illumination.

Then follow allegories embodying the idea of dualism, or the struggle between good and evil, spirit and matter, which is found in every cosmogony, and the source of which is again to be sought in India. The types and antitypes represent the heroes of this Gnostic Pantheon, borrowed from the most ancient mythopœic ages. But, in these personages, Ophis and Ophiomorphos, Sophia and Sophia-Achamoth, Adam-Kadmon, and Adam, the planetary genii and the divine Æons, we can also recognize very easily the models of our biblical copies -- the euhemerized patriarchs. The archangels, virtues and powers, are all found, under other names, in the Vedas and the Buddhistic system. The Avestic Supreme Being, Zero-ana, or "Boundless Time," is the type of all these Gnostic and kabalistic "Depths," "Crowns," and even of the Chaldean En-Soph. The six Amshaspends, created through the "Word" of Ormazd, the "First-Born," have their reflections in Bythos and his emanations, and the antitype of Ormazd -- Ahriman and his devs also enter into the composition of Ilda-Baoth and his six material, though not wholly evil, planetary genii.

Achamoth, afflicted with the evils which befall humanity, notwithstanding her protection, beseeches the celestial mother Sophia -- here antitype -- to prevail on the unknown DEPTH to send down Christos (the son and emanation of the "Celestial Virgin") to the help of perishing humanity. Ilda-Baoth and his six sons of matter are shutting out the divine light from mankind. Man must be saved. Ilda-Baoth had already sent his own agent, John the Baptist, from the race of Seth, whom he protects -- as a prophet to his people; but only a small portion listened to him -- the Nazarenes, the opponents of the Jews, on account of their worshipping Iurbo-Adunai.(2) Achamoth had assured her son, Ilda-Baoth, that the reign of Christos would be only temporal, and thus induced him to send the forerunner, or precursor. Besides that, she made him cause the birth of the man Jesus from the Virgin Mary, her own type on earth, "for the creation of a material personage could only be the work of the Demiurgus, not falling within the province of a higher power. As soon as Jesus was born, Christos, the perfect, uniting himself with Sophia (wisdom and spirituality), descended through the seven planetary regions, assuming in each an analogous form, and concealing his true nature from their genii, while he attracted into himself the sparks of divine light which they retained in their essence. Thus, Christos entered into the man Jesus at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan. From that time Jesus began to work miracles; before that, he bad been completely ignorant of his mission."

Ilda-Baoth, discovering that Christos was bringing to an end his own kingdom of matter, stirred up the Jews against him, and Jesus was puttodeath.(3) When on the Cross, Christos and Sophia left his body and returned to their own sphere. The material body of the man Jesus was abandoned to the earth, but he himself was given a body made up of œther (astral soul). "Thenceforward he consisted of merely soul and spirit, which was the reason why the disciples did not recognize him after the resurrection. In this spiritual state of a simulacrum, Jesus remained on earth for eighteen months after he had risen. During this last sojourn, "he received from Sophia that perfect knowledge, that true Gnosis, which he communicated to the very few among the apostles who were capable of receiving the same."

"Thence, ascending up into the middle space, he sits on the right hand of Ilda-Baoth, but unperceived by him, and there collects all the souls which shall have been purified by the knowledge of Christ. When he has collected all the spiritual light that exists in matter, out of Ilda-Baoth's empire, the redemption will be accomplished and the world will be destroyed. Such is the meaning of the re-absorption of all the spiritual light into the pleroma or fulness, whence it originally descended."

The foregoing is from the description given by Theodoret and adopted by King in his Gnostics, with additions from Epiphanius and Irenæus. But the former gives a very imperfect version, concocted partly from the descriptions of Irenæus, and partly from his own knowledge of the later Ophites, who, toward the end of the third century, had blended already with several other sects. Irenæus also confounds them very frequently, and the real theogony of the Ophites is given by none of them correctly. With the exception of a change in names, the above-given theogony is that of all the Gnostics, and also of the Nazarenes. Ophis is but the successor of the Egyptian Chnuphis, the Good Serpent with a lion's radiating head, and was held from days of the highest antiquity as an emblem of wisdom, or Thauth, the instructor and Saviour of humanity, the "Son of God." "Oh men, live soberly ... win your immortality!" exclaims Hermes, the thrice-great Trismegistus. "Instructor and guide of humanity, I will lead you on to salvation." Thus the oldest sectarians regarded Ophis, the Agathodæmon, as identical with Christos; the serpent being the emblem of celestial wisdom and eternity, and, in the present case, the antitype of the Egyptian Chnuphis-serpent. These Gnostics, the earliest of our Christian era, held: "That the supreme Æon, having emitted other Æons out of himself, one of them, a female, Prunnikos (concupiscence), descended into the chaos, whence, unable to escape, she remained suspended in the mid-space, being too clogged by matter to return above, and not falling lower where there was nothing in affinity with her nature. She then produced her son Ilda-Baoth, the God of the Jews, who, in his turn, produced seven Æons, or angels,(4) who created the seven heavens."

In this plurality of heavens the Christians believed from the first, for we find Paul teaching of their existence and speaking of a man "caught up to the third heaven" (II Cor. 13). "From these seven angels Ilda-Baoth shut up all that was above him, lest they should know of anything superior to himself."(5) They then created man in the image of their Father,(6) but prone and crawling on the earth like a worm. But the heavenly mother, Prunnikos, wishing to deprive Ilda-Baoth of the power with which she had unwittingly endowed him, infused into man a celestial spark -- the spirit. Immediately man rose upon his feet, soared in mind beyond the limits of the seven spheres, and glorified the Supreme Father, Him that is above Ilda-Baoth. Hence, the latter, full of jealousy, cast down his eyes upon the lowest stratum of matter, and begot a potency in the form of a serpent, whom they (the Ophites) call his son. Eve, obeying him as the son of God, was persuaded to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

It is a self-evident fact that the serpent of the Genesis, who appears suddenly and without any preliminary introduction, must have been the antitype of the Persian Arch-Devs, whose head is Ash-Mogh, the "two-footed serpent of lies." If the Bible-serpent had been deprived of his limbs before he had tempted woman unto sin, why should God specify as a punishment that he should go "upon his belly?" Nobody supposes that he walked upon the extremity of his tail.

This controversy about the supremacy of Jehovah, between the Presbyters and Fathers on the one hand, and the Gnostics, the Nazarenes, and all the sects declared heterodox, as a last resort, on the other, lasted till the days of Constantine, and later. That the peculiar ideas of the Gnostics about the genealogy of Jehovah, or the proper place that had to be assigned, in the Christian-Gnostic Pantheon, to the God of the Jews, were at first deemed neither blasphemous nor heterodox is evident in the difference of opinions held on this question by Clemens of Alexandria, for instance, and Tertullian. The former, who seems to have known of Basilides better than anybody else, saw nothing heterodox or blamable in the mystical and transcendental views of the new Reformer. "In his eyes," remarks the author of The Gnostics, speaking of Clemens, "Basilides was not a heretic, i.e., an innovator as regards the doctrines of the Christian Church, but a mere theosophic philosopher, who sought to express ancient truths under new forms, and perhaps to combine them with the new faith, the truth of which he could admit without necessarily renouncing the old, exactly as is the case with the learned Hindus of our day."

Not so with Irenæus and Tertullian.(7) The principal works of the latter against the Heretics, were written after his separation from the Catholic Church, when he had ranged himself among the zealous followers of Montanus; and teem with unfairness and bigoted prejudice.(8) He has exaggerated every Gnostic opinion to a monstrous absurdity, and his arguments are not based on coercive reasoning but simply on the blind stubbornness of a partisan fanatic. Discussing Basilides, the "pious, god-like, theosophic philosopher," as Clemens of Alexandria thought him, Tertullian exclaims, "After this, Basilides, the heretic, broke loose.(9) He asserted that there is a Supreme God, by name Abraxas, by whom Mind was created, whom the Greeks call Nous. From her emanated the Word; from the Word, Providence; from Providence, Virtue and Wisdom; from these two again, Virtues, Principalities,(10) and Powers were made; thence infinite productions and emissions of angels. Among the lowest angels, indeed, and those that made this world, he sets last of all the god of the Jews, whom he denies to be God himself, affirming that he is but one of the angels."

It would be equally useless to refer to the direct apostles of Christ, and show them as holding in their controversies that Jesus never made any difference between his "Father" and the "Lord-God" of Moses. For the Clementine Homilies, in which occur the greatest argumentations upon the subject, as shown in the disputations alleged to have taken place between Peter and Simon the Magician, are now also proved to have been falsely attributed to Clement the Roman. This work, if written by an Ebionite -- as the author of Supernatural Religion declares in common with some other commentators -- must have been written either far later than the Pauline period, generally assigned to it, or the dispute about the identity of Jehovah with God, the "Father of Jesus," have been distorted by later interpolations. This disputation is in its very essence antagonistic to the early doctrines of the Ebionites. The latter, as demonstrated by Epiphanius and Theodoret, were the direct followers of the Nazarene sect (the Sabians), the "Disciples of John." He says, unequivocally, that the Ebionites believed in the Æons (emanations), that the Nazarenes were their instructors, and that "each imparted to the other out of his own wickedness." Therefore, holding the same beliefs as the Nazarenes did, an Ebionite would not have given even so much chance to the doctrine supported by Peter in the Homilies. The old Nazarenes, as well as the later ones, whose views are embodied in the Codex Nazarœus, never called Jehovah otherwise than Adonai, Iurbo, the God of the Abortive(11) (the orthodox Jews). They kept their beliefs and religious tenets so secret that even Epiphanius, writing as early as the end of the fourth century, confesses his ignorance as to their real doctrine. "Dropping the name of Jesus," says the Bishop of Salamis, "they neither call themselves Iessaens, nor continue to hold the name of the Jews, nor name themselves Christians, but Nazarenes ... The resurrection of the dead is confessed by them ... concerning Christ, I cannot say whether they think him a mere man, or as the truth is, confess that he was born through the Holy Pneuma from the Virgin."

While Simon Magus argues in the Homilies from the standpoint of every Gnostic (Nazarenes and Ebionites included), Peter, as a true apostle of circumcision, holds to the old Law and, as a matter of course, seeks to blend his belief in the divinity of Christ with his old Faith in the "Lord God" and ex-protector of the "chosen people." As the author of Supernatural Religion shows, the Epitome,(12) "a blending of the other two, probably intended to purge them from heretical doctrine" and, together with a great majority of critics, assigns to the Homilies, a date not earlier than the end of the third century, we may well infer that they must differ widely with their original, if there ever was one. Simon the Magician proves throughout the whole work that the Demiurgus, the Architect of the World, is not the highest Deity; and he bases his assertions upon the words of Jesus himself, who states repeatedly that "no man knew the Father." Peter is made in the Homilies to repudiate, with a great show of indignation, the assertion that the Patriarchs were not deemed worthy to know the Father; to which Simon objects again by quoting the words of Jesus who thanks the "Lord of Heaven and earth that what was concealed from the wise" he has "revealed to babes," proving very logically that according to these very words the Patriarchs could not have known the "Father." Then Peter argues, in his turn, that the expression, "what is concealed from the wise," etc., referred to the concealed mysteries of the creation.

This argumentation of Peter, therefore, had it even emanated from the apostle himself, instead of being a "religious romance," as the author of Supernatural Religion calls it, would prove nothing whatever in favor of the identity of the God of the Jews, with the "Father" of Jesus. At best it would only demonstrate that Peter had remained from first to last "an apostle of circumcision," a Jew faithful to his old law, and a defender of the Old Testament. This conversation proves, moreover, the weakness of the cause he defends, for we see in the apostle a man who, although in most intimate relations with Jesus, can furnish us nothing in the way of direct proof that he ever thought of teaching that the all-wise and all-good Paternity he preached was the morose and revengeful thunderer of Mount Sinai. But what the Homilies do prove, is again our assertion that there was a secret doctrine preached by Jesus to the few who were deemed worthy to become its recipients and custodians. "And Peter said: 'We remember that our Lord and teacher, as commanding, said to us, guard the mysteries for me, and the sons of my house. Wherefore also he explained to his disciples, privately, the mysteries of the kingdoms of the heavens'."

If we now recall the fact that a portion of the Mysteries of the "Pagans" consisted of the aporrheta, or secret discourses; that the secret Logia or discourses of Jesus contained in the original Gospel according to Matthew, the meaning and interpretation of which St. Jerome confessed to be "a difficult task" for him to achieve, were of the same nature; and if we remember, further, that to some of the interior or final Mysteries only a very select few were admitted; and that finally it was from the number of the latter that were taken all the ministers of the holy "Pagan" rites, we will then clearly understand this expression of Jesus quoted by Peter: "Guard the Mysteries for me and the sons of my house," i.e., of my doctrine. And, if we understand it rightly, we cannot avoid thinking that this "secret" doctrine of Jesus, even the technical expressions of which are but so many duplications of the Gnostic and Neo-platonic mystic phraseology -- that this doctrine, we say, was based on the same transcendental philosophy of Oriental Gnosis as the rest of the religions of those and earliest days. That none of the later Christian sects, despite their boasting, were the inheritors of it, is evident from the contradictions, blunders, and clumsy repatching of the mistakes of every preceding century by the discoveries of the succeeding one. These mistakes, in a number of manuscripts claimed to be authentic, are sometimes so ridiculous as to bear on their face the evidence of being pious forgeries. Thus, for instance, the utter ignorance of some patristic champions of the very gospels they claimed to defend. We have mentioned the accusation against Marcion by Tertullian and Epiphanius of mutilating the Gospel ascribed to Luke, and erasing from it that which is now proved to have never been in that Gospel at all.

Finally, the method adopted by Jesus of speaking in parables, in which he only followed the example of his sect, is attributed in the Homilies to a prophecy of Isaiah! Peter is made to remark: "For Isaiah said: 'I will open my mouth in parables, and I will utter things that have been kept secret from the foundation of the world:'" This erroneous reference to Isaiah of a sentence given in Psalms 78:2, is found not only in the apocryphal Homilies, but also in the Sinaitic Codex. Commenting on the fact in the Supernatural Religion, the author states that "Porphyry, in the third century, twitted Christians with this erroneous ascription by their inspired evangelist to Isaiah of a passage from a Psalm, and reduced the Fathers to great straits." Eusebius and Jerome tried to get out of the difficulty by ascribing the mistake to an "ignorant scribe;" and Jerome even went to the length of asserting that the name of Isaiah never stood after the above sentence in any of the old codices, but that the name of Asaph was found in its place, only "ignorant men had removed it." To this, the author again observes that "the fact is that the reading 'Asaph' for 'Isaiah' is not found in any manuscript extant; and, although 'Isaiah' has disappeared from all but a few obscure codices, it cannot be denied that the name anciently stood in the text. In the Sinaitic Codex, which is probably the earliest manuscript extant ... and which is assigned to the fourth century," he adds, "the prophet Isaiah stands in the text by the first hand, but is erased by the second."


Next article:
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
 GNOSIS AND CHRISTIANITY: Jesus-Logos-Christos
(Part 11 of a 36-part series)

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THIRTEEN (13) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(13) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) This Iove, Iao, or Jehovah is quite distinct from the God of the Mysteries, IAO, held sacred by all the nations of antiquity. We will show the difference presently.
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(2) Iurbo and Adunai, according to the Ophites, are names of Iao-Jehovah, one of the emanations of Ilda-Baoth. "Iurbo is called by the Abortives (the Jews) Aduni" (Codex Nazarœus, vol. iii., p. 73).
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(3) In the "Gospel of Nicodemus," Ilda-Baoth is called Satan by the pious and anonymous author -- evidently one of the final flings at the half-crushed enemy, "As for me," says Satan, excusing himself to the prince of hell, "I tempted him (Jesus), and stirred up my old people, the Jews, against him" (chap. 15:9). Of all examples of Christian ingratitude this seems almost the most conspicuous. The poor Jews are first robbed of their sacred books, and then, in a spurious "Gospel," are insulted by the representation of Satan claiming them as his "old people." If they were his people, and at the same time are "God's chosen people," then the name of this God must be written Satan and not Jehovah. This is logic, but we doubt if it can be regarded as complimentary to the "Lord God of Israel."
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(4) This is the Nazarene system; the Spiritus, after uniting herself with karabtanos (matter, turbulent and senseless), brings forth seven badly-disposed stellars, in the Orcus; "Seven Figures," which she bore "witless" (Codex Nazarœus, i., p. 118). Justin Martyr evidently adopts this idea, for he tells us of "the sacred prophets, who say that one and the same spirit is divided into seven spirits (pneumata). In the Apocalypse the Holy Spirit is subdivided into "seven spirits before the throne," from the Persian Mithraic mode of classifying.
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(5) This certainly looks like the "jealous God" of the Jews.
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(6) It is the Elohim (plural) who create Adam, and do not wish man to become "as one of us."
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(7) Some persons hold that he was Bishop of Rome, others, of Carthage.
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(8) His polemical work addressed against the so-called orthodox Church -- the Catholic -- notwithstanding its bitterness and usual style of vituperation, is far more fair, considering that the "great African" is said to have been expelled from the Church of Rome. If we believe St. Jerome it is but the envy and the unmerited calumnies of the early Roman clergy against Tertullian which forced him to renounce the Catholic Church and become a Montanist. However, were the unlimited admiration of St. Cyprian, who terms Tertullian "The Master," and his estimate of him merited, we would see less error and paganism in the Church of Rome. The expression of Vincent of Lerius, "that every word of Tertullian was a sentence, and every sentence a triumph over error," does not seem very happy when we think of the respect paid to Tertullian by the Church of Rome, notwithstanding his partial apostasy and the errors in which the latter still abides and has even enforced upon the world as infallible dogmas.
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(9) Were not the views of the Phrygian Bishop Montanus, also deemed a HERESY by the Church of Rome? It is quite extraordinary to see how easily the Vatican encourages the abuse of one heretic Tertullian, against another heretic Basilides, when the abuse happens to further her own object.
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(10) Does not Paul himself speak of "Principalities and Powers in heavenly places" (Eph. 3:10; 1:21), and confess that there be gods many and Lords many (Kurioi)? And angels, powers (Dunameis), and Principalities?
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(11) The Ophites, for instance, made of Adonai the third son of Ilda-Baoth, a malignant genius, and, like his other five brothers, a constant enemy and adversary of man, whose divine and immortal spirit gave man the means of becoming the rival of these genii.
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(12) The "Clementines" are composed of three parts -- to wit: the Homilies, the Recognitions, and an Epitome.
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