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Gnosticism in a Gnutshell   9 comments

Greetings Seekers of Gnosis!


The following is compiled from a series of posts I made on Facebook, which were intended to introduce some basic concepts of Gnostic philosophy and cosmology to people who were unfamiliar with it.  To be honest, I was inspired to write it when a Pagan who had been directed to my work was shocked to hear me speak of the Divine in Biblical terms.  She asked if I believed the God of the Bible was “the real God”, and I promptly confused her further by saying, “You mean Jehovah??  No, I’m talking about God.”  She responded with, “So, then, who is ‘God’?”  That’s not something you can answer in just a few lines on Facebook – so I took my time and wrote the following.

If what you read here interests you, I should also direct you to my earlier series Gnosticism: Sethian to Valentinian that goes into further detail on the evolution of the Gnostic Mythos.  (There’s more than one!)  That is also an introductory work, but what you’ll read below is an even more basic overview of the philosophy and cosmology of Gnosticism in general.  (Yes, it over-simplifies a lot!  But keep in mind this is for folks who know little to nothing about it.  You can easily go from here into more complex material concerning the tradition.  I highly recommend The Gnostic Scriptures by Bentley Layton as a starting point.)  So, without further ado:

Gnosticism in a Gnutshell

The Highest of All is called “The Parent”. It has no name, it’s affiliated with no religion.  Some call it “the Source.” It is Ineffable and Incomprehensible to the human mind – truly infinite.

There is a tiny sliver of that Source we monkeys can sort of guess at. The Gnostics called that the Logos – the Word. He represents Sentience. They also called it the Christos – the Anointed. (Guess where the Christians got those words from?) All of those prayers to “the Highest God” are basically prayers to the Logos. It’s the highest we can grasp.

Finally, there is another tiny sliver we can comprehend (a little better than the Logos) – and that is the Mother Sophia. She’s basically the Mother of the world – she gave birth to the Demiurge. (Guess where the Catholics got all their Mary “Mother of God” worship from?)

The Logos and Sophia are the Mother and Father of the world. (Guess where Alchemy got the imagery of the Alchemical King and Queen from?) The Neopagans call them Lord and Lady.

And all of them (except for the Demiurgos – more on him later) live beyond the band of fixed stars, in the infinity of the Source – which the Gnostics called the Pleroma – the Fullness. Of course, the Logos and Sophia can reach down here to us – which is why we know them

Meanwhile, all of the angels and deities (which are essentially the same thing) that live on our side of the Great Barrier are called Archons – the Rulers. Jehovah and Yahweh and Osiris and Marduk and Zeus (etc), along with the angels and demons and spirits – who inhabit and make up the universe – all exist on *our* side of the fixed stars. That is the realm of Nature.  They were created by the Demirugos during the time he was blind to the Fullness above him. They are represented by the stars and planets of astrology – because they govern Fate. The role of the Gnostic was to ascend past Fate, past the Archons, and return to the Fullness.  In fact, that’s why the old Gnostics were strictly anti-Astrology.


The Aeons, Sophia, and the Christos

King-Queen-ChildIn my last post about Gnosticism, I mentioned only two small slivers of the Parent of the Entirety (aka “God”) that we can hope to understand (a little). One is the Logos/Christos (which is what we usually mean when we talk about “God”) and the other is Sophia – God’s Wisdom. She is also known as the Shekinah (God’s Presence), Aima Elohim (Mother of the Gods), or the Hermetic Soul of the World.

But there is, of course, more to the story.

Sophia is what we call an Aeon. (That’s pronounced EE-on, not AY-on.) And She isn’t the only one. The Aeons are super-cosmically massive spiritual beings who exist in the Pleroma beyond the Great Barrier of Fixed Stars.

Remember I described the Logos as “Sentience” – the manifestation of the Parent’s awareness of Itself. (“I AM” to all you Qabalists.) The Logos was not the first thought the Parent had – but the Parent’s ability to think. Once this Sentience existed, the Parent (of course) began to have thoughts – and those thoughts rolled out in pairs called “Aeons” – each pair giving rise to the next pair (in just the same way your thoughts work). These guys are so immense they are just as often described as realms within the Pleroma or even – as their name implies – vast epochs of time. If you study the Qabalah, you know the Aeons by the name “Sephiroth.”

Every single Gnostic sect had their own list of the Aeons, how many their were, what their Names were, what their Names meant, how they were paired, etc. The important thing to know here is that the Aeons are the Platonic Archetypes for everything that would later come to exist in the physical world. Just like the Qabalistic Sephiroth, they are not “archangels”, but infinitely vast spiritual realms or states of being.

However, there were some problems at this point. The Aeons were the thoughts of the Parent, yes, but they were scattered thoughts – heaving to and fro without much direction. Their unchecked passions created a cacophony in the Pleroma.

Sophia – Wisdom – was the last of the Aeons. Just as every pair of Aeons above Her had produced dual offspring, so did She wish to engender the next pair of Aeons. But Her mate, seeing They were already so far from the Source, did not wish to continue. So, She went off on Her own and had a child (Virgin Birth, anyone?) – and that child was called the Demiurgos (or Demiurge – the Creator, the Architect, etc). But, because he was born in a state of imbalance, he was deformed, blind, and mad. Sophia instantly regretted Her decision, covered the infant in Darkness, and wept.

The Logos saw all of this happening, and came to the rescue. First, He arranged the Aeons into a balanced pattern and taught them Repose (a concept likely imported from Buddhism) to quiet their passions. Once he had calmed them down, He turned His attentions to Sophia and her problem. He created the Great Barrier to separate the Pleroma from the Darkness, and paired with Sophia to engender a host of “angels” (really minor Aeons, not the angels we all know and love). They also engendered the Holy Spirit Itself – Their combined Divine Force that would later descend to Earth (but that’s another story).

Because the Logos had brought balance and repose to the Aeons, He was crowned and named “The Anointed” (Christos). And because He had rescued Sophia from Her passions, He was also named “The Redeemer.” The Christos and Sophia are the Mother and Father of the World, the God and Goddess, the King and Queen of Alchemy.

Everything you have read above has been an _allegory_ for what occurred within the mind of the Parent. It is a perfect reflection of what happens in YOUR mind from the moment you gain sentience, to the point where you develop the ability to balance your own thoughts, calm your passions, and find Repose – just as in Buddhism.

Next we’ll talk about the Demiurgos, and what became of him.

The Demiurgos

god-monty python

In my previous “Gnoticism in a Gnutshell” posts, I made several references to the Demiurgos (or Demiurge), and promised to explain his story as well. So, here goes!

As I said previously, the Demiurge was created by Sophia when she wished to engender a child but her Aeonic partner refused to participate. Due to this imbalance, the Demiurge was born deformed, blind, and mad – causing Sophia great sorrow. The Logos/Christos heard her cries and came to the rescue (a story very similar to Thoth coming to the aid of Nut when she gave birth to the Nine Gods). The Christos created the Great Barrier of Fixed Stars to wall off the Pleroma from the realm of darkness and the influence of the Demiurge. Afterward the Christos and Sophia became the Heavenly Father and Mother we know and love today, together giving birth to not only the Holy Spirit, but also a host of lesser Aeons who became the “Holy Guardian Angels.”

But that left the Demiurge all alone in a realm of darkness. We don’t know what the plan was to redeem him and bring him back home again – but we DO know that things didn’t go so well with him…

By the time the Demiurge became aware, he found himself “the only being in an abyss of darkness.” (“From an abyss of darkness came I forth ere my birth, from the silence of a primal sleep.”) He did not know of the Mother and Father above him, and so believed he was all that existed. That is, at least, until he gazed down into the water of the abyss. There, he saw the reflected Light of the Mother – who was watching over him. He fell immediately in love with that Light, and (not knowing it was a mere reflection) rushed forward to embrace it. He took the Light into himself, and this is how he came into possession of a “fallen” piece of the Pleroma itself.

I have given the entire story of the Demiurge elsewhere, but here I’ll be brief. He used the power of the Light to create the known universe (the celestial, earthly, and underworld realms), all of the angels who govern the stars (which the Gnostics called Archons – rulers), and all of the plants and animals and spirits of the Earth.

It is important to know the Architect didn’t come up with the design for the universe by himself. It was in fact granted to him, via inspiration, by the Christos/Logos himself. Yes, the Christos was the true architect of the universe – the Demiurge being more of a foreman in charge of the construction. This is why the created realm is a reflection of the patterns the Christos created when he brought order and balance to the Pleroma. “As above, so below.” This is also why the Gnostics often refer to him as the true Creator (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and without the Word was nothing created.” – see John 1:1-5.)

Eventually the Demiurge was inspired to create Man (Adam). But when he breathed the Breath of Life into the Man, he inadvertently passed the entirety of the Light into the new creature. He attempted to remove that Life (Eve) from Adam, but it was eventually passed down into their son Seth. (Cain did not possess the Light.) The rest of the saga can be read in the Old Testament.

But wait… does this mean all of the Biblical religions in the world are actually worshiping the Demiurge – a lesser, false God? Yes, it does! And here you see why those religions consider Gnosticism an evil heresy that must be stamped out. But I digress…

It was Cain who founded the civilizations of the world – the “Cainites.” The descendants (Sons) of Seth, however, each possessed a piece of the Light – and it is our job to ascend, to become “more than human”, and to eventually (after many reincarnations) return home to the Pleroma – carrying the Light with us. When the last Gnostic ascends from this realm, the universe will descend into darkness and cease to be.

But what of the Demiurge? Well the original “Sethian” Gnostics believed he was one and the same with Satan. They believed he and the Archons were evil despots who feed on the suffering of mankind – trapping them into an endless cycle of reincarnation to power his grand machine (the universe). But that’s not the end of his story!

The later Valentinian Gnostics had a different view. They didn’t believe the Demiurge was an evil being at all. They knew what had happened to him wasn’t his fault, and that he was merely ignorant of the Pleroma above him. For this reason, the Logos descends into the created realm in order to teach the Truth, or what is called the “Gospel” (Good News). The Christos came down upon a rebellious rabbi named Joshua (you know him better by the Romanized version of his name: Jesus) during his baptism, and proceeded to perform a world-changing ministry. This is the truth of “Jesus Christ.” Christ isn’t his last name! He was merely a human man who was host to the Christos. The ministry was actually the Christos speaking through him.

What you see in the New Testament are Jesus’ public teachings. What we call Gnosticism consists of his secret teachings – reserved only for his close Disciples. (See Matthew 13:10-17.) Part of this secret teaching was given to none other than the Demiurge himself – wherein the Christos revealed the full story to the Architect, and the Plan that had been enacted so the Gnostics could finally carry the fallen Light back home again. Since that time, the once-despotic and ignorant Demiurge became an ally in the Great Plan. His job, and that of the Archons, is merely to maintain the physical world (both good and bad) until the Plan is finally fulfilled.

And that, brothers and sisters, is the end of this series of posts. You now have the basics of the Gnostic philosophy. There is, of course, much more to the story – many details I left out of this introduction. If you’d like a good overview of the entire Gnostic mythos – the saga of the Great Plan to redeem the Light – you might enjoy this series of articles I wrote many years ago for the now-defunct “Gnostic Cross Magazine”, called Gnosticism: Sethian to Valentinian.


Father Aaron Leitch

Posted January 4, 2020 by kheph777 in gnosticism

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