Index  Previous  Next 
Fragments of a Faith Forgotten by G.R.S. Mead (Buy this book at


"VALENTINUS and Heracleon and Ptolemæus and the entire school of these [Gnostics], disciples of Pythagoras and Plato and following their guidance, laid down the 'arithmetical science' as the fundamental principle of their doctrine.

"For them the beginning of all things is the Monad, ingenerable, imperishable, incomprehensible, The Father of all. inconceptible, the creator and cause of all things that are generated. This Monad is called by them the Father. Now as to its nature, there is a difference of opinion among them. For some declare . . . . that the Father is devoid of femininity, and without a syzygy, and solitary;

p. 336

whereas others think it is impossible that the creation of all things should be from a single male principle, and so they are compelled to add to the Father of all, in order that He may be a Father, the syzygy Silence. But as to whether Silence is a syzygy or not, let them settle this dispute among themselves. . . ."

Hippolytus has missed the point as usual; there were Fathers for every plane, the monads or monadic state of being, and also Father-Mothers, the dyads or dyadic state of being, and as forth.

"In the beginning, says [the Gnostic whose MS. Hippolytus had before him], naught was that was created. The Father was alone, increate, without space, or time, or any with whom to take counsel, or any substantial nature capable of being conceived by any means. He was alone, solitary, as they say, and at rest, Himself in Himself, alone. But since He was creative, it seemed good to Him at length to create and produce that which was most beautiful and most perfect in Himself. For He was [now] no longer lover of solitariness. For He was all love, says [the writer of the MS.], but love is not love if there be nothing to be loved.

The Parents of the Æons."Therefore, the Father, alone as He was, emanated and generated Mind-and-Truth, that is to say, the dyad, which is Lady and Beginning, and Mother of all the æons they reckon in the Plērōma. And Mind-and-Truth, having been emanated from the Father, possessing the power of creation like His creative parent, in imitation of the Father, emanated Himself also Word-and-Life.

p. 337

[paragraph continues] And Word-and-Life emanates Man-and-Church. And Mind-and-Truth, when He saw that His own creation had become creator in His turn, gave thanks to the Father of all, and made an offering unto Him of ten æons, the perfect number. For, says [the writer], Mind-and-Truth could not offer the Father a more perfect number than this. For it needs must have been that the Father who was perfect, should be glorified with a perfect number; now the 'ten' is a perfect number, for the first number of the series of multiplicity is perfect. [The 10 begins the series of multiplicity in the system of numeration with radix 10.] The Father, however, was more perfect still; for increate Himself, alone, by means of the first single syzygy, Mind-and-Truth, He succeeded in emanating all the roots of things created.

"And when Word-and-Life also saw that Mind-and-Truth had glorified the Father of all in a perfect number, Word-and-Life also wished to glorify His own father-mother, Mind-and-Truth. But since Mind-and-Truth was create and not possessed of perfect fatherhood, [or] the quality of parentlessness [ingenerability], Word-and-Life does not glorify his own father Mind with a perfect, but with an imperfect number. Thus Word-and-Life offers Mind-and-Truth twelve æons."

The reader need hardly be reminded that this summary of the variant of the myth has confused what we have supposed to have been the original order of the Ten and Twelve, as may be seen from the next paragraph but one of Hippolytus.

p. 338

The Names of the Æons."So then the first created roots of the æons . . . are as follows: Mind-and-Truth, Word-and-Life, Man-and-Church, ten from Mind-and-Truth, and twelve from Word-and-Life; eight and twenty in all. [The ten, consisting of five syzygies,] are called by the following names: Depthlike-and-Commingling, Unageing-and-Union, Self-productive-and-Bliss, Immoveable-and-Blending, Alone-begotten-and-Happiness."

In this nomenclature we have an attempt to shadow forth the positive and negative aspects of the father-motherhood (polarisation) of the creative mind, androgynous and self-generative. Hippolytus then continues:

"These are the ten æons which some derive from Mind-and-Truth, and others from Word-and-Life. Some again derive the twelve from Man-and-Church, and others from Word-and-Life; and the names they give these [six syzygies] are: Comforter-and-Faith, Father-like-and-Hope, Mother-like-and-Love, Everlasting and Understanding, Church-like-and-Happiness, Longed-for-and-Wisdom."

It is evident that this list has suffered damage in the hands of copyists; we can, however, make out some resemblance to the list of the "fruits of the spirit," in Paul's Letter to the Galatians (v. 22, 23), "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, mildness, temperance." The word translated "Happiness" is a different form from the "Happiness" of the decad, but both come from the same root. It is impossible to represent the difference in the present English we have at our disposal. We would also call

p. 339

the attention of the student to the term for the female aspect of the first and sixth syzygy--Faith-Wisdom (Pistis-Sophia). Epiphanius gives a totally different set of names for the æons--a set of "nomina barbara" which have so far proved the despair of every philologist, and with which, therefore, we need not trouble the general reader. The Greek terms, however, for the positive aspects of the six syzygies are probably in part reflections of the characteristics of the higher triad of æons, in part prototypes of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. Mind-and-Truth, Word-and-Life, Man-and-Church, seem to appear in the terms Father-like and Mother-like, Comforter and Longed-for, Everlasting and Church-like; the female aspects of the higher triad being male aspects in the hexad. I believe that the names of the æons are probably doctrinal variants or attempts at translation of original Zoroastrian terms--of Hormuz and the Amshaspands and the rest of the Light-beings--and that the "barbara nomina" are a relic of these terms; the ideas and schematology of the æons, however, are demonstrably Egyptian. But to continue with our Hippolytus.

"Now, the twelfth of these twelve, and the last of the eight and twenty æons, female in nature, The World-Mother. and called Wisdom (Sophia), beheld the number and power of the creative æons; she ascended [or returned] to the depth of the Father, and perceived that whereas all the rest of the æons, as being themselves create, created through a syzygy, the Father alone created without a syzygy. She, therefore, longed to imitate the Father and create by

p. 340

herself without her consort (syzygy), and so achieve a work in nothing inferior to the Father; in ignorance that it is the increate alone, the absolute cause, and root, and breadth, and depth of the universal [creations], who has the power of creating by Himself alone, whereas Wisdom, being created and coming into being after a number of others, is thus incapable of possessing the power of the increate. For in the increate, says the writer, are all things together, whereas in the create the feminine has the power of emanating the essence [or substance], while the masculine possesses the power of enforming the essence emanated by the feminine. Wisdom, therefore, emanated the only thing which she could, namely, a formless essence, easy to cool down [into shape]. And this is the meaning, says he, of the words of Moses: 'The earth was invisible and unwrought' [according to the translation of the Seventy]. This, says he, is the Good [Land], the Celestial Jerusalem, into which God promised to lead the children of Israel, saying, 'I will lead you into a good land flowing with milk and honey.'

The Abortion.And thus ignorance arising in the Plērōma owing to Wisdom, and formlessness through the creature of Wisdom, tumult arose in the Plērōma [from fear] lest the creations of the æons should in like manner become formless and imperfect, and destruction in no long time seize on the æons [themselves]. Accordingly they all betook themselves to praying the Father to put an end to Wisdom's grieving, for she was bewailing and groaning because of the 'abortion' which she had

p. 341

produced by herself--for thus they call it. And so the Father, taking pity on the tears of Wisdom and giving ear to the prayers of the æons, gives order for an additional emanation. For He did not Himself emanate, says the writer, but Mind-and-Truth emanated Christ-and-Holy-Spirit for the enforming and elimination of the abortion, and the relief and appeasing of the complaints of Wisdom. Thus with Christ-and-Holy-Spirit there are thirty æons."

Here we have the type of the dual world-creator and redeemer--Christ, the Logos, by whom all things were made, and the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

"At any rate some of them think that the triacontad of æons is made up in this way, while others would unite Silence to the Father and add the [æons of the Plērōma] to them.

"Christ-and-Holy-Spirit, then, being additionally emanated by Mind-and-Truth, eliminates this formless abortion of Wisdom's, which she begat of herself and brought into existence without a consort, from among the universal æons, so that the perfect æons should not be thrown into confusion at the sight of its formlessness."

These passages throw great light on the term "only-begotten" (μονογενής) Orthodoxly the phrase The Term "Only-begotten." "only-begotten son" is taken to mean that Christ was the only son of the Father. Apologetic philology, moreover, has asserted that it means "the only one of his kind." In the list of the decad of æons given above, the male aspect of the last syzygy is called by this name, where I have translated it "alone-begotten." In the above passage,

p. 342

the "abortion" of Wisdom is called by the same term, and I have translated it "which she begat of herself," there being no doubt that the term usually translated "only-begotten" means nothing of the kind, but "created alone," that is to say, created from one principle and not from a syzygy or pair. There are many instances of this meaning of the word, not only among the Gnostics, but also in the lines of Orphic and Egyptian tradition. Hippolytus then proceeds:

The Cross."Moreover, in order that the formlessness of the abortion should finally never again make itself visible to the perfect æons, the Father Himself also sent forth the additional emanation of a single æon, the Cross [or stock], which being created great, as [the creature] of the great and perfect Father, and emanated to be the guard and wall of protection [lit., paling or stockdale] of the æons, constitutes the Boundary of the Plērōma, holding the thirty æons together within itself. For these [thirty] are they which form the [divine] creation."

The word translated by "cross" in the NṬ., means generally a stock or stake. As we learn, from Grätz, it was the custom of the Jews, as a warning to others, to expose on a stake the bodies of those who were stoned, the cruel pain of the Mosaic penalty being in later times mitigated by a soporific draught of hyssop and other ingredients. The phrase "hanging on the tree" is thus comprehensible also. But, as previously remarked, for the Plērōma, we have to deal with living and not with dead symbols, and the cross-idea is thus transformed into the conception

p. 343

of a great wall (sc. sphere), by which the living Æon is "bounded"--if an infinite can be bounded by a finite--the prototype of the mystic Christ bound to or in the tree of the body.

The idea was simple, the expression of it in words exceedingly confused.

Thus Hippolytus writes:

"Now it is called the Boundary because it bounds off the deficiency (hysterēma) from the perfection (plērōma); again it is called the Partaker, because it partakes of the deficiency; and also the Cross [stake or stock], because it is fixed immovable and unchangeable [lit. without repentance or change of mind]; so that nothing of the deficiency should approach the æons within the Plērōma."

It is difficult to reconcile the various characteristics of this great boundary as given by Hippolytus. It The Last Limit. is of course the Great Firmament or Limitary Spirit of Basilides, and the Last Limit of the Pistis Sophia treatise. It was there that the glorious "robe of power" had been left behind, when the Saviour descended for the regeneration of the cosmos without the Plērōma, and with which he was again clothed at his final initiation, after perfecting his task, as magnificently set forth in the opening pages of the MS. This is the Limit "against which none shall prevail," until the Day Be-with-us, the Day of Come-unto-us of the so-called Book of the Dead and the Askew Codex--the day of final initiation or perfectioning for the rare individuals who have made themselves worthy to become gods or christs (and thus a day which perpetually is), but for the

p. 344

average mass of humanity the end of the world-cycle when all things pass into pralaya, as Indian philosophy calls it (and thus the final consummation of the present universe).

This "robe of power" is presumably the highest spiritual body, or principium individuitatis, which participates of the divine and human natures, that is to say, opens up the realms of the divine world to the man, and makes him a partaker of eternal being. Thus its living symbol is a O, the reflection of the body, or self-limitation, of the sexless Heavenly Man, the Logos, whereby He limits Himself and crucifies Himself for the good of humanity. Lower down in the scale of being this becomes the dead symbol of the orthodox cross (+), the man of sex.

It is to be noticed that this Limit is due to the Father alone, and by its means He consummates and perfects the whole of the divine world of æons, which accordingly become one entity, the Living Æon, to every creation outside the Plērōma. But to continue with Hippolytus' summary:

"Without, then, this Boundary, Cross, or Partaker, is what they call the Ogdoad; this is the Wisdom-without-the-Plērōma, which Christ-and-Holy-Spirit, when they had been after-emanated by Mind-and-Truth, shaped and wrought into a perfect æon, so that she should finally become by no means inferior to any of those within the Plērōma. When, then, Wisdom-without had had shape given her, seeing that it was impossible that Christ-and-Holy-Spirit, in that they were emanated from Mind-and-Truth, should remain along with her outside the Plērōma, Christ-and-Holy-Spirit

p. 345

ascended to Mind-and-Truth within the Boundary, to join the rest of the æons in their glorification of the Father.

"And since at length there was, as it were, the singleness of peace and harmony of all the æons The Mystic or Cosmic Jesus. within the Plērōma, it seemed good to them no longer to glorify the Father by means of their several syzygies, but also to hymn His glory by a [single] offering of fit fruits to the Father. The whole thirty æons accordingly agreed to emanate a single æon, the common fruit of the Plērōma, as the sign of their unity, unanimity and peace. And inasmuch as it is an emanation of all the æons unto the Father, they call it the Common Fruit of the Plērōma. Thus were the things within the Plērōma constituted.

"And now the Common Fruit of the Plērōma had been emanated--Jesus (for this is His name), the great High Priest; when Wisdom-without-the-Plērōma, seeking after the Christ who had enformed her, and the Holy Spirit, was thrown into great terror, lest she should perish, now that He who had enformed and stablished her had withdrawn."

This operation of enforming Wisdom, or cosmic substance, is apparently the making of a boundary for the Ogdoad (the ætherial space) in its turn, following the law of similitude, and then fashioning the separated substance according to the types of the æons. This is dramatically set forth as follows:

"She mourned and was in great doubt, pondering on who was her enformer [the Christ]; who the Holy Spirit; whither had they departed; who prevented

p. 346

them from being with her; who envied her that fair and blessed vision. The Grief of Sophia. Plunged in such sufferings, she betook herself to praying and beseeching Him who had left her. Thereupon the Christ within the Plērōma and the rest of the æons took pity on her prayers, and sent forth out of the Plērōma the Common Fruit, to be Consort of Wisdom-without, and corrector of the passions which she suffered in seeking after the Christ.

"And so the Common Fruit coming forth from the Plērōma, and finding her afflicted by the four primal passions--namely, fear, grief, doubt and supplication--set right her sufferings; and in doing so He perceived that neither was it proper [on the one hand] that such passions, as being of the nature of an æon and peculiar to Wisdom, should be destroyed, nor [on the other] should Wisdom continue in such afflictions as fear and grief, supplication and doubt. Accordingly, inasmuch as he was so great an æon, and child of the whole Plērōma, He made the passions depart from her, and turned them into substantial essences; and fear he made into psychic essence, and grief into subtle matter [hylic essence], and doubt into elemental [dæmonian] essence, and conversion--prayer and supplication--He made into a path upwards, that is to say repentance and the power of the psychic essence which is called 'right.'"

Just as the passions in man are regarded as being of a material nature, so are the passions of the cosmic soul imagined as substantial essences by the dramatisers of the world-process in this scheme of universal philosophy.

p. 347

We have now come to the stage of the Wisdom-drama which represents the constitution of the The Sensible World. "sensible" world, as distinguished from the "intelligible," to use Platonic terms. But before we proceed with Hippolytus' summary, a few words of explanation may be added to guide the, student through the maze of Gnostic technicalities.

The lower or fallen Wisdom is the prime substance, or World-mother, chaotically moved by four great impulses, her primal "afflictions" or "passions."

From her chaotic state she is rescued by the Divine Power from above, the synthesis of the powers of the intelligible or noëtic universe. Chaos becomes cosmos; un-order, order. The "passions" (fear, grief, doubt and supplication) are separated from her, and she is purified and remains above, while the passions contract into denser phases of substance, constituting the sensible universe. Above them broods the Power, the representative of the three highest planes (the intelligible universe or Plērōma) and of the One beyond, the Supreme Deity. This Divine Power is called the Common Fruit.

The four "passions" are separated from Sophia, and she remains as the substance of the highest of the lower planes. Fear and grief become the substances of the psychic and hylic (or physical) planes respectively. Doubt is regarded as a downward tendency, a path downward to even more dense and gross states of existence than the physical; while supplication (prayer, repentance, or aspiration) is regarded as a path upwards to the Heaven-world.

p. 348

[paragraph continues] This is the power of the soul which is called "right," the tendency downwards into matter being called "left." We may now return to the consideration of our text.

"The fabricative power [proceeds] from 'fear.' This is the meaning of the scripture, says the writer, The Demiurge. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom,' for it was the beginning of the sufferings of Wisdom. She [first] feared, then grieved, then doubted, and then flew for refuge to prayer and supplication. Moreover, he says, the psychic substance is of a fiery nature, and they call it [Middle] Space and Hebdomad and Ancient of Days. And whatever other statements of this kind they make concerning this [space], they [in reality] refer to the [cosmic] psychic substance, which they declare to be the fabricative power of the [physical] world. And it is of a fiery nature. Moses also, says the writer, declares, 'The Lord, thy God, is fire burning and consuming,' for thus he would have it written."

The action of the emotion of fear is said to contract and densify the aura or subtle envelope of man. The psychic plane is a contraction or densification of the mental, and uhe material again of the psychic.

"Now the power of fire, he says, is twofold; for there is a fire which is all-devouring and cannot be quenched and . . ."

A lacuna unfortunately occurs here; perhaps to be filled up by the words, "and another that is quenchable."

p. 349

"According to this, then, the soul [that is, the psychic substance] is partly mortal [and partly immortal], being as it were a kind of mean. (It is [both] the Hebdomad [the sublunary space] and [also] the means of bringing the Hebdomad to an end.) For it is below the Ogdoad [the mind or spirit-substance]--where is Wisdom, the day of perfect forms [that is, the sun-space], and the Common Fruit of the Plērōma--but above the hylic matter [the earth-space], of which it is the fashioner [or demiurgic power]. If then the soul is made like unto the things above, it becomes immortal, and entereth into the Ogdoad; which is, he says, the Jerusalem above the heavens; whereas if it be made like to matter, that is to say the material passions, then it is destructible and perishes."

The next sentence has a wide lacuna, which I have endeavoured to bridge over as follows:

"As, therefore, proceeding from the psychic substance, [and not from an æon or plērōma], the first and greatest power [of the Sensible World] was an image, [and not a plērōma, namely the Workman (Demiurge); while the power proceeding from the material substance or 'grief' was] the Accuser (Diabolus), the ruler of this world.

"[The power, moreover, which proceeds] from the elemental [or dæmonian] substance, that is to say 'doubt,' is Beelzeboul.

"[And] Wisdom herself energises from above, from the Ogdoad, as far as the Hebdomad. [For] they say that the Workman knows nothing at all, but is, according to them, mindless and foolish, and knows

p. 350

not really what he does or works. Owing to his ignorance Wisdom energised and strengthened for him everything he made; and, though it was she who had done so, he imagined it was himself who had of himself achieved the fabrication of the universe, and so he began to say: 'I am God, and beside me there is no other.'

"Here then we have our Tetraktys according to Valentinus, 'a source of ever-flowing nature having roots,' and our Wisdom from which the whole creation is now constituted both psychic and material."

This is meant by Hippolytus to be ironical and a sneer both at Pythagoras and Valentinus. The four "passions" are of course very far from the Tetraktys proper; they are only a reflection of it on the lower planes.

"Wisdom is called 'Spirit,' and the Workman 'Soul'; while the Accuser (Diabolus) is the 'Ruler of this World' [Body], and Beelzeboul the 'Ruler of Daemons' [Chaos]. Such is what they tell us.

"Moreover, basing all their teaching on mathematical considerations, as I have said before, they declare that the æons within the Plērōma emanate a new series of thirty other æons following the law of similitude, in order that the Plērōma should be finally grouped into a perfect number. For just as the Pythagoreans divided into twelve [? ten] and thirty and sixty--and have further subtleties on subtleties, as has been shown--in the same way these (Gnostics) also subdivide the creations within the Plērōma.

"The contents of the Ogdoad are also subdivided; and Wisdom (who is the mother of all living [the

p. 351

cosmic Eve] according to them) and the Common Fruit of the Plērōma (the Word) have emanated "Words" or Minds. others who are the heavenly Angels, Citizens of Jerusalem Above, in the heavens. For this Jerusalem is Wisdom-without, and her bridegroom is the Common Fruit of the Plērōma."

Some critics have preferred a reading which would make Wisdom and the Common Fruit emanate "seventy words"; but though this was the number of the nations among the Jews in contradistinction to the twelve tribes of Israel, for which reason also the "seventy" (standing for seventy-two) apostles were chosen after the "twelve," according to the historicizing narratives, I prefer to follow the reading of the Codex, as indeed I have done in every case.

"The Workman also emanated souls; for he is the substance of souls. According to them the Souls. former is Abraham, and the latter the children of Abraham."

(A nomenclature which would explain the otherwise very absurd expression "Abraham's bosom.")

"It was moreover from the material and elemental substance that the Workman made bodies for the souls. And this is the meaning of the saying, 'And God fashioned man, taking clay from the earth, and breathed into his person [lit., face] the breath of life; and man became a living soul.'

"This [soul] is, according to them, the 'inner man,' called psychic when it dwells in the body of hylic matter, but material, destructible, imperfect, when [its vehicle is] formed of elemental substance."

p. 352

Hippolytus here seems to be summarising the otherwise very elaborate cosmogenesis and exegesis of the Valentinians into a few brief paragraphs, and the reader should never forget that the summary is made by an unfriendly hand. I have, however, thought it good to let the student see for himself that, even so, the Church Father could not eliminate all the meaning of the Gnostic writer.

"And this material man is, according to them, Bodies. as it were, an inn or dwelling-place at one time of the soul alone, at another of the soul and dæmonian existences [elementals], at another of the soul and 'words' [or angels] which are 'words' sown from above--from the Common Fruit of the Plērōma and Wisdom--into this world, dwelling in the body of clay together with the soul, when dæmons cease to cohabit with her. And this is, says [the Gnostic writer], what was written in the scriptures [Paul's Letter to the Ephesians]: 'For this cause I bow my knees to the God and Father and Lord of our Lord Jesus Christ, that God may vouchsafe to you that Christ should dwell in your inner man'--that is to say, the psychic and not the bodily man--'that ye may be strong to know what is the Depth 'that is, the Father of the universals--'and what is the Breadth'--that is, the Cross, the Boundary of the Plērōma--'and what is the Greatness'--that is, the Plērōma of the æons. Wherefore 'the psychic man,' says [Paul elsewhere in his first Letter to the Corinthians], 'does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him'; and foolish, says [the Gnostic writer], is the power of the Work-man,

p. 353

[paragraph continues] [that is, the power (or soul) sent forth by the Workman], for he himself was foolish and mindless, and thought that he was fashioning the world unaided, being ignorant that it was Wisdom, the Mother, the Ogdoad, who infused energy into him for the formation of the universe without his knowing it.

"All the Prophets and the Law, therefore, spake from the Workman, foolish know-nothings of a foolish God, according to the writer. For which cause, he writes, the Saviour says: 'All who came before me are thieves and robbers'; and the Apostle: 'The mystery which was unknown to former generations.' For none of the Prophets, says he, spake about any of the things of which we speak; they were at that time unknown. . . .

"When, therefore, the world-formation was ended future evolution was to consist of the unveiling The New Man. [revelation] of the Sons of God--that is to say of the Workman--[the revelation] which had [hitherto] been hidden--in which, says he, the psychic man had been hidden, having a veil over his heart. When, therefore, the veil was to be raised and these mysteries revealed, Jesus [as the first example of the new evolution] was born through Mary, the virgin, according to the saying: 'Holy Spirit shall come upon thee'--Spirit is Wisdom--'and Power of Highest shall overshadow thee'--Highest is the Workman--'for that which is born of thee shall be called holy.' For he was not born of the Highest alone, like as men fashioned after the type of Adam owe their origin to the Highest alone, that is the Workman. Jesus, the new man, was of the Holy Spirit--that is to say

p. 354

[paragraph continues] Wisdom--but of the Workman also, in order that the Workman might furnish the moulding and makeup of his body, but the Holy Spirit supply his essence or [substance], and so he might be a heavenly word, born from the Ogdoad through Mary."

That is to say, that Jesus was the type of the perfected man, who had transcended the necessity of rebirth, the cycle of generation. He was the manifestation of one of the Sons of God, who together make up the Divine Sonship. These sons are all 'words' or logoi, according to this nomenclature. The whole nature of such a man was said to be advanced one stage. Thus his body was made by the power which furnished other men's souls; his soul was of the same nature as the spirits of other men; and his spirit was a "word," the direct progeny of æons, partaker of the Plērōma.

The Mystic Body of the Christ."Now there is much investigation devoted by them to this subject, and it is the starting-point of schism and disagreement. Hence their doctrine is divided in twain, and one teaching is called the Anatolic, according to them, and the other the Italic. They [who get their teaching] from Italy, of whom are Heracleon and Ptolemæus, say that the body of Jesus was [originally] of psychic constitution, and, because of this, at his baptism the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon him--that is to say, the 'word' of the Mother from above, Wisdom--and united with his psychic [body], and raised him from the dead. This is, says the writer, the saying: 'He who raised Christ from the dead will vivify also your mortal bodies'--that is to say, psychic [bodies]. For the clay it was

p. 355

which came under the curse. 'For earth,' says [Moses], 'thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return.' Whereas those [who derive their teaching] from the East, of whom are Axionicus and Ardesianes [? Bardesanes], say that the body of the Saviour was spiritual. For the Holy Spirit--that is to say Wisdom--came upon Mary, and also the power of the Highest, the Workman's art, in order that that [substance] which had been given to Mary, might be fashioned.

"We may leave them, then, to investigate such matters by themselves, and [so too] anyone else who may like to carry on such investigations." The writer, moreover, goes on to say that, just as the imperfections on the plane of the æons within were corrected, so also were those on the plane of the Ogdoad, the Wisdom-without, set right, and further those on the plane of the Hebdomad were also corrected.

"(For the Workman was taught by Wisdom, that he was not God alone, as he thought, and beside Soteriology. him there was no other, but through Wisdom he learned to know the Better [Deity]. He received, [however, only] elementary instruction from her [became a catechumen], and the first initiation, and was [thus] taught the mighty mystery of the Father and the æons; and [thus] he could reveal it to no one else.)"

The terms used denote that the Demiurge received instruction, but was not given the higher power or initiation, whereby he could become a teacher or initiator in his turn; he received the "muēsis," but not the "epopteia."

p. 356

"(This is the meaning, according to the writer, of his words unto Moses: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the name of God I have not made known unto them'--that is to say, I have not declared the Mystery, nor explained who is God, but I kept to myself in secret the Mystery which I heard from Wisdom.)

"Since then the things above [in the Plērōma, Ogdoad and Hebdomad] had been set right, by the same law of succession the things here [on earth] were to meet with their proper regulation. For this cause Jesus, the Saviour, was born through Mary, that things here might be righted. Just as Christ was additionally emanated by Mind-and-Truth for the righting of the sufferings of Wisdom-without, that is to say the 'abortion'; so again did the Saviour, born through Mary, come for the righting of the sufferings of the soul."

The above will give the reader some general notion of the cycle of ideas in which these Gnostics moved. The exposition of the Gnostic writer has doubtless suffered much in the summarizing process to which it has been subjected; nevertheless, even if it had been given in full, it would have to be ascribed to a pupil and not to a master of the Gnosis such as Basilides or Valentinus. In order to obtain a more consistent and detailed exposition of the Valentinian cycle of ideas, it would be necessary first of all to analyse (1) the above account, (2) the contents of the Excerpts from Theodotus, and (3) the summary of the tenets of the followers of Ptolemy given by Irenæus in his opening chapters, and then re-formulate the

p. 357

whole. Hippolytus’ account, however, is quite sufficient to acquaint the reader with the general outlines, and a more detailed exposition would be out of place in these short sketches.

We shall now give a brief outline of the teachings of the more prominent leaders of Gnostic thought in this period, and so we return to a consideration of "them of Valentinus."

Of Theodotus and Alexander we know nothing, and of Secundus only the fact that he divided the highest Ogdoad, within the Plērōma, into two Tetrads, a Right and Left,--though we are of course not to suppose that he originated such a fundamental notion.

We shall, therefore, confine our attention to Marcus, Ptolemæus, Heracleon and Bardesanes, brief notices of whom will bring our information derived from indirect sources--namely, the Patristic writings--to a conclusion.

Let us then turn to "them of Valentinus" and first treat of Marcus and his number-symbolism.

Next: The Number-Symbolism of Marcus