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Tag: Gnosis

Naassene Fragment, Concerning the Greater and Little Mysteries of Eleusis

” … (23) S. This same [Man] is called by the Phrygians Unfruitful.

C. For He is unfruitful as long as He is fleshly and works the work of the flesh.

This (H. he says) is what is said:

“Every tree that beareth not good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire.” 1

For these “fruits” (H. he says) are the logic, 2 living men only who pass through the third Gate. 3

J. At any rate they 4 say:

“If ye have eaten dead things and made living ones, what will ye make if ye eat living things?” 5

And by “living things” they mean logoi and minds and men—the “pearls” of that Inexpressible [Man] cast into the plasm below. 6

C. This is what He saith (H. he says):

“Cast not the holy thing to the dogs nor the pearls to the swine.” 7

H. For they say that the work of swine is the intercourse of man with woman.

(24 8) S. This same [Man] (H. he says) the Phrygians also call Ai-polos; 9 not because (H. he says) He feeds she-goats and he-goats, as the (C.—psychics 1) interpret the name, but because (H. he says) He is Aei-polos—that is, “Always-turning” (Aei-polōn), 2 revolving and driving round the whole cosmos in [its] revolution; for polein is to “turn” and change things.

Hence (H. he says) all call the two centres 3 of heaven poles. And the poet also  (H. he says) when he says: “Hither there comes and there goes (pōleitai) Old Man of the Sea, whose words are e’er true—Egypt’s undying Prōteus.” 4

[By pōleitai] he does not mean “he is put on sale,” 1 but “he turns about” [or comes and goes] there,—as though it were, [he spins] and goes round.

And the cities in which we live, in that we turn about and circulate in them, are called poleis.

Thus (H. he says) the Phrygians call Aipolos this [Man] who turns all things at all times all ways, and changes them into things kin.

(25) The Phrygians, moreover (H. he says), call Him Fruitful.

J. For (H. he says):

“Many more are the children of the desolate [woman] than of her who hath her husband.” 2

C. That is, the regenerated, deathless, and ever-continuing [children] are many, although few are they [thus] generated; but the fleshly (H. he says) all perish, though many are they [thus] generated.

C. For this cause (H. he says):

“Rachel bewailed her children, and would not (H. he says) be comforted weeping over them; for she knew (H. he says) that they are not.” 1

J. And Jeremiah also laments the Jerusalem Below—not the city in Phœnicia, 2 but the generation below—which is subject to destruction.

C. For Jeremiah also (H. he says) knew the perfect man, regenerated from water and spirit, not fleshly.

J. At any rate the same Jeremiah said:

“He is man, and who shall know him?” 3

C. Thus (H. he says) the knowledge of the perfect man is deep and hard to comprehend.

J. For “The beginning of Perfection (H. he says) is Gnosis of man, but Gnosis of God is perfect Perfection.” 4

(26) S. And the Phrygians (H. he says) call Him also “Plucked Green Wheat-ear”; and after the Phrygians the Athenians [so designate Him], when, in the secret rites at Eleusis, they show those who receive in silence the final initiation there into the Great—

C. —and marvellous and most perfect—

S. —Epoptic Mystery, a plucked wheat-ear. 5

And this Wheat-ear is also with the Athenians the Light-giver 1

C. —perfect [and] mighty—

J. —from the Inexpressible—

S. —as the hierophant himself—not emasculated like the “Attis,” 2 but made eunuch with hemlock juice—

C. —and divorced from all fleshly generation—

S. —in the night, at Eleusis, solemnising the Great Ineffable Mysteries, when the bright light streams forth, 3 shouts and cries aloud, saying:

“[Our] Lady hath brought forth a Holy Son: Brimō [hath given birth] to Brimos”—

—that is, the Strong to the Strong.

(27) J. And “[Our] Lady” (H. he says) is the Genesis—

C. —the Spiritual, Heavenly [Genesis]—

J. —Above. And the Strong is he who is thus generated.

For it is the Mystery called “Eleusis” and “Anaktoreion”;—“Eleusis,” because we—

C. —the spiritual—

J. —come 2 from Above, streaming down from Adamas, for eleus-esthai (H. he says) is “to come”; and “Anaktoreion” [from anag-esthai, “leading back,” that is 3] from “returning” 4 Above. 5

This [Return] (H. he says) is that of which those who are initiated into the great Mysteries of the Eleusinia speak.

(28) S. And the law is that after they have been initiated into the Little Mysteries, they should be further initiated into the Great.

“For greater deaths do greater lots obtain.” 6

The Little (H. he says) are the Mysteries of Persephonē Below; concerning which Mysteries and the way leading there and—

C. —being broad and wide,—

—taking [men] to Persephonē, the poet also speaks:

“Beneath this there is another path death-cold,

Hollow and clayey. But this 1 is best to lead

To grove delightsome of far-honoured Aphroditē.” 2

These 3 are (H. he says) the Little Mysteries—

C. —those of the fleshly generation—

S. —and after men have been initiated into them, they should cease for a little, and become initiated in the Great—

C. —heavenly [Mysteries].

S. For they to whom the “deaths” in them 4 are appointed, “receive greater lots.”

J. For this [Mystery] (H. he says) is the Gate of Heaven, and this is the House of God, where the Good God dwells alone; into which [House] (H. he says) no impure [man] shall come—

C. —no psychic, no fleshly [man]—

J. —but it is kept under watch for the spiritual alone; where when they come, they must cast away their garments, and all become bridegrooms, obtaining their true manhood 5 through the Virginal Spirit.

For this (H. he says) is the Virgin big with child, conceiving and bearing a Son 1

C. —not psychic, not fleshly, but a blessed Æon of Æons. 2

Concerning these [Mysteries] (H. he says) the Saviour hath explicitly said that:

“Narrow and strait is the Way that leadeth to Life, and few are they who enter it; but broad and wide [is] the Way that leadeth to Destruction, and many are they who journey thereby.” 3

G.R.S. Mead, Thrice-Greatest HermesVol. 1, 1906, pp. 175-82.

From Hippolytus, Philosophumena; or, Refutation of all Heresies.

The Sound of the Alef

“Before all Creation he rested, transcendent, in himself, hidden in the power of his own reality. But at the beginning of Creation, “His kabhod became manifest, and the explication of his knowledge consisted in five things.” The author in fact names, but does not explain, these five things, which lead to gnosis. They obviously belong to the sphere of language mysticism and are called tiqqun, ma ‘ amar, seruf, mikhlal, heshbon.

It appears that they constitute the processes by which the letters are placed in harmony (tiqqun), assembled into words (ma’ amar), permutated (seruf), collected together in all their combinations (mikhlal), and calculated according to their numerical value (heshbon). Here, too, the process of emanation coincides with the process of language, but the details do not become clear.

These five events are, as the author says in a curious image, “united in the ramifications of the root of movement [probably meaning the root of the movement of language], which is strengthened in the root of the thirteen pairs of opposites” and unfolds from a thin breath, the sound of the ‘alef, into the name of God (if I understand this difficult text correctly).

These thirteen pairs of opposites are, at the same time, the thirteen middoth derived from Exodus 34:6, which play such a great role in Jewish theology as the modes of God’s action. God acts in the middoth positively as well as negatively, which enables us to perceive a connection with the kabbalistic notion of middah that we found in Isaac.

Here, however, not the sefiroth are meant but the powers or modes of action that are enclosed in the first sefirah and erupt from it. It is in these five modes of the movement of language that everything is realized “like a source for the flame and a flame for the source” prolonged “up to the unfathomable and infinite light, which is concealed in the excess of the hidden darkness. And the knowledge of the unity and of its principle refers to this darkness.”

The divine unity acts therefore out of the effusive darkness from which come all the lights, which are connected to it as the flame to its source. This world of images does not appear to me far removed from that of John Scotus Erigena and Pseudo-Denys the Areopagite; it is more closely related to them than to the world of the Bahir.

Among the Hebrew Neoplatonists such language is not used to express the divine unity, and we touch here upon a possible connection that will emerge more often in the course of this investigation. It seems that the kabbalists of Provence combined the doctrine of the aeons, as found among the gnostics and in the Bahir, with Erigena’s doctrine of the causae primordiales, which in all their multiplicity are nevertheless the unity of the divine sapientia.

Such a relationship is historically plausible. It is not difficult to suppose that the first kabbalists of Provence and Aragon, around 1180-1220, had direct or indirect knowledge of Scotus Erigena, whose influence reached its high point at that time, just before the condemnation of 1210. Many Cathars too seem to have made use of Erigena’s work as is suggested by two extant testimonies. Writings of Erigena were no rarity in the cities where the first kabbalists lived, before Honorius III ordained the destruction of all copies found in France.

But from this speculative and novel introduction, the Book ‘Iyyun proceeds to an explanation of the primordial darkness and the potencies issuing from it. This explanation claims to be a kind of commentary on a Hekhaloth text by Nehunya ben Haqqanah that however, is not identical with any of the Hekhaloth writings known to us. It is apparently against this commentary and, by the same token, against the Book ‘Iyyun in general (along with the Bahir and other writings) that the antikabbalistic attack in Meir ben Simon’s epistle is directed.

Around 1245, therefore, the existence of such a commentary on the Hekhaloth, “where one finds things in the spirit of their [namely, the kabbalists’] heresy” was known in Provence. This text names the signet rings sealing heaven and earth much as we also find them in the Wertheimer version of the “Greater Hekhaloth” (chap. 23).

Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 313-5.

Doctrine of Correspondences.

“Furthermore, there usually is a strong holistic trait in esotericism where the godhead is considered manifest in the natural world—a world interconnected by so-called correspondences. Man is seen as a microcosm of the macrocosm, the divine universe. Through increased knowledge of the individual self, it is often regarded as possible to achieve corresponding knowledge about nature, and thereby about God. However, the interpretation of what gnosis “actually is,” or what the correspondences “actually are,” differs considerably in the history of Western esotericism.”

–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 5.

Mystical Traditions and Secrecy.

“Significantly, it is in mystical traditions that secrecy is used most extensively.

Mystic traditions ranging from the Hindu and Buddhist guarded Tantric texts, the supposed secret teachings of Sakyamuni, the poetry of the Sufis, to the teachings of kabbalists and Christian mystics all have in common that their doctrines are restricted to initiates, and that their discourses are veiled in a symbolic language, which for uninitiated is often difficult to fully comprehend.

In the gnosticism of late antiquity the very notion of gnosis itself was regarded as a closely guarded secret.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pp. 45-6.

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