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Gnostic Mythology

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Gnostic Mythology

One of the main things which separated the Gnostics from orthodox Christians was the mysticism of their beliefs. It began with their views of God and creation. They viewed the One which they called the true God as having a feminine part which was the Spirit. In accord, they also held that Jesus came from God and the Spirit to form the Trinity. In the Gnostic version of creation of the world the Spirit of God is referred to as the Wisdom of God or Sophia who is also a feminine creative force. It seems she wished to give birth to a creature like herself. She did so without the permission of her partner. She was able to do this by the power within her. The fruit of her desire was something imperfect and different from her in appearance. She was ashamed of it, threw it outside of the heavenly realm and hid it in a cloud so none of the Immortals would see it. According to the Gnostics this horrible child became the one they called the Demiurge. Unbeknown to him his mother gave him some of her power which contained the Spirit. The Demiurge thought the power which his mother gave him was his own, and with it he started creating the physical world. In doing this the Gnostics believed the Demiurge entrapped the Spirit in matter. They viewed the Demiurge as being the Christian God, the creator, basing their belief on the statement, “I am God, and there is no one besides me.”

The Pleroma

The first principle is the source of all light, the Unoriginate Originator. However, this principles does not exist alone, throughout time he/she/it expands and contracts filing the spiritual dimensions with luminous beings of all orders and forms. In the Valentinan hierarchy, for example, there are eight major forms (Aeons) and twenty two minor. In the Gnostic Theosophic tradition there are three principles and seven lower planes or dimensions. The processes by which these realities are created are complex and vary from tradition to tradition. Each of these interpretations can be further expanded to include a whole universe of luminous realities, from the highest forces or Aeons to choirs and angels. Traditionally this complete spiritual kingdom is known as the Pleroma or fullness, because it is filled to the brim with light and life. At the same time, the major spiritual forces within it are known as Aeons. While in the Gnostic tradition we tend to emphasize the three principles, the Divine Will, Logos and Sophia and the Seven Spirits or Aeons, there is a universe of created beings which exist in the Pleroma and which fulfill the creative directive expressed by the Lord of Wisdom[1].

Sophia, The Great Goddess

Sophia (pronounced sew-fee’ah) in Greek, Hohkma in Hebrew, Sapientia in Latin, Celtic goddess-figure Sheela-na-gigs – all mean wisdom,. The Judeo-Christian God’s female soul, source of his true power is Sophia. As Goddess of wisdom and fate, her faces are many: Black Goddess, Divine Feminine, Mother of God The Gnostic Christians, Sophia was the Mother of Creation; her consort and assistant was Jehovah. Her sacred shrine, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, is one of the seven wonders of the world. Her symbol, the dove, represents spirit; she is crowned by stars, a Middle Eastern icon, to indicate her absolute divinity. So, the general understanding of the Holy Spirit as found in the Christian tradition is a de-sexing of the great feminine power. Sophia is the goddess or feminine principle and as such exists from the earliest pagan traditions right through to the Greek Mysteries and Gnosticism. In Gnostic literature, she is described by many names – the All mothers, Mother of the Living, Shining Mother and the Holy Spirit. Sophia is seen as the counterpart of the Logos and cannot work without. It is hence suggested in esoteric Gnostic literature that it was the combined power of Jesus and Mary Madgadene who transmitted the Mysteries, not Jesus alone. The Sophia tradition has survived hidden under the veil of Christian piety, it is still found in the cult of the Virgin Mary and is most powerful in the Russian orthodox traditions. It is a tradition of great age and some beauty that personifies the power of the Holy Spirit as distinctly female. For example, in Proverbs particularly we have Sophia wandering the street begging men to love her. While in the following quotes we may even begin to think that Sophia or Wisdom is separate, yet in reality, Sophia is a facet of the Lord of Wisdom himself. According to Gnostic mythology (in general) We, humanity, are existing in this realm because a member of the transcendent godhead, Sophia (Wisdom), desired to actualize her innate potential for creativity without the approval of her partner or divine consort. Her hubris, in this regard, stood forth as raw materiality, and her desire, which was for the mysterious ineffable Father, manifested itself as Ialdabaoth, the Demiurge, that renegade principle of generation and corruption which, by its unalterable necessity, brings all beings to life, for a brief moment, and then to death for eternity. However, since even the Pleroma itself is not, according to the Gnostics, exempt from desire or passion, there must come into play a salvific event or savior—that is, Christ, the Logos, the “messenger,” etc.—who descends to the material realm for the purpose of negating all passion, and raising the innocent human “sparks” (which fell from Sophia) back up to the Pleroma. This process of re-integration with/in the godhead is one of the basic features of the Gnostic myth. The purpose of this re-integration (implicitly) is to establish a series of existents that are ontologically posterior to Sophia, and are the concrete embodiment of her “disruptive” desire—within the unified arena of the Pleroma. Indeed, if the Pleroma is really the Fullness, containing all things, it must contain the manifold principles of Wisdom’s longing. In this sense, we must not view Gnostic salvation as a simply one-sided affair. The divine “sparks” that fell from Sophia, during her “passion,” are un-integrated aspects of the godhead. We may say, then, that in the Hegelian sense the Gnostic Supreme God is seeking, eternally, His own actualization by way of full self-consciousness. But it is not really this simple. The Supreme God of the Gnostics effortlessly generates the Pleroma, and yet (or for this very reason!) this Pleroma comes to act independently of the Father. This is because all members of the Pleroma (known as Aeons) are themselves “roots and springs and fathers”, carrying Time within themselves, as a condition of their Being. When the disruption, brought about by the desire of Sophia, disturbed the Pleroma, this was not understood as a disturbance of an already established unity, but rather as the disturbance of an insupportable stasis that had come to be observed as divine. Indeed, when the Greeks first looked to the sky and admired the regularity of the rotations of the stars and planets, what they were admiring, according to the Gnostics, was not the image of divinity, but the image or representation of a “divine” stagnancy, a law and order that stifled freedom, which is the root of desire. The passion of Sophia—her production of the Demiurge, his enslavement of the human “sparks” in the material cosmos, and the subsequent redemption and restoration—are but one episode in the infinite, unfolding drama of spiritual existence. We, as human beings, just happen to be the unwitting victims of this particular drama. But if, as the Gnostics hold, our salvation consists in our becoming gods or “lord(s) over creation and all corruption”, then how are we to be confident that, in ages to come, one of us will not give birth to another damned cosmos, just as Sophia had done? [2]

Seven Spirits & Seven Planes

According to the Gnostic traditions the triune principle manifests through a series of seven Logii or in more traditional language Archangels or spirits. These forms can be expressed in many different ways, the most traditional is to know them as Aeons, while in Egypt they would have been called Sacred Principles or Neters. In the Zoroastrian tradition, they are known as the Holy Spirits (Spenta Amesha). (These are akin to the Seven Spirits before the Throne in the Book of Revelation). This links interestingly with some western traditions, which see the Seven Spirits before the throne (Revelation 4:5) as seven phases of the Holy Ghost. These Aeons or spirits have many different aspects and facets, they may also be related to the Seven Rays of the Theosophical and Rosicrucian Mystery traditions. In the heavenly hierarchy, these spirits are again emanations from the truine principle and under them are formed the Immortals, beings that embody each ray or spirit.

The Seven Spirits according to the Zoroastrian Tradition

1. Khshathra Vairya     Desirable Power, The Kingdom of God

2. Haurvatat                    Wholeness, Health

3. Spenta Armaiti          Holy Piety, Devotion

4. Ameretat                      Long life, Immortality

5. Vohu Manah               Good purpose, good thought              

6. Asha Vahishta             Best, Right, Truth, Order

7. Spenta Mainyu           The Holy One

 

Further to this, the Seven Logii form the body of the universe or Great Chain of Being. It is from their forms that the seven planes of existence come into being. This is one of the most important aspects of the Gnostic teachings. The seven planes are not simply geographic locations, they are living, growing, transforming bodies which are enlivened by the seven Logii. It is the sane with the physical plane, it is not inert matter but is alive. The earth is not simply a ball of dirt in space, but is Gaia a immense organism which is as much alive as we are. Each plane sub- divides into lesser planes and each plane dimension has its own consciousness and reality. In this model everything is inter-related. So, for example, man is in a unique symbiotic relationship with Gaia which in turn is part of a greater web of spiritual energy which makes up the Logii of the physical plane. All forces are in symbiotic relationship with those above them hence, man is part of the body of Gaia and his behavior and actions effects Gaia as much as would our own semi-independent digestive function! This unique and new view of life is imperative for not only environmental and conservation reasons but for our own survival as a species.

The various realms that exist can be understood as planes, dimensions, realities, locales or worlds, depending on what perspective you may wish to take. The Gnostic tradition tends to use the Gnostic Theosophic model which offers seven planes. There are other models such as the four worlds of the Kabbalah and the more complex Valentinian scheme of some thiry aeons. We are not stating one is more correct than the other, we have simply chosen one model from within our tradition to expound. Together all models illustrate the multi-faceted nature of reality, the earth being only one plane within a larger picture. There can be many views of such a structure, ranging from alternative universes, dimensions or planes to other realities, each has its place in our understanding [2].

The Seven Planes according to the Max Heindel model (Rosicrucian)

The Seven Planes according to the Theosophical model

The Seven Planes according to the Buddhism Tradition

1.     Divine Plane

2.     Plane of Virgin Spirit

3.     Plane of Divine Spirit

4.     Plane of Life Spirit

5.     Plane of Thought

6.     Desire Plane    

7.    Physical Plane

1.     Divine Plane

2.     Monadic Plane

3.     Spiritual Plane

4.     Intuitional Plane

5.     Mental Plane

6.     Astral Plane          

7.    Physical Plane

1.     Monadic Plane

2.     The Atma

3.     The Buddhic body

4.     Mental Body

5.     Astral Body

6.     Etheric Body         

7.    Physical Plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


References

[1]. The Gnostic Handbook, The Institute for Gnostic Studies.

[2]. Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/gnostic 

 

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