Chapter 4 – Oriental Cosmogonies and Bible Records
Chapter 4 continues the investigation of early Christianity and Gnosticism and introduces a bold plan of reforming theology by presenting an esoteric concept of theology supported by comparative religion studies. Both the Logos and the Trinity are essential principles and the more esoteric notion of the Sacred Four, which is the Trinity in conjunction with an additional divine feminine principle, such as the Heavenly Virgin, the Shekinah, or the Shakti. Moreover, an analysis of Gnostic creation myths is introduced as the basis of a cosmogony.
The historical study of early Christianity covers the period of the Acts of the Apostles and various early Christian apocrypha. She posits a plain, simple conception of the early Christians, a view that is widely adopted today, using a perennialist perspective and gives some interesting views on the rather obscure Nazarenes and Ebionites, in particular.
1- The Ophite Theology compared with Indian and Near Eastern systems
Critique of discrepancies in the Old Textament (167 )/ Marcion’s doctrines 168 / The Ophites 168 / Ophite system of Emanations 169 / The Sacred Four in Hindu, Near Eastern and Ophite systems 169 / Arba-Il: Ennoia (Primitive Man) Sige (silence) and Bythos (depth) Sophia 170 / Christos and Sophia_Achamoth 172 / Gnostic Sermon on Mary 172 / Hindu and Gnostic Sacred Four 173 / Mandaen Sacred Four and Ilda-Baoth 174 / Confict between Peter and Paul 175 / Sethian and Ophite Systems – Divinity of Christ 176 / Isaac Newton critiques New Testament authenticity – the Trinity 177 / First Christians – factions of Peter and Paul 178 / Ebionites 180 / Hebrew Gospel of Mattew 181 / Sophia-Achamoth begets Ilda-Baoth 183 / Gnostic Pantheon 185 / Christos 185/ Death of Christos 186 / Ophis 187
The Gnostic Ophites taught the doctrine of Emanations, so hateful to the defenders of the unity in the trinity, and vice versa. The Unknown Deity with them had no name; but his first female emanation was called Bythos or Depth.* It answered to the Shekinah of the kabalists, the “Veil” which conceals the “Wisdom” in the cranium of the highest of the three heads. As the Pythagorean Monad, this nameless Wisdom was the Source of Light, and Ennoia or Mind, is Light itself. The latter was also called the “Primitive Man,” like the Adam Kadmon, or ancient Adam of the Kabala. Indeed, if man was created after his likeness and in the image of God, then this God was like his creature in shape and figure — hence, he is the “Primitive man.” The first Manu, the one evolved from Swayambhuva, “he who exists unrevealed in his own glory,” is also, in one sense, the primitive man, with the Hindus. Thus the “nameless and the unrevealed,” Bythos, his female reflection, and Ennoia, the revealed Mind proceeding from both, or their Son are the counterparts of the Chaldean first triad as well as those of the Brahmanic Trimurti. (169)
To place it still clearer, the Babylonian System recognizes first — the ONE (Ad, or Ad-ad), who is never named, but only acknowledged in thought as the Hindu Swayambhuva. From this he becomes manifest as Anu or Ana — the one above all — Monas. Next comes the Demiurge called Bel or Elu, who is the active power of the Godhead. The third is the principle of Wisdom, Hea or Hoa, who also rules the sea and the underworld. Each of these has his divine consort, giving us Anata, Belta,and Davkina. These, however, are only like the Saktis, and not especially remarked by theologists. But the female principle is denoted by Mylitta, the Great Mother, called also Ishtar. So with the three male gods, we have the Triad or Trimurti, and with Mylitta added, the Arba or Four (Tetraktys of Pythagoras), which perfects and potentializes all. Hence, the above-given modes of expression. The following Chaldean diagram may serve as an illustration for all others:
Triad / Anu, Bel, Hoa. / Mylitta — Arba-il, or Four-fold God,
become, with the Christians,
Trinity / God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, / Mary, or mother of these three Gods since they are one, or, the Christian Heavenly Tetraktys.
Hence, Hebron, the city of the Kabeiri was called Kirjath-Arba, city of the Four. The Kabeiri were Axieros — the noble Eros, Axiokersos, the worthy horned one, Axiokersa, Demeter and Kadmiel, Hoa, etc.
The Pythagorean ten denoted the Arba-Il or Divine Four, emblematized by the Hindu Lingham: Anu, 1; Bel, 2; Hoa, 3, which makes 6. The triad and Mylitta as 4 make the ten. (171)
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. (185)
Then follow allegories embodying the idea of dualism, or the struggle between good and evil, spirit and matter, which is found in every cosmoogony, 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 mythopoeic ages. But, in these personages, Ophis and Ophiomorphos, Sophia and Sophia-Achamoth, Adam-Kadmon, and Adam, the planetary genii and the divine AEons, we can also recognize very easily the models of our biblical copies — the euhemerized patriarchs. The archangels, angels, 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 Amshaspands, 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. (185)
2- Conflict between Peter and Paul – Jehovists and Gnostics (188)
Basilides 188 / The Clementine Homilies 189 / Wonders of Jesus 194 / Jesus and Reincarnation 194
The first groups of Christians, whom Renan shows numbering but from seven to twelve men in each church, belonged unquestionably to the poorest and most ignorant classes. They had and could have no idea of the highly philosophical doctrines of the Platonists and Gnostics, and evidently knew as little about their own newly-made-up religion. To these, who if Jews, had been crushed under the tyrannical dominion of the “law,” as enforced by the elders of the synagogues, and if Pagans had been always excluded, as the lower castes are until now in India, from the religious mysteries, the God of the Jews and the “Father” preached by Jesus were all one. The contentions which reigned from the first years following the death of Jesus, between the two parties, the Pauline and the Petrine — were deplorable. What one did, the other deemed a sacred duty to undo. If the Homilies are considered apocryphal, and cannot very well be accepted as an infallible standard by which to measure the animosity which raged between the two apostles, we have the Bible, and the proofs afforded therein are plentiful. (175)
And now we ask again the question: Who were the first Christians? Those who were readily converted by the eloquent simplicity of Paul, who promised them, with the name of Jesus, freedom from the narrow bonds of ecclesiasticism. They understood but one thing; they were the “children of promise” (Galatians iv. 28). The “allegory” of the Mosaic Bible was unveiled to them; the covenant “from the Mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage” was Agar (Ibid., 24), the old Jewish synagogue, and she was “in bondage with her children” to Jerusalem, the new and the free, “the mother of us all.” On the one hand the synagogue and the law which persecuted every one who dared to step across the narrow path of bigotry and dogmatism; on the other, Paganism* with its grand philosophical truths concealed from sight; unveiling itself but to the few, and leaving the masses hopelessly seeking to discover who was the god, among this overcrowded pantheon of deities and sub-deities. To others, the apostle of circumcision, supported by all his followers, was promising, if they obeyed the “law,” a life hereafter, and a resurrection of which they had no previous idea. (179)
But who then were the first Christians, may still be asked? Doubtless the Ebionites; and in this we follow the authority of the best critics. “There can be little doubt that the author (of the Clementine Homilies) was a representative of Ebionitic Gnosticism, which had once been the purest form of primitive Christianity. . . .”* And who were the Ebionites? The pupils and followers of the early Nazarenes, the kabalistic Gnostics. In the preface to the Codex Nazaraeus, the translator says: “That also the Nazarenes did not reject . . . the AEons is natural. For of the Ebionites who acknowledged them (the AEons), these were the instructors.”** (180)
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.”** (188)
3- Essenes and Nazarenes
Essenes 196 / Syriac Gospel, Synesius, Hermtetica 198 / Symbolism of Masssacre of the Innocent 199 /
The Sepher Todos Jeshu 201 / Nazarenes 202 / Nazarenes and Gnostics 204 / Heresiologists 208 / Holy Virgin in India, Egypt and Christianity 208 / Angels and Sefiroths 210
Thus, if Josephus never wrote the famous interpolation forged by Eusebius, concerning Jesus, on the other hand, he has described in the Essenes all the principal features that we find prominent in the Nazarene. When praying, they sought solitude.** “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet . . . and pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew vi. 6). “Everything spoken by them (Essenes) is stronger than an oath. Swearing is shunned by them” (Josephus II., viii., 6). “But I say unto you, swear not at all . . . but let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay” (Matthew v. 34-37).
The Nazarenes, as well as the Essenes and the Therapeutae, believed more in their own interpretations of the “hidden sense” of the more ancient Scriptures, than in the later laws of Moses. Jesus, as we have shown before, felt but little veneration for the commandments of his predecessor, with whom Irenaeus is so anxious to connect him. (196)
Eusebius states that before the siege of Jerusalem the small Christian community — comprising members of whom many, if not all, knew Jesus and his apostles personally — took refuge in the little town of Pella, on the opposite shore of the Jordan. Surely these simple people, separated for centuries from the rest of the world, ought to have preserved their traditions fresher than any other nations! It is in Palestine that we have to search for the clearest waters of Christianity, let alone its source. The first Christians, after the death of Jesus, all joined together for a time, whether they were Ebionites, Nazarenes, Gnostics, or others.
They had no Christian dogmas in those days, and their Christianity consisted in believing Jesus to be a prophet, this belief varying from seeing in him simply a “just man,”* or a holy, inspired prophet, a vehicle used by Christos and Sophia to manifest themselves through. These all united together in opposition to the synagogue and the tyrannical technicalities of the Pharisees, until the primitive group separated in two distinct branches — which, we may correctly term the Christian kabalists of the Jewish Tanaim school, and the Christian kabalists of the Platonic Gnosis.** The former were represented by the party composed of the followers of Peter, and John, the author of the Apocalypse; the latter ranged with the Pauline Christianity, blending itself, at the end of the second century, with the Platonic philosophy, and engulfing, still later, the Gnostic sects, whose symbols and misunderstood mysticism overflowed the Church of Rome. (198)
This allegory, like the rest of them in such books, is written “inside and outside“ — it has its secret meaning, and ought to be read two ways. The kabalistic books explain its mystical meaning. Further, the same Talmudist says, in substance, the following: Jesus was thrown in prison,** and kept there forty days; then flogged as a seditious rebel; then stoned as a blasphemer in a place called Lud, and finally allowed to expire upon a cross. “All this,” explains Levi, “because he revealed to the people the truths which they (the Pharisees) wished to bury for their own use. He had divined the occult theology of Israel, had compared it with the wisdom of Egypt, and found thereby the reason for a universal religious synthesis.”*** (202
When the metaphysical conceptions of the Gnostics, who saw in Jesus the Logos and the anointed, began to gain ground, the earliest Christians separated from the Nazarenes, who accused Jesus of perverting the doctrines of John, and changing the baptism of the Jordan.**** “Directly,” says Milman, “as it (the Gospel) got beyond the borders of Palestine, and the name of ‘Christ’ had acquired sanctity and veneration in the Eastern cities, he became a kind of metaphysical impersonation, while the religion lost its purely moral cast and assumed the character of a speculative theogony.“***** The only half-original document that has reached us from the primitive apostolic days, is the Logia of Matthew. The real, genuine doctrine has remained in the hands of the Nazarenes, in this Gospel of Matthew containing the “secret doctrine,” the “Sayings of Jesus,” mentioned by Papias. These sayings were, no doubt, of the same nature as the small manuscripts placed in the hands of the neophytes, who were candidates for the Initiations into the Mysteries, and which contained the Aporrheta, the revelations of some important rites and symbols. For why should Matthew take such precautions to make them “secret” were it otherwise? (204)
In the religious metaphysics of the Hebrews, the Highest One is an abstraction; he is “without form or being,” “with no likeness with anything else.”* And even Philo calls the Creator, the Logos who stands next God, “the SECOND God.” “The second God who is his WISDOM.”** God is NOTHING, he is nameless, and therefore called Ain-Soph — the word Ain meaning nothing.*** But if, according to the older Jews, Jehovah is the God, and He manifested Himself several times to Moses and the prophets, and the Christian Church anathematized the Gnostics who denied the fact — how comes it, then, that we read in the fourth gospel that “No man hath seen God AT ANY TIME, but the only-begotten Son . . . he hath declared him”? The very words of the Gnostics, in spirit and substance. This sentence of St. John — or rather whoever wrote the gospel now bearing his name — floors all the Petrine arguments against Simon Magus, without appeal. The words are repeated and emphasized in chapter vi.: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he (Jesus) hath seen the Father” (46) — the very objection brought forward by Simon in the Homilies. These words prove that either the author of the fourth evangel had no idea of the existence of the Homilies, or that he was not John, the friend and companion of Peter, whom he contradicts point-blank with this emphatic assertion. Be it as it may, this sentence, like many more that might be profitably cited, blends Christianity completely with the Oriental Gnosis, and hence with the KABALA. (210)