The Gnosis of the Light
by F. Lamplugh
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The above version is by Dom John Chapman, O.S.B., who says that this passage was "cited throughout the Middle Ages as the locus classicus for method of contemplation." This is, except for our text, the earliest mention of the "Dark Ray" in literature. Evidently Pseudo Dionysius did not invent the term himself, but followed a much older Christian tradition. This fact is important for the history of Christian mysticism.

(14) This seems to imply a doctrine of pre-existence. Perhaps the passage is related to John 17:16: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.... As Thou didst send Me into the world, even so sent I them into the world."

(15) Cp. Psalm 68:17 (R.V.): "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands upon thousands. The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the sanctuary."

(16) Further descriptions of this, "the oldest of the AEons," are given later on. From these it will be gathered that the crown is the Crown of Life, and that the twelve gates are also twelve deeps or firmaments, over each of which a Paternity presides. She is called the Indivisible One, either "Point," "Atom," or perhaps even "Body" or "Raiment." As she is both the Spouse and Mother of the Light-Spark within the AEon, I have generally called her the Indivisible Queen.

(17) Mr Mead suggests that Phosilampes may be a mystery name of Basilides. Has a commentary on the Gospel of St John been used here, or a commentary on the prologue by Basilides [containing perhaps the teachings of the alleged instructor of Basilides, Glaucias, whose name, rather suggesting the "shining one," may equal "Phosilampes"], which interpreted "In the beginning" as meaning "In the First Concept or in the Monad was the Word"?

(18) This repetition of the Seven Vowels gives the following meanings to them:—AAA = Living of Living Ones, HHH = Holy of Holy Ones, EEE = Being of Beings, III = Father of Fatherhoods, OOO = God of Gods, YYY=Lord of Lords, OOO = Space of Spaces or AEon of AEons. The High and Holy One, together with His Bride and Mother, the "Universal Church or First Concept," are one in and with the Eternity that they inhabit. Hence "Thou art the House and the Dweller in the House." Time (AEon) and Space (Topos) are here one, or different aspects of the same mode of being.

(19) Cp. "The Mind unto Hermes," 16: "The Cosmos is all-formed [Pantomorphos]—not having forms external to itself, but changing them, itself within itself"; also the "Perfect Sermon," xix. 3: "The thirty-six, who have the name of Horoscopes, are in the self-same space as the fixed stars; of these the essence chief or Prince is he whom they call Pantomorph and Omniform, who fashioneth the various forms for various species." The Pantomorphic Body is the Augoeides or Astroeides, the ray-like or star-like glory (not to be confused with the "astral body" of modern theosophy). Cp. Origen, Ep. 38 ad Pammach: "Another body, a spiritual and aetherial one, is promised us: a body that is not subject to physical touch, nor seen by physical eyes, nor burdened with weight, and which shall be metamorphosed according to the variety of regions in which it shall be.... In that spiritual body the whole of us will see, the whole hear, the whole serve as hands, the whole as feet." The Star-body is the body of Resurrection and Ascension. Cp. Mark 16:12: "He was manifested in another form unto two of them." Also it was the body of "the universal" descent, that which transmitted the AEons from the Pleroma or Ideal World to the Sensible World, hence it was considered to be "scattered" or in a state of latency, or of mystical death in normal man. To awaken it, to gather it together, or to "raise it from the dead," was one of the first objects of the mystics, who followed the way of the Gnosis. Its partial resurgence was the first great step in the processes of the Apotheosis. It was the possession of this body, in some degree, which distinguished a man as "spiritual" from the psychic and "hylic" men. The Astroeides included the "natural" body in its consummation, under a great transmutation, for it was the "Wisdom" at the basis of material nature.

I have transferred the account of the "City of the Man" from where it stands, at the end of the MS., to this place, as it seems more intelligible here, and the exact order has been obscured by the confusion of the leaves.

(20) Cp. "Poemandres," 15: "He [the Man], beholding the form like to himself existing in her, in her water, loved it and willed to live in it: and with the will came act, and so he vivified the form devoid of reason. And Nature took the object of her love and wound herself completely round him, and they were intermingled, for they were lovers.... Thus, though above the Harmony (or Fate sphere), within the Harmony he [The Man] hath become a slave, ... and though he is sleepless from a sleepless Sire, yet is he overcome by sleep."

This is the Mystery of the concealment of God in Nature, a mystery that was sometimes presented under the symbol of a self-scattering, sometimes under the symbol of a magical sleep, or mystic death.

(21) "The Earth that brought forth the God" is the "ground of the individual soul," and is also the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Universe, the Hidden Sanctuary where the "Man" is raised from mystical death or is reborn. No doubt the symbolism is drawn from Egyptian sources.

(22) This passage might be paraphrased, "Those who have received Life and Light in the Concealed Sanctuary of the Soul know, through this Crown of Perfection, that the Inheritors of the Kingdom of Light are indeed reborn from the Indivisible Body, who is the Mother of us all.

(23) AAA OOO = The Living Space of Spaces, AEon of AEons. See note 18 and cp. Rev. 1:8, 17-18: "I am Alpha and Omega ... the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and, behold, I am alive unto the aeon of aeons."

(24) The Body of Christ, which in its transcendental aspect is also His Bride and Mother. Cp. 2 Clem. xiv.: "I do not suppose that you know not that the living Church is the body of Christ; for the scripture saith, 'God made Man, male and female; the male is Christ, the female the Church; and the books and the Apostles belong not to the Church that now is, but to the Church which is from above. For it is spiritual, as is our Jesus, but is manifested in these last days to save us. But the Church, being spiritual, is manifested in the flesh of Christ.... Great is the Life and Immortality which this flesh can partake of—that is, of the Holy Spirit which is joined to it—nor can any declare or utter what the Lord has prepared for His chosen.'"

(25) This extremely interesting and important passage is also one of great difficulty, for it is full of technical terms and allusions which would need a small treatise to elucidate properly. For example, it seems to imply the doctrine of two Logoi that Clement of Alexandria was accused of teaching, and which is found in certain Hellenistic writings. The "Body of Light" is the Astroeides in which the "Adept" can cross the "Fate-Sphere," the "Midst," the regions of consciousness where mechanical cause and effect prevail and contact the Pleroma, or Universe of Divine Freedom and Fullness. "Charis" or "Grace" is the name of the Bride or Body of the Logos, and the use of it here symbolises a "raiment" or "Body" still more exalted than the Astroeides. It is the Body beyond the Stars, the Monadic Robe or "Robe of Glory," into which the "Star-like Body" was transformed at the Horos, Limit or Boundary of the Worlds of Difference and of Sameness. What kind of Peace was that in which the Alone-begotten dwelt in the Monad? A Peace most truly given to those within and those without, for in it all things were created. To realise what is meant we must remember that "Charis" and "Resurrection" were names of "Staurus," the Pillar that made with Horos the Great Cross referred to more than once. "Peace," then, was the state of the Logos in Mystic crucifixion, the Peace of God which established, reconciled, justified all things. Hence it can be inferred what transformation the Star Body had to undergo to become the Robe of Glory. The Cross and the Master were one. The Cross of Calvary was to the Gnostic Teacher the outer and efficacious sign of this Mystery or Sacrament. So also the Pentecostal outpouring recorded in Acts was the outward sign, or sacramental token, of the assumption by the Master of the Robe of Glory, the vesture of the Monad or Transcendental and Universal Church, which could not be assumed here. From thenceforth the band of disciples became a Church, the Mystic Body of Christ, the outward sign of concealed mysteries; and it will be seen in what manner Jesus was the Father of all Light-Sparks and gave resurrection to the body. Such was the teaching of the Gnosis. To make the matter clear to readers interested in mysticism, but unfamiliar with Hellenistic technical terms, it may be said that the "Bodies" so often referred to may be taken as standing for what may be called the Life side of various stages of mystical consciousness, as "Light" stands for the Mind side; but Life and Light are one.

(26) "The Gate of God." Cp. the Naasene Document in Hippolytus: "This Mystery is the Gate of Heaven, and this is the House of God, where the Good God dwells alone; into which no impure man shall come, no psychic, nor fleshly man, ... 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 through the Virginal Spirit. For this is the Virgin big with child, conceiving and bearing a Son—not psychic, not fleshly, but a blessed AEon of AEons."

"Gnosis," then, was the Mystery of Regeneration or Rebirth from above. It will be observed that the text shows no hostility to "Faith." This is an indication of early date. "Mystery" is often, though not always, the equivalent to "Sacrament."

(27) There is then another "Universal Mother," Phanerios or Phaneia ("Wisdom without the Pleroma"). In the last resort the two Mothers are one. Phaneia is the Mother of the manifested world in which there is matter, but she does not seem to be in exile, as in the Sophia Myth. Like Isis in the Osiris legend, she seems to have gone forth to gather together the self-scattered limbs of the Man and to redeem Him from captivity through the efforts of the great hierarchs that are given to her.

(28) The pre-existence of the soul is taught, also the loss of the memory of its true nature owing to its fall into "Matter" [Hyle]. But this fall is not regarded as either a sin or a mistake, but as a needful step in the mystery of Rebirth or "Re-ordering." The Overseer is the "Mind of all Masterhood," the Logos, the Second Father of all.

It is tempting to connect the Triple-Power with the Triple-Bodied Man of the Naasene Document and see in him the symbol of a simple Universal Consciousness "polarised" into the three states of Spiritual, Psychic, and Material.

(29) This Vision of the Advent of the Creative Word seems to be in part a summary and anticipation of things described otherwise later in the MS. After it the writer (or writers) goes back and describes the "Re-ordering" from the time that "the veils of the aeons were drawn" from various points of view. Various Cosmic processes are delineated symbolically, and their simultaneous working is not excluded.

(30) The Universal Man had fallen into bondage in the Fate-Sphere.

(31) I think that what we are to understand is, that the Man is raised from His state of Mystical Death or Self-dispersion by the Protogennetor (Son, First Parent), crowned with the Lights of Wisdom by the Hidden Father "Who has no consort," and robed with cosmic life by the Mother. Compare what has already been said about the Robe of Glory and the outward signs of its descent at Pentecost. The work of the Mantle would seem to symbolise the re-ordering work of the Church, the "New Creation," the new impulse on its mystical side. Is Protogennetor, then, a cryptic title of Christ? In a sense I think it is, but there are other issues which are better discussed at a later point.

The Title "Without King" recalls the Naasene Document and its "One is the Race without a King which is born Above."

(32) The Seven Stratelatai, leaders or generals, are perhaps the seven Planets.

(33) Cp. the Akhmim Codex: "She (Barbelo) is the First Thought, his Image, she becometh the First Man; that is the Virginal Spirit, she of the triple Manhood, the triple-powered one, the triple-named, triple-born, the aeon which ages not, the Man-woman."

34. Who are the Mother and the three great hierarchs? It is tempting to connect the three with the three traditional paths of Purgation, Illumination and Union, Water, Fire and Spirit. The Propator, who desires to turn the World to God, and who is, through the descent of a particular power, the Father-Mother of the Spiritual Life to come, may symbolise the process of Purgation and the Baptism of Water; the Autopator, who utters the promises of Christ and who has the power of an Ennead of initiation, may typify the Illuminative Life and the Baptism of Fire; while the Protogennetor, robed in cosmic consciousness, so that he can walk even the waters of the Primal Deep (Noun), who draws forth finally from the material life, may represent the inception of the Life of Union and the Baptism of the Spirit. All this may be true, but, if I mistake not, there is more behind the veil of symbolism, and it is continual allusions to this more, plain enough to the person for whom it was intended, that renders the MS. so peculiarly difficult. Who is Phaneia, the Mother without the Pleroma, who owes her position to the descent of the Royal Robe? She stands for nature in what may be called its sacramental aspect, and she also stands for the Churches, if I mistake not, and more particularly for the community or order to which the writer or writers belonged. This implies a certain claim to a high mystical self-knowledge on the part of that community. Again, the title "Son Protogennetor" is most significant. He that bore it must be the Son of the Sacred House, the "Son of the Doctrine," and the First Parent, or Father in God, of those to come after. He invites comparison not only with the Saviour of the Gospels, but also with figures that appear in the myths of the mystery cults: with Horos, the son of Isis, with Hermes the Thrice-Great, with the "Eagle" or "Father" whose title represented the highest grade of the Mithriaca. I suggest that he may represent the ideal candidate in the mystery of initiation—that is to say, he who, by entering into himself, has attained to the "unio mystica," has raised up the "Man" within himself, has been "reborn" as a god in Divine consciousness, and so is qualified to hand on the vital processes of the Gnosis to others, becoming thereby their spiritual parent. So he is called Son Protogennetor. He is Christ in the sense that Galahad of the "Quest," and Parsifal of Wagner's great drama are Christ. The theory of initiation as conceived in the early mystical communities seems, in part at any rate, to rest upon the proposition that he who has himself attained to Union with God is able to "start," to "initiate," in suitable persons, and under certain conditions, those processes which, under Providence, result in a like consummation. Thus we appear to have a claim in the MS. to a transmitted "Mastership" in the ranks of the order going back to Jesus Himself: "For whose sake resurrection is given to the body. He is the Father of all Light-Sparks," The Propator and Autopator would seem to represent different aspects of this claim. "Gnosis" was not the possession of a body of secret Doctrine in the sense of having a number of formal propositions containing occult information, but a vital knowledge of the processes of "Regeneration" or "Apotheosis."

Then, again, we have the idea of a "Divine Mind" or "Logos" manifesting Himself through a Body of Universal Consciousness, represented sacramentally (that is to say effectually) in the "physical world" by the bodies of a body of believers. The rites of this body symbolised, again "effectually," the modes and activities of the Body of Universal Consciousness of which it was the outward sign, just as its doctrines reflected on the plane of mentation and discourse the workings of the Divine Mind, which are above mentation and discourse, though not contrary to it. The acceptance of these ideas seems to have constituted "Pistis"—"the Faith by which we believe in the Mysteries of the Man"—a mode of the Divine Energy which resulted in good works. "Gnosis" was the knowledge of the processes by which these ideas passed from the life of formal belief and intellectual assent into the life of realised consciousness. The "Hylics," men in Hyle or "Matter," were "the children of this world," so absorbed in the life of the senses five that they lived like "brute beasts without understanding." [Hyle as a technical term was not always understood too literally by the Gnostics and Platonists (see various passages in Codex Bruce), but derived its importance as the symbol of a certain state of consciousness.] "Psychics" were those whose consciousness was sufficiently aroused to accept a formal belief in viewless Divine Energies and to order their social conduct on the basis of that belief. The "Spiritual," the "Perfect," those perfected in Gnosis, that is, were those that were actually conscious of participating in a Mind in common and in a Body of transcendental energy in common. This Mind (Logos), Light-Spark, and Body (Monad) constituted a sole Being, Man, or the Son of Man, neither male nor female, and yet both, who enveloped all things, even those of Hyle (v. the Naasene Document) in His Infinite Perfections, who manifested all things, who was concealed in all things and who was above all things. An ideal Church or Community of "Spiritual" men, conscious of the whole Man in each of its members, could focus within itself, without any robbery, all the energies of the Universe, and by concentrating and applying them in a certain manner could give birth to the whole order within the consciousness of the called and chosen candidate, who thus became a "Self-Knowing," "Self-Fathered," "Fore-Fathered" god, a "Race without a King in the name God." His substance was "enformed" by the Sacraments of the Manifested Order (Phaneia), and the substance thus "enformed" was finally "assumed," "translated," "transformed," what you will, in a mode utterly beyond all symbol and image by the "descent" of the Divine "Grace," "First Concept," "Ennead and Monad Without Seal-Mark," "Barbelo" (again what you will), and given final "Re-birth in the Light of the Mind." To form an Ideal community of this kind, a community of gods in God, by a series of grades or steps, places of "Repentance" or "change" slowly taken, was, I believe, the purpose of those responsible for the original of the present MS. "They began from the base upwards that the building might unite them to their companions"—souls that in aeonian bliss beheld the Face of God unveiled. Into this building plan the Neophyte was initiated to give thereto his soul and body as a willing oblation and sacrifice. It seems a reasonable suggestion to offer that this document consists of a series of meditations and spiritual exercises given to the candidate before one of the inner "initiations" or sacramental "starts" that was consummated beyond the veil of signs and symbols. For such an end not only Faith, not only a reasonable Foundation in an accepted philosophy, that of Plato, but an Imagination intensified into intuition was needed. Hence these strange hieroglyphs on the expressed veil. The Child of Fire must behold rising within himself from the Immeasurable Abyss of Godhead the five-rayed morning star of Love, Faith, Hope, Gnosis, and Peace, the herald of the Perfect Dawn of a New Birth.

Possibly "Propator," "Autopator" and "Protogennetor" may also have been the official designations of hierophants in the sacramental side of some "Mystery" consummated in solitude, from which the candidate returned an "Epopt."

(35) Cp. Ps. 104:1, 2: "Thou art clothed with honour and majesty: who coverest thyself with light as with a garment."

(36) This hymn or prayer seems to be an invocation to the "Dark Ray" on behalf of the candidate (and also for the building up of the "Ideal Order"). The consummation, beyond all signs and images, is in the hands of God alone. A "start" may be effected by duly qualified hierophants under certain conditions, but the crown "Pantelos" is given by the "Father of all Fatherhood" alone.

(37) This looks as if in this system the Fruit of the Pleroma was also the Father of the Fullnesses. The phrase "He made a world and bore it into the Temple" seems to mean that He assumed a body of manifestation.

(38) The veil which surrounded the Pleroma or World of Divine Ideas was called "Stauros" (Cross) and Horos (Boundary). Cp. Hippolytus (vi. 3):

"Now it is called 'Boundary' because it bounds off the Deficiency from the Fullness [so as to make it] exterior to it. It is called Partaker because it partakes of the Deficiency as well; and it is called 'Cross' because it hath been fixed immovably and unchangeably, so that nothing of the Deficiency should be able to approach the aeons within the Fullness."

See also the "Gnostic Crucifixion," 9, 10, 11 (Acts of John): "[The Cross] is the defining (or delimitation) of all things, both the firm necessity of things fixed from things unstable, and the harmony of wisdom. And as it is Wisdom in Harmony, there are those on the Right and those on the Left—powers, authorities, principalities and daemons, energies, threats, powers of wrath, slanderings—and the Lower Root from which hath come forth the things in genesis. This, then, is the Cross which by the Word hath been the means of 'Cross-beaming' all things—at the same time separating off the things that proceed from genesis and those below from those above, and also compacting them all into one."

The "Mantle" in which the Man is clad and which severs and orders all things is evidently another aspect of the same idea.

The use of the term "veil" is suggestive, as the term is so often employed in Hellenistic Mysticism in connection with "Initiation." Finally, it is just worth noting that it is possible that what Origen has to say about the self-limitation of God is influenced by the tradition concerning the Horos or "Boundary."

(39) This is undoubtedly a reference to the Mystical Crucifixion so often mentioned in previous notes. It is the Master Symbol of the Unitive State, of the reconciliation and union of God and Man, and of the participation of the individual in the Universal. Its presence at this point of the text is most suggestive. The candidate, "the Birth of Matter," stands, mystically at any rate, before the Veil at the Foot of the Cross. To pass the Veil and to enter into the Fullness means being united with the Master in His Passion and Crucifixion.

The Cross is evidently a Tau, and I suggest that the frontispiece may represent this Mystery, the Crucifixion of the AEon, O, upon Staurus, the Cross and the Master being One, AO and AO. The meaning of XMI is unknown. It has been suggested that it is (with EIC THEOS) a symbol of the Trinity in Unity, or a veil of the Divine Name.

(40) The terms I have translated as "Sole Unstainable," "Sole [Foundation]-stone of Adamant" are "Amiantos," "Adamantos." Besides meaning "unstainable," Amiantos was the name of a pale green stone. Readers interested in the legend of the Graal will recall that the Graal is represented as a green stone in the "Parzival" of Von Eschenbach. "Adamantos" is "diamond." Here and in the account of the Monad as the Metropolis of Monogenes, "filled with men of every race and with all the statues of the king," there is a curious parallel to be found to a happening in the life of Saint Theresa. "Being once in prayer," she says, "the Diamond was represented to me like a flash; although I saw nothing formed, still, it was a representation with all clearness how all things are seen in God, and how all are contained in Him.... Let us say that the Divinity is like a very lustrous Diamond, larger than all the world, or like a mirror—and all that we do is seen in this Diamond, it being so fashioned that it includes everything within itself, because there is nothing but what is contained in this magnitude."

I have ventured to insert [Foundation] because I think that there is a punning allusion to "Adamas." Cp. Naasene Document: "The 'rock' means Adamas. This is the corner-stone ... which I insert in the foundation of Zion. By this he means allegorically the plasm of man. For Adamas, who is inserted in the inner Man, and the foundations of Zion are ... the wall and palisade (sc. Horos) in which is the inner Man."

(41) The prayer seems to be for the transmutation of the members of the order by mystical marriages with their archetypal "selves," that the mysteries of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and of the Descent of the Paraclete may be realised after a certain manner.

(42) Compare this passage with what has already been said concerning an attempt to form an Ideal Order. "A place of Metanoia" implies here a radical change of the whole being rather than "repentance" as ordinarily understood. The "topos" of Autogenes, the Self-begotten, was the first station of the journey of the Light-Spark without the Pleroma, and is the last station of the return within.

The extant "Gospel of Mary" (Codex Akhmim), which was "reviewed" by Irenaeus, and was therefore composed before 180 A.D., states that from the Light of the Christ and the Incorruptible proceed forth four great Lights to surround Autogenes. Their names are Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithi, and Eleleth. Irenaeus says, "Charis [Grace] was conjoined with the great and first Luminary, and this they will have to be the Saviour and call him Harmogen"—the Harmes-begotten. The name "Harmes" appears in the present MS., and is evidently a name for Barbelo. These things are important for the date of the Greek original. The allusions to Pistis-Sophia are probably interpolated; there seems to be no room for her adventures in the scheme of the text. But what are we to make of the mysterious "Baptism in the name of Barpharanges"? Does "Barpharanges" (the meaning of which no one seems to know) simply = Harmogenes = the begotten from Barbelo, "the Virginal Spirit," the Image seen in the "pure water of Light"? If so, then we have in all probability an allusion to the Gnostic Baptism with the Holy Spirit or Light. "Harmogenes" will be the Child of the Mystical Marriage with the Virginal Spirit by which the "Spiritual" recover their true manhood, a "blessed aeon of aeons": that is to say, that the Epopt himself is mystically "Autogenes," the "Self-begotten," having been reborn a god in God.

The rest of the text is missing.

43. This Hymn to the Light seems to stand in some close connection with the text we have been discussing. If what has been suggested concerning the contents of the Greek original should prove correct, both the nature and position of the Hymn become plain. It consists of various acts of the will not altogether unlike some of those prescribed in certain Catholic manuals for those in the Unitive way. It is the form of Prayer given by the "Director" or "Master" to his disciple, to be used together with the MS. as part of his preparation for, what I believe to be, the "Baptism of Light." A large part of the Hymn seems to be missing owing to the state of the MS., and the order is uncertain.



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Translated by JOHN SPARROW.

Edited by C. J. B. and D. S. H.

In his preface to the reader, John Sparrow writes: "I must say that this book, 'Aurora,' hath conduced more to open my mind to the understanding of all his writings, and of all Mysteries, both natural and divine (and so, consequently, of the Holy Scriptures) than any other helps and books which I could ever meet withal besides.... In his 'Aurora' the ground of those terms [the succinct, very deeply expressed terms employed in his later books] is largely and plainly described in a childish way, after the manner of the infancy of his high manifestation; so that it is a large and most clear ABC, being the fitter and plainer for beginners, and with his other books may the easier be understood; and it is a summary contents of all his Mysteries, and may serve instead of a manuduction, introduction, and key to unlock all the difficult expressions in his other books."

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