What makes us free is the Gnosis
From what is commonly referred to with its Latin title, Excerpta Ex Theodoto (in English, “...excerpts from the works of Theodotus and the so-called eastern teaching (or school), at the time of Valentinus.” First mentioned (or perhaps composed by) Clement of Alexandria, ca. 150 – 215 CE – aka Titus Flavius Clemens (Greek: Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς). The popular Roman lapsed Christian and gnostic teacher, Valentinus (ca. 100-160 CE) and his 'version of gnostism quickly spread to Alexandria, Egypt and throughout the eastern Meditteranian (Casey 1934, #78)
Most are familiar with the famous Dead Sea scrolls, initially discovered in 1946 and 1947, but added to with later searches and digging by archaeologists through 1957. The 972 scrolls and fragments of texts from Caves 1 through 11 are thought by many to be the works of a Jewish sect known as the quasi-mystical Essenes, though a significant number of contemporary scholars support Prof . Norman Golb (Jewish history, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) who suggests they represent the remains of several different private libraries from Jerusalem and hidden during the Roman conquest and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A year before a Bedouin shepherd tumbled into the first cave and returned with a handful of ancient scrolls, a couple of Egyptian brothers found a large clay jar containing several very old codices (leather-bound 'books' with writing on both sides of the papyrus) outside of Nag (var. Nagaa) Hammadi near Chenoboskion, Egypt. They originally didn't do anything with the antique manuscripts and it's said their mother burned some of the pages superstitiously and pronounced them “dangerous.” Eventually, they would be determined to be a library of 'gnostic' (γνωστικός gnostikos – having knowledge) thought, that is, anti-Jewish Gnosticism and Christian Gnosticism with a little Plato thrown in perhaps for a “collecting” purpose. We're familiar with the term autodidact or someone self-taught, while the Greek term 'gnostic' represented an auto-spiritual or mystical wisdom (αυτόματη πνευματική σοφία – aftómati pnevmatikí sofía) 'remembered' as something everyone knows, but only a few, through effort, recall. Remembering 'actual' memories are great, though false-memories are too common. On its surface, remembering one's self as a divine creation, by itself, is what many refer to as 'enlightenment' and is most often of a spiritual or religious nature. However, we're human and are prone to forget things every now and then.
Before beginning a discussion of mystical 'remembering' in gnostic terminology, it's best to briefly recount the history of the Nag Hammadi codices before they were eventually published in their entirety (Robinson 1977) – an earlier publication in English and other languages of Codice II, a collection of 114 sayings or logia of Jesus with a short narrative introduction, The Gospel of Thomas, was the first translation of an entire text made available to the general public (Guillaumont 1959), similar to the hypothetical Quelle or Q-source sayings as found in various canonical gospels – not to be confused with the much later and longer 'gnostic' Gospel of Thomas in which the disciple goes to India. While many scholarly works subsequently appeared, some popular books educated and teased the inquisitive reader or student of religion (e.g. Doresse 1960; Dart 1976).
Despite the opinion and actions of the brothers' mother, the brothers wanted to sell or do something with the ancient codices, they argued, and finally passed them along to various camel drivers and middle-men for a bit of sugar , tea, and a few coins. The codices were offered to a Coptic priest who initially wanted nothing to do with them, as they were non-canonical and therefor heretical, then changed his mind and offered forty oranges and the equivalent of four dollars apiece for the entire codex library. Of course, this decision by the brothers was completely altruistic and had NOTHING to do with the fact their father had recently killed someone from a nearby village, was then murdered by a relative of the victim, and subsequently the brothers hunted down the killer of their father, dispatched him, and ate his heart for ...tradition (Yamauchi 1987, p. 426). With most of the codices in Cairo in possession of various “owners,” a Belgian antiquities dealer acquired one codex, tried to sell it to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, then to the University of Michigan, before placing them up for auction in New York and Paris, and then died with the codex unsold. The antiquities dealer's widow then sold it in 1952 for $8,009 to the Carl Gustav Jung Institute in Zürich at the behest of Gilles Quispel, who intended the codex to be a birthday gift to Dr. Jung. Before this, another antiquities dealer in Cairo had purchased nine codices, asked the Coptic Museum to buy them for 65,000 Egyptian pounds, but the museum seized them outright, though they did give the antiquities dealer some 5,000 Egyptian pounds in compensation (ibid pp. 426-427). Sometime in 1947, Jean Doresse of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France heard about the ancient codices and published the first mentions of the Nag Hammadi library shortly thereafter (Doresse 1948a, 1948b).
Jung was interested in the ancient Gnostics all of his professional career. After writing a letter to Freud about his fascination with the Gnostics, he wrote and self-published a short gnostic narrative text which was never sold and only given as gifts (Jung 1916). Dr. Jung was quite enamored with his gift (later referred to as Codex I or the Jung Codex) and wouldn't part with it no matter how much the Egyptian government and academics pleaded. Even after his passing in 1961, his family and estate didn't return the prized codex to the Egyptian Department of Antiquities until 1975, after a publication of its contents.
It must be strongly stressed, much like the various denominations or sects of Protestant Christians today ( r.e., Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.) there was no ONE school of gnostic thought, but rather quite a few. Valentinus (see Excerpta Ex Theodoto above which mentions a split between what the popular Valentinus taught in Rome (where he was friends with the ante-Nicene father, Origien, and offered the appointment of a bishopric), when he suddenly began to espouse a gnostic mythology much akin to Pallas Athena popping out of Zeus' head fully formed. Though the 'Roman' teachings of Valentinus gathered many adherents, an 'eastern' or Alexandrian form of his teachings also gathered followers (mentioned in the full title of the Excerpta Ex Theodoto cited above. The primary base for Valentinianism was the rejection of the Hebrew “Old Testament,” that is the Torah, the books of Prophets, and the sacred Wisdom scriptures, which some scholars have termed tantamount to antisemitism. First, the Valentian gnostic mythology referred to the Hebrew deity as a Demiurge (Greek demiourgós) named "Ialdabaoth" or "Samael" (Aramaic : sćmʻa-ʼel, "blind god"). This is based on the book of Genesis when the Hebrew god can not find Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and asks, “Where are you?” The Valentinians believed if a true omnipotent deity couldn't locate two people in a garden, he must be 'blind' and NOT the actual Creator of the universe, in other words, they believed there was an ultimate Creator God above the false and 'blind' deity of the Hebrews, termed by many gnostics as the Monad (a term first used by the Pythagoreans), the One, The Absolute Aiōn telos (The Perfect Aeon, αἰών τέλεος), Bythos (Depth or Profundity, Βυθός), Proarchē (Before the Beginning, προαρχή), and Hē Archē (The Beginning, ἡ ἀρχή) and The ineffable parent.
And, as the various gnostic sects (r.e. Manichaeism, Mandaeism, Marcionism, Druze, etc.) believed the highest source and deity emanated thirty Aeons, much like the Judeo-Christian “angels, though they were brought forth from the Monad, they were beyond any “heavenly” realm or direct association with the Monad and also the material world of which they were thought to be as spiritual and incorporeal 'elements'. The various gnostic cosmologies were as many and as varied as the different sects or schools of thought. In some, Jesus was an Aeon who manifested and interacted with the material world. However, after the rise Christianity with the acceptance from Rome after Constantine the Great (272-337 CE) matters got rough and deadly for the gnostics (save, perhaps, the modern Yazidis of northern Iraq), and the Nag Hammadi library of codices were hidden away, along with gnostic fragments recovered from Oxyrhynchus, many surface in Cairo unannounced, and with Manichean fragments found in Persian and Turkish, we may surmise some spreading of this mystical hyper-Christianity, as well as its survival. The Paulicans (some say St. Paul/Saul was a gnostic with his version of a cosmic Christ and no narrative mention of Jesus's family or sayings) had a fair flirtation in Armenia around 650-872 CE, and, as many are familiar with, the Cathars of northern Italy and southern France were pretty much wiped out during the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1229 CE. Whatever quasi-revolutionary hyper-Christianity which survived was intermittent, simple, and private.
Poor Philip K. Dick struggled to be a great science fiction writer, once lived on horsemeat and worked at a used classical record store, had five wives, ate a lot of amphetamines, got paranoid, at wrote his gnostic masterpiece, Valis, which many believe is semi-autobiographical of Phil having a minor stroke (Dick 1981). Okay, so there's this satellite (Valis is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, duh…) above which beams down pink light and makes some think they are re-living Roman-early Christian times, and God turns out to be a little girl. An earlier attempt or version was written in 1976, but published posthumously as Radio Free Albemuth (Dick 1985). Next up in Phil's gnostic trilogy (or 'series') was The Divine Invasion (originally Valis Regained) which takes place around a century after the events in Valis, there's an Islamic-Christian church in charge, a girl, a goat, and more gnosticism (Dick 1981). As fate would have it, Ridley Scott began work on adapting Phils novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Dick 1968) into the movie Bladerunner, which would have put TALL CHANGE in Phil's pockets – I recall reading he was offered $120,000 to re-write Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for twelve year-olds, refused, and wrote his final work, the unfinished The owl in the daylight, and concentrated on releasing The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which he wrote in 1981, but wasn't released until after his death in March of 1982 (Dick 1982). The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is loosely based on the death of Bishop James Pike in the Judean desert of dehydration, though in the book he's looking for anokhi (unlike the anochi of Hebrew scripture which means a positive "Am I!" and has NOTHING to do with Anikim Skywalker or Darth Vader), a magic mushroom which enables one to see Christ. Mushrooms in a desert? Phil, dude… Shortly before he died he visited the set of Bladerunner and it had his endorsement. Yeah, amphetamines and five wives will have its effect on you – Phillip K. Dick died of a massive stroke RIGHT before he made the big-time.
And, approaching an end, Prof. Harold Bloom (humanities, Yale), who is primarily a literary critic, wrote a single novel (Bloom 1979). The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy was a lot of fun, though Bloom has tried to distance himself from its existence. The Valentinian saying/poem from the Excerpta Ex Theodoto which opened this column, was used by Bloom before the text, though no credit or authorship was attached. If I remember correctly it's about some Valentinians versus some Manichaeans on a distant planet especially created by the Demiurge. In my opinion, gnosticism is an awful lot like science fiction and fantasy! I quoted the saying/poem as 'remembering' can be a difficult matter. Some 'remember' the 1950s as being the “Good, old days” when families were happy, folks drank and smoked and it was okay. It wasn't… It's like Geoffrey Ashe's Dawn Behind the Dawn: A Search for the Earthly Paradise (Ashe 1993 about a mythical golden age of mankind which many peoples and cultures “remember', but never actually existed. Probably a lot like my memories of all those nights with the actress, Gillian Anderson.
In remembrance we're all special, even the demented folks who watch FOX NEWS...
Ashe, Geoffrey. 1991. Dawn Behind the Dawn: A Search for the Earthly Paradise. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Bloom, Harold. 1979. The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Casey, Robert Pierce. 1934. Excerpta Ex Theodoto (The Excerpta ex Theodoto of Clement of Alexandria). Prepared by Robert Pierce Casey. Studies and Documents 1. London: Christophers. See: pp. 40-91, specifically #78.
Dart, John. 1976. The Laughing Savior: The Discovery and Significance of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Library. New York: Harper & Row.
Dick, Philip K. 1968. Do Androinds Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Doubleday.
Dick, Philip K. 1981. Valis. New York: Bantam Books.
Dick, Philip K. 1981. The Divine Invasion. New York: Timesscape/Simon & Schuster.
Dick, Philip K. 1982. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. New York: Timescape/Simon & Schuster.
Dick, Philip K. 1985. Radio Free Albemuth. New York: Arbor House.
Doresse, Jean. 1948a. "Trois livres gnostiques inédits." Vigiliae Christianae. 2, 1: 137.
Doresse, Jean. 1948b. "Trois livres gnostiques inedits: Evangile des Egyptiens. Epître d'Eugnoste. Sagesse de Jésus Christ." Vigiliae Christianae. 2, 3: 137-160.
Doresse, Jean. 1960. The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostic: An Introduction to the Gnostic Coptic Manuscripts Discovered at Chenoboskion. New York: Viking Press.
Filson, Floyd V. 1961. “New Greek and Coptic Gospel Manuscripts.” The Biblical Arachaeologist. 24, 1: 2-18. Described as “Fig. 3 Gnostic codices wrapped in leather found at Chenoboskion. From Archaeology III (1950) p. 70.”
Guillaumont, Antoine. 1959 The Gospel according to Thomas: Coptic Text Established and Translated. Translated by Antoine Guillaumont with Henri-Charles Puech, Gilles Quispel, Walter Till, and Yassah 'Abed al Masih. Nag Hammadi II.2: Coptic Text (editio princeps) Leiden: Brill.
Jung, C. G. 1916. Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons to the Dead, written by Basilides of Alexandria, the city where East and West meet). No author mentioned (other than 'Basilides'). Title in Latin and text in Swiss. Zürich: Privately Printed.
Puech et al. 1955. The Jung Codex, A Newly Recovered Gnostic Papyrus: Three Studies. “Studies” by H. C. Puech, G. Quispel, and W. C. van Unnik. Translated and edited by F. L. Cross. New York: A. R. Morehouse-Gorham Co.
For more on the Jung Codex endorsed by the C. G. Jung Institute, see:
Malinine et al. 1956. “Evangelium Veritatis” (13) Translated by M. Malinine, H. C. Puech, and G. Quispel (editio princeps). Studies from the C, G. Jung Institute VI. Zürich: Rascher.
Malinine et al. 1961. “Supplementum Evangelium Veritatis.” Translated by M. Malinine, H. C. Puech, G. Quispel, and W. Till. Codex Jung F. XVII (pp. 33-36). Zürich and Stuttgart: Rascher.
Malinine et al. 1968. “Epistula
Iacobi Apocrypha.” Translated by M. Malinine, H. C. Puech, G.
Quispil, W. Till, R. Kassar, and R. McL. Wilson. Codex Jung F. VIII (pp. 1-16). Zürich and
Menard, J. E. 1972. “L' Evangile de Véité.” Translated by J. E. Menard. Nag Hammadi Studies II. Leiden: Brill.
Malinine et al. 1973. “Tractatus Tripartitus.” Translated by M. Malinine, H. C. Puech, G. Quispel, J. Zandee, W. Vycichl, and R. McL. Wilson. NHC 15. Pars I de Supernis. Codex Jung F. XXVI-LII (pp. 51-104). Bern: Franke. “Part II De Creatione Hominis” and “Part III De Generibus” Translated by M. Malinine, H. C. Puech, G. Quispel, J. Zandee, W. Vycichl, and R. McL. Wilson. Codex Jung F. LII-LXX (pp. 104-140). Bern: Franke, published in 1975 and the Jung Codex (Nag Hammadi Codex I) was returned to Egypt.
Robinson, James M. 1977. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. Translated by members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (Claremont Graduate University; Claremont, CA). New York: Harper.
Yamauchi, Edwin M. 1987. "The Nag Hammadi Library." The Journal of Library History. 22, 4: 425-441.
I forgot what I was going to write,