by John Lash
March 5 2004
from MetaHistory Website
The exploration of Gnosticism may be one of the more revealing pursuits of our time, and it is certainly one of the more difficult.
Since Gnostics were suppressed in the 4th Century, disinformation about them has run amok. There is no clear and consistent presentation of Gnostic views, either in the slim surviving materials or in modern scholarship.
To add to the confusion, Gnostics were
initiates in the Mystery schools, and initiates were bound by
a vow of silence about many things they experienced - although not,
fortunately, about all things.
By some accounts, Gnostics were ascetics who rejected the world as the fabrication of a pseudo-creator, Jehovah, identified by them as an alien deity or Archon.
It is now widely recognized that the
world-denial cannot fairly be laid on Gnostics, and
more properly ought to be directed to christian ideologues who
falsely imputed hatred of the body to the "heretics," thereby
cleverly diverting attention from their own disgust for nature and
In Rethinking 'Gnosticism', he states that, far from despising the body, it is far more likely that Gnostics believed that,
From meticulous analysis of textual references, and line by line examination of the polemic writings of the Church Fathers against Gnosticism, Williams concludes that,
Williams argues that Gnostics were deeply committed to healing themselves and others, and,
In the sacred art of Tibet, mating divinities are called Yab-Yum, "mother-father,"
identical to the coupled Aeons in Gnostic cosmology.
In rites of sacramental sex, the partners imitate mating divinities,
but they do not become gods.
The purpose of the rite is to heighten pleasure to the level where
it becomes the medium of "cosmic consciousness."
(Vajraghanta, Mural painting, Gyantse, 15th C.
In Philip Rawson, Sacred Tibet, p. 51)
By far the most scandalous account of this kind comes from Epiphanius (376 - 403 CE), a heresy-hunter who infiltrated the Ophite cult of “Snake-worshippers.”
He reported that the Ophites,
Here, typically, Gnostic myth reverses Judeo-Christian tradition: the serpent in Eden is a benefactor, not a malefactor.
A twisty issue, here.
The answer would seem to lie in the true
nature of sexual practices of the Gnostics.
For example, there is the sect that produced the channeled material known as Books of Ieou (non Nag Hammadi), a patchy collection of teachings on the afterlife. This Gnostic group believed themselves to have a sacred responsibility to preserve esoteric knowledge regarding the "Treasuries of the Light," and the "Receivers," benevolent spiritual entities and guides we encounter when we die.
The arcane material in the Books of Ieou includes a brief condemnatory outburst against other sects who practice sexual magic. Apparently, continence was necessary for the keepers of Ieou to know what they knew.
This outburst of one Gnostic
sect against another is unique in all surviving Gnostic materials.
This was true for the Mysteries in general, and for the Gnostic adepts in particular. Sophia was a cosmic version of the Magna Mater, the Great Mother worshipped in many ancient religions.
Even the Church Fathers, who condemned
Gnostics as world-haters, affirmed that the Mysteries in all their
diversity were unanimous in the consecration of the initiates to the
The Tantric sects in India present a close parallel to the Ophites - so close in fact, that the report of Epiphanius could be applied to Tantrics as well.
Tantrikas, as they are more properly called) are experimental
mystics who arouse the “Serpent power,” Kundalini, a force concealed
in the human body, in order to achieve cosmic consciousness and
awaken siddhis, occult powers. It is more than likely that Gnostics
in their sexual orgies had the same aim.
More likely, the Ophite serpent is not entirely a mythical version of the serpent of Eden, but is identical with Kundalini, the serpent power that resides at the base of the spine in human anatomy. This being so, sexual orgies among the Gnostics would not have been merely for the pleasure and indulgence (although they would not have excluded that, either!).
They worshipped the supernatural force that resided in their own bodies.
In fact, the word “orgy,” Greek orgia,
means simply, “working, activation.” The orgia of the serpent
power was a rite for activation of Kundalini in Tantric and Gnostic
The text asserts that all harm on earth is due to the conflict between the sexes, but this problem can be overcome by a corporal rite of re-union. (See commentary by the translator, Wesley W. Isenberg, in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 1990, p. 139ff.) The act of sacramental coupling occurs in a “bridal chamber” called the nymphion, or perhaps it produces the nymphion.
The ritual involves light, and Kundalini is also associated with a soft blaze of milk-white light that produces an electrical surge of ecstasy up the spine.
The text explicitly says that the light veils and protects the partners joined in sacred sexual union:
Nymphion was a code term for the cell-of-light or protective aura generated by ritual intercourse.
Within the cell, the initiates overcome the influence of the Archons who produce error in our minds, and threaten to take over our bodies - although it must be added that Gnostics insisted that threat of intrusion at the bodily level is exaggerated by the Archons themselves, to make us believe they possess more power over us than they actually have!
One such error concerns resurrection:
This is core Gnostic teaching, stated in such a way as to refute Judeo-Christian beliefs on survival after death, beliefs held precious to millions of people today, but considered by Gnostics as delusional notions insinuated in our minds by the alien force, the Archons.
It also sends a clear message about our ability to enter deeply into the biological mysteries of nature, for it claims that we can experience resurrection before we die.
assertion has many parallels in Asian Tantric teachings, of course.
In both Hindu and Tibetan traditions, yogis of high attainment are
said to achieve complete regeneration of the body and resurrect
themselves; hence, when they die, they did not die in a normal way.
(See, for instance, the legendary accounts in
Meditation and Miracles by Tulku Thondup.)
The technique of psychosomatic illumination by raising Kundalini was not unique to Gnosticism, but it was certainly central to its practices.
In Shiva and Dionysos, Alain Danielou draws close parallels between the Greek cults of ecstasy dedicated to Dionysos, and the Dravidian cults of Shiva worship indigenous to Southern India.
Citing Epiphanius' eye-witness account of Gnostic orgies, Danielou remarks that Gnostic teachings on sexual magic,
Likewise, Sir John Woodruffe, the great exponent of Hindu Tantra to the West, directly compares the Gnostic worship of the Magna Mater to Tantric adoration of the Devi Shakti, the "Mother Power."
He says that in the ancient Mysteries, just as in the Tantric cults of India, the aim of sexual rites was to awaken the divine forces in the body:
In this passage, Woodruffe clarifies how the Aeon Sophia, identical to the "Mother of Nature," is both embodied in the natural world and not so embodied, remaining "as She is in and by Herself," because Sophia remains an Aeon of the Pleroma even though She has morphed into the planet Earth.
Such statements do not come from
intellectual speculation, but from direct experience of the very
cosmic powers being described.
These are called siddhis (sounds like cities), "attainments," and those who attain them are siddhas, or mahasiddhas. The Asian siddha is the exact counterpart of the "adept" in the Mystery Schools.
Adept comes from the Latin root, adipisci-, "touch, gain, attain." Adept is closely related to aptitude; hence the adepts (AD-epts) were men and women with special aptitudes.
In the meeting of Mary Magalene and Jesus in the Garden on Easter morning, the Gospel writer has Jesus say to her, Me mou aptou, usually translated as,
But in a Gnostic reworking of that incident, he could as well have said,
The phantom body of the Gnostics
is called in Buddhism the Nirmanakaya.
Among the siddhis listed are the ability to see on the microscopic or molecular level, the power to transport oneself at a distance, and the power to read minds.
The adepts of the Mysteries would have attained these powers, and applied them to their work in teaching and training neophytes. Due to their specialist insight on the intrusion of the Archons, it is likely that Gnostics would have developed the powers required not only to detect the alien force, but to resist it.
To prevent the "archontic pirates" from
capturing the body (ibid., Williams, p. 137), they would have
developed a whole range of defensive and immunological tactics.
Modern studies of Kundalini emphasize its effects in boosting the
immune system, or "strengthening the human aura," in New Age terms.
The Greek writer Pausanius, who was extremely cautious about disclosing any secrets relative to the Mysteries, uses the word nymphion, so it does not appear isolated in Gnostic sources.
Despite the elimination of countless documents, especially those that may have described sexual rites, there is ample textual evidence that Gnostic practices leading to “divinization” of the participants involved an act of sacramental sexual coupling in the nymphion.
In Tibetan teachings, the ultimate mystical experience of "White Light" occurs uniquely when we die, and only for a fleeting instant for those who have not previously attained the capacity to hold the Light in their attention.
But from Gnostic reports it appears that
this experience could be achieved in more ways than one. Through sex
and in death, alike.
This act is rigorously distinguished from ordinary carnal intercourse:
The "Christos" in this passage is not Christ of the Pauline and Johannine doctrines, not the incarnate 'son of God.'
In Gnostic jargon, Christos is the Aeon coupled with Sophia, her male cosmic counterpart. In Christian faith, the blood of the God-man, Jesus, gives life to humanity and heals our separation from the Father God, but to Gnostics these were delusional notions that imitate and distort the truth.
In the Gnostic sexual sacrament, the bliss of the man and woman joined in sacred union is what repairs our separation from God, for the Gods (Aeons), who are eternally blissful, are the source of body bliss as well. The rapture of the Gods makes the blood stream in our veins.
Uniting in sacramental sex “gives life
to those who died.”
The Archons are said to envy humanity, for a number of reasons, but primarily because we live in the body of their Mother!!
According to Gnostic creation myth, the Archons are a species of inorganic beings produced anomalously by the impact of the Aeon Sophia upon atomic matter, before the Sophia herself became transformed into the Earth.
They are called Archons, from archai,
"prior, from the beginning," because they arose before the Earth and
the solar system were evolved, but they did not emerge directly from
the Pleroma, as humanity did. (On the emanation of Atu Kadmon, the
Anthropos template, see
The Promise of a Lonely Planet, and the Gaia Mythos,
They affect our minds to get us to believe they can do far more than they can actually do, but in so believing, we unwittingly surrender our power to them - the result is, they get their way with us, because we have betrayed our own capacities.
Hence the Archons claim to rule over humanity, and even pretend to have been our creators, as is recounted in the Sumerian cuneiform record of the Anunnaki, accepted as true by Zecharia Sitchin and many other sincere investigators.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 at the very moment the Nag Hammadi texts were initially recognized to be rare Gnostic materials, contain explicit accounts of direct threats posed by reptilians.
For instance, the Testament of Amram:
(Note: The "Watchers"
are consistently identified with
in modern ET/Alien speculation.)
Gifted with powers of paranormal perception, such as remote viewing, Gnostic seers who had met and repelled Archons observed the persisting presence of reptilians among the Dead Sea cult of the Zaddikim.
But the Gnostic teacher adds, a crucial insight, typical of the highly nuanced knowledge of the Mystery School adepts,
This line not only corroborates
contemporary scenarios that describe conflict between the aliens who
are among us, it also indicates that their powers are more engaged
in battling each other than in overcoming us.
Gnostic initiatory practices were directed toward strengthening our embodiment by the arousal of Kundalini, which grounds us in the Earth. Kundalini means the small ("ini") Kundala, "serpentine or spiraling power."
The big Kundala is the serpent power of the Earth itself, the swirling Erotic currents of Gaia. She, the Earth Mother, is the supreme ambient force that holds DNA configured in its spiraling chains of nucleic acid. When Kundalini is awakened in sacred sexual rites or otherwise, it grounds the human body consciously into the planetary body.
This is the ultimate aim of Kundalini
yoga: not escape from the body, not deification of the
participants, but grounding into Gaia, the Godhead of Nature.
The Gnostic Succotash:
Orphic ceremonial bowl showing sixteen naked adepts,
eight men and eight women, in a circle with their feet touching.
("The Sanctum of the Winged Serpent," Orphic bowl, 200-300 CE.
In Joseph Campbell,
Creative Mythology, p. 96.)
The Aeon Sophia, acting without a consort, plunged from the Pleroma, but it is also Sophia, now “grounded” on Earth, who connects humanity to the cosmic Source.
The most direct and dynamic form of connection was effectuated in the ecstatic streaming of Kundalini during the sacred orgia.
These rites were practiced to protect the circle of adepts (the Gnostic cell of sixteen mystai, shown above) from the meddlesome pranks of the Archons. High Archontic immunity (HAI?) is perhaps what we need today, facing as we do the ravages of HIV on the planet, not to mention sexual mores gone to wrack and ruin.
With unusual candor, Tobias Churton asserts that Gnostics thought,
In the Gnostic version of the Fall from Paradise, there is no sin on the part of our ancestral parents. It is not humanity who falls, but Sophia, the Wisdom Goddess.
The Serpent in Eden is Kundalini, a sublime ally to humanity, not a tempter.
In some Gnostic texts, the serpent power is called "the instructor." Eve, the ancestral representative of the human species, acquires from the serpent ally the secret knowledge for the Mysteries.