25. Later developments

 

The bull has the moon as its heavenly horns. That it is not a normal bull is seen from the wings and three-fold appearance as running in the circle of the sun. Above the scene of it being caught is seen the bird of ecstasy, and even the hunter being united to the bird of ecstasy, or being lifted up in the clypeus (symbol of the sun’s circle) to the bird of ecstasy by two horses (Legrain,955,876,885, 952f.,969). The last seal shows the hunter as the spender of the juice of life. This stream of liquid has its real source in the primordial mountain with the bowl of the crescent moon at its top, cf the scenes showing Mithras getting water by shooting at the rock, Moses by beating his rod against the rock.

 

 

 

The myth surrounding Cadmos and Harmonia is today only preserved in the Greek version from Thebes. The riding on the back of the bull, Cadmos following and killing the cow with the sign of the moon on its flank as an act of creation, the final transformation into a snake connects this myth with the complex of ideas found in the mysteries of Mithras. Just after the feasting together with the assembly of the gods, Cadmos and Harmonia are riding together in the chariot, cf how the journey in the chariot of the sun in the iconography of the mysteries of Mithras follows just after the holy meal with Sol, the sun.

A relief now disappeared, but once to be seen in the house of Ottaviano Zeno (G.Zoega,Abhandlungen,1817,pp.184ff., cf M.J.Vermaseren, Mithriaca IV,1978,pl.11-17) shows above the bull-killing scene the sun rising in its quadriga and the moon descending from a place with 7 flaming altars separated by 6 short columns carrying short poles or pillars, and as the seventh pole a man with a snake coiling around his body. In the centre another man with the snake coiling around his body, but this man has wings and a long stick in his hand, and is standing just above the top of Mithras' hat. The snake coiling around the first figure is turning its head upwards, the same direction as the four horses pulling the chariot of the sun seem to take. The snake coiling around the second figure is looking horizontically in the direction of the sun. A picture of the lost relief is preserved in quite another version with a rounded top to fit into a gem.

 

 

 

The top of the universe, the goal of the ascension to heaven is symbolized by the seven pillars of fire separated by the sevenfold world pillar, 6 of them pictured as the world pillar, the seventh pictured as Saturn, the god of the world pillar. He is standing next to the sun travelling towards the summit of cosmos, he is the god for the raising of the kundalini, the inward journey upwards. The second figure is the unity of the sun/Mithras/the initiate and Saturn, standing firmly at the centre of the summit surrounded by sevenfold flaming light, but also with his wings able to fly in the orbit of the sun (cf the snake looking in the direction of the sun). It has rightly been stressed by  R.Beck[1] that the heart of this religion is the ritual ascension acomplished magically in the subterranial caves and called diexodos and seen as a journey "through and out of the heavens or the universe"[2]. It is the same symbolism when the mysteries speak about the "ladder of the 7 gates with the 8th on the top". By this journey you transcend the destiny laid down by the planets. Beck has rightly stressed the Babylonian astronomical notion of the unity of the sun and Saturn as an important key to the understanding of the relief [3]. He interprets the columns as "swords", but a fresco from Barberini has trees standing between the fire-altars: the sevenfold tree of life.

The North Syrian background is shown by the god from Hatra with a lion's face, an ascending double snake, and followed by the animals, lion, dog, snake, and scorpion, the same animals that follow Mithras (and Resheph in Byblos). Mithras is the Syrian sun hero travelling in the chariot of the sun, but as leader of the demonic pack of animals including the black thief, the raven, and finally changed into the god with the lion's face, he is the great hunter. An important step towards the full initiation was the grade, Leo = "lion". In the cave at Santa Prisca the member of this grade is painted red, perhaps this "intended to portray his fiery nature"[4]. Porphyrios says that their hands were washed in honey, not in water, for water was hostile to fire! The Mithraic god with the lion's face is seen on a relief from Palazzo Colonna in Rome (CIMRM 383) with a torch in each hand, and with his fiery breath he makes a fire on an altar burst into great flames.

Austin Layard got hold of a few tattered pages from the holy book of the Yezidees “containing a poetical rhapsody on the merits and attributes of Sheikh Adi, who is identified with the Deity himself, as the origin and creator of all things, though evidently distinguished from the Eternal Essence by being represented as seeking the truth, and as reaching through it the highest place, which he declares to be attainable by all those who like him shall find the truth”[5]. In the EGO EIMI-stile used by divine epiphany he pictures himself as the one who is both appointed ruler over the cosmos and judge of living and dead.

“And I am he to whom the destroying lion came,

Raging, and I shouted against him and he became stone

And I am he to whom the serpent came,

And by my will I made him dust.

And I am he who struck the rock and made it tremble,

And I made to burst from its side the sweetest waters”(Nineveh and Babylon,I,p.90f.).

He clears his road for the lion and beats both the snake and the primordial mountain. The spiritual goal in the religion linked to the cult of the hunter is becoming God.

 

We have already mentioned the description in the Koran of Dhul Karnain:

“We gave him a way to everything; and he followed a way until, when he reached the setting of the sun… Then he followed a way until, when he reached the rising of the sun… and we encompassed in knowledge what was with him”. Sura 18,83ff.

 

But we could just as well mention Moses, also shown as a traveller through the world:

“Moses said to his page: I will not give up until I reach the meeting of the two seas.” Sura 18,59

 

When they reach the place, they forget the fish they caught. When it comes into contact with the sea, it is revived and takes off, which is the proof that they have reached the place where the upper and lower seas meet, and where the secret spring of life gushes forth.

We have mentioned the Yezidee-religion: their main god, the peacock angel, the devil, also called Taus Melek, is the mystical bird, a later development on the basis of the Phoenix & the eagle of Baalshamim. They have preserved the link between the fiery bird and the kingship. Acc. to the “Black Book”, the Peacock Angel is the initiator of kingship: “He gave us, besides the old Assyrian rulers, the following kings: Nesrox, also called Nasir-ed-Din… (then is named Kambyses, Artemis, and Shapur I and II) and from them our emirs descend until this day” (XXII) Nesrox = Nasir is perhaps nsr = “Eagle” in Semitic. (The language of the “Black Book” is old Kurdish.)

The picture of Taus Melek is from Anthropos VI,p.39:

 

 

Austin Layard has also drawn the picture above: “It is not looked upon as an idol, but as a symbol or banner”[6] It is the late descendant of the semeion with its five balls and the bird arranged as the crescent moon at the top. It is interesting to see that Baal and Anat have long gone: what survives is the symbol of mysticism, the bird of ecstasy.

W.B.Seabrook, Adventures in Arabia,1928 has a chapter on a modern visit to the Yezidees. He mentions among other things that the snake was blackened by means of lead. It was called a symbol of wisdom (alam el akl). Among the other decorations on the walls surrounding the inner temple yard a double axe is mentioned. Under the holy temple there are caves going deep into the mountain, one of them leading to a well situated inside the mountain. As the holy elements of the Yezidees, fire and water are mentioned. Every spring a white bull is decorated with red flowers, and an artery on its neck is opened and it is led round and round the white tower of the temple till the whole foundation is bathed in blood.

Satan, the Peacock Angel, is the first of seven spirits created by God, who is looked upon as a deus otiosus that has withdrawn from every influence on the affairs of this world and put everything into the hands of the Peacock Angel; after reigning for 10000 years the latter will return to paradise as leader of the seven spirits.

The leader of the sect was acknowledged as ruler after having conquered this position by killing his own father!! His forerunners had the right to enjoy the first night with every bride. These two facts show to what an amazing degree the old figure of the hunter survives in this “king” of the Yezidees. Also Gilgamesh is said to enjoy the right of the first night. The founder of the sect, Sheikh Adi, was born in the vicinity of Baalbek; after a travel to Persia where he received an important revelation through fire he founded his religion, probably under the influence of some old Magi teaching. The souls are carried into paradise in a basket on Sheikh Adi´s head, they undergo no judgement, and do not have to answer to anybody. An important Yezidee dogma is the ideal of androgyny: in paradise man will be neither male nor female, but “the perfect union of both”. They are mostly dressed in black (with red turbans) and their holy book is called the “Black Book”. They constantly seek to avoid the blue colour, which in the Middle East is the colour used to scare away demons (the colour of the water and the sky).

Seabrook is also granted the opportunity to be present at a Dervish session performed by a group of the so-called Ruphai-Dervishes (living between Hama and Aleppo). The monotonous song, “Al-lah”, is broken by the ecstatic call, “Ya hoo!” (= Oh him!, explained as “Oh, him that is!”), whenever one feels the presence of the divine, and the posture of Elijah is used to gain melboos (= trance).

When visiting the Druse community in Syria he seems to be able to confirm the rumour that, as a symbol of the Highest, they treasure the golden model of a calf’s head hidden in a silver box.

This modern traveller brings so many examples of the amazing continuity of the folk religion that his book deserves to be mentioned even in a scientific setting.

 

Cilician coins sent out by the Persian satrap, Tiribazos (386-380 b.C.), show a god whose nakedness and polos make him much more a Sandas, or a Melqart, than an Ahuramazda. The mystical flower is typical of both Melqart and Sandas, and the wreath of victory is typical of the Syrian Sol Invictus symbolism: the god coming to the end of his fighting is receiving the crown of victory and apotheosis in the mystical light or the cultic bonfire.

 

Ill. from A.B.Cook,Zeus I,p.208 fig. 154, Brit.Mus.Cat.Coins.Lycaonia, Tarsos p.164 p1. 29,1.

 

Note the design of the coin: it is very similar to the one on the base of the pillar of Antonius Pius showing the emperor's apotheosis. The Roman motif has its roots in the Syrian Sol Invictus cult and the Cilician Sandan-cult. The eagles of apotheosis prove that the scene is closely connected with the consecratio-ceremony at the death of a Roman emperor, where an eagle was let out from the top of the bonfire[7], cf. the eagle at the top of Sandan’s pyra. It was designed as a wooden pyramid, and when it was set on fire, the eagle at the top was let loose. The presence of the emperor was not in the form of his dead body, but he was represented by a wax-mannequin. 

 Note the world-pillar as obelisk. Instead of the bird with the two snakes hanging down we find the god Aion lifting the emperor and his wife to heaven. But in his left hand Aion is holding the ball of the universe with a snake coiling round this “world-egg”, its tail hanging down [8]. The androgynous symbolism of the ascent to heaven requires the presence of the emperor’s wife although she does not follow him on his funeral pyre.

 

 

One of our main theses is that religion does not change. A modern Curdish sect is Ahl-i Haqq: “Those faithful to the Truth”. One of the manuscripts used by this sect is ed. by Mohammad Mokri and given the title Le Chasseur de Dieu et le mythe du Roi-Aigle, 1967 (“The man hunting God and the myth of the Royal Eagle”). The hunter, Binjamin (the angel Gabriel in a human body), gets hold of a magical yellow snare or lasso and with the help of this device he is able to catch the “unborn and immortal” eagle Simorg, an epiphany of God himself. Acc. to other traditions this bird has its nest on the mountain Qaf in the centre of the world. The hunt was succesful when the snare was held up against Kajwan (Saturn[9])

When Binjamin was incarnated as a fish he saw the King (God) in his manifestation as Ja, acc to other traditions the first manifestation of God as the Pearl, the shining world-egg [10].

Binjamin´s magical snare is also among the weapons carried by Sjah-Palang-Farsi, “King Panther from Fars” [11]. Binjamin called “the Lord og the Covenant” is a parallel to the hunter Mithras hunting the divine bull. Abraham travels together with Gabriel to Kajwan in the sense of going to heaven, [12], cf the journey of Mithras in the chariot of the sun to Saturn. When Abraham is called “the Rider on the Dark Steed”, and his knife is given special attention and a special name, Hawam, then this is more the symbolism of the hunter than that of the Bible.

In a Persian piece of prose, Iskandar-nama, it is told how Alexander the Great comes to a castle with a high iron pillar (the world pillar) and on top of it a bird tied to the pillar with a golden chain [13]. At the cry of the bird a dragon comes forward, and Alexander has to be saved by Aristotele. Alexander is here the sun hero confronted with the dragon as primordial totality.

 

 The Slavonic version of Josephus, de bello judaico, gives a very interesting description of John the Baptist: he took neither meat nor bread as food, but survived on bulrushes, roots and chips of wood, and everywhere on his body where his own hair did not cover he had covered it with hides of oxes. He was sent out to preach that "no mortal man" but "the highest" should take over the kingdom and "rule over you". There would soon be given the people "an emperor to deliver them". God had sent him to show the people how they could be delivered "from many tyrants". The son of Herod, the prince Philip has a dream where an eagle chops out his eyes and the Baptist interprets the dream as foreseeing that both his power and his wife will be taken from him.

In Russia and White Russia we have the old traditions of folk religion associated with John the Baptist, Jan Kupala, who "falls into water", i.e. is transformed to this vital element. There are both the traditions of bonfire and water linked to his important feast at Midsummer. He is in the above mentioned Slavonic tradition seen as the "bull man" of the folk religion, but also with strong connection to the forest: the Pharisees address him with the words "You who have come from the forest like an animal". Now, forests are not a typical Palestinian phenomenon, and his living from chips of wood confirms his intimate relation to this forest, which is certainly more Russian than Near Eastern. Jan Kupala is here an epiphany of "the shepherd", "the Enkidu-type" of old folk religion and very typically described as the messenger of the "Highest", who wants to take over after the rule of many chaos kings, one of whom will be punished with blindness just like Lycourgos, Orion and Theiresias.

Jan Kupala, John the Baptist, is celebrated in Russia tn the following way:

At midsummer’s eve a tree is made up with bonbons and wreaths and flowers. The tree or a doll supported by the tree is called Kupalo. Wreaths with candles are put in the water, and the tree is finally put into a river and songs are sung about Kupalo going bathing, falling into the water.

The god of vegetation is closely connected to water. He is Kupalo, he is hunted down by singers who burn him in the pieces of wood thrown into the fire. This is the old tradition of the god of life-fluids and flowers (Adonis) being threatened by the demon of fire. But instead of the bucranion on a pole a horse's head is put on a long pole in the midst of the bonfire. But also the old symbolism of the lifegod falling into water, being changed into water, can still be traced.

 

The Etruscan people came to Italy from Western Anatolia. S.Hummel, who to a certain degree is building upon an older scholar, A.Grünwedel, has tried to show a number of similarities between Etruscan religion and Buddhist tantra [14]. Both the Etruscan and the early Tibetan culture have an “archaic substratum” “chthonisch ausgerichtet” (p.294) with tumulus-graves, snake cult with ritual nakedness, creatures put together of man and animal, a special concern for the dead spirits, mundus as a shaft in the centre of the town connecting it with the underworld [15]. But Hummel does not take the line of thought as far as Grünwedel, who finds devilish rituals and black magic by Estruscans as well as by the Manichees and the Tibetan lamas. All are seen as traces of an original Anatolian prehistoric religion.

 

 

A.Grünwedel[16] has pointed to the devil of the Avesta and his close connection to the tantric magician calling upon the dark side of the supernatural world. Acc. to Grünwedel the tantric tradition of Central Asia has its roots in prehistoric time, and he tries to find its forerunners in both Estruscan magic and in the inscriptions of Hieroglyph Hittite. His attempt to solve the riddles of the last-mentioned can not be considered successful. But his strongly negative evaluation of the tantra of the red-hat monks of Tibet, so carefully kept secret and covered with modern humanistic phrases, must be taken into consideration.

As fig 4 in his book the picture shown above is used: little boys are playing around a rather bulky yogi. One is climbing a tree to pick some fruit. At his feet two are playing with the fruit, and a third is tasting something from the bag in the yogi's right hand. At the bottom of the picture to the right two demons, the demon of wealth and the king of the nagas with a snake coiling around his arm, are looking at a scenery of great importance for the understanding of the picture: over a small pond of blood, and through a boiling mist of clouds,a demon with a dog's head is riding, followed by his Shakti. In one hand he holds a scull with blood coming up in three beams. At the top of his lance there is a small human scull. His bow is hidden in a bow case covered with leopard's skin. His wife gallops forward, transfixing a poor boy on her trident, she is partly covered by a tiger's skin, and with the other hand she is trying to stuff her mouth with the corpse of a child. Behind them two boys are turned into monkeys on the background of the fog being changed into a demon’s head. Both carry sculls filled with blood, and the first one has ripped open a boy, and is putting his heart into his mouth. They are followed by a dog with fiery eyes, and by black birds.

Certainly this is the tradition of the wild hunt: in the presence of demons man is being changed into animal/monkey – even turned upside down, standing on his hands holding his cup with his foot. But it seems that the boy holding the apple is already trying to bring himself into that position: the fruit of wisdom given to the boys by the fat arhat is certainly not a good one.

Christianity, Judaism, Iranian and Nordic religions are ethical religions. They believe in good and evil, right and wrong. There is another tendency making itself felt in modern psychology and so called “holistic” New Age-thinking. This tendency tries to make man transcend his moral upbringing and reach the state of Nietzsche's “laughing lion”. This tendency has yet to prove its kindness to the human race.

 

 

25.a. Gnosticism

 

Simon Magus, the first Gnostic, and Helene, the prostitute he liberated from a brothel in Tyre, are symbols of the Father (Salvator) and the soul to be saved (salvanda), and the cult they teach is a ritual called “Love": a supper, where the candles are put out by wild dogs attracted by the smell of flesh. When the candles are turned over, men and women mate freely under the cover of darkness. This combination of animals tearing the flesh and the human followers giving themselves to raw and normless behaviour is a remnant of the very old cult of the “hunter” and his dogs. It is old Syrian folk religion.

Acc to Irenaeus the followers of Simon make use of paredroi ("sitting next to you at the table") demons I,23,4 cf. 25,3 about the Carpocratians who try to commit every possible sin to avoid being reborn. Rev 2,14-24 speaks about people knowing the depths of Satan and being followers of the prophet Bileam. The Carpocratian movement seems to be one of the earliest Gnostic sects, perhaps a Samaritan sect from about 120 A.D. It is characteristic that the libertine Gnosticism (Simon Magus, Carpocrates) is older than the ascetic Gnosticism. The getting yoked to a syzygos or paredros demon seems to be a main concern.

Very quickly, Gnosticism seems to have become a calling upon demons more than a belief in God. Early Gnostic sects emerge as the left hand tantric interpretation of some anti-nomistic features in early Christian encounter with Judaism. This calling upon a paredros demon has a clear purpose: to get supernatural power, and to reach liberation from a bondage created by your own thinking.

Creation as the descent of the kundalini-power from the level of eternal mystical vision is also known by Corpus Hermeticum: “I see a vision without limits, everything has become light … and seeing it I was taken away by it”. And then a little later a darkness was born downwards, scaring and sinister: “It was rolled into a spiral like a serpent” (C.H. 1,4).

Here the movement is not from earth through the snake-coils to mystic vision. But from mystic vision through the falling snake-coils to the emergence of the lower element of “moisture” and “steam”: “this darkness changed itself to a sort of moist nature letting out a steam like the one coming from water”.

In an important book about Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity, 1990   Birger Pearson has tried to rehabilitate Moritz Friedländer who was the first scholar to suggest that Gnosticism originated in Judaism. In Alexandria a group of “antinomian” Jews was already promoting their viewpoints on the interpretation of the Old Testament, which can be seen from the writings of Philo, especially “On the Migration of Abraham” 86-93 and “On the Posterity and Exile of Cain”. In the last mentioned Cain is the symbol of heresy. This leads us directly to the Gnostic sect, “the Cainites”, a radical antinomian sect, who, like the Carpocratians,  “hold that men cannot be saved until they have gone through all kinds of experience”, “not shrinking to rush into such actions as it is not lawful even to name”. “An angel, they maintain, attends them in every one of their sinful and abominable actions, and urges them to venture on audacity and incur pollution…they do it in the name of the angel, saying, ”O thou angel, I use thy work; O thou power, I accomplish thy operation”.” (Irenaeus, Adv.haer. I,31.)

      In the socalled “Left hand Tantra” in India such things are done to attain power from the dark side, the demons. There are “white” magicians serving a group of spirits “Agharti” belonging to the light, and there are “black” magicians serving a group of demons coming from “Shambala”. The dark spirits are served by acts of transgression of normal moral behaviour, that is by eating meat, drinking alcohol, committing incest and even murder. By this transgression of all borderlines of normal thinking one will attain supernatural power and the assistance of the dark demons who are attracted and pleased by these dark doings (Benjamin Walker, Tantrism, Its secret Principles and Practices,1982). In Hippolyt's description of the Carpocratians it is stressed that only by doing these things one will be able to get “power” and free oneself from the endless chain of transmigration. Here suddenly the goal of salvation is defined in a typical Indian way. In the sect of the Cainites the foul deeds are done to please “the angel”, obviously an angel from Hell and not from Heaven. The Carpocratians made use of “helping demons”.

      Typical of Indian tantric thinking is the notion of kundalini (Sanskrit = “the coiled one”). Creation of the outer visible world was brought about as the result of a fall: originally the female principle, the kundalini-power, was united to the male principle in the brain of the god Shiwa, but it fell and is now in its lowest position. Salvation is to try to make the female principle ascend to reunion with the male principle. There is a perfect parallel between macrokosmos/macr'anthropos (the god) and microcosmos/man. In the human body the kundalini-power is resting at the bottom of the spinal cord where it is seen as a snake coiled in three and a half coils round a golden egg. By the secret tantric practices it is made to ascend through a channel along the spinal cord to the top of the brain where the male principle is situated. The most important way of making the kundalinipower ascend is coitus, or at least trying to stimulate the erotic feelings until they reach a state where the whole mind is manipulated. This could be done by trying to hold back ejaculation or by transgressing normal morals in the sexual behaviour.

      The key to Gnosticism is mysticism. Mystic vision could be prepared by asceticism and fasting and reduction of sleep. But in India the life of several gurus are the sad examples of another hidden way.

     The tantric thinking obviously goes back to prehistoric times where it is closely linked to the belief in the great female life-principle, the mothergoddess. The similarities between Kali/Shakti and Anat, Athena and Ishtar have long been known by scholars. The birth of Athena first united to her father's brain and then jumping down from her father's forehead after the big blow of Hephaistos' hammer is typically tantric. 

     Now certainly Simon Magus is deeply committed to tantric thinking. Like Athena the female principle is jumping down from her original union with the “Father”, with the pure mind and becomes entangled in thinking, seeing, hearing, being enslaved in the unreal world of the senses. Her reunion with the male principle is brought about by sexual activity during the so called love-sessions (Agapai) where love is practised indiscriminately after the candles are put out. For the understanding of the origin of Gnosticism it is important that libertinistic Gnosticism (Carpocratians, Simon Magus, Nicolaites) is older than ascetic Gnosticism. Nicolaos was one of the seven deacons named in Acts. He was married to a very beautiful woman, but although he and his children lived like virgins, he seems to have committed the outrageous act to offer his wife to his disciples with the motto that “the flesh had to be used”. He is named together with Bileam, who in later Jewish mysticism (Zohar II,fol 21b-22a) is hailed as just as great a prophet as Moses but of the ”left hand”. While the prophets of Israel served the “upper, right”, he served the “lower, unholy, left”. 

     The Gnostic system of the Naaseni is named after the Hebrew name for serpent, nahash. “They assert that Edem (= Eden,paradise) is the brain…bound and tightly fastened in encircling robes, as if heaven”. The paradise river which proceeds out of Edem and divides in four is 1)the eye 2)hearing 3)smelling 4)the mouth. In this stream of the senses all the things of the world of the phenomena originate and take shape and colour: “Into this water, he says, every nature enters, choosing its own substances; and its peculiar quality comes to each nature from this water” Hyppolitus, Ref. V,4. The visible world is the result of a fall of life-giving water falling out of paradise.

     A little later Ref.V,20f. Hyppolitus describes a system obviously closely related to the system of the Naaseni and developed by a certain Justinus. Here Edem is a virgin with her lower parts resembling a snake. Instead of a male and a female principle, we have two male principles, a male Father without prescience and “a certain Good One”. The lastmentioned has prescience and is the highest. The female principle is described as passionate, two-minded, two bodied, but nevertheless the male Father passes “into a concupiscent desire for her”. Their union gives birth to 12 male angels, Gabriel, Michael… and 12 maternal angels, Babel, Belias, Satan, Naas, Leviathan… and the maternal angels divide into four, and each fourth part of them is called a river, that is the four rivers coming out of Eden. After completing the creation of all things (the wild animals were created from the lower, snake parts of Edem) the Father wished to ascend, and he does so by using the gate ritual from Psalm 24, and he is able to enter the highest heaven towards the Good One and see “what eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard” (mystical vision). But the female principle in this system by Justinus is reckoned so low that it has to stay in the lower world as “she was not disposed to follow upward her spouse”. This is obviously a later expansion of the original Naassene system from two to three principles.

     Although the coiled one, the snake, in India the symbol of ascension, is not permitted to ascend in the system of Justinus, it has a much higher position in the Naasseni-system where it gives its name to the whole sect and is described as a “moist substance”, and “nothing of existing things, immortal or mortal, animate and inanimate, could consist at all without him”. “He imparts beauty and bloom to all things that exist according to their own nature and peculiarity, as if passing through all, just as (the river) proceeding forth from Edem, dividing itself into four heads.” The snake-power (in this system a male principle) giving life and beauty to everything is a close parallel to the Indian kundalini. 

      In the system of Justinus the snake-like figure is certainly not the origin of nature's beauty. And the maternal angel called Naas is a mere bandit having intercourse with both Adam and Eve “from whence have arisen adultery and sodomy”. Here the “Good One” is identified with Priapus “having in the first instance formed (according to His own design) the creation, when as yet it had no existence”.  Now Priapus is mostly known for his erection and strong male potency. So obviously male sexual energy is a positive thing and the Father ascends to see that not all the things he created by using woman as a mere tool suffers from deficiency. Woman has positive power but “the entire of the power belonging unto herself, Edem conferred upon Elohim (the Father) as a sort of nuptial dowry”. In Indian tantric mysticism the wise for the sake of coincidentia oppositorum must choose as his sexual partner the primitive washer-woman. The Naassene on the contrary abstain “with the utmost severity” “from intercourse with a woman.”

      The mysteries of Mithras has as a symbol of the final consummation, the end of Mithras ascension by flying in the chariot of the sun, the god Saturn standing erect like a pillar (the Semitic name, Kewan, means “the one standing firm”). Saturn is wrapped in several, often 7, snake coils, a snake coils up along his body and places its head on the god's forehead between the eyebrows as “the mystical third eye”. In iconography this is most certainly the closest we get to the Indian notion of the kundalini snake that ascends through 7 cakras to mystic vision. This mystic vision is not brought about by asceticism but by drinking and feasting on the sacred white bull's meat. The bull is the primordial being, a perfect parallel to the primordial perfect macr'anthropos, Gayomart, killed by the devil. Mithras is often pictured as a hunter, a perfect parallel to Baal, the hunter, killing El's son

      Jam-Jaw or castrating El, the demonic boar/Ares killing Adonis, the lion killing the stag on so many Phoenician coins, Seth killing Osiris, the god of destruction killing the bull or the good shepherd. The roaring lion with the raised kundalini is the ecstatic ascending to heaven by magic force, putting up his throne high above the stars, Es 14. We are here confronting the last remnant of an old warrior religion where the initiated are changed first into ravens then into lions, like the ecstatic warrior ideology of the North where warriors are changed into bears, werewolves and birds. Among the things dug out from the underground caves of the Mithras cult were also wolf bones, the leftovers of a meal consisting of wolf-flesh. 

      The hunter and the hunt eventually become a symbol of the hunt for mystic vision: In the scriptures of the snake-serving sect the Peratae the Bible verse: “Nebrod (Nimrod) was a mighty hunter before the Lord” is quoted as a commentary to Jacob's vision of God in Bethel Ref  V,11. In this sect the snake is hailed as the “originating principle of every motion of all things”.

      To my mind Gnosticism is an influx of old Syrio-Palaestinian magic religion with its striving for the inner union of male with female principle (the male “whores” dressed like women mentioned both in the Bible and in Lucian, De Dea Syria and by Apuleius of Madaura) for the purpose of ecstasy. It is the same magic folk religion illustrated by the many amulets with magical Syrian or Jewish names and an ascending snake with a lion's head emitting beams of light, or a warrior with a rooster's head, a human body and two snakes as legs. As a new religion trying to define itself, Christianity had certainly some difficulty in keeping this rather juicy material out of the church.

      In the system of Justinus salvation is not so much found in mystic experience as in a ritual with baptism and enthronement through the gate-ritual.

      Also Simon the Magician starts his cosmogony with a female power, Ennoia, like Athena jumping down from the Father (degredi ad inferiora, Irenaeus Adv Haer. I,23,2) The same thing is told in his book, Apophasis Megale (Hipp.Ref VI,4-13): Everything started coming into existence in the following way: the 6 first-roots of the principle of begetting takes its origin from the fire (i.e. the supernatural mystical light) as the primordial principle. These roots are:

1)Nous

2)Epinoia (otherwise by Simon called Ennoia = thought)

3)Fone (=sound)

4)Onoma (=name)

5)Logismos (later in monastic thinking it stands for the unclean, disturbing thoughts)

6)Enthymesis (taking to heart, having passion about)

      When Moses says that in 6 days God created heaven and earth, Simon of course interprets this about himself. He is the great cosmic mind, emitting Thinking and Thought (“in the bible called heaven and earth”), Sound and Name (“called sun and moon”), Logismos and Enthymesis (“air and water”). To this Simon finds a parallel in the embryology. The child is fashioned in the womb (called paradise), and the 4 rivers floating from paradise are the four senses: seeing, smelling, taste and touch, by which the mind begins to turn itself outward and lose itself in the outer world of phenomena and its bitterness, but bitter frustrated passion and desire can be changed into something sweet by the teaching of Simon, like the swords hammered out to plough irons. 

      The original, all pervading cosmic principle is the fire identical with the desire to generate, to “become inflamed”. This little spark in man, the longing for sex, will become the great infinite power, the unchangeable Aión when it is submitted to the right Simonean Logos (teaching). Then it will no longer be in submission to birth and destruction, and it will not come to an end, even when the world goes under. The turning sword of fire turns blood into sperm in man and into milk in the breasts of the woman, and by this “the tree of life is guarded”. In the Simonean sacrament performed “in the stream of waters”, the initiated is formed into the image (exeikonisthê) of the great Standing One, and his little crumbling desire becomes one with the big fire, the divine cosmic principle. The erotic promiscuity has to be cultivated as it is the “perfect agape and the Holy of Holies” (The same wording as the one used in the Gospel of Philip about the “sleeping chamber” 85,19f). It is very necessary that a man “sows” his seed, for in doing so he will become identical with “the heavenly Father” and become eternally standing. If not, he will die. The training of the sexual force is the promotion of the life force. The passion can be even more useful than the mystic's state of ataraxia as it can be developed into unity with the all-pervading mystical fire-energy.

      To understand Simon one must remember that the philosophy of his time was obsessed with speculations about the archai, = the primordial principles of the cosmogony, cf. the great work of Origine, Peri Archôn. But to understand Simon's special form of mysticism it is necessary to understand the special tantra ideology where vision is not brought about by fasting and austerities, but by manipulating the sexual energies.

      The scaring darkness winding itself downwards in ”terrifying coils” like a snake and being changed into water (Corpus Hermeticum I) is the sunken kundalini-power.

       In tantra, creation is the falling of the kundalini-power, its being separated from the male principle.  In the system of the Peratae the “Snake”, also called Logos and Son, is moving up and down, mediating between the “Father” and “Formless Matter (Materia)”. Hipp.Ref V,9,12 & 17,8.

      The Ptolomaic Gnostic system criticises the Jewish wisdom schools. Achamot's (=”wisdom's”) seeking the Father nearly ends in a catastrophe, because wisdom did not have “community with the Perfect Father like Nous” (Irenaeus, Adv Haer I,2,2). She wants to conceive the “greatness of the Father” but this is impossible because of the “Magnitude of the Depth”. Obviously we have here traces of an early Shi'ur Qoma speculation about the gigantic measures of God's body.

     The grand error committed by Sophia Achamoth is that she did not act in Syzygia with her male partner. Again this is typical tantric ideology: there is mystic vision only in the union of male with female. Christianity is also given some importance: She has to be “shaped” by the “Cross” and the “Saviour”. But the final salvation is in the syzygia-relationship between the sunken female power and the saving male power. The criticism of the non-mystical quest for wisdom is hard. It will only end in unsatisfied passion and desire (Enthymesis is in the Latin version of the text translated into concupiscentia.) And it is suggested that it is only under the pretext of loving the Father that Sophia tries to seeks him. As in the above-mentioned systems the key-word is sexuality. “The unutterable and unspeakable syzygia” is sent from above (I,6,4) “He is not of the truth and does not come to the truth, who has not joined himself with a woman” (ibd.). With a mixture of horror and indignation the poor Irenaeus has noticed that the Gnostics maintain that vice and abstinence are good for the Psychic Man, but for the Perfect, the Spiritual Man it has to be maintained that he is not saved by doing good deeds, but rather by despising normal morality and “pay his tribute to the flesh”(I,6,3). Some have secret intercourse with the women they initiate into the doctrine, others feel no worry in making themselves slaves to carnal desire (ibd.) 

      It has to be stressed that Syzygia is the Greek word that functions as the exact parallel to the Sanskrit word Yoga (from old the Indo-European word for “yoke”). It means, “put under the same yoke with” and is used both in old India and in Gnosticism for acquiring a helping spirit, a personal partner in the invisible world.

      In Jewish tradition Bileam's great sin was that he tempted the Israelites to commit adultery with and put themselves “in yoke with” Baal-Peor.

       In an important book, Guardians of the Gate,1999, N.Deutsch has dealt with the Mandaeic creator, Abathur, who, just like Metatron in early Jewish mysticism, is enthroned just below or outside the cosmic veil between the visible world and the transcendent world. Abathur is lord over the world of opposites (Deutsch, p.107), he is the sperm coming down from above in the visible shape of the river Jordan. This is typical tantric cosmology: The visible world was created when the High God ejaculated his sperm. Pherecydes Syros has as the first principle Chronos creating the world out of his sperm. The two first principles of the visible world were acc. to him Zas and Xthonie, male and female, celebrating the first holy wedlock. In Mandaeism the first principle was “Life dwelling in its own radiance” (The primal divine consciousness rapt in mystic vision. There is in Tantric thinking a perfect parallel between micro-cosmos = man and macro-cosmos= High God.) Through several intermediaries Life fosters Abathur who is the male cosmic principle and creates the world by looking downwards into the depth of darkness. This cosmogony is about the fall of a pure divine consciousness by contemplating the darkness and thereby being entangled into the world of phenomena. While Metatron is the mediator for the souls on their way upwards, Abathur is the mediator for the cosmos on its way downwards.

 

 

 

 



[1] Planetary Gods and Planetary Orders in the Mysteries of Mithras, 1988,p.65

[2] Beck´s transl. p.74.

[3] pp.87ff

[4] J.R.Hinnels, "Reflections on the bull-slaying scene", in: ibd, Mithraic Studies, I, p.302). Porphyrios (de antro nympharum XV)

[5] Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, 1853,p.89,cf.92

[6] Nineveh and Babylon, p.48.

[7] E.Bickermann, "Die Römische Kaiserapotheose", ARW XXVII, pp.1-34

[8] D.Levi, "Aion", Hesperia 13,1944, pp.269-314,fig.22.

[9] p.54.

[10] p.59n28.

[11] p.14.

[12] p.85.

[13] p.29.

[14] Zentralasien und die Etruskerfrage, Kairos 7,1965,pp.284-95

[15] Rivista Degli Studi Orientale 48,1973/4 pp.251-3.

[16] Die Teufel des Avesta und ihre Beziehungen zur Ikonographie des Buddhismus Zentral-Asiens, I-II, 1924)