Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Home / Publication Library / Fragments of a Faith Forgotten / The Number-Symbolism of Marcus

Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

By G.R.S. Mead

The Number-Symbolism of Marcus

A LONG section in Irenæus is our almost exclusive source for a knowledge of Marcus and his followers. Sources.Hippolytus and Epiphanius simply copy Irenæus and add nothing but new terms of condemnation, while our information from other sources is a question of lines and not of paragraphs. The unreliability of Irenæus as a chronicler of Gnostic views is already known to our readers, and in the case of Marcus and the Marcosians is more painfully patent than usual. It seems that some of the adherents of the school were to be found even among the rude populace of the Rhone valley, and the worthy Presbyter of Lyons was especially anxious to discount their influence. He begins the attack by retailing all the scandalous stories he can collect about Marcus, a man he had never seen, and who had not been nearer to the sheepfold of Lyons than Asia Minor, or at best Egypt!

Irenæus professes first of all to describe what took place at the initiation-ceremonies and secret rites of the Marcosians, and paints a graphic picture of charlatanry and debauchery, much to his own satisfaction. To all of these reports and descriptions, however, the Marcosians gave a most emphatic denial, and therefore we shall not at present trouble the reader with the Presbyter's statements on the subject, except to remark that he himself acknowledges that he depends entirely on hearsay, and to point out to the student that the account seems to be a very distorted caricature of the ceremonies, the ritual of which is partly preserved to us directly in the Askew Codex and one of the MSS. of the Codex Brucianus.

Irenæus next proceeds to give a résumé of a Marcosian MS. which had fallen into his hands. He apparently quotes some passages verbatim, but for the most part contents himself with a summary, so that we can by no means be sure what the writer of the document really said. The original of the document Irenæus ascribes to Marcus himself, whom throughout the whole section he apostrophises as a contemporary; it is, however, probable that this is merely rhetorical--as is the case with Hippolytus, who, thirty or forty years afterwards, in his opening paragraph, predicts that the result of his exposure of Marcus will be that "he will now desist [from his imposture]," although the body of the Gnostic doctor had long been laid in the grave.

Of Marcus himself we know nothing beyond the fact that he was one of the earlier pupils of Valentinus, or at any rate belonged to the earlier circle of Valentinian ideas. His date is vaguely placed somewhere about the middle of the second century; he is said to have taught in Asia Minor, and Jerome, two hundred years afterwards, states that he was an Egyptian.

To the student of Gnosticism who regards the Gnostic doctors as cultured men who made a Number-lettersbrave effort to formulate Christianity as a universal philosophy, or rather as a divine science springing from the ground of a philosophy of religion, the attempt of Marcus to adapt the Hebrew number-letter system, devised by "kabalistic" Rabbis, to the Greek alphabet, and so work out a number-symbolism for the too abstruse æon-genesis and world-process of the Gnosis, is a point of great interest. It may, however, be that the Hebrews copied from the Greeks; or that both derived this method from Egypt.

As must be patent to everyone, the methods of symbolism of the Gnostics were very numerous; many attempts were made to convey to the physical consciousness some idea of the modes, not only of superphysical existence, but also of what was definitely stated to be suprarational being. That these attempts were all doomed to failure, as far as general comprehension was concerned, is no reason for us to deride the efforts made; that we have not even to-day, with all our elaborate mathematical formulæ, evolved a sufficient symbolism, is no reason for denying the possibility of such an achievement within certain limits in future ages.

Marcus attempted this gigantic task with insufficient means, it is true, with means too that appear to our prosaic minds to-day as fantastic and even worthless; nevertheless he was not without a tradition that to some extent justified his making the attempt.

The ancient religion of the Chaldæans was astronomical and mathematical; cosmogenesis and evolution were worked out in the symbolism of numbers. Every letter of the sacred language had a certain numerical equivalent, and thus words and sentences could be constructed which could be interpreted numerically, and be finally made explanatory of natural and celestial phenomena and processes. Since the sacred books of the "Mathematicians" are said to have been written with this definite object in view, the mathematical key given to the initiate into the ancient star-lore of Chaldæa, might thus open the door to the sacred science of nature and man as known to the seers of that ancient civilisation.

The Rabbis of the Jews, on their return from captivity, presumably brought with them some Kabalism.notions of this method of number-letters, and later on proceeded to turn it to account as a means, both of explaining away much that was distasteful to the cultured mind in their ancient traditions, and of reading into the old cosmogonic and patriarchal fables new and spiritual meanings, derived to a large extent from their contact with Oriental ideas during the years of captivity and subsequently. This method of mystical exegesis by number-letters was developed to a marvellous extent by the Hellenising tendencies of the cultured Rabbis among the Diaspora; and Egypt, and especially Alexandria, was on; of the main centres of this peculiar learning. A relic of this number-system has come down to the present times with the tradition of the Kabalah. It is to be observed, however, that the Rabbis adapted the system to a heterogeneous library of works of various dates and many recensions, which were not originally composed with this end in view. True, they believed that every word and letter of the Law had been directly inspired by God, and thus contained a wonderful magical potency, but the relentless logic of modern Biblical research has to a large extent overturned this fond hypothesis, and their pious number-processes must now for the most part be regarded as the development of apologetic Rabbinism, and as legitimate only for such small parts of the documents as may have been composed in Babylon by scribes who were already versed in the Chaldaic method.

There is little doubt that Valentinus and his pupils were acquainted with all there was to learn at Alexandria of Rabbinical exegesis, in which the hopes of the Jews were more than ever centred after the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. They were also perfectly familiar with the Pythagorean number-philosophy, the symbolism of which no doubt had many resemblances to the number-books of the ancient Chaldeans. It is therefore but little surprising to find that one of them busied himself with adapting this ancient method of symbolism (if indeed it was not already native to Grecian tradition) to the Greek alphabet, in which the documents of the new faith, and, as they firmly believed, the new world-science, were now almost exclusively written. Needless to say, the Greek alphabet would not stand the strain; nevertheless it was a good exercise for a pupil of the Gnosis, and offered wide scope for the use of much ingenuity.

This exercise in correspondences was naturally no contribution to knowledge, but only a means of conveying knowledge otherwise acquired. It will, however, be of interest to give the reader a brief sketch of some of Marcus’ ideas, as far as it is possible to recover them from the contemptuous summary of the Marcosian MS. by Irenæus in his polemic. They are also additionally interesting as showing intimate points of contact with the Coptic treatises we have so often referred to.

The source of the document's inspiration is ascribed to the Supernal Four, the highest hierarchy of the Pleroma, which however only reveals itself to mortals in its "feminine" form, for the world cannot bear the power and effulgence of its "masculine" greatness. The same idea is current in India. The God (Deva) uses his power, the Goddess (Shakti, Devi), as his means of communication with mortals; his own form no mortal can behold and live. The whole of what follows is based upon the Greek texts of Hippolytus (Duncker and Schneidewin) and Epiphanius (Dindorf)--who copied from the lost Greek text of Irenæus--and upon the oft-times unintelligent and barbarous Latin version of the Greek original of Irenæus (Stieren).

The MS. apparently opened with the following passage descriptive of the speaking forth of the Word of the Supernal Father.

"When first the Father, the not even the One, beyond all possibility of thought and being, who is The Great Name.neither male nor female, willed that His ineffability should come into being, and His invisibility take form, He opened His mouth and uttered a Word, like unto Himself; who, appearing before Him, became the means of His seeing what He himself was--namely Himself appearing in the form of His own invisibility."

Now the utterance of the Great Name was on this wise. The Father spake the Word; the first note of His Name was a sound of four elements; the second sound was also of four elements; the third of ten; the fourth and last of twelve. Thus the utterance of the whole Name was of thirty elements and four sounds or groupings.

After the words "the first note of His Name was a sound of four elements," Irenæus has dragged into his summary a suggestion of his own, probably derived from some numerical exegesis of the Prologue to the fourth Gospel, which he had come across elsewhere in his heresy-hunt. Thus he evidently breaks into the thread of the summary with the interjected note, "namely ?ρχ?," the "Beginning" of the Prologue.

Further, each single element of the thirty has its own peculiar utterance, character, letters, configurations and images. But no element is acquainted with the form of the sound of which it is an element; in fact, so far from knowing its parent-sound, it pays no attention even to the utterance of its associate elements in its own sound-hierarchy, but only to its own utterance.

Thus uttering all that it knows, it thinks it is sounding forth the whole Name. For each of the elements, being a part of the whole Name, enunciates its own peculiar sound as the whole Word, and does not cease sounding until it arrives at the very last letter of the last sub-element in its own peculiar tongue.

Now the consummation or restitution of all, things takes place when all these original elements, coming to one and the same letter or note, send forth one and the same utterance, a symbol of which was the chanting of the sacred word "Amen" in unison. It was these notes of the scale of the Primordial Harmony which were the means of giving form to the Living Æon, which transcended all idea of substance and generation. To such forms the Lord referred when speaking of "the angels who continually behold the face of the Father."

The ordinary spoken names for these elements are: æons, words, roots, seeds, plenitudes (pleromata), fruits. The "spoken" names are distinguished from the "authentic" names, or mysticæ voces, many instances of the cypher-equivalents of which will be found in the Coptic Codices.

Now every divine element, with all its sub-sounds, notes, or letters, was contained in the phase of the Divine Being to which the symbolic name of Church had been given. The term "Church" (Ecclesia) means the "Calling Forth," the Heritage of the Elect, a substitute for an "authentic" name, which was only revealed to the initiated members of the school. The Church was the female aspect of the fourth and last syzygy, or pair, of the Tetrad, or Holy Four, the Lords of the Pleroma.

When the last note of the last sub-element of these supernal elements had uttered its own The Echo of the Name.peculiar sound, the echo of it went forth, in the image of all these elements and sub-elements, and gave birth to another series; and it is this series which is the cause not only of the elements of the world which we know, but also of those elements which have a prior existence to those of our world.

The last divine note itself, of which echo rang on echo downwards, was wafted upwards by its own parent-sound to complete and consummate the whole Name; while the echo descended to the parts below, and remained as though cast out of the Pleroma.

This parent-sound or element, from which the last note, containing potentially the utterance of the parent-sound, descended below, consisted of thirty letters or elements, and each of these contains other letters or elements, by means of which the name of each root-element is spelt, and so on infinitely. That is to say, the sub-elements as it were spell out the name, or manifest the power, of the main element; and the power or name of each sub-element in turn is manifested or spelt by other minor sub-elements, and so on infinitely.

Marcus brought home this grand idea to the minds of his pupils by pointing out an analogy in the Greek alphabet. Thus take any single letter, say Δ, delta; as soon as you name it, you have five letters, namely, Δ delta, Ε epsilon, Λ lambda, Τ tau, Α alpha. Again Ε, epsilon, is resolved into E epsilon, Ψ psi, Ι iota, Λ lambda, Ο omicron, Ν nu; and so on infinitely. The illustration is certainly graphic enough.

The Symbolic Body of the Man of Truth.The Gnostic MS. then proceeded to describe a method of symbolizing the Great Body of the Heavenly Man, whereby the twenty-four letters of the Greek alphabet were assigned in pairs to the twelve "limbs." The Body of the Heavenly Man was the graphic symbol of the ideal economy, dispensation, or ordering of the universe, its regions, planes, hierarchies and powers.

This symbolic representation was called the schema or configuration of the one element (τ? σχ?μα το? στοχε?ου), and also the glyph (or character) of the figure (or diagram) of the Man of Truth, presumably the God of Truth of the Codex Brucianus, one of the treatises of which contains a whole series of diagrams of the various moments of emanation of the creative deity under this designation.

In the phrase "glyph of the figure" (? χαρακτ?ρ το? γρ?μματος), the word γρ?μμα is means either (i.) a letter of the alphabet, or (ii.) a note of music, or (iii.) a mathematical figure or diagram. The character, glyph, or configuration, would thus be the symbol or reflection of the super-spiritual Pleroma, regarded (i.) as the last letter of the four-lettered Great Name, or (ii.) as the last note of the Divine Harmony which is sung forth by the Supernal Logos or Word. To avoid complication and symbols of symbols, we have taken the word γρ?μμα in its third sense, in which it declares its consanguinity with the great art of systematising the elements and powers of nature, known in India as tantra ("systematising," "ordering.") Tantrika is now a Janus-faced art, white and black, and its main feature is the drawing of magical diagrams (yantras), to represent the configuration of the elements and powers which the operator desires to use.

I omit here all mention of Mark's diagram of the body of the Heavenly Man, as the consideration of it would take up too much space in these short sketches.

Now the Word, the male energy of the middle pair or syzygy of the trinity (Mind-Truth, Word-Life, Man-Church) and the sum of the six, issued forth from the mouth of Truth. This Word is the Logos or Supreme Reason of all things, the self-generator of the universe, who bestows fatherhood (πατροδ?τορα λ?γον) on all things. On earth this Word becomes the name known commonly to all Christians, namely, Christ Jesus. But Jesus is only the sound of the name down here and not the power of the name. Jesus is really a substitute for a very ancient name, and its power is known to the "elect" alone of the Christians.

It is the six-lettered name. But even this is only a symbol; among the æons of the Pleroma it is manifold, and of another form and type, and this is known only to them who are akin to the Logos in their hearts, those whose angels or greatnesses are with Him for all time.

Now the twenty-four letters of the alphabet, attached to the various limbs of the Body of the Heavenly Man in the diagram, are the symbols, or images, of the emanations of the three powers which contain the sum total or Pleroma of the æonic elements above. And there is a further analogy to their nature in the alphabet. For there are nine consonants (or soundless letters), eight liquids (or semi-sounds), and seven vowels (or sounds).

The consonants symbolise the ineffable or soundless elements of Mind-and-Truth; the liquids, midway between the soundless letters and the sounds, typify the elements of Word-and-Life, which receive the emanation from the unmanifested above, and receive back the ascent from the manifested below; and the vowels represent the elements of Man-and-Church, for sound going forth through the Man enformed all things. For the echo of His voice investured them with form.

This reminds us of the elaborated division of the Platonic world of ideas into three spaces: (1) noëtic; (2) both noëtic and noëric; and (3) noëric. (See my essay on Orpheus).

Thus we have the series 9, 8, 7; and if we take 1 from 9 and add it to 7, we get 8, 8, 8--or Jesus, the The Numbers.six-lettered name (?ησο?ς), the numerical values of the letters of which amount to 888. That is to say, He who had his seat with the Father (Mind), left his seat and descended, sent forth to the one from whom He was separated (the Church), to restore the divine creation to a state of equilibrium, in order that, the unities of the Pleromas (or three phases of the Pleroma or ideal cosmos) being reduced to an equality, there might be a common product of a single power from all of them in all of them. Thus the 7 obtained the power of the 8, and the three spaces became equal in their numbers, namely, 3 eights, and these added together are 24.

Now these three spaces or elements are each twofold (positive and negative), 6 in all, and these again fourfold, 24 in all, the reflection of the elements of the Unnameable, in dyads, triads and tetrads.

Moreover, if you would find the 6 among the 24 letters of the alphabet, which are only images of the real elements, you will find it hidden in the double letters Ξ (κς), Ψ (πς), Ζ (δς). Add this 6 to the 24 and we have again a symbol of the 30 æons of the Pleroma.

Gospel Exegesis.With much ingenuity our Gnostics found these numbers and processes in the prologue to Genesis, and elsewhere in the Old Covenant library; we need not, however, follow them into this field of letter-numbering. But when we find that they treated the Gospel-legends also not as history, but as allegory, and not only as allegory, but as symbolic of the drama of initiation, the matter becomes of deep interest for the theosophical student.

Thus they said that the transfiguration-story was symbolic (?ν ?μοι?ματι ε?κ?νος) of the divine economy as manifested in the man seeking perfection; in other words, of a certain stage of initiation.

To make this further apparent, we will use terms already familiar to some of our readers.

After "six days," that is to say, in the seventh stage since the disciple first set his feet on the path, he ascended into the "mountain"--a graphic symbol for the higher states of consciousness.

He ascended the fourth and became the sixth. That is to say, he ascended with three and was joined by two, the Peter, James and John, and Moses and Elias of the familiar Gospel-narrative.

The "three" are the powers he had already won over the gross, subtle and mental planes--presumably the degrees of srotapanna, sakadagamin and anagamin in the Buddhist tradition. The "two" are the representatives of the spiritual and divine powers which welcome and support him, and thus he becomes sixth, or possessed of the spiritual consciousness, while still in the body,--the arahat stage.

It was this "six," said the Marcosians, which had descended and been detained in the Hebdomad, or region of the seven spheres of difference; the "six" being in reality of the same essence as the World-mother, the eighth encircling sphere of sameness, which is above or beyond these seven. The six (the arahat) being thus of the same essence as the World-mother (Wisdom) contains essentially in himself the whole number of all the elements or powers--a fact already typified in the stage symbolised in the baptism-myth by the descent of the dove. The dove is the Alpha and Omega (1 and 800) of the diagram, the first and last of the numbers, representing the head. Moreover the word for "dove" in Greek is περιστερ?, and 80 (π) + 5 (ε) + 100 (ρ) + 10 (ι) + 200 (σ) + 300 (τ) + 5 (e) + 100 (ρ) + 1 (α) = 801.

Again, it was on the "sixth day," the "preparation," that the divine economy, or order of things, manifested the "last man," the "man from heaven," for the new birth or regeneration of the "first man" or "man of the earth"; and further the passion began in the sixth hour and ended in the sixth hour, when the initiate was nailed to the cross. All of which was designed to indicate the power of creation (inception) and regeneration or rebirth (consummation), typified in the number 6, to those who were admitted to the mysteries of initiation, called by the Marcosian writer the "Sons of the Light," or "Sons of the Man," for the Greek will carry both meanings.

For creation or descent is represented by the number 2, that is to say by dyads, and regeneration or ascent by the number 3, that is to say by triads, and 2 × 3 = 6.

The Creation of the Sensible World.Now as to the creation of the sensible universe: the Logos, as creator, uses as his minister, or servant, the seven-numbered "greatness" (that is to say, the septenary hierarchy of the ideal universe, the Pleroma or Mind of the Logos, symbolized by the seven vowels), in order that the fruit of His self-meditated meditation may be manifested.

The creation of our particular universe (or solar system), however, is regarded as a fabrication, or building, according to a type in the Divine Mind. The creative fabricator or builder is, as it were, a reflection of the universal Logos, enformed by Him, but as it were separated or cut off, and thus remaining apart from or outside the Pleroma. It is by the power and purpose of the Divine Logos, that the demiurgic power, by means of his own emanation or life (the reflection of the Life of the Pleroma), ensouled the cosmos of seven powers, according to the similitude of the septenary power above, and thus was constituted the soul of the visible all, our cosmos. The demiurge makes use of this work as though it had come into existence through his own will alone; but the seven spheres of the world-soul (the cosmic life)--copies of the æonic spheres which no cosmic spheres can really represent--are in reality hand-maidens to the will of the Divine Life, the supernal Mother.

Now the first of these seven spheres, or heavens, sounds forth the sound or vowel Α, the second the Ε, the third the Η, the fourth and midmost the Ι, the fifth the Ο, the sixth the Υ, and the seventh and fourth from the middle the Ω. And all uniting together in harmony send forth a sound and glorify him by whom they were emanated (the system-logos or world-builder); and the glory of the sound is carried up to the Forefather of the Pleroma (the Divine Logos), while the echo of their hymn of glory is borne to earth, and becomes the modeller and generator of them upon the earth, that is to say the souls of men.

Irenæus now appears to have come to the end of the MS., and so proceeds to give the friend to whom he is writing, as many other details of Marcosian ideas as he has picked up from scraps of quotations or from hearsay,--"quæ ad nos pervenneruut ex iis" (c. xv.). He returns once more to a consideration of the eternal economy of the Pleroma, and to an exposition from which he has already quoted a scrap in another connection (c. xi. 3), as follows:

"Before all universes there is a source (or beginning) before the primal source, prior even to that state which is inconceivable, ineffable, unnameable, The Tetraktys.which I number as Noughtness. With this No-number consubsists a power to which I give the name Oneness. This Noughtness and Oneness, which are in reality one, emanated, although they did not really emanate, the intelligible (or ideal) source of all, ingenerable and invisible, to which speech gives the name of Monad (or Nought). With this Monad consubsists a power of equal substance (?μοο?σιος) with it, which I call One. These powers, Noughtness, Oneness, Nought and One, send forth the rest of the emanations of the æons.

"Noughtness" (lit., "monadity") is the root of the monad, the O or circle containing all the numbers--the no-number.

This passage shows the distinct influence of Basilides but among the best critics opinions are divided as to whether it should be assigned to Marcus or Heracleon.

The names of this highest tetrad or tetraktys, however, are really incapable of representation in human speech; they are the "holy of holies," names known to the Son alone, while even He does not know what the Four really are, this final knowledge of the one reality being referred to the Father alone.

These names pertain to the "sacred language," specimens of which are given in the fragments from the Books of the Saviour attached to the Pistis Sophia document and in two of the treatises of the Codex Brucianus.

The substitutes for these names are: Ineffable (???ητος) and Silence (σειγ?), Father (πατ?ρ) and Truth (?λ?θεια); the Greek words for which consist respectively of 7 and 5, and 5 and 7 letters, or twice 7 and twice 5, the 24 elements of the Pleroma.

So also with the substitutes for the names of the second tetrad: Word (λ?γος) and Life (ζω?), Man (?νθρωπος) and Church (?κκλησ?α); the Greek names consisting respectively of 5 and 3, and 8 and 8 letters--in all 24.

Again the spoken or effable name of the Saviour, Jesus (?ησο?ς), consists of 6 letters, while His ineffable name consists of 24. As stated above, the name = 888, and thus, by another permutation, = 24.

Similar number-permutations are also found in the letters of the word Christ.

But enough of this apparent forcing of an unwilling alphabet into the arms of a number-symbolism--perhaps the reader will say. The Marcosians, however, might in the first place plead in excuse the example of Philo and Alexandrine Judaism, which believed not only in the literal inspiration of the Hebrew text of the Old Covenant, but also that the Greek version of the so-called Seventy was written by the finger of God; and in the second, they might perhaps have said: The Greek names for the æons are but substitutes for other names which have these number-equivalents, and pertain to the secrets of our initiation.

The really scientific part of the system is the number-process as a natural symbolism of primeval evolution; it is not enough to label this Pythagoreanism and so dismiss it with a sneer, for all our modern physical science is based upon exactly the same considerations of measure and number.

Now the One contains in itself implicitly the three incomprehensibles, Noughtness, Oneness and Nought. Theological Arithmetic.Thus the One is the representative of the upper tetrad. And since all numbers come from the One, this tetrad is called the All-Mother, or Wisdom Above. From her proceeds as a daughter, the lower tetrad, the comprehensible numbers, the 1, 2, 3 and the 4, the Wisdom Below, which must be regarded as 8 potentially, seeing that the 1 manifests the unmanifestable One, the representative of the unmanifestable tetrad. The Wisdom below is thus reckoned as 8, or the ogdoad. But this ogdoad contains the decad, for 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10. And this decad by congress with the 8 makes 80, and by congress with the 8 and itself makes 800; so that the 8, or world-mother, is separated into three spaces, 8, 80, and 800, in all 888, which is the number of her enforming power or consort Jesus, the creative Logos from above, the 1 + 2 + 3, or 6, the consort of the 4 or last number of the lower tetrad.

This enformation of the world-substance by means of the decad--by means of the creative 888 or "Jesus"--was the "enformation according to substance"; but there was another enformation of a higher kind, by means of the "Christ," the "enformation according to knowledge." This was the regeneration by means of the dodecad. Now 6 x 2 = 12; (1 + 2 + 3) × 2 = 12; 10 + 2 = 12; 8 + 4 = 12.

The 8 + 4 is the ogdoad with the first tetrad added to it; the 10 + 2 is the decad with the twin powers of the upper and lower tetrads added to it; the (1 + 2 + 3) × 2, or 6 × 2 is the doubling of the enforming power or its ascent into itself.

Jesus the Master.These eternal types and processes were to be seen in nature and history. Thus in the case of the great Master, just as the world-soul was in ignorance before she was fashioned and regenerated, so were men in ignorance and error before the coming of the Great One, Jesus. He took flesh as Jesus, in order that He might descend to the perception of men on earth. And they who recognized Him ceased from Ignorance, and ascended from Death unto Life, His "Name," or Power, leading them unto the Father of Truth. For it was the will of the All-Father to put an end to Ignorance and destroy Death. And the ending of Ignorance is the Knowledge (?π?γνωσις) of Him (the Christ). For this reason a man was chosen by His will whose constitution was after the image of the power above (the lower tetrad), that is to say, sufficiently developed to act as a fit vehicle.

Now the lower tetrad is spoken of as Word and Life, Man and Church. And powers emanating from these four Holy Ones watch over the birth and mould the lower vehicles of the Jesus on earth. And this, it was said, was shown clearly in the allegorical scripture. "Gabriel" takes the place of the Word (Reason or Logos), the "Holy Spirit" that of the Life, the "Power of the Highest" that of the Man, and the "Virgin" that of the Church.

Again, at the baptism there descended upon the Jesus, thus perfectly constituted (or enformed according to substance), the dove, which soars again to heaven, its upward course completing the Jesus (or 6) and making him into the Christ (or 12), the enformation according to knowledge, or perfect illumination. And in the Christ subsists the seed of them who descend and ascend with Him. And the power of the Christ which descends is the seed of the Pleroma, containing in itself both the Father and the Son, and the unnameable power of Silence, the Mother, (which is only known through them), and the rest of the æons. Now this power of Silence, this Peace and Comfort, is the Holy Spirit. It was this Spirit which spoke through the mouth of Jesus in the Gospel-narratives, and proclaimed itself as Son of Man, and revealed the Father, descending on Jesus and becoming one with Him. It was this Saviour who put an end to death, by the removal of ignorance, and Jesus made Him known as his Father, the Christ.

Jesus is really the name of the man who was perfected in his lower nature (that is to say, the initiate); but because of its adaptability and formation the name has been given to the Man who was to descend into him (in other words, the Master). And he who was the vehicle of this Great One, had thus in him both the Man and Word and Father and the Ineffable, and Silence and Truth and Life and Church (for the Master is one who is at-one with these).

After three sections of abuse, Irenæus resumes the subject of Marcosian number-correspondences in cap. xvi.; but the reading of the key-passage which deals with the imperfections of the dodecad and the consequent "passion" of the cosmic soul and individual souls is so faulty that, as yet, I have been able to make nothing out of it.

The "Moving Image of Eternity."With cap. xvii., however, the æonic types are traced in the economy of the cosmos. The two tetrads are shown in the four elements fire, water, earth, and air, and their four characteristics, hot, cold, dry, and moist. The decad is shown in the seven spheres, and the eighth which encompasses them, and in addition the sun and moon. This clearly shows that the "seven spheres" are not the "planets," of either astrology or astronomy. Finally the dodecad is shown in the so-called zodiacal circle.

Now the motion of these seven spheres is exceedingly rapid, whereas the eighth sphere, or heaven, is much slower than the motion of the seven mutually interpenetrating spheres, and as it were balances or checks their otherwise too rapid motion by pressure on their periphery; the result is that the whole mass takes some 30 years to pass through a sign, or a twelfth part, of the zodiacal belt. This retarding sphere was thus regarded as an image of the Great Boundary which surrounds the "Mother of thirty names" or Pleroma. Again, the moon encompasses its "heaven," the lower boundary, in 30 days; and the sun completes its cyclic return in 12 months. There are moreover 12 hours in every day, and each hour is divided into thirty parts, according to the 12 great divisions of the zodiac, each of which has again 30 sub-divisions, 360 in all; the earth again has 12 climates. All of which is doubtless to be referred to the tradition of the common source of the ancient Chaldæan and Egyptian religions.

For the world-fabricator, or time-spirit, when he desired to copy the infinite, æonian, invisible and timeless nature of Eternity, was not able to make a model of its abiding and eternal nature, seeing that he himself was the result of a deficiency in this eternal nature; so he represented Eternity in times and seasons, and numbers of many years, thinking by a manifold number of times to imitate its infinitude. Thus it was that truth abandoned him and he followed after a lie; and therefore when the times are fulfilled his work will come to an end.

Irenæus devotes his next three chapters (capp. xviii.-xx.) to what he has heard of the From the Marcosian Ritual.Marcosian interpretation of scripture. This is of little interest; but in chapter xxi. the Bishop of Lyons gives us some of the formulæ used by the school, and these are of greater interest, although the Marcosians denied their accuracy. Thus he says that the words of the baptismal consecration are as follows:

"[I baptise thee] unto the Name of the unknown Father of the universals, unto Truth, the Mother of all, unto Him who descended on Jesus, unto the union, redemption, and communion of [thy] powers."

Next we have what purports to be the translation of a Hebrew invocation to the Christ; Irenæus gives the original Hebrew, but in such a woefully corrupt guise that it has baffled the ingenuity of the best of scholars.

"I invoke thee, O Light, who art above every power of the Father, Thou who art called Light and Spirit and Life; for Thou hast reigned in the body."

The formula of the rite of angelic redemption (the "angelic redemption" was the means whereby the candidate became one with his "angel" above), one of the higher degrees of Gnostic initiation, is then given:

"[I invoke] the Name hidden from every godhead and lordship, the Name of Truth, in which Jesus, the Nazarene, clothed himself in the zones (or girdles) of Light, [the Name] of the Christ, Christ the Living One, through the Holy Spirit, for angelic redemption."

Next follows the formula of the restoration or restitution, the final consecration. They who solemnize the rite declare as follows:

"There is no separation between my spirit, my heart, and the Super-celestial Power. May I enjoy thy Name, O Saviour of Truth!"

And then the candidate replies:

"I am confirmed and redeemed; I redeem my soul from this æon (world) and all that cometh therefrom, in the name of IAO, who redeemed its soul, unto redemption in Christ, the Living One."

Then the assistants rejoin:

"Peace unto all on whom this Name doth rest!" There were also prayers for the dead, and also formulæ for the soul in passing through the seven gates of the seven purgatorial spheres, of which the following are given by Irenæus as specimens: "I am the son of the Father, of the Father who is beyond all existence [that is to say, generation, or sa?sara, the sphere of rebirth] while I, His son, am in existence. I came [into existence] to see mine own and things not mine, yet not wholly not mine, for they are Wisdom's, who is [my] female [counterpart] and made them for herself. But I derive my birth from Him who is beyond existence, and I return again unto mine own whence I came forth."

And then they pass through the various planes of the purgatorial realms, and the powers of the regions make way before them. The final "apology" is made to the powers surrounding the world-fabricator, or demiurge, and runs as follows:

"I am a vessel more precious than the female power [lower Wisdom] who made you. Your mother knoweth not the root from which she came; but I know myself and know whence I am, and I invoke the incorruptible Wisdom [above], who is in the Father. She it is who is the Mother of your mother, the Mother who hath no mother, nor any male consort. But it was a female born from a female who made you, one who knoweth not her Mother, but thinketh herself to be alone [self-generated]. But I invoke her Mother to my aid."

And so he passeth on to his own, casting off his chains, that is to say, the soul, or lower nature.

It is evident that we have in the above an indication of the same range of ideas which we find worked out with such elaboration in the Pistis Sophia and Codex Brucianus treatises: the light-robe of the Master, the Living One, the invocations, apologies, prayers for the dead, baptism and chrism, all clearly distinguishable; all of which formed part of the great cycle of Gnostic initiations in known Valentinian circles. The degrees of this initiation were more and more secret as they became more real. Irenæus may have heard of some of the formulæ of the lower grades, but the higher grades could only be understood by the picked disciples of these very intellectual and highly mystical schools. The documents pertaining to the higher degrees seem never to have come into the hands of the Church Fathers.



Masonic Publishing Company

Purchase This Title

Browse Titles
"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


Comasonic Logo

Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry

Copyright © 1975-2024 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.