Term Paper: Gnosticism

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Gnosticism

In order to understand the Gnostic view of the Fall and the creation of Adam and Eve, one has to firstly understand a few central concepts that underlie the Gnostic view of creation and genesis. One do the most important of these is that the Gnostic concept of the Fall takes place before the creation of Earth and Adam and Eve and the Fall is in fact the cause of creation. In essence, this means that the creation of man originates not from God but for the false 'Demiurge." In this sense, Gnosticism differs radically from the conventional Christian view of the creation as the Fall "...actually proceeded creation, and indeed was the very cause of it" (the Gnostic Account of the Fall and the Creation of the Material World). The significance of this is that, "This idea of the Fall means goes far beyond the Christian myth of Adam and Eve disobeying God. Although this myth is indeed charged with many meanings, it is unable to convey the cosmic significance of what is involved...for it is limited to the human level" (the Gnostic Account of the Fall and the Creation of the Material World).

The above view is important if one is to understand the connection between the Aeons and the emergence of the Adam and Eve myth in Christianity.

2. The Aeons

In Gnostic theology, the Aeons emerge or emanate from the supreme divinity. These refer to semi-divine beings. The Aeons reside in the Pleroma. In essence, the Aeons are described as "heavenly prototypes of spiritual man who is the bearer of pneuma (life, or Spirit)" (Birth of a New Age). Much of Gnostic myth therefore deals with the fall form light into darkens or from the 'Kingdom of Light'.

The Aeons are divided into male and female pairs or consorts known as syzygies. Two of the most commonly mentioned Aeons are Jesus and Sophia. The Aeons constitute the Pleroma, or the "region of light." The mythological cosmology of Gnosticism is continued in a descending order of divinity with the lower areas of the Pleroma closest to the darkness. This darkness is equated with the physical or material world.

The emergence of the Aeons has to be understood in terms of the context of their origins. The beginning of all creation lies with the perfect and immaculate invisible spirit. "He is neither corporeal, nor incorporeal. He is invisible because no one can see him, yet he emanated pure, immeasurable light. He is indestructible and eternal" (Dark Mirrors of Heaven:Gnostic Cosmogony). The first emanation brought forth a feminine Aeon. This feminine counter-part was known as Barbelo, the "...forethought of all, and the perfect Aeon" (Dark Mirrors of Heaven:Gnostic Cosmogony). Barbelo is the seen as the first Aeon in terms of creative aspects and is often associated with the concept of the womb. Barbelo is therefore the originator of all creation, including the first man. In the Apocryphon of John, Barbelo is described as "The first power, the glory, Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aions, the glory of the revelation." (Robinson 101) She is "...the emanation of the First Cause, the creative principle who in turn creates (or causes to be created) the entire manifest world. In a sense, she also contains the universe within her; she is sometimes referred to as the womb of the world" (Barbelo - Ennoia)

The first emanation from Barebelo is the divine Autogenes, which is related to the Aeon Christ or the "Anointed One." The androgynous Autogene also had a female partner, Mirothoe, according to the Gospel of the Egyptians (Robinson). The subsequent development of the Aeons refers to the creation of helper spirits for the Christ known as the Luminaries or the Light Aeons. However, the most important Aeon with regard to the creation of man is known as Sophia.

2.1. Sophia and the Demiurge

The term commonly associated with Sophia is "wisdom" and she is seen as the instigator of the creation of the material world. The most important aspect of the myth of Sophia is that she produces or creates an image of herself or an offspring without consent of the great invisible spirit. What she produces is a horrific anomaly that is described as an imperfect creature, a lion-faced serpent known as Yaldabaoth. Seeing her terrible error in producing without divine consent, Sophia "... cast her offspring out of Pleroma, and hid her child within a thick cloud from the other aeons, because of her embarrassment and shame" (Dark Mirrors of Heaven:Gnostic Cosmogony)

Therefore, Sophia in her attempt to emulate the emanation of Barbelo, in fact creates a false or warped creation that is inferior. This is clearly stated in the Apocryphon of John:

Sophia (Wisdom)...being an Aeon, conceived a Thought from herself with the reflection of the invisible Spirit [ the Absolute]...She wanted to bring forth a likeness out of herself without the consent of the [Absolute] Spirit...and without her consort....And because of the invincible power which is in her, her thought did not remain idle and a thing came out of her which was imperfect and different from her appearance, because she had created it without her consort.

Apocryphon of John)

Yaldabaoth becomes the first Archon or ruler and is the creator and architect of the material word and of humankind. His power is derived from his mother, Sophia, who becomes trapped in the material plane of existence. The qualities that are ascribed to Yaldabaoth are negative and his lust for power and control identify him as the Demiurge or " half-ruler" for example in the Old Testament and the Apocryphon of John we read of his arrogance in the boast that, "I am God and there is no other God beside me!" (the Apocryphon of John: II 11:20) He is also known as the "blind god."

2.3. The creation of Adam

The creation of man and the myth of Adam and Even can therefore be seen in terms of the drama of the fight between the false creator or the Demiurge and Sophia's attempts to rectify her initial mistake. In an attempt to gain power Yaltabaoth or the Demiurge decides to make on image of man.

The Demiurge is fact is tricked into breathing his power into the first man or Adam.

This leads to a great struggle better the powers of light and darkness or between Sophia and other Aeons and Yaltabaoth, for the divine spirit in humankind.

In essence, this leads perennial existential crisis in human creation. Humankind is trapped in a material world created by the Demiurge on the one hand and the efforts of Sophia and the Aeons to release man on the other.

"The negative powers imprison man in a material body, and also create woman and sexual desire to spread and diffuse the particles of light through procreation, thus making their salvation more difficult" (the Battle for the Spiritual Light).

The Archons therefore attempt to entrap Adam by making him flesh and mortal. They intend him to forget his divine origins. However, in the Gnostic myths Eve is seen to a large extent as Zoe, which means "Life." She is responsible for awakening Adam for the sleep of forgetfulness and for reminding him of the truth or "gnosis" of his origins. The study of the eating of the forbidden fruit is altered in the Gnostic texts in that Adam is awakened to the true knowledge of his origins and the divine world, which transcends the limits of the Demiurge. This is, according to the Gnostic myth, what causes the anger of the Demiurge of the Old Testament.

3. Conclusion

In conclusion, while there are obvious similarities, the story of Adam and Eve that we know in conventional doctrine differs considerably in many ways for the Gnostic myth. While there are permutations of the Gnostic myths, the creation of Adam and Eve are seen to be the result of a Fall that occurs with the birth or creation of the Demiurge. This error committed by Sophia the mother of the Demiurge, leads to the creation of the world and of humankind. The history of humankind and of Adam and Eve is therefore viewed in the Gnostic myth as the story of the struggle between the creator of this world, the false god, and the truth or gnosis of the divine Aeons. The conventional story of Adam and Eve as the instigators of the human fall from grace is therefore altered in the Gnostic myth. From this perspective, Adam and Eve are confined by the false god or Demiurge and the struggle for human salvation is one of awakening or knowledge of the true origins and history of humanity.

Works Cited

Apocryphon of John, from the Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, Ed,

(1981)

The Nag Hammadi Library. New York: Harper & Row., pp.103-4.

Barbelo - Ennoia. April 6, 2008. http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/bldefbarbelo.htm

Birth of a New Age. April 6, 2008. http://www.soul- guidance.com/houseofthesun/gnosticism.htm.

Dark Mirrors of Heaven: Gnostic Cosmogony. April 6, 2008. http://www.timelessmyths.com/mirrors/gnostic.php… [END OF PREVIEW]

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