Death - A supernal power that begot seven androgynous offspring. The males are Jealousy, Wrath, Tears, Sighing, Suffering, Lamentation, Bitter Weeping. The females are Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, Quarrelsomeness. In early Common Era Gnostic thought, death is the release from the prison of matter and the irreversible moment of transformation from one stage and experience of existence into another. After death, the soul ascends the path taken from spiritual existence to birth, when the soul fell into the temporal world of fatality and time.
Whenever I read Tarot cards, I can always tell if the Death card is coming up so I remind the person I'm reading for not to panic when they see that card because it isn't what it seems. Then I turn over the card and sure enough there it is. And it really isn't what it seems. I like the Gnostic take on death because they see it as far more meaningful an event that we usually do as the absolute end of life. But Gnosticism sees it as the beginning of a new kind of existence, one without a physical body and worth rejoicing on account of that, and also the return to Source - the pre-life dimension.
We fear death more than anything else, even more than stroke or cancer or Alzheimer's, and we see every disease as dreadful not just because it is a disease but because we fear it's the path that leads straight to death. Today, a man on my floor in the building died and had been there for several days before anyone knew it. When I opened my door to go downstairs I wondered what that awful smell was, like a dead racoon, and when I turned the corner and saw the policeman sitting on a bench in front of the elevator writing his report, I then knew what the awful smell was. I wonder if we would fear death less if it emitted the smell of roses, or perhaps if accompanying the horrible event, a sudden flock of blue butterflies appeared out of nowhere. Would we then be less fearful of it? I think probably so.
I wonder if the Powers That Be, Whoever They Be, could be persuaded to perhaps change the circumstances surrounding death so that butterflies and roses were involved but I would guess not. In actuality, the decomposition that begins at the moment of death, and that leads to that awful smell, is perfectly natural and in fact makes total sense. Everything that is in our body keeping us alive all of a sudden takes on a new purpose when we die and becomes the process which begins our spiritual return to Source and, paralleling that, our physical return to source - organic matter. If only it didn't smell so bad. The good/bad news is that, being dead, we can't smell it. And maybe that's the perfect logic behind it. What difference does it make how bad it smells if we're dead and can't smell it?
"For if only words which bear testimony were effecting salvation, the whole world would endure this thing and would be saved." (The Testimony of Truth, Gnostic papyri)
Decans - Thirty-six ten degree divisions of the zodiac. Egypt had a mystical astrology which included fantastic figures of decans, borrowed by Hellenistic astrology and all the middle ages of the east and west. Pharaonic astrology lent visages to the constellations and the decans. Sacred Book of Hermes to Asclepius was concerned mainly with the 36 decans and the parts of the body ruled by them. The Book of Pistis-Sophia describes the mysterious seals imprinted by decans on the hands, skull and rest of the body during its formation. The god of the 7th heaven is surrounded by archangels, decans and angels. Decanates are phases of 10 degrees of each sign of the zodiac.
"The lamp of the body is the mind." (The Dialogue of the Savior, Gnostic papyri)
Deir Anba-Palamun - The monastery of the abbot Palamun near the cliff tombs of Gebel et-Tarif where the Gnostic manuscripts were found. The manuscripts were very likely transcribed from Greek into Coptic at this Gnostic monastery. The monks of Palamun were hermits, considered Prophets, who led lives of strict asceticism. By withdrawing from the social world with all its distractions, and by becoming the solitary ones, they could gain the mystical and spiritual experience necessary to light the way for others.
"There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world." (Words of Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas, Gnostic papyri)
Diagram - A lost Ophite book diagramming their cosmogony. This work may have been a source for the diagrammatic outline of the Cabala Tree of Life (right). According to the Diagram, in the beginning is the infinite abyss and rising from there had been an infinite light and Father of all, the First Man (Kether). From him emanated a thought, the Son of Man (Chokmah), and then was emanated a feminine principle, the Holy Spirit, the First Woman, Mother of the Living (Binah). From these three and highest powers was born Christ (Tiphareth). In the far depths below them were elements of chaos and the abyss, water and darkness. Out of the waters of the abyss arose the androgyne Sophia (Malkuth) who fell down as far as the waters beneath, where matter clung to her and weighed her down. The strength of the light above her helped her raise herself up, where, outstretched, she forms the visible heavens and Horos, the Limit.
Sophia gives birth to a son from whom six others are born. The seventh son, Ialdabaoth, is filled with a desire for matter and produces a serpent, the same serpent who coaxed Adam and Eve in Paradise to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent is then cast down to earth where, in imitation of his father, he produces six sons who, together with himself, make up the seven devils (Qlippoth) who are ceaselessly at war with the human race - Adam and Eve - who are also cast down. In this cosmogony, as in the cabalistic texts, salvation occurs when Sophia, the dew of light, is reunited with the Father above.
According to Celsus, the esoteric Ophite Diagram contains a diagram of ten spheres circumscribed by one large sphere. The manuscript is filled with references to the Tree of Life, to re-ascent to the spiritual realms, and to metaphysical doors that open automatically. Mentioned are spheres within spheres, smaller spheres overshadowed by larger spheres, and barriers shaped like a double-axe. It could be conjected that 'barrier' is the symbolic meaning of the double-axe sword in Minoan art. Everywhere there is the Tree of Life and a resurrection from the tree.
Ptolemy, one of the greatest astronomers and geographers of ancient times, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, about 150 CE, described the outer world as being ten spheres circumscribed by one large sphere, just like that of the inner world of the Diagram. The Cabala Tree of Life is said to illustrate realities of both inner and outer worlds. All of these, the Cabala Tree of Life, possibly the Diagram of the Ophites, and the world-view of Ptolemy originate from some common, more ancient, source.
Dragon, Constellation of the - In antiquity, this constellation is identified as the axis of the world because 4000 years ago its star, Alpha, represented the North Pole. The axis has now shifted to Polaris of the Little Bear, our present Pole Star. The Dragon is called "Teli" in the Sepher Yetsira. Teli, sometimes described an having seven heads, is called the Great Serpent of Evil. The names and crowns on the seven heads of the serpent are those of the Edomite Kings, the descendants of Esau, who sold his birthright to his brother. The Edomite Kings symbolize chaos and injustice.
In the Sepher Yetsira the Dragon, Teli, is indispensable to the order of the world, so long as he keeps to his place. He is a great servant whose head reaches high above the earth and into the abyss. Teli turns the spheres (planets) from east to west and north to south. Without him, there would be no will to produce any created thing. This is the mystery of Paradise and the fall of man. As long as the good and the evil were linked together on the tree, Teli kept his place. When the harmony of the opposites on the tree was disturbed, Teli (identical to the Qlippoth) rose up to usurp Paradise, and Adam and Eve were cast out, constituting the "Fall of Man."
"Suddenly he revealed himself to them, approaching them in the form of lightning...Because of this, they were afraid and fell down, since they were not able to bear the appearance of the light which struck them...Therefore they fell down to the pit of ignorance which is called 'the Outer Darkness,' and 'Chaos' and 'Hades' and 'the Abyss.' (The Tripartite Tractate, Gnostic papyri)
Dualism - The oldest philosophy on Earth, as old as humanity, and the root of Gnosticism. Ancient Babylon and Persia first elucidated the philosophy of Dualism into a format that was accepted by a population. Platonic dualism stresses the difference between the visible/illusory world and the invisible/real world. Dualism is the philosophy of the cosmic duality of Truth and Error, Above (spiritual) and Below (material), and of the individual duality of body and soul. Paradise is the place of the synthesis of opposites, the state of being where every pair of opposites is united in a perfect sphere of harmony.
Dualism is a sentiment, a profound awareness, which can be awakened in anyone without their ever having knowledge of Gnosticism or ancient Persian and Babylonian cosmogonies. For this reason, a majority of religions are built around this concept of Dualism. Duality is an aspect of the One. Without duality, without opposites to unite, there can be no unity. Without separation, there can be no joy in union. The Manichaeans taught that gnosis amounted to the knowledge of duality, and that attainment of the gnosis causes the glow of the inner light within a person. The Manichaeans taught that the Holy Spirit brings the gnosis.
"When the Holy Spirit came, he revealed to us the way of truth and taught us that there are two Natures, that of the Light and that of the Darkness, separated from each other since the beginning."
Most Gnostics conceived of duality as occurring first as Light and Dark, second as Male and Female, and third as Truth and Error. The ruling powers of Error, Ialdabaoth and the Archons, were ignorant of the existence of the supreme divinity.
"Error is empty, having nothing inside." (The Gospel of Truth, Gnostic papyri)
"When knowledge draws near it, error becomes upset and does not know what to do. From this ignorance comes evil. As soon as God is known, 'ignorance
vanishes of itself, as the darkness vanishes when light appears.' (The Gospel of Truth, Gnostic papyri)
Error, an indirect emanation of the supreme divinity, was not always corrupt, just ignorant of its parentage. In this ignorance, the power assumed itself to be the highest god and ruled with goodness. It was not until the proud power realized there were higher powers that it set itself upon its present course of corruption. Even a divinity can fall from grace when guilty of ignorance and pride, two qualities leading straight to corruption. And when that divinity falls, so do its dominions.
It was this concept of duality, among others, that St. Augustine, a Manichaean for nine years, bequeathed to medieval Christianity. Nowhere is evil more magnificently depicted than in the Gothic art and architecture of the middle ages. The Christian Bible accords Satan a kingdom of its own. Satan, characterized as ruler of hell, is a cardboard figure compared to the interesting, intelligent, human, powerful, and corrupt Ialdabaoth of Gnosticism.
When will we ever rise above dualistic thinking? It's so hard to rise above it because it's comforting to so many to adopt it as a resident philosophy. With a left and right side of the brain, we embrace dualism without even thinking about it. But rising above it is what there is to do, or better still, allowing the rest of the world to come be part of the big circle. That is non-hierarchical thinking and as long as we predicate the workings of a universe on a linear model we are always going to be trapped in dualistic thinking. This is why Gnosis is so important and also why we don't get it from historical religions. There just isn't any benefit for them to release us from the bondage of dualism. They make mad buck off it and so, there you go. Life is like the Maze of Daedalus, you have to find your own way out and the only way out is the way you got in.
In the Beginning |