Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 7: The Phallic and Symbiotic Cults


The conquest of the lands of Canaan by the Hebrew invaders began by Judaicizing the agrarian cults that were honored by the vanquished and then by prohibiting and defaming their persistent practice. The same went for the rites adoring the Serpent, whose symbolism involved both phallic power and mysteries of fecundation.

Despite the danger that certain species present, serpents evoked by the grace of their movements the dance of love, to which the bodies of the lovers surrender themselves. Doesn’t the allegorical representation of health – the caduceus in which two serpents intertwine – conserve the memory of the force of life inherent in pleasure and its slow crawling? More than any other mythology, the Bible changed the serpent into an object of abjection, terror and evil.

I would like to conjecture that the religious spirit that substitutes itself for an analogical and totemic approach to the serpent – which in a certain way removed from it the perils of venom and strangulation – has emphasized to the point of hyperbole the danger of death that was emphasized even more by the anathema hurled against this part of life and pleasure, which was so hostile to the power of the Spirit and its priests.

The Hebrews annexed the cult of the serpent to their gestating monotheistic syncretism. These were the seraphim (the “seraphs,” much later changed into angels).

In Deuteronomy (8:15), nahash seraph designates the burning serpents that murder people in the desert. Numbers (21:6) speaks of nahashim seraphim. If the word seraph is applied to serpents, this is because of an idea about a “burning bite,” because the root of the word in Semitic [languages] is the verb “to burn” and, more precisely, in Jeremiah (7:31), the act of burning infants on the altar of Baal.[1]

Fecundation and expiating sacrifice of the newborn infant or animal inscribe themselves in the essence of the religions: the production of lives reduced to their power to work implies the destruction or the repression of non-productive libidinal energy.

The serpent (nahash, NHS) plays a predominantly sexual role in Genesis. It is a condemned sexuality, as is well illustrated by a Talmudic tradition (Aboda Zara, 22 b): “When the serpent possessed Eve, he inoculated her with filth.”[2] And Genesis is no less explicit in Adam’s resolution (3:20) to call his wife Hawwah (Eve), playing on the Hebrew word hayah, which expresses the idea of life, and the Aramaic hivyah, “serpent.” Much later, Clement of Alexandria would remark that, “if one thickens a little the pronunciation of the name of the first woman, one evokes in Jewish ears the word for the female of the serpent species.”[3]

Sexual initiation, with its wantonness or the art of caresses, originally increased the benefits of [having] the woman. The patriarch, whom the violation of the earth by agricultural plowing had carried to an absolute power, treated women in the same spirit of exploitation. The lascivious and feminine undulation of exuberant life fell under prohibition, while the phallic “plowshare,” symbolized by the bronze serpents that Moses held aloft in the desert, carriers of a deadly life, were erected as signs of power. The venom of those serpents impregnated women and nature, both condemned to produce until they were exhausted.

This serpent, the triumph and terror of virile politics, would be transformed in Hebrew mythology into Satan. Alan Rowe has shown the importance of the cult of the serpent at Beth-Shan, where he led a campaign of excavations. Beth-Shan was nothing other than the House of the Serpent-God and Shahan the divine serpent. Rowe remarks that shahan read backwards is nahash, the root NHS expressing in its diverse permutations the idea of the serpent in all the Semitic languages.[4]

It was to the archaic cult of the serpent – at the same time proscribed and recuperated by Judaism – that the sects that, at the time of their encounter with the various Judeo-Christianities and the Hellenized Christianities, attached themselves; they strove to integrate it into their myths of salvation, influencing certain of its tendencies before it fell under the condemnations of the New Prophecy and Catholicism.


The Naassenes or Ophites

Late and rudimentary study has left one in ignorance concerning the history of the sect that, between Judaic antiquity and its appearance in Egypt, and particularly in Alexandria, speculated upon the redemptive nature of the Serpent or NHS (nahas).

The Naassenism of Alexandria perhaps constituted a syncretism that brought together Jewish, Phoenician, Egyptian and Greek elements. The Phoenicians gave to the serpent the name Agathodaimon, “beneficent being” (the apotropaic meaning is not obvious). The Egyptians translated Agathodaimon as kneph, which one finds in the knouphis (coiled serpents) in amulets (abraxas). The contributions made by the old Ophidian cult of the Greeks would lend to Naassenism the belated name Ophitism.[5]

When Nazarenism gained importance towards the end of the First Century, the Naassenes, in their desire for ecumenical unity, did not reject the integration of the name Joshua/Jesus into their diverse list of names for their Ophis-Christos, their Serpent-Messiah: Kneph, Agathodaimon, NHS, and Abrasax.

Around 230-250, the competition between Jesus and the Ophis-Christos still worried Origen and made him indignant. Objecting to a Naassene prophet named Euphrates, he judged it useful to make this precise: “The Ophites are not Christians; they are the greatest adversaries of Christ.”

Moreover, the confusion between Christians and Naassenes proceeded from a tardy evolution, as Fossum remarks: “The serpent was transformed into a redeemer, while the God of the Old Testament was degraded into a harmful Demiurge, devoid of wisdom, named Ialdabaoth, who doesn’t know that there is a God above him.”[6]

Whatever the case, in the First Century, Naassenism entered into the quarrel of Messiahs that agitated the religious milieus on all sides. Despite the revisions and rewritings, both the Canonical Gospel attributed to John and the Apocryphal Gospel attributed to Thomas retained traces of a fundamental writing that belonged to the Naassene current in which the Ophis-Christos was substituted for the Iesous-Christos: “And just as Moses raised the Serpent in the desert, the Son of Man had to be elevated so that whomever believes in him will have eternal life” (Canonical Gospel attributed to John 3:14-15).[7]

Due to the necessity of falsifying history in order to demonstrate its antiquity, the Church advanced the idea that the Naassenes were inspired by Jesus and that NHS was a suffering and redeeming Messiah. Naassenism greatly preceded Christianity, but the Church even managed to draw inspiration from the martyrdom of the Master of Justice and Dusis. The primary nature of the seraphim that are the closest to God is that of the serpent, as the Book of Enoch recalls (20:7, 61:10, and 71:7). The serpent wanted to reveal to Adam and Eve the pleasure and knowledge in the union in which divine immortality dwells, and this is why the jealous God punished it, nailed it to the ground or, according to certain texts attributed to Moses, to the Tree of Life on which its skin hung, crucified.

The Gospel of Truth, discovered at Nag-Hammadi, still tells the story of the Garden of Eden from a Naassene point of view: the principle of divine wisdom – the equal of Sophia, the Angel-Messiah or the pneuma –, the serpent proposed to offer knowledge to Adam and Eve. The Jealous God prohibited them access to gnosis and, expelling them from Paradise, condemned them to a mortal destiny.

NHS, the serpent of knowledge and pleasure in the manner of the Kundalini, which awakens the body to its potential richness, introduced into the human being, both male and female, the vital breath, which became the pneuma or the Spirit in the cults.

From the fact that their Serpent-God penetrated into Eve and into Adam, breathing immortality into them, some people have inferred that the Naassenes practiced coupling in a lack of sexual differentiation that symbolically recreated the original androgyny. Perhaps it was to them that the remark, sometimes attributed to Simon of Samaria, was applied: “All earth is earth, and it does not matter where one sows seeds.”

No doubt there existed a diversity of sects in Naassenism, since certain tendencies advocated asceticism and thus approached Esseno-Christianity, while others practiced sexual liberty in the name of the fusion of man, woman and world intertwined in NHS.

The invocation of a primordial erotic entity is expressed in a representation that was frequently engraved on the talismanic stones or amulets in the form of a cameo, to which one gave the name abraxas through a deformation of the name of the power, Abrasax.

This was a tutelary God with the head of a rooster and legs in the form of serpents. Armed with a shield and a whip, he repelled hostile forces and erected himself in a phallic manner in the interior of an oval that symbolized the sex organs of women. Solar in its head and terrestrial in the ophimorphic legs that formed the supports of its sexual power, he was a God of fusion, the invocation of whom was modeled on the “song of the seven vowels”[8] that corresponded to the seven spheres that the initiate, elevated by amorous ecstasy, had to cross to attain the Great Power.

It is possible that, among the Naassenes, there developed the idea of health through sexual enthusiasm, quite close to Tantrism and dressing the thought of Simon up in religious garb.

The idea that the Logos, in the manner of a serpent that had coiled up in the form of a circle – thus forming the ouroboros or the serpent that bites its own tail, which often figured on the abraxas –, descended into matter and returned to God, from which it issued, suggested to the Naassenes an interpretation of Genesis that imitated Simon’s:

“The Ocean that flows in circles from high to low and low to high, and the Jordan that descends and resumes its course, are images of a single and same Logos that moves and constitutes the most intimate essence of the living world. Another symbol of this process is that of the serpent, naas or ophis, in the form of the serpent that bites its tail, thus figuring the cycle of becoming, the Hen to Pan. The serpent is the only object of their cult. ‘It is the humid element (the Ocean and the Jordan); without it, no being in the world could constitute itself, immortal or mortal, animate or inanimate. All is subject to it; it is good; it contains in a single horn, like the horn of a bull (Deuteronomy, 33:17), the beauty of all beings and it gives the grace of youth to each creature according to its own nature, because it impregnates all things “in the manner of the river that flows from Eden and divides into four branches”’ (Genesis, 2:10; Elenchos, V, 9:12-15). Eden, from whence flows the river, is the brain of man; the celestial spheres are the membranes that envelop the brain. The paradise that crosses the river is the head of man. The four branches in which it is divided, the Pison, the Geon, the Tigre and the Euphrates, are sight, sound, breathing and mouth. From the mouth comes prayer, the Logos as word; into the mouth comes nourishment, the spiritual nourishment obtained by prayer: ‘It gladdens, nourishes and forms the pneumatic, the perfect man.’”[9]

Likewise, according to the Elenchos (it is inevitable) – which seems to refer to a Christianized Naassenism because it radically differs from the philosophy of Simon – the Naassenes divided man “into three parts, of which the first is spiritual, the second psychical, and the third terrestrial. It is through knowledge of this man that knowledge of God begins: the knowledge of man, they say, is the beginning of perfection; the knowledge of God is its consummation” (Elenchos, V, 6:4-7). And the author of the Elenchos adds, accrediting a connection between some Naassenes and the Nazarenes: “Such are the capital points of the many doctrines that James, the brother of the Savior, transmitted to Mariamne.”

Who was Mariamne? Not the Jewish queen, the wife of Herod who was put to death at the age of 90 (she lived from 60 [B.C.E.] to 29 [C.E.]), but another name for the Jewish Achamoth, the Greek Sophia, who would become Miriam-Mary, the Virgin and Mother of the Savior in the evangelic novels about Jesus.

It was Mariamne, issued from the ancient Magma Mater, whom the Naassenes placed above Chaos. She engendered the Son of Man (Adam), of whom NHS was one of the incarnations in order to save the men of the bad world in which the Demiurge holds them prisoner, at least according to the Ophites whose doctrines are reported by the Elenchos. (Celsus speaks of Christians drawing their origin from Mariamne. Cf. Origen, Contra Celsum, V, 63.)

The work of the Demiurge produced corruption and death. Thus the Ophis-Christos, born to the Virgin Mariamne, intervened:

“‘Thus no one can be saved, nor rise again, without the Son, that is to say, the Serpent. In the same way that he brought down from above the imprints of the Father, he likewise, inversely, carried back up from down here the imprints of the awakened Father and he reprised the traits of the Father’ (Elenchos, V, 17, 78). The entire cycle is conceived as a natural cycle, one might say, almost physical. The superior Logos attracts to itself the spiritual element of matter: ‘As the Naphtha attracts to itself all parts of fire, or rather as the magnet attracts iron and only iron, as the beak of the sea hawk attracts gold and only gold, as amber attracts scraps of paper; thus the Serpent brings back from the world, at the exclusion of everything else, the perfect race formed in the image of the Father and likewise his very essence, such that it had been sent by him down here.’”[10]

Perates, Cainites, Nicolaites, Koukeens

The proliferation of the sects didn’t only affect Esseno-Baptism, but also characterized the great religious currents issued from other Judean and Samaritan sources. Naassenism was divided into rival groups, communities or Churches. In the doctrinal confusion of the first two centuries of the Christian era, the fundamental agreement among them proceeded less from the name and nature of the Messiah – NHS, Seth, Joshua, Dusis, Adam, Sophia, Barbelo, etc. – than from behavior marked by asceticism and the renunciation or abandonment of the pleasures of love, or by the release of constrained desires.

An aggressive remark in the Elenchos in fact provides an observation: “The priests and guardians of this doctrine were those whom one at first would call the Naassenes, from the Hebrew word naas, which means ‘serpent’; thereafter, they also called themselves Gnostics, claiming to be the only ones to know the depths of things. They were divided into many sects in order to form a multiple heresy that in fact, in reality, was only one heresy, because it was the same thing that they designated with different names, with the result that rivalries have profited at the expense of the doctrine” (Elenchos, V, 3, 3-4).

Koukeens, Phibionites, Stratiotics, Levitics, Perates, Cainites, Nicolaites – so many mysterious names: either local designations of groups anchored (despite their particularities) in a shared faith or the fantastical fruits of the heresiologues, who were always anxious to exhibit the chaos of the heterodoxies in order to emphasize the unity of the “true” belief in the “true” Messiah.

The preeminence of a saving Mother Goddess and a symbiotic cult of the phallic serpent brought a kind of unity to Naassenism, which was otherwise prey to behavioral variations that went from Essenean abstinence to the creative love advocated by Simon of Samaria.

According to the Book of Scolies, written by the Syrian heresiologue Bar-Konal, this was the poetic cosmogony of the Koukeens:

“God was born from the sea situated on the Earth of Light, which they call the Bright Sea. The Sea of Light and the Earth are more ancient than God.”

“When God was born from the Bright Sea, he sat on the waters, looked at them, and in them saw his own image. He extended his hand, took (this image), took it as a companion, made love with it and engendered with it a crowd of gods and goddesses.”

The idea of a God in love with his reflection, with his Spirit, with his Wisdom or Sophia, was not foreign to Judeo-Christian speculations on the nature of the Angelos-Christos.

The position of the Nicolaites appeared to be closer to Essenism:

“The Darkness (the abyss and the waters), rejected by the unbegotten Spirit, rose up, furious, to attack it; this struggle produced a kind of womb that, for the Spirit, engendered four Eons, which engendered fourteen others; after which the ‘right’ and ‘left,’ light and darkness, were formed. One of the superior powers emanated from the Spirit, Barbelo, the Celestial Sea, engendered the bad entity (Ialdabaoth or Sabaoth), creator of the lower world; but, repenting, she used its beauty to create [commencer] health from the inferior cosmos.”[11]

A rumor has it that the Nicolaites, a name that comes from a Bishop Nicolas, the governor of their community, were made the object of polemics, to which the Greek text of the Apocalypse attributed to John bears witness. If one remembers that a person with the same name, John, took for himself a Gospel originally derived from a Naassene midrash, it is not improbable that, at the end of the First Century – while the Judeo-Christian philosophers such as Cerinthus, Satornilus and the partisans of Saul/Paul confronted each other in Ephesus, Antiochus, Pergamon, Alexandria and Corinth – a program of Esseno-Christian reunification that excluded the old forms of Naassenism was added to the text of the original Jewish version. The text of the Apocalypse (2, 6, and 15-16) especially attacks the Nicolaites who were influential in Ephesus and Pergamon, where they seemed to have striven to reconcile Naassenism and Essenism.

In all probability, the Perates constituted a later branch of the Naassenes. In his study of WAW, the Hebrew letter that symbolizes the Messiah, Dupont-Sommers derives their name from the Greek word paratai, the “crossers,” those who cross the waters of corruption.[12] Perhaps they were confused with the Cainites, who, according to the Elenchos, believed that the serpent was “the sign with which God marked Cain to prevent him from being killed by those who encountered him” (V, 15).

In North Africa, Naassenes of the Cainite type rallied many adepts around a prophetess named Quintilla. These adepts professed the existence of two divinities. As with Marcion much later, their Demiurge was identified with YHWH. Cain, like the Serpent, was YHWH’s expiatory victory: “The serpent is Cain whom the God of this world did not agree to offer [as a sacrifice], while he agreed to the bloody sacrifice of Abel, because the master of this world wallows in blood.”[13]

It is possible that the Cainites of North Africa, who were absorbed by the Christianity of the New Prophecy (which was particularly influential in Carthage around 160-170), convinced it to give to its redeemer the generic name of the God who saves, Joshua/Jesus.

The sect of the Perates, which was perhaps contemporary with the Elenchos (it lingers upon it at great length), testifies to the existence of a late and Hellenized version of Naassenism.

The author of the Elenchos in particular rejects two prophets, bishops or founders of communities: Euphrates the Perate and Kelbes the Karystian.

“They gave themselves the name Perates because they believed that no creature can escape the destiny that waits for all engendered beings from their birth. Because what is engendered is necessarily corrupt [...] We, who are the only ones to know the necessary laws concerning creation and the road by which man entered the world, we are the only ones who know exactly how to live in it and cross over corruption [...] Death seized the Egyptians with their chariots in the Red Sea; the Egyptians are all those who are in ignorance – that is to say, all those who have not received gnosis. The exodus from Egypt was the exodus from the body; because the body, according to them, is a little Egypt; to cross the Red Sea is to traverse the waters of corruption, that is to say, Cronus; being from the other side of the Red Sea is to be from the other side of creation; to arrive in the desert is to find oneself outside of creation, there where the gods of perdition and the God of salvation meet up at the same time. The gods of perdition are the stars, which impose on engendered beings the fatality of a variable creation” (Elenchos, V, 16, 1 and 4).[14]

The interpretation that Simon of Samaria applied to the texts of the Bible are found here, but made from within the scorn for the body that is common to [all] the religions.

The Redeeming and Perfect Serpent was opposed to the serpents that inoculate [with] death. The following five quotes come from the Elenchos, V, 16, 6 sq.

“It isn’t only the Logos as primordial power issued from the Father who is the Serpent; the diverse powers that rule the terrestrial world are all serpents. Moses called the stars the serpents of the desert, which bite and kill those who want to cross the Red Sea. Also Moses showed to the children of Israel who had been bitten by the serpents in the desert the true and perfect Serpent; those who had faith in him were not bitten in the desert, that is to say, by the powers. Thus, no one can save nor defend those who left Egypt, that is to say, from the body and this world, other than the Perfect Serpent that is full of all plentitude. Those who put their hopes in him were not be destroyed by the serpents of the desert, that is to say, by the gods of creation. This is what is written in the book of Moses. The Serpent is the power that was attached to Moses, the Virgin who changes into a serpent.”

Note that the serpent as the principle of pleasure – defined as perdition by the Perates – was vanquished by the phallic symbolism of the staff of commandment.

“The serpents of the magicians of Egypt, that is to say, the gods of perdition, resisted the power of Moses. But his rod overcame them and destroyed them all. The serpent that embraces the universe is the wise Logos of Eve. It is the mystery of Eden; it is the river flowing from Eden; it is the sign with which God marked Cain to prevent him from being killed by anyone who encountered him. The serpent is Cain whom the God of this world would not agree to offer [as sacrifice], while he agreed to the bloody sacrifice of Abel, because the master of this world wallows in blood. It is the serpent that, most recently, in the time of Herod, appeared in a human form.”

Note that the Serpent incarnated in human form is evoked in the Semitic substrata of the Gospel attributed to John before it – like Melchizedek, Seth and the Master of Justice – was given the name Joshua/Jesus. The image of the crucified Serpent would be perpetuated in alchemical representations.

“[The serpent appeared] in the image of Joseph, who was sold by the hands of his brothers and who was dressed in a mottled robe only. It was in the image of Esau, whose robe received benediction, although he was absent, and who did not receive blind benediction, but who was enriched from beyond without receiving anything of blindness, whose face Jacob saw ‘as a man sees the face of God’ (Genesis, 33:10). It is of the serpent that it is written: ‘Like Nimrod the Giant, hunter before the Eternal’ (Genesis, 10:9). He had many adversaries, as many as there were serpents who bit the children of Israel in the desert and whose bites were healed by the Perfect Serpent that Moses would raise up in the midst of them [...] The bronze serpent that was elevated by Moses in the desert is in his image.”

Cf. the text of the Gospel attributed to John: “And as Moses raised a serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary that the Son of Man be raised” (3:14).

“He is the only one whose the celestial constellation is visible everywhere. It is the great ‘beginning’ of which Scripture speaks. It is of him that it is said: In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was at the side of God and the Logos was God. In the beginning, he was at the side of God; he made everything and nothing was made without him. What was made by him is life.”

Note that one finds this again in the same Gospel (1, 1-3). The Apocrypha of John also belonged to this Naassenean or Peratean literature.

“It is by him that Eve was made; Eve is life. This Eve is ‘the mother of all the living things’ (Genesis, 3:20), the nature that is common to all, that is to say, she is the mother of the gods and the angels, the immortals and the mortals, the beings without reason and the beings endowed with reason.”

One final note: Eve as the principle of life and universal mother also appears in the doctrines of the Barbelites.

Opposite the Logos, which is similar to the serpent, matter rises up and curls upon itself; it is appears under the symbol of water, which one also encounters among the Naassenes:

“Corruption is water and nothing destroys the cosmos as rapidly as water; water extends itself in the spherical form of the world. It is Cronus (understood to be the external planetary sphere of Saturn, that which encloses all the others). It is a power the color of water and, from this power, that is to say, from Cronus, no creature can escape, because it is due to Cronus that all creatures incur corruption and no generation exists that doesn’t have Cronus as an obstacle along its route. This is the meaning of the verse by the poet concerning the gods. ‘I can attest to the earth, the vault of the heavens that cover it and the deadly waters of the Styx. It is the sermon of the immortals gods’ (Odyssey, V, 184 sq.).”

The Elenchos quotes a fragment of a Peratean hymn:

“I am the voice of the awakening in the eternal night. I now begin to deliver the power from the control of the veils of chaos. The power of the abyssal clay that takes and carries the mold of the eternal and silent humidity; the entire power, always in movement, of the aqueous convulsions that carry the one who rests, hold the one who wobbles, liberate the one who comes, relieve the one who rests, destroy the one who believes; the loyal guardian of the trace of the airs, she who benefits from what is poured on the order of the twelve eyes, who reveals the seal on the power that rules the places of the invisible water, the power that has been called the sea. This power, which ignorance has called Cronus, Cronus who was enchained when he closed the trickle of the thick and nebulous, obscure and dark [River] Tartarus” (Elenchos, V, 14, 1-2).

The syncretism of the Perates was not content with harmonizing the Greek and Hebrew mythologies; it incorporated into its doctrine of salvation an astrological speculation, also present in Essenism and the Christianities of Bardaisan and Priscillian.

The universe and the individual knew an existence subjected to astral influences that the Perates identified with the power of the Archons, agents of the Demiurge. The art of the Serpent-Logos consisted in escaping from them.

“In the same way that the stars tend towards the center of the world in order to move away again, thus the entire Creation moves away from its center, the Divinity, in order to return to it. The fall is designated by the left side of circular movement; ascension is on the right side. The heavens themselves offer a great fresco of the combat between the Logos, the Good and Perfect Serpent, and the master of this world, the Bad Serpent. The Logos is figured by the constellation of the Dragon; it has on the right and left sides of its head the Crown and the Lyre. Before the Dragon is kneeling the ‘pitiful’ man, the constellation of Hercules, who touches the end of the right foot of the Dragon. Behind him, the Bad Master of the world, the constellation of the Serpent, approaches in order to abduct the Crown, but the Stink Dragon encloses it and prevents it from touching the Crown” (Elenchos, V, 16, 14-16).

Note that the theme of the two serpents is evoked in the Book of Isaiah (27:1).

Still later, Epiphanius of Salamis attributed to those whom he called “Ophites” a Eucharist in honor of the Serpent-Redeemer. (Certain sects practice this Eucharist today.)

“They pile bread on the table; they summon a serpent that they elevate as a sacred animal. One opens its cage; the serpent comes out, gains the table, unfolds itself among the bread and, they say, transforms it into the Eucharist. Then they break the bread upon which the serpent has crawled and distribute it to the communicants. Each one kisses the serpent on the mouth, because the serpent was tamed by the incantation, and they prostrate themselves before a similar animal. It is through the serpent, they say, that they send a hymn to the Father on high. Such is their manner of celebrating their mysteries” (Epiphanius, Panarion, XXXVII, 5).

From the serpent of the lewd temptation to the Ophis-Christos, passing through the phallic and magic rod of Hermes Trismegistus, the ancient totemism of the animal that coils, intertwines, wriggles, penetrates, unites and ejaculates venom or life was spiritualized and entered into religious stereotypes without losing its ambiguous nature.

Uprooted from its original androgyny – which certain Naassenean groups hostile to Puritanism celebrated – the ophis was made a Redeemer Messiah and a Destroyer Messiah, a virgin of iron and terror who reigned over nature, the beasts and women in order to impose on the world the order of pure renunciation, incarnated in Jesus, and the order of pure release, incarnated in Satan, the alter ego of the Messiah.

Perhaps it was also through the means of the Ophis-Christos that the cult of Hermes-Logos, which the Greeks called agathephoros, carrier of the good (as the agathodaimon), and which offered the erect phallus to popular veneration, succumbed to a kind of castration.

Whatever the case, Essenean asceticism invaded the Greco-Roman world and, under the antagonistic varieties of Marcionism and Montanism, propagated in it fanatical tastes for continence, mortification and the martyred body.

But while the rod of Moses was substituted for the “golden staff of Hermes,” the rites of sexual fusion undertook a vivacity sometimes less clandestine than one might suppose, since Epiphanius of Salamis would encounter the Barbelites, who called themselves “Christians,” thereby restoring to the word the sense of “messianic.” Their Messiah did not call himself Jesus, but Barbelo.

At the end of the Fourth Century, Priscillian of Avila would not judge it useless to make it clear: “God is not Armaziel, Mariamne, Joel, Balsamus, nor Barbilon; he is the Christ Jesus” (Corpus eccles. latin., XVIII, 29). Mariamne was the Mother-Spirit-Sophia-Virgin and Mother of the Naassenes. Barbilon was Barbelo, the sperm-eating and redeeming divinity of the Barbelites.


Justin the Gnostic and the Book of Baruch

In the mid-Second Century, Justin the Gnostic – a Greek who was familiar with the Jewish texts and the master of an esoteric school in which instruction was dispensed under the seal of the secret – drafted the Book of Baruch, of which the Elenchos conserved extracts. (It isn’t impossible that Justin frequented the milieus of Kabalistic Jews who, under the cover of Phariseean obedience, perpetuated and amplified the gnosis of the Hermetic groups of Egypt and Asia Minor.)

The Book of Baruch offers an example of Judeo-Greek syncretism, quite different from that of Justin’s contemporary, Marcion, which was elaborated on the basis of the authority of Saul/Paul.

Justin refers to a myth, reported by Herodotus, according to which Heracles made love with a being who was half-young woman and half-serpent, and who gave him three children. He drew from this a Trinitarian theology:

“‘There are three unbegotten Principles of the All’: two are masculine, one is feminine. The first masculine principle is called the Good; he is the only one to carry this name and he possesses a universal prescience; the second is called the Father of all things; he is deprived of prescience, unknowable and invisible. The feminine principle is also deprived of prescience; it is irascible, it has a double spirit and a double body and absolutely resembles the being in Herodotus’ myth, who was a young woman up to the sexual organs and a serpent above them. This young woman was called Eden and Israel. Such are the Principles of the All, the Roots and the sources from which all existence issues; there aren’t any others. The Father saw this half-woman, Eden, fell in love with her, ignorant that she was from the future. This Father was called Elohim. Eden fell in love with Elohim, and desire united them in the pleasure of love. From this union, the Father had twelve angels. Here are the names of the twelve angels of the Father: Michael, Amen, Baruch, Gabriel, Esaddea . . . (the seven other names are missing from the manuscripts). The names of the maternal angels born to Eden are the following: Babel, Achamoth, Naas, Bel, Belias, Satan, Sael, Adonea, Kanithan, Pharaoth, Karkamenos, and Lathen. Of the twenty-four angels, some (the angels of the Father) serve the Father and do his bidding; the maternal angels serve Eden. The ensemble of these angels form the Paradise of which Moses spoke: ‘God planted a garden facing the East’ (Genesis, 2:8), that is to say, opposite Eden, so that Eden would always be able to see Paradise, namely the angels. The angels are allegorically named the trees of this paradise: the Tree of Life is Baruch, the third of the paternal angels; the Tree of the Science of Good and Evil is Naas, the third of the maternal angels. It is thus, he says, that one must explain the words of Moses; Moses veiled his expression because everyone wasn’t capable of comprehending the truth. When Paradise was constituted by the love of Elohim and Eden, the angels of Elohim prayed a little to the most noble of the earth, that is to say, not the bestial parts of Eden, but the noble regions of the earth, those that are placed above the sex organs and are similar to man, and they made man. The bestial parts serve the savage beasts and the other animals. They made man as a symbol of the amorous union of Elohim and Eden, and they mirrored their powers in him: Eden the soul and Elohim the pneuma. Here is how Adam is like the seal, the pledge of the love and the eternal symbol of the wedding of Eden and Elohim. Moreover, Eve was made, as Moses wrote, to be an image and a symbol, to conserve in her the imprint of Eden for all eternity. And likewise in the image that is Eve, Eden deposited the soul and Elohim deposited the pneuma. Then Adam and Eve received the commandment: ‘Increase and multiply, and fill the world’ (Genesis, 1, 28), that is to say, Eden. Such is the meaning of the Scripture. At her marriage, Eden gave to Elohim all her power in the guise of a fortune. It is in the example of this first marriage that women, to this day, still give a dowry to their spouses, loyal in this way to the divine law of their first parents, observed the first time by Eden with regard to Elohim. When all was created as Moses describes it (the heavens and the earth and all the creatures that it contained), the twelve angels of the Mother divided into ‘four principles’ and each of these four parts bore the name of a river: Pison, Gihon, Tigress and Euphrates, as it was written by Moses. The dozen angels, distributed among the four groups, wandered the world in all directions and were invested with a lieutenancy over the Cosmos by Eden. They never remained in the same place, but, as in a round, they made the rounds, ceaselessly changing place and, at regular intervals, ceding the places that had been attributed to them.

“When Pison ruled over a region, famine, distress and tribulations made their appearance there, because this group of angels bring with them a period of avarice. Likewise, each part of the world is the theater of plagues and sicknesses that follow the power and nature of the groups that dominate it. This deluge of evil, which varies with the group that is dominant, ceaselessly enlaces the universe in its inexhaustible wave, following the decree of Eden. Here is how this fatality of evil was instaurated. After having constructed and fashioned the world through his loves, Elohim wanted to regain the superior regions of the heavens to see that nothing was missing from his creation and he took with him his respective angels; his nature carried him towards the High, but he wanted to leave Eden here below, because Eden, being earth, did not want to accompany the ascension of her spouse. Reaching to the frontiers of the heavens, Elohim saw a light more powerful than the one he had created; he said, ‘Open for me the doors so that I may enter and praise the Savior; because I have believed until now that I was the Savior’ (deformed citation of Psalms, 118:19). From the heart of the light, a voice responded: ‘Here is the door to the Savior, the just can pass through it’ (Ibid., 20). As soon as the door opened, and the Father (Elohim) entered among the Good without his angels and he saw what the eyes have not seen, what the ears have not heard and what the heart of man has not conceived. Then the Good said to him: ‘Sit on my right’ (Psalms, 110:1). But the Father said to the Good: ‘Savior, let me destroy the Cosmos that I have created because my pneuma remains imprisoned in man and I want to reclaim it.’ The Good responded: ‘Now that you are close to me, you can no longer do evil; by your reciprocal love, you and Eden, you made the world; thus leave Eden to enjoy the creation for as long as it pleases her; as for you, remain close to me.’ Seeing herself abandoned by Elohim, Eden tearfully assembled around herself her own angels and dressed herself splendidly in the hope that Elohim would again fall in love with her and re-descend towards her. But Elohim, who found himself under the authority of the Good, did not re-descend towards Eden. Then she commanded Babel, who is Aphrodite, to provoke the adulterous and divorced men; she had been separated from Elohim: she wanted the pneuma that dwells in man be tortured by sad separations and suffer, as she herself did from the fact of her abandonment. And Eden gave to Naas, her third angel, a great power and the mission to punish in all ways the pneuma of Elohim that lives in men; she thus punished Elohim in his pneuma because he had abandoned his wife, despite giving his word. Seeing this, the Father Elohim sent Baruch, his third angel, to the aid of the pneuma that resides in every man. Upon his arrival, Baruch placed himself in the midst of the angels of Eden, that is to say, the middle of Paradise (because Paradise is the angels in the milieu in which they stand) and commanded to the men: ‘You can eat from all the Trees of Paradise, but you can not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,’ which is the serpent; that is to say, you will obey the other eleven angels of Eden, because if they bear the passions, they do not bear injustice. The serpent approached Eve, seduced her and committed adultery with her, which is contrary to the Law; then he approached Adam and committed the act of pederasty with him, which is also against the Law. It was from that moment that adultery and pederasty existed. It was from that moment that evil and good have ruled over men; the two have the same origin, the Father, Elohim. In fact, by elevating himself toward the Good, the Father showed the way to those who want to climb; by descending toward Eden, he was at the origin of evil for the pneuma that is in man. Baruch was thus sent to Moses and, through Moses, he taught the children of Israel the means of returning to the Good. But the third angel of Eden, Naas, who, through the soul issued from Eden, lived by Moses as in all other men, suffocated the prescriptions of Baruch to his own profit. This is why, on the one hand, the soul is subjected to the pneuma and, on the other hand, the pneuma is subjected to the soul. Because the soul is Eden; the pneuma is Elohim; both are found among all the human beings, men and women. Then Baruch was sent to the prophets so that the pneuma that lives in man would hear the prophets and tear themselves away from the bad works of the body, as the Father Elohim had done. This time again, Naas, with the help of the soul that, with the pneuma of the Father, lives in man, led the prophets astray; all let themselves be tampered with and they did not obey the words that Elohim had confided to Baruch. Finally, Elohim chose a prophet from the milieu of the uncircumcised and he sent him to combat the twelve angels of Eden and to deliver the Father from the twelve bad angels of the creation. These combats were the twelve labors of Hercules, labors that he accomplished in order, from the first to the last, by fighting the lion, the hydra, the wild boar, etc. Those are the names that strangers to the faith have given to the angels to express metaphorically the particular activity of each of the Mother’s angels. While he seemed to have succeeded in putting them all down, he banded together with Omphalos, who is none other than Babel, Aphrodite; she seduced Hercules and stole his power, which consisted in the commandments that Elohim had confided to Baruch and she, in exchange, dressed him in her robe, that is to say, in the power of Eden, the power of below. Thus the prophetic mission and the labors of Hercules were aborted. Finally, in the days of King Herod, Baruch was once again sent here-below by Elohim” (Elenchos, V).

The following offers a typical example of interpolation. At the earliest, it dates from the Fourth Century, since Nazareth didn’t exist before then.

“Having come to Nazareth, he found there Jesus, the Son of Joseph and Mary, a child of twelve years, occupied with tending his sheep; he revealed to him the entire history of Eden and Elohim from the beginning and into the future, and he said to him: ‘All the prophets who have come before you have let themselves be seduced; thus you are tasked, Jesus, Son of Man, with not letting yourself be seduced, but to announce the Word to men, to communicate to them the message touching upon the Father and the Good, then to return up to the Good and sit there, at the side of Elohim, our Father to all.’ Jesus obeyed the angel and said: ‘Lord, I will do all this,’ and he began to preach. Naas wanted to seduce him but he escaped, because Jesus was loyal to Baruch. Furious at not being able to lead Jesus astray, Naas crucified him. But Jesus left on the cross the body of Eden and climbed toward the Good. He said to Eden: ‘Woman, take your son,’ that is to say, the psychical man and the terrestrial man. Then he remitted his pneuma into the hands of the Father and he elevated himself toward the Good” (Elenchos, V, 26).

It is with pertinence that Leisegang detects in Justin and his mythology the echoes of an amorous torment, hypostasized as a cosmic drama. I leave the floor to the exegete. His sympathy for that vindictive man and his antipathy for the woman, here accorded to the sentimental interest that he sees in Justin, shows quite well the sensual origin of all hairesis, all the choices that are supposedly religious or ideological.

“Amorous desire and its satisfaction: such is the key to the origin of the world. The disillusions of love and the vengeance that follows them, such is the secret of all the evil and egotism that exists on the earth. The entire history of the world and humanity becomes a love story. We seek, we find, we separate, we torture ourselves, then, finally, faced with a more acute pain, we renounce: that is the eternal mystery of love with the contradiction, intrinsic to love, that makes us desire to be delivered from women and the feminine. All this marks a fine intelligence concerning the essential differences that separate men from women. The tragedy of the destiny of the universe begins with the amorous impulse that carries its Creator to leave the domain of the Good. By descending toward Eden, who watches out for him, Elohim is charged with the first fault, into which a free decision and, at the same time, a natural instinct entered. If one considers that he left his wife, that he did not descend from the heavens to return to her, and that he repented of the consequences of his love and wanted to destroy all that issued from him, his guilt is enormous. Though his conduct might well appear, from the angle of the earth, to be a frightful infidelity, it was much less culpable than the conduct and the vengeance of Eden in which she found a partial justification. One thinks of a remark by Nietzsche: ‘Man fears the woman who loves: she will not recoil before any sacrifice, and all the rest will appear to her as without value. Man fears the woman who hates: because man in the depths of his heart is malicious; but the woman is bad’ (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. G. Bianquis, Paris, Aubier, 1946, p. 153). Eden was malicious: she did everything to thwart the ceaselessly renewed efforts by Elohim to efface the evil issued from him; efforts that would end after millennia of perseverance. Also sympathy was shared between Eden and Elohim. The sadness of God before the fatal consequences of his love and the distress of the disappointed woman both aimed at awakening the sympathy and emotions of the man who, in his poor little existence, let himself engage in this tragedy of love and have the experience of it. That Elohim finally reached salvation at the cost of laborious efforts, and that Eden, bent on saying no and impeding the work of the Good, found her tragic end in an eternal abandonment and was no more than a de-spiritualized cadaver: this responds to the sentiment of justice, which demands the most severe punishment for irreconcilable hatred.”[15]

The Adepts of Barbelo

Around 335, the young Epiphanius of Salamis, a future master-thinker of the Church and the author of a denunciatory list of heresies titled Panarion kata pason ton aireseon (“Medicine chest against all the heresies”), adhered to a sect that still called itself “Christian” in the Greek sense of “Messianic.”

Its Christ or Messiah, named Barbelo, who was a modern emanation of the ancient Goddess-Mother, revealed herself in the features of a Sophia who would be the exaltation, not of the pneuma in the spiritual sense, but of the breath of life, the sensual power of the body.

Tormented by guilt, and later on converted to the frenzies of asceticism, Epiphanius overwhelmed his first co-religionists with the same indignant rage with which Augustine of Hippo repudiated the Manichaeism of which he had been a zealous partisan.

Among the books that propagated the Barbelite doctrine, Epiphanius cites the Book of Ialdabaoth, the Apocalypse of Adam, the Gospel of Eve, the Book of Seth, the Book of Noria, the Prophecies of Barkabbas (cited by Basilides), the Ascension of Elie, the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of the Apostles, the Great and Small Interrogations of Mary, the Gospel of Philippe and the Gospel of Perfection.

Several hypotheses have been put forth concerning the name of the Goddess. For Leisegang, it derived from the Hebrew Barbhe Eloha, “in four is God,” an allusion to the divine tetrad, not the tetragrammaton YHWH, but the ancient Semitic heavenly group: El the Father, the Mother (his wife), their sons and daughter, who became Father, feminine pneuma, Son, [and] Messiah or Christ. Others see in it a deformation of baal Belo or the cult of the divinity named Bel, issued from the rites of fecundity and light, still vital in Samaria despite the Yahwehist implantation, nay, even an emancipation from Anath. In the Book of Baruch by Justin the Gnostic, the entity Babbel is identified with Aphrodite.

According to the report made by Epiphanius: “They adore a certain Barbelo, who lives, they say, in the eighth heaven and who issued from the Father. She is, according to some, the mother of Ialdabaoth; according to others, the mother of Sabaoth. Her son exercises over the seventh heaven a tyrannical authority and says to his subjects: ‘I am the Eternal and there isn’t any other; there isn’t any other God except for me’” (Panarion, XXV, 2 sq.).

The tyrannical Eternal is none other than YHWH, the God of the Judeans, identified by anti-Judean Jewish gnosis and then by Hellenic gnosis with the Demiurge, the bloody God, popularized under the name Ialdabaoth or Sabaoth; he presides over the destinies of an irremediably bad world. That YHWH-Ialdabaoth was the son of the Goddess-Mother here recalls the eviction of the cults of the Woman and Mother by the patriarchy that acceded to power with Neolithic agriculture.

By understanding such words, Barbelite mythology says, the mother of the divine despot decided to save humanity from the miserable lot to which God had reduced it. How did she resolve to restore the power that an odious son has stripped away? By ruse and seduction. She presented herself to the Archons, the servants of the Savior, in the voluptuous majesty of her femininity and, having excited their desires, received their sperm “so as to thus restore her power, disseminated into the different beings” (Panarion, XXV, 2 sq).

The faithful to Barbelo thus imitated the saving gesture of the Goddess and, with the good conscience of an offering, abandoned themselves to the pleasure of making flow – in place of the blood that so many religions shed – the sperm and the cyprine [vaginal lubrication] whose the emission revives the energy of the Natura Magma.

In a passage that much later would inspire the inquisitors who accused Catharist and Vaudoisian ascetics of debauchery, Epiphanius reports the use of a sign of recognition, attested to by the Messalians, Beghards and Beguines, that – before the hedonist fashion for sexual liberties of the Twentieth Century – was long perpetuated among the young people, who indicated, by a caress in the palm of the hand, the imperious character of their desire:

“They have, from men to women and from women to men, a sign of recognition that consists, when they give their hands in order to greet each other, in practicing a kind of tickling in the palm of the hand if the newcomer belongs to their religion. As soon as they recognize each other, they have a banquet. They serve delicious food, eat meat and drink wine; even the poor ones do this. When they have banqueted well, and have, if I may say so, filled their veins with a surplus of power, they move on to debauchery. The man leaves his place at the side of his wife by saying to her: ‘Raise yourself and accomplish the agape [love feast] with the brother.’”

Note that the Christian Churches that claimed Thomas for themselves allowed for the existence of an amorous relation between Jesus and Salome: “Salome said: ‘Who are you, man? From whom do you (issue) to be on my bed and to have eaten at my table?’” (Logion, 65 of the Hidden Words that Jesus the Living said to Judas Didymus Thomas, popularly known under the title Gospel of Thomas). In the same order of ideas, the First Epistle attributed to John (3:9) declares: “Whomever is born from God does not commit sin, because the sperm of God lives in him; and he can not sin because he is born from God. In this one can recognize the children of God and the children of the Devil.”

The man and the woman take care to receive the sperm between their hands and they pledge it to the Goddess-Mother so that she can fortify life in the world and also in them.

The sect frequented by Epiphanius offers an example of an archaic belief of the orgiastic type that was degraded by successive syncretisms; even the Christianity erected at Nicaea as the religion of the State was impregnated by the currents in which it was at first formulated before settling down as a political and theological doctrine. Many tendencies fundamentally hostile to Christianity would survive by adapting themselves with more or less flexibility to the norms imposed by Rome (the recuperation of the Celtic or Slavic mythologies, which were incorporated into the cult of the saints, is exemplary in this regard, as Robert Graves has shown).[16]

In the case of the Barbelites, who were tardily denounced by Epiphanius, perhaps communion of the Christian type replaced the tribute formerly rendered to the “breath of life” that strongly expressed amorous pleasure. As Leisegang recalls, “the word pneuma is immediately tied to the evocation of a spermatic, reproductive matter. At the beginning, the pneuma had absolutely nothing to do with spirit; it was the ‘wind,’ is was a ‘hot air.’ The conception according to which it is a pneuma-wind, and not a pneuma-spirit, that engenders human life, is encountered in the Greek tradition.”[17]

The idea of a sperma that generated of life, of a substance that creates man and the world, is not absent from the Greek translation of “Spirit” by the word pneuma as it appears in the Old and New Testaments, but, little by little, it obliterated the most unacceptable element for a society dominated by religion: the act of self-creation, the creation of the world and the uncertain creation of the child who contains in his or her substance the amorous union of man and woman. The masked reality ironically resurged among a few playful stoics and the voluntarily castrated Origen under the traits of the logos spermatikos that became, in Saint-Sulpicean imagery, the language of fire of the Pentecost.

For the Barbelites, man and woman possessed the pneuma, the breath of God, in their own seeds [semence]. And the individual came closer to the divine essence as he or she radiated from his or her spermatic power and dispensed it in a symbiotic [fusionnel] orgasm.

“To unite with God,” Leisegang specifies, “one must mix and merge together one’s semen [semence] with the generating substance of the All. Salvation consists in removing one’s semen from terrestrial destination and leading it back to the celestial source of all semen.”[18]

Here is what Epiphanius of Salamis reports about the group in which was an adept:

“They offer to the Father, to the Nature of the All, what they have in their hands by saying: ‘We offer to you this gift, the body of the Christ.’ Then they eat it and commune in their own ignominy, by saying: ‘Here is the body of the Christ, here is the Easter for which our bodies suffer and are constrained to confess the passion of the Christ.’ They also do it with the menses of the woman. They gather the blood of impurity and commune with it in the same way. And they say: ‘Here is the blood of the Christ.’ When they read in the Apocalypse ‘I see a tree that bears fruit twelve times a year, and it says to me: it is the tree of life,’ they allegorically interpret it as the flux of menstrual blood of the woman.”

Epiphanius did not understand or didn’t want to understand that the Christ, the Messiah of the Barbelites, was not Joshua/Jesus, but Barbelo, whom Priscillian would call Barbilon. Epiphanius goes on to say:

“Although they practice a promiscuous commerce, they teach that one must not procreate children. Because it isn’t with the goal of procreation that they practice shameful acts, but for the sake of pure sensual pleasure (…). They engage in the sensual act until satisfaction; they collect the semen of their impurity, preventing it from penetrating and ending in a conception; then they eat the fruit of their shame.”

When Barbelo gave birth to the odious breed of the Eternal – YHWH-Ialdabaoth-Sabaoth (also called Kalakau) – she revoked her status as mother to be celebrated as the woman impregnated by the pleasure and love that she dispensed. Also the Barbelites had recourse to a voluntary form of interrupted of pregnancy, which doesn’t lack interest.

“When one among them, by surprise, let his semen penetrate too early and the woman became pregnant, listen to what they made still more abominable. They extirpated the embryo as soon as they could seize it with their fingers; they took the runt, crushed it into a kind of mortar, mixed in honey, pepper and different condiments, as well as perfumed oils, so as to conjure away distaste, then they united [...] and each communed with his fingers in this runt paste. The human meal completed, they concluded with this prayer to God: ‘We have not allowed the Archon of sensual pleasure to mock us, but we have welcomed the error of the Father.’ This is, to their eyes, the perfect Easter [...] Then, in their meetings, they enter into ecstasy; they smear their hands with [...] their seminal emissions; they extend them and, their hands thus sullied and their bodies entirely naked, they pray to obtain through this action free access to God. Men and women, they treat their bodies day and night with salves, baths and spices, and they devote themselves to sleep and drinking. They curse someone who is fasting by saying: ‘It is not necessary to fast, because fasting is the work of the Archon that created the Eon.’

Here “the Eon” refers to the God who created the world (the Eon). The expression “Eon” is frequently found in the letters allegedly written by Paul, but translators have unfailingly made it their duty to render it as “world,” “century” or “epoch” so that the Gnostic connotation is avoided.

Epiphanius concludes: “[In the words of the Barbelites who cursed people who fasted], ‘it is, on the contrary, necessary to nourish oneself so that bodies are powerful and capable of carrying fruit in their time’” (Panarion, XXVI, 4-5).

Note that the Gospel of the Egyptians also justified the refusal to engender children: “And Mary-Salome demanded of the Savior: ‘Master, when will the reign of Death end?’ And Jesus responded: ‘When you women no longer make babies. . . . When you have removed the garments of shame and ignominy; when two become one; when the male and the female become one; when there is no longer man or woman, that’s when the reign of Death will end. . . .’ Salome responded: ‘Have I thus done well, Master, by not being a mother?’ And Jesus said: ‘Eat all the fruits, but from what is bitter (maternity), do not eat anything’” (quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Stromates, III, IX, 66, and by the Second Epistle to the Church of Corinth attributed to Clement).

In its most radical elements, the Barbelite doctrine was similar to the teachings of Simon of Samaria: the body is the earth, whose creative power merits the exclusive attention of men and people. The goal is the fusion of the me and the world, but, while Simon identified the consciousness of pleasure and the consciousness of self-creation, the Barbelites, obeying a religious solicitation, ended in a mystical vision of pleasure that, in the last instance, was a tribute of the soma to the Spirit and the divine.

Like Tantrism, Barbelo, the orgiastic Goddess and sucker of the universal sperm, turns the pleasures of life into a heavenly duty, and sensual pleasure into a ritual obligation. Therefore what’s disgusting is not sensually communing in sperm and abnormal excitation, but the travesty of amorous exaltation as an ejaculation of the sacred.

The Barbelite religion fomented a theology that was quite anterior to that which Catholicism would impose after Nicaea.

Two forces were opposed: the Good God, of whom Barbelo was the emanation, and the God who had created the bad world. By the road of orgasm, Barbelo led man back to the Kingdom of Light, from which the Demiurge was exiled in order to enslave it to its odious authority.

“In the beginning was the Darkness, the Abyss and the Water; the pneuma was among them and separated one from the other. But the Darkness became angry and grumbled about the Spirit; it advanced but the pneuma seized it and impregnated it with a being named metra (matrix). Once born, this being was impregnated by the same pneuma. From the matrix came four Eons; from the four Eons came fourteen others and there was a left matrix and a right matrix, Light and Darkness. Later on, after all those who preceded it, there appeared a deformed Eon; this united with the metra that manifested itself in the heights and it was from this frightful Eon that came the Gods, angels, demons and the seven spirits” (Panarion, XXV, 5).

“The Book of Noria – Noria is not the daughter of Adam, as she was among the Ophites, but the wife of Noah – recounts that Noria did not enter the Ark, because she wanted to kill the Creator of this world along with the rest of humanity: because she did not serve this Creator but the superior powers and Barbelo, the enemy of the Archon. Noria set fire to the Ark three times, from which one must conclude that ‘what was stolen from the Mother of the heights by the Archon who created the Cosmos and the other gods, angels and demons, we must take back from the power that is in the body, by means of the seminal emissions of man and woman’” (Panarion, XXVI, 1, 8-9).

It is in the Gospel of Eve (the Hebrew word Hawwah means “life”) that the symbiotic aspiration of the Barbelites – the identity of the me and the world that offers the radiant presence of love in the flash of pleasure – appears with an astonishing poetry:

“I went up a high mountain and I saw a man of high stature and another one, who was shriveled [these are the Good God and Barbelo, hardened and diminished by the fear of his power], and I heard a voice like thunder, and I advanced so as to listen and it said to me:

‘I am you and you are me,
‘and where you are, I am,
‘and in all things I am inseminated.
‘And if you want it, you can gather me together
‘And if you gather me together, you will also gather yourself’”

(Panarion, XXVI, 3, 11).


[1] W. Dulière, De la dyade à l’unité par la triade, Paris, 1965, p. 76.

[2] Rapporté, Ibid., p. 78.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] J. Matter, Histoire critique du gnosticisme, Paris, 1828, t. II, p. 53.

[6] Fossum, op. cit., p. 268.

[7] Quoted by Leisegang, La Gnose, Paris, p. 81.

[8] Delatte, op. cit., p. 78.

[9] Lesisegang, op. cit., p. 100.

[10] Ibid., p. 103.

[11] S. Hutton, Les gnostiques, Paris, 1976.

[12] A. Dupont-Sommer, La doctrine gnostique de la lettre WAW, Paris, 1961.

[13] Leisegang, op. cit., p. 104.

[14] Following Leisegang, op. cit., p. 101.

[15] Ibid., p. 115.

[16] R. Graves, La Déesse blanche, Paris, 1986. [Translator: this book was originally published in English in 1948 as The White Goddess.]

[17] Leisegang, op. cit., p. 133.

[18] Ibid., pp. 135 and 136.


(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2013. All footnotes by the author, except where noted.)



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