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Mead’s Spheres, and the Monad

by Thomas Saunders

There is an ancient but common type of meditation that stems from the idea that the universe was once an empty space. Various theories fill this space with what they perceive as God. Sethian Christians were students of Pythagorean philosophy, and the study of the Monad. Many were students of John the Baptist, like Dositheos, Mary, Philip, and Simon Magus, and probably somebody told Jesus about it….These people learned to fill the empty space with Jesus Wisdom, as the Word, Jesus as the Monad, (One).

The term Monadology came into the scientific lexicon due to the work of Gottfried Leibnitz, who is known to have effected the scientific views of Benjamen Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. They knew a theory of the Monad came from Pythagoreans, but they didn’t realize its full potential. Sethian Christianity is organized with both a solid epistemology, and a viable metaphysics. This is a bold claim, but some who have experienced it know for sure.

Unfortunately, Mead and early students of Gnosticism did not have the number of Sethian texts available today, which has permitted my discovery that the Pythagorean model of the Monad, is based upon the theories of the flow of energy found in ancient Chinese theories of the Tai Chi. I found in what is known as Ba Gua Science, or the study of trigrams, the Monadic sequence works the same way. The famous philosopher Fung Yu-lan, author of “The History of Chinese Philosophy dedicates part of his study of the Tai Chi, comparing it to Pythagoras. He falls short of disclosing some facts about Ba Gua science, but these principles are prima facie the same in the Sethian Monadology. In short it seems Pythagoreans learned the Tai Chi science, and converted it to their Monadology.

The following should help explain that connection. But I have incorporated Mead’s spheres, and as a meditation, they should blow your Mind….. I use his description because the alternative is a very complex explanation of both Tai Chi, and how it works, and relates to the Tai Chi. Using Mead’s sphere is seemingly more fun.

“G.R.S. Mead’s ‘‘Fragments of a Faith Forgotten,” reveals some amazing insight into how he describes the Monad, and looks into the Pleromic vision. Mead does not realize the full potential of the metaphysics he is talking about. I would not have thought to use the ‘spheres’ model, because it conforms with what Leibnitz formulated for the Monad, as matter. An atom works inside a space, much like a sphere. Matter does not survive, which is a standard understanding in Sethian Christianity. Mead writes….

“The intelligent student of symbolism will thus endeavour to free his mind from the limitations of three-dimensional space, and think within into the state of the so-called “fourth dimension.” For it is only along this line of thought that there is any hope of the faintest conception of æonic being. As the matter is of the first importance for a student of Gnosticism, and at the same time one of great difficulty, the following line of thought may be suggested as a preliminary exercise. Think of an atom, or monad, as a sphere which generates itself, or swells out, from a point and refunds itself again into that point. This gives the simple idea of position. Take two of such spheres at the same moment of expansion, that is to say two equal spheres, and place them in mutual contact. This can be done in an infinite number of ways, so that they may be in any direction the one with the other.

Reduce these spheres in thought to mathematical points, and we have the simplest idea of extension–one dimension. The two points are the extremities or boundaries of a line.

Next, take three similar spheres and bring them into mutual contact. They can be placed in any direction the one to the other. Reduce them in thought to points, and we have three points not in a straight line, lying in a plane surface, or superfices of two dimensions. Then take four such spheres and bring them into mutual contact. Reduce them in their turn to points, and their positions require space of three dimensions. Finally, take five such spheres and try to imagine how they can be brought into mutual contact, that is to say, how each one can touch all the rest. This cannot be imagined in three dimensions, and requires the conception of another “dimension”–something to do with the content of the spheres–the idea of “through.” This does not seem to be so much a “fourth dimension” as an involution of perception, retracing the path we have so far followed.

For instance, three-dimensional space is for normal sight bounded by surfaces; those who have inner vision (“four-dimensional” sight) say that the contents of an object–e.g., a watch–appear, in some incomprehensible way, spread out before them as on a surface. If this is so, then three-dimensional space, the fourth link in our chain, is the turning point, and hence consciousness turns itself inwards once more towards the point, which when reached will become the illimitable circumference, or pleroma of consciousness–the nirvanic “atom,” so to say.” (Ibid, Mead)

Part of what Mead is saying about the nirvanic ”atom” is true, but the idea is formulated on the idea that the Monad is matter. The Gnostic knows that matter dies, but Spirit, or the energy of the Soul, can live on. This means the concept of the Monad, has to be panentheistic, it transcends matter. The Soul has to be put into terms that can transcend into the Pleroma. This requires an understanding of both epistemology, and metaphysics.

Sethian Christianity postulates that Jesus is the Monad. This means Jesus as the Word, and this means the first unit or type in a Monadic sequence. Students of the Tai Chi would recognize this from Ba Gau, (Trigram) Science. The trigrams of the tai chi, are a binary system. This means the Ba Gua or Monadic sequences are real science, if used correctly.

The higher Monadic forms come from the basic idea of the Sacred Tetrad named by both Basilidians, and Valentinians as Word, Man, Life, Church (Truth). The Word is going to flood from the emty space, and form the perfect Man, who attains Life, and knows the Truth….

The “Gospel of Philip” uses the Tetrad of Faith, Hope, Love, and Knowledge. The ”Acts of Thomas,” The “Heart Sutra,” and the Jesus Sutra, “The Sutra of Cause and Effect. and Salvation,” identify the Soul as Form, Perception Consciousness, Action, and Knowledge. All these sequences emanate from the Pleromic force of Jesus as the Monad.

There are three Sethian sources for a list in the higher sequence of ‘types’ or units which can be interpreted as the Soul. The sources are ”The Apocryphon of John,” The Gospel of the Egyptians,” and the Unamed Text in the Bruce Codex, which in my opinion is the Second Book of Jue mentioned in “The Pistis Sophia.” These are lists of types, like Mead’s spheres…..You learn to wear them like a garment.

”The Apocryphon of John,”

1. Word, 2. Form, 3. Thought, 4. Memory, 5. Life, 6. Grace, 7. Understanding, 8. Perception, 9. Conception, 10. Prudence, 11. Truth, 12. Will, (Knowledge.)

“The Gospel of the Egyptians”

1. Seth (Power of Autogenes) 2. Grace, 3. Perception, 4. Understanding, 5.Prudence, 6. Memory, 7. Love, 8. Peace, and 9. Life. (Note that if this were a Christian sequence of the Monad the first element would be Word meaning Jesus Wisdom as the Monad, or an equivalent. This sequence is pure pre-Christian Sethian.)

“Unnamed Text in the Bruce Codex,”

1. Light (Word), 2. Life, (resurrection) 3. Love, 4. Hope, 5. Faith, 6. Truth (Church), 7. Peace. (8. in the Sethian system is Gnosis or Knowledge, which represents the power of the individual Gonstic who recieves knowledge through the ennoia.)

Now try and use Mead’s sphere model to connect all these types in the Monadic sequence in a contemplation or meditation. All these types, or words have meanings explained throughout the Sethian works. These are the elements that are thought to be tools for the real world. And salvation. You wear them like a spiritual garment, they are the Holy Spirit.

Some of these words can no doubt be combined in an ideal set anyone can make from the above models. You have to train your mind in handling so many units at once. These forms, are the essence of the Soul, and are tools to be learned, and used in the real world in Monadic Salvation. These are not the only types that can be used in this kind of learning, after all the karate fighter uses eight units which are the root or genus moves of fighting. The ”Gospel of Mary” lists the Seven Forms of Wrath, and this is certainly a Monadic sequence to anyone who understands this mechanism. A dangerous one.

The following list of definitions is meant to define the words as they are relate to the Monad, so they are understood in the specific Gnostic sense. This means they are used as real Gnosic tools, which are assimilated into your Mind.

“All” This refers to the concept that the Pleroma permeates and surrounds everything, and “All” is the Pleroma.

Faith: This refers to having ‘faith’ in regard to using the ‘Word’ as it is meant in the Gnostic sense, i.e. becoming in thought and deed the Word in Life.

Flesh: This refers to man as matter. The flesh is the matter that Man, and his Mind is entrapped as a hylic or in a physical Body.

Form: This refers to the Platonic idea of form which means the term can be used to describe an idea, as well as an object. The Sethian Monad is in the form of Spirit.

Hope: The term is meant to relate to Man in time and space, and how he must deal with action, reaction, cause, and effect. This way he discerns what is and is not possible, or likely, and procedes with the hope that his actions will work.

Knowledge: Refers in most cases to Gnosis.

Life: This refers to being given Life through Gnosis and Gnostic transcendence.

Limit: As some of the Gnostic writings state, Limit relates to a mental concept of how we separate things. The number of units in a Monadic set, are governed under the laws of “Limit.’ What humans perceive in the universe from the time they are infants is governed by “Limit.”

Love: This is an opposite of hate, and refers to the duality of emotions in Man and Life. Love and hate, are dualities that run through all Monadic sets, like good and evil, male and female. In the Gnostic Faith, good, and Love are superior forces in the ordering value of Wisdom.

Man: This can refer to humans in the hylic state of matter, or Man who has become Enlightened to Gnosis, i.e. One with the Pleroma.

Mind: This is where the Gnostic sees the ‘vision’ of Jesus Wisdom, the Bridal Chamber, and is his ‘treasure’ or way to Salvation. The Mind might include perception, conception, memory, and thought.

Peace: This would refer to the state of being for the transcended Gnostic, into the Pleromic form.

Prudence: Developing the habit of acting with rational deliberation, using the Word.

Soul: The soul is a special kind of ‘Spirit’ that is part of the Mind. Form, Perception, Consciousness, Action, and Knowledge, represents an excellent Pentad that explains what the Soul as in regard to the Mind.

Spirit: This is the energy that flows through the Pleroma, which includes matter, as well as non corporeal things, like thought. Clement in ”Stromata” actually distinguishes what we call subconscious, and conscious thought as spirits. Heracleon stated that God, was all Spirit. Spirit is the energy upon which the Monad generates the energy through a Monadic set.

Truth: This refers to what the Church is with Enlightenment, or Gnosis. For Gnostics the ‘Church’ is the realization of Gnostic transcendence. You join the Pleroma with the collective Word.

Will: The term is used as in free will. ” “When I use the term ‘will,'” writes Basilides, “I do so merely to suggest the idea of an operation transcending all volition, thought, or sensible action. And this universality also was not [our] dimensional and differentiable universe, which subsequently came into existence and was separated [from other universes], but the Seed of all universes.” (Ibid.)

Word: The term connotes and denotes Law, Logos, God, Wisdom, Sophia, Tao, which can be learned from the “Living Words of Jesus,” in the “Gospel of Thomas,” the Gnostic Gospels, and the other Sethian related texts, extant. All Sethian Gnostic Monadic sets start with Word, and end with Knowledge, or Gnosis.

The ideal Contemplative set (Ogdoad) I derive from the above lists are:

1 Word. This is the power of Jesus Wisdom, as you relate it to the events in your Life.

2. Form. This includes the Soul, Body, Mind and Spirit, as your own self image.

3. Man/Mind, Includes the concepts of understanding, perception, conception, thought, memory. It includes the concept of Man in the spiritual state.

4. Faith. In the Gnostic view Man, in the form of being bonded with the Holy Spirit, through Gnosis, achieves the living resurrection. But in Gnosis, faith is proven from the demonstration of faith, in the actual being and Acitions of the Gnostic.

5. Life. This refers to the power you have in Gnosis to bond with the Pleromic form, and avoid spiritual death.

6. Grace. The Gnostic learns grace as a process of receiving (Ennoia) the Peace, and Love from the psychic energy of the Holy Spirit. This means the Wisdom gleaned from Monadic Gnosis and the secret sayings of the living Jesus in the Syzygy of the epistemological, and metaphysical. (“The Gospel of Thomas.”), as the Word, and the Monadic contemplation as the underlying force.

7. Truth/Church. Means being part of the Pleromic process bonded to the Mind of Jesus Wisdom or Word. Truth is designated as synonymous with Church, the living Kingdom.

8. Knowledge/Gnosis. Includes applying the concepts of Will, and Prudence. This is the gender unit of the set which means that it is from the standpoint of the set which the Gnostic himself controls. It is from the concept of gender that new things come into the world.

Conclusion: If you meditate and make this set of principles your ‘garment’ and you contemplate the secret sayings of the living Jesus, starting with the parables using your knew skills from above, you will assimilate these principles into your very being. This is the aim of the Gnostic transcendence, enlightenment, nirvona, satori…..

Hylic: “Of matter.” Can be thought of as a level of thinking, dealing with the lowest portion of human nature. It is considered living by instinctual drives with no sublimation. Hylics, choikus, sarkics, etc. are said to be below ‘Psychics’ which are below ‘Gnostokoi,’ the highest order of transcendence
according to Valentinian and other Gnostic teaching. The world of the psychic, is still in the realm of the hylics in most Gnostic scenarios because existence in the earthly state separates one from the pleroma. (See; Psychic, Kenoma. Pleroma.)

Kenoma: The earthly or hylic state of the being. In the Gnostic schema(s) the kenoma is the imperfect and the antithesis of pleroma (plhrwma), where all are in a state of privation and unreality. The term is not used directly in Sethian texts. (See Iren. Haer. I.4.I (M.7.480A); ib 1.4.2 (484A); Clem.exc.Thdot.31
(p117.11; M.9.676A); Thdt.haer.I.7 (4.298).

Pleroma: The word means “fullness,” and the ‘All.’ It refers to ”all existence
beyond matter. Refers to the world of the Aeons, the heavens or spiritual
universe, which represents being out of the state of matter. According to the
“Gospel of Truth” “….all the emanations from the Father are Pleromas.” see
Tractates 3, 2, Codices, I, and XII, Nag Hammadi Lib. Pleroma can have other
connotations according to the Gnostic school of thought, some differences in
Sethian and Valentinian (other) schools can be noted. Pleroma, is different than
Logos. (See; Logos, See aslo; Gaffney, p. 246.)

Pneumatic: One who identifies with the spirit (pneuma), beyond that of the
physical (hylic) world and the intellect alone (psychic). The pneuma, described
in the ”Gospel of Phillip,” as ‘breath,’ refers to bonding with the internal
spark (spinther) that came from and is drawn to reunite with the Father in some
Gnostic schema. One who awakens it (the spinther) within the self does it
through the process of gnosis. (See; Gregory of Nicea (Basil), who used the term
in his mystical teachings, and is a later term which connotes Gnostic. See;
”Early Christian Mystics,” McGinn, Crossroads, 2003.)