“The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to
receive them as gifts we have to be open.  In order to be open we have
to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of
ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed identity. We
have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us
in the painful, vulnerable, helpless ‘I’ that is all we know as

–Thomas Merton


Using the Sethian Christian Monad as a Heuristic Device
by Tom Saunders

Those interested in the Gnostic Gospels and the related Sethian texts have read passages about the Monad, and other terms related to the Sethian Monadology. You may have also read a lot of words you did not recognize as part of the Monadic system. Reading bits and pieces about it, does not explain how it works. Codex III of the Nag Hammadi Library mentions several aspects of the idea behind the Monadic device, but does not divulge the system. The following explains the Monadic system…

The Sethian Monadology is based upon the Pythagorean adaptation of the Chinese philosophy of the Tai Chi. This discovery will be presented below to qualify the systems as alike. The way the Monad in Pythagorean philosophy, and Sethian Christianity are used, is the way the Chinese learned to map the energy they call ‘Chi.’ Once you understand how the Monad works the Sethian texts like in Codex III of the Nag Hammadi Library (NHL) make lots more sense.

Below, compare the examples and you will have little problem realizing they are virtually describing the same system. The ”Tai Chi,” as the One, is in effect the same thing as the Monad, both mean One.

1a.) “Wu Chi {The Great Void} creates Tai Chi, Tai Chi is the one Chi. One Chi generates Yin and Yang, and Yin and Yang can change in infinite ways.” (From “The History of Chinese Philosophy,” Fung Yu-Lan, Princeton Press, 1953.)

1b.) ” Tao produced oneness. Oneness produced duality, Duality evolved into the ten thousand things. The ten thousand things support the yin, and embrace the yang. It is the blending of the breaths (of yin and yang) that their harmony depends.” ( from “Lau Tzu,” or the “Tao Te Ching” sixth c. B.C. ).Ibid, Fung Yu-Lan)

Compare the word similarity, order, and corresponding meaning of…

2a.) “As I said earlie, (said Jesus), among the things that were created the Monad is first, the dyad follows it, and the triad, up to the tenths. Now the tenths rule the hundredths; the hundredths rule the thousandths; the thousands rule the ten thousands. This is the pattern <among the> immortals. First Man is like this: His monad […]. ( is His God, my insertion.) (From “Eugnostos the Blessed,” Nag Hammadi Library, Codex III, Robinson, 1990.)
2b.) Again it is this pattern that exists among the immortals: the Monad and the thought are those things that belong to Immortal Man. The thinkings are for <the> decads, and the hundreds are the teachings, and the thousands are the counsels, and the ten thousands are the powers. Now those who come from the […] exist with their […] in every aeon […].” (From “Eugnostos the Blessed,” Nag Hammadi Library, Codex III, Robinson, 1990.)

The Monad comes about from the Sethian version of Wu Chi or the ‘great void’ which in ‘Sethian’ is ”Silence.” However the Monadic systems and the Tai Chi extend out to larger sets, and these sets form heuristic devices. A “heuristic device” is an abstract concept or model useful for thinking about social and physical phenomena. The icon of the Tai Chi, is the Yin and Yang circle, surrounded by eight trigrams.

The study of the eight trigrams of the Tai Chi is called Ba Gua Science. Not only do the above axioms correspond as being the same system, but Monadic sets, and sets of ‘Ba Gua’ work almost exactly alike.

Chinese philosophy is based upon following the flow of energy (Chi) in the pattern of the Tai Chi. Sethians learned to use their device in much the same manner, but from Pythagoreans. The study and application of the Sethian Monadic system fullfills both an epistemology and a metaphysics which studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and beliefs for this system. This heuristic Monadic device facilitates a metaphysics which aligns with the epistemology, including the relationship between mind and matter (body), substance and attribute, fact and value, spirit and soul.

One, ‘Tai Chi’ or the Monad, emerge as spirit or “Chi” from the ‘great void,’ or Silence. By doing so the energy creates the dyad, or Yin and Yang, and this represents all kinds duality, and not just opposites. This duality is an energy so strong it permeates all the rest of the forms in the set from the triad, tetrad, pentad, etc. Whole sets can be good or evil, male or female, offense or defense, etc.

This energy is not magic, its like the energy of a ‘special word’ that circulates through a particular group of speakers. The academic study of this flow of energy or word in a group is the focus of the linguistic science, Sociolinguistics. The flow of word or spirit, in a group is a similar matrix to the Monadic or Tai Chi schema. Its measurement, and its science.

The Chinese system traditionally uses the schema called the ‘heaven sequence’ which builds sets of eight units. First is the Wu Chi, the Tai Chi, the Linang-Yi, the Si Xian, and then the eight ba gua. The sets grow by sets of eight. These units in the Sethian system are called ‘types.’

Three types form a trilogy, or trinity, and a ‘triangle,’ which forms a center, which is in effect, a representation of an internal empty space, like Silence, or Wu Chi, or the ‘blank slate’ of a trained Mind. The “San Ti or Taoist Trinity” postulates that man, (Man’s Mind) is the same as heaven and earth. This means in Chinese philosophy that man’s mind in the state of Mu Shin, (emptiness), is like (works like) the great void, called Wu Chi or the Sethian ‘Silence.’ A passage from Aristotle confirms in two separate passages that Pythagoreans also used this concept.

“The Pythagoreans too said that the empty exists, and that it enters the heavens from the limitless breath, as though the heavens actually inhale the empty which distinguishes natural things and is sort of a separation and distinction of contiguous things. They hold that this occurs first among numbers ; for the empty separates their natures. (Aristotle, Physics, 213 b22-27.) (“Early Greek Philosophy” Penquin Classics, pg. 171.)

In the Sethian system the first thing to come into the Silence or the empty void, is Jesus Wisdom acting as the Monad This means that the Monad in the Sethian system is the Word. This is like the Word in the “Gospel of John…”the Word was God.” All the Sethian Christian Monadic sets start with ”Word.” Where does the Word come from?

Among the Sethian texts of the Nag Hammadi Library is one called the ”Secret Sayings of the Living Jesus,” otherwise known as the ”Gospel of Thomas.” The Word from this text comes about from the use of the parables. In the Thomas gospel, the parables serve as ‘almost’ empty voids. You learn to fill those voids by reading and analyzing the context of these passages, and all the other ”Secret Sayings.”

What you find yourself doing is analyzing these ‘parable-voids,’ using what you know and what you glean from all the other sayings in the Thomas text. This means you used your own, and Jesus’ Wisdom’ to think about these passages. That is where the Word comes from. That is how you use Jesus as the Monad, and create his vision in your Mind. When you step out of the parables to become your own living parable, you enable yourself with the same skill.

The Word or Monad, influences everything in the set as the primary source of spirit or energy. Duality forms the triad, and the triad becomes the tetrad. In Sethian philosophy according to Basilides and Valentinus, the Sacred Tetrad is Word, Man, Life, and Truth (Church). (See G.R.S. Mead, ”Fragments of a Faith Forgotten.”) (These words as types have specific meanings that can be found in the Sethian scripture. All the words present in a Monadic set represent a reference to the Moandology in the Sethian texts.)

In the Chinese system the tetrad is called the ‘Si Xiang,” yin and yang split into four. In both systems the last unit of the set is seen as a controlling unit, or gender unit. This is because the controller of the set can generate new forms while using it. In both systems the tetrad, becomes the pentad. The pentad forms a circle, and as your skills grow, it grows and its usefulness to you also grows.

The process of growth in the Sethian system is controlled by what is called ‘limit.’ This means there is a limit to how many types go into different sets. Limit is how you tell one thing from another. The Chinese found eight units to be ideal sets, represented in the Tai Chi’s ‘heaven sequence,’ of even numbered sets.

The Sethians added the last type or unit of the set with the concept of Gnosis, or Knowledge. Sethian Monadic sets always start with Word, and end with Knowledge or Gnosis, which signifies the Gnostic himself controls the heuristic device, as an entity bonded with the Word.

This device at the level of the Pentad, transforms from the triangle, to and from the tetrad, or square, and then transforms it into a circle. Higher forms of the hexad, hebdoad, ogdoad, ennead, and decad, etc. remain as a circle, which creates a visionary void for contemplation in the Mind. When the Gnostics used the term ‘treasure’ it refers to the Mind, and when Jesus is the Monad, you’ve bonded with the Word, Light, Logos, Holy Spirit, Sophia, Law, Wisdom, etc.

Sethians used the Monadic system to define the Soul. They understood that both the Monad and duality permeated every aspect of Man, and that is why there are good Monadic sets and evil ones. There are Monadic sets in known texts from Pythagorean influence, and they are obvious once you understand a list as a Monadic set and heuristic device.

The following passage is from the :Bruce Codex” and no doubt directly related to the “Book of Jue,” and ”The Pistis Sophia,” and other texts which mention the Monadic system in one way or another. The text reveals the following Monadic set, neatly hidden in the scripture below. It was a common practice of all Pythagoreans to treat the Monadic sets as occult, and Sethians were no exception.

A Monadic set from the 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 the last or controlling unit ‘type’ is Gnosis or Knowledge. This type represents the power of the individual Gonstic who receives knowledge through the Ennoia, or syzygetic bonding of the Mind with the Pleromic Word.)

“Because of this work, the Father of the All (pl.), the indescribable one ‘, sent a crown in which is the name of the All (pl.) ‘, whether endless, or unutterable, or incomprehensible, or imperishable, or unknowable, or still, or all-powered, or indivisible. This is the crown of which it is written: “It was given to Solomon on the day of the joy of his heart.” The first monad furthermore sent him an ineffable garment ‘ which was all light and all life and all resurrection, and all love and all hope and all faith and all wisdom, and all gnosis, and all truth, and all peace, and all-visible ‘, and all-mother, and all-mystery, and all-source, and all-perfect, and all invisible, and all unknowable, and all endless, and all unutterable, and all deep, and all incomprehensible, and all pleroma, and all silence, and all unmoved, and all unbegotten, and all still, and ) all monad, and all ennead, and all dodecad, and all ogdoad, and all decad, and all hebdomad, and all hexad, and all pentad, and all tetrad, and all triad, and all dyad, and all monad.

And the All is in it, and also all found themselves ‘ in it, and knew themselves in it. And it (the monad) gave light to them all with its ineffable light. Myriads upon myriads of powers were given to it, so that at one (and the same) time it should establish the All. It gathered its garments and made them into the form of a veil which surrounded it on all sides. And it poured itself over them all, it raised them all. And it divided them all according to rank and according to ordinance and according to forethought.”

The above appears to be based on the idea of the Soul being in the Pentad sequence, ”Form, Perception, Conciousness, Action and Knowledge.” This Pentad is from three sources, ”The Heart Sutra, “The Sutra of Cause and Effect and Salvation,” (Chinese Gnostic Christian ‘scripture’ based upon the Tai Chi. It is from Martin Palmer’s ”The Jesus Sutras.” ), and the “Acts of Thomas.” ( This text contains ‘language specific’ links to the Sethian vocabulary.)

Here are examples of two more Monadic sets found in Sethian works…

”The Apocryphon of John,” (Codex III NHL)
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” (Codex III, NHL)

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.) This set seems to be based upon the tetrads mentioned in the ”Gospel of Philip,” but after Jesus became the Monad and replaced Seth and all the other Aeons. (Autogenes, Monogenes.)

The following evil Monadic set from Sethian works comes from the “Gospel of Mary.” An evil Monadic set in Sethian epistemology is without the Word, and aimed at evil. However, the set works the same because the last ‘type’ is the gender unit in the set. Pythagorean, Sethian, and Chinese philosophies all recognize these heuristic devices can be used for evil. The following describes what a Sethian sees as a demon. It is called the ”Seven Forms of Wrath.”

“When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, which took seven forms.

The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath.” (Chapter 8., “Gospel of Mary”) (In other works, darkness, desire, and ignorance of Gnosis, is called the ‘Evil Trinity.’ }

I stated above that the ”Gospel of Thomas,” was full of parables used as heuristic devices to employ Jesus Wisdom. One parable in particular stands out to martial artists, saying 98. { Jesus said, “The Father’s kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would be steady. Then he killed the powerful one.”}

In Pythagorean lore, the ‘sword’ can also represent the Monad. The sword is also mentioned in the Sethian text, “The Dialogue of the Saviour,” Codex III. of the NHL. {Judas said, “How is the spirit apparent?”
The Lord said, “How is the sword apparent?” Judas said, “How is the light apparent?” The Lord said, “[…] in it forever.”}

The Monad as a sword thrust in the wall, means the “Wall” represents the tetrad, which always leads me to believe the parables are the next step up from looking into the ‘triangle.’ (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) But the circle grows and the things that can influence the ’empty space’ multiply. And when you command the use of these sets you can develop extrodinary skills. Like practicing martial, or verbal skills. A fight, is a form of communication, so the Monadic paradigm works in thought and deed.

All my adult life I’ve been a student of Isshinryu karate which is based upon the Tai Chi. I have formulated the Ba Gua sequence for Isshinryu karate and identified forty units. I also know a large number of other Isshinryu Karate-ka, have learned the karate system of Isshinryu is traditionally based upon the Tai Chi, and its used in many ways. This is why I value the Sethian and Pythagorean methods as very valuable tools.

All karate starts with understanding that ‘kara’ of karate, means empty, and ‘te’ means hand. This represents ‘Hand’ being the first skill of the set, to come from the Wu Chi. The ‘kara’ or the voids like the mental emptiness of “Mu Shin” are where the skills enter, virtually. The karate fighter’s ‘octagon’ comes from the voids of fighting, the dualities like offense and defense, soft and hard, grappling and boxing etc. Following the ”heaven sequence” the tetrad (Si Xiang) are boxing skills, grappling skills, joints/balance control ( called Qin Na), and counters. This leads to the Karate Fighter’s Octagon…(Tom Saunders is registered in “Who’s Who of American Martial Arts,” 1975.)

1. Punching (Te), 2. Kicking, 3. Grabbing, 4.Joint Control, 5 Throwing, 6. Squeezing/Chokes, 7. Groundwork, and 8. Counters. ( Any of the types on this list have counters, and this is why it is in the sequence as the ‘controlling unit.’ In some Monadic related theories it can referred to as the gender unit. To the karate fighter its the defensive path to filling the void. The logic is to strike what targets the opponent gives you. The human anatomy for this purpose is also mapped with the Tai Chi model, as is the human balance system.

I found an example of another martial artists who used Ba Gua Science for use in his system. Sun Xi Kun, wrote, “The Real Teaching of Ba Gua Quan,” in 1934.

Kun’s martial manual was on the use of the Chinese sword. Kun’s work shows the primary set of Ba Gua to represent: Thrusting, advancing/retreating, slashing, grabbing, throwing, starting/stopping, lifting, and counters. (It took me two years talking to Chinese folks who might be able to translate the Kanji aligned with the ba gua. I may not be exact with the above, but I’m close.)

All the above examples of Monadic sets can be put to use in the real world. The point of learning and using these heuristic systems is also very much the same…. Enlightenment.

Enlightenment: Refers to a state of being; described in Chinese/Oriental classics that reflects the same kinds of mental changes, awareness, or ‘Satroi’ as in Gnosis. ”The Enlightenment refers to a movement in philosophy that advocated the untrammeled use of reason to establish truth. The movement challenged traditional authority, doctrine, and values. Emphasis was placed on the empirical method employed by the sciences.” (”The Five Gospels,” by Funk, Hoover, Harrier-Collins, 1993, p. 544.) ”For scientific knowledge is necessary both for the training of the soul and for gravity of conduct; making the faithful more active and keen observers of things. For as there is no believing without elementary instruction, so neither is there comprehension without science.” (Quote from Theodotus of Alexandria, from the Saunders Gnostic Glossary)

I can’t resist presenting two Pythagorean-like Monadic sets found in American Government. The first is the Evil American Government’s Pentad.. Delay, Distract, Discredit, Spotlight, Scapegoat.

Anyone who has ever tried to stand up to the American government knows these devices well, and if you observe the Bush Administration, they manimpulate the media with this Pentad. This Pentad showed up in an article by Dahr Jamail and Jeff Pflueger, I applied it as a Monadic set. This pentad is almost universal for lying and cheating. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/060906J.shtml

The Second Monadic set I found in an American document was written by Thomas Jefferson in the U.S. Constitution. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common ‘Defence,’ promote general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty….”

Union of the people, stands out as the primary Monadic force in the Constitution. This is what is the first element to fill the empty space. The dyad is formed from ‘Union,’ and Justice. The primary motive would be the last member of the set, ‘for the Blessings of Liberty. This duality should be seen to influence any other members or types added to the set. Regardless of the size of the set, Blessings of Liberty will always be the last type. It is from here the set is used as a device to regulate between the dualities.

So, for the sake of Union and Justice, we add ‘to insure domestic tranquility, forming the triad, sins ‘Blessings’. Then add provide a common ‘defence,’ (tetrad) and promote ‘general welfare, which makes the set a (pentad). The last member of the set is the gender unit, or that polar unit which serves as determination device of the set. That means it can be used for the negative (Yin), or the positive (Yang), by the one using the device, but the control is in regard to ‘liberty.’

The energy running through the set from the Union of the People, means a direct polarity to all the members of the set. This connects the Monad, or Union, and all other types relevant in the set, and ”Blessings of Liberty,” the ‘switching device’ and last unit of the set. We get the hexad (6) of Union, justice, tranquility, common ‘defence,’ general welfare, all influenced for the sake of the ”Blessings of Liberty.”

This is the Gnostic-Pythagorean explanation of this passage from the Constitution. Jefferson, Franklin, and John Adams had all met and spoken with the famous scientist of the time, Gottfried Leibniz, in the French Court. He was famous for his study of Pythagorean ideas, and wrote an essay establishing the term Monadology, for use in modern science. Leibniz did not describe a system or Monadic set.

There is no appearance that the Founding Fathers knew anything about Sethian Christianity. Except for legends, and what the heresiologists of the Orthodox Church had written. Irenaeus, Tertullian and Hippolytus all wrote about (lied about) how heretical the Pythogoreans, Sethians and Gnostics were.

Suggested Reading: Notes

“The Nag Hammadi Library,” Robinson, Harper, 1990. (available online)

“The History of Chinese Philosophy,” Vol. 1.,2., by Fung Yu-Lan, Princeton, 1953. ( Compares and identifies some aspects of Pythagorean theory with the Tai Chi.)

“Great Thinkers of the Eastern World,” McGreal, Harper, 1995.

“The Jesus Sutras” by Martin Palmer, Ballentine, 2001. (Contains Christian scripture based upon the classical Buddhist/Taoist use of the Tai Chi, to represent Jesus as spirit.)

“Fragments of a Faith Forgotten,” by G.R.S. Mead, (available in the Nag Hammadi Library, online.)

“Early Greek Philosophy,” Barnes, Penguin Classics, 2001. (Contains chapters on Pythagoreans)

“Xing Yi Quan Xue,” by Tang, Unique Publications, 2000. (See page 80. for a breakdown explanation of the Tai Chi icon.)

“Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals,” by Kennedy/Guo, North Atlantic Books, 2005. (See page 86. for the ‘Ba Gua’ sequence composed by Sun Xi Kun.)