By Tom Saunders
The Concept of Our Great Power, Codex VI, of the Nag Hammadi Library declares…..“Cease from the evil lusts and desires and (the teachings of) the Anomoeans, evil heresies that have no basis.”
Anomoeans, where considered an offshoot group in a phase of extreme Arianism prevalent amongst a section of Eastern Churches. They came into disfavor with the Orthodoxy, and leaders of the Church like Athanasius from about 350 until 381 A.D. The Anomoeans could have started any time just prior to or after the turn of the fourth century. I think most experts put the burying of the Nag Hammadi around 328-30 A.D. The date of 350, might be late because we know Athanasius was in the Nag Hammadi mountains looking for the Gnostic texts. This was prior to when Constantine ordered (let him) return to Alexandria. He didn’t find any Gnostic texts in Nag Hammadi.
Most of the Nag Hammadi collection can be dated from the first and second century, depending upon the methods. A fourth century document is rare in this collection, but telling. “The Concept of Our Great Power,” or ”The Perception of Understanding” was written by an unknown Sethian Gnostic, when the Orthodoxy was hunting them down like witches. The author’s purpose is clear, the text is a protest of being persecuted, and its written to other Gnostics of his time. The author defends the Gnostic faith.
Orthodox Christianity is based upon the belief that God is an extrinsic sentient force with the power to control the material forces. According to the followers of Polycarp, there will be a physical resurrection.
The Gnostics see God as an intrinsic force not separate from the human form at all. The Gnostic finds the power of God within. This is the basis for what Gnostics call the living resurrection.
By the middle of the second century it was clear that the Orthodoxy headed by the Bishop of Rome, Irenaeus, and aided by Hippolytus, Tertullian, and others, were going to persecute Gnostics. This escalated the more Roman Christians got power from Romans.
The Gnostics just wanted to be left alone, but they probably didn’t see the threat the power brokers of the Orthodox Church, would have on their existence. They were imbedded as small churches in bigger Orthodox ones. This is how Origen was made to flee Alexandria. Many were killed, probably not understanding why they were hated so much.
Anomoeans denied that Jesus was not the same as father and son. They had their own version of the Holy Trinity, and it made them enemies with the Orthodoxy, and Gnostics. To the Gnostic, the Holy trinity was from Oneness. This was also against the Orthodox view.
Gnostics were at odds with the Orthodoxy because Sethians taught God as a Spirit. “Then behold the Spirit and Know where he is. He gave himself to Men that they may receive Life from him every day, since he has his Life within him; he gives to them the All.” (Ibid.)
The above passage is one of many that use Sethian specific language, in kind of a ‘catch phrase,’ technique of imbedding specific meaning into the text. Life, for instance refers to those that have attained Life through Gnosis. Spirit is energy flowing through forms, both mental and physical
“Concept” is written to hide the metaphysical references it makes to the Monad, and Monadology. The Monad and Monadology are the metaphysical instruments kept secret from the Orthodoxy, as the anti-Gnostic works reveal. The Monad is mentioned by using the synonym One, and the One is referred to as a person, Jesus.
The author explains duality as being an individual, and collective force, of the psychic “Aeon.” Aeon is synonymous with Autogenes, and Monogenes, that form duality, from the Monad, or Oneness. “Mixed with Bodies,” makes this power relevant to the ‘splinther’ or piece of divinity Gnostics believe everyone has.
“Next the psychic aeon. It is a small one, which is mixed with bodies, by begetting in the souls (and) defiling (them). For the first defilement of the creation found strength. And it begot every work: many works of wrath, anger, envy, malice, hatred, slander, contempt and war, lying and evil counsels, sorrows and pleasures, basenesses and defilements, falsehoods and diseases, evil judgments that they decree according to their desires.” (Ibid.)
Gnostics don’t just write lists, but in this case, that is mostly what it is. The author probably knows the methods of the Sethian Monadology like the back of his hand, and knows any other Gnostic is going to see the list above as subjects to make Monadic sequences. The study of the Monad is a skill the author is assuming his reader knows, but it is a shared secret for adepts who know the system.
The next passage describes Jesus and the Great Power.
“Then, in this aeon, which is the psychic one, the Man will come into being who knows the Great Power. He will receive (me) and he will know me. He will drink from the milk of the mother, in fact. He will speak in parables; he will proclaim the aeon that is to come, just as he spoke in the first aeon of the flesh, as Noah. Now concerning his words, which he uttered, he spoke in all of them, in seventy-two tongues. And he opened the gates of the heavens with his words. And he put to shame the ruler of Hades; he raised the dead, and he destroyed his dominion.” (Ibid.)
What in effect the above passage is saying is that Noah, was a Gnostic, who like Jesus became Enlightened. Jesus is described as speaking in parables, and to a Sethian Gnostic this is a direct reference to the ”Secret Sayings of the Living Jesus,” (“Gospel of Thoamas”) which is the only Sethian document that contains parables. Part of the Gnostic epistemology, and metaphysics are wrapped up in the Gnostic concepts of how parables are used.
Understanding the value of the parables, is essential for the Sethian Gnostic to transcend in his Gnostic transitions. This has to do with part of the epistemology and metaphysics the “Concept” document mentions, only vaguely, so non adepts ”don’t get it,” the secret teachings. The author of ”Concepts” wants his fellow Gnostics to know they are saved….
“And I shall withdraw with everyone who will know me. And they will enter into the immeasurable light, (where) there is no one of the flesh nor the wantonness of the first to seize them. They will be unhampered (and) holy, since nothing drags them down. I myself protect them, since they have Holy Garments, which the fire cannot touch, nor darkness nor wind nor a moment, so as to cause one to shut the eyes.” (Ibid.)
Holy garments as mentioned above are references to the Gnostic training of the Soul. This requires the study of the Monad, because the Holy Garment is a special Monadic Sequence studied from the following passage from the ”Untitled Text” in the Bruce Codex. This is probably a first century document, originally.
“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.”
Imbedded in the above passage is the Monadic sequence as put together below. Explaining the mechanics of the Monad is beyond this work, but those that know it will understand that the list below is much more than a list. These are working elements of bonding with the One, and becomming Pleromic.
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.)
“The Concept of Our Great Power,” in part is depicting the ”End Times,” in that it explains the Gnostic concept of the end of the World and physical beings. The Gnostic philosphy is in part dependent upon the understanding that all physical matter will perish. This is in part why Gnostics see the hylic or earthly state as flawed.
This is in direct contrast to the Orthodoxy who insist upon a physical reanimation of the dead. To the Gnostic this is nonsense. In the words of the Alexandrian student of Valentinus, Heracleon, “God is pure Spirit.” The ”Concept” text was written by a student at least two centuries after the Gnostic teachings started, and it appears the author knew the Gnostic texts and methods well. He also did abide by the Gnostic codes of secrecy by only mentioning what are known secrets in passing without revealing much to those who do not ‘know.’