Gender in Gnosticism

If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.

–Gospel of Philip

God, the one true God, the source of being is seen as a force that transcends gender and ultimately God is beyond categories of gender. But at the same time gender is very formative of our human experience. So just like God in an absolute sense cannot be contained in words but we still have to approach God through language, right? Through myths and stories and theology and…which is all kind of creating analogies about God. Similarly we have to approach God, or approach God through gender. And traditionally of course there’s been this hyper masculinisation of God, in which God has been primarily confined to male attributes, the father, the son or you know, God as the old bearded guy of the Cisteen Chapel ceiling or God as Superman, shooting down fire from the sky and destroying people. What Gnosticism works to change this image, not to destroy the male imagery of the father, the son or the imagery of the brother, but rather to compliment it with female imagery as well. SO that we understand in some sense that our relationship to God is like a father and a mother, like a lover and the beloved, a brother and a sister; so it’s like a complimentary to the relationship.

So what I want to talk about tonight is the metaphysical nature of gender itself. I’m going to leave the question of God alone for this evening and talk about our own experiences of gender and what the spiritual significances of those might be. I think we begin from a Gnostic perspective that gender arises out of the cosmos, out of the material reality or the physical reality and like other dualities, good /evil, light/dark, right/left…these are seen as the constituents parts of material reality, its these dualities and divisions and separations that make the material what it is and create the limitations that we associate with physical reality. And of these limitations it is probably gender that Gnosticism sees as the most traumatic one of all, well except maybe the good/evil dichotomy. But the division of male/female gender, the division is very traumatic in a lot of ways, it’s been a sort of division of the wholeness of the spirit into two separate pieces and as a result can often lead to very self destructive behavior as all too often when we adhere to the gender identity that we are taught to display and see in ourselves and we don’t find a way to pursue the complimentary aspects of the spirit then we quickly descend into patterns of abuse and dependence and domination that are really devoid of the true spiritual connection.

So one of the goals of Gnosis is to transcend and heal these dualities and divisions in human experience. And thus the question of gender and the question of how we heal the brokenness that is sort of implicit in it is stressed in the Gospel of Thomas especially saying 22:

Jesus saw some infants nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing infants are like those who enter the (Father’s) kingdom.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the (Father’s) kingdom as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, a likeness in place of a likeness, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

So when we look at this issue of what needs healing and the reconciliation, the issue, the problem, is that we’ve been taught and conditioned not just in our own lifetimes but over in generations of humanity to ascribe huge importance over what are really minor biological differences and not really seek to expand our consciousness in this area. To assume that we are locked in this duality and that there is no way to transcend it.

So what Gnosticism does, is to argue that each of us has a spiritual identity and it is the spiritual identity that can lead us back on a path to wholeness this is because even though we live in a very divided and sometimes painful existence in the physical world the spirit has what the Gnostic teacher Carpocrates would call a “deep spiritual memory.” These are the words he uses “the spiritual memory.” The most famous place where he talks about what this memory is when he makes his Christological statement about Jesus and says “That Jesus is a man like any other man, the son of Joseph; except that he was different from other people in that his mind, pure and clear could remember, could exercise memory of what it had seen in the realm of the ungenerated God.”

So if Jesus is a great model for what we can attain, then through Gnosis we can gain access to these spiritual memories of what was in the realm of the ungenerated God, to use Carpocrates’ term. And these memories are of wholeness, of a unity, indeed not a cessation of our individual existences, but rather as it were a completion of them. And part of this spiritual memory of wholeness beyond the divisions of gender is part of what makes up this spiritual memory, and it is in this sense that the Gospel of Thomas puts this question as central to the idea of what is going to bring us into what the Gospel calls the Kingdom. It is very important to make clear here that, the Gospel of Philip makes it clear that not only is this unity, the Pleroma, the fullness, it’s not only our destiny, but it’s also as spiritual beings, but also as in the words of the Gospel of Philip, our earliest origin, the earliest origin of things. So there is some way that this wholeness of the Pleroma is imprinted and on our spirits, this pneuma or the breath that gives us life, or rather makes us human, and we can access those memories that are imprinted on us. But it is something that takes time as we are held back by other things.

So when we begin to pursue through Gnosis a kind of healing and wholeness through the question of gender a number of things begin to happen in our lives and in the way we experience the world. First of all we begin to revolutionize the way in which we relate to others especially those of the other gender or to use the more common term, the opposite sex…and really what begins to happen is instead of seeing them quote “as the opposite sex” as something to be possessed or owned or intimidated or feared or dominated or dominated by in an unhealthy way, we can begin to construct relationships with those of other genders in a way that really engage in a true human level; and seek on those others how we can begin to complete our own spiritual existence. In this sense relationships between men and women are very important because they have so much to teach us about this completeness, this wholeness and what it might look like. We are in many ways, forces of revelation to each other. Allowing us to open up the mysteries of the hidden things concealed in those things visible, to use the words of the Gospel of Philip. Or to return to the Gospel of Thomas as Jesus says “The person of light, lights up the whole world.” Or in other words, we are each other’s light. These places of spiritual wholeness are sometimes shrouded in a kind of darkness and ignorance. Through the light provided by other people we can begin to see the contours of their meaning.

So I think there is an importance for anyone seeking the Gnostic path to obtain a certain degree of intimacy with people of the opposite sex. Now what I want to make clear is what I am talking about is not tied in any way to what is called sexuality. I’m certainly not saying that heterosexual sexuality is somehow necessary for Gnosis, although it can indeed be an important manifestation of this kind of intimacy. Or it can be a barrier to this kind of intimacy, as we know. Of course we know there are lots of people who are simply not heterosexual. They don’t share this sexual orientation, as part of their constituent identities; they have some kind of other sexual orientation; that they are drawn to other ways of living as sexual beings. Gnosticism of course is generally open to lots of different forms of sexual identity.

But ultimately what I am saying is, it is not that important about sexual contact, it’s about intimacy. The kind of inter gender intimacy that can be pursued in lots of ways. Through friendship, through intellectual exchange, through the kind of connection where you learn to build mutual networks of care…and exchange of thoughts and ideas, and spiritual growth. Men and women learn from each other in a mutual way when they begin to experience this intimacy. Which indeed, indeed, even when it does involve sexuality, when it does involve heterosexual contact is in fact something that transcends it. It is an intimacy that takes place on the spiritual level and transcends merely the physical level.

So this should make clear, as is important to state, that gender like other forms of division in the material world are not EVIL; it’s not as if gender is something bad and evil and something we want to run away from. These sources of division are indeed sources of limitation. U ironically or paradoxically, the very things that create these limitations can be the sources of the transcendent liberation, that can lift us up out of the world as defined by limitations and limits or rather live in that world in a way that helps set our spirits free.

The question of suffering, similarly suffering is something we see as to be transcended through Gnosis but at the same time, it offers us things. It offers us understanding and compassion toward others. Again it can make us bitter and angry people or it can make us much more open to other people. And I think gender is much the same way. It can be a very troubling phenomenon or it can be something we harness the force of to propel us along the spiritual journey in a way that incorporates healing and reconciliation. So ultimately I think though, the pursuit of gender wholeness, if that is what we want to call it, is probably more importantly something that happens within ourselves. Our intra-gender identities rather than our inter-gender relationships.

When we begin to search for that spiritual memory that Carpocrates talks about; that memory of spiritual wholeness. In the Pleroma, that was later divided through the shaping of the Demiurge. We are really searching to recover in our own beings a wholeness of gender that has been divided and separated in our own experience of life. It is important to remember that of course that, Demiurgic forces and Archonic forces and Pleromic forces are not so much beings but are forces operating within us. So we are looking for something in our own identities and what we want to do is move closer to wholeness. And it is this wholeness that is already deep within us. As I said, as Carpocrates said it is imprinted on the spiritual memory, that we all possess through the pneuma, through the spirit that is within us.

So we want to move closer to that wholeness that is both our ultimate destiny and is our earliest origins. To use the words of the Gospel of Philip, we want to gradually transform our lives, and our beings and our existences into that image of that spiritual memory at the heart of the pneuma, the spirit. Which is indeed what really makes us human.

The journey of Gnosis is predicated on the idea that even in the midst of this limited material existence we can begin to transform things and transform ourselves. Our bodies, our minds, in a way that infuses them with a new wholeness of the spirit. And as you see in that same verse, saying 22 of the Gospel of Thomas that we not only recreate the unity of gender, that it goes on to say that we, it goes on to say that we, you know, make the hand in the place of a hand and the foot in the place of a foot and likeness in the place of a likeness… One way to think of that is it is talking about a recreation of the self and the image of the spirit. Or as some have said, through our spirit we are created in the image of God. What we need to do through Gnosis is to recreate ourselves into the likeness of God. That is to transform the entirety of our being into a full realization of this image of God that is in our deepest human natures.

In a very real sense we have already in our spirits a sort of latent inner partnership between things we have called male and female in our experience of the material and intellectual world. Thus, in a very real sense each of us has within us, a sort of inner man and inner woman, what some mystics have spoken of as the Animus and Anima. We must pursue the kind of inner metaphysical partnership that will allow their mutual complimentarity that will shine forth in our lives and transform our consciousness.

Just as we want to revolutionize our relationships externally with regards to gender, and the opposite sex; so in parallel, we want to revolutionize our gender relationships internally within our own identities.

Now, if we look at Christ and Sophia, I want to discuss how they personify a Gnostic theory of gender both in terms of what we should do unto others and how we should persue that wholeness of gender within ourselves. We see in the stories of Christ and Sophia a great exchange, a great partnership, a sort of dialogue that is going on in these stories of “cosmic missions” and developments in time. These forces that represent in some sense the feminine and the masculine within the whole unity of the Pleroma.

If we look at the creation myth of the Valentinians, these were the Gnostics that followed Valentinus, the great preacher of the 2nd century, it is a little more different and complicated from what you may be used to. Just to give you a taste of what I mean, what happens to Sophia in this story is that… of course it starts off the same, she’s an Aeon, she’s in fact sometimes portrayed as the yuoungest of the Aeons, and she goes off by herself. Wanting to obtain more about her origins, thinking she can learn more by being alone and thinking alone. This of course brings about division and separation. What she produces, now in the Valentinian story is not the Demiurge immediately, but rather a realm of imperfection, the cosmos or chaos which is the stuff that the Demiurge will later create the cosmic world. What happens in the Valentinian story (again you’ll see how this is different to the simpler Gnostic story) is that this is so traumatic that Sophia literally gets split into two pieces. There ends up being a higher Sophia, who remains kind of connected fully in the Pleroma, but there also emerges a lower Sophia, part of Sophia’s identity becomes trapped in the imperfect realm. It becomes trapped in the cosmic chaos, and it tries and tries to get out, but it can’t. What happens is the Demiurge emerges out of the imperfect realm and begins to create all this stuff and eventually creates human beings. In the Valentinian story the Demiurge thinks its creating everything on its own for its own power. But in fact the lower Sophia (Echamoth) with the help of the Aeons, is influencing the Demiurge. They are subtly, sort of influencing what he does. In particularly, subtly pressing him into the creation of human beings.

The lower Sophia realizes the only way she can free herself and the rest of the spirit that is trapped in the cosmic world is if there can emerge some kind of beings that will have some kind of amalgamated identities. That is, they will be, part of the cosmic world and part of the spirit world. Part cosmos and part Pleroma. This she sees in human beings. So there is a sort of subversion of what the Demiurge wants to do. He wants to create automatons to worship him, but Sophia wants to create autonamus beings that can achieve liberation. So it is the lower Sophia, in this Valentinian story that comes into the form of the serpent. The lower Sophia says, “Alright, I have to get in contact with the human beings.” And so she says “What I’ll do is that I will go into the most humblest and the most simple of physical things. This animal that simply slithers along the ground, the serpent.” The Demiurge is so overwhelmed with his own arrogance and his own power that he’s not going to notice something as humble as the serpent. It is going to be completely off his radar screen.

So the lower Sophia, enters the serpent and comes to the people and then has the dialogue in which she begins to tell them the truth about things which is as she says, the Demiurge is not the one true God. That in fact human beings have this divine core within them and that if they would have the courage to eat the fruit of moral truth, if they have the courage to face the realities of the universe or rather not the universe but of all existence. Then they too can be transformed into God.

So you can see that is a little more complicated than other stories. I wouldn’t say it contradicts “on the origin of the World” more that it compliments it. What we see is the relationship between Christ and Sophia becomes more explicit. When Christ comes down to earth and manifests in the human being Jesus, Valentinian Gnostics would say “Why?” you know, why? This is a problem, why does Christ come into the world? I mean what is the point? They would say it is to help liberate Sophia. It is because Sophia is so important, so fundamental to him in the Pleroma, that he sees the lower Sophia and the rest of the spirit in the cosmic realm. He wants to enter that world; he wants to be willing to empty himself into a human existence so that he can help bring about the liberation of the lower Sophia and the reunification of the two parts of Sophia. Because there is a great pain involved in the separation for every being in the Pleroma because their wholeness has been ripped apart. So there is very much a sense that Christ and all the other beings or Aeons and God, even God, is deeply moved by compassion. It is compassion that moves all of these forces to try to help us. It is compassion and it is suffering. As Origen, an early Christian theologian said something interesting, he said, he was talking about Jesus Christ and he said “Christ suffered before he died on the cross.” And that “Actually Christ suffered before he was even born.” He goes on to say that “If Christ did not suffer, he would have never have come down to Earth.” That is his explanation of why Christ enters the world. That you can see is tied into this very interesting relationship between Christ and Sophia.

Brother Matthew Ouroboro


Sophia: Means “Wisdom.” Like the Logos this is considered a primal form. While the Logos is personified as male, Sophia is female. Logos has a direct and intellectual basis for guidance, Sophia is inspirational (sometimes even sensual). The basic idea is comparable to wisdom being Sophia (sofia) or “Holy
Spirit” in the form of pure wisdom. Pistis, means faith, hylic, or Prunikus Sophia refers to the imperfect or earthly state of the living, or earthly form from Pleromic origins. ”As appropriated by Sethianism and the Gnostics in general, Sophia is a hypostatized form of Hokmah, (i.e., the divine Wisdom of Proverbs 8, Job 28, Sirach 24).” ( See; Turner.)

Carpocrates: (100?-150 CE); Formed a sect in Alexandria known as Carpocrations. Possible successor to Samaritan Simon Magus. He taught reincarnation in his Gnostic philosophy. An individual had to live many lives and adsorb a full range of experiences before being able to return to God. They practiced free sexuality. They believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph. They questioned the docetic aspects attributed to Jesus. (See; “Stromata,” Bk 3.)

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 also; 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.)

the “Pneumatics”, correspond with “Pneuma”, the spiritual
“breath”, the spiritual order.  These are the Gnostic Initiates,
those who go beyond mentality/consciousness, and all modes related to
the individuality.  That which concerns Pneumatics, is as different
from the psychics, and the psychics from the hylics.

Aeon: These are characterized as emanations from the ‘first cause,’ the Father in some Gnostic schema. The word not only refers to the “worlds” of emanation, but to the personalities as well. Sophia, Logos, and the other high principles are aeons. ”A link or level of the great chain of being, the sum total which is the ‘All’ or Pleroma…Can also mean a world age.” (See; Gaffney) ”According to other Gnostics, for example Valentinus, the first principle is also called Aeon or the unfathomable, the primeval depth, the absolute abyss, bythos, in which everything is sublimated…” translated by Scott J. Thompson from G.W.F.
Hegel’s ”Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie ii ,” (Theorie Werkausgabe, Bd. 19), Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977, 426-430] ( See also; Pleroma.) The first ten aeons in the Valentinian schema are, Bythios (Profound) and Mixis (Mixture), Ageratos (Never old) and Henosis (Union), Autophyes (Essential nature) and Hedone (Pleasure), Acinetos (Immoveable) and Syncrasis (Commixture,) Monogenes (Only-begotten) and Macaria (Happiness).

Demiurge: Meaning ‘Creator’ in Greek. Thought to be the “Craftsman” or creator of the material world. (Heracleon) In Orthodox thought this is a supernatural entity or force, such as the appearance of God to Moses. In the Gnostic schema the Word refers to an order, and it may be a natural sort of intelligent design, related to wisdom, the earthly or kenomic state of the higher wisdom, or form from the Pleroma. The material state is considered less than the Pleromic, and highly flawed. Archons seem to be emanations from the Demiurge process, much like other emanations from the Pleroma. (See; Pleroma, Kenoma, Archon.)

Echmoth: (Echamoth) Meaning a form of wisdom; “Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth, another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but (e) Echmoth is the Wisdom of death, which is the one who knows death, which is called “the little Wisdom”. (”Gospel of Phillip, NHL.)

The paradox of the human condition is that nothing is so contrary to us as the requirement to transcend ourselves,
and nothing so fundamentally ourselves as the essence of this requirement , or perhaps,
the fruit of this transcendence

–Frithjof Schuon, Echoes of Perennial wisdom

Form, sound, and taste and touch

And smell’s arisings are only

Like a castle of the gandharvas

Like dream or like illusion

Like an illusory person

And like a mere reflection

Pleasant and unpleasant

Even if they arise,

Where and what are they?

–The Mulamadhyamakakarikas


“What does it mean to know and experience my own ‘nothingness.’?

It is not enough to turn away in disgust from my illusions and faults
and mistakes, to separate myself from them as if they were not, and as
if I were someone other than myself.  This kind of self-annihilation is
only a worse illusion, it is a pretended humility which, by saying ‘I am
nothing’ I mean in effect ‘I wish I were not what I am.'”

–Thomas Merton


Those who see me as form

Those who know me as words

Are dwelling on wrong paths.

These persons have not seen me.

What is meant by the buddhas

Is the view of dharmata.

The leaders are dharmakaya.

Dharmata is not a knowable,

So consciousness cannot know it.

–The Diamond Sutra


A Gandharva (Sanskrit) or Gandhabba (Pāli) is one of the lowest-ranking devas in Buddhist theology. They are classed among the Cāturmahārājikakāyika devas, and are subject to the Great King Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Guardian of the East. Beings are reborn among the Gandharvas as a consequence of having practiced the most basic form of ethics (Janavasabha-sutta, DN.18). It was considered embarrassing for a monk to be born in no better birth than that of a gandharva.

Gandharvas can fly through the air, and are known for their skill as musicians. They are connected with trees and flowers, and are described as dwelling in the scents of bark, sap, and blossom. They are among the beings of the wilderness that might disturb a monk meditating alone.

The terms gandharva and yakṣa are sometimes used for the same person; yakṣa in these cases is the more general term, including a variety of lower deities.

Among the notable gandharvas are mentioned (in DN.20 and DN.32) Panāda, Opamañña, Naḷa, Cittasena, Rājā. Janesabha is probably the same as Janavasabha, a rebirth of King Bimbisāra of Magadha. Mātali the Gandharva is the charioteer for Śakra.

Timbarū was a chieftain of the gandharvas. There is a romantic story told about the love between his daughter Bhaddā Suriyavaccasā (Sanskrit: Bhadrā Sūryavarcasā) and another gandharva, Pañcasikha (Sanskrit: Pañcaśikha). Pañcasikha fell in love with Suriyavaccasā when he saw her dancing before Śakra, but she was then in love with Sikhandī (or Sikhaddi), son of Mātali the charioteer. Pañcasikha then went to Timbarū’s home and played a melody on his lute of beluva-wood, on which he had great skill, and sang a love-song in which he interwove themes about the Buddha and his Arhats.

Later, Śakra prevailed upon Pañcasikha to intercede with the Buddha so that Śakra might have an audience with him. As a reward for Pañcasikha’s services, Śakra was able to get Suriyavaccasā, already pleased with Pañcasikha’s display of skill and devotion, to agree to marry Pañcasikha.

Pañcasikha also acts as a messenger for the Four Heavenly Kings, conveying news from them to Mātali, the latter representing Śakra and the Trāyastriṃśa devas.

Gandharva or gandhabba is also used in a completely different sense, referring to a being (or, strictly speaking, part of the causal continuum of consciousness) in a liminal state between birth and death.

“If we set out into this darkness, we have to meet these inexorable
forces.  We will have to face fears and doubts.  We will have to call
into question the whole structure of our spiritual life.  We will have
to make a new evaluation of our motives for belief, for love, for
self-commitment to the invisible God.  And at this moment, precisely,
all spiritual light is darkened, all values lose their shape and
reality, and we remain, so to speak, suspended in the void.

The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation
to doubt God himself.  We must not minimize the fact that this is a
genuine risk.”

–Thomas Merton (CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER,  page 77)

I know that I am presenting the solution in difficult terms, but there is nothing difficult in the Word of Truth. But since the Solution appeared so as not to leave anything hidden, but to reveal all things openly concerning existence – the destruction of evil on the one hand, the revelation of the elect on the other. This is the emanation of Truth and Spirit, Grace is of the Truth.

The Savior swallowed up death – (of this) you are not reckoned as being ignorant – for he put aside the world which is perishing. He transformed himself into an imperishable Aeon and raised himself up, having swallowed the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the way of our immortality. Then, indeed, as the Apostle said, “We suffered with him, and we arose with him, and we went to heaven with him”. Now if we are manifest in this world wearing him, we are that one`s beams, and we are embraced by him until our setting, that is to say, our death in this life. We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams by the sun, not being restrained by anything. This is the spiritual resurrection which swallows up the psychic in the same way as the fleshly.

But if there is one who does not believe, he does not have the (capacity to be) persuaded. For it is the domain of faith, my son, and not that which belongs to persuasion: the dead shall arise! There is one who believes among the philsophers who are in this world. At least he will arise. And let not the philosopher who is in this world have cause to believe that he is one who returns himself by himself – and (that) because of our faith! For we have known the Son of Man, and we have believed that he rose from among the dead. This is he of whom we say, “He became the destruction of death, as he is a great one in whom they believe.” Great are those who believe.

The thought of those who are saved shall not perish. The mind of those who have known him shall not perish. Therefore, we are elected to salvation and redemption since we are predestined from the beginning not to fall into the foolishness of those who are without knowledge, but we shall enter into the wisdom of those who have known the Truth. Indeed, the Truth which is kept cannot be abandoned, nor has it been. “Strong is the system of the Pleroma; small is that which broke loose (and) became (the) world. But the All is what is encompassed. It has not come into being; it was existing.” So, never doubt concerning the resurrection, my son Rheginos! For if you were not existing in flesh, you received flesh when you entered this world. Why will you not receive flesh when you ascend into the Aeon? That which is better than the flesh is that which is for (the) cause of life. That which came into being on your account, is it not yours? Does not that which is yours exist with you? Yet, while you are in this world, what is it that you lack? This is what you have been making every effort to learn.

–The treatise on the resurrection

Zen mind is the “Natural” state of our beings: No self, no identity, no memes, no beliefs.

Any idea of “what is” takes us away from what is – to be in the moment, all ideas need to be gone. There’s not even an “I” to have the ideas.

The natural being acts as an outcome of the movement of the universe, in the same way that an artist’s brush is moved by its “universe”.

All “teachings”, “spiritual” paths or “sacred” practices actually take us away from the moment, because it needs an “I” to do them, with an agenda of some kind, something to gain. All of which removes our beingness from the identity-free moment.

The only way that “what is” can be experienced is to lose all traces of self, in which case the “what is” can’t be experienced because there is no one there to experience it.

Any description of the state of the natural mind is false, including this one. “It” cannot be described. “It” is always “bigger” than the limiting description.

There is not even an “ultimate” state to gain, because the very idea that there is, takes us away from it.

All there is, is the operation of the universe in its all-ness. There’s no such thing as “enlightened” or “unenlightened”. These are just ideas of what is.

Even “bliss” or “transcendence” is a state of mind that needs an “I” to experience those feelings.

Thoughts are the glue of our belief structures. “I” is the creation of thoughts and beliefs.

What’s happening, when we think we are functioning human beings, is the operating system of the brain, running sophisticated meme/belief structures that create the content of our identities and sense of self.

The only act awareness can “do” is to let go of “self” awareness. Awareness, to be fully there, needs to have no “I” attached to it.

Where there was self, there is now “active” emptiness.

Action, from this place, is an instantaneous, pure response to the call of the moment. It is the moment, the universe acting, not the person.

True peace is an absence of agitation, an absence of self-generated internal activity. So peace cannot be “done”, or created – it’s an absence of doing. This allows unadulterated “what-is” to be.

All action out of this state is completely harmonious and non-conflicting. There is nothing there to conflict with anything else.

A transcended being feels the world cleanly, whereas an “I”, full of beliefs and ideas of self, overlays those unadulterated feelings with external content, imbuing them with emotional “charge”. This charge is reactive to the world around it, continually creating conflict as it attempts to dissipate.

Whatever is actual or real can only be there when all ideas, all thoughts, all belief, all traces of identity are gone – when there is no “I” left to take us out of the moment. If the eternal now moment is all there is, this may be the only way to be in it.

Thought is only necessary, only of any use, when it is called for by the moment, for a particular task. To keep thinking beyond the particular call of the moment is the same as keeping your arm above your head all the time, or hopping on one leg all the time.

What comes out of the moment relates only to that moment. It’s already past and nonexistent as it is experienced. To hold to anything experienced or said in that moment, is to live in the dead past.

If you can’t touch it, show it, taste it, does it have any reality?


In the beginning there are intellectual structures to help us
understand our experiences – then the structures necessarily fall
away as we fall back into the bliss of simple being.

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

–Thomas Merton


Anyone can meditate in a silent place. Where it is calm, restful and relaxing, often people seek meditation. This is however a falsehood. Like taking a special place outside the world, when really outside the world is still the world. In Gnosticism we embrace this idea wholly. Often many seek to “escape” or remove themselves from the world. No matter where you turn to you are in the world. This is a Gnostic truth.

Many see Gnosticism as a spiritual “escape hood”. The same could largely be said for Buddhism. However as opposed to escaping the world, Gnosticism in its “escape” actually embraces. For example in some forms of Gnosticism there are 7 false “heavens” run by “evil” forces called Archons. Archons can be thought of in many ways. One simple way is the inner forces in a person that holds us back; anger, greed, sloth, envy, lust… These “forces” are seen in Gnosticism to hold the individual and the universe “down” or “keep everyone asleep.” This battle or inner struggle is often seen as the greatest battle a seeker must face.

Often we are tempted to speak up, for others, for ourselves, our voices need to be heard:

“First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller

Speaking up is often thought to be the best way to approach life. It is for a seeker just the reverse. The more we speak, the less we say. In Gnosticism we know that the more silent we are, the closer to the “mark” we are. This silence is beyond simply speaking or not speaking, it is a silence of transcendence, when two become one and they reach beyond the sum of their parts. Thus this silence as Merton mentions is a special one…Often this is mentioned in spiritual texts as having “left” or “escaped” the world. If we penetrate below the surface though we find it is not escaping at all, it is embracing the world at a heightened state.

So where as often people seek calm and silence to meditate , true silence is not found in silence at all; as I hope I have explained, this is a false silence, one that really does not exist, as there is no escaping the world. Thus to truly find silence, one seeks noise. When one can find silence in a cacophony, in an argument, in a turmoil, in LIFE!, then one is truly on the road. Thus a seeker seeks no the easy road of calmness, but seeks the hurricane, and seeks to be calm within the eye of the storm, knowing the loudest sounds are also the quietest. Just some thoughts…


The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

–Rachel Naomi Remen

It’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

–Barak Obama


Throughout all generations we will render thanks unto Thee
And declare Thy praise,
Evening, morning, and noon,
For our lives which are in Thy care,
For our souls which are in Thy keeping
For thy miracles which we witness daily,
And for Thy wondrous deeds and blessings toward us at all times.

–Jewish Prayer

Time can repeat for you nothing but Love when Love becomes your only residue. When one thing only is repeated at every place and time it then becomes a constancy filling all Time and Space and thus annihilating both.

–The book of mirdad


The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words. It is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. Not that we discover an older unity. My dear Brothers, we are already one. But we imagine we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

–Thomas Merton

READ the expanded version of this essay

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.)

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