Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gnosticism at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Monday, September 18, 2006

Recent Coptic Find not Gnostic

The Book of Isaiah under the sands of Egypt

The archaeological mystery has been solved! The latest research shows that the manuscript found by Polish archaeologists in the village of Gourna (Sheikh abd el-Gourna) near Luxor in Upper Egypt contains the entire biblical book of Isaiah in the Coptic translation. "This is the first complete translation of this book in Coptic" -- says Prof. Ewa Wipszycka-Bravo of the Institute of Archaeology at Warsaw University.

In February last year, Tomasz Górecki heading the Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Warsaw University mission in Gourna, made a unique find in the rubbish heap of a monastery. It consisted of two papyrus books in leather covers and a collection of parchment sheets bound by two bits of wood. This was the first discovery of Coptic manuscripts in Egypt since 1952, which are well preserved and supported by a well-researched archaeological context.

One of the books is the "Code of Pseudo-Basili" -- the only preserved full text in Coptic, which is a collection of rules regulating Church life. The other contains the life of St. Pistentios, one of the Coptic bishops. Both texts date back to the 7th/8th centuries.

The books are under conservation in the National Museum in Alexandria and only then will the full text be known, says Górecki. However, their character and content are already known.

Identifying the third manuscript was much harder. An untitled collection of 50 richly decorated parchment sheets written in Coptic, bound by two pieces of wood. The Polish archaeologists turned to researchers from the University of Rome to help decipher the texts. Prof. Wipszycka-Bravo says that Tito Orlandi, who reads Coptic documents like most people read a newspaper, has pronounced them to be the book of Isaiah. Many fragments of this book have already been found, but never the whole book.

The wooden planks binding the books were supported by parchment from old texts, one a known apocrypha -- "The suffering of St. Peter", another religious text and tax bills -- the professor explains.

It is still not known how these books reached the hermitage. According to specialists, they must have been written in distant scriptoriums. Moreover, an Italian expert dates the book from the 9th-10th centuries, which makes them more recent than the other books.

"The hermitage was abandoned at the beginning of the 8th century, so the parchment could not have belonged to the monks in Gourna. Who brought them there if no Christians were there anymore remains a mystery" -- says Prof. Wipszycka-Bravo.

On being transported to Gourna, the books were dumped on the rubbish heap, presumably by the Arabs after chasing out the Christians.

Szymon Łucyk, tr. ajfb

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hymn of the Pearl PODcast

MP3 of the Hymn of the Pearl with meditation, read by Philip Levine.

Warning: contains synthesiser background music!

Occult Site Article on Bardesanes and the Hymn of the Pearl

The Hymn of the Pearl in Modern Music
Gilles Gobeil: Éclats de perle (2002)
Free adaptation of a gnostic text from the second century A.D. entitled Hymn of the Pearl and attributed to Bardesanes (152-222).
Songs from famous American composers Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Kurt Weil are juxtaposed to the ancient tale "The Hymn of the Pearl."
On the song “Hymn of the Pearl.” Schneider hits the high notes with impressive ease without really working up a sweat.

Yeats and the Hymn of the Pearl

The above translation is from F. Crawford Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity. St Margaret’s Lectures 1904, on the Syriac-Speaking Church (London: John Murray, 1904), 218-223, but I need to check whether this was reproducing an existing translation, or if the translation is actually Burkitt's. These blog entries on The Hymn of the Pearl are a way for me to record some of my Internet research on the Hymn of the Pearl for further reference, and so are very notelike.
Yeats referred to the Hymn of the Pearl in his elaborate prose work A Vision. I'm a great fan of Yeats, but A Vision always struck me as inauthentic.
" "The Celestial Body is the Divine Cloak lent to all, it falls away at the consummation and Christ is revealed" ’, which Yeats links to Bardesan’s ‘Hymn of the Soul’. The context in the Automatic Script clarifies the point slightly, contrasting ‘the spirit body [which is] the immortal body’ with ‘the celestial body [which] is the cloak of Christ’, so that the Spirit may be seen as the Christ-principle in humanity, ‘the symbolism & not the historical christ’ (YVP 1 326). The falling away of the Celestial Body is the revelation of ‘the true ego’ which has been ‘throughout incarnation subsidiary to CB’ and ‘cannot act alone’. Though it may not illuminate the state particularly for the reader, it resonated strongly with Yeats because it echoed a dream of 1898, in which he heard ‘a ceremonial measured voice, which did not seem to be mine, speaking through my lips. ‘We make an image of him who sleeps’, it said, ‘and it is not he who sleeps, and we call it Emmanuel’’ (Au 379; AV B 233n). Thinking about the experience years later, he ‘took down from the shelf, not knowing what [he] did, Burkitt’s Early Eastern Christianity, and opened it at random’ at Bardesan’s ‘Hymn of the Soul’ from the Apocryphal Acts of Thomas (Au379). The strangeness of the dream and the coincidences evidently impressed him deeply, in a similar way to those surrounding his vision of the Archer in 1896, and the details of the hymn are helpful. The hymn is an allegorical representation of life from a Gnostic point of view, with the soul’s incarnation represented as an exile in Egypt. A child, born in a palace, is given a robe of precious metals and gems by his parents (Yeats’s Solar Principles? or Celestial Body?), but this ‘Glorious Robe’ is taken from him, as is his scarlet tunic (even the Lunar Principles are latent?), when he is sent out on a mission to Egypt to recover a pearl from the toils of a serpent. He is, however, promised that he will regain his robes and will inherit the kingdom along with his brother (the Christ) on his return. He puts on the clothes of the land (the Faculties), and forgets his mission until he is reminded by a letter sent from his father, so that he rescues the pearl and sets out towards his homeland. On his journey home he is met by messengers, who restore his bright garment to him, it is ‘myself that I saw before me as in a mirror’, and the robe speaks, saying that the man is ‘the Champion, he for whom I was reared by the Father’. He then puts on the robe and returns to his Father. In Yeats’s brief retelling, the garment seems to appear in while he is still in Egypt, but this does not greatly change the meaning; less clear, however, is the dual process of divesting and restoration of the robe which is the nub of Yeats’s reference. The general movement of the after-life has been the weaning of the Spirit from the Passionate Body to the Celestial, and its integration with the latter. The putting on of the original vestment is the restoration of the Spirit to itself, since the robe is a transfigured mirror image of its own form, unlike the Passionate Body. The Script’s image of the Divine Cloak falling away portrays this consummation as the apotheosis of Spirit into the Christ-principle, in which it stands forth in itself from the Celestial Body’s spiritual necessity. The Spirit is the true ego or identity, and the falling away of the garment may reveal the essential ‘pilgrim soul’, and Yeats entertains the idea that the Celestial Body is not the ultimate goal, and ‘that we do not in reality seek these [ideal] forms [of the Celestial Body], that while separate from us they are illusionary, but that we do seek Spirit as complete self-realisation’, so that Spirit is the Principle of the future rather than Celestial Body (AV B 191). The extreme allusiveness of the reference in A Vision tends to confuse rather than explain through the symbolism."

“Fragmentary Versions of the Apocryphal ‘Hymn of the Pearl’

“'Fragmentary Versions of the Apocryphal ‘Hymn of the Pearl’ in Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Urdu" by Carl W. Ernst, a specialist in Islamic Studies

A terrific article on Islamic versions of the Hymn of the Pearl. His articles page is at

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hymn of the Pearl Links

These will eventually make their way onto a page for The Gnostic Soul: Annotated & Explained.
Wikipedia entry on the Hymn of the Pearl
Hans Jonas' translation at Barbara Thiering's site
Translations by Mead and Wright at
Mead's translation with possible scriptural references annotated by Joseph Antley
Translation needs to be identified--doesn't seem to be Jonas or Mead or Wright
An article on the Hymn of the Pearl and the Shroud of Turin!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ephraim's Hymn of the Pearl

For my own convenience, here is the first of Ephraim the Syrian's hymns of the pearl. Much more of a hymn of the pearl than the Hymn of the Pearl itself.

On a certain day a pearl did I take up, my brethren;

I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom;

Semblances and types of the Majesty;

It became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand,

That I might examine it:

I went to look at it on one side,

And it proved faces on all sides.

I found out that the Son was incomprehensible,

Since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded,

And in its pureness a great mystery,

Even the Body of Our Lord which is well-refined:

In its undivideness I saw the Truth

Which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception,

The Church, and the Son within her.

The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him,

And her type the heaven,

Since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein his Trophies, and His victories, and His crowns.

I saw His helpful and overflowing graces,

And His hidden things with His revealed things.

** 2. **

It was greater to me than the ark,

For I was astonied thereat:

I saw therein folds without shadow to them

Because it was a daughter of light,

Types vocal without tongues,

Utterances of mystery without lips,

A silent harp that without voice gave out melodies.

The trumpet falters and the thunder mutters;

Be not thou daring then;

Leave things hidden, take things revealed.

Thou hast seen in the clear sky a second shower;

The clefts of thine ears,

As from the clouds,

They are filled with interpretations.

And as that manna which alone filled the people,

In the place of pleasant meats,

With its pleasantnesses,

So does this pearl fill me in the place of books,

And the reading thereof,

And the explanations thereof.

And when I asked if there were yet other mysteries,

It had no mouth for me that I might hear from,

Neither any ears wherewith it might hear me.

O Thou thing without senses, whence I have gained new senses!

** 3. **

It answered me and said,

"The daughter of the sea am I, the illimitable sea!

And from that sea whence I came up it is

That there is a mighty treasury of mysteries in my bosom!

Search thou out the sea, but search not out the Lord of the sea!

"I have seen the divers who came down after me, when astonied,

So that from the midst of the sea they returned to the dry ground;

For a few moments they sustained it not.

Who would linger and be searching on into the depths of the Godhead?

"The waves of the Son are full of blessing,

And with mischiefs too.

Have ye not seen, then, the waves of the sea,

Which if a ship should struggle with them would break her to pieces,

And if she yield herself to them, and rebel not against them,

Then she is preserved?

In the sea all the Egyptians were choked, though they scrutinised it not,

And, without prying, the Hebrews too were overcome upon the dry land,

And how shall ye be kept alive?

And the men of Sodom were licked up by the fire,

And how shall ye prevail?

"At these uproars the fish in the sea were moved,

And Leviathan also.

Have ye then a heart of stone

That ye read these things and run into these errors?

O great fear that justice also should be so long silent!"

** 4. **

"Searching is mingled with thanksgiving,

And whether of the two will prevail?

From the tongue

The incense of praise riseth

Along with the fume of disputation

And unto which shall we hearken?

Prayer and prying from one mouth,

And which shall we listen to?

"For three days was Jonah a neighbour in the sea:

The living things that were in the sea were affrighted,

Saying, 'Who shall flee from God?

Jonah fled,

And ye are obstinate at your scrutiny of Him!'"

The Hymn of the Pearl and the Shroud of Turin

While I was searching on the Hymn of the Pearl on Google, I discovered the following page which argues that the line in the Hymn to "I saw the garment made like unto me as it had been in a mirror" refers to the Turin shroud. Whatever next?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coffee Cigarettes and Gnosis Interview Downloads

My interview with Miguel Conner was broadcast on Sunday. The entire show will be available for download from the Freethoughtmedia site (for just $1) and an extensive excerpt (over 10 minutes) is available for free download. Below is Miguel's blurb for the interview.

The Gospel of Philip: Although known for its passages revealing the close relationship and making out of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, there are many insights in this mythical, allegorical Gospel that reveal the heart and soul of Gnosticism and the early, mystical Christianity that threatened the foundation of the new Roman Church.

Andrew Phillip Smith, author of ‘The Gospel of Philip’ & ‘The Gospel of Thomas: A New Translation Based on the Inner Meaning’ joins us on ‘Coffee, Cigarettes, & Gnosis’ this Sunday, September 10, at 3 PM PST/5 PM CST/6 PM EST at

Topics discussed:

--The origins, theology and secret meanings of The Gospel of Philip.
--The reality behind the depiction of the close and intimate relationship between Mary Magdalene and The Logos.
--The Gnostic Pauline and Johannine influences that permeate the Gospel of Philip.
--The history and philosophy of Valentinus, the great Gnostic Master, whose influence formed this Gospel, as well as many others in The Nag Hammadi Library. His movement was considered the most sophisticated, intellectual and moral of the Classic Gnostics, which made it the biggest menace to the nascent Catholic Church. In fact, Valentinus almost became the Pope of The Catholic Church, which would have changed history if not for an eleventh hour shift in fortune. If only…if only…
--We learn how to read this symbolical and abstract work that, in essence, will help us understand all other Christian texts in the right context.
--The Gospel of Philip has been called the Sacramental Gospel, being the first Christian work introducing a full catalogue of holy rituals. Is it possible that the Gnostics first conceived certain mystery rites that were later usurped by the Orthodox Church?

Like The Gospel of Philip says, ‘truth did not come into the world naked. It came in type and images. The world would not receive truth in any other way.’ Learn to see beyond the words, ideas and images that limit our spiritual transformation so that the truth will set us and the world free from the Angelic Mafia.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kenneth Rexroth on Gnosticism

Kenneth Rexroth's 1960 introduction to G.R.S.Meade's Fragments of a Faith Forgotten.

About Gnosticism as such, as it is revealed in the documents which survive to us, it is not necessary to correct George R.S. Mead. Since he gathered his anthology and commented upon it, sixty years of research and new discoveries have gone by, but his picture is still, in its essentials, correct. In recent years we have learned a great deal about one sect of heretical Judaism from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in the Scrolls we can trace various germinal ideas that the Gnostics were to develop. It was not until 1955 that the Berlin Papyrus, Mead’s Akhmin Codex, was published in its entirety in a critical edition, but Mead’s summary of it is still sound. In 1945 a whole library of Gnostic books was discovered at Nag-Hammadi in Upper Egypt, thirteen volumes, forty-eight treatises, more than seven hundred pages. Unfortunately, economic and political vicissitudes have kept most of these from publication. So far only the Gnostic books which are contained also in the Akhmin Codex of Berlin, the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel of Thomas, have appeared. We know the others only through summaries by Jean Doresse. Our knowledge of Gnosticism has been deepened and enriched, but has not been changed in any fundamental way since Mead wrote. And nobody since has better understood what we know.

Fragments of a Faith Forgotten is a masterpiece of lucid, or as lucid as might be, exposition of an unbelievably complicated and difficult and ambiguous subject. Once in a while Mead’s sympathies for the Gnostics make him a little sentimental, but he never permits his sympathies to destroy his objectivity. After sixty years he is still the most reliable guide to the corpus of Gnosticism that we have."

The Gnostic Soul

Certainly, then, the gnostic soul, adorned with perfect virtue, is the earthly image of the divine power; its development being the joint result of nature, of training, of reason, all together. This beauty of the soul becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, when it acquires a disposition in the whole of life corresponding to the Gospel. Such an one consequently withstands all fear of everything terrible, not only of death, but also poverty and disease, and ignominy, and things akin to these; being unconquered by pleasure, and lord over irrational desires. For he well knows what is and what is not to be done; being perfectly aware what things are really to be dreaded, and what not. Whence he bears intelligently what the Word intimates to him to be requisite and necessary; intelligently discriminating what is really safe (that is, good), from what appears so; and things to be dreaded from what seems so, such as death, disease, and poverty; which are rather so in opinion than in truth.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Coffee, Cigarettes and Gnosis

I was interviewed by Miguel Conner this afternoon for his Coffee, Cigarettes and Gnosis radio programme. The subject of the interview was specifically the Gospel of Philip, and we had a good talk around the subject. The show will go out Sunday September 10. See Miguel's website or
for archived shows. Miguel has had some great guests on the show, including Stevan Davies, Stephan Hoeller, Robert Price and Tim Freke.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


My blog is worth $1,693.62.
How much is your blog worth?