Gnosticism, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Thomas and Other Non-Canonical Texts
Andrew Phillip Smith is the author of The Gospel of Philip: Annotated & Explained, The Gospel of Thomas: A New Version Based On the Inner Meaning, and The Lost Sayings of Jesus: Annotated and Explained.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Looking Back at the Year
I always felt that I’ve done less than half of what I could have done, but, looking back, this year was a fairly full one. I put out three Bardic Press publications. One of these was the first new Bardic Press book for a couple of years, Planetary Types: The Science of Celestial Influence, by Anthony Cartledge. Planetary Types looks at the human typology based on the characteristics and influence of the planets that was, in the twentieth century at least, first described by Rodney Collin, a pupil of P.D. Ouspensky. Cartledge describes the physical and psychological characteristics of these types, and their origin in the Fourth Way teachings, and then goes on to tie them in to the modern scientific exploration of astrology, particularly the unimpeachable statistical results of Michel Gauquelin, who found a statistically significant link between planetary positions at the time of birth and profession. So top generals or top athletes are more likely to have Mars in a particular range of positions in the natal horoscope than is allowed by chance. The author goes on to refine this connection and to suggest a possible mechanism by which the planets might influence character. The book is something of a sleeper, but I’m sure that it will have a significant long term impact. The other two Bardic Press publications are the first two issues of The Gnostic, published in Spring and Autumn of this year. The Gnostic has been very well received and I intend to keep up the bi-annual publication schedule and to continue with a solid base of articles related to Gnosticism, along with other forms of spirituality, Gnostic-inspired creative work and whatever else takes my fancy. A Dictionary of Gnosticism was published in November. I knew that there was a real need for this book—the first of its kind ever to be published—and I’m please to announce that it’s already on its second print run, and I’m very happy with the reception it has so far received. I’ve done several interviews on the book, and Fortean Times will be running a piece on me in the new year. I’ve also contributed editorials, columns, reviews and articles for The Gnostic, plus a short story which looks at the emotional implications of carrying out the quantum suicide physics thought experiment as a piece of performance art! I do want to write more fiction in the coming year. I have plenty of ideas and I simply need to pick one of them and get down to it,
Among the non-fiction books I have been working on but haven’t completed are: a biography of Alan Moore (unauthorised), my longstanding biography of Rodney Collin, and a book about the Mandaeans. I have ideas for half a dozen other books, one of which is a short book on what we know of the lives of the ancient Gnostics, tentatively titled Ten Ancient Gnostics (or Eight, or Nine, or Eleven, or however many the final book contains.) One of the most notable aspects of my spiritual exploration was a weeklong gathering of people who follow or are interested in the teaching of J.G. Bennett, a pupil of Gurdjieff, in Wales this August. My travels have taken me to Italy (for a wedding), Wales and Hungary, and as this blog post appears I’ll be back again in Budapest about to celebrate New Year with my best friend, Lala/Ashford.
Fourteen Gnostic Christmases (Thirteen False and One True)
Fourteen Gnostic Christmases (Thirteen False, One True)
One of the lesser-known works in the NHL is the Revelation of Adam (also known as the Apocalypse of Adam.) This is the fifth text in Codex V and, like all of the other Nag Hammadi writings, survives in a Coptic translation of a Greek original. It is clearly a Sethian Gnostic work, and its lack of any certain Christian reference has fascinated scholars. Is it an early example of Jewish Gnosticism, or should we assume that it has a Christian connection, since the Sethian Gnosticism that we know is Christian (or, as I would prefer it, Christian-related since Seth rather than Jesus isn’t the central figure for Sethians)? In any case, The Revelation of Adam raises some interesting questions.
Scholars see it as quite early, a product of the late first or early second centuries.
It begins with a typically Sethian reinterpretation of the early development of humanity, from the creation of Adam and Eve, to Noah and the flood and a hint at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. From that time on, it indicates, an Illuminator of Gnosis will descend to aid those humans who can receive his teaching and be redeemed. But the origin of this Illuminator figure will be misunderstood by the kingdoms descended from Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah. This is where the Gnostic Christmases come in. Each of these erroneous origins proposes a separate birth story for the Illuminator, so we have thirteen false nativities, in effect thirteen false Christmases.
Only the fourteenth version is correct. What is the difference between the mistaken tales of the kingdoms and the correct version related by the generation without a king? Perhaps that the Illuminator was chosen from all the aeons, and doesn’t seem in any way to be incarnate. Read for yourself, thirteen false Christmases and one true Christmas.
Now the first kingdom says of him that he came from [...]. A spirit [...] to heaven. He was nourished in the heavens. He received the glory of that one and the power. He came to the bosom of his mother. And thus he came to the water.
And the second kingdom says about him that he came from a great prophet. And a bird came, took the child who was born, and brought him onto a high mountain. And he was nourished by the bird of heaven. An angel came forth there. He said to him "Arise! God has given glory to you." He received glory and strength. And thus he came to the water.
The third kingdom says of him that he came from a virgin womb. He was cast out of his city, he and his mother. He was brought to a desert place. He was nourished there. He came and received glory and strength. And thus he came to the water.
The fourth kingdom says of him that he came from a virgin. [...] Solomon sought her, he and Phersalo and Sauel and his armies, which had been sent out. Solomon himself sent his army of demons to seek out the virgin. And they did not find the one whom they sought, but the virgin who was given them. It was she whom they fetched. Solomon took her. The virgin became pregnant and gave birth to the child there. She nourished him on a border of the desert. When he had been nourished, he received glory and power from the seed from which he was begotten. And thus he came to the water.
And the fifth kingdom says of him that he came from a drop from heaven. He was thrown into the sea. The abyss received him, gave birth to him, and brought him to heaven. He received glory and power. And thus he came to the water.
And the sixth kingdom says that [...] down to the aeon which is below, in order to gather flowers. She became pregnant from the desire of the flowers. She gave birth to him in that place. The angels of the flower garden nourished him. He received glory there, and power. And thus he came to the water.
And the seventh kingdom says of him that he is a drop. It came from heaven to earth. Dragons brought him down to caves. He became a child. A spirit came upon him and brought him on high to the place where the drop had come forth. He received glory and power there. And thus he came to the water.
And the eighth kingdom says of him that a cloud came upon the earth and enveloped a rock. He came from it. The angels who were above the cloud nourished him. He received glory and power there. And thus he came to the water.
And the ninth kingdom says of him that from the nine Muses one separated away. She came to a high mountain and spent (some) time seated there, so that she desired herself alone in order to become androgynous. She fulfilled her desire and became pregnant from her desire. He was born. The angels who were over the desire nourished him. And he received glory there, and power. And thus he came to the water.
The tenth kingdom says of him that his god loved a cloud of desire. He begot him in his hand and cast upon the cloud above him (some) of the drop, and he was born. He received glory and power there. And thus he came to the water.
And the eleventh kingdom says that the father desired his own daughter. She herself became pregnant from her father. She cast [...] tomb out in the desert. The angel nourished him there. And thus he came to the water.
The twelfth kingdom says of him that he came from two illuminators. He was nourished there. He received glory and power. And thus he came to the water.
And the thirteenth kingdom says of him that every birth of their ruler is a word. And this word received a mandate there. He received glory and power. And thus he came to the water, in order that the desire of those powers might be satisfied.
But the generation without a king over it says that God chose him from all the aeons. He caused a knowledge of the undefiled one of truth to come to be in him. He said, "Out of a foreign air, from a great aeon, the great illuminator came forth. And he made the generation of those men whom he had chosen for himself shine, so that they could shine upon the whole aeon"
Trans. George W. MacRae, http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/adam.html
I'm being interviewed by Gary Goldberg on In the Spirit on Thursday December 17. My interview begins at 2PM EST. Also on the show are Rev. Sally Bingham, Kirtan Rabbi, and Richard Smoley (who was editor of A Dictionary of Gnosticism.) I was on In the Spirit a few years ago and I believe that it was my first ever interview. I was speaking about The Lost Sayings of Jesus: Annotated & Explained. You can check out the schedule and listen live at http://www.wrpi.org.
Also, my most recent interview, for Rumor Mill News, is now available as an mp3 at . I've recently been interviewed by Aeon Byte, Sphinx Radio, Rumor Mill News, Fortean Times and now In the Spirit. You can find the RMN interview here: http://radio.rumormillnews.com/podcast/tag/gnosticism/ (it doesn't show up oin the archive page.)
I used to recommend the Palm Tree Garden forum for online Gnostic discussion, but it was closed down a short while ago. Many of the PTG members are now at Spiral Inward's Gnostic Cafe. It has a homelier, less charged atmosphere than the PTG. You can access it here: http://spiralinward.com
I should correct the URL for the Palm Tree Garden Gnostic Forum which I incorrectly gave as a .com address rather than .org in the intro to The Gnostic 2, but, alas, the forum has now closed. Many of us are discussing Gnosticism at Spiral Inward's Gnostic Cafe instead http://spiralinward.com/forum/
I will be on Rumor Mill News Radio on Monday 7th December, 11am-2pm PST. I'll probably be on air for the whole program, including a phone-in.