Christos and Thelete
An important note
from the author
At the moment (May 2013), I am submitting some corrections and revisions for Not in His Image to my American publisher, Chelsea Green. Among the revisions to be included in all future editions of the English version, are a few passages touching on the role of the Aeon Christos in Gnostic cosmology. The purpose of this essay is to explain the changes I have made, placing Christ/Christos in Gnostic cosmology, and why I am making them.
First and foremost, I have changed a key detail in the nine-episode version of the sacred narrative, concerning the configuration of the Anthropos (episode two): namely, making Thelete and not Christos the consort to Sophia in generating the genomic plasm for the human species (Anthropos). I have also made the same replacement in the corresponding passages on metahistory.org.
By contrast, the name "Christos" occurs many times in the surviving materials. I have written at length about the difficulty of code words in the Coptic writings. The code CRS with a line over it has been routinely taken to indicate "Christ", even though Christ does not end with an S. Scrupulous observation of the original meaning would require the translation of CRS as Christos, but scholars patently render it "Christ" and no one blinks an eye. Naturally, most readers who come see the name "Christ" in Gnostic literature assume that it means the Pauline Christ of the New Testament, the Christian Redeemer, only-begotten Son of God, etc etc. And so arises a huge problem in the interpretation of the Gnostic materials.
I have explained elsewhere and at length how unfortunate is the straightforward equation, CRS = Christ, and I won't repeat here. Those who follow my development of the Sophia mythos from its textual origins know that I insist on not confounding Christ/os with the Christian Redeemer. That is one issue, all by itself. The other issue concerns the role of the Gnostic Christos in the Sophianic narrative? Why did I initially designate the Aeon Christos as the consort of Wisdom Goddess in co-generating the human genomic plasm?
The answer is simple: textual fidelity. Christos is textually evident in the NHC, and in my close and rigorous restoration of the narrative I wished to observe the written evidence. But this evidence indicates two distinct roles which have to be carefully distinguished: Christos as co-generator of the Anthropos (episode two) and Christos as the agent of the intercession (episode eight). The strongest evidence for a Christos-Sophia pairing involving both roles shows up in A Valentinian Exposition (NHC XI, 2). The passage that describes the arrangement of the 30 Aeons in the Pleroma is badly damaged, down to the last line:
[ ] indicate words added by the translators, presumed to have been found in the original document had it survived intact.
Generally, Wikipedia would not pass for a reliable source on these arcane matters, but for what it's worth the entry on Valentinian Gnosticism presents a diagram of the Pleroma with the Aeons paired, i.e. the central heaven of mating gods. Lo and behold, the diagram places Sophia at the lower limit of the schema, paired with -- Theletos!
The article correctly covers the various and confusing interpretations that swirl around these cosmic agencies, Sophia, Thelete, Anthropos, Nous, Christos, and more, standing in complex relation to each other. For the integrity and coherence of the restored narrative, two relations are crucial: the consort to Sophia in configuring the singularity of the Anthropos (episode two) and the helpmeet or helpmate provided in the rescue mission, or intercession (episode eight). In the Valentinian system, both instances are certain -- as certain as anything can be in the massive and inchoate jumble of fragmentary materials that is the Coptic corpus of Gnosticism.
It may be supposed that "he" is the Aeon Christos, oddly described as Sophia's son. (The reference of pronouns and pronominal adjectives is notoriously dodgy in Coptic literature.) Then again, other passages call Ialdabaoth the Demiurge her son. The Valentinian-slanted Tripartite Tractate (NHC I, 5), where the Aeon Sophia is not mentioned by name although the word for wisdom (Gr sophia) does appear, equates the goddess with the demiurgic monster that she accidentally produces! Neoplatonism (3rd C. AD) and later Hermetic systems took the position of exalting the Demiurge to the status of cosmogenitor, logos of the created world, and ignoring the Aeon Sophia. Go figure.
To return to the plot in A Valentinian Exposition, there is a passage where one of the Aeons addresses the Originator:
Which is about as clear as it gets. Note the "Indeed [Jesus and]", indicating that scholars have added the words in brackets. This interpolation occurs in line 35.10 in the Coptic: [.... IHS MN]. IHS with a line over it is a shorthand notation routinely rendered as Jesus. In this critical passage the experts not only translate IHS as Jesus, they put the code for Jesus into the damaged line in the first place! Here is the evidence of the Valentinian view that Jesus -- by implication, the Aeon Christos -- paired with Sophia to configure the human genome, the Anthropos. Pretty skim evidence you might say, but better than nothing at all.
To prepare myself for objections to my restoration of the sacred narrative of Gnostic cosmology, which I expected to be viewed by the experts as a wild fabrication, I chose to stick closely to the textual evidence in the first edition of Not in His Image in English. Hence I selected Christos over Thelete for Sophia's consort in episode two, describing a creative act of dyadic generation, mating gods. In the Valentinian system, Christos is her consort, acting within the Pleroma, but also the agent of intercession: "He willed within himself bodily to leave the powers and he descended." My restoration of the myth now includes the first role, but not the second. Initially, I was strongly inclined to make Thelete the consort, consistent with the perspective of Sethian Gnosticism from which I draw my guidelines, but deferred from that view according to the reason stated above. Now, five years on, I find it imperative to replace Christos by Thelete in episode two, describing the configuration of the Anthropos within the Pleroma. The Aeon Christos remains the helpmeet of Sophia in episode eight, which unfolds outside the Pleroma.
FGS 3.0 and Counting
All in all, this elaboration of the Sophianic myth is quite a tremendous achievement, an unparalleled experiment in "creative mythology," to borrow the notion of Joseph Campbell who introduced it in theoretical terms but never applied it.
I offer these notes to all who are currently reading Not in His Image in the English-language edition published by Chelsea Green in 2006, or who have already read it. November 2013 will be the 7th anniversary of publication. Readership of NIHI continues to grow and expand, world-wide. The complete plot of the sacred narrative of the Mysteries revealed in my book has never before been accessible to the world at large. If we are indeed in a divine experiment designed by the Wisdom Goddess, one can only wonder what might happen in the human mind if the story of that experiment were to be known, shared, discussed... Does open disclosure of the story effect the experiment it describes? We'll see about that. In any case, such is the singular opportunity of this moment in human history. As the one who restored the Sophianic myth, I consider it imperative that all readers be informed of this crucial correction in the first edition of my book.
A Valentinian Exposition provides an opportunity to see how the telestai worked on the Sophianic myth by continual elaboration, like teams of writers laboring over a long and complex screenplay. Modern scholars are fond of citing the Gnostic-hater Tertullian who said that Gnostics "disagree on many specific issues, even with their own founders." Sure, but the question is, exactly how did they disagree?
I submit that telestai working at the core material of the myth must have considered different versions, as their ongoing visionary inquiries prompted them to do. They did not ultimately disagree on essential features of the story arc, but they must have worked with several drafts to arrive at a story suitable for teaching and transmission. They invented elaborately but also rigorously, taking extreme care to stay true to the plot of the story -- the crew of the GNE know how that is done. In fact, it can be demonstrated that staying in the story, holding steady on the plot-factors, and pondering questions and enigmas that arise within the narrative framework, actually enhances and guides human imagination to enrich and extrapolate the story. No other myth affects the practice of creative mythmaking in just this way.
Now, let's consider the Valentinian draft and compare it to some points in the Sethian version of the myth, the screenplay "now in development" in the GNE. (I am working from volume V of The Coptic Gnostic Library, p 89 onward. This is the edition published by Brill / Leiden Boston Koln, with Coptic text printed line for line on the left-hand pages, English translation on the right.) There are 38 lines to each bound papyrus page. The notation 12.22 indicates line 22 on page 12.
This document is known for raising several questions about different views on three issues in Gnostic soterology: the nature of the Originator, the role of the Pleromic limit (horos), and the cause of Sophia's separation from the Pleroma. Bear in mind that the Coptic papyrus book pages are often damaged and many lines are totally lost, or so fragmentary as to be unintelligible. Nevertheless, the opening passages of A Valentinian Exposition present a breathtaking glimpse of the Originator: Coptic PEIOT, also called the Monad, MONAS.
The Monad produces singularities of pure potential which initially configure into the array of Aeons in a fractal propagation via Duad, Tetrad, and so forth, and then the Aeons, or Generators, proceed to develop these singularities into discrete experiments. The Generators in the Pleroma are separated from the cosmic realms where their experiments unfold by the Limit, HOROS. The Originator provides the structural conditions for all manifestations beyond the Limit. It confers on the Aeons the fours powers of separating, consolidating, providing form, and providing substance. The Generators in turn can fashion world-systems with tangible and sensorial properties such as presence (prosopou: face or facet of appearance, boundary), time-value (chronos), locations or dwellpoints (ropos), and likenesses or archetypes (archoi). 26.31-38
The source of the manifest worlds is divine love. All Gnostics would have agreed on that point.
In this Valentinian draft of 39 severely damaged papyrus pages, explicit mention of Sophia comes on p. 31, line 37, next to the last line on the page:
After which come thirty-four missing lines. You get the idea.
Page 33 onward is better preserved. It presents a sparse account of the descent of the Aeon Christos below the Limit. Unusually, the name CHRISTOS is spelled in full 33.17) in A Valentinian Exposition, when elsewhere it is indicated by the code CRS. Note this is Christos in the original Coptic writing, not Christ -- but scholars abbreviate it to the latter. Then follows the line cited above: "he did not want to consent to the suffering" (33.23-24), presumably referring to the descending Aeon. Here the question arises, What kind of suffering, if any, was entailed by the Christic intercession? Also, what emotions did Sophia suffer as a consequence of passing outside the Limit? These are questions about the empathic capacities and responses of superhuman beings. You can bet that the telestai had a good many lively discussions on these points, to arrive at some approximate understanding not entirely biassed and clouded by anthropomorphic assumptions.
Correction in Progress
33.28 reads "since her correction will." This is one of the rare occurences of the word Greek diorthosis in the NHC. Then comes the passage saying that Sophia laughed at her situation: "They said she laughs since she remained alone and imitated the Uncontainable One" (34.34-37). Is that a defiant laugh, born of outrageous daring? I, for one, would say so. This lines touches a point of difference between the Valentinian and Sethian views of Sophia's "fall." In the former system, Sophia comes to be separated from the Pleroma due to her desire to know the Uncontainable One, the Originator, and act like it does -- that is, to act alone, in a singular manner. The text says that she wants to imitate the Originator: tantamount to producing a singularity herself. In the normal course of cosmic affairs, the Originator release a singularity of undetermined potential which is then received and configured into an experimental world-system by the Generators.
According to the Sethian view, Sophia plunged from the galactic core due to her excessive fascination for the talent of the Anthropos. After having observed the anthropic germ plasm seed and emerge in nine different worlds, she dreamed of a tenth experiment which she would oversee on her own -- without the collaboration of an other Aeon acting as syzygy. Having studied the nine experiments that crashed, Sophia pictured herself making an avataric descent into the three-body world system of her solitary dreaming, the trimorphic protennoia. Such was her compassion for the Anthropos, and her sense of responsibility for its fate...
But thereby arose another problem for the Aeon Sophia: in her solitary dreaming she sought to provide an environment custom-made for the endowment of the Luminous Child, so that it would have optimal chance to master the tendencies that caused it to crash the experiment. To do so, Sophia had to use the tecnhique of narrative spooling applied by older Aeons who know how to set-up the "petri dish" of planetary laboratories according to predetermined specifications. But Wisdom is a young Aeon who did not know how to handle that method. Attempting it, she was pulled out of the Pleromic code and into the galactic arms.
Thus, in the Sethian view, Sophia's exceptionally strong desire (enthymesis) combined with her inexperience in handling Aeonic projections led to her fall. In recognition of this combination of traits, the telestai called her prunikos, "outrageous, daring". Because her Aeonic currents of Organic Light mingled with the coarse granular material of the dema (dense elementary matter arrays), causing her materialization into a planetary body, they called her the Whore of Wisdom -- the celestial goddess who displays herself flagrantly in natural and sensorial phenomena of the lower worlds. The Greek word for prostitute, porne, comes from a root meaning to "traffic, sell, trade off." Sophia traded off her Aeonic status to become a planet. She is a whore because she took material mass and appearance in exchange for exposing herself in naked magnificance, delivering the glory of her Organic Light upon the regions of the dema.
Next comes a good passage with relatively explicit description of the intercession event. Note that this event is collaborative: the Aeon Christos does not commandeer the process ialone, but proceeds with Sophia as his consort (syzygy):
Again, you get the idea. The Valentinian slant attributes a superior role to the Aeon Christos, but even so, Sophia plays her part in sorting things out, including the "creature", oddly named krisis. I would say that this terms means animal life, including the critical component of animal life in Sophia's world -- the anthropine species. Specifically, it indicates articulated creatures and large-form animal life, rather than molecular or microscopic life-forms. It is striking to see that Pronoia (projective intent: the capacity to foresee what you are going to do before you do it) plays a corrective role in the intercession. In fact, it can be said that the intercession is a prelude to the correction now underway, a kind of proximate or preparatory correction. To endow creatures and life-processes with Pronoia means, quite simply, to render them teleological. Hence, slime molds and moss can find the way through a maze to acquire food. Not to mention what other, more articulated species can do.
Is Sophianic cosmology compatible with Gaia theory? Well, "hard" Gaia theory assumes teleology all through nature. I rest my case.
There is more to this passage, equally dense and complex, no less obscure. But the collaboration of Sophia and Jesus is indisputable:
"But the syzygy is the [complete one (teleios)] and Sophia and Jesus (IHS) and [the angels (aggelos)] and the seeds (sperma) are [images (eikon)] [of] the Pleroma." 39.13-16
I would be amiss to subject you to this excruciating parsing of A Valentinian Exposition without citing the incomparable line it contains, stating one of the paramount propositions of Gnostic instruction:
This document is truly a Gnostic valentine, due to that line as well as to the felicitous ending of the intercession:
O happy day. Sounds like complete reharmonization and syncopation of life in the biosphere, the wonderful prospect noted during the shift of Mirita.
Finally, moving on, anyone might wonder why Jesus (IHS) features in the intercession passages, rather than Christos. And why it says that "Jesus received the Christ and the seeds and the angels": AGO IHS NF CHI MPECHRESTOS MN N[S]PERMA ME NAGGELOS. Wondering about that, are you? Well, I'd guess it goes like this: IHS could be code for Iesos, "healer," an alternative name for the mesotes," the intermediary", which in turn is the name for the Christos Aeon as it acts within intercession. The letter H is the Coptic e. IHS = Iesos, or IHS = Christ, take your pick. Iesos and Jesus are cognate and, I dare say, Iesos is primary to the Gnostic meaning. Consider these variants:
More variants could be cited! Consider also this comment from Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda by Dan Russell (p 224): "Many Gnostics practiced actual entheogen ingestion, and came to identify the entheogen with Iasius, 'the Healer, Jesus'." And finally, I may as well signal a passage in The Coptic Gnostic Library, V. I, Part Two, p. 142ff, discussing variants of Christos in NHC I, 4, The Treatise on the Resurrection, to wit: "It is possible that, as in other Gnostic contexts, the name 'Christ' is rendered exclusively with chrestos... in order to avoid any association of the true Savior with the Creator God or with a fleshly human being." Thus showing a clear break from the Judeo-Christian concept of Christ the Redeemer who is a fleshly human sent by the Father God.
As we tear ourselves away from the enchanting task of sniffing the bread crumb trail of the Coptic Gnostic Library, let's not miss the astonishing statement that "the Aeons are increased" by what Christos and Sophia do in the intercession. Why? Because the intercession insures the success of the experiment on Aeonic terms, and so the Aeons win on their bets. They are increased and enriched but not really changed. By contrast, on a losing bet they have to pawn a few used galaxies to raise enough chips to stake the next hand.
The gods are addicted to gambling.
So, episode eight of the Sophianic vision story remains unchanged: the Aeon Christos performs the intercession to assist Sophia with the burgeoning biodiversity of life in the terrestrial habitat. I have dated this event to the Cambrian Explosion 585 million years ago. Now let's consider why Christos is the right one for this task. The name Christos is not a title of divinity but the linguistic cue to a function. The Greek verb chrio means "to anoint." Today we say, "to christen." Christos is actually an adjective: ho christos, "the anointed." It is a title rather than the name of an entity. The noun chrisma refers to the anointing substance or equally, to the act of anointing. Chrism is the anointing fluid.
The function of the Aeon Christos, both within the Pleroma and outside during the intercession, is to dispense chrism: to chrismate, let's say, getting away from the catholic term christen. Chrismation in not a mysterious feat of sanctification that bestows a holy blessing. Rather, it is a phenomenon demonstrated all through nature: nucleation induced by fluidic exchanges across a membrane, which in turn directs those exchanges. This describes one way that chrismation can operate in nature, but not the only way. Note that a porous membrane holds an electrical charge. Fluidic exchanges through the membrane modify the charge. At the same time, the charge drives the osmotic activity that maintains the membrane. All this activity is an effect of chrismation and in fact is chrismation in action.
One of the essential and outstanding factors of organic life is the presence of cells with porous membranes. The human body is a massive cluster of such cells, permeated within and without by water. No form can exist if the integrity of its cell membranes is destroyed. This is true at all scales of nature in the cosmos. Chrismation is the process that establishes the cellular integrity or morphogenetic signature required for creature to live within its proper boundaries. This signature determines the creature.
A remarkable account of the Christic intercession survives from anti-Gnostic sources. This is the paraphrase in Against Heresies (Book 1, Ch IV) by Irenaeus, which presents a striking definition of chrismation:
To impart a figure means to assist morphogenesis by which biological and instinctual programs can be held "on course" within a myriad of diverse activities and contingenies. In this way, Christos provided a boost to the multi-tasking activities that overwhelmed Sophia due to her deep engagement in material immanence. Goddess knows how welcome it is to have a hand with housekeeping. I sure do.
Human imagination has attempted to capture this effect by picturing the Christ-Sophia union of the intercession as a cosmic act of fertilization. The language of the Valentinian text suggests the same: "Indeed [Jesus and] Sophia revealed [the creature]. Since after all, the seeds [of] Sophia are incomplete [and] formless. Jesus [contrived] a creature of this [sort] and made it of the seeds while Sophia worked with him". (Cited above. Note: Morphogenetic signature "reveals the creature.")
But the Aeon Christos did not engage in conjugal sex with Sophia, as if to penetrate and fertilize her terrestrial body. She was a wee lassie at the time. Rather, the effect of chrismation was to induce invagination in many processes on the planet, encompassing a vast range from the scale of plant life (tubular plants, succulents) out to formations of geography (crystal caves, volcanic passages, geodes). The impact of this event was tremendous and resonates deeply into human memory in the eons to follow. To commerate this event, ancient people constructed massive megalithic structures in the shape of a womb with a long entrance channel, the vaginal passage: for instance, the "passage grave" as Newgrange in Ireland, to cite one of hundreds of examples. The passage at Newgrange is aligned to the winter solstice sunrise, so that the first way of the sun shines down the narrow passage to the womb-like interior chamber.
While this may appear to be a sexual act, hardly deniable, the sexual aspect of the cosmic orientation is really an afterthought. Newgrange and other wrongly named "passage graves" commemorate the act of forming a vaginal passage and womb, rather than the act performed with such genital equipment, once it has been formed.
In Celtic myth, Christos was pictured in the figure of the solar god Aengus, the god of love. His consort was Boann who gives her name to the river that flows past Newgrange, the Boyne. She is said to be the mother of Aengus but is in a truer sense his lover. The same confusion of son-intercessor-lover occurs in the Valentinian text where Christos is called the son of Sophia.
Ancient seers who detected that the Aeon Christos approached the earth by way of the sun pictured the act of cosmic-scale invagination as a quasi-sexual penetration of the earth by a "phallic solar ray." The nucleation process accomplished by the Christic intercession required a massive saturation of the atmosphere with water, a thick mist that formed in the air like dew forms when the atmosphere is penetrated by warming rays of the morning sun.
Nucleation is always accompanied by budding and sweating, the expulsion of beads and gemmae. In medical science and bioology, this process is technically called gemmation.
This is the cosmic significance of anointing, chrismation. gemmation, the love sweat of the gods.
Devs and Zuras
So, these considerations of the revision from Christos to Thelete in the sacred narrative provide occasion for a wealth of insights and discoveries. In closing, want to signal your attention to something about the dynamics of the Generators, the Aeonic torrents. Complimentary to Reich's brilliant fix on orgonomes and cosmic superimposition, consider this passage from the 16-part prose poem version of the Gaia Mythos:
Note this distinction:
To picture what these words describe, imagine that you are looking at a common garden hose, end-on. You see only the open end of the snake-like body of the hose: a solid ring encircling the round spout of water gushing from it. The hose enclosing and directing the current of water is solid, a casing. The spouting water is fluid. Such is the dynamic of a male-gendered Aeon, "encored by its own power." Male Aeonic torrents consist of two parts, the static casing and the "rush," the core spout.
Now modify the picture: imagine that the hose casing consists of rushing water and there is no spout, no internal stem. You see a streaming rim or ring. This is the female-gendered Aeon, without a central core. Why coreless? The female-gendered Aeonic torrent has only a rim, not a rim-and-core like the male current. Yet is has something in place of a core: the sustaining rush from the Originator, a pool of Superorganic Light, Obsidian Light. A female Aeon like Sophia is a torrent of Organic Light that propagates concentrically in the ring-flow, with nothing inside it: "coreless explusion of powers".
Obviously, the encoring power fits into the coreless power. Both torrents can whirl or rotate clockwise and counterclockwise. Imagine the combinations. As these combinations play out, the forms generated by the Aeons assume the bias of their dance, for the CW and CCW spins are not always in complete balance when the Aeons are projecting their ennoia into experiments. Were complete balance to prevail, nothing would ever manifest from the Generators in the Pleromic core. Thus, most forms in nature exhibit chirality and assymetry, "the failure of parity," as scientists say; but perfectly symmetrical forms are not absent, either.
Development of the FGS has confirmed to my mind that Thelete was the Pleromic consort of Sophia, but the Aeon Christos was also active in the Pleroma, performing the generic function of chrismation: anointing the Anthropos. At the galactic level, chrismation prepared the genomic plasma of the anthropos to nucleate properly and thus insured that it would nest in the cradle nebula, M 42, to which it was projected.
Chrismation is necessary for all organic life-processes. It is a general and omnipresent aspect of morphogenesis, evident throughout many organic world systems. But with Thelete something more specific came into play, something particular to this experiment of ours. The component Thelete contributed to the Anthropos plasm was conative latitude, the capacity to face fear, even to enjoy fear, push the envelope and take risks. As FGS 3.0 developed in the GNE, a full portrait of the calibration of the Anthropos came into description, with the contribution of Thelete clearly evident. The contribution of this specific capacity could not have come from the Aeon Christos and is not compatible with the clearly defined process of chrismation.
Members of the GNE will recall that the star El Nath at the northern horn tip of the BULL represents Thelete, and the star Al Hecka, close to the Crab Nebula, represents Christos. (In briefings, I mistakenly said Sharatan, which is a star in the horns of the RAM, rather than Al Hecka.) The southern horn displays the feminine current of Aeonic imagination, manifesting in a vast range of biological phenomena of reproduction and regeneration. By contrast, the northern horn that terminates at El Nath displays the masculine or DC current of Aeonic imagination, the killing force evident all through nature in predation as well as in the lethal violence required for self-defence.
In perspective, it is clear that the chrismation played a role in this experiment Pleromically (episode two: anointing the Anthropos) and extra-Pleromically (episode eight: the Christic intercession). Thelete made a Pleromic contribution to the Anthropos -- but does that Aeon lilkewise participate in some manner extra-Pleromically, as well? I propose that yes, Thelete does come to participate in events outside the Pleroma due to involvement with Sophia's correction, now underway. The allusion is not difficult to infer, considering the picture of the BULL. In correction, Thelete confers the strength for the moral intention to risk life in order to protect life. Death is certain to all, but death that comes in the act of protecting life is the special calling of Thelete, the Intended.
This, and other matters, convince me that the replacement of Christos by Thelete in episode two is veracious and will stand up to testing.
jll; May 2013 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.