Gnosticism is far richer and more diverse from the ascetic Essenism more attributable to the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumram than to the Nag Hammadi texts. Though Christianity would take much from the Gnostic movement; the Gnostic movement, as a movement itself only but briefly could identify with the Christian tradition that was simultaneously emerging out of this larger, more complex culture. The classical Gnostics recognized three orders of humanity: the Hylics or ‘materialists’ (only concerned with mundane matters), the Psychics, who were without spiritual insight and blindly followed exoteric religion, and the Pnuematics or ‘spiritualists’ who were interested in the ancient mysteries.
Epistle on the Book of Thomas the Contender
The Contender writing to the Perfect
The dialogue can be said to represent the rendering of an internal conversation between the Savior or Augoeides and the lower self; in this case: Jesus and his lower self as Judas Thomas, the twin (contender for supremacy of the soul).
The Valentinian myth presents the cosmos as material with matter being some kind of chaotic outflow of divine passion or effulgence; being formed by the ‘Savior’ and Sophia; using the demiurge as a tool by which the cosmos is brought into order. The difference between this and the Sethian mythos that tended to view the cosmos as a chaos that can deceive or trap the soul that is without Gnosis. But overall, the Valentinian and Sethian sects were essentially Platonic as well as Qabalistic after the manner of the Greek mystery schools. They looked upon the cosmos as a material reflection of the Pleroma as the ancient Egyptians layed their pyramids arranged on land to correspond with the stars of the night sky; connecting heaven and Earth. The Tripartite Tractate says that divine will of the Father, the Logos involutes to create the known Universe. The fall of Sophia; an aeon or goddess is not a fall from grace, but a necessary phase in the development of the manifested Universe that also represents the only way that the infinite can become more than it already is. It spreads out its effulgence and collects it back again; not unlike the Hindu myth of Brahma and Vishnu on the lotus. The creation of matter is not ‘the fall’, but the passion of Sophia and a necessary phase in the process by which the divine comes to know itself; manifestation being the cast reflection of itself. This is reflected, though misunderstood in the apocalyptic mythos of the Hebrew sects of the period; though ‘purged’ by the Enochian mythos of the Renaissance and the Thelemic mythos of the Victorian eras (cf. Babalon & the Beast). Also, akin to Thelemic doctrine, the Valentinians sought contact with the Holy Guardian Angel (Augoeiades) in the Bridal-Chamber (cf. the Coptic Gospel of Philip) The Valentinian practise of the Bridal Chamber was a ritualistic sacrament in which sexual union was seen as a magickal act in commemoration of the paired syzygies that constitute the Pleroma.
Sethianism was originally a non-Christian baptismal sect that considered itself possessing the primordial wisdom revealed to the still human Adam and Seth. Having arisen out of the Messianic tradition that was popular in the pre-Christian era, they also expected a messianic visitation from Seth. During the later first to second century, ev. Sethianism succumbs to the superstitious, anthropomorphic movement and became Christianized. Seth and Adam are transformed from human to supernatural beings. These are the principal texts of this temporary aversion:
Adam and his son Seth in Gnosticism are derived from the Book of Genesis. Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve (after first birthing Cain and Abel). Seth was said (by the Gnostics) unlike his brothers, in that he was said to possess the “spirit” or “seed” from above. The Apocalypse of Adam is an early text transitional text between the Jewish Apocalyptic movement and its development into Gnosticism. Seth (along with Adam) came to be a dual expression of the heavenly archetypal man (Anthropos); the Adam-Kadmon of the Jewish Qabalists.
This early Sethian text describes the sequence of Aeons; being but a secondarily Christianized work. It presents a mythological Gnosticism, based on the early chapters of Genesis and as a revelation given by the resurrected Christ to John, the son of Zebedee. The cosmogony is shown in the following schematic:
In the later second century, ev. Sethianism separated from Christianity and brought forth its own doctrine that was worked into an orthodox and codified system. Seth returns to his original status as the Archetypal Man (the Adam-Kadmon of the Qabalists and even Jesus, the Christ before he was converted into a supernatural being by the Christians) Its main document is:
The first emanation of the Absolute is a female principle, variously referred to as Thought, Providence, Fore-thought or Foreknowledge (in Greek, all these words have female gender), and “Barbelo”, who in Thelema is Babalon (cf. A Token of Babalon). Gnostic cosmology presents the female creator principle in a dual role; the higher principle being Barbelo and the lower principle being Sophia being Nuit in Thelema; the Universe herself. As in the Apocryphon of John, Barbelo is the first emanation, the cosmogony changes in The Gospel of the Egyptians. Now there are three emanations from the Absolute; the Father, the Mother (identified with Barbelo), and the Son (or Magickal Childe in Thelema), each of which is an octet (eight-fold). What brought forth this separation of the Sethians from Christianity was an increasing attraction to the Platonic School (a school that abhorred the Gnostics) with its qabalistic bend. The principal transformational documents include:
The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth is an account of a Hermetic initiation. The initiate, having already attained to the wisdom of the first seven spheres (the seven sacred planets) is instructed and then initiated by Hermes Trismegistus into the mysteries of the 8th sphere, that of the fixed stars and finally into the 9th, the sphere of God. The initiate first learns intellectually and purifies him or herself. Then he or she receives a spiritual initiation from Hermes Trismegistus, an actual mystic experience that confirms the intellectual knowledge, encompasses it and then transcends it. Hermes then commands the initiate to write this teaching in a book in hieroglyphic characters in a temple in Egypt.