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Texts 16 and 17

A Reading Plan for the Nag Hammadi Codices

LEVEL TWO, completed

Ritual and Revelation

In completing Level Two of the Reading Plan, we find ourselves looking at two more cosmological texts, including the longest in the entire corpus, forbiddingly titled The Tripartite Tractate. The second is a shorter text, The Valentinian Exposition. As its title indicates, this text presents a view of Gnostic teachings identified by scholars as deriving from the school of Valentinus, one of the few Gnostics whose name, dates, and activities are known. Tri Trac is also considered to derive from this school. The Valentinian system includes variations on the Sophia Mythos not found elsewhere.


9 1st Apocalypse of James V, 3 p 260 Apoc Jas
10 Apocryphon of James I, 2 p 104 Ap Jas
11 Book of Thomas the Contender II, 7 p 199 Thom Cont
12 Gospel of Philip II, 3 p 139 Gos Phil
13 Hypostasis of the Archons II, 4 p 161 Hyp Arch
14 On the Origin of the World II, 5 p 170 Orig World
15 Testimony of Truth
IX, 3 p 448 Test Truth
16 Tripartite Tractate I, 5 p 58 Tri Trac
17 Valentinian Exposition XI, 2 p 481 Val Exp

Access to all texts in the Reading Plan.

We are reaching the end of level Two of the Reading Plan, but, as usual, it is still a tough haul getting through these documents. At least we have now developed the skills to cull out what is muddled and extraneous, and concentrate on the key elements that allow us to develop an understanding of Pagan (non-Christian) Gnosis and Mystery teachings.

16, The Tripartite Tractate Page 58 NHLE. NHC I,5. 44 pages. A long compilation attributed to Valentinian school established in Rome around 150 CE. CORE: Aeonic emanations described, but without reference to Sophia; the realm of the Archons; the threefold division of humanity; the conditions of redemption. Well-preserved, except for the last two pages, but contains many irregularities and scribal errors.

This is the longest text in the NHC and one of the more exasperating, due to its dry, didactic style and the huge incidence of scribal errors. Divided into sixteen parts, Tri Trac covers a vast range of subjects, starting with the Supreme Being, PIOT, "the Father." It presents an elaborate description of the life of the Aeons, the begetting and conversion of the Logos, and the emanation of the Savior, SOTER—all stated in Christological terms typical of the Valentinian school. It also covers the creation of material humanity and the division of humans into three groups, materialistic (unevolved), psychic (susceptible to higher evolution), and pneumatic (evolved, illumined). It concludes with a homily on the supremacy of the Gnostic Christ as lord of all those who embrace the highest mystical vision.

Poor Compromise

Working from Rome, the theologian Valentinus (c. 100 - 160 CE) and his followers attempted to merge Pagan Gnosis with salvationist theology. In doing so, Valentinus apparently endorsed the notion of an incarnate savior who "took upon himself the death of those he sought to save" (115.1-5). In fact, we do not know what Valentinus wrote or thought. The Tri Trac was not authored by the Coptic scribes who put it down on papyrus leaves, presumably translating from "Greek originals" (see below). We infer what Valentinus may have thought from these scribal notes based on poorly transcribed material of undetermined authorship. Such is the tricky game of Gnostic scholarship.

Section 13 specifies the incarnate savior by the Coptic spelling for Jesus, H(COY)C, and Jesus Christ, H(COY)C PEXR(ICTO)C. Here I use the English alphabet to approximate the Coptic letters: for instance, the Coptic S is written as a capital C. All letters in the Coptic alphabet are capitals. Modern scholars routinely fill in the letters in parentheses. Without these additions, "Jesus the Christ" is formed of the letters that look like this: HC PEXRC. In Coptic this is IS PE XRS, where PE is the definite article, the. IS and XRS are frequent abbreviations, usually written with a bar over the top. Scholars call these codes nomina sacra and identify the figure indicated at the historical Jesus in his deified aspect, consistent with Pauline theology. I have questioned if this identification is valid. It must certainly not be regarded as exclusive, the only game in town.

Tri Trac gives definitive proof of the existence of Gnostic Christianity, but it does not prove that all Gnostics were Christians. With Marcion, Valentinus is arguably the preeminent example of a Gnostic Christian, or to be more precise, a Christianized Gnostic. He came from Alexandria, a melting pot of diverse creeds. Valentinian theology is syncretic, but it does not represent a fully realized Gnostic soteriology, just an attempt at one. But those who want to call themselves Gnostics and still follow a salvationist agenda will find all they need for their case in this document.

Why anyone would want to embrace salvationism, positing the belief in a superhuman agency of redemprion who is born in human form and dies for humanity, and still follow, or claim to follow, the path of self-engendered enlightenment through Gnosis, is not easy to understand. Illluminism and salvationism are diametrically opposed concepts of spirituality. Basically, I think, Valentinus had an elitist concept of redemption that allowed him to accept the Christology of John and Paul, still in its early stages when he was living, and at the same time, insist that only mystics (pneumatics, the third class of humanity) could perceive the true nature of the divine calling. The Valentinian system is a poor compromise.

Of course, Tri Trac was not written by Valentinus. None of the NHC texts originate from the people who wrote them down. They are scribal copies in Coptic of Greek originals, but (so I maintain) the Greek originals may also have been mere scribal jottings, or student notes. Scholars of the NHC are used to errors and irregularities in these texts, but Tri Trac takes the cake. At least one scholar, H.-M. Schenke, believes that this long, stuffy document is a compilation, not a coherent treatise in its own right. The use of XE as a paragraph marker is unique to this document. Was this a scribal convention to keep track of blocks of material extracted from various sources? Probably. Whatever the case, with Tri Trac the experts come close to saying what I have claimed all along: the scribes who converted the "originals" from Greek into Coptic may have had little or no idea of the meaning of what they were translating.

Imagine a physicist lecturing on quantum theory, with a court stenographer who has an elementary knowledge of physics taking notes in shorthand. The result would be largely unintelligible: so are many passages in the NHC.

Mystical Style

Nevertheless, there are sublime riffs of metaphysical discourse in the Tri Trac, and some astonishing bursts. Consider passage 71:

The entire system of the Aeons has a love and a longing for the perfect, complete discovery of the Father and in this the Aeons are in unimpeded agreement. Although the Father reveals itself eternally, he did not wish that they should know him, since he grants that he conceived of in such a way as to be sought for, while keeping to himself his unsearchable primordial being.

This is the Gnostic theology of the Aeons stated in a paternal idiom. I offer a paraphrase:

The Generators love and long to discover the properties of the Originator, in this they all agree; but the Originator is the Eternal Unborn that causes itself to be conceived as the object of seeking, while remaining beyond all search, primordially rooted in itself.

Rendered in a neutral idiom, the passage comes close to Buddhist teachings on cosmic mind or the foundation awareness. Such language, typical of Gnostic emanationist theology, can be taken on its own terms, independent of the salvationist ideology grafted onto it. In terms of this proposition, the Originator is the Urgrund, the cosmic root awareness, or perhaps even the Ungrund, the groundless ground of the German mystic Jacob Boehme. In any case, it is definitely not a paternal creator god that one would address as "Father." The Coptic-speaking Egyptian monks who transcribed these lofty propositions were obliged to render them in language compatible with the doctrinal assumptions of paternal religion, and to keep their piety intact. It's amazing that we can salvage anything genuinely Gnostic such distortion.

It is worth noting that emanationist theology attributes a certain attitude to the Originator: it is essentially inconceivable, but it wants itself to be conceived as something sought. So it veils itself in conditions which it allows the Generators to produce and manifest. This characterization recalls the self-veiling action of the ground awareness Parasamvit in Hindu Tantra. It also comes close to the concept of theopathy, "feeling for the divine," in Sufism.

Will the True Savior Please Stand Up?

For all its dry, didactic exposition, Tri Trac contains some remarkable lines on the nature and activity of the Originator and the Aeons, or Generators, as I propose to call them. Language that resembles Tantric and Buddhistic propositions about the ineffable source can also be found in The Sophia of Jesus Christ and its parallel text, Eugnostos. To my ear, the idiom in use here echoes metaphysical exposition from the Asian schools. Does Valentinus' conception of the incarnate savior owe something to the Hindu myth of the avatar? It may be a variation of the avataric principle in its Asian form, but syncretized with the emergent salvationist doctrine of sacrifice. The Savior of Tri Trac is definitely not docetic, a mere appearance or phantom body like the Buddhist Nirmanakaya; but in the final analysis the Valentinian savior may owe more to the model of Asian avatars than to Pauline and Johannine doctrines on the Incarnation.

The salvific feat of the Asian avatar (the avatars of Vishnu, for instance) does not demonstrate the redemptive value of suffering, it merely illustrates an act of supernatural intervention. Upon close reading of Tri Trac, however, I find no specific passage that asserts the redemptive value of suffering—this being the primary signature of salvationist belief rooted in the victim-perpetrator syndrome—even though "Jesus the Christ" is identified as the supreme redemptive agent. As a Pagan perhaps not fully converted to the new faith, Valentinus would have been reticent to assign redemptive value to suffering. This is where his syncretism draws the line.

The Valentinian concept of redemption involves acquiring knowledge of the divine source, a quest conceived in Gnostic terms, rather than accepting the vicarious atonement of sin. Even if Valentinus did directly equate the Son of God/Savior with the historical Jesus, he did not attribute to that figure the full battery of salvific powers it acquired in later centuries. Gnostic Christian views were inconsistent within the school where they first appeared. "The heresiologists attest that Valentinian teachers disagreed on the interpretation of several fundamental issues. including the nature of the Father, the origin and structure of the Pleroma, the motives and results of the fall of Sophia, and the nature of the redemption offered by Christ" (CGL I, 1, p. 177). So, ther you have it!

Logos Pneumaticos

Tri Trac describes the fall of the goddess Sophia in terms of the drama of the spiritual Logos, logos pneumatikos. Sophia as such is not named in the text. The Archons are named outright, and their chief, the demiurge, is specified in sections 6 and 8. Section 5, "Aeonic Life," proceeds in the lofty metaphysical idiom of the opening passages. It states that the Archons do not resemble the eternal beings, the Aeons (71.5), and further explains how the Originator selflessly confers generative power on the Aeons, acting from pleasure, sweetness, and love. "Each one of the Aeons is a name, a code" (73.5): that is to say, the Aeons are generative powers that encode the infinite undefined potentiality of the Originator. "Their begetting is like a process of extension," i.e., emanation, compared to a wellspring of many currents. Unlike the literal, artifactual creation attributed to the father god, Aeonic emanation proceeds "in an imaginary way" (78: 5). I have explained what this means at length in the chapter on "Dreamtime Physics" in Not in His Image.

Section 6, "The Imperfect Begetting of the Logos," describes how one Aeon wanted to articulate the inexpressible presence of the Originator. "This Aeon was among those to whom was given wisdom" (75.25)—thus Tri Trac identifies the Divine Sophia, but under the guise of the Logos. In the action of this aberrant Aeon the Originator realizes the possibility for something new to emerge in the cosmos, an extra-Pleromic development: "The will of the Originator... might become an organization (economia).... (but) if it were to come (about that way), it would not come into being by the manifestation of the Pleroma" (77.1-10). The text explains in some detail how this extra-Pleromic activity arises, described in terms of shadows and copies and likenesses, i.e., the spectral forms of the Archontic realm outside the Pleroma.

The Aeon who acted rashly in wanting to express the inexpressible presence of the Originator becomes involved in the defect (SHOTA), abandoned to a wierd fate. This is all about Sophia, giving the Valentinian view of her impetuous action, but strictly avoiding any reference to the feminine Aeon as such, except in derogation: "he became weak like a female nature which has abandoned its virile counterpart" (78.10). In other words, Sophia the female Aeon acted independently of her male counterpart. Tri Trac does not use the notable metaphor of "abortion" found in other cosmological texts to describe the inforseen generation of the Archons and the Demiurge.

(Note on the home page of Coffee, Cigarettes and Gnosis: Sophia, quoted on the Jerry Springer Show:

"I have to confess I had an abortion once, and his name was God."

Abraxas, who runs C,C & G, has a lot of Gnostic attitude, but then so does JLL! Check out their interview in the playlist: "Sophia is Gaia." )

Section 7 describes the confusion of the Logos/Sophia in terms of loss, astonishment, instability, weakness, etc., but immediately introduces the Valentinian theme of conversion or metanoia (81.20): "the Logos turned to another opinion and another thought." Upon this conversion, through "a prayer of agreement," the Logos realigns to the Pleroma. The Valentinian view precludes the notion of a correction to be achieved by Sophia in the indefinite future, and dependent in some manner on humanity's participation. It emphasizes, though, that there are still a lot of problems with the Archontic powers that have been engendered by the unusual action of the Logos. These beings are not emanated from the Pleroma, and they falsely imagine they are the source of their own being. There are two orders that assault each other (84.5). They are responsible for infecting the cosmos with a love of glory and lust for power. Their main characteristic is KROG, deceit.

The World Below

The situation of the spiritual Logos or fallen Aeon is exceptional and calls forth an exceptional response from the Pleromic Aeons. In their totality they emanate an intercessor "to aid the defective one" (86.15). The intercessor is an emanation of all the Pleromic Aeons who "made manifest the revelation of the agreement of his union with them—which is his beloved Son (Coptic SHERE)" (86.35). Tri Trac describes the "Son" of the Pleroma in Gnostic terms, that is, according to emanation theory. This is not the "Logos become flesh" of Saint John, it is the Aeonic intecessor who comes to the rescue of the Logos. Read again: the Son in Valentinian theology is not the Logos. This leads me to conclude that the "Christian" soteriology of Tri Trac was conceived well before doctrines of the Incarnation were enforced. And historically speaking, this makes sense, for Valentinus flourished before 160 CE. The doctrine of the divinity of Christ as the Word was not set up until two centuries later.

Section 9 begins with a momentous assertion: "When the Logos which was defective was illumined, his Pleroma began" (90.10). In other words, Sophia, having reconnected to the Pleroma and its primoridal Light, begins to work creatively upon the elements of the outer realm where she is stranded. This section appears to describe the fabrication of the solar system, including "chariots" in which the inhabitants of this lesser Pleroma "might pass through every place of things which are below" (91.25). This is the sole line I find in the NHC that might be construed as referring to ET hardware, but there is plenty of reference to ET software, of course.

Undertaking this work, the Logos/Sophia remains in touch with the upper realm: "the Logos received the vision of all things, those which pre-exist and those which are now and those which will be. since he has been entrusted with the organization (oikonomia) of all which exists" (95.15-20). Clearly, it is Sophia the Logos who organizes the solar system, even though she allocates this realm to the Archons, the cyborg drones or extraterrestrial elves of the Demiuirge. The Aeon also allows the Demiurge to believe that he creates the planetary system out of his own powers.

Section 10 describes how the Logos organizes the lower worlds, including the two warring groups of shadow-beings, or beings of the likeness (HAL, simulation), as the Archons are called here and elsewhere in the NHC. It states the the Logos/Sophia appoints one Archon, the Demiurge, as head over all the others, and uses the Archons as a hand and a mouth (101.30). It is the Logos who fabricates the solar system using the Archons as material agents or tools, working through them. Here is the germ of the later, post-Gnostic view found in Hermetic literature, namely, that the Demiurge is a benevolent instrument of the supreme being. There is a huge problem with the makeover of Gnostic teachings in the Hermetic literature, however. This is due to the fact that Hermetic texts equate the Logos with the Demiurge, and give it a benevolent spin—a serious error in Gnostic terms. According to the Tri Trac, Sophia = Logos, and the Demiurge is neither.

Section 11 describes the creation of material humanity, but in ambiguous terms. The logos pneumaticos perfects humanity "through the Demiurge and his angelic servants" (104.35). "The first human being is a mixed creation, and a deposit of those of the left and those of the right, and a spiritual word whose attention is divided between each of the two substances from which he takes his being" (106.15-20). Make what you can of that! Both death and life eternal are possible, because the former is merely separation from the Pleromic source, and the latter is a return to that source. In other words, Tri Trac considers death and immortality as states of consciousness, reflected in material conditions but not determined by them. This also accords closely with the Buddhist view of noumenism: the noumena, cause and origin of phenomena, are IN the phenomena.

Redemption, But How?

Section 12 is a digression on various types of theologies and diverse theories, including speculations on the Archontic factor: are they part of the overruling order of the cosmos, or are they totally alien to it? Interestingly, this section discusses Hebrew religion and "the righteous ones." I wonder if dikaios in Greek translates the Qumranic concept of the Zaddik? If so, this would suggest a reference from the NHC to the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). In Not in His Image, I cited specific references in the DSS to the NHC, but not vice versa. Tri Trac says that "many heresies exist among the Jews." One NHC scholar claims that Gnosticism itself was a Jewish heresy. Referring to the "Law" of the Jews, Tri Trac uses the Coptic form of the Egyptian term, MAT, "cosmic law" (113.5). It explicitly says of the Jews that Christ "who came into being in flesh, did not come into their thought" (113.35). This is a correct assertion that the Jews did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah they were awaiting.

Second 13 explains the nature of the "Incarnate Savior" who "let himself be conceived without sin, stain, and defilement" (115.15). Sin is mentioned again in this text, but not developed as a key doctrinal factor. The unity of all the Aeons, not the power to redeem humanity from sin, is the prevailing mark of the Valentinian savior. The "promise of Jesus Christ" involves instruction and "the return to what they are from the first, from which they possess the drop" (117.15-20). This sounds like a straightforward assertion of the "capture of the divine spark" scenario, which I have rigorously and repeatedly refuted. However, "release from captivity" clearly means release from ignorance, for those who are captive are called "slaves of ignorance." The "drop" may be nous, divine intelligence, rather than an immortal soul-essence trapped in material conditions. There is no passage in Tri Trac that describes such a soul-essence, and it does not figure in the tripartite division of humanity (described in section 14, following), either.

After section 14 on the three types of humans, the treatise concludes with lofty postulations about redemption and restoration. There is no clue here to Sophia's correction. Everything seems to depend on the divine intercession of Christ the Savior, who comes for the sake of the elect. The restoration of the Pleroma is an "entrance into what is silent" where there is "no need for forming a concept nor for illumination, because where all things are light, they do not need to be illumined" (124.25). Clearly, this passage describes a mystical state to be achieved by Gnosis rather than by an act of superhuman intercession or vicarious atonement. In the Valentinian system, intercession by Christos happens for the Logos or fallen Sophia, not for humankind, except perhaps for the elect who participate in the cosmic drama intimately... This is Gnostic salvationism, as it were. Nowhere does the Tri Trac make clear how "Jesus the Christ" effectuates redemption for humanity. He is not even represented as a teacher who brings liberating knowledge, although he is portrayed as a figure of Divine Light.

One inference would be, the luminous presence of the Christos. not the sacrifice of the historical Jesus, inspires the elect to achieve their own redemption. This is my view of Valentinian syncretism. It is also pretty much the opinion of John D. Turner, the only Gnostic scholar to emphasize Sethian views in the way I do. In Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, Turner says:

Valentinian myth is a narrative of the vicissitudes of knowledge itself... Just as Sophia is separated from the product of her defective thinking and restored to the Pleroma, so also the fallen, estranged self-knowledge of the individual Gnostic is returned to its origin by his or her act of knowing the myth. (My emphasis.)

That said, we cannot ignore that Tri Trac contains strong statements that seem to suggest the identification of the Gnostic Savior of Valentinus with the historical Jesus of the New Testament. Yet at the time Valentinus lived, the persona of JC was still inchoate, and the identification was probably much looser than it now looks. The divine savior of this treatise has a supernatural stature, and retains it no matter how closely he may be equated with the historical Jesus. What we learn from Tri Trac is that the salvationist agenda cannot incorporate Gnosis without contradicting or even undoing itself to some degree.

Sacred Light

Despite its salvationist features, Tri Trac remains an exemplary document of Gnostic illuminism. On balance it contains, especially in the opening sections, more indications of mystical-metaphysical instruction than exhortations to blind faith. In fact, this text presents in a single line one of the clearest, most explicit references to the secret of Pagan illuminism in the entire NHC. I signalled this passage in Not in His Image:

Gnostic writings in the form of a “revelation discourse,” such as the The Paraphrase of Shem give some firsthand descriptions of the Mystery experience. The initiate encounters a sublime radiance and communicates with it. Instruction by the light was the supreme initiatory event. The Tripartite Tractate, the longest document in the Nag Hammadi library, says that this experience is a privilege offered by the supreme deity: "The Originator instructed those who searched for higher seeing by means of the luminosity of that Immaculate Light" (88.10).

NHLE translation: "He instructed him about those who searched for their sight, by means of the shining of that perfect light."

The divine luminosity is the Light of instruction, source of higher learning in the Mysteries. I have ventured to say that the Organic Light is the primary substance body of the Aeon Sophia, the medium by which she instructs her adepts. Line 88:10 in The Tripartite Tractacte makes an assertion not found elsewhere in the NHC: namely, that the Originator instructs the elect by way of this same Light. This assertion seems to comply with the language in section 6 on "the imperfect begetting of the Logos," i.e., the fall of Sophia. There she is described as the 13th Aeon, "the last to have been brought forth by mutual assistance," and "it was not without the will of the Originator that the Logos [of Sophia] was produced" (76:15-20). The text suggests that in Sophia the super-Aeonic dimension of the Originater comes to be realized. This again is a unique spin of the Valentinian material.

17, A Valentinian Exposition: Page 481. NHC XI, 2, 5 pages. CORE: redemptive theology of the Sophia. Fragmentary and badly damaged, Codex XI being the least well-preserved of the corpus.

Here is another cosmological text in the Valentinian genre, contrasting in some respects to the assumed Christian orthodoxy of The Tripartite Tractate. Val Exp mentions Sophia by name, and alludes to the mysterious issue of her “correction.” One unique passage (35) describes Sophia laughing. It stresses the importance of the syzygy or dyad of Jesus and Sophia, recalling the appeal for gender reconciliation in The Gospel of Philip.

Class Notes

Fortunately, Val Exp is a brief document. Unfortunately, it covers a number of different views and positions on Gnostic theology, making it impossible to reduce to a simple paraphrase. Scholars note that Val Exp contains several heretical propositions exposed and opposed in the works of Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Hipppolytus, and Epiphanius. They attribute the general flavor of the document to Heracleon, a student of Valentinus, rather than to Valentinus himself, or to his main pupil, Ptolemaeus.

The fragmentary text opens strikingly with the word mysterion:

... my mystery
...mine and
... Moreover, it is these who
... is, the Father, that
... of the All, the ...
... dwells in the Monad.
... in silence,
... ... tranquillity since, after all
... a Monad and no one
... before him. He dwells
... and in the Pair, and his
Pair is Silence. And he possessed
the All dwelling within
him. And as for Intention and
Persistence, Love and Permanence,
they are indeed unbegotten.

Such are lines 16-31. The lofty metaphysical idiom is familiar from the opening passages of The Tripartite Tractate. Call it holy rhetoric. In some ways it is not unlike Dzogchen instruction from Long chen Pa and other Asian masters. It describes the primordial ground awareness and the "first thought" or departure from the ground state: "It is from the Root of the All that even Divine Thought stems, since it is inherent in Nous" (34-6). Once again we encounter the metaphor of the spring (Greek pege) to describe the upsurge of self-reflecting awareness from the unbegotten source. The spring is the Root, the Monad, and its first expression is immaculate Silence, Sige, an Aeon. Other Aeons proceed spontaneously from the Root to reveal the goodness (chrestos) of their origin.

Val Exp uses the lofty terms All, Son, Mind, Spirit almost interchangeably, but the essence of this jargon is focussed in Ennoia, the intentional mind of the Root. In emanation theory, Ennoia in the expression of the Originator which, paradoxically, the Originator does not express but turns over to be revealed by the Generators, the Aeons. The "Father" remains always hidden, the "unknown god" of the Gnostics. The author of Val Exp says, "I for my part call the thought Monogenes" (24: 33). The use of the first person in the midst of this high-blown exposition shows that this text derives from notes on various views stated by teachers of Gnostic cosmology, views written down in class by students of the Mysteries and then rendered into Coptic by scribes who, for reasons unknown, were charged with transcribing the class notes.

In Gnostic cosmology, monogenes is the principle of singularity by which novelty arises in the cosmic order. This, at least, is the "Lashean" twist. It appears that Lashean or Gaian Gnosticism is now on the map.

Christos and Sophia

The NHLE presents Val Exp on 5 pages. In the Coptic Gnostic Library (CGL), you have the eighteen pages that match leaves 22 to 39 in the codex. On some of these leaves the text is almost totally destroyed. The descent of Christ from the Pleroma occurs in page 26, line 23, where the name of the Aeon is written out in full: XRHCTOC, i.e., Christos. This Aeon is said to possess four powers and to comprise in itself the entire Pleroma. From these lines through the end of page 31, it is impossible to make sense of the loose, fragmented writing. Page 31, which is largely blank due to discoloration of the papyrus, siezes our attention with the closing lines:

... and] he wanted
to [leave] the Thirtieth -
being [a syzygy] of Man and
Church (ekklesia), that is, Sophia - to
surpass ... and bring the Pleroma

Here begins the Sophianic cosmology unique to the Valentinian genre. In Gnostic cosmology, the pairing of Aeons is called a syzygy or dyad. Man (Coptic RHOME: humanity) and Church are paired, and Christos and Sophia are paired in a crucial way: The activity of Christos is accomplished "by the syzygy, since her correction (diorthosis) will not occur through anyone except her own Son, who alone is the fullness of divinity" (33: 27-32). Remarkably, Christos, the Aeon matched to Sophia, is also called her son (Coptic SHIRE)!

In a twist unique to the Valentinian view, part of the Aeon Sophia remains in the Pleroma and watches her consort (syzygos) depart into the realms below, and the part of her below looks to the Christos for her deliverance. I believe that this split-Sophia cosmology reflects an attempt by the Valentinians to compromise with the emergent Johannine theology of the Incarnation considered as the "Word made Flesh." An unsatisfactory compromise, I would argue. In Val Exp Sophia says, "I have renounced my consort," and "I deserve the things I suffer"(34:24-5). But Sophia has an attitude. "She laughs since she remained alone and imitated the Illimitable One, cut off from her consort" (34: 34-6).

This text contains the notable burst, "It is the will of the Originator not to allow anything to happen in the Pleroma apart from a syzygy, the coupling of Aeons" (36: 28-32). Yet the Originator, the source of the Aeons, always acts alone, and Sophia imitates this exceptional status. Her exception is the proof of freedom among the divine powers. In other words, Sophia is not punished for transgressing the rule of the Originator, but endowed with a privileged status. However, the achievement of her true potential in the lower worlds, and her correction, depend on the assistance of the Aeon she renounced, Christos.

Much of Val Exp describes how the Christos works among the angels and in human nature, but these passages are unintelligible. 37: 32 introduces the Demiurge "who began to create humans according to his image, on the one hand, and on the other, according to the likeness of those who exist from the first" (37: 32-36). Note that the Demiurge, head of the Archons, does not create humans in his image exclusively, but also in the image of the Aeons. We do not learn anything about how this works out, however. Meanwhile, Sophia guards the human image or seed (sperma) in a "dwelling place" beyond the earth.

38: 22 on recounts the Biblical scenario of Cain and Abel, the Flood, etc. Humanity is preserved by "the syzygy of Sophia and Jesus (IHC)" with the assistance of angels who reflect and transmit to humanity the seeds or potentiated images of the Pleroma. But the Demiurge attempts to darken the syzygy and block access to the Pleroma. Val Exp now presents an extremely rare piece of information, suggesting how the correction of Sophia will be accomplished:

And the angels of the males and the pneumatic bodies of the females are all Pleromas. Moreover whenever Sophia receives her consort and Jesus receives the Christos and the seeds of the angels, then the Pleroma will receive Sophia joyfully, and the All will come to be in unity and reconciliation (apocatastasis). For by this the Aeons have been increased; for they knew that should (ever) they change, they are without change. (39: 22-40)

Taking monogenes to mean singularity, I argue that the Sophia narrative presents a way to understand change relative to changelessness, and augmentation of divine potential in the realm of eternal order. If singularities such as Sophia's fall did not occur, the Aeons would be static, changeless. Change does not disrupt the cosmic patterns of the Aeons, it enhances and expands them.

The line "for they knew that should (ever) they change, they are without change" ends A Valentinian Exposition. Attached to it are short catechisms on baptism, anointing, and the eucharist.

Mystical Sexuality

In a striking and baffling way, Val Exp says that Sophia's correction brings change to the changeless Aeons, but unity and reconciliation at the cosmic level have something to do with the harmony of human gender, "the angels of the males and the pneumatic bodies of the females". Why is this so? It is because Sophia's plunge from the Pleroma entailed a rift in the Anthropos, the numinous template of the human genome, an event that has been mythologically described as "the separation of the sexes." No evidence of how this rift happened occurs in Gnostic writings, however. It is a missing part of the story. Yet here and elsewhere—in the Gospel of Philip, for instance—there are ample references to sexual mysticism and the dynamics of gender harmony. In Asian Tantra, whole-body Kundalini is not only the ultimate rush of sexual pleasure, as good as it gets, it is also the grounding force that links the human organism to the planetary body.

One would almost be tempted to think that Tantric or mystical sexuality, in some form, is the key to human participation in Sophia's correction.

Is sexual mysticism, the ecstatic act in the nymphion, the ritual aspect of human experience that points most intimately to the revelation of Sophia's correction and Gaia's purposes? If we cannot yet comprehend how Gaia procreates, it may be because the transcendent dynamic of sex is obscured by our gender dynamics. Sexual enlightenment comprises the rite and the revelation in a single act of pleasure that fulfils our biology even as it allows us to transcend it.

This commentary completes level two of the Reading Plan, Ritual and Revelation. Level Three, The Sense of Cosmic Order, covers texts 18 through 32.

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