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Chapter II.—Naasseni Ascribe Their System, Through Mariamne, to James the Lord’s Brother; Really Traceable to the Ancient Mysteries; Their Psychology as Given in the “Gospel According to Thomas;” Assyrian Theory of the Soul; The Systems of the Naasseni and the Assyrians Compared; Support Drawn by the Naasseni from the Phrygian and Egyptian Mysteries; The Mysteries of Isis; These Mysteries Allegorized by the Naasseni.
These are the heads of very numerous discourses which (the Naassene) asserts James the brother of the Lord handed down to Mariamne.326326 The Abbe Cruice observes that we have here another proof that the Philosophumena is not the work of Origen, who in his Contra Celsum mentions Mariamne, but professes not to have met with any of his followers (see Contr. Cels., lib. v. p. 272, ed. Spenc.). This confirms the opinion mostly entertained of Origen, that neither the bent of his mind nor the direction of his studies justify the supposition that he would write a detailed history of heresy. In order, then, that these impious (heretics) may no longer belie Mariamne or James, or the Saviour Himself, let us come to the mystic rites (whence these have derived their figment),—to a consideration, if it seems right, of both the Barbarian and Grecian (mysteries),—and let us see how these (heretics), collecting together the secret and ineffable mysteries of all the Gentiles, are uttering falsehoods against Christ, and are making dupes of those who are not acquainted with these orgies of the Gentiles. For since the foundation of the doctrine with them is the man Adam, and they say that concerning him it has been written, “Who shall declare his generation?”327327 Isa. liii. 8. learn how, partly deriving from the Gentiles the undiscoverable and diversified328328 Or ἀδιάφορον, equivocal. generation of the man, they fictitiously apply it to Christ.
“Now earth,”329329 This has been by the best critics regarded as a fragment of a hymn of Pindar’s on Jupiter Ammon. Schneidewin furnishes a restored poetic version of it by Bergk. This hymn, we believe, first suggested to M. Miller an idea of the possible value and importance of the ms. of The Refutation brought by Minöides Mynas from Greece. say the Greeks, “gave forth a man, (earth) first bearing a goodly gift, wishing to become mother not of plants devoid of sense, nor beasts without reason, but of a gentle and highly favoured creature.” “It, however, is difficult,” (the Naassene) says, “to ascertain whether Alalcomeneus,330330 The usual form is Alalcomenes. He was a Bœoian Autocthon. first of men, rose upon the Bœotians over Lake Cephisus; or whether it were the Idæan Curetes, a divine race; or the Phrygian Corybantes, whom first the sun beheld springing up after the manner of the growth of trees; or whether Arcadia brought forth Pelasgus, of greater antiquity than the moon; or Eleusis (produced) Diaulus, an inhabitant of Raria; or Lemnus begot Cabirus, fair child of secret orgies; or Pallene (brought forth) the Phlegræan Alcyoneus, oldest of the giants. But the Libyans affirm that Iarbas, first born, on emerging from arid plains, commenced eating the sweet acorn of Jupiter. But the Nile of the Egyptians,” he says, “up to this day fertilizing mud, (and therefore) generating animals, renders up living bodies, which acquire flesh from moist vapour.” The Assyrians, however, say that fish-eating Oannes331331 Or, “Iannes.” The Abbe Cruice refers to Berosus, Chald. Hist., pp. 48, 49, and to his own dissertation (Paris, 1844) on the authority to be attached to Josephus, as regards the writers adduced by him in his treatise Contr. Apion. was (the first man, and) produced among themselves. The Chaldeans, however, say that this Adam is the man whom alone earth brought forth. And that he lay inanimate, unmoved, (and) still as a statue; being an image of him who is above, who is celebrated as the man Adam,332332 The Rabbins, probably deriving their notions from the Chaldeans, entertained the most exaggerated ideas respecting the perfection of Adam. Thus Gerson, in his Commentary on Abarbanel, says that “Adam was endued with the very perfection of wisdom, and was chief of philosophers, that he was an immediate disciple of the Deity, also a physician and astrologer, and the originator of all the arts and sciences.” This spirit of exaggeration passed from the Jews to the Christians (see Clementine Homilies, ii.). Aquinas (Sum. Theol., pars i. 94) says of Adam, “Since the first man was appointed perfect, he ought to have possessed a knowledge of everything capable of being ascertained by natural means.” having been begotten by many powers, concerning whom individually is an enlarged discussion.
In order, therefore, that finally the Great Man from above may be overpowered, “from whom,” as they say, “the whole family named on earth and in the heavens has been formed, to him was given also a soul, that through the soul he might suffer; and that the enslaved image may be punished of the Great and most Glorious and Perfect Man, for even so they call him. Again, then, they ask what is the soul, and whence, and what kind in its nature, that, coming to the man and moving him,333333 Or, “vanquishing him” (Roeper). it should enslave and punish the image of the Perfect Man. They do not, however, (on this point) institute an inquiry from the Scriptures, but ask this (question) also from the mystic (rites). And they affirm that the soul is very difficult to discover, and hard to understand; for it does not remain in the same figure or the same form invariably, or in one passive condition, that either one could express it by a sign, or comprehend it substantially.
But they have these varied changes (of the soul) set down in the gospel inscribed “according to the Egyptians.”334334 This is known to us only by some ancient quotations. The Naasseni had another work of repute among them, the “Gospel according to Thomas.” Bunsen conjectures that the two “Gospels” may be the same. They are, then, in doubt, as all the rest of men among the Gentiles, whether (the soul) is at all from something pre-existent, or whether from the self-produced (one),335335 αὐτογενοῦς. Miller has αὐτοῦ γένους, which Bunsen rejects in favour of the reading “self-begotten.” or from a widespread Chaos. And first they fly for refuge to the mysteries of the Assyrians, perceiving the threefold division of the man; for the Assyrians first advanced the opinion that the soul has three parts, and yet (is essentially) one. For of soul, say they, is every nature desirous, and each in a different manner. For soul is cause of all things made; all things that are nourished, (the Naassene) says, and that grow, require soul. For it is not possible, he says, to obtain any nourishment or growth where soul is not present. For even stones, he affirms, are animated, for they possess what is capable of increase; but increase would not at any time take place without nourishment, for it is by accession that things which are being increased grow, but accession is the nourishment of things that are nurtured. Every nature, then, (the Naasene) says, of things celestial, and earthly, and infernal, desires a soul. And an entity of this description the Assyrians call Adonis or Endymion;336336 Schneidewin considers that there have been left out in the ms. the words “or Attis” after Endymion. Attis is subsequently mentioned with some degree of particularity. and when it is styled Adonis, Venus, he says, loves and desires the soul when styled by such a name. But Venus is production, according to them. But whenever Proserpine or Cora becomes enamoured with Adonis, there results, he says, a certain mortal soul separated from Venus (that is, from generation). But should the Moon pass into concupiscence for Endymion, and into love of her form, the nature,337337 Or, “creation.” he says, of the higher beings requires a soul likewise. But if, he says, the mother of the gods emasculate Attis,338338 Or, “Apis.” See Diodorus Siculus, iii. 58, 59. Pausanias, vii. 20, writes the word Attes. See also Minucius Felix, Octav., cap. xxi. and herself has this (person) as an object of affection, the blessed nature, he says, of the supernal and everlasting (beings) alone recalls the male power of the soul to itself.
For (the Naassene) says, there is the hermaphrodite man. According to this account of theirs, the intercourse of woman with man is demonstrated, in conformity with such teaching, to be an exceedingly wicked and filthy (practice).339339 Or, “forbidden.” For, says (the Naassene), Attis has been emasculated, that is, he has passed over from the earthly parts of the nether world to the everlasting substance above, where, he says, there is neither female or male,340340 Gal. iii. 28, and Clement’s Epist. ad Rom., ii. 12. [This is the apocryphal Clement reserved for vol. viii. of this series. See also same text, Ignatius, vol. i. p. 81.] but a new creature,341341 See 2 Cor. v. 17; Gal. vi 15. a new man, which is hermaphrodite. As to where, however, they use the expression “above,” I shall show when I come to the proper place (for treating this subject). But they assert that, by their account, they testify that Rhea is not absolutely isolated, but—for so I may say—the universal creature; and this they declare to be what is affirmed by the Word. “For the invisible things of Him are seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made by Him, even His eternal power and Godhead, for the purpose of leaving them without excuse. Wherefore, knowing God, they glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks; but their foolish heart was rendered vain. For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into images of the likeness of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore also God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” What, however, the natural use is, according to them, we shall afterwards declare. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly”—now the expression that which is unseemly signifies, according to these (Naasseni), the first and blessed substance, figureless, the cause of all figures to those things that are moulded into shapes,—“and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”342342 Rom. i. 20–27. For in these words which Paul has spoken they say the entire secret of theirs, and a hidden mystery of blessed pleasure, are comprised. For the promise of washing is not any other, according to them, than the introduction of him that is washed in, according to them, life-giving water, and anointed with ineffable343343 ἀλάλῳ; some read ἄλλῳ. ointment (than his introduction) into unfading bliss.
But they assert that not only is there in favour of their doctrine, testimony to be drawn from the mysteries of the Assyrians, but also from those of the Phrygians concerning the happy nature—concealed, and yet at the same time disclosed—of things that have been, and are coming into existence, and moreover will be,—(a happy nature) which, (the Naassene) says, is the kingdom of heaven to be sought for within a man.344344 Luke xvii. 21. And concerning this (nature) they hand down an explicit passage, occurring345345 These words do not occur in the “Gospel of Thomas concerning the Saviour’s infancy,” as given by Fabricius and Thilo. in the Gospel inscribed according to Thomas,346346 The Abbe Cruice mentions the following works as of authority among the Naasseni, and from whence they derived their system: The Gospel of Perfection, Gospel of Eve, The Questions of Mary, Concerning the Offspring of Mary, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel according to (1) Thomas, (2) the Egyptians. (See Epiphanius, Hæres., c. xxvi., and Origen, Contr. Cels., vi. 30, p. 296, ed. Spenc.) These heretics likewise make use of the Old Testament, St. John’s Gospel, and some of the Pauline epistles. expressing themselves thus: “He who seeks me, will find me in children from seven years old; for there concealed, I shall in the fourteenth age be made manifest.” This, however, is not (the teaching) of Christ, but of Hippocrates, who uses these words: “A child of seven years is half of a father.” And so it is that these (heretics), placing the originative nature of the universe in causative seed, (and) having ascertained the (aphorism) of Hippocrates,347347 Miller refers to Littré, Traduct. des Œuvres d’Hippocrate, t. i. p. 396. that a child of seven years old is half of a father, say that in fourteen years, according to Thomas, he is manifested. This, with them, is the ineffable and mystical Logos. They assert, then, that the Egyptians, who after the Phrygians,348348 See Herodotus, ii. 2, 5. it is established, are of greater antiquity than all mankind, and who confessedly were the first to proclaim to all the rest of men the rites and orgies of, at the same time, all the gods, as well as the species and energies (of things), have the sacred and august, and for those who are not initiated, unspeakable mysteries of Isis. These, however, are not anything else than what by her of the seven dresses and sable robe was sought and snatched away, namely, the pudendum of Osiris. And they say that Osiris is water.349349 See Origen, Contr. Cels., v. 38 (p. 257, ed. Spenc.). But the seven-robed nature, encircled and arrayed with seven mantles of ethereal texture—for so they call the planetary stars, allegorizing and denominating them ethereal350350 Or, “brilliant.” robes,—is as it were the changeable generation, and is exhibited as the creature transformed by the ineffable and unportrayable,351351 Or, “untraceable.” and inconceivable and figureless one. And this, (the Naassene) says, is what is declared in Scripture, “The just will fall seven times, and rise again.”352352 Prov. xxiv. 16; Luke xvii. 4. For these falls, he says, are the changes of the stars, moved by Him who puts all things in motion.
They affirm, then, concerning the substance353353 Or, “spirit.” of the seed which is a cause of all existent things, that it is none of these, but that it produces and forms all things that are made, expressing themselves thus: “I become what I wish, and I am what I am: on account of this I say, that what puts all things in motion is itself unmoved. For what exists remains forming all things, and nought of existing things is made.”354354 See Epiphanius, Hæres., xxvi. 8. He says that this (one) alone is good, and that what is spoken by the Saviour355355 Matt. xix. 17; Mark x. 18; Luke xviii. 19. is declared concerning this (one): “Why do you say that am good? One is good, my Father which is in the heavens, who causeth His sun to rise upon the just and unjust, and sendeth rain upon saints and sinners.”356356 Matt. v. 45. But who the saintly ones are on whom He sends the rain, and the sinners on whom the same sends the rain, this likewise we shall afterwards declare with the rest. And this is the great and secret and unknown mystery of the universe, concealed and revealed among the Egyptians. For Osiris,357357 Miller has οὐδεὶς. See Plutarch, De Isid. et Osirid., c. li. p. 371. (the Naassene) says, is in temples in front of Isis;358358 Or, εἰσόδου, i.e., entrance. and his pudendum stands exposed, looking downwards, and crowned with all its own fruits of things that are made. And (he affirms) that such stands not only in the most hallowed temples chief of idols, but that also, for the information of all, it is as it were a light not set under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, proclaiming its message upon the housetops,359359 Matt. v. 15; x. 27. in all byways, and all streets, and near the actual dwellings, placed in front as a certain appointed limit and termination of the dwelling, and that this is denominated the good (entity) by all. For they style this good-producing, not knowing what they say. And the Greeks, deriving this mystical (expression) from the Egyptians, preserve it until this day. For we behold, says (the Naassene), statues of Mercury, of such a figure honoured among them.
Worshipping, however, Cyllenius with especial distinction, they style him Logios. For Mercury is Logos, who being interpreter and fabricator of the things that have been made simultaneously, and that are being produced, and that will exist, stands honoured among them, fashioned into some such figure as is the pudendum of a man, having an impulsive power from the parts below towards those above. And that this (deity)—that is, a Mercury of this description—is, (the Naassene) says, a conjurer of the dead, and a guide of departed spirits, and an originator of souls; nor does this escape the notice of the poets, who express themselves thus:—
“Cyllenian Hermes also called
Not Penelope’s suitors, says he, O wretches! but (souls) awakened and brought to recollection of themselves,
That is, from the blessed man from above, or the primal man or Adam, as it seems to them, souls have been conveyed down here into a creation of clay, that they may serve the Demiurge of this creation, Ialdabaoth,362362 Esaldaius, Miller (see Origen, Const. Cels., v. 76, p. 297, ed. Spenc.). a fiery God, a fourth number; for so they call the Demiurge and father of the formal world:—
“And in hand he held a lovely
Wand of gold that human eyes enchants,
This, he says, is he who alone has power of life and death. Concerning this, he says, it has been written, “Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron.”364364 Ps. ii. 9. The poet, however, he says, being desirous of adorning the incomprehensible (potency) of the blessed nature of the Logos, invested him with not an iron, but golden wand. And he enchants the eyes of the dead, as he says, and raises up again those that are slumbering, after having been roused from sleep, and after having been suitors. And concerning these, he says, the Scripture speaks: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise, and Christ will give thee light.”365365 Eph. v. 14.
This is the Christ who, he says, in all that have been generated, is the portrayed Son of Man from the unportrayable Logos. This, he says, is the great and unspeakable mystery of the Eleusinian rites, Hye, Cye.366366 See Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, c. xxxiv. And he affirms that all things have been subjected unto him, and this is that which has been spoken, “Their sound is gone forth unto all the earth,”367367 Rom. x. 18. just as it agrees with the expressions, “Mercury368368 Odyssey, xxiv. 5. waving his wand, guides the souls, but they twittering follow.” I mean the disembodied spirits follow continuously in such a way as the poet by his imagery delineates, using these words:—
“And as when in the magic cave’s recess
Bats humming fly, and when one drops
The expression “rock,” he says, he
uses of Adam. This, he affirms, is Adam: “The chief
corner-stone become the head of the corner.”370370
Ps. cxviii. 22; Isa. xxviii.
16. For that in the head the substance
is the formative brain from which the entire family is
Eph. iii. 15.
“Whom,” he says, “I place as a rock at the
foundations of Zion.” Allegorizing, he says, he speaks of
the creation of the man. The rock is interposed (within) the
teeth, as Homer372372
Iliad, iv. 350, ἕρκος
“What word hath ’scaped the ivory guard that should
Have fenced it in.” says, “enclosure of teeth,” that is, a wall and fortress, in which exists the inner man, who thither has fallen from Adam, the primal man above. And he has been “severed without hands to effect the division,”373373 Dan. ii. 45. and has been borne down into the image of oblivion, being earthly and clayish. And he asserts that the twittering spirits follow him, that is, the Logos:—
“Thus these, twittering, came together; and then the souls
That is, he guides them;
That is, he says, into the eternal places separated from all wickedness. For whither, he says, did they come:—
“O’er ocean’s streams they came, and Leuca’s cliff,
And by the portals of the sun and land of dreams.”
This, he says, is ocean, “generation of gods and generation of men”375375 Iliad, v. 246, xxiv. 201. ever whirled round by the eddies of water, at one time upwards, at another time downwards. But he says there ensues a generation of men when the ocean flows downwards; but when upwards to the wall and fortress and the cliff of Luecas, a generation of gods takes place. This, he asserts, is that which has been written: “I said, Ye are gods, and all children of the highest;”376376 Ps. lxxxii. 6; Luke vi. 35; John x. 34. “If ye hasten to fly out of Egypt, and repair beyond the Red Sea into the wilderness,” that is, from earthly intercourse to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living;377377 Gal. iv. 26. “If, moreover, again you return into Egypt,” that is, into earthly intercourse,378378 Philo Judæus adopts the same imagery (see his De Agricult., lib. i.). “ye shall die as men.” For mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he says, what is written. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”379379 John iii. 6. This, according to them, is the spiritual generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan380380 Josh. iii. 7–17. which, flowing on (here) below, and preventing the children of Israel from departing out of Egypt—I mean from terrestrial intercourse, for Egypt is with them the body,—Jesus drove back, and made it flow upwards.
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