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Cosmogony and Dramaturgy
The Supreme Principle The First Emanation Autogenes And The Intermediary Godhead Principles The Origin of the Archetypal Man The Gnostic Account of the Fall and Creation The Battle for the Spiritual Light The Gnostic Savior The Consummation

The Archetypal Man

Autogenes The Pre-Creation Crisis and Fall

Like all the Aeons, Autogenes is androgynous.  Another way of looking at this is to say that he has its female counterpart.  In Gnosticism the male-female pair of Aeons is called a "Syzygy".  This counterpart is called Mirothoe.  She is described as

"the great light, the living power, the mother of the holy, incorruptible ones, the great power, Mirothoe." [Nag Hammad Library: external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, p.198].

There are several fragmentary references to Mirothea, who is identified with Autogenes [Nag Hammadi Library: external link Three Steles of Seth, p.362, Zostrianos,  p.377; and John H. Sieber, "The Barbelo Aeon in Zostrianos and related tractates", pp.791-2] and given the title "mother" [Zostrianos, p.371, external link Trimorphic Protennoia, p.463].  One hymn reads

"thou art Mirotheaos,...I bless thee as God, I bless thy divinity."
[Nag Hammadi, external link Three Steles of Seth, p.362].

And in another tractate Meirothea (or Mirotheos) is identified as the emanation of the original Barbelo or Protennoia, the First Thought of the Godhead, who is

"the Image of the Invisible Spirit"


"the Light which she appointed as Virgin, she who is called Meirothea, the intangible Womb..."
[external link Trimorphic Protennoia, p.463].

As you would expect, Creation does not stop there.  So from Autogenes and Mirothoe there emanate four other Aeons or Lights.  These are referred to as four great Angels.  Together with each of these there are three secondary Aeons, making twelve secondaries in all.  Each of the four Angels represents a particular sphere of existence, and at each of these levels there exist particular Personalities.

On the level of the first Light or Angel,  called "Armozel", stands the Celestial Adam, "Pigeraadamas", referred to in in other texts as the Geradamas, the "Old Adam" or original Archetypal Man ("Man" in this sense referring to human, as opposed to Anthropos, the Godhead) together with Autogenes itself.  This Celestial pre-creation Adam is described as the Light or the Eye of Autogenes:

"...Adamas is a light which radiated from the light, he is the eye of light....This is the first man, he through whom and to whom everything became, and without whom nothing became"
[external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, in the Nag Hammadi Library, p.198].

"Adamas...is the eye of the Autogenes, an ascending knowledge of his"
[Nag Hammadi, Zostrianos, p.377; c.f. also p.372]

On the level of the second Light or Angel, Oroiel, is the Celestial Seth, the son of Geradamas.  In external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, Seth is "the father and savior of the incorruptible race" (i.e., the Divine Souls, who possess Gnosis) who "comes from heaven, puts on Jesus as a garment, and accomplishes (the) work of salvation on behalf of his children" [p.195].  In other words, Seth is to the non-Christian Gnostics what Christ is to the Christian religion.

On the level of the third Light or Angel, Daveithai, is "the seed of Seth"; i.e. the Liberated Gnostic souls, who have transcended phenomenal existence.

And on the level of the fourth Light or Angel, Eleleth, are those souls "who do not know the Pleroma"; or in other words, who lack Gnosis.

All this requires some explanation.

Adam and his son Seth are standard in much of Gnosticism.  Originally this referred to an earthly pair.  Traditionally, Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, after Cain and Abel.  According to the Gnostics, Seth who unlike his brothers possessed the "spirit" or "seed" from above, is the father of all the Gnostics [Birger A. Pearson, "Seth in Gnostic Literature", pp.478-483, in B. Layton, ed., external link The Rediscovery of Gnosticism, vol. 2. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981].  In one of the Nag Hammadi tractates, external link The Apocalypse of Adam, which is probably a very early text transitional between Jewish Apocalyptic and full-fledged Gnosticism, the human Adam reveals to his son Seth the story of the Fall (which is here the result not of an "original sin" but the capriciousness of the evil God of this world) and a revelation imparted to him by three celestial visitors; who in turn passes this knowledge on to his descendants; his "seed".

Later, "Seth" came to mean not to the earthly Seth, but to a heavenly prototype on a transmundane, pre-cosmic plane.  The heavenly Seth is then regarded as the "Son" of a heavenly Adam [p.483]

The idea of a heavenly Seth represents a specifically Gnostic interpretation of the Biblical Genesis accounts whereby the earthly characters of Adam and Seth are projected onto a transmundane, pre-cosmic plane. [p.503]

Now, the Classical Gnostics had a love of hypostasising.  That is, they would take any personality in religious literature, and transform him or her into a divinity.  Thus in external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, we find a reference to "James the Great" [p.203], who is, as the Classical Gnostic scholar Jean Doresse points out, "detached from the familiar gospel context and transformed into a superterrestrial being" [Wilson, GotE, p.248].  With him are a number of others, some of whose names - "Micheus" and "Michar" [p.204] - seem to refer to "Mathew" of the Gospels, while "Yesseus Mazareus" [p.203] is obviously "Yeshua/Jesus the Nazarene" (who incidentally is quite distinct from the "Jesus" mentioned slightly earlier in the text)!

In view of this extraordinary tendency, it is not surprising that Adam, Seth, and "the Seed of Seth" should be hypostasised into supernal entities; Adam and Seth being two versions of the "Archetypal Man"  or Anthropos (in the non-Godheadic sense), and the "seed of Seth" or Gnostic Souls occupying their correct hierarchical position immediately below.

As for the lower order of Souls, who are located in the Fourth Angel or Plane, these are not Spiritual (Gnostic) at all, but "Psychic".  The classical Gnostics generally distinguished between three orders of humanity: the Hylics - literally "Materialists", who had no eschatological existence at all; the Psychics, who lacked Gnosis and followed exoteric religion, and would eventually attain a position intermediate between the Cosmos and the Pleroma; and finally the Pnuematics or Spirituals, the Gnostics themselves, who would one day return to the supernal Pleroma.  Here we see an extremely rigid typology which modern-day apologists claim refers to stages of spiritual self-development, rather than actual human types.  There is however no suggestion within the actual original texts themselves that this was considered the case.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the last (third) Aeon of this lowest Angel level, Sophia or "Wisdom", who is the ultimate creator of the World.  Most classical Gnostics agree in deriving the Cosmos itself from a sort of Crisis or Fall in this lowest Aeon; the difference being the exact status of Sophia/Wisdom.  In the Valentinian system for example, Sophia is still a mighty Aeon; even if the lowest of the Pleromatic members.  In the Apocryphon of John however she has a much lower office; being placed with the "Psychic" Souls; those Souls who (in this schema) do not even possess the Spiritual essence.

The Sethian Gnostics | Cyclic, Historical, and Dramaturgic Time | The Pleroma | The Gnostic Dramaturgy - Creation and Redemption | Gnosticism main page

Autogenes The Pre-Creation Crisis and Fall

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