In 1945, a cache of apocrypha (non-canonical religious texts) written by Gnostic Christians was discovered near Nag Hammadi in southern Egypt. Among them was a Gnostic retelling of the first 6 chapters of the book of Genesis: The Hypostasis of the Archons. The seventh chapter is a revelation of Gnostic cosmology, attributed by the author to the angel Eleleth (“sagacity of God”):
I cannot speak of the power of the angel Eleleth. His skin was like fine gold and his clothing as white as snow. But truly, my mouth cannot bear to speak of his power and the appearance of his face. Eleleth, the great angel, spoke to Norea.
“I am understanding,” he said. “I am one of the four luminaries who stand in the presence of the great invisible spirit. Do you think the Archons have any power over you? None of them can prevail against the source of truth, for on its account one will appear in the final ages, and the Archons will be restrained. They cannot defile you and your race, for your home is in incorruptibility, where the virgin spirit lives, who is superior to the lords of chaos and to their universe.”
“Sir,” said Norea, “teach me about the Archons. How did they come into being? By what genesis, and out of what material, and who created them and their power?”
The great angel Eleleth spoke:
Incorruptibility inhabits limitless realms. Sophia, who is called Pistis, wanted to create something, alone, without her partner, and what she created was celestial. A veil exists between the world above and the realms below, and shadow came into being beneath the veil. That shadow became matter, and the shadow was blasted apart. And what she had created came to be in matter, like an aborted fetus. He assumed a shape molded out of shadow, and became an arrogant beast resembling a lion. He was androgynous, because he was derived from matter. Opening his eyes, he saw a vast quantity of endless matter, and he became arrogant.
“I am god, and there is no one but me,” he said.
When he said this, he sinned against everything. A voice came from above the realm of absolute power.
“You are wrong, Samael,” it said, naming him ‘god of the blind’.
“If any thing existed before me, let it become visible to me!” he said.
Immediately Sophia pointed her finger and introduced light into matter, and she pursued it down to the region of chaos. Then she returned up to her light, and once again darkness returned to matter.
Samael made himself a vast realm, an endless precinct. He contemplated creating offspring for himself, and created seven, androgynous like their parent.
“I am the god of all,” he said to his offspring.
“You are wrong, Sakla”, shouted Zoe, the daughter of Pistis Sophia.
She breathed into the face of Samael (whose other name is Yaldabaoth), and her breath became a fiery angel. That angel bound Samael and cast him down into Tartaros, at the bottom of the abyss. Now, when Samael’s child Sabaoth saw the strength of that angel, he repented and condemned his father and his mother, matter.
He loathed Sophia, but he sang songs of praise up to her and her daughter Zoe. Sophia and Zoe found him and put him in charge of the seventh heaven, below the veil that lies between above and below. Sabaoth is called ‘god of the forces’ since he is above the forces of chaos, for Sophia placed him there.
Saboath made himself a huge four sided chariot of cherubim, and harps, and lyres, and an infinity of angels to act as his ministers. Sophia had her daughter Zoe sit on his right to teach him about the things that exist in the eighth heaven, and she placed the angel of wrath at his left. Since that day, his right hand has been called life, and the left has signified the righteousness of the realm of absolute power above.
When Samael saw Saboath in this great splendor and at this height, he envied him, and the envy became something androgynous; this was the origin of envy. Envy engendered death, and death engendered his offspring, and gave each of them charge of its own heaven. All the heavens of chaos became full of their multitudes.
But it was by the will of the Father of everything that they all came into being, after the pattern of all the things above, so that the sum of chaos might be attained. And now I have taught you about the form of the archons and the matter in which it was made visible, along with their creator and their universe.
There is much of interest here:
- Eleleth predicts the coming of Christ, who will restrain the archons.
- A veil exists between the material universe (which includes seven heavens) and the perfect universe, which includes the eighth heaven, the Ogdoad.
- The author vacillates between calling Samael “it” and “he”. This is due to Samael’s androgynous nature.
- Samael created the material universe.
- Sophia appointed Saboath, a child of Samael, as ruler of the archons. Elsewhere in the book, Samael is said to be their ruler.
- Zoe, daughter of Sophia, plays an active role in the material universe:
- she casts Samael into Tartaros (the Greek hell where Zeus imprisoned the titans).
- she sits at Saboath’s right hand, teaching him about the eight heaven.
- Death sprang from Samael’s envy of Saboath.
- All of this was the will of the Father of All, the true God