Previous Chapter: The Inexpressible One
Among the ancient Gnostic manuscripts rediscovered in modern times, the Secret Book of John is one of the most important. It a sacred reservoir of Gnostic myth and revelation. It breathes with the life of vision that vitalized early Christianity, a life suppressed and then largely forgotten in later ages. A modern reading grants fundamental insights into the lost foundations of Christian tradition.In the third chapter, God’s messenger tells John about the creation of the first five Aeons, divine emanations from the godhead:
We do not understand these indescribable matters. Not one of us knows these immeasurable things except the one who appeared from the Father. He is the one who spoke to us alone.
The Creator is the one who gazes at itself in the light that surrounds it, which is the spring of the living water. It is the source all the realms. Every way it looks, it sees its image in the wellspring of the Spirit, and wills its light, which is the source of the spring of pure light that surrounds It.
The Creator’s thought became a being. She appeared in its presence, revealed by the radiance of its light. She was the first Aeon, who came into being before all others. She emanated from the Creator’s thought, embodying the nurturing impulse of the universe, her light a reflection of the Creator’s light, the power image of the perfect invisible virginal Spirit, the glorious Barbelo, perfect among the aeons, the glory of revelation.
Barbelo glorified the virginal Spirit and praised it, since she had appeared because of it. She was the first thought of its image. She became the womb of the universe, because she existed prior to it. She was the Mother-Father, the first being, the holy Spirit, the triple male, the triple power, the triply named sexless being, the eternal aeon among the invisible ones, and the first to come forth.
Barbelo asked the invisible virginal Spirit to give her foreknowledge. The gaze of the Spirit revealed Foreknowledge, and she stood with Barbelo. She came from the invisible virginal Spirit. She glorified it and its perfect emanation Barbelo, for it was because of Barbelo that she had come into being.
Next Barbelo asked the Spirit to give her indestructibility. The gaze of the Spirit revealed Indestructibility, and she stood with Barbelo and Foreknowledge. She glorified the Invisible one and Barbelo, for she had come into being because of them.
Barbelo asked the Spirit to give her immortality. The gaze of the Spirit revealed Immortality. Immortality stood and glorified the invisible Spirit and Barbelo, for it had come into being because of them.
Finally, Barbelo asked the Spirit to give to her Truth. By the gaze of the invisible Spirit, Truth was revealed. Truth stood and glorified the invisible Spirit who was approving and Barbelo, for Truth had come into being because of them.
These are the pentad of the Aeons of the Creator, the beings created in the image of the invisible Spirit: Barbelo, who is Thought, Foreknowledge, Indestructibility, Immortality, and Truth. This androgynous pentad of the Aeons form a decad of Aeons when paired with the Creator.
This gnostic cosmogony is strange stuff:
- The first paragraph seems to be a link back to Christianity, yet the remainder of the chapter appears to be a preexisting cosmogony being force fit into a Christian mold.
- The Father/Creator is described as being androgynous.
- The first Aeon, Barbelo, is initially described as female, as the cosmic mother.
- The next four Aeons are ambiguously female or androgynous, and are unnamed.
- The Creator is said to pair with them, acting as a male counterpart for each, contradicting the androgynous description of him/it at the beginning of the chapter.
- In this chapter, the term Aeon is no longer being used in the sense of “realm”, but rather as a term for an emanation from the Creator, a hypostasis.
Next chapter: Christ is Born