FRAGMENTS AND COMMENTS.
The Bosoms or Gulphs (? Vortices, Voragines, Whirl-swirls, Ćons, Atoms) are
also called Depths - a technical term of very frequent occurrence in all the
Gnostic schools of the time. The Great Depth of all depths was that of the
Father, the Paternal Depth. Thus one of our Oracles reads:
Ye who, understanding, know the Paternal Depth cosmos-transcending.
(K. 18; C. 168)
This Paternal Depth is the ultimate mystery; but from another point of view
it may be regarded as the Intelligible Ordering of all things. It is called
super-cosmic or cosmos-transcending, when cosmos is regarded as the sensible or
manifested order; it is the Occult, or Hidden, Eternal Type of universals, or
wholes, simultaneously interpenetrating one another, undivided (sensibly) yet
divided (intelligibly). We are told, therefore, concerning this super-cosmic or
trans-mundane Depth, that
It is all things, but intelligibly [all].
That is to say, in it things are not divided in time and space; there is no
sensible separation. It is not the specific state, or state of species; but the
state of wholes or genera. It is neither Father nor Mother, yet both. It is the
state of “At Once”; and perhaps this may explain the strange term “Once
Beyond” - that is, the At-Once in the state of the Beyond, beyond the
sensible divided cosmos. Proclus and Damascius speak of it as “of the form of
oneness” and “indivisible”; and an Oracle characterizes it as
That which cannot be cut up; the Holder-together of all sources.
As such it may be regarded as the Mother-side of things, and thus is called
Source of [all] sources, Womb that holds all things together.
(K. 19; C. 99)
The Later Platonic commentators compared this with Plato's Auto-zōon, the Living Thing-in-itself, the
Source of life to all; and thus the That-which-gives-life-to-itself; and,
therefore, the Womb of all living creatures. The Oracles, however, regard it as
the Womb of Life, the Divine Mother:
She is the Energizer [lit., Work-woman] and Forth-giver of
(K. 19; C. 55)
“She fills the Life-giving Bosom [or Womb] of Hecatē." - the Supernal
Mother's self-reflection in the sensible universe - says Proclus, basing himself
on an Oracle, and:
Flows fresh and fresh [or on and on] into the wombs of things.
(K. 19; C. 55)
The “wombs of things” are, literally, the “holders-together of
things." They are reflections of the Great “Holder-together of all sources,”
of the fourth fragment back. This poetical expression for the Mother-Depth and
her infinite reflections in her own nature of manifoldness, was developed by the
Later Platonic commentators into the formal designation of a hierarchy - the
Synoches. That which she imparts is called
The Life-giving Might of Fire possessed of mighty power.
This is all on the Mother-side of things; but this should never be divorced
from the Father-side, as may be seen from the nature of the mysterious Ćon.
On the ćon-doctrine (cf. H., i 387-412), which probably
occupied a prominent position in the mysticism of our Oracle-poem (though, of
course, in a simple form and not as in the overdeveloped ćonology of the
Christianized Gnosis), we unfortunately possess only four verses.
One of the names given to the Ćon was “Father-begotten” Light, because
“He makes to shine His unifying light on all,” as Proclus tells us.
For He [the Ćon] alone, culling unto its lull the Flower of Mind [the
Son] from out the Father's Might [the Mother], possesseth [both] the power
to understand the Father's Mind, and to bestow that Mind both on all
sources and upon all principles - both power to understand [al.,
whirl], and ever bide upon His never-tiring pivot.
(K. 27; C. 71)
The nature of this Ćonic Principle (or Ātmic Mystery), according to the
belief of the Theurgists, is described by Proclus. But whether this description
was based upon our poem or not, we cannot be certain. We, therefore, append what
Proclus says, in illustration only:
Theurgists declare that He [Duration, Time without bounds, the Ćon] is
God, and hymn His divinity as both older [than old], and younger [than
young], as ever-circling into itself [the Egg] and ćon-wise; both as
conceiving the sum total of all numbered things that move within the
cosmos of His Mind, yet, over and beyond them all, as infinite by reason
of His Power, and yet [again, when] viewed with them, as spirally
convolved [the Serpent].
The “ever-circling” is the principle of self-motivity. On the spiral-side of
things there is procession to infinity; while on the sphere-side beginning and
end are immediate and “at once.”
With this passage must be taken two others quoted by Taylor, but without
giving the references:
God [energizing] in the cosmos, ćonian, boundless, young and old, in
spiral mode convolved.
For Eternity [the Ćon], according to the Oracles, is Cause of Life that
never falleth short, and of untiring Power, and restless Energy.
(C. 3 and 4)
THE UTTERANCE OF THE FIRE.
In connection with the idea of the Living Intellectual Fire as the Perfect
Intelligible, Father and Mother in one (both creating Matter and impregnating
it), conceived of sensibly as the “Descent into Matter," we may, perhaps, take
the following verses:
Thence there leaps forth the Genesis of Matter manifoldly wrought in
varied colours. Thence the Fire-flash down-streaming dims its [fair]
Flower of Fire, as it leaps forth into the wombs of worlds. For thence all
things begin downwards to shoot their admirable rays.
(K. 20; C. 101, 24)
The origin of matter and the genesis of matter is thus to be sought for in
the Intelligible itself. The doctrine of the Pythagorćans and Platonists was
that the origin of matter was to be traced to the Monad. The Flower of Fire is
here the quintessence of it.
LIMIT THE SEPARATOR.
To the same part of the poem we must also refer the following:
For from Him leap forth both Thunderings inexorable, and the Fireflash-receiving
Bosoms of the All-fiery Radiance of Father-begotten Hecatē, and that by
which the Flower of Fire and mighty Breath beyond the fiery poles is girt.
(K. 20; C. 66)
Those who have studied attentively the Mithriac Ritual (Vol. VI.) will
feel themselves in a familiar atmosphere when reading these lines. The “Thunderings”
are the Creative Utterances of the Father; the “Bosoms” of Hecatē are the
receptive vortices on the Mother-side of things. Yet Father and Mother and also
Son are all three the Monad. She is “Father-begotten," and He the Son is
Mother-begotten - the Monad perpetually giving birth to itself. The Son is the
that which “girds” or limits or separates, the Gnostic Horos or Limit, the
Form-side of things, which shuts out the Below from the Above, and determines
all opposites. It is the Cross, the “Undergirding” of the universe, as we have
seen in The Gnostic Crucifixion (Vol. VII., pp. 15, 43 ff.).
The commentators, however, with their rage for intellectual precision, have
turned this into a technical term, making it a special name; but in the Oracles Hypezōkόs is used more simply and
generally as the separator.
Proclus characterizes this Hypezōkόs as the prototype of division, the
“separation of the things-that-are from matter,” basing himself apparently on
Just as a diaphragm [hypezōkόs],
a knowing membrane, He divides.
The nature of this separation is that, of “knowing” or “gnostic” Fire. The
Epicurćans called the separation between the visible and invisible the
“Flaming Walls” of the universe. Compare the Angel with the flaming sword who
guards the Gates of Paradise.
So also with the epithet “inexorable” (ameίliktoi)
applied to the “Thunderings”; these have been transformed by the
over-elaboration of the commentators into a hierarchy of Inexorables or
Implacables, just as is the gorgeous imagery of the Coptic Gnostic treatises of
the Askew and Bruce codices.
The simpler use may be seen in the following two verses:
The Mind of the Father, vehicled in rare Drawers-of-straight-lines,
flashing inflexibly in furrows of implacable Fire.
(K. 21; C. 17)
This seems to refer to the Rays of the Divine Intelligence vehicled in
creative Fire. It is the Divine Ploughing of primal substance. Straight lines
are characteristic of the Mind.
It is the first furrowing, so to speak, of the Sea of Matter in a universal
pattern that impresses upon the surface a network of Light (as may be seen in
protoplasm under a strong microscope) from the Ruler of the Sea above. It is the
first Descent of the Father, and the first Ascent or Arising of the Son; it
suggests the idea of riding and controlling. The epithet “rare” or “attenuated”
suggests drawn out to the finest thread; these threads or lines govern and map
out the Sea; they are the Lines on the Surface; they glitter and look like
furrows of the essence of Fire.
THE EMANATION OF IDEAS.
In close connection with the lines beginning “For from Him leap forth,” we
may take the longest fragment (16 lines) preserved to us:
The Father' s Mind forth-bubbled, conceiving, with His Will in all its
prime, Ideas that can take upon themselves all forms; and from One Source
they, taking flight, sprang forth. For from the Father was both Will and
These were made differentiate by Gnostic Fire, allotted into different
For, for the world of many forms, the King laid out an intellectual
Plan [or Type] not subject unto change. Kept to the tracing of this Plan,
that no world can express, the World, made glad with the Ideas that take
all shapes, grew manifest with form.
Of these Ideas there is One only Source, from which there bubble-forth
in differentiation other [ones] that no one can approach - forth-bursting
round the bodies of the World - which circle round its awe-inspiring
Depths [or Bosoms], like unto swarms of bees, flashing around them
and about, incuriously, some hither and some thither, - the Gnostic
Thoughts from the Paternal Source that cull unto their lull the Flower of
Fire at height of sleepless Time.
It was the Father's first self-perfect Source that welled-forth these
(K. 23; C. 39)
With this “culling” or “plucking” of the Flower of Fire compare the ancient
gnomic couplet preserved by Hesiod
Nor from Five-branched at Gods' Fire-looming
Cut Dry from Green with flashing Blade.
(O. et D., 741 f.)
As has been previously stated (H., i 265, n. 5), I believe that Hesiod
has preserved this scrap of ancient wisdom from the “Orphic” fragments in
circulation in his day among the people in Bśotia, who had them from an older
Greece than that of Homer's heroes; in other words, that we have in it a trace
of the contact of pre-Homeric Greece with “Chaldća.”
These living Ideas or creative Thoughts are emanations (or forth-flowings) of
the Divine Mind, and constitute the Plan of that Mind, the Divine Economy. They
are more transcendent even than the Fire, for they are said to be able to gather
for themselves the subtlest essence or Flower of Fire. “At height of sleepless
Time” is a beautiful phrase, though it is difficult to assign to it a very
precise meaning. The “height of Time” is, perhaps, the supreme moment, and thus
may mean momentarily - not, however, in the sense of lasting only the smallest
fraction of time, but referring to Time at its limit where it touches Eternity.
The Thoughts of the Father-Mind are on the Borderland of Time. They are
living Intelligences of Light and Life, of the nature of Logoi.
Thoughts of the Father! Brightness a-flame, pure Fire!
THE BOND OF LOVE DIVINE.
Next we may take the verses referring to the Birth of Love (Erōs), the
Bond-of-union between all things.
For the Self-begotten One, the Father-Mind, perceiving His [own] Works,
sowed into all Love's Bond, that with his Fire o'ermasters all; so that
all might continue loving on for endless time, and that these Weavings of
the Father' s Gnostic Light might never fail. With this Love, too, it is
the Elements of Cosmos keep on running.
(K. 25; C. 107)
The Works of the Father are the Operations of the Divine Mind - the Souls.
The same idea, though on a lower scale, so to say, may be seen in the
Announcement of the Monarch of the Worlds, sitting on the Throne of Truth, to
the Souls, in the Trismegistic “Virgin of the World” treatise:
O Souls, Love and Necessity shall be your Lords, they who are Lords and
Marshals after Me of all.
(H., ii 110)
The Marriage of the Elements and their perpetual transmutation was one of the
leading doctrines of Heraclitus. The Elements married and transformed themselves
into one another, as may also be seen from the Magian myth quoted in Vol. V of
these little books, The Mysteries of Mithra (pp. 49-52). The idea is
summed up in the following fine lines from a Hymn of Praise to the Ćon or
Eternity, in the Magic Papyri:
Hail unto Thee, O Thou Beginning and Thou End of Nature naught can
move! Hail unto Thee, Thou Vortex of the Liturgy [or Service] unweariable
of Nature's Elements!
In close connection with the above verses of our poem we must plainly take
With the Bond of admirable Love, Who leaped forth first, clothed round
with Fire, his fellow bound to him, that he might mix the Mixing-bowls
original by pouring in the Flower of his own Fire.
(K. 25; C. 23)
In the last line I read έπιχώυ (“pouring in”) for έπισχώυ. The Mixing-bowls,
or Kratēres, are the Fiery Crucibles in which the elements and souls of things
are mixed. The Mixer is not Love as apart from the Father, but the Mind of the
Father as Love, as we learn from the following verses:
Having mingled the Spark of Soul with two in unanimity - with Mind and
Breath Divine - to them He added, as a third, pure Love, the august Master
(K. 26; C. 81)
Compare with this the Mixing of Souls in “The Virgin of the World” treatise:
For taking breath from His own Breath and blending with it Knowing
Fire, He mingled them with other substances which have no power to know;
and having made the two - either with other - one, with certain hidden
Words of Power, He thus set all the mixture going thoroughly
(H., iii 98)
This Chaste and Holy and Divine Love is invoked as follows in the Paris
Thee I invoke, Thou Primal Author of all generation, who dost
out-stretch Thy wings o'er all the universe; Thee the unapproachable, Thee
the immeasurable, who dost inspire into all souls the generative sense [lit.,
reason], who dost conjoin all things by power of Thine own Self.
Elsewhere in the same Papyrus (1762), Love is called:
The Hidden One who secretly doth cause to spread among all souls the
Fire that cannot be attained by contemplation.
What men think of as love is, as contrasted with this Divine Love, called in
our Oracles, the “stifling of True Love.” True Love is also called “Deep
Love,” with which we are to fill our souls, as Proclus tells us (K.
26). Elsewhere in the Oracles this Love was united with Faith and Truth into a
triad, which may be compared with another triad in the following verse quoted by
Virtue and Wisdom and deliberate Certainty.
(K. 27; C. 35)
So far we have been dealing with the Divine Powers when conceived as
transcending the manifested universe; we now come to the world-shaping, or
economy of the material cosmos, and to the Powers concerned with it.
THE SEVEN FIRMAMENTS.
As we have seen above, in treating of the Great Mother (p. xx), it is she
who, as the Primal Soul, “all at once ensouls Light, Fire, Ćther, Worlds” (K.
28; C. 38).
The Later Platonist commentators regard this Light as a monad embracing a
triad of states - empyrean, ćtherial, and hylic (that is, of gross matter). They
further assert that the last state only is visible to normal physical sight (K.
These four thus constituted the quaternary or tetrad of the whole sensible
universe. This would, of course, be somewhat of a daring “philosophizing” of the
simple statement of the original poem, if the verse we have quoted were the only
authority for the precise statement of the commentators. But we are hardly
justified in assuming, as Kroll appears to do throughout, that if no verse is
quoted, therefore no verse existed. The Platonic commentators had the full poem
before them, and (like the systematizers of the Upanishads) tried to evolve a
consistent system out of its mystic utterances. There were also, in the highest
probability, other Hellenistic documents of a similar character, giving back
some reflections from the “Books of the Chaldćans”; and also in the air a kind
of general tradition of a “Chaldćan philosophy.”
The Sensible Universe was thus divided by them, basing themselves on the
pregnant imagery of the Oracles, into three states or “planes” - the empyrean,
ćtherial, and hylic. To these planes or states they referred the mysterious
septenary of spheres mentioned in the verse:
The Father caused to swell forth seven firmaments of worlds.
(K. 31; C. 120)
This Father is, of course, Mind of Mind, and the “causing to swell forth”
gives the idea of the swelling from a centre to the limit of a surround.
The most interesting point is that those who knew the Oracles, and were in
the direct line of their tradition, did not regard these seven firmaments or
zones as the “planetary orbits.” One of the seven they assigned to the empyrean,
three to the ćtherial, and three to the gross-material or sublunary. There was
thus a chain or coil of seven depending from the eighth, the octave, of Light,
the Borderland between the intelligible and the sensible worlds. All the seven,
however, were “corporeal” worlds (K. 32). The three hylic (those of gross
matter) may be compared with the solid, liquid and gaseous states of physical
matter; the three ćtherial with similar states of ćther or subtle matter; and
the seventh corresponds with the atomic or empyrean or true fiery or fire-mist
Moreover, as to the hylic world or world of gross matter, which had three
spheres or states, we learn:
The centres of the hylic world are fixed in the ćther above it.
That is to say, presumably, the ćther was supposed to surround and
interpenetrate the cosmos of gross matter.
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