Sethian creation in Gnostic Christianity
Sethian Creation
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The Trinity

The Sethian (or Classic) Gnostic creation myth comes from the Apocryphon of John.

There is one invisible spirit. He is pure, holy and immaculate. This ineffable one emanated pure, immeasurable light. He is indestructible and eternal.

Jesus reveals Him in the New Testament as the First Aeon and God.

The Spirit drinks in water-light from the power of life. Through the power of thought, he brings forth the feminine emanation of Him. Barbelo (the forethought of all) is His feminine counterpart. Barbelo is the perfect aeon. The Spirit bestowed five powers upon her: image of the invisible spirit, foreknowledge, indestructibility, eternal life and truth.

Pure light radiates between the Spirit and Barbelo. A spark ignites from this light, resulting in yet another pale light. This is the “only begotten child”, named Autogenes, the aeon Christ, the Anointed One. This is how the Gnostic Trinity is born; there is the Father, Mother and Son. Each is a perfect aeon.

Autogenes is androgynous, like his Father and Mother. Despite their masculine and feminine names (Father, Mother), each Perfect aeon is a dyad of gender. Together with his Father, Autogenes produces four more aeons named Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithai and Eleleth. The four aeons are helpers for Autogenes. Each of the four aeon helpers creates three more aeons. Harmozel emanates Grace, Truth and Form. Oroiael emanates Conception, Perception and Memory. Daveithai emanates Understanding, Love and Idea. Eleleth emanates Perfection, Peace and Wisdom – also named Sophia.

All four light aeons and their three serve Autogenes. These are the original aeons, the angels. In addition, four other beings dwelled with the luminaries (the aeons/angels). Pigera (or Adamas, the perfect being or Cosmic Man) lived with Harmozel. Seth (the son of Adamas) lived with Oroiael. Posterity of Seth (the souls of holy people) lived with Daveithai. Finally, the Souls (those that have yet to attain gnosis) lived with Eleleth.

Sophia Myth

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Many Gnostics regard Sophia as the most important aeon after Christ. It is important to remember that Sophia is responsible for the creation of the material world via her offspring, the Demiurge.

Barbelo is the forethought, and Sophia is the afterthought. Most likely, out of pride, Sophia wanted to emulate the Invisible Spirit (the Father) by producing an image of her. However, Sophia did not consult the Father before doing this. Sophia had the power to procreate, but lacked the necessary knowledge. Sophia became horrified at the sight of her creation. He was an ugly, imperfect creature with a body of a serpent and the face of a lion. He had eyes of fire. Sophia called her child Yaldabaoth. Out of shame and disgust, Sophia cast Yaldabaoth out of her pleroma and hid him in a thick cloud. By hiding him behind a cloud, the other aeons would not be able to see him. The Sethian Gnostics believe that Yaldabaoth was the consequence of Sophia's desire.

Yaldabaoth then stole his mother's power so that she was not able to escape from the cloud that she had originally trapped him in. Despite the fact that he had gained his mother's power, Yaldabaoth was still weak, but he had strong ambitions. Inherited from his mother, Yaldabaoth also lacked knowledge. Because of this inherent deficit, Yaldabaoth then fathered twelve archons to aide him in his conquests. Seven of the archons were to rule the seven heavens, and five would rule in the abyss, which Yaldabaoth created with the archons. Together, Yaldabaoth and his archons created 365 angels to help with their expanding empire.

From here, Yaldabaoth created a realm called matter. From this matter, he created seven androgynous offspring to rule the seven realms. Some Sethian Gnostics believe that this is how the seven planets came into being. Yaldabaoth became weak and ignorant, as he believed that he was the first and true God. Sophia began to refer to her son as Samael and Saklas, both names for the devil. Yaldabaoth was still proud, and he truly believed that none was more powerful than he was. Yaldabaoth challenged Sophia, but he could only hear her because of the darkness that he created. Sophia stretched out her finger and brought infinite light into Yaldaboaoth's creation of darkness and chaos. Yaldabaoth longed to see his mother's face. He could hear her voice, but he wanted more. Yaldabaoth followed his mother's voice, and found her reflection in water. Yaldabaoth then attempted to take hold of the image, but he could not. This is yet another example of his ignorance – the image was coming from above him, and he could not understand this. He begins to claim that he is a jealous God, and that he is the only God.

Sophia finally realizes the great magnitude of her mistake and begins to repent. Sophia begins to pray to the Father, and asks him to restore the power that Yaldabaoth stole from her. The Father accepted her prayer for deliverance. Yaldabaoth now heard the voice of the invisible spirit. The Father rebuked Yaldabaoth and his archons. When Yaldabaoth looked back into the water, he saw not the face of his mother, but instead saw an image of God – in human form.

Adam and Eve

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The physical world has now come into existence. Yaldabaoth is also aware that he is not the only God, and he is not a truly powerful one.

Yaldabaoth now wants to create an image of God from the image that he had seen in the water. To help his quest, Yaldabaoth summoned all the angels and archons; together they created a being in the likeness of the first man. The purpose of this was to steal the Spirit of the Father.

To their dismay, their creation was lifeless and without a soul. Little did Yaldabaoth know, his mother (Sophia) was meeting with the Father and Barbelo in a desperate attempt to regain her power. To help Sophia, the Father and Barbelo tell Yaldabaoth to blow air (life) into his creation, and that will awaken it. Ignorant, Yaldabaoth did as he was told. This is how Adam's soul was created.

When Yaldabaoth saw that Adam was good, pure and free from evil, he cast Adam out of the pleroma and sent him to live on the lowest plane of existence: Earth. To help Adam, Barbelo decided to send a helper along with him; a spirit named Epinoia. Adam's body hid Epinoia. While in hiding, she gives Adam secret knowledge of his existence, and taught him how to ascend back to the pleroma.

Angry, the archons wanted to confine Adam. Out of punishment, Yaldabaoth created a physical body out of flesh to confine his soul. His body was mortal, and Yaldabaoth again cast him away, this time, sending Adam into the Garden of Eden. Yaldabaoth also bound Adam by sleep and forgetfulness.

While Adam was sleeping, Yaldabaoth attempted to bring Epinoia out of his body through his rib, but she managed to escape. Yaldabaoth then quickly created another mortal body from Epinoia's image, and captured Epinoia inside. Yaldabaoth then placed Epinoia next to Adam in the Garden.

Epinoia commanded Adam to awaken. Because of the spell of ignorance from Yaldabaoth, Adam thought that Epinoia was the one who gave him life, and he called her Eve. Yaldabaoth wanted Adam and Eve to remain ignorant. If the two first humans were forever ignorant, then they would forever worship him. Yaldabaoth told the two to do as they pleased, but to say away from the Tree of Knowledge.

Some Gnostics believe that it was Jesus himself that told them to eat from the tree; the Sethian Gnostics hold the serpent of Genesis as the deliverer of knowledge.

Once they ate from the Tree, Adam and Eve awakened from their ignorance. Now they realized that Yaldabaoth was a false God. The fruit from the tree had given them the gnosis to understand that their creator was not God. Yaldabaoth then placed a curse on the serpent, Adam and Eve.

Yaldabaoth was angry, and threw Adam out of the Garden. Yaldabaoth snatched Eve when he observed her faithfulness to Adam. Epinoia escaped from the mortal body as Yaldabaoth raped the physical body of Eve out of anger.

In the Apocryphon of John, this produced Cain and Abel. However, the Hypostasis of the Archons teaches that Cain was the only child conceived from this event.

Adam and Eve later had a child together that they named Seth, and it is his descendents that possess the gnosis that their ancestors did.


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The Sethian Gnostics regard Seth as the son of Adam and Eve, a very wise and faithful follower of gnosis. However, Seth also had a sister that was even wiser than he was. Sethian Gnostics believe that Norea is Sophia after her fall from grace. She is sometimes the Syzygy of Adam and the wife of Noah.

The archons wanted to destroy humankind with the deluge. The demiurge had warned Noah of these plans, and told him to build an ark to escape. Norea arrives and attempts to board the ark, but Noah will not allow her. Norea blows onto the vessel, engulfing it in flames and destroying it. This happened three separate times. Norea claims that her powers come from stolen sparks recovered from sexual emissions.

Seeing her power, the archons decide to capture her, but she defies them they tell her that her mother (Eve) had belonged to them at one point. Because she was so wise, Norea knew that Yaldabaoth was not her true God, but that he was a creature of darkness. Out of anger, he attempts to rape her, but Norea knew to call out to the True God for help. The aeon Eleleth arrives. Eleleth frightens the archons away.

Eleleth reveals to Norea that he came not only to save her, but also to teach her of her true origins. It is now that Norea learns that she is a descendent of God. Eleleth also teaches Norea about the origins of Yaldabaoth. Norea now knows that she is more powerful than Yaldabaoth.

Once again, Yaldabaoth grows angry and boastful, claiming that he is the most powerful being and the only God. Sabaoth (one of Yaldabaoth's offspring) witnesses the power of Eleleth against Yaldabaoth. Sabaoth repents and pledges allegiance to Eleleth and the True God. Sophia and Eleleth reward Sabaoth and make him ruler of the eighth heaven.

Yaldabaoth witnesses the good treatment given to Sabaoth and begins to envy him. Yaldabaoth is the first to create envy. From envy, he created death. It is he that brought death to humankind.

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