The Gnostics believed that the true God (big G) was outside creation, and that this inferior world was created by either evil angels or a deluded, lying, lesser god (little g). This lesser force of creation is variously called the Demiurge or Ialdabaoth (pronounced just like it looks...).

Further, they held that each person contains a spark of the Divine that must be awakened in order to return to God.

A 3rd Century A.D. gnostic named Carpocrates wove these concepts into a fascinating doctrine of reincarnation. His teachings held that because the soul is invested with the divine, it cannot be corrupted. It must live in many bodies, life after life, in order to experience everything before it could be freed from the cycle of reincarnation to return to God.

Carpocrates was interested in speeding up this process. He held that because this world was created by an inferior god, the moral codes and laws of this world are also inferior. To experience everything, one would have to ignore the prohibitions on certain behaviors. By committing acts that society calls sins or crimes, the Carpocration Gnostic was simply paying the price of salvation. Sort of an early example of "if it feels good, do it."

Taken to its logical extreme, though, this doctrine is exhausting. If nothing is prohibited, then everything is compulsory. In practice, however, Carpocration rule breaking involved mostly sex. According to contemporary historians, they lived licentious lives, practiced various sexual magics, and sold love potions in order to fund their lifestyles.

For a few paragraphs now, you have been thinking, "O.K. Linus, why are you telling us about Carpocration Gnosticism?"

Glad you asked.

I got this cool book called the Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics and it rocks. Because it is in alphabetical order it is difficult to get a sense of the chronology of things, but I am beginning to see the larger patterns of heretical behavior.

Having said that, I realize that I am likely the only person in our happy little flock who is interested in this topic. Rather than bore you all to death in person, I thought I'd get it out of my system here, where you can all follow Clay's example and skip to the end.

I guess I should have told you that at the top of the post...
Sorry - my bad.


Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but: "Ialdabaoth (pronounced just like it looks...)" could mean Ee-aldobaoth or Eye-aldobaoth...! The word has also been written Yaldobaoth, which leaves the pronunciation of the "I" still in question!!

His Sinfulness said...

Um... right. Which is why that's a joke. Try to keep up.

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