History: The Basildeans were a Gnostic sect established by the spiritually minded individual Basilides of Alexandria during the 2nd century CE. Basilides intimated the significant claim that he had been introduced to and taught his doctrines by the well-known disciple of St. Peter Glaucus. It is unable to be ascertained whether this disciple of St. Peter actually taught Basilides but is not entirely improbable to have occurred. The Basilidean customs of which they performed, unfortunately is known very minute amounts of information. What is known about some of their customs is that Basilides stipulated a prohibitory period on his adherents (similar to Pythagoras' instructions) constituting a silence of five years.
They also retained the anniversary of the day associated with the Baptism of Jesus as a feast day allocating the day to study and contemplation. Lastly, their spiritual master or leader instructed his disciples to not engage in imbibing or consuming edibles offered in supplication to idols. The Basildean Gnostic Sect instituted three classifications of initiations or grades of development delineated as the material, intellectual, and the spiritual, and they further contained two allegorical representative statues of the genders, one male and the other female. This Gnostic sect's doctrinal ideas and writings exhibited readily discernible similarities to the doctrines of the Ophites and the later Jewish Kabbalists.
The Basildean Gnostic sect is postulated as having endured until the 4th century CE as Epiphanius knew of Basilideans existing and residing in the Nile delta up to this time. However, it is intimated that this particular Gnostic Sect was exclusively limited to and readily isolated to the Egyptian geographical region. Thus, there is no exorbitant degree of evidence that this Gnostic sect extended its doctrines beyond the borders of Egypt but did survive there for an extended period of time. Epiphanius also mentions the Prosopite, Athribite, Saite, and "Alexandriopolite" names and cantons, including Alexandria itself, as the geographic locations where it still thrived during his era, and further that he inferred as having been visited by Basilides at some point during his life. Every one of these places lie on the western side of the Delta, in between the Sea and Memphis.
It has also been illustrated according to Sulpicius Severus that this sect's ideas at the least became introduced and disseminated into Spain through a Mark from Memphis. St. Jerome insinuated that this Mark permeated or "infected" the Priscillianists group residing there. This St. Jerome frequently references Basilides in correlation with the hybridized Priscillianism existing in Spain along with the occulted and mystical names utilized by its votaries with apparent elation and jouissance (intellectual pleasure).
Moreover, it is also intimated by Sulpicious Severus, that this off-shoot of similar Gnostic inclinations was brought to Spain by a man named Marcus, a purported native to Memphis. This postulated fact is indicative of how it came to transpire that the name of Basilides, one far removed from this region of Spain, along with a discernible degree of fragmentary doctrines of Basilides' disciples or rites found their way to far away Spain. It also simultaneously illustrates the likely insemination of this hybridized form of Basilideanism and its origination therefrom.
The historically verifiable and readily attributed delineations of the inherent complexities manifest within the Basilidean Cosmology story has unfortunately been differentiated through opposing accounts attributed to our two chief informants on this matter. These differing narrative accounts were authored by Irenaeus in his Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) and by Hippolytus in his Philosophumena (Refutation of All Heresies). These two depictions of the Basilidean Cosmology are so extraordinarily disparate and contradictory as to seem totally antithetical and irreconcilable to one another.
According to Hippolytus, Basildes was denoted as a pantheistic evolutionist, and in complete contradistinction Irenaeus typifies Basilides as a dualist and emanationist. However, some historians such as Phillip Shaff have expressed the notion that Irenaeus extrapolated upon a form of Basilidianism, which was not the original version, but a subsequent corruption of the initial system. In Juxtaposition, Clement of Alexandria assuredly, and Hippolytus, in the more copious rendition of his Philosophumena, likely pulled their information of the Gnostic system directly from Basilides' own work, the Exegetica, and thus illustrate the form of doctrine taught by Basilides himself.
The underlying and principal premise indicative to the Basilidean system corresponds to the origin of evil and how one may overcome it. The cosmological feature permeating the various Gnostic movements is the conceptualization of an idea corresponding to the Logos Spermatikos becoming scattered throughout the sensible or material Universe with it being the mission and spiritual duty of the Gnostics to, by any and all methods possible, to re-aggregate these diffused seedlings of the Divine Logos and reintegrate them into their proper primordial state, mentioned in the Gospel of Eve. Needless to say, the church fathers were adversarial to this concept and thought it was a deranged belief.
Nonetheless, this idea of Logos fractal dissemination resonates deeply with many other ancient wisdom traditions which similarly postulate that all things that are in existence are merely the reflected fragments of the ONE Divine Eternal Essence that have been diffused into all things and are thus within all manifested things. Consequently, the macrocosmic corresponds to the microcosmic with all existing things being a densification of this vibratory frequency of Divine Light which preceded them on higher levels of Cosmos, and therefore everything is involving from the purer manifestations (ones closer to the ONE in their essence) and descending in densification to the more grossly material ones, relatively speaking. Once the most material state is reached it begins evolving back up the ARC towards re-spiritualization. If you trace this evolution from the lesser to the higher manifestations, you will arrive back up at its primal source the Logos which has been proliferated and imbued into all manifested things.
The Creation: The cosmological narrative of the Basilidean Gnostic system is one which asserts that the primordial beginning of all manifestations to have been one of absolute negativity, nothing, and non-being. This is quite similar to the Kabbalistic concept of the beginning of manifestation with it initiating in AIN within the Tree of Life Glyph. According to Hippolytus, Basilides utilizes nearly every conceivable terminology to highlight and express the concept of absolute negation and nonentity in the beginning of existence and in reference to the Primordial Essence of Deity. Accordingly, there inherently being Nothing in existence and simply being a Nothing existence or Non-existence, the Deity of Non-Being willed into existence a Non-Being world out of the unmanifested non-being things.
This primal Non-Being Universe or World construct was only a singular seed comprising within its constitution a singularity of all the seed-mass of the Universe. Held within this singularity seed-mass existed three degrees or states termed SonShips which were con-substantial with the Unmanifested Essence or Non-Being Deity. This singularity was the intrinsic primal origination point of all evolving and proceeding cosmic outgrowths in the future. These proceeding outgrowths did not manifest out of pre-existing matter but spawned into manifestation out of nothing through the vibrations emanating from the voice of the Unmanifested Deity. The Tripartite Sonships were depicted as corresponding to descending degree of substance types which are subtle of substance, part coarse of substance, and purification of substance respectively.
Sonshsip: The First Sonship was simultaneously projected or bursting forth from the inception of the First Seed, and it shot forth into manifestation only to rapidly ascend up "like a wing or thought' until its ascent reached the Unmanifested Deity "for toward Him for His exceeding beauty and grace every kind of nature years, each in its own way". In the Second Sonship, the second seed-mass to burst forth but could not ascend or mount up by itself, yet it took to itself as a wing of the Holy Spirit, with each bearing up the other in a sort of mutually beneficial reciprocity.
However, when it ascended to within the proximity of the blessed and unutterable place of the initial subtle seed-mass and the Unmanifested Deity or Not-Being God, it could take the Holy Spirit no further, for it was not con-substantial in being with the Holy Spirit. Thus, there Holy Spirit remained constituting a firmament that divided things above the world from the world below itself. There it retained and emitted downwards the fragrance of the sonship like a vessel that has once held ointment.
The Third Sonship continued within the heap of the seed-mass, and yet out of this heap burst forth into existence the Great Archon, "the head of the world, a beauty and greatness and power that cannot be uttered". This Great Archon also ascended up towards the initial and previous sonships placements until he reached and encountered the firmament which the Great Archon supposed to be the upward end of all things. There and then he became wiser and, in every way, better than all the other cosmical existing things except for the sonships and seed-mass left below him, which he knew too not be better than himself.
Then he "made to himself and begat out of the things below a son far better and wiser than himself" for the Not-Being Deity had willed this from the first. Smitten with wonder at his son's beauty, he placed him at his right hand. "This is what they call the Ogdoad, where the Great Archon is sitting." So, then the Great Archon turned to create the world into its various parts and states of existence. Proceeding from there, then the entirety of the heavenly etheric creations (apparently included in the Ogdoad), as far down as the moon, were manifested by the Great Archon having received inspiration from his wiser Son.
Again, there arose another Archon out the singularity of the seed-mass, who was inferior to the first Archon, yet was superior to all existing things below except for the Sonship; and this new Archon likewise manifested for himself a son greater and wiser than himself, who subsequently became the creator and governor of the aerial world. This realm or region is called the Hebdomad. On the other hand, in the heap and seed-mass, constituting our own terrestrial realm, all of these manifested occurrences transpired in accordance with the plan and will of the Unmanifested Deity or Not-Being God, "those things that come to pass come to pass according to nature, as having been previously uttered by Him Who hath planned the fitting time and form and manner of utterance of the things that were to be uttered: and these things have no one to rule over them, or exercise care for them, or create them: for sufficient for them is that plan which the not-being One planned when He was making" (the seed-mass).
The Gospel: The Basilidean school of Gnostic thought inherently acknowledged and postulated an exceedingly divergent Gospel exposition to that of the Gospels considered to be Orthodox and accepted by Christianity generally. The supposed great early Christian theologian Hippolytus wrote a compendious Christian polemical work titled the Refutatio Omnium Haeresium which means the Refutation of All Heresies. In this anti-gnostic historical work by Hippolytus, he summed up the Basilidean's Gospel by stating, "According to them the Gospel is the knowledge of things above the world, which knowledge the Great Archon understood not: when then it was shewn to him that there exists the Holy Spirit, and the [three parts of the seed-mass] and a God
Who is the author of all these things, even the not-being One, he rejoiced at what was told him, and was exceeding glad: this is according to them the Gospel." This Gospel and Hippolytus' description of it can be extrapolated as the Basilideans postulated that from the time of Adam until the time of Moses, the Great Archon intrinsically believed himself to be the Primordial Creative Originator or True God alone without any understanding to the contrary. He thought that he had no superior Divinity which was intrinsically above him or his place within the Universe. Accordingly, it was believed that the concept of Divinities existing above his Cosmic stature would enlighten and illuminate the Great Archon, thus through the utilization of the Holy Spirit by the Unmanifested Deity this idea was conveyed to the Great Archon.
This Cosmic event first transpired by the introducing of this new conceptualization into the mind of the Son of the Great Archon, and the Son, being at his right hand, in turn relayed and instructed his Father the Great Archon in the knowledge and understanding of this new cosmic perception of higher, superior Divinities than themselves. The Great Archon learned the primordial information that He was not the initial Cosmic Divine Originator or Creator God of Reality or the Universe, but that there existed Divine Intelligences superior to Him and above him in the celestial hierarchy, which lead the Great Archon to subsequently acknowledge and confess his sin for having so elevated and magnified Himself. The processional instruction of this new celestial knowledge within the Gospel needed to then descend down to the next level of existence where the Archon presiding over the Hebdomad held authority.
As in the prior delineated scenario, the Son of this Archon of the Hebdomad was informed about this cosmic knowledge by the Son of the Great Archon. The Son of the Archon of the Hebdomad then became enlightened and subsequently delivered this new celestial paradigm, the Gospel, to his Father Archon ruling this realm of existence who became fearful and repentant confessing the sinful errors that He had committed out of ignorance. The only remaining endeavor was to disseminate this new cosmic knowledge to the World so it too could become enlightened. Accordingly, the Light of this knowledge descended to the world by the influence and power of the Archon ruling the Hepdomad and was inoculated within Jesus during both the Annunciation and the Baptism so that he "was enlightened, being kindled in union with the light that shone on Him".
Thus, by adhering to and following Jesus along with his enlightened teachings, the World becomes purified and more subtle in its essential nature, so that it can ascend by its own efforts. Once all aspects or parts of the Sonship attained an ascent above the Limitary Spirit, "then the creation shall find mercy, for till now it groans and is tormented and awaits the revelation of the sons of God, that all the men of the sonship may ascend from hence". Once this has finally transpired and come to pass, the Primordial Deity will instigate upon the entirety of the World the Great Ignorance, that all manifestations and things will exhibit joy and elation for simple existing as what it naturally is, and that ultimately nothing in existence will desire or endeavor to be anything contrary to its primal nature, as it was originally intended.
Thus, Hippolytus states, "And in this wise shall be the Restoration, all things according to nature having been founded in the seed of the universe at the beginning and being restored at their due seasons." Lastly, in reference to the life of Jesus, the Basilidean's believed in the accounts of it attributed and described within the traditional Christian Gospels, with the singular exception corresponding to a different account of the Nativity.
Their Ethics: The accounts of Clement of Alexandria, the Basilideans taught that inner faith was a naturally bestowed gift of knowledge upon the individual human's soul prior to its unification with the material body which some inherently possessed while others were barren of it. Furthermore, this divine natural gift is considered a latent force that only manifests its energy through means of the incoming Saviour. Sin was not the natural result of abusing our free will but was a resulting consequence of an inner or inborn primal evil principle. Accordingly, the totality of our suffering is a necessary punishment for sin; even when children suffer this is a consequence of their innate inborn evil principle.
Therefore, the degree of suffering the Christians had to endure initially corresponds to the degree by which they were being cosmically punished for their inherent sins. Moreover, the totality of human nature was vitiated by the sinful and when Basilides was pressured he would even state that even Jesus was sinful in his nature, for only God was singularly righteous by nature. Clement further states and accuses Basilides of engaging in the deification of the Devil and describes the two dogmas of Basilides as that of the transmigration of the soul and the Devil.
Irenaeus' Account of Creation: The proceeding delineation can be attributed to an integration of the accounts by Irenaeus and Epiphianus but is mainly through the rendition by the church father Ireneaus. However, it has been postulated that these accounts are potentially based on later versions not necessarily attributable to Basilides himself and Gnostic accounts that are purported to have been corrupted in some aspect. The Irenaeus conceptualization of the Basilidean Cosmological genesis begins with the Unbegotten Primordial Father Deity.
Out of his divine primal essence was manifested the N'us which subsequently produced the Logos and proceeding from the manifestation of the Logos there was manifested the Phronesis. The descending hierarchy manifesting out of the Phronesis was first the creation of Sophia herself and Dynamis, and out of the combination of Sophia and Dynamis was manifested all the principalities, powers, and angels in a divine sequence of emanation. These initial angelic entities manifested or created the very first Heaven, and subsequently they then produced a second set of angelic entities who also manifested a Heaven.
This celestial process of angelic creations that manifest a new Heaven occurred in a divine procedure of cosmic creation until there had been sequentially produced 365 generations of angelic entities and 365 heavens. Every heaven that had been manifested by these angels had an Archon placed over it as its ruler and each Archon was given a name which was then utilized by Gnostic magi in their vocation of the magical arts. The angelic hosts of the lowest materially visible heaven or lesser dimensional region of existence were the angelic entities credited with the manifestation and creation of the World and Humanity.
These lesser angelic entities of the near material dimension are also acknowledged as the celestial authors of the divine prophecies, and further stated by Irenaeus was the notion of the Law being disseminated by their Archon ruler, the inimical God of the Jewish people Yahweh-Jehovah, sometimes referred to as Yaldabaoth. This Archon Yahweh who is associated religiously with the Old Testament Deity, a seemingly insane divinity, intrinsically exhibited exceedingly elevated degrees of willfulness and petulance in contrast to the rest of the angelic entities, and in Yahweh's emphatic desire and endeavors to procure an empire for his people, he incited and provoked the other angels into rebellion along with their respective peoples.
The Christ: Once the Unmanifested Primordial Father witnessed the magnitude and discordant degree of rampant chaos which prevailed in the world of humanity and realms of the angels as well as how the Jewish people being eradicated & assaulted, he decided to send forth his First born manifestation N'us, who is the Christ, to subsequently rescue and deliver those individuals who adhered to and believed in Him from the adversarial power exhibited by the producers of the World. Accordingly, the Basilideans stated, " He is our salvation, even He Who came and revealed to us alone this truth." Consequently, once the N'us Christ descended to appear upon the terrestrial plane, He set about enacting and performing wondrous, mighty works.
However, his celestial appearance must be envisioned as only an outward manifestation of his divine vibratory form, without Him becoming materialized into a material body in the flesh. Furthermore, according to Irenaeus' rendition, it was Simon of Cyrene who underwent the sacred Crucifixion, for Jesus supposedly exchanged material form with Simon on his way to the event, and he subsequently stood unseen and opposite within Simon's form mocking and deriding the individuals who performed the obscene deed. Yet, then He Himself ascended back into the Heavenly Realm, traversing past all the various powers, until he became restored and reintegrated back into the place in the proximity of His Father.
Abrasax or Abraxas: Additionally, the two fullest delineations', those of Irenaeus and Epiphanius, included through an appendix a further specification of the antecedent Mythology; it constituted a brief notation on the identical subject being correspondingly interposed parenthetically by Hippolytus. The ultimate power and innate source of primordial being existing in a higher state than the entirety of the principalities. angelic entities, and the celestial powers is Abrasax or Abraxas (linguistic differences only). This Greek title or name Abraxas, when numerologically added together in the letter's numeric forms, constitutes the number 365 which corresponds to the total manifestations of the Heavenly realms in magnitude, but further correlates to the use of the 365 annual days and the 365 parts of the Human body.
It is also postulated that the Basilideans called the supreme power of the cosmos they termed "the Cause' and "the First Archetype', and contradistinctively they principally intimated that the final and lowest dimensional manifestation of the Cosmos was our material terrestrial realm which was constructed by the last Archon. It has been attributed to be evident from these extrapolated particularities that Abraxas was the title or name of the initial or First of the 365 Archons, and He was presumed to have stood beneath both Sophia and Dynamis and their progenitors within the celestial hierarchy of the Universe; however, His exact stature and positioning within the hierarchy is not specifically stated.
Precepts of Basilidean Gnosticism: Some of the historical recorders of the Basilidean Gnostic information have rather acutely intimated that they held the Basilideans to believe themselves beyond Christian or Jew as well as engaging in heretical activities from the perspective of these historians. Consequently, when Philaster attempts to insinuate to his historically reading audience during his initial sentence about the Gnostic Basilides that "he violated the laws of Christian truth by making an outward show and discourse concerning the Law and the Prophets and the Apostles, but believing otherwise," this reference demonstrates in a revealing manner a reticent antinomian sentiment purported to exist within Basilidean Gnosticism beliefs. Thus, according to Philaster as well as others, it is a pertinent understanding to portray the Basilideans as considering themselves to no longer be adherent of Judaism or Jews but also to have become a spiritual sect greater than Christians as well.
The Basilideans also repudiated the concept of martyrdom which was inherently complimented by the promiscuous and eclectic use of items offered to idols. Consequently, it is insinuated that from this principle of insouciance and apathetic detachment the Basilideans took this mentality to such a degree as to approbate licentious immorality. Unfortunately, the delineation and the consideration of this accusation by the historical record keepers and authorities from which we have received our knowledge of this Gnostic sect and these accounts, is inherently unverifiable and must be subject to notions of religiously biased inclinations towards the spiritual sect they wrote about and were acutely inimical to by their predilections.
It has been readily determined that the later adherents of Basilides exhibited activities readily correspondent to acts of magical invocation and other similar occult practices. Accordingly, the myriad of titles and divine names relating to Archontic rulers of the various heavens were purported to have been passed down to initiates and followers as a highly significant, momentous, and solemn secret of sacred knowledge, and this postulated belief corresponded to the Basilidean notion that who soever had the sacred knowledge of these ruling Archontic appellations would possess the capacity, upon death, traverse past or through the totality of the lower heavens to reach the place of the Supreme Primordial Deity. Moreover, it has been illustrated, in conformity with this belief, that the Basildeans conceived of Christ also having been in possession of a divine, sacred name (Caulacau), which enabled Christ to utilize this power to first descend through all the lesser heavens to the terrestrial realm and the re-ascend back to the Primordial Father Deity.
Consequently, the conceptualization of Basliidean Redemption could be formulated as the mystical revelation of these sacred, divine names. It is entirely unable to be ascertained whether or not the Gnostic Originator of this spiritual sect, Basilides, had already allocated and imbued this magical proclivity into this version of Gnosticism. It has further intimated by Irenaeus that the Basildeans utilized images or imagery in their magical rites, and this additionally corresponds to the notion and popular belief that the multitudinous, ancient gemstones upon which illustrations of mythological combinations were depicted alongside the inscription of the mystical name Abraxas, ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, could be readily attributed to the Basilidean sect of Gnosticism.
Nonetheless, it has been adequately illustrated that there are very negligible and minimal amounts of evidence for ascribing any known gemstones to Basilideanism pr any other school of Gnosticism, and it has thus been postulated that in all likelihood the Basilideans and Pagan inscribers or engravers of gemstones similarly appropriated the name Abraxas from Semitic Mythology.
The most idiosyncratic precept inherent to the Basilidean Gnostic School of Thought was the absolute discouragement of Martyrdom. They confessed that the Crucified was a being still in bondage to the angels who had generated the material body, and it was especially condemned as a phonor attributed not to Christ, who had accordingly neither been crucified nor had suffered, but to Simon of Cyrene the one actually crucified according to the Basilideans. Thus, they had an inherent disgust and contempt for the concept of martyrdom.
They believed that such actions of self-agonizing were entirely impious and unholy due to the nature of the Christ forgoing the act. The Basilidean dissuasion of martyrdom was one of the great occult secrets that the Gnostic sect diligently cultivated which proceeded naturally from the supposition of possessing occulted, mystical knowledge. Furthermore, the Basilideans additional secrets and mysteries were heavily guarded and withheld but for the few initiates deemed worthy with only 1 in 1000 and 2 in 10000 acquiring this occult knowledge.
The final precept of Basilidean Gnosticism is brief yet significant. It has been determined that according to both Hippolytus and Irenaeus, the Basilidean Gnostic school of spiritual thought emphatically denied that the petulant and nigh schizophrenic God worshiped by the Jewish people, Yahweh-Jehovah, is the Supreme Primordial Father Deity. Furthermore, specifically according to Hippolytus the Basilideans designated the God of the Jewish people to be the Archon of the Hebdomad, which means he was inherently inferior to and lesser than the Great Archon, the Holy Spirit, the seed-mass (Tripartite Sonship), and the Unmanifested Deity or Not-Being God.
Contradistinctively, according to Irenaeus, the Basilideans postulated that the god of the Jewish people Yahweh was inferior to and lesser than the 365 pairs of Archons in the celestial dimensions above his own, as well as existing in an inferior stature to the entirety of the principalities and powers, inferior to Sophia and Dynamis, Phronesis, Logos, Nûs, and lastly the Unmanifested, Unbegotten Primordial Father Deity.