The Valentinian school of Gnostic Spiritual thought was one of the major sects of Gnosticism becoming initiated and founded by Valentinus in the second century AD. Its version of Gnosticism became widely influential and subsequently disseminated throughout the Roman Empire and also in the regions of Northwest Africa, Egypt, Asia Minor, and into Syria during the proceeding centuries. Later in the movement's history it splintered into an Eastern and Western School of thought, and it remained active into the 4th century AD even after the Roman Empire became Christianized. Valentinus was approximately born in 100 AD and died around 180 AD in Alexandria.
According to the Christian scholar Epiphanius of Salamis, Valentinus was born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria, and according to another Christian Theologian, Clement of Alexandria, Valentinus was taught by Theudas, who was reportedly a disciple of the apostle Paul. He was postulated as a man who had a reputation for being exceedingly eloquent, exhibiting enormous charisma, and emitting a magnetism which attracted many people to his ideas. He is purported to have gone to Rome sometime between 136 Ad and 140 AD, during the reign of Pope Hyginus, and rose to his greatest level of prominence in his teachings between AD 150 to 155, during the time of Pope Pius.
Valentinus was further described as quite a skilled and successful teacher, and for a time in the mid-2nd century AD he was reportedly even a well-respected and prominent figure within the Catholic Community in Rome. He was even postulated to have sought after a bishop-ship, and it has been insinuated, unverifiable, that when he was passed over for this office, he decided to break with the Catholic Church subsequently founding his own school(s). Valentinus was an exceedingly prolific writer, yet unfortunately most of his works have been lost with the only surviving remains of them being mere quotations attributable and rendered by Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Marcellus of Ancyra who were adversarial to the Gnostic teachings. It has also been postulated that the Nag Hammadi Scripture "The Gospel of Truth" was likely written by Valentinus. Some notable Valentinian Gnostics are Heracleon, Ptolemy, Florinus, Axionicus, and Theodotus.
The well-known Church Father figure Irenaeus, though inimical to Gnostic Doctrines, provided a detailed theological and cosmological extrapolation of the Valentinian school's ideas on the Universe and it is inherently complex with many difficult aspects to comprehend but is nonetheless fascinating as well as enlightening. According to Irenaeus, the Valentinian school of cosmological thought believed that at the primal initiation of the Universe there existed what they referred to as the Pleroma, meaning the Fullness, and at center of this Pleroma resided the Primordial Father, called the Bythos, which was the beginning of all things in existence.
After eons of total silence and contemplation, this Primordial Father emanated or projected thirty Aeons, Deities or Divinities, that were essentially celestial archetypes represented as fifteen syzygies, meaning sexually gendered complimentary pairs of polarities, male and female respectively. Within these manifested Aeonic divinities was one called Sophia, meaning Wisdom, and her purported weakness, her passion and curiosity, led her to plunge out of the Pleromic realm which subsequently resulted in the manifestation of the world and humanity, held to both be flawed after a manner.
Consequently, this plunge resulted in the creation of Demiurge which they related to the Old Testament God, Jehovah, stipulated as the creator of the material world. Humanity was postulated as the highest being within this material world and participated in both the spiritual and material nature of reality. Furthermore, the Valentinians postulated that the work of redemption consisted of extricating the spiritual aspect of humanity from its material nature. Accordingly, one must recognize or realize the Primordial Father as constituting the essence or depth of all Being and as the true source of Divine power in the Universe in order to attain or achieve what they called GNOSIS, meaning divine understanding or divine knowledge of reality.
The Valentinians postulated that the acquisition of this Gnosis, this divine knowledge, by the individual human would subsequently manifest positive permeating consequences throughout the Universal Order of the Cosmos and would contribute to the rectification or restoration of this Order in reality, and it would not be faith but Gnosis that would equate to the key to our salvation. Clement of Alexandria wrote that the Valentinians regarded the Catholic Christians "as simple people to whom they attributed faith, while they think gnosis is in themselves. Through the excellent seed that is to be found in them, they are by nature redeemed, and their gnosis is as far removed from faith as the spiritual from the physical".
According to the Valentinians, the superstructure of the celestial system which corresponds to the celestial realm of the Aeons is then delineated in a highly complex and elaborate system of Aeonic divisions or a sort of divine hierarchy. These Aeonic Divinities are postulated as belonging to the purely ideal, noumenal, intelligible, or supersensible world reality, and are considered as immaterial or hypostatic ideas. In an aggregation of divine, celestial ideas along with the Source Originator they, in totality, formed the Pleroma. The transition from the immaterial to the material, from the noumenal to the sensible, is purportedly manifested through a flaw, or passion, in the Aeon Sophia.
The division of the Aeons is as follows: The Ogdoad has the first four sets of Aeons; Bythos (depth or profundity) - Sige/Ennoia(silence or idea); Nous (Mind)-Aletheia (Truth); Logos (Word)- Zoe (Life); Anthropos (Man)- Ekklesia(Church). Next is the Decad of Aeons: Bythios( Deep)- Mixis( Comingling), Ageratos (Unageing or Undying)- Henosis (Union), Autophues (Self-existent)- Hedone (Pleasure or Bliss), Akinetos (Immovable)- Synkrasis (Blending or Synthesis), Monogenes (Self-Generated)- Makaria (Happiness). The Next set of Valentinian Aeons is the Dodecad: Parakletos (Comforter or Helper)- Pistis (Faith), Patrikos (Paternal)- Elpis (Hope), Metrikos (Maternal)- Agape (Love), Ainos (Praise or Everlasting)- Synesis (Intelligence, Understanding), Ekklesiastikos (Ecclesiastical)- Makariotes (Happiness or Bliss), Theletos (Willed or Longed For)- Sophia (Wisdom). According to Epiphanius, it is alleged that the Valentinians "set forth their thirty Aeons in a mythological fashion postulating that they conformed to the years of Jesus' life". Out of the eight aeons within the Ogdoad, there are four of them which are specific to the Valentinian system. The third set of celestial aeons the Logos and Zoe only occur within this system. Furthermore, this third pair of Aeons' places is not firmly established with its placement sometimes occurring before or after the fourth Pair of Aeons, the Anthropos & Ecclesia.
Within the Valentinian cosmological system, the Aeon Sophia is absolutely at the heart and center of their narrative as well as being the celestial personification of the Divine Feminine Principle. She is considered the youngest and last of the Aeons emanated by the Primordial Source. It was also inherent within the Aeonic psychological framework that they did not understand their origins and this mentality permeated through them becoming concentrated within Sophia's mental state.
This psychological state caused Sophia to readily attempt to ascertain her origins which lead her back into the depths of the Primordial Source. Once there she seeks emulate the Source by emanating unilaterally without her requisite polar consort or conjugal intercourse, but this manifestation goes awry producing an abortion of sorts, a formless substance. For this unilateral act, Sophia is cast out of the Pleroma into the primal sub-structure of physical materiality. In this Valentinian system's cosmological episode, Sophia's fall occurs in a double guise.
Accordingly, the greater or higher Sophianic Aeon is postulated to remain within the higher realms after manifesting this disturbance, with her repentance and expiation. However, her premature creation, her off-spring, which is called Sophia Achamoth, is subsequently removed from the Pleromic Realm becoming the proceeding narrative's heroine throughout the rest of this cosmic story. Sophia Achamoth, the "lower wisdom" and daughter of the "Higher Wisdom", eventually becomes the maternal progenitor of the entity known as the Demiurge, who is readily correspondent with the Old Testament Deity, Jehovah or Yahweh.
In Gnosticism he is also referred to as Yaldabaoth in certain Nag Hammadi Scriptures. Furthermore, the Gnostics are considered to be the children of Sophia and are manifested or infused with her celestial seed, her divine spark, which descended into the lower realm becoming subject to the Heimarmene (destiny) as well as the power of hostile spirits and other powers.
The Gnostic created symbols and formulae must be initiated in a sequential order to find their path of ascent upwards back to the highest heaven. Moreover, the Gnostic conceptualization that they knew themselves to be within a hostile and evil world also related this idea to the conception of Sophia herself. Humanity residing as a spiritually "fallen" species, fallen into materiality, corresponds to a similar concept that Sophia is "fallen" Aeon, who has become encased in the material realm and seeks to extricate herself from it, attempting to receive liberation at the hands of a celestial Redeemer, just as the Gnostics seek to achieve the same thing. The Goddess who has fallen into the material may be identified the Ruach, Hebrew for Spirit, the Spirit of God, who broods over Chaos, or even possibly with the Kabbalistic Sephirah Chokmah, who is postulated as the world-creating agent.
The Valentinian concept of the Demiurge is predicated upon a derivation of the material world resulting from the passions of Sophia. In one conception of the Demiurge, he is the son of Sophia, whom she formed after the model of the Christ who has returned back into the Plermoic world, who becomes the Demiurge and along with his created angels now appears as the real-world creator. According to an older conception of this Demiurge, he was an evil and malevolent entity birthed out of Sophia, who has already been deprived of any particle of the Pleromic Light. He is portrayed as adversarial to humanity and instigating a nefarious program of material & psychological enslavement of upon them.
Also, within the Valentinian systems, the Demiurge is conceived as the offspring of a union of Sophia Achamoth with chaotic matter and is postulated as appearing as fruit of Sophia's repentance and conversion. However, since Sophia Achamoth was only the daughter of the Higher Aeon Sophia, the last of the thirty celestial Aeons, the Demiurge is inherently far removed by numerous emanations from the Supreme Primordial Source, and thus is not the Supreme Originator by any degree. The Demiurge in producing this material world out of Chaos was unconsciously influenced for good by the Christ, and to the surprise of its maker, it became nearly perfect. Accordingly, the Demiurge even regretted its slight imperfections, and since he believed himself to be the Supreme Divinity, he sought to remedy these imperfections by sending a Messiah to correct it. This Messiah was actually united with Christ the Savior, who redeemed humanity.
In the Valentinian system, the Christ stands next to Sophia as the masculine redeeming divinity. In the most accurate rendition of the Valentinian system, the Christ is the Son of the fallen Sophia and is conceived as an immaculate individual. Accordingly, Sophia emanates an exquisite passion for the Primordial Father, in a sense, in act of seeming love Sophia seeks to place herself near to the unknowable Bythos seeking to understand his Greatness. Sophia emanates forth, through her passionate longing, an Aeon who is greater and purer than herself, which upon its inception ascends into the Pleromic realms. Once there, the Christ takes pity on the aborted substance birthed from Sophia allocating essence and form to it. Sophia then attempts to again ascend up to the Primordial Father but it's in vain. In this Christ figure we see illustrated a further hidden parallel to the original conception of the Primal Man, who has fallen into the realm of matter yet ascends again into the higher worlds.
In the Ptolemaian System there is a similar idea with some minute differences. In this rendition, Christ and Sophia are depicted as brother and sister, with the Christ representing the higher element and Sophia the lower element. Once the World is manifested due to Sophia's passion, then two Aeons, Nous (mind) and Aletheia (truth), by the Primordial Father's command, manifest two new Aeons termed Christ and the Holy Ghost. These two Aeons Christ and the Holy Ghost subsequently restore order within the Pleroma, and in a combined coordination all the Aeons aggregate their highest and best characteristics to emanate another Aeon (Jesus, Soter, the Logos), and the First Fruits of which they offer to the Primordial Father. Subsequently, this celestial redeemer-Aeon enters into a consort-ship or marriage with the Fallen Aeon Sophia with them becoming the "bride and bridegroom". Accordingly, it is postulated that from their divine union there is produced 70 celestial Angels, this is described in Hippolytus' Philosophumena.
Within the Valentinian system of Gnosticism, the creation of the world interrelates to the conceptualization of humanity and its path or place within this celestial framework of cosmology. The Valentinian doctrines extrapolate upon this relational concept of man, and they describe humanity's manifestation as one which was initiated by celestial angels allocated world-creation attributes to perform such a task. When these Angels, some refer to them as archons in other versions, pieced together the material form which was to eventually become mankind, there was a surreptitious and significant event that was instigated without their prior knowledge causing them enormous anxiety.
This occurrence was the infusing of this material body with the seed of SPIRIT by the agency of a higher Pleromic Essence or Aeon than these Angels/Archons. Once imbued with the Pleromic element of Spirit, this original human manifestation rose up and exhibited an exceedingly advanced degree of speech, intelligence, and an innate capacity for understanding which was of a greater nature than attributed to their Angelic or Archontic material creators, and once these angels realized the being they had engineered was their superior they became terrified and then worried they would be supplanted or destroyed by their creation.
According to a Sethian text in the Nag Hammadi, these beings, out of this fear, cast humanity into the lowest realm of material reality and attempted to put to sleep their higher talents. On another note, according to a treatise postulated as having been authored by Valentinus himself, humanity exists in a three-fold nature which is spiritual, psychical, and material simultaneously. Also delineated within this treatise is the concept of mankind arising into three types of humans who exhibit differing levels of intelligence and understanding, these are the pneumatic, the psychic, and the hylic. The Pneumatic man is the highest type of human being represented as existing in a holistically spiritual state who can readily ascend out of the grosser aspects of the material realms and journey back to the highest Pleromic realm.
He instigates this ascension by extricating himself or herself out of the grasp of the Demiurge with the aid of the Savior and Sophia Achamoth who then help him journey back to the Pleroma where the human becomes divested of his body and soul becoming purely spirit. The Psychic human, along with the Demiurge as his master, exhibits greater degrees of abilities than base man but still only finds himself entering into a middling state of post-life existence which is neither Plermoic (Heaven) or gross matter (Hell).
The last class of human is called the Hylic with this human type exhibiting no such advanced psychic or spiritual properties and existing in a psychological state completely enamored or associated with gross materiality, he believes this material form is all that he or she is. This type of Hylic human purportedly will remain encased and entranced by gross matter returning to it upon death and being consumed by fire. However, it was not a ubiquitous stipulation that these two lesser endowed classes of humans, the psychic and hylic, were to be condemned to oblivion eternally, but they could be reincarnated after death into a new life-cycle that would potentially constitute their re-manifestation into the higher spiritual archetype of human-being, the Pneumatic type, thus enabling them to exist as the spiritual archetype with a chance for celestial extrication and rebirth out of the Demiurgic paradigm.
Soteriology (doctrine of salvation): The conceptualization of attaining Gnostic salvation or, to put it in a less Christian associative modality, Gnostic redemptive reintegration is one which is highly unique to this spiritual school of cosmological thought. In the Valentinian system of redemptive Gnosis this spiritual actuation does not singularly exist as an individuated operation, but is inherently a cosmic endeavor undertaken to reintegrate, restore, and reestablish harmonic order within the Universe's celestial framework which became chaotically disrupted and subject to entropy from the inception of matter and the gross material realms that subsequently imprisoned a spark of the Divine Light Essence into the "evil" Hyle (matter).
Thus, the initiation of Gnosis is an activity of restoring the initial primordial equilibrium that existed before the instigation of this occurrence and represents the rectification of the flaw generated within the Sphere of the Aeons, the Pleromic Realm. The actuation of the Gnostic process by which the Divine Sparks are disentangled and liberated from the Hyle (gross matter) is the effectuation of spiritual salvation, and additionally once all the Divine Essences are extracted or freed from the material realm, this Hylic world will be destroyed and expunged from the celestial blueprint restoring the necessary equilibrium.
Additional extrapolation of the Divine myth depicts an interesting supposition in relation to nature of our essence and the essence of certain spiritual entities said to be birthed from the union of the Savior and Sophia. Accordingly, just as the Savior is portrayed as the bride groom to the bride Sophia Achamoth, the celestial angels have been depicted as the Sons of these two entities and postulating that their nature is the masculine counterpart betrothed to the ensouled Gnostics, who are according to the Valentinians feminine souls in essence. This supposition further expresses the notion that every Gnostic had her fallen counterpart that basks in the presence of the Primordial Father with the objective of a spiritually pious existence to be essentially a reintegrated experiential internal union with this cosmic ideational personage. In essence, the Gnostic is perpetually meditating upon the secret of the celestial reunion with its metaphysical consort, the Syzygia. “The final consummation of all things will take place when all that is spiritual has been formed and perfected by gnosis."
Valentinian Sacraments: The Sacraments relating to the Valentinian School of Gnosticism are intrinsically associated and linked to the Mother, Sophia, with all reverent invocations initiated with her as the designated centerpiece of the sacramental action. Furthermore, when a Gnostic mystic seeks to offer supplication to or engage in meditative reverential consideration of the Mother, they employ a myriad of celestial figures within their mental visualization state when performing this sacramental act. Thus, sometimes he is mentally concentrating on the fallen Sophia Achamoth, sometimes the greater Aeonic Sophia still residing in the Pleromic Realm, and sometimes it is the Aeon Aletheia who is the consort of the transcendent Primordial Father; yet invariably and perpetually it is always the Mother upon which the Gnostic's focus and attention is fixed during sacramental meditation.
Accordingly, the sacramental methods utilized by the Gnostic seers has this focus on the Mother readily displayed during their mystery rights and initiations. The purported chief sacrament of the Valentinian Gnostic System is the Bridal Chamber (Nymphon) ritual. The symbolism expressed within this ritual pertains to the idea that as Sophia was united with the Savior, her bridegroom, so the reverent Gnostic would initiate an experience which constitutes a union with their angelic counterpart or metaphysical consort within the Pleromic Realm (represented as "the Higher Self" or "Guardian Angel"). There is a readily available written description recorded by the Valentinians delineating this activity, "A few of them prepare a bridal chamber and in it go through a form of consecration, employing certain fixed formulae, which are repeated over the person to be initiated, and stating that a spiritual marriage is to be performed after the pattern of the higher Syzygia.”
Furthermore, there exists, due to absolutely fortuitous circumstances since most works were burned or destroyed, a liturgical formula which was preserved that was apparently utilized during the enactment of this sacrament, and though the preservation of the elucidating record of this sacramental ritual was imperfect existing in a garbled residual of the original account it is nonetheless illuminating and is as follows: "I will confer my favor upon thee, for the father of all sees thine angel ever before his face ... we must now become as one; receive now this grace from me and through me; deck thyself as a bride who awaits her bridegroom, that thou mayest become as I am, and I as thou art. Let the seed of light descend into thy bridal chamber; receive the bridegroom and give place to him and open thine arms to embrace him. Behold, grace has descended upon thee".
Additionally, a couple of readily discernible key aspects or features of the Bridal Chamber Sacramental Ritual also included the utilization of mirrors in the ritual setting as symbolic decorations and they also insinuated the concept that whosoever had been initiated into this Gnostic Mystery Rite would exhibit the capacity to beget children in the future world to come.
Another institutional Valentinian Gnostic Sacrament is the ritual Baptism, which in many aspects is easily relatable and correlative to the generally practiced Catholic Christian Church's Baptismal ritual utilizing the similar forms and essential facets. There is a specific linguistic term used to describe this Baptismal Ritual and has been titled Apolytrosis, translated as Liberation. The Gnostics undertaking this sacramental initiation ritual are postulated as being Baptized in the mysterious or occulted name supposed to have been utilized in the Baptism of Jesus, and it is further delineated that the Angelic counterparts to the Gnostic initiate have also been baptized in this occulted name in order to instigate the redemptive reintegration process for themselves as well as the souls within their being.
In the Baptismal rite's formula, the sacred and occult name of the Redeemer is repeatedly expressed in their vocal invocations. In one such formulaic rite apparently occurs the words, "I would enjoy thy name, Saviour of Truth.”, and the concluding invocation of this Gnostic ritual Baptism is: “Peace over all upon whom the Name rests.” The intrinsic significance of the mysteriously occult name ceremonially invoked upon the Gnostic adherent or initiate during the Baptismal ritual is stipulated as providing protection for the soul in its ascent through the heavens, accompany or conduct it safely through all adversarial and inimical powers to the lower celestial heavens, and allocate or secure it access to Horus, who instills fear forcing the lower soul back to the Hyle by his Magic Word.
Subsequently, the human life when initiated through the Baptism rite, in correspondence with the invocation of the protectionist occult name upon the baptized person, successfully accomplishes his needed spiritual liberation and extrication from the lesser daemonic powers. It is also stipulated that before the ritual Baptism, the Heimarmene is supreme, but proceeding forward post Baptism he becomes freed of her.
In addition to these delineations of the Baptism ritual, is the description corresponding to the rendering and activity of utilizing anointing oils in connection with the Baptism ritual, and it is further understood that the Death Sacrament is effectuated through an anointing of the initiate using a mixture of oil and water. The death sacrament is performed for the express reason of assuring that the soul finds its path to the highest celestial heaven “so that the soul may be intangible and invisible to the higher authorities and powers”. Moreover, within this correlation is further found several formulas which are allocated to the Gnostic initiate in order that their souls may invoke them on their path of ascent.
One of these formula expresses this ritualistic idea in the following passage: "I am a son from the Father – the Father who had a pre-existence, and a son in Him who is pre-existent. I have come to behold all things, both those which belong to myself and others, although, strictly speaking, they do not belong to others, but to Achamoth, who is female in nature, and made these things for herself. For I derive being from Him who is pre-existent, and I come again to my own place whence I went forth..". In addition to the prior ritual's sacred procedures, another ritual is mentioned, in which there is a postulated differentiation during the invocations attributed to the greater and lesser Sophia. Furthermore, the recorded descriptions state that a supplication of a similar type is to be found in Irenaeus, and it is distinctly stated that after the invoking supplication is uttered the Mother tosses the Homeric Helmet (the Tarnhelm) upon the reverent soul, and thus effectuates within him invisibility to the authorities and powers which encircle and assault him.