By Alex Rivera
Although this will undoubtedly ruffle many Orthodox feathers—outside of the Bible, we have some evidence that a group of ancient Gnostics, called the Naasenes, in which the church father, Hippolytus, discusses at great length and their mystical doctrines, in his massive tome, the Philosophumena or Refutation of All Heresies. Charles William King in The Gnostics and Their Remains, p. 224., he discusses the Naasenes as a prominent branch of the Gnostics, if not the originators of the mystical system. Water symbolism was central to their creed. Witness the following from King.
The well-informed and temperate Hippolytus, writing at the most flourishing period of these transitional theosophies, thus opens his actual ‘Refutation of All Heresies,’ and his Fifth Book with the description ‘of that sect which hath dared to boast the Serpent as the author of their religion, as they prove by certain arguments where with he hath inspired them. On this account the apostle and priests of this creed have been styled “Naaseni,” from “Naas” the Hebrew word for serpent; but subsequently they entitled themselves “The Gnostics,” because they alone understood the deep things of religion. Out of this sect sprung many other teachers, who, by diversifying the original doctrines through inventions of their own, became the founders of new systems.’ Further on he has a passage bearing immediately upon this subject. “This Naas is the only thing they worship for which reason they are called “Naaseni,” (i.e., Ophites or Serpent-worshippers).
From this same word Naas, they pretend that all the temples (naoi) under Heaven derive the name. And unto this Naas are dedicated every rite ceremony, mystery, that is; in short, not one rite can be found under Heaven into which this Naas does not enter. For they say the Serpent signifies the element Water; and with Thales of Miletus contend that nothing in the Universe can subsist without it, whether of things mortal or immortal, animate or inanimate. All things are subject unto him; and he is good, and hath all good things within himself as in the horn of a unicorn, so that he imparts beauty and perfection unto all that is, inasmuch as he pervades all things, as flowing out of Eden, and divided into four heads. This Naas is the “water above the firmament” and likewise “the living water” spoken of by the Saviour.
Unto this Water all Nature is drawn, and attracts out of the same whatever is analogous to its own nature, each thing after its own kind, with more avidity than the loadstone draws the iron, the ray of the sea-hawk, gold, or amber straws. Then they go on to boast: We are the Spiritual, who have drawn our own portion out of the living water of the Euphrates that flows through the midst of Babylon; and who have entered in through the True Gate, the which is Jesus the Blessed. And we of all men are the only Christians in the Third Gate, celebrating the Mystery, being anointed with the ineffable ointment out of the horn, like David, not out of the earthen vessel, like Saul who conversed with the Evil Spirit of carnal concupiscence’.
Per Hippolytus, the Naassenes thought of themselves as the only “true Christians” and worshiped the Master Jesus as the “True Gate” to the inner court of the “third gate” of the Heavenly Tabernacle! Of course, many Orthodox readings and apocryphal texts based on Genesis 3 has the serpent being either “ridden” or possessed by Satan or being Satan himself in snake form to seduce and entice Eve of partaking in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The perennial presentation of gnosis indeed sounds like the promise of the serpent.
Then the serpent said to the woman, “Ye shall not die at all, But God doth know that when ye shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
And yet, Genesis says nothing about the serpent being Satan. It is only Revelation 12:9 that says the Devil is the “serpent of old”. Also, the emphasis on knowledge, as opposed to faith, recasts the eating of the tree of knowledge as a good and progressive act by Adam, and further can recast traditionally evil biblical characters like Lucifer and the Sodomites as good guys and bearers of truth, such as Lucifer, via the snake, imparting knowledge to humanity as Prometheus imparted the divine fire to man. And the fall eventually does indeed happen, but then Adam and Eve become aware of their own nakedness and get expelled from the garden. They lose their divine stature and become mortal beings subject to death. So, they gained knowledge in exchange for their immortality.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
One could interpret those verses to mean that man would use the knowledge for evil and had to be forbidden to eat of the tree of life so that he would not have the power to usurp God or the “Elohim.” And yet, In John 3 (14-15), Jesus Christ himself explicitly compares himself with a serpent!
Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that we know, and testify that we have seen: but ye receive not our witness. If when I tell you earthly things, ye believe not, how should ye believe, If I shall tell you of heavenly things? For no man ascendeth up to heaven, but he that had descended from heaven, that Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must that Son of man be lifted up, That whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.
Notice how both Genesis 3 and John 3 both touch on serpent symbolism for knowledge and resurrection—one for the worse and one for the better. For the Naassenes, the bronze serpent of Moses represented the Logos, the intermediary between God and the world and the very force that binds the universe together and gives it form. This was based on the Johannine interpretation of Moses’ brazen serpent as Christ, which explains their favor for the snake, as explained above. Indeed, we are speaking about two types of knowledge—one extended by Christ and one extended by Devil! (Please compare 1 Corinthians 2:10 and Revelation 2:24.)
In Colossians 2:2, Paul explains to his Christian brethren to acknowledge that the Mystery of God and Christ has been disclosed to them by Divine revelation, for God and Christ are in fact a very real mystery, hidden away from the world of matter, and he would reveal himself to anyone Christ chooses!
For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In 1 Corinthians (15:3-8), Paul reveals the Christian creed and the resurrection of Christ Jesus. However, considering the scriptural evidence provided, not only is the resurrection of initial Christ achieved but the manifestation of Christ, through revelation, to the believers are also made evident.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
In the Old Testament, Moses guides Israel between the waters of 40 and the Red Sea. It is interesting to note that the waters parted, and between them was a tight and narrow way of escape as we see in Exodus (15:22-23).
22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
Here, the children of Israel were thirsty and traveled without water, thirsty and dry. They came to a lake called Marah, which means “bitterness.” The water was too bitter for them to drink. This is an important point because earthly water can be considered bitter in comparison with the “living waters” and spiritual “blood” of Christ.
24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
The lake of bitter waters represents the bitterness of matter. And God showed Moses, a tree. Jesus was also crucified on a tree. The tree represents Jesus Christ on the cross, as well as the Tree of Life per Genesis. The sweet waters represent the “living waters” per Revelation and the Gospel of John (3:5-8), where Jesus implores Nicodemus to be reborn of “water and of the Spirit,” to survive the translation from matter to spirit, to enter the Kingdom of God. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 says, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
The motif of the crossing of the Red Sea is also an image of vital importance to the Peratic group of Gnostics. Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies (5.3), reports that the Red Sea represented the work of generation or sexual desire between man and woman, while Egypt represented the human body:
This, he says, is ocean, generation of gods and generation of men ever whirled round by the eddies of water, at one time upwards, at another time downwards. But he says there ensues a generation of men when the ocean flows downwards; but when upwards to the wall and fortress and the cliff of Luecas, a generation of gods takes place. This, he asserts, is that which has been written: I said, You are gods, and all children of the highest; If you hasten to fly out of Egypt, and repair beyond the Red Sea into the wilderness, that is, from earthly intercourse to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living; (Galatians 4:26)
If, moreover, again you return into Egypt, that is, into earthly intercourse, you shall die as men. For mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he says, what is written. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. (John 3:6) This, according to them, is the spiritual generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan (Joshua 3:7-17) which, flowing on (here) below, and preventing the children of Israel from departing out of Egypt— I mean from terrestrial intercourse, for Egypt is with them the body—Jesus drove back, and made it flow upwards.
The Red Sea is not only representative of the lust of the flesh and procreation but for also the daily life on Planet Earth in bodily flesh, in all its toils and hardships, “by the sweat of your brow” as ordered through a curse by God against Adam (Genesis 3:19). Elsewhere, in the same text, Hippolytus (5:11) tells us that the Peratics also saw the material body and the world, as represented by Egypt and the Greek Titan Cronus/Saturn, and explains the poisonous serpents that afflicted Israel were “gods of destruction,” i.e. the archons/fallen angels/demons, while the raised bronze serpent of Moses, represents the spiritual medicine of the Logos. The afflicted will do all they can to petition the Lord from demonic, serpent attacks.
And not only, he says, do the poets make this statement, but already also the very wisest men among the Greeks. And Heraclitus is even one of these, employing the following words: For to souls water becomes death. This death, (the Peratic) says, seizes the Egyptians in the Red Sea, along with their chariots. All, however, who are ignorant (of this fact), he says, are Egyptians. And this, they assert, is the departure from Egypt, (that is,) from the body. For they suppose little Egypt to be body, and that it crosses the Red Sea— that is, the water of corruption, which is Cronus— and that it reaches a place beyond the Red Sea, that is, generation; and that it comes into the wilderness, that is, that it attains a condition independent of generation, where there exist promiscuously all the gods of destruction and the God of salvation.
Now, he says, the stars are the gods of destruction, which impose upon existent things the necessity of alterable generation.
These, he says, Moses denominated serpents of the wilderness, which gnaw and utterly ruin those who imagined that they had crossed the Red Sea. To those, then, he says, who of the children of Israel were bitten in the wilderness, Moses exhibited the real and perfect serpent; and they who believed on this serpent were not bitten in the wilderness, that is, (were not assailed) by (evil) powers. No one therefore, he says, is there who is able to save and deliver those that come forth from Egypt, that is, from the body and from this world, unless alone the serpent that is perfect and replete with fullness. Upon this (serpent), he says, he who fixes his hope is not destroyed by the snakes of the wilderness, that is, by the gods of generation.
(This statement) is written, he says, in a book of Moses. This serpent, he says, is the power that attended Moses, the rod that was turned into a serpent. The serpents, however, of the magicians— (that is,) the gods of destruction— withstood the power of Moses in Egypt, but the rod of Moses reduced them all to subjection and slew them. This universal serpent is, he says, the wise discourse of Eve.
What Jesus said to me in my dream vision was clear and it is even confirmed in extra-biblical, Valentinian-Christian writings such as the Excerpts of Theodotus say something to this affect.
Now, regeneration is by water and spirit, as was all creation: “For the Spirit of God moved on the abyss.” And for this reason the Saviour was baptized, though not Himself needing to be so, in order that He might consecrate the whole water for those who were being regenerated. Thus it is not the body only, but the soul, that we cleanse. It is accordingly a sign of the sanctifying of our invisible part, and of the straining off from the new and spiritual creation of the unclean spirits that have got mixed up with the soul.
It is the “washing” of the sinner that makes them regenerate and quickens them to righteousness. It is this agape that washing away all obstruction of the heart, that Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, is “desperately wicked.” Although this is outside of Christian scripture, the Babylonian Talmud tells us that the obstruction of the heart is caused by sin, which is not missing the mark, because there is no mark to miss—sin is simply not showing love to God and your fellow man, even to people who do not deserve it and even hate and oppress you. Sin is the spirit of Antichrist, which is ultimately, the spirit of Satan.
Sin is an obstruction in the heart; an inability to feel and comprehend all that is noble, true, and great, and to take part in the good.” If man is to be freed from sin, his mind and heart must be opened to the influence of enlightenment. The power of the passions must be subdued, and all prejudice, selfishness, and self-complacency be removed.
Jesus in the Apocalypse of Peter, found in the Nag Hammadi Codices, tells us something interesting about the self-proclaimed religious authority in the churches:
And there shall be others of those who are outside our number who name themselves bishop and also deacons, as if they have received their authority from God. They bend themselves under the judgment of the leaders. Those people are dry canals.
Jesus makes a similar statement in Matthew (23:27) when he rebukes the Jewish Pharisees of his day.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
In the Patristic, Second Epistle to Timothy (2:16-18), we find that the author is denouncing the opinions of certain Gnostic heretics—namely Hymenaeus and Philetus, who are also Christians from Ephesus, Greece, who claim that the resurrection has already happened, past tense—hence the idea that the true resurrection is spiritual and results from true faith or “knowledge.”
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they grow much towards ungodliness. And their speech spreadeth like a canker: of whom are Hymeneus and Philetus: Who have erred from the truth, saying, that the resurrection is past already, and have subverted the faith of some.
And yet, we find that while the Fourth Gospel links the resurrection with the end of time, there is also a sort of resurrection that occurs for those who believe (or know). The latter is reborn: “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (3:3). In a way, he is resurrected: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21). “He who hears my word…has passed from death to life” (5:24). “We know that we have passed out of death into life (1 John 3:14). In fact, he will not die at all. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lies and believes in me shall never die” (11:25-26). “My sheep hear my voice…I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (10:27-28). “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven; that a man may eat of it and not die. . . If any one eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:48-51). “If any one keeps my word, he will never see death” (8:51). 1 John 3:1-2, tells us:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Even 1 Peter (2:4-5) (NKJV), tells us that the chosen are called to become “living stones” and offer “spiritual sacrifices” in a “holy priesthood.”
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
What we are seeing here is key to the entire debate about the validity of the Gnostic point of view. How can in all honesty, can it be possible to hear and meet Christ, face to face, unless you have an experiential, Gnostic encounter with the Living Sprit? He means what He says. So how on earth can anyone find this mysterious force called “Christ”? Matthew (7:7-12) (KJV) tells us exactly how.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
And Revelation 3:19-22 (KJV), Jesus implores that those who drink of the “living waters” and “overcome” will also be clothed with a “white raiment” and his name will remain in the Book of the Living and his name will be confessed before the Father and the angelic host:
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
. . .
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
This isn’t a reproof of Christianity but a closer and deeper examination of Jesus’ own words and teachings as well as his disciples. As Jesus says in Matthew 11:15, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” So here is the challenge: Prove to me that Jesus did not say any of this, and did not mean any of it, or that it doesn’t apply to you or that your pastor or bishop or church father says different because it was Jesus Christ himself who preached against worldly, religious authority! And yet, the Johannite doctrine taught by the Fourth Gospel tells us that all the patterns and archetypes found in ontological creation and existence have their foundation rooted in the one Logos, who was directly begotten by God. The Monogenes. It was all creation that was emanated by Christ.
The Logos, per the scriptures, is not merely the extension of the Godhead preexisting matter, but will eventually transfigure and transform all reality into His image out from the clutches of the lower powers of Hades. It is said that when they went to look for the body of Jesus, they could not find it, the tomb was empty. Of course, since the Spirit Logos had taken the body and soul with it! After “death,” the transfigured body and soul, transformed into one inseparable unit with the Logos, the Second Man. The same will happen with the Gnostic believer, in the here and now. More will be revealed in my upcoming book, Enter In: Gateways to Eden, currently in progress…
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:23:25) (NKJV).