You gotta love them ballsy Gnostic sects of ancient times. These metaphysical and social anarchists were an explosive blend of 4chan cultural trolls and agora-challenging SJW’s, at their heart astral anthropologists wrapped in a wizard-philosopher package. No god or institution was safe from their satirical talons or magic-realistic ideas, all in a quest to redeem the artistic seeker, the spiritually deprived, and psychically downtrodden – those who lingered with the god in the gutter of Philip K. Dick.
As April DeConick wrote on the Gnostics:
The Gnostic is an elusive figure, escaping our borders, pushing our limits, reshaping us, with every act of transgression. Why does the Gnostic at once intrigue and terrify? What is it about the Gnostic that opens us up to a deviance so subversive that it reverses and redefines whatever it contacts? What is it about the Gnostic that constructs new worlds whose brilliance exposes the pallor of our existence? What is it about the Gnostic that fuels the courage to create something better than what tradition has left us? What is it about the Gnostic that pulls knowledge in, only to generate new knowledge so overwhelming in its experience that the depths of humanity are thought to be penetrated and healed?
Perhaps Harold Bloom offers an answer to all these questions when he wrote concerning the main Gnostic apothegm: “Everything that can break should be broken.”
However, DeConick is right about the healing aspect of Gnosticism. Unlike what orthodoxy has claimed for millennia, the Gnostics were never about escaping the body to colonize some transcendental realm (sorry, Heaven’s Gate). The Gnostics were about mental and spiritual transformation while in the body, as well as the healing of all life and pre-life trauma. Then it was going to war with the gods and institutions on this plane of existence.
On this blog and many Aeon Byte episodes, I’ve discussed the many sects that exemplify the Gnostic ethos: Sethians, Valentinians, Ophites, Manichaeans, Mandaeans, and more. Even in occult circles, despite their esoteric pedigree, they all seem rather eccentric, exotic, and plainly bizarre.
There is one Gnostic group that’s even more peculiar, unknown to most.
Meet the Peratics. This second-century sect takes all the Gnostic elements to some dizzying extremes, just as it exemplifies the Gnostic ethos.
A Game of Saturn
By now, I’m sure most of you readers know the Gnostics contended the world was under the brutal dominion of the Demiurge, who was often associated with Jehovah of the Old Testament.
The Peratics went much further. They accused basically all the pagan gods of turning creation into a cosmic Fyre Festival.
In the Peratic mythos, the gods had once been upright but became corrupt, eventually rebelling against the “Perfect Good” (as they called the Monad). Among these rebellious deities were Zeus, Persephone, Osiris, Isis, and Hades, as well as heroes like Hercules and Perseus. These figures are the Gnostic Archons.
Was there a Demiurge in the Peratic cosmological system? Yes, and it was Kronos or Saturn, the cannibalistic lord of time and boundaries. With the assistance of the other deities, Kronos kept the divine essence of the Perfect Good trapped on earth in the form of humans. Ignorant, enslaved humans. And like some heavenly Geoffrey Baratheon, Kronos also enjoyed torturing and gaslighting us meat machines.
Who would save humanity?
Naturally, it would have to be Jesus (at least in the Gnostic fanboy, syncretic vibe).
In the Peratic account, Christ descends to earth from the realm of the Perfect Good — and is soon executed by the gods. However, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, it only makes him more powerful. Jesus becomes a Super Saiyan being encompassing all three levels of reality: transcendental, divine, and material. In this state, he takes over the highest and brightest constellation, the serpentine Draco. There, he opens a star portal, and as DeConick writes, “establishing a flow of divinity into and out of the cosmos with every rotation of the celestial sphere.”
Jesus is essentially a guardian of a stargate that allows the divine essence in each of us rise and return from the Pleroma.
If you’re noticing an astrotheological drama with all these gods, stars, and planets, you’re not snorting stardust (or maybe you are).
But it all related to their amazing rituals.
Peratic comes from the Greek for “going beyond” or “wanderer,” and that’s what these Gnostics saw themselves when it came to the astral domains. Again and like all other Gnostic sects, their view wasn’t to escape the universe but find the divine solutions to liberate their beings and sometimes the very universe itself from the tyranny of the gods and their earthly representatives. In fact, the Peratics saw all of existence as good except for the shenanigans of Saturn and his gang.
The key was waking up and finding a way through the rulers of the material domains and the constellations – then returning as transformed demigods of light.
For this goal, they provided a mystery religious ritual that ignited ecstatic states and intense shamanistic journeys.
During the ritual, the Gnostic initiate would have his soul downloaded into Hell (what a start!). This was a kind of incubation magic where one confronted the basest of material suffering and the basest of desires. In the mythic arena, the initiate would face Kronos and other gods like Osiris, taming them with certain prayers and magical words. The journey through Hades culminated with facing Persephone, who guarded the stargate to the constellation of Virgo.
Once into the starry realms, the initiate would traverse across other constellations, eventually reaching Jesus and his portal at the top of Draco, which led directly to the transcendental realm. This was called the Mystery of Eden because, again quoting DeConick, the Peratics “identified the ribbon of stars that makes up Draco’s tail with the river the Bible says flows into and out of paradises.”
To the Peratics, Jesus was the serpent in the garden, the bronze snake Moses lifted in the desert, and the totality of the constellation Draco.
What’s more, the Peratics tattooed their bodies with the sign of Draco, claiming it was the original mark of Cain that kept them safe from Kronos and all the other gods.
And what happened when the initiate returned from contacting the Perfect Good?
Again, the same that happened in most Gnostic rituals. As DeConick writes:
The person inducted into the Gnostic mysteries returned from the shamanistic quest a full spiritual being, a perfected human who now is empowered to heal the ill, cast out demons, control the cosmic forces, and evoke the transcendent. The returning initiates believed that they had walked in the muck of the underworld hells, flown through the cosmic sphere and around the zodiac, and visited the transcendent realm. They had overcome all the forces and gods in the hells and cosmic realms, so that the initiates were liberated from their tyranny. They had come to know the awesome power of their own integrated selves, when their potential divinity was actualized and integrated into their humanity. Quite literally, they had become mortal gods, freed from the perpetual turning of the wheel of incarnation.
Like the idea of escaping the body, orthodoxy falsely assumes the Gnostics wanted to be transformed into creator and managerial gods. They did not want to be like Saturn or Jehovah. Instead, they sought to become beings whose feet no longer touched the ground, eyes that could see the ultimate truths, and hands that could heal the sick and insane. Much different.
Regardless, I think Erik Davis is correct when he said in his book Nomad Codes: “Though not the first cosmic dualists, the Gnostics may have been the first spiritual off-worlders.”
The Peratic Rituals
Unfortunately, little remains of ancient Gnostic rituals. You can thank the earthly incarnations of the Demiurge for this. However, scholars today are doing a fine job recreating some of the Gnostic mystical praxis, and I deal with this in my articles The Four Categories of Gnostic Religious Rites and The Radical Way Gnostics Used Magic. Heck and Hekate, we’re only a generation removed from the publication of the Hag Hammadi library, so there is much work do to still.
In the meantime, like the Peratics, be a metaphysical Daenerys and find your own starry dragon to ride across your past traumas and the constellations of your imagination – even if you have to throw everything and the theological kitchen sink like some shamanistic chaos magician.
I leave you with something we do have: part of a Peratic religious hymn, specifically a passage where the initiate prepares to confronts Krono in the underworld:
I am the voice of the one who has awakened from sleep in the realm of the night.
Now I begin to struggle with the Power that has sprung from chaos,
The Power of the abyss of mud,
The Power that supports the clay of the boundless expanse
Swollen with water,
The utter Power of the earthquake…
The ignorant call this Power “Kronos,” guarded with chains,
Since he bound together tightly what is interwoven of the dense and steam,
The dim dark Tartarus.
I hope you enjoyed this hot take on the Peratics. In the meantime, I’ll see you in Hell with Father Time.
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