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Poimandres

A Gnostic instruction - 2nd century AD

Source: D. L Cartlidge and D. L Duncan, Documents for the Study of the Gospels, Collins, New York 1980, pp. 243-251.

I have freely adapted the translation to make it more understandable in today's language. John Wijngaards

12. The Father of all, Mind, who was life and light, brought forth a Ideal Man in his own likeness whom he loved as his own child. For the Ideal Man was very beautiful, having the image of the Father. God truly loved his own image, and he made him lord of all creatures.

I have translated anthrôpos (man) as Ideal Man
13. When he (i.e., the Ideal Man) considered the world-creator's creation, which was made in the fire (or, "which was in the Father"), he wanted to create also, and the Father gave him permission. He entered the world-creator's sphere, having full power, and he considered the creations of (his) brother. They (the governing powers) were pleased with him, and each one shared power (or, "jurisdiction") with him. He learned well their essence and partook of their nature, and then he wished to break out of the orbits and to know the power of the one who rules over the fire.
The Ideal Man himself becomes a secondary Creator, known as the Gnostic Demiurge.
14. The Ideal Man who had full power over the world of mortal beings and unrational animals peered down through the joint (i.e., between the heavenly and earthly realms which are bounded by the orbits of the spheres), having broken through their borders, and he showed to the downbearing Mother Nature the beautiful form of God. When Mother Nature saw that he had in him all the boundless beauty and energy of the governing powers combined with the form of God, she smiled with love, for she had seen reflected in the water the image of the Ideal Man's beautiful form and his shadow on the earth. He saw the likeness of his form in her, reflected in the water, and he loved it and wished to dwell there. The will and the action were one, and he came to inhabit an unrational form. Mother Nature received her beloved, wholly embracing him, and they were united; they were lovers.
The marriage between the Ideal Man and Mother Nature is the beginning of trouble.
15. For this reason, alone of all beings which live on earth, the human being has a double nature; he has a mortal body and is (at the same time) immortal on account of a common essence with the Ideal Man. Being immortal, he has power over all things; but he still suffers, being mortal and under the rule of fate. Though he belongs to the realm above the line between heaven and earth (lit."above the joint"), he has become a slave to the cosmic system. Though he is joint male-female, being from a joint male-female father, and sleepless, from the sleepless one ... he is overcome . . .
The teacher anticipates his main lesson here. Human beings are mixed. They carry a spiritual soul inside a material body.

16. . . . Poimandres said, "This is the mystery which has been hidden to this day. Mother Nature had intercourse with the Ideal Man and brought forth a most astonishing marvel . . . " (there follows the birth of seven pairs of elemental celestial powers).

I said, "0 Poimandres, I have now come to a great desire to hear more. Do not drop the subject."
Poimandres said, "Be quiet, for I have not even come to the most important point."
"Behold," I said, "I am quiet."
. . .

 
18. "Hear the rest of the explanation which you wanted to hear. When the period was fulfilled, the bond uniting all creatures was broken by the will of God. All creatures, having been joint male-females, were now divided into males and females; humans (were divided) also, at the same time.
God immediately said by a holy word, 'Increase in increasing, and multiply in multiplying, all creatures and things. Let anyone who has a mind know himself as immortal and that the cause of death is love, and let him understand all beings.'

19. "When this was said, Providence, through fate and the conjunction of the spheres, caused living things to have sexual intercourse and established generations, and all things were fulfilled, each according to its species. Thus, he who knows himself has come into the good which is above all else, but he who loves the body through the error of love remains erring in the darkness, suffering in his senses the pangs of death."

From the split into male and female comes sexual activity, sin and guilt. In Genesis, sex does not cause sin. For Gnostics, it is the act of sex which brings about the fall of the whole cosmos.
20. "What great sin have they committed," I said, "those who are ignorant, that they should be deprived of immortality?"
"You appear not to have duly considered what you have heard. Did I not tell you to pay attention?"
"I am thinking, and I remember, and I am grateful, too."
"If you comprehend, then, tell me why those who are in death are deserving of death?"
"Because the source of the individual body is the hateful darkness, from which comes the moist substance, from which the body is made in the sensible world, and from which death is watered."

The human body comes from darkness.

A man's semen is 'the moist substance from which the body is made'.

21. "You have it correctly, my dear man. Now, why is it that 'he who understands himself departs to him,' as the Logos of God has it?"
I said, "Because the Father of everything is comprised of light and life, from whom the Ideal Man is begotten."
"You speak well. Light and life are God and the Father, from whom the Ideal Man was begotten. If then you learn he is from life and light and that you, too, come from these, you will go again into life." Poimandres said these things. "But tell me more. How shall I go into life, 0 my Mind?" I said.
"Let the man with a mind recognize himself."
 
22. "Do not all human beings have a mind?"
"Watch your tongue, friend. I, Mind, stand by those who are holy and good and pure and merciful, the pious. And my presence gives help. They immediately know everything, and they lovingly worship the Father, blessing and singing regularly to him in filial love. And before they give the body to its proper death they despise the senses, knowing their workings. What is more, I, the Mind, will not permit the assaulting work of the body to prevail. I, the guardian of the gates, bar the door against the entry of evil and shameful deeds, cutting off short the imaginations."
The only hope for human beings is to remember the spiritual origin of their souls -- and suppress their bodies.
23. "But I am far away from the foolish, the bad, the evil, the wicked, the greedy, the killers, and the impious; I have given up my place to AN AVENGING DEMON who applies to such people the keenness of fire, pierces their senses, and arms them for more lawless deeds in order that they will have more punishment. Those people thus does not cease having desire for their boundless appetites; they remain insatiably battling in the dark. This torments them, and causes the fire of lust in them to blaze more."

 


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