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The Gnostic Conception of the Supreme Principle

Gnostic Dramaturgy - Introduction Barbelo

note - page numbers refer to the Harper and Row print edition Nag Hammadi Library

Most Gnostic texts begin with a creation account that describes the origin of the various Divine emanations from the original indescribable Godhead.

In the Apocryphon of John, the First Principle is designated as "Invisible Spirit" and "Father".  This is described in terms typical of the monistic experience everywhere: ineffable, immeasurable, self-contained, perfect, tranquil, the source of all, and so on.

Indeed, one of the great strengths of classical Gnosticism is the beauty and evocative nature of its language, especially when describing the Absolute Reality.  In external link The Gospel of the Egyptians, the Godhead is described as

"The Father of the great light, who came forth from the silence...(who) rests in the silence" [pp.196-7].

The author of external link Eugnostos the Blessed writes:

"He is without end; he is incomprehensible.  He is ever imperishable....He is unchanging good.  He is faultless.  He is everlasting...blessed...He is perfect, having no defect.  He is imperishably blessed." [p.210].

The external link Trimorphic Protennoia refers to "the immeasurable Silence" [p.462], and to "a Silence of the Ineffable One" [p.463]. The external link Gospel of Truth describes the Godhead as

"the incomprehensible, inconceivable one, who is superior to every thought." [p.38]

While in the external link Tripartite Tractate, the Godhead is described as "the inconceivable, ineffable, the incomprehensible, unchanging one" [p.57]; unbeggotten and immortal; having "no beginning and no end," and "unattainable in his greatness, inscrutable in his wisdom, incomprehensible in his power, and unfathomable in his sweetness" [p.56]

And according to Hans Jonas' account of the Valentinian theology in his The Gnostic Religion, in the "invisible and nameless heights there was a perfect Aeon", called Fore-Beginning, Fore-Father, or Abyss.  With him was his female counterpart (or polarity) known as Ennoia (Thought), Grace or Silence." [pp.179-180].

It is this Supreme Godhead, this Absolute Reality, that is the source of all subsequent creation, even of the Divine creation.


Gnostic Dramaturgy - Introduction Barbelo

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