Septem Sermones ad Mortuos.1916
THE SEVEN SERMONS TO THE DEAD WRITTEN BY
BASILIDES IN ALEXANDRIA, THE CITY WHERE THE EAST
TOUCHES THE WEST.
Transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung.
The Dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what they sought.
They prayed me let them in and besought my word, and thus i began my
Harken: I begin with nothingness. Nothingness is the same as fullness. In infinity full is no better than empty. Nothingness is both empty and full. As well might you say anything else of nothingness, as for instance, white is it, or black, or again, it is not, or it is. A thing that is infinite and eternal has no qualities, since it has all qualities.
This nothingness or fullness we name the Pleroma.
Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinite possess no qualities. In it no being is, for he then would be distinct from the pleroma, and would possess qualities which would distinguish him as something distinct from the pleroma.
In the pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is quite fruitless to think about the pleroma, for this would mean self-dissolution. Creatura is not in the pleroma, but in itself. The pleroma is both beginning and end of the created beings. It pervades them, as the light of the sun everywhere pervades the air. Although the pleroma prevadeth altogether, yet has created being no share thereof, just as wholly transparent body becomes neither light nor dark through the light nor dark through the light which pervades it. We are, however, the pleroma itself, for we are a part of the eternal and the infinite.
But we have no share thereof, as we are from the pleroma infinitely removed; not spiritually or temporally, but essentially, since we are distinguished from the pleroma in our essence as creatura, which is confined within time and space.
Yet because we are parts of the pleroma, the pleroma is also in us. Even
in the smallest point is the pleroma endless, eternal, and entire, since
small and great are qualities which are contained in it. It is that
nothingness which is everywhere whole and continuous. Only figuratively,
therefore, do I speak of created being as part of
the pleroma. Because, actually, the pleroma is nowhere divided, since it is nothingness. We are also the whole pleroma, because, figuratively, the pleroma is the smallest point (assumed only, not existing) in us and the boundless firmament about us. But wherefore,
then, do we speak of the pleroma at all, since it is thus everything and nothing? I speak of it to make a beginning somewhere, and also to free you from the delusion that somewhere, either without or within, there stands something fixed, or in some way established, from the beginning. Every so-called fixed and certain thing is only relative.
That alone is fixed and certain which is subject to change. What is changeable, however, is creature. Therefore is it the one thing which is fixed and certain because it has qualities: or as even a quality itself.
The question arises: How did creatura originate?
Created beings came to pass, not creatura: since created being is the very quality of the pleroma, as much as non-creation which is the eternal death. In all times and places is creation, in all times and places is death. The pleroma has all, distinctiveness and non-distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is creatura. It is distinct. Distinctiveness is its essence. and therefore it distinguishes. Wherefore also he distinguished qualities of the pleroma which are not. He distinguishes them out of his own nature. Therefore he must speak of qualities of the pleroma which are not.
What use, say ye, to speak of it?
Saidst thou not thyself, there is no profit in thinking upon the pleroma? That said I unto you, to free you from the delusion that we are able to think about the pleroma. When we distinguish qualities of the pleroma, we are speaking from the ground of our own distinctiveness and concerning our own distinctiveness. But we have said nothing
concerning the pleroma. Concerning our own distinctiveness, however, it is needful to speak, whereby we may distinguish ourselves enough. Our very nature is distinctiveness. If we are not true to this nature we do not distinguish ourselves enough. Therefore must we make distinctions of qualities.
What is the harm, you ask, in not distinguishing oneself?
If we do not distinguish, we get beyond our own nature, away from creatura. We fall into indistinctiveness, which is the other quality of the pleroma. We fall into the pleroma itself and cease to be creatures. We are given over to dissolution in nothingness. This is the death of the creature. Therefore we die in such measure as we do not distinguish. Hence the natural striving of the creature goeth towards distinctiveness, fights against primeval, perilous sameness.
This is called the PRINCIPIUM INDIVIDUATIONIS.
This principle is the essence of the creature. From this you can see why indistinctiveness and non-distinction are a great danger for the creature. We must, therefore, distinguish the qualities of the pleroma.
The qualities are PAIRS OF OPPOSITES, such as -
The pairs of opposities are qualities of the pleroma which are not, because each balances each. As we are the pleroma itself, we also have all these qualities in us. Because the very ground of our nature is distinctiveness, which means -
1. These qualities are distinct and
separate in us one from the
other; therefore they are not balanced and void, but are effective. Thus are
the victims of the pairs of opposites. The pleroma is rent in us.
2. The qualities belong to the pleroma, and only in the name and sign of distinctiveness can and must we possess and live them. We must distinguish ourselves from qualities. In the pleroma they are balanced and void; in us not. Being distinguished from them delivers us.
When we strive after the good or the beautiful, we thereby forget our own nature, which is distinctiveness, and we are delivered over to the qualities of the pleroma, which are pairs of opposites. We labor to attain the good and the beautiful, yet at the same time
we also lay hold of the evil and the ugly, since in the pleroma these are one with the good and the beautiful. When, however, we remain true to our own nature, which is distinctiveness, we distinguish ourselves from the good and the beautiful, therefore, at the same time, from the evil and ugly. And thus we fall not into the pleroma,
namely, into nothingness and dissolution.
You say, you object, that difference and sameness are also qualities of the pleroma. How would it be, then, if we strive after difference? Are we, in so doing, not true to our own nature? And must we none the less be given over to the sameness when we strive after difference? You must not forget that the pleroma has no qualities. We create them
through thinking. If, therefore, you strive after difference or sameness, or any qualities whatsoever, you pursue thought which flow to you our of the pleroma: thoughts, namely, concerning non-existing qualities of the pleroma. Inasmuch as you run after these thoughts, you fall again into the pleroma, and reach difference and sameness at the same time.
Not your thinking, but your being, is distinctiveness.
Therefore not after difference, you think it, must you strive; but after YOUR OWN BEING. At bottom, therefore, there is only one striving, namely, the striving after your own being. If you had this striving you would not need to know anything about the pleroma and its qualities, and yet would you come to your right goal by virtue of your own being. Since, however, thought estranges from being, that knowledge must I teach you wherewith you may be able to hold your thought in leash.
In the night the dead stood along the wall and cried:
We would have knowledge of god. Where is god? Is god dead?
God is not dead. Now, as ever, he lives. God is creatura, for he is something definite, and therefore distinct from the pleroma. God is quality of the pleroma, and everything I said of creatura also is true concerning him.
He is distinguished, however, from created beings through this, that he is more indefinite and indeterminable than they. He is less distinct than created beings, since the ground of his being is effective fullness. Only in so far as he is definite and distinct is he creatura,
and in like measure is he the manifestation of the effective fullness of the pleroma.
Everything which we do not distinguish falls into the pleroma and is made
void by its opposite. If, therefore, we do not distinguish god, effective
fullness is for us extinguished. Moreover god is the pleroma itself, as
likewise each smallest point in the created and uncreated is pleroma
itself. Effective void is the nature of the devil. God and devil are
the first manifestations of nothingness, which we call the pleroma.
It is indifferent whether the pleroma is or is not, since in everything it is balanced and void. Not so creatura. In so far as god and devil are creatura they do not extinguish each other, but stand one against the other as effective opposites. We need no proof of their existence. It is enough that we must always be speaking of them. Even if both were not, creatura, of its own essential distinctiveness, would forever distinguish them anew out of the pleroma.
Everything that discrimination takes out of the pleroma is a pair of
opposites. To god, therefore, always belongs the devil. This inseparability
is as close and , as your own life has made you see, as indissoluble as the
pleroma itself. Thus it is that both stand
very close to the pleroma, in which all opposites are extinguished and joined.
God and devil are distinguished by the qualities of fullness
and emptiness, generation and destruction. EFFECTIVENESS is common to both. Effectiveness joineth them. Effectiveness,
therefore, stands above both; is a god above god, since in its effect
unites fullness and emptiness. This is a god whom you knew not, for mankind forgot it. We name it by its name ABRAXAS. It is more indefinite still than god and devil. That god may be distinguished from it, we name god HELIOS or sun. Abraxas is effect. Nothing stands opposed to it but the ineffective; hence its effective nature freely unfolds itself.
The ineffective is not, therefore resist not. Abraxas stands above the sun and above the devil. It is improbable probability, unreal reality. Had the pleroma a being, Abraxas would be its manifestation.
It is the effective itself, nor any particular effect, but effect in general.
It is unreal reality, because it has no definite effect.
It is also creatura, because it is distinct from the pleroma.
The sun has a definite effect, and so has the devil.
Wherefore do they appear to us more effective than indefinite
Abraxas. It is force, duration, change.
The dead now raised a great tumult, for they were Christians.
Like mists arising from a marsh, the dead came near and cried:
Speak further unto us concerning the supreme god.
Hard to know is the deity of Abraxas. Its power is the greatest, because man perceives it not. From the sun he draws the summum bonum; from the devil the infimum malum:
but from Abraxas LIFE, altogether indefinite, the mother of good and evil.
Smaller and weaker life seems to be than the summum
bonum; wherefore is it also hard to conceive that Abraxas transcends
even the sun in power, who is himself the radiant source of all the force of
life. Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking
gorge of the void, the belittling and dismembering devil.
The power of Abraxas is twofold; but you see it not, because for your eyes
the warring opposites of this power are extinguished. What the god-sun
speaks is life.
What the devil speaks is death. But Abraxas speaks that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time.
Abraxas begets truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible. It is splendid as the lion in the instant he strikes down his victim. It is beautiful as a day in spring. It is the great Pan himself and also the small one.
It is Priapos.
It is the monster of the under-world, a thousand-armed polyp,
coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy.
It is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.
It is the lord of the toads and frogs,, which live in the water and gets
up on the land, whose chorus ascends at noon and at midnight.
It is abundance that seeks union with emptiness.
It is holy begetting.
It is love and love's murder.
It is the saint and his betrayer.
It is the brightest light of day and the darkest night of madness.
To look upon it, is blindness.
To know it, is sickness.
To worship it, is death.
To fear it, is wisdom.
To resist it not, is redemption.
God dwells behind the sun, the devil behind the night. What god brings forth out of the light of the devil sucks into the night. But
Abraxas is the world, its becoming and its passing- Upon every gift that
cometh from the god-sun the devil lays his curse.
Everything that you entreat from the god-sun begets a deed from the
Everything that you create with the god-sun gives effective power to the devil.
That is terrible Abraxas.
It is the mightiest creature, and in it the creature is afraid of itself.
It is the manifest opposition to the pleroma and its nothingness.
It is the son's horror of the mother.
It is the mother's love for the son.
It is the delight of the earth and the cruelty of the heavens.
Before its countenance man becomes like stone.
Before it there is no question and no reply.
It is the life of creatura.
It is the operation of distinctiveness.
It is the love of man.
It is the speech of man.
It is the appearance and the shadow of man.
It is illusory reality.
Now the dead howled and raged, for they were unperfected.
The dead filled the place murmuring and said;
Tell us of gods and devils, accursed one!
The god-sun is the highest good, the devil its opposite.
Thus have you two gods. But there are many high and good things
and many great evils. Among these are two god-devils; the one is the
Burning One , the other the Growing One.
The burning one is EROS, who has the form of flame.
Flame gives light because it consumes.
The growing one is the TREE OF LIFE.. It buds, as in growing it heaps up living stuff.
Eros flames up and dies. But the tree of life grows with slow and constant increase through unmeasured time.
Good and evil are united in the flame.
Good and evil are united in the increase of the tree. In their divinity
stand life and love opposed.
Innumerable as the host of the stars is the number of gods and devils.
Each star is a god, and each space that a star fills is a devil.
But the empty-fullness of the whole is the pleroma.
The operation of the whole is Abraxas, to whom only the ineffective stands opposed.
Four is the number of the principal gods, as four is the number of the world's measurements.
One is the beginning, the god-sun.
Two is Eros; for he binds them together and unfolds himself in brightness.
Three is the Tree of Life, for it fills space with bodily forms.
Four is the devil, for he opens all that is closed. All that is formed of bodily nature doth he dissolve; he is the destroyer in whom everything is brought to nothing.
For me, to whom knowledge has been given of the multiplicity
and diversity of the good, it is well. But woe unto you, who replace these
incompatible many by a single god. For in so doing you beget the torment which
is bred from not understanding, and you mutilate
the creature whose nature and aim is distinctiveness. How can you be true to your own nature when you try to change the many into one? What you do unto the gods is done likewise unto you. You all become equal and thus is your nature maimed.
Equalities shall prevail not for god, but only for the sake of man. For
the gods are many, whilst men are few. The gods are mighty and can endure
their manifoldness. For like the stars they abide in solitude, parted one
from the other by immense distances. Therefore
they dwell together and need communion, that they may bear their separateness. For redemption's sake I teach you the rejected truth, for the sake of which I was rejected.
The multiplicity of the gods corresponds to the multiplicity of man. Numberless gods await the human state. Numberless gods have been men. Man shares in nature of the gods. He cometh from the gods and goes unto god. Thus, just as it serves not to reflect upon the plerome, it avails one not to worship the multiplicity of the gods. Least of all avail it to worship the first god, the effective abundance and the summum bonum.
By our prayer we can add to it nothing, and from it nothing take; because the effective void swallows all. The bright gods form the celestial world. It is manifold and infinitely spreading and increasing. The god-sun is the supreme lord of the world. The dark gods form the earth-world. They are simple and infinitely diminishing and declining. The devil is the earth-world's lowest lord, the moon-spirit, satellite of the earth, smaller, colder, and more dead than the earth. There is no difference between the might of the celestial gods and those of the earth. The celestial gods magnify, the earth-gods diminish. Measureless is the movement of both.
The dead mocked and cried: Teach us, fool, of the Church and the holy Communion. The world of the gods is made manifest in spirituality and in sexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly in sexuality. Spirituality conceives and embraces. It is womanlike and therefore we call it MATER COELESTIS, the celestial mother. Sexuality engenders and creates. It is manlike, and therefore we call it PHALLOS, the earthly father. The sexuality of man is more of the earth, the sexuality of woman is more of the spirit. The spirituality of man is more of heaven, it goes to the greater. The spirituality of woman is more of the earth, it goes to the smaller. Lying and devilish is the spirituality of the man which goes to the smaller. Lying and devilish is the spirituality of the woman which goes to the greater. Each must go its own place. Man and woman become devils one to the other when they divide not their spiritual ways, for the nature of the creatura is distinctiveness. The sexuality of man has an earthward course, the sexuality of woman a spiritual. Man and woman becomes devils one to the other if they distinguish not their sexuality. Man shall know of the smaller, woman the greater. Man shall distinguish himself both from spirituality and sexuality. He shall spirituality Mother, and set her between heaven and earth. He shall call sexuality Phallos, and set him between himself and earth. For the Mother and the Phallos are super-human daemons which reveal the world of the gods. They are for us more effective than the gods, because they are closely akin to our own nature. Should you not distinguish yourselves from sexuality and from spirituality, and not regard them as of a nature both above you and beyond, then are you delivered over to them as qualities of the pleroma. Spirituality and sexuality are not your qualities, not things you possess and contain. But they possess and contain you; for they are powerful daemons, manifestations of the gods, and are, therefore, things which reach beyond you, existing in themselves. No man has a spirituality unto himself, or a sexuality unto himself. But he stands under the law of Spirituality and of sexuality. No man, therefore, escapes these daemons. You shall look upon them as daemons, and as a common task and danger, a common burden which life has laid upon you. Thus is life for you also a common task and danger, as are the gods, and first of all terrible Abraxas. Man is weak, therefore is communion indispensable. If your communion be not under the sign of the Mother, then is it under the sign of the Phallos. No communion is suffering and sickness. Communion in everything is dismemberment and dissolution. Distinctiveness leads to singleness. Singleness is opposed to communion. But because of man's weakness over against the gods and daemons and their invincible law is communion needful, not for man's sake, but because of the gods. The gods force you to communion. As much as they force you, so much is the communion needed, more is evil. In communion let every man submit to the others, that communion be maintained, for you need it. In Singleness the one man shall be superior to the others, that every man may come to himself and avoid slavery. In communion there shall be continence. In Singleness there shall be prodigality. Communion is depth. Singleness is height. Right measure in communion purifies and preserves. Right measure in Singleness purifies and increases. Communion gives us warmth, Singleness gives us light.
The daemons of sexuality approaches our soul as a serpent. It is half human and appears as thought-desire. The daemon of spirituality descends into our soul as the white bird. It is half human and appears as desire-thought. The Serpent is an earthly soul, half daemonic, a spirit, and akin to the spirits of the dead. Thus too, like these, she swarms around in the things of earth, making us either fear them or pricking us with intemperate desires. The Serpent has a nature like unto woman. She seeks company of the dead who are held by the spell of the earth, they who found not the way beyond that leads to singleness. The Serpent is a whore. She is wanton with the devil and with evil spirits; a mischievous tyrant and tormentor, ever seducing to evilest company. The White Bird is a half-celestial soul of man. He bids with the Mother, from time to time descending. The bird has a nature like unto man, and is effective thought. He is chaste and solitary, a messenger of the Mother. He flies high above earth. He commands singleness. He brings knowledge from the distant ones who went before and are perfected. He bears our word above to the Mother. She intercedes, she warns, but against the gods she has no power. She is a vessel of the sun. The serpent goes below and with her cunning she lames the phallic daemon, or else goads him on. She yields up the too crafty thoughts of the earthy one, those thoughts which creep through every hole and cleave to all things with desirousness. The Serpent, doubtless, willed it not, yet she must be of use to us. She flees our grasp , thus showing us the way, which with our human wits we could not find.
With disdainful glance the dead spoke: Cease this talk of gods and daemons and souls. At this has long been known to us.
Yet when night was come the dead again approached with lamentable mien and said: There is yet one matter we forgot to mention. Teach us about man. Man is a gateway, through which from the outer world of gods, daemons, and souls you pass into the inner world; out of the greater into the smaller world. Small and transitory is man. Already is he behind you, and once again you find yourselves in endless space, in the smaller of innermost infinity. At immeasurable distance stands one single Star in the zenith. This is the one god of this one man. This is his world, his pleroma, his divinity. In this world is man Abraxas, the creator and destroyer of his one world. This Star is the god and the goal of man. This is his one guiding god. In him goes man to his rest. Toward him goes the long journey of the soul after death. In him shines forth as light all that man brings back from the greater world. To this one god man shall pray. Prayer increases the light of the Star. It casts a bridge over death. It prepares life for the smaller world and assuages the hopeless desires of the greater. When the greater world waxes cold, burns the Star. Between man and his one god there stands nothing, so long as man can turn away his eyes from the flaming spectacle of Abraxas. Man here, god there. Weakness and nothingness here, there eternally creative power. Here nothing but darkness and chilling moisture. There Wholly Sun.
Whereupon the dead were silent and ascended like the smoke above the
herdsman's fire, who through the night kept watch over his flock.