An Illustrated Gnostic Monomyth

Before anything else was the LIMITLESS LIGHT….

We cannot, in fact, even truly say that the Limitless Light



because doing so limits it to a particular state of being, and it has no limit.  It has no color, no shape, no size, nothing.  There is not even a good verb to use to describe it.

The only way to understand the LIMITLESS LIGHT is by BECOMING the Limitless Light, in its entirety, and since we are in the World of Forms, we cannot do that.

The World of Forms, where we live,  is limited by things like time and space.


Even “Light” is not really an adequate term to use to describe the Limitless Light, because it is not like the light of, say,  the Sun:

….or the light of a fire:

… or especially the light of a lightbulb:


It is simply an indescribable Light in which no darkness exists to contrast it.

It is a lightless Light that cannot be seen, a soundless Sound that cannot be heard, an expressionless Passion that cannot be felt.

It cannot be measured, because nothing can stand outside of it to measure it.

Because nothing limits this Light, it contains



All of them!  Every last one!

Of course, in a Limitless Light with no

the only possibility is binary:  either it is the Limitless Light as Unity, one single Everything, or…

…it is not.  The only option of differentiation for something which has no limits is the experience of itself.

In other words,  it cannot rightly step outside of itself in order to experience itself, so it has to do so from within.

This necessitates a split within the Limitless Light.  In order to know itself, for itself, the Limitless Light had to divide into Two.  It did this with its first “thought,” the Observed, the first differentiation within the Limitless Light.


This has nothing to do with human gender—it is a linguistic tool we use to help us understand the roles of God the Father and Barbelo.

Since the two, the Double Source, still exist as parts of the Limitless Light, we consider them equals, both permeated by the Light.  This permeation in which the Double Source emits is called the Pleroma, or Filling Up.

In order for God the Father to observe Barbelo, Barbelo must return to the source, the Limitless Light, thereby giving birth to a third principle within her.


Her decision to return to the source was the third principle (the motion of  BARBELO), that of the desire to return to the source that the Limitless Light might know itself.

Thus, we say that Barbelo is the preexistent Virgin who gave birth to the all, the womb of the whole differentiated realm of BEING.

This principle is the Great Androgynous CHRISTOS, the perfected Son/Daughter of the Limitless Light as God the Father.

Note the “vesica pisces,” the familiar Christian fish symbol created by the intersection of God and Barbelo.


When God the Father saw how beautiful and wonderful was the Christos, he gave him a share of Immortality and Imperishability and Perfection, which filled him with the Limitless Light, and supplied him with Nous, the principle of Mind, through which the Christos could continue the process of differentiation that the Limitless Light might continue to know itself.

The Christos, with the Mind, desired to continue the process of differentiation by returning to the Source, the Limitless Light.  In so doing, the process continued and the Limitless Light began bilocating further, splitting into all possible Doubles.

These Doubles are called the AEONS, as they exist in a time beyond Time, as projections of the Limitless Light in his manifestation as God the Father and Barbelo and the Christos.

The Doubles are not split into straightforward opposites, but instead are split into neutralizing Twins of differentiation.  Imagine the process of Creation running backwards—the Twins come together in a flash of light and ascend into undifferentiated spirit-light.

This whole process of emanation still takes place within the Limitless Light, which uses the process to learn about itself.

In the realm of all possibilities, one possibility will always be limitation.  Since all possibilities must occur for the Limitless Light to truly know itself, inevitably a limit arises, beyond which one’s wisdom becomes incomplete.  Eventually, the process results in Pistis Sophia, Faith Wisdom.

This Aeon always lies farthest away from the source of the Limitless Light.


Desiring to know what lies beyond this point—in other words, to participate, through ignorance in an act of creation—Pistis Sophia gives birth to YALDABAOTH, the DEMIURGE, also called Saklas or Samael, a serpent-shaped being with the head of a lion.

Yaldabaoth is thrust into the realms beyond the perception of the Limitless Light, into the Void beyond the differentiation, the Materia—our realm of perception.

As with any newborn,  Yaldabaoth’s attention is drawn towards the sound and the light.  Looking beyond the border between he and his mother, Yaldabaoth sees the Pleroma, obscured by the border of ignorance, and assumes that he perceives his own reflection.

“I am all,” he says.  “There is none apart from me.  I am the


Sophia, peering down in repentant realization of her error and wishing to save her child from the darkness of ignorance, replies, “Child, you are in error!  My child, come through to me!” (Which translates, so says one text, to yalta baoth.)


This realization, that something greater than he exists, drove Yaldabaoth mad with envy and jealousy.  Thus does he tell us, in a Demiurgic Verse within Scripture, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

The true God, the Father, has no others of which to be jealous.

Choosing to ignore his mother, the disobedient Demiurge cast her from his realm, but only after he had been tricked into stealing a portion of her Limitless Light:

This portion in hand, he set about creating his own material realm.

He seperated the energy from the matter, the land from the water, the Earth from the Heavens.

He did not truly separate them, but set up the illusion that these things are separate, indeed, that all things are separate from one another.  This is because he was separated from the realms above by the abyss of ignorance, which kept the Limitless Light from knowing that part of itself.

After creating these distinctions, the Demiurge began mirroring the Aeons from above in the form of the ARCHONS.

These Archons, numberless, are ruled by Seven Kings and Twelve Princes—the days of the week and signs of the Zodiac—and mirror the divine Twin Aeons of the Pleroma.

Yaldabaoth and the Archons then set about creating the Garden of Eden, and placed Sophia’s portion of the Limitless Light into the Tree of Gnosis,  just as Sophia knew he would.


Finally, hazily recollecting the image of the Divine Androgynous Christos, Yaldabaoth and the Archons set about creating humankind.  Thus do the Demiurgic Verses tell us, in the plural and not the singular form, that Yaldabaoth and the Archons created mankind as male and female to mirror the Aeonic Twins of the Pleroma.  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

The Demiurge breathed life and a soul into the lifeless body he created, but the body would not stir, as it contained no portion of the Limitless Light.


Meanwhile, Sophia had returned to the Aeons of the Limitless Light and had repented of everything, and a plan had been set in motion.  God the Father sent Aeons into the realms of the Demiurge, where they took the form of the Archons, saying to him, “Bring forth the Light you stole from your Mother and breathe a small portion of it into his face that he might move.”

Saklas did just this, and the man, Adam, arose with a portion of Spirit.

Such was the nature of the Spirit within him that the Demiurge and the Archons became jealous of their own creation and determined to remove the portion of Spirit from his body.  Little did they realize that they were doing so according to the plan of God the Father.

The Archons set Adam over the Garden of Eden, instructing him that he might eat of any of the trees of the Garden, but not the Tree of Gnosis; otherwise, if he ate of it, he would die.

They said this, however, according to the will of God the Father, who knew that if they told him this in such a fashion he would be more likely to eat the fruit.

The Archons then cast Adam into the deep sleep of ignorance and attempt to remove the spirit from his body.  In so doing, they create the female, Eve, the image of Sophia and of Barbelo above her.

When Adam awakens and sees Eve, who contains a portion of the Limitless Light, the Spirit, she lifts her veil and he experiences the gnosis of Holy Sophia, and remembers his true nature as part of the Limitless Light trapped in the realm of Illusions.  This is because they now both contain the spark of the Limitless Light, and recognizing this spark in others grants true wisdom.

Meanwhile, Holy Sophia, Wisdom, appearing as a serpent,

and the Logos, Reason, appearing as an Eagle,

descend into the Tree of Knowledge.  The Holy Sophia represents Barbelo, and the Logos represents the Christos, and thus do we honor both as our Saviours and comforters.  They instruct Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit, knowing that Saklas hid the Portion of the Limitless Light therein.  They did this knowing that by doing so the two would forever contain a portion of the Limitless Light and the Gnosis of who they are, where they came from, where they would go after they die, and that their descendents would recognize these things when awakened to the spark within.

This is why we say, according to This Way, that GNOSIS = AWAKENING (WORD + WISDOM).

Unfortunately, the Materia is too differentiated, too far from the realm of the Limitless Light’s perfection to allow for redemption by the Totality.  When the Archons see what happened, that Adam and Eve knew them for the false gods they are, they become incensed.  Saklas sets off immediately after Adam and Eve, but they hide from him, ashamed to have been servants to a false deity, especially after their gnosis of the Limitless Light within.

Finding them, Saklas and the Archons decide to take a different approach to maintaining control over humanity and keeping them in ignorance.  They build a Prison of Black Iron, the World of Forms, and weave beautiful and appealing illusions within its walls.  The illusions stupify Adam and Eve, who lose sight of their gnosis and perpetuate the race of humanity within the confines of the Black Iron Prison.

That they contain sparks of the Limitless Light, however, allows an entry point for the Christos and Sophia, and has allowed a Secret Underground of awakened individuals to return to the prison from the Realms of the Totality and activate the Divine Seed within each of us, allowing us to achieve gnosis and saving us from the imperfections of the World of Forms.

Throughout history, again and again, the Christos and Sophia have returned to the World of Forms, allowing the Pleroma to expand within its walls.  No matter how many Empires the Archons manage to create, no matter how many times they strengthen the walls of the Black Iron Prison, they cannot keep the Christos and Sophia from returning to us.  They tried to drown the entire world in a great deluge, but God the Father saved the family of Noah, who released Sophia’s gnosis back into the world in the form of a dove.  They established the archetypal Empire of Impelled Control in Rome, but the Logos descended into our saviour Jesus Christ and awakened his disciples to the Limitless Light.  They established the Empire of Total Destruction with the creation of the Atomic Bomb and its detonation in 1945, but the Logos and Sophia manifested months later in the collection of Words of Wisdom in codices discovered at Nag Hammadi.

They continue to create Empire—as said Philip Dick, “The Empire Never Ended”— but Sophia and the Logos continue to teach us how to resist, how to attain gnosis and thus bring about the redemption of the corrupted realms of the Demiurge.



Filed under Gnostic Philosophy, This Way

5 responses to “An Illustrated Gnostic Monomyth

  1. Long time reader, first time commenter, both a relatively orthodox Catholic and a bit of a Gnostic fellow-traveller (if that makes sense).

    I must say, this is the clearest explanation and exposition of the Gnostic creation myth that I’ve ever come across. Your post about the archons led me to re-read the Secret Book of John, and the new perspective was interesting. I had always liked the Gospel of Thomas and the more aphoristic Gnostic texts better, and had tended to look at the Secret Book of John as just–well, freaky. It made a bit more sense on the re-read in light of things I’ve read and learned since the last time (probably about twenty years ago) that I read it, and this post is especially illuminating.

    There are a couple of questions I’d like to ask, though, just to clarify things a bit. First, you speak of Barbelo, the Christos, and the later Aeons as “returning to the Source” in order that they might be observed, and in the process producing new members of the Pleroma. I’m not completely sure I see what you’re getting at there.

    The other two questions are more opinion questions. One, I’ve always thought it ironic that the lowest Aeon, who sets the World of Forms in motion through bearing the Demiurge by her unwise actions is known as Wisdom! Any thoughts on that? Two, to the extent that one thinks of the Demiurge as personal or real–to the extent that we hypostasize him (and I realize that’s a complicated issue in itself)–what ultimately becomes of him? In short, is there an apokatastasis, or is the Archonic realm dissolved?

    Anyway, the posts are fascinating, and food for much thought. Keep up the good work!

    • Jeremy Puma

      Howdy! Thanks for reading– I can definitely appreciate that you’re orthodox Catholic and Gnostic-y. I’m pretty pro-mainstream-religion, as far as Gnostic philosophy goes, which turns off a lot of neognostics, but it is what it is. I took a look at your site, and added it to the links list.

      Thanks also for your kind words re my little monomyth! I should mention, of course, that it’s a pretty oversimplified interpretation based on a number of different myths, so caveat lector.And also, for what it’s worth, I agree wholeheartedly that the Secret Book of John is FREAKY. That’s part of its appeal. 😉 Sometimes I think of it as a 4th Century work of fan fiction and that helps. There’s no way I could ever do justice to its complexity, but it’s such an interesting work that I always come back to it.

      Regarding your question about “returning to the Source,” I have a post lined up that will hopefully explain it a little better in terms of Chaos Theory and iterative functions, coming likely next week. Maybe it will answer your questions, but I think it’ll offer a more in-depth explanation than I can provide in the comments section.

      Re Sophia as Unwise Wisdom, excellent observation! A lot of modern alternative spirituality really glosses over the fact that Sophia is a huge screw-up, instead equating her with some kind of “Goddess” figure, more suitable to the abstractions of Wicca or neopaganism than to the Gnostic understanding. There’s also something to the fact that her title also variably includes “Pistis,” typically mistranslated to mean “Blind Faith” but better interpreted as something like “Good faith” or “constancy.” My personal thought is that she manifests wisdom in a very significant way: she owns up to her error. She realizes her limitations, and acknowledges that she screwed up, and that’s the Wisest thing you can do. It isn’t until she returns with the Logos– Reason– that she becomes salvific. Can’t have one without the other. 🙂

      As to the redemption of the Demiurge, jury’s still out for me on this one. There are a couple of myths in which the Archon Sabaoth realizes his errors and gets glorified in place of Yaldabaoth, but otherwise it does seem as though ol’ Nobodaddy is destined for a Pit of some kind, either dark or fiery. As a mitigated dualist, I do think that there will be an eventual redemption of the World of Forms, but I also think that while we’re stuck here, spirit is spirit and matter is matter and never the twain shall meet. Of course, I could be wrong. Does that make sense?

      • Thanks for the response, Jeremy, and many thanks for the link to my humble blog!

        I became Catholic at twenty-five—twenty-three years ago—and I’ve mostly been content. I have, however, always been interested in theology, and I haven’t always interpreted doctrine in totally “official” ways. Over the last few years, I’ve increasingly begun to think that in several areas, especially theodicy, little-“o” orthodox theology is really deficient and doesn’t adequately address a lot of important things. As you can tell from my blog, I have especially been thinking about this with regard to Original Sin. The orthodox account here, in light of evolution and modern biology, cosmology, and geology, is simply not possible. It just won’t work. Thus, I have been tossing around thoughts, and my recent return to all-too-sporadic blogging has been a partial attempt to work on that problem.

        I’m not completely sure Gnosticism—or Gnostic teachings and scripture—quite solve all the problems either (in this world, nothing we can understand fully does, in all likelihood). Nevertheless, I think there are useful insights to be gained, and that orthodoxy (as traditionally understood) and Gnostic thought can enrich and complement each other. That’s what I’m working on for coming posts (though it might be a bit—my Internet access is a bit sporadic right now). Certainly much of your work has been of help in this endeavor!

        The idea you present of Sophia is interesting—like Socrates’ “I’m only wise because I know I’m not wise.” I like that. The idea of Pistis Sophia as indicating a kind of “good faith” is nice, too. I always wondered about the juxtaposition of those two terms into a single name.

        I tend to be universalistic in temperament and hope, if not dogmatically. To the extent that one can conceptualize Yaldabaoth as a “real person”, a true, sapient being—and I realize that that’s a can of worms in itself—I’d like to believe that he’s ultimately redeemable, if one adopts the Gnostic framework. On the other hand, if one conceptualizes him/it as more like a renegade AI, a cosmic computer program that may be “intelligent” and even malicious, but that is not really a true person (or soul, or whatever you want to call it), then its dissolution would be no more significant than tossing an iPad off a cliff. I guess that would be similar to the idea of the “hylic man”, who is essentially a meat puppet lacking a spark of the light and thus not “really” human. That’s another topic I’d like to see discussed eventually—the three classes of human—but I’ll stop for now so as not to take too much space.

  2. Michael Gregory

    Fantastic post, Jeremy…it pried my sleepy eyes open a little further. And Turmarion’s questions are the ones I ponder constantly! Also, before reading this I would have considered being Orthodox and Gnostically inclined to be mutually exclusive and I am happy to have a wider perspective now.

    My metanarrative is that of a Bodhisattva, so I need to become as wise and compassionate as possible in order to be of service to all beings. It seems to me that as I (we) tumble from existence to existence we need to face “the other” both from with in and with out and that will certainly mean confronting the fabricators of the Black Iron Prison, thus here I am. It seems to me that the longer we remain ignorant of this; the longer we subject ourselves and others to this captivity in the World of Forms (although I do not expressly reject the WofF). I seek to be ‘awake’ a la The Buddha, but ‘being’ a Buddhist is far less important than being a Buddha (and may even be a distraction).

    This is a profoundly lonely place to be…can’t really ask anyone “Hey, what do I do with Lord Archon in the face of my Bodhisattva vow to save all beings?”

    Pistis Sophia – my faith in Wisdom…

    • Jeremy Puma

      Thanks, Michael–

      Yeah, I always figure it’s not my place to tell somebody from a different tradition that their tradition isn’t as good as mine. I think there’s a lot of value to a lot of people in orthodox traditions, and who am I to say it’s no good for somebody else? I’ve also met a lot of self-professed “Gnostics” who are bigger jerks than anybody I’ve met in mainstream traditions. 😉

      There’s a lot of value in the Bodhisattva path– Shantideva’s work in particular is a huge inspiration. My worry when I consider the implications is that I’ll get so worked up about being able to return that I’ll lose sight of whether it’s hugely audacious of me to even think on those terms. All I can do is say *if* I can help others, I’ll definitely try to do so, but I’m just this guy, you know?

      I once composed a “Gnostic’s Vow” that I fall back on when I get those concerns– maybe you’ll dig on it:

      The Boundless Forms cannot be awakened:
      I vow to help awaken them.

      The Infinite Chain of Attainment cannot be escaped:
      I vow to escape it.

      The Limitless Questions cannot be asked:
      I vow to ask all of them.

      The Knowledge of Self and God cannot be attained:
      I vow to attain it.

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