THE HIDDEN PASSION
| "It begins now," he said, his dark eyes flashing, "- the battle between the sons of shadow and the sons of light. We've been granted a short reprieve, to prepare ourselves. But know this: in three days' time I will send you forth in pairs, so the battle may commence in earnest."
The brothers and sisters glanced at one another, fearful of their impending task.
"The Baptist has been seized; his mission will soon be over. But <as he decreases, we will increase!> (Jn 3:30) He prepared the path; we will walk it together. Why did he say 'the Messiah will come - bearing Five Seals'? Because those seals will be given to you - to mark you and protect you. You are the chosen ones; you are the Elect."
He pressed his palms together, staring into his hands as he spoke.
"<The Father brought forth the Five Seals from the fullness of his bosom.> (Gs Egypt 59:1) And gradually, He reveals them to the Son for the benefit of all. <I am the Son who stands in your midst as Christ the Verifier. For I have come to verify each of you, and seal you with the seal of the Father.> (Unt MS) In this way, <I will raise you up, and seal you in the watery light, so that death will no longer have power over you - from this time onward.>" (Ap Jn 31:22)
Andrew turned to John. What had happened to the Nazarene? His joyful countenance had turned to brooding and foreboding.
"You should have died three days ago - perished in the abyss stirred up by Yaltabaoth. I cannot bear the thought that the Archigenetor would have claimed you for himself. You are precious to me, precious as pearls from <the Treasury of the Light.> (Pistis ch 7) Therefore, for your protection and salvation, I will initiate you this night into the preliminary mysteries. We shall not sleep, but spend the whole of the night in preparation."
His voice was low, barely above a whisper.
"Then, with the coming of the light, you will be initiated into the gnosis of the Third Seal."
From afar came the cries of desert predators: hawks and foxes, jackals and hyenas.
"And the last of the Five Seals..?" his mother asked flatly. "What of the fourth and fifth?" She was staring into the fire, which was hissing and crackling from the damp wood.
"Here below, where knowing unfolds gradually, the Father's wisdom comes to me a little at a time. The final two seals have not yet been revealed..."
These words did not sit well with his companions. Peter cast a side-glance at Thomas, whose brow was creased with doubt.
The Nazarenre raised his voice:
"In the Jordan, John revealed the First Seal, which is the baptism in three forms. Through his grace, the Second Seal was confirmed: the anointing with oil which we call the chrism. These two will prepare you for the Third Seal - the visionary ascent we call the resurrection."
Christ gazed at his companions, turning slowly from Simon to Susanna to Matthew.
"Tonight, you will be baptized three times and anointed, so that you may be resurrected. In this way, the power of the first Three Seals will pass into your hands."
Rising, he walked among them, placing a hand on Philip's shoulder, then on Nathanael's.
"You have already received instruction concerning the first and second seal. But you must penetrate deeper into their mysteries before acquiring the third. We have built this fire by the Jordan to ready ourselves for that task."
He poured some water into a cup - water from the free-flowing Jordan - and handed it to Philip. Taking an ember from the fire, he handed it to Nathanael.
"<It is from water and fire that you are made sons of the light.> (Gs Phil 67:2) <And through water and fire, you will be purified. For there is water in the baptism; and there is fire in the chrism.>" (Gs Phil 57:22)
Cradling the sacramental cup and baton, Philip and Nathanael trembled. Something invisible and strange was stirring in the water and the fire.
"<The mysteries," Jesus said, "are revealed through images and their archetypes.> (Gs Phil 84:20) <Everything above is concealed> (Gs Phil 59:14) <- hidden, as if, by a veil.> (Gs Phil 84:23) <Only the things below are revealed.> (Gs Phil 59:14) <But when the veil is rent, all that is hidden will be shown forth.>" (Gs Phil 84:23)
He held out his hands. In the flickering light of the fire, his figure appeared like a transparent spectre.
"<I have come to make the things below like the things above, and unite them - through images.> (Gs Phil 67:30) Once you <enter through the image> (Gs Phil 67:17) you will see the mysteries hidden above."
"Then what lies hidden in the water?" Philip asked. He was gazing into the cup, as if, into the infinite depths of the sky.
"When you go down into the Jordan <you are baptized in the living water,> (Ap Adam 85:24) <the water that flows from above.> (Melch 8:1) The baptismal waters, together with the oil of the chrism, reflect the watery light of the Upper Aeons."
"And the fire?" Nathanael asked. He was mesmerized by the glow of his burning ember.
"<In the chrism is the fire, and in the fire, the light> (Gs Phil 67:5) - that light which shimmers throughout the aeons' waters."
Jesus held up a clay lamp - flat and round, with a small handle on one end and a spout on the other. "The fire in
|the chrism's oil is hidden. Still, it may be made visible." He poured some oil into the lamp and touched an ember to it - the oil burst into flames.
"Of course, the light we see in this fire is not the true light. The fires above give light but <do not burn;> (Zost 48:3) <they are beautiful and bright, whiter> (Gs Phil 67:5) than the fire of the stars. Here below, fire and water do not mix because they are opposites. But above, opposites exist harmoniously: the fire mixes with the water and makes it luminous."
"Then why a watery light?" Matthew asked, scratching at his beard. "Why are the Upper Aeons composed of fire and water?"
"Because these best reflect the Father's unity. Fire, when divided, suffers no loss; it may pass from lamp to lamp, growing in number - while remaining one from the source. And water, like a mighty ocean, may become many droplets - yet how willingly those drops plunge back into the ocean! Like sparks and dew drops, the Father disperses himself into the multitude. But they, returning to him, may unite as one at their source."
He smiled at them and added: "Both fire and water are vehicles of his light. Fire concentrates it and, like a lamp, diffuses it for the benefit of all. Water retains light and, like a mirror, reflects it back to our eyes. The Upper Aeons have this quality, since they receive the Father's light - like a seal or impression - and manifest it as his luminous images."
Concentrating his gaze on Susanna, Mariam and Martha, he said: "In order to impress your image in the Upper Aeons, both the baptism and chrism are necessary. <No one can see himself in a mirror without light. Nor can he see himself in the light without a mirror. The baptism provides the watery mirror; the chrism, the fiery light. For this reason, it is fitting to perform both rites.>" (Gs Phil 69:8)
Philip and Nathanael nodded, having understood this aspect of the mystery completely.
"Through the mystery of these two seals, you come to exist in the Upper Aeons, both in image and in name. I have already explained how the Father sees himself in your image, and names himself through your name. But for you, that luminous reflection becomes the key to the mysteries - it becomes your garment of light."
The sons of Zebedee glanced at the sons of Jonah, remembering when Christ had first made them his disciples. They had seen it then - the glowing raiment...
"Many times you have heard me speak of the body as a garment. That garment is nothing more than a <perishable rag,> (Gs Tru 20:28) <a cloak of darkness,> (Ap Jn 13:32) which clothes your soul in death and corruption. It is <the robe of ignorance, the dark enclosure, the living death. You carry it like a portable tomb, and you are its perceptible corpse.> (CH VII.2) But once your image is impressed in the watery light, it will become your <true garment> (Auth T 32:2) <- the garment of life> (Dial Sav 138:20) which <clothes you in the perfect light!>" (Gs Phil 70:5)
"<How will the garment be brought to us?" Jude asked.
The Lord said, "As you enter the watery light, there are those who will receive you, and others who will provide you> (Dial Sav 138:20) with your raiment - the angels <who immerse, enrobe, enthrone and glorify.> (Tri Prot 45:12) <Micheus, Michar and Mnesinous - they will immerse you in the spring of life; Yammon, Elasso and Amenai - they will invest you with your robe of light; Bariel, Nouthan and Sabenai - they will crown you and enthrone you;
|and Ariom, Elien and Phariel - they will glorify you with the glory of the Father.> (Tri Prot 48:15)
"<Thus you will strip off the garment of ignorance, and put on the shining light. All darkness will dissolve; all ignorance will die.> (Tri Prot 49:28) <You will shed the chaos of the uttermost abyss, and put on the shining light that is true knowledge of the Father.>" (Tri Prot 48:7)
A blissful smile overcame his features.
"Once you are washed three times and anointed, you will enter <the light-place of the Fatherhood,> (Tri Prot 48:29) where angels will <inscribe your name in glory> (Zost 6:7) <and seal your image in the great radiance.>" (Zost 6:7)
The saviour's smile glowed even brighter; his face was bathed with light.
"Yes, in the Fullness of the Father, your name <will be written in glory and your image will be sealed in the light. You will receive your true image> (Zost 5:11) and <put it on> (Tri Tr 128:19) like a robe of light.
"<Whoever has a name and an image," he pursued, "will be raised up - from unknowing to understanding, and from death to life!> (Melch 15:4) <You will receive the luminous seal, partake in the mystery of knowledge, and become a light in Light!> (Tri Prot 49:30) For <you have been baptized in the watery light, you have received its image - that power in you which is set over the darkness, since it contains the light, the whole of the light...>" (Zost 5:11)
The saviour paused, overcome by the glory and beauty of that vision. Some, like Peter and James, felt trepidation, confronted by the awesome nature of the initiation.
| Others, like Andrew and John, felt prepared for the experience - no matter how overwhelming it might be.
"All of this is necessary so that you may live. The garment of light will protect you - for now and for always. Once you are <armed with the armour of light,> (Gs Egypt 67:2) no Archon can harm you. <As long as you dwell in this world, none of them can torment you.>" (Gs Phil 86:7)
Christ looked up and gave them all a pregnant stare.
"<And when you leave this world,> (Gs Phil 86:11) you needn't fear death. For the garment will protect your soul in its ascent. <The Archons cannot see those clothed in the perfect light, nor can they detain them.> (Gs Phil 70:5) <Having gone down into the living water, you have shed the bodily corpse and put on the living man> (Gs Phil 75:21) <- you have donned imperishability, so that life eternal clothes you.>" (Gs Tru 20:28)
"Will we see it then," Peter asked "- the robe of light? Will we see it with our own eyes?"
Jesus looked down at the ground and slowly shook his head. Staring hard at the elder son of Jonah, he rebuked him.
"Peter, Peter... have you already forgotten what I told you? Once you <cast away the bond of flesh that encircles you,> (1Ap Jas 27:3) then you will see <the light that shines greater than the light of day.> (Ap Pt 72:21) But you, my brother and friend, must embrace these things through faith. You will never grasp my teachings without pistis."
<Peter was afraid to reply a second time. He whispered to the one beside him, who was Thomas, "You speak to him this time..."
Thomas answered and said, "Lord, before you we are afraid to say too many words...> (Act Pt 12A 11:1) But tell us of the resurrection, so that we may know and be prepared."
| Now he smiled and said, "Blessed are you, Thomas, for you will be given the gnosis."
Peter, blushing to the roots of his red beard, cast a bitter glance at the apostle beside him.
"The Third Seal contains a mystery equalling the other two. For it is knowledge of the soul's ascent. It is an initiation into the hidden names of all who will greet you - from the Archons below to the angels above."
Then, staring at them with eyes that made them tremble, he added: "Therefore, <do not reveal to anyone that which is hidden, unless it is revealed to you to do so.>" (Melch 14:13)
The disciples greeted these words with an uncomfortable silence.
"I pray that <you, in your minds, will understand all I will reveal to you during this discourse - so that you, my disciples, will be saved from the Archons' persecutions. Hasten to receive my word, and know it with certainty, so that no Archon will triumph against you.>" (1Bk Jeu)
The saviour looked up. Slowly the moon was inching itself to the highest point in the heavens. He had only a few hours more to reveal the mystery of the Third Seal.
"Open your minds! Remain attentive, but at rest. Do not fight against the drowsiness, but seek the mid-point between sleep and waking - which is mindful contemplation. Then you will absorb my words, in that state which we call 'standing at rest'."
The Nazarene drew himself up, inhaled deeply, and said in a calming voice, "Let us pause now and concentrate on mindfulness, so that when you are prepared, we may continue."
One by one, the disciples turned their thoughts inward, seeking the place in the Silence where the Word spoke clearly and truly.
His head bowed, his long matted hair hiding his fine features, John seemed to be lost in delirium. The bearded prophet was whispering to himself - not prayers, but prophecies of his own dark future.
Wordlessly she approached, and pressed her burning brow to his cool forehead. That touch, after the numerous tortures he'd suffered, stung him into cruel awakening.
He gazed at the diaphanous figure before him, the blinding lamp held high in her hand. For a moment, he mistook her for an angel, one of the heavenly consorts who greeted the newly-risen soul. But then, those adoring, child-like features reminded him that he was still on earth, still breathing, still awaiting his final trial.
"John..." Salome murmured, delighting at the sight of her small image in his eyes, "your sufferings are over now. Trust in me - place your fate in my hands, and we'll flee from here."
The Nazarite wanted to fall back, recoil from her advance, but the walls and iron chains held him fast.
She caressed his cheek, drawing in each breath that fell from his chapped white lips.
"I have the keys to free you from these chains, and unlock you from your prison. We can even flee Herod's realm, and find freedom for ourselves... this night!"
John's dark eyes sparkled mysteriously.
"You will, Salome... You'll lift the chains of my fate and free me from my prison. You'll do it all - tonight."
She felt the keen double-edge to his words, but refused to be cut by them.
"I have never loved any man in my life - never, until I embraced you in Jerusalem. At that moment, I knew, I would make you my bridegroom."
She hooked the lantern to the wall. With her face half in shadow, half in light, Salome's beguiling features had the ambiguity of a sphinx.
"Like this?" John asked, the tendons on his neck tightening. "You would make me your bridegroom - here below, in the darkness?"
"No," Salome replied, "<Brides and bridegrooms belong in the Bridal Chamber.> (Gs Phil 82:23) I wish to stand with you in the light."
The prophet's eyes opened wide. He had heard it in her words - light as a whisper, but unmistakeable - the Voice.
"Oh yes... I've dedicated myself to the teachings, and learned their language... I'm not from the Archons and rulers, John. I'm just a child - a virgin who wishes to become a bride."
The anchorite gazed hard at this bewitching apparition - uncertain if she was filled with truth or deception.
"Then why have you come to me tonight?"
"You - who know all futures - you haven't seen your own fate?"
"No - only the fate of others. Yours is like a path in the forest, twisting then forking left or right. Now tell me: what do you want with me?"
She moved her lips close to his... close enough to kiss - then immediately withdrew them.
"- Your consent."
The word hung in the air for a long time.
"You know it yourself, John beloved - each of us has been seeking the other - as their consort. When two halves of the heavenly syzygy recognize each other, they offer their consent - in the form of a kiss."
She caressed the lips she so desired.
"Recognize me," she commanded, "as I recognize you. In the aeons above, we were one - only to become separated in this dark place. 'John' is the male name; 'Salome', the female name. Give me the kiss that would re-unite us." With tears glistening in her eyes, she whispered, "<For you and I were destined for union from the beginning...>" (Soph JC 101:16)
The Nazarite gazed at Salome for a long time. Was she the one destined for him? Like a virgin soul, this daughter of the Herodians stood before him - so unknowing, laying herself open - an innocent child offering herself to him willingly and without fear.
But then, he smelled the sweet fragrance on her neck, and saw the emeralds encircling her throat.
"My bride - my true bride - would stand naked before God, <as a child of truth. Look at the jewels and finery you're wearing, the transitory garments you've put on! Strip yourself of these,> (Dial Sav 143:18) and then you may enter the Bridal Chamber."
Salome lowered her eyes.
"I put these on for you. Your soul is beautifully arrayed, flawless as a precious gem. And I am your soul, John - perfect, young, virgin... But command me to lose these things, and I would in an instant."
"<Why do you think the people searched me out in the wilderness? To see someone dressed in soft clothing like a king? Or - to see a reed shaken by the wind! I've lived by the Nazarite vow, forsaking bread, wine and all worldly goods. Because no one dressed in soft clothing will ever recognize the truth!> (Gs Thom 46:28) <But if you strip away these garments, with neither fear nor shame, and trample them under your feet like a little child> (Gs Thom 39:27) - then you will learn to stand naked before God."
She nodded her head willingly. "Come with me now and we'll flee to Batanea. It's barren and wild, beyond the reach of this kingdom. We'll have no home, but a tent! No soft robes, but stitched pelts against the wind! And our only possessions, we'll carry with us on camels through the desert!"
She pleaded with him, pressing her clenched fists against his chest.
In a low voice he intoned, "<No one knows the truth except the one who has forsaken all the things of this world - having grasped their garment's fringe and renounced the whole place.>" (Test Tr 41:4)
"Your bride, your true counter-image, surrenders those things willingly!" she cried, wanting nothing more than to flee this ostentatious palace and live out her dreams with him.
"The path is not easy," he warned. "It twists and turns, testing you with many ordeals. But in the end, the reward is great. For <wisdom surpasses all gold, all silver, and the most precious of jewels.>" (Act Pt 12 A 10:22)
She tore the emeralds from her throat, trampling them into the straw and mud. "These things mean nothing to me!"
"<To walk that road, you must forsake it all! For many will stalk you along the way: robbers and beasts... If you wear an expensive garment, the robbers will murder you for it. If you carry a loaf of bread, the dogs will stalk you for it. Instead, you must learn to fast daily, from stage to stage. Even if you walk that road, eating meat or vegetables, the lions will devour you for the meat, and the bulls will gore you for the vegetables.>" (Act Pt12A 5:21)
"Believe me when I say to you that I am your soul!" she cried.
|"<I'll renounce it all - the world and everything in it!> (Act Pt 12A 10:13) I give you my word - my vow! Now pronounce the vow that I wish to hear - our marriage vow! Recognize me as your consort - and we'll seal that consent with a kiss!"
Salome was shaking from head to toe, trembling with desire for that one kiss which would make him hers.
But slowly, determinedly, the Nazarite shook his head from side to side.
In a choked voice, he said, "Would you renounce even that one kiss?"
Large tears began to roll down Salome's cheeks. She shook her head. "Would you ask me to renounce life itself?"
"I would ask no less of my soul - to renounce this life, in favour of eternal life."
Salome's dream - of a life in the desert, dwelling peacefully with her beloved prophet - began to vanish and disperse like so much sand in the wind.
"Do not refuse me John - not now, not in this place... You don't know how terrible the consequences will be."
John looked at her with a look that made her shiver. He looked sad - infinitely sad, full of longing and regret.
"I know the consequences - I have heard the Voice that whispers through you..." His throat tightened so hard he could barely breathe.
Salome gazed hard into his sallow eyes. "I came here, prepared - willing to give up everything. The garments, the jewels - they were nothing: gambits to be risked without loss. Even food and wine, I would do without! But I knew, even before coming here, that I would not leave without you..."
She swept the tears from her cheeks and inhaled deeply.
|"No woman can take a man by force. Even you, chained to this wall, stripped bear, almost naked - I still couldn't command. Yes, I could caress you, attempt to arouse you... but I wouldn't have what I want! I wouldn't have the kiss that is given freely and willingly - in consent!"
"As long as we wear these fleshly garments - it will not be given. As long as the soul wears seven soul-garments - inconstancy, greed, lust and pride; wrath, injustice and deception (CH I:24) - the perfect marriage cannot be celebrated."
"But how then..?" Salome pleaded. "By what rite of passion can we two be made one?"
"<The passions of the soul are transitory;> (Auth T 31:24) the desires of the flesh, fleeting. But you - if you <strip off the flesh> (Gs Phil 66:16) and shed your seven soul-garments - you will enter the Bridal Chamber, you will experience eternal union."
Salome shook her head. In the lamplight, her face took on a terrible, hysterical expression.
"Before I entered here, I had prepared myself for our sacred marriage - the one, the only rite that would bring us together. Because it contains a mystery greater than you or I..."
Her look was dark, almost deranged.
"...The sacrifice. I learned its ancient meaning on a journey far from here. The Tyreans preserve the ancient ways that our people have forgotten." She gave him a look full of pity. "Man cannot live without consuming life, my beloved. You may try to renounce it - eating no meat or vegetables, even scourging your flesh. But that is the way for you, a man steeped in the spirit, to sacrifice to his God.
"A woman is different: she feels all the good things of the earth like life growing in her womb. She makes her sacrifice to the Goddess - offering all these things on the altar, killing them,
|consuming them, in the full knowledge that their life will be replenished. In the womb of the Great Goddess, they will come to life once more."
"Idolater! That is not the perfect sacrifice! The ancient ways were flawed." Then, knowing that his words would turn her against him forever, he said: "They are marred by <the defect of femaleness.>" (Eugnos 85:7)
Salome stared at him as if the knives in his eyes had pierced her breast.
With the voice of the ancient prophets, John thundered: "All life in this world comes from the female - from the goddess Sophia and her unforgiven fault! She gave birth to the darkness, to desire, to the Great Demon who rules us all through passion."
"The Goddess gave us life!"
"Perishable life! The corruptible life of the flesh!"
"No! Eternal life, which cycles round in her womb - forever and without cease! That is why we sacrifice to her - in knowing recognition of that mystery!"
"<Sophia is female from female,> (1Ap Jas 35:10) without the redeeming quality of the male. Achamoth was begotten by Barbelo - the Lower Wisdom came from the Upper. And <she brought forth the world by mistake> (Gs Phil 75:3) <because she acted without the consent of her consort. Without the approval of her maleness, her desire acquired a bastardized form, becoming the Archigenetor of the abyss!>" (Ap Jn 9:31)
The veins on his neck were bulging.
"That is why the Son of glory has come into the world. He is male <- three times male!> (Allog 58:12) <He will divide the light from darkness; the corruptible from incorruptible - and the male from female!> (Test Tr 40:21) Through the three parousias, he will bring about the end, and restore us to the beginning. Through his sacrifice, he will correct Sophia's fault,
|three baptisms, <secret names and signs will be entrusted to you - first of all, for the renunciation of the lords of the Lower Aeons, and secondly, for the invocation of the angels who dwell in the Upper Light.> (Gs Egypt 63:4)
"But the names which I give you shall be spoken by you once only. The renunciation and invocation are rites of naming - and the hidden names, once spoken, grant existence to what is named. Indeed, <all that exists, exists through its name.>" (Tri Tr 61:12)
Philip and Nathanael gazed inward. Each was trying to comprehend the mysteries within the mysteries, like so many layers of knowing.
The saviour, meanwhile, was staring into the invisible heavens, remembering the mystery that had manifest itself before the foundation of the world.
"<The unproclaimable Parent> (Gs Egypt 41:4) exists in the great Silence. <He is the Parent whose name cannot be uttered.> (Gs Egypt 40:16) But when He named himself with the names of the Mother and the Father, these two came to exist - as extensions of the One, as aeons expanding outward in circles, but remaining one in their centre. Each name in the Upper Aeons, spoken with the pneuma's breath, reflects the One back to itself - in name.
"All the aeons possess these hidden names. Even you, through the baptism and chrism, come to possess such a name: it is your hidden spiritual name, <a name that the Father himself pronounces> (Gs Tru 21:27) when you are sealed in the watery light and <inscribed in the Book of the living.> (Gs Tru 21:25) Thus you are made one of the Elect, one of the living who truly exists."
Looking into the blazing fire, Jesus said: "Even the twelve Archons have their names <- names given to them by their Originator, to extend his darkening power. But the Archons
|also have a hidden name, devised by the one above the heavens - by the One who exists alone, in the Silence. This name signifies their powerlessness and destruction. Thus, the Archons have two names> (Ap Jn 12:26 + Mars 7:24) <- a hidden name, and a worldly name.> (Gs Phil 56:3) But these two, <when spoken together, create a single name.>" (Norea 28:30)
He gave a meaningful glance to Arsinoe, who nodded her tacit understanding.
"Tonight, you will be baptized three times. The first time you enter the watery light, you will pronounce the Archons' names in such a way as to renounce them. For these names grant you command over the forces of evil. But you must be careful, for you can also conjure them forth - by speaking them into existence. If you abuse that power, and seek mastery over the demons for your own ends, they will soon make you their slaves."
In the stillness of the night, they heard the wind whispering in the trees - an eerie, ominous wind. The stars above their heads glared down at them with cold anger and discontent.
"In that same spirit, the names of the angels in the Upper Aeons are spoken as an invocation - to give them glory and praise. When you enter the watery light in the second baptism, <you will confess faith in those names, and bear witness to them, giving voice to your belief... that they exist! Through this confession, you gain your salvation.> (Tri Tr 127:25)
"The renunciation and invocation, intoned before the first and second baptisms, become a prelude to the third, which is <the baptism in the fullest sense. For it is a complete immersion into God. You will rise up through the aeons with the firm hope of attaining angelic glory. If, in your confession, you have truly believed in the angels' existence, then you will return to them, and receive their perfection. The Father who gives
|union-in-knowledge will be with you, and you with him, in one knowing.>" (Tri Tr 128:5)
Suddenly, the saviour grew silent. He looked to his right, where the three Mary's were reclining - Mary-Arsinoe in the lap of Mary Magdalene, with Mary his mother embracing them both.
For a long time he looked at them, while the night grew ever-more silent.
"Is it possible to utter a mystery?" he said, barely above a whisper.
Without a word, Arsinoe rose from her place and embraced her brother, giving him a ritual kiss.
She assumed her place beside the saviour - looking at all of them with infinitely mysterious eyes. And then, to their great wonderment the ever-silent sister opened her mouth - and spoke.
"<Among those born of women," she said, "from Adam all the way down to John the Baptist, none has been greater than John.> (Gs Thom 41:6) That is why, on this night, <the head of prophecy will be cut off with John.>" (Ap Jas 6:28)
She gave them all a forlorn look that froze the blood in their veins.
"John spoke with the eternal Voice. And each evening, he instructed his disciples concerning <the Voice - hidden, dwelling within, coming from the immeasurable Silence.> (Tri Prot 35:32) <That voice, he said, carries the breath> (Tri Prot 45:27) - which is knowledge of <the Silence surrounding us all.>" (Tri Prot 35:34)
As Arsinoe spoke, the Voice behind her words mesmerized them all with its sweet and resonant timbres. In every phrase, with the rise and fall of her words, it seemed to whisper hidden hymns of praise.
"John prophesied to us, saying <the Voice would dip
|below the Archons' language, and speak its mystery to the chosen few.> (Tri Prot 41:26) Now, we know - you are those few..."
The disciples shifted uneasily in their places.
Arsinoe looked at Jesus and nodded. "<One must indeed utter a mystery,> (Gs Phil 71:3) my brother, so John's prophecy may be fulfilled..."
From her slender and delicate throat, the Voice resounded with infinite depth.
"Know this. Each of you possesses a secret treasure - the pearl, the particle of divine light planted in you. But your unseen spirit is also unheard. It is the pneuma - the divine breath in you that speaks with the Voice of the Silence. Not even the Archons possess it. Through the pneuma, you may speak the hidden, unutterable names which the Archons themselves cannot pronounce."
She paused a moment, listening to the silence around her. The forest was deathly still. Only the calm rippling of the river could be heard.
Then she said, "<Every name which came into existence through the Father is an unutterable name, since it comes to exist within his Silence.> (Unt MS) These hidden names, we say, <are spoken 'in the tongue of the Father'.> (1Bk Jeu) But the worldly names, which came into being through Yaltabaoth, <are spoken 'with a tongue of flesh'.> (Unt MS) The body utters them and the body hears them.
"That is why there are names within names. The Archons possess both a hidden and a worldly name, making a single name once these two are spoken together. Your pneuma gives you the power to pronounce their hidden name and render them powerless..."
Susanna felt a cold chill run down her spine.
"How mysterious are the workings of the almighty Father!
|For <He sent the Word into the world with this purpose: to reveal the hidden names, and condemn the twelve Archons to their deaths.>" (Orig Wld 125:14)
Arsinoe looked at her brother.
"He is <the revelation and the path,> (Tri Tr 127:8) <for he enlightens each one of us, and shows us the way> (Gs Tru 18:19) from the world below to the world above - by teaching us the names of all the aeons."
The owls in the trees grew uneasy. From the distance came more cries of jackals and hyenas.
"And herein lies the greatest part of the mystery..."
Arsinoe paused, collecting her thoughts and listening to the Voice inside of her.
"In each of these names, vowels and consonants are combined. The consonants are pronounced with the tongue of flesh, but the vowels... are sounded... with the tongue of the Father. In time, you will learn how to do this. Tonight, I will speak them for you."
Mariam, Martha and Susanna nodded slowly, fully understanding the gravity of the task that lay before them.
"The consonants you may form quite easily, since you do so everyday; the consonants give voice to the Archons' worldly names. But hidden in each vowel sequence is the secret name, which you must learn to say with the silent Voice. Only that Voice will command them..."
All of the disciples were now listening intently, hanging on the edge of every word.
"You must learn to release the pneuma - the sacred breath - through the vowels. Listen as I pronounce the simple vowels, which are the most expressive in power..."
Arsinoe concentrated herself in all of her being - inhaling deeply and then slowly releasing a melodic succession of tones which reverberated deeply.
| "<aaa, eee, eeeh, iii, ooo, uuu, OOOh!>" (Mars 28:21)
The effect on the listeners was breath-taking. They felt themselves drawn up, leaving the earth behind them and, for those few short moments, enclosed in a sphere resonating with absolute fullness. Within a second, it was over.
"<From these simple vowels are made the diphthongs,> (Mars 28:28) which possess lesser or greater power, depending on how they are combined. The most common ones sound like this..."
Again, she pitched the voice in her throat and emitted a series of vowel combinations - each growing deeper, richer and more complex in its resonance.
"<ai, au, ei, eu... auei, eueu, oiou... aueieu!>" (Mars 28:5)
For a few seconds, these sounds transported them into a series of different spheres, each resonating with its own distinct harmony. The effect was disorienting, but spell-binding.
"Finally come the consonants. When a hidden name is woven into a worldly name, <the consonants fall under the vowels' command, and must submit to them. Thus, in the nomenclature of the angels and Archons,> (Mars 29:20) there is always a space for the silent Voice to exercise its power.
"All the names will be revealed to you by my brother. Over time, I will teach you how to sound them. And once you have learned these things, you will also teach them to others - but secretly, and only to those who have been properly initiated into the baptism and chrism. Otherwise, <guard them in silence, and keep them hidden within.>" (1Ap Jas 36:13)
The hardness in her voice left no doubt as to the gravity of this injunction.
The Nazarene nodded to Arsinoe with deep respect.
Then he said: "After death, each of us must undergo the soul's ascent. <Many will not complete that passage, and be thrown down.> (NH Ascl 76:21) But there are those few, whether by faith or by fore-knowledge, who will survive, and enter into the Pleroma of the Father."
He looked at Peter and Thomas, giving them each a stare replete with mystery.
"The seals are given to you - as power. For knowledge is power. The first and second seals contain the powers of washing and anointing. The Third Seal contains the power of naming, which will become manifest in the preliminary and concluding rites.
"During the preliminary rites, you will renounce the demons and invoke the angels. But there is also a concluding rite - which is the vision of the resurrection."
Upon hearing these words, Peter grew unaccountably frightened. His hair tingled on the back of his neck, and he shivered uncontrollably.
"The Third Seal is called the resurrection because, in the concluding rite, you will speak the names and see the images in such a way as to experience the resurrection. Indeed, the Third Seal is an immersion into vision - where you will see the soul's ascent, and receive the image of your soul's resurrection.
He gazed at the flickering faces of his apostles through the heat and smoke of the fire.
"<There is the awaited resurrection, and an image of that resurrection. To be fully initiated, you must rise up and enter through the image of the resurrection.> (Gs Phil 67:9) It is a prolonged glance into the after-death experience - not at all easy to bear, and fearful to the extreme."
| Matthew and James grew nervous. They had felt a certain trepidation before, but now they were overcome with panic and despair. Still, the two of them held their shivering limbs and listened intently.
"<If you do not receive the resurrection while you live, then when you die, you will receive nothing.> (Gs Phil 73:1) <Therefore, while we are still in this world, it is necessary for us to acquire the resurrection. In that way, when death strips us of our flesh, we will still know the way to our rest.> (Gs Phil 66:16) Without eyes to see or mouths to speak, your soul will still know how to thread its way through the Archons' labyrinth."
Susanna gazed at the saviour, frightened but confident that he was, indeed, 'the way for the wayfarer'.
"And you must undergo this visionary ordeal without fear. But the promise of reward is great, since the vision passes from resurrection to redemption."
As he gazed into the fire, his face glowed with its flickering light.
"In the end, <the vision of resurrection becomes a revelation and transformation - a transition into newness called 'the final redemption'. For imperishability descends upon the perishable; the light flows down upon the darkness, swallowing it up; and the Pleroma fills up the deficiency. All these images and symbols become present and actual in the resurrection.> (Tr Res 48:34) Though frightful to the extreme, in the end it becomes a vision of bliss."
"So the first two seals prepare us for the third?" Philip asked. "The washing and anointing prepare us for the resurrection and redemption?"
"Yes. From the Jordan we get the living water of the baptism; and from the baptism, our redemption.
|In that same spirit, <from the olive tree we get the oil of the chrism; and from the chrism, our resurrection.> (Gs Phil 73:17)
"It is good and proper that you learn these things. <For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son will anoint his apostles, so that they may anoint others.> (Gs Phil 74:16) <He who has been redeemed may, in turn, redeem others.> (Gs Phil 71:2) <He who has been anointed, has received the resurrection,> (Gs Phil 74:16) and he may, in turn, resurrect others."
Philip and Nathanael slowly nodded. But John said, "Before you, I have become confused. In what order will all this occur?"
The saviour smiled at his beloved disciple and replied: "Indeed, it is not easy to impart the mysteries through words alone. But listen and try to understand. The Three Seals are so composed as to become mysteries within mysteries. Together, they make up <the Fire Baptism,> (1Bk Jeu) which is <the baptism in the fullest sense.> (Tri Tr 127:25)
"Why is the Third Seal included with the baptism and chrism? Because it is like an immersion into vision and an anointing with images. Thus, <'the baptism in the fullest sense' includes the resurrection and redemption> (Gs Phil 69:25) that are particular to the Third Seal."
The saviour smiled at his beloved apostle and said:
"In general, the sequence of the rites is quite simple: renuncia-tion and the first baptism, then invocation and the second baptism, followed by the chrism's anointing and the third baptism. Last comes the resurrection and redemption."
John nodded his comprehension and Jesus continued:
"Understanding the sequence of the Three Seals is more complicated. During the first part of the rite, all of us together will renounce the Archons and you will be washed with water - that is the first baptism. Then together, we will invoke
|the angels, and you will be washed a second time - that is the second baptism. All of this is to prepare you for the third and final baptism - which is a total immersion in the Jordan.
"First, you will be anointed with oil, in the rite of the chrism, and then you will be plunged into the river's inlet. The sensation is sudden and overwhelming. From the Lower to the Upper Aeons, your soul will be transported immediately, and you will enter the Father's watery light. Your baptismal name will be spoken, and you will be granted your garment of light. That vision will break upon you like a flashing illumination.
"Thus, through the washing and anointing - you will have acquired the powers of the first Two Seals.
"The Third Seal's power lies in its naming. It was present in the preparatory renunciation and invocation. It will also be present in the concluding rite, where we will speak and conjure forth a vision of the soul's resurrection and redemption. It is, as I said, a terrifying vision. And after your third baptism, we will lead you through your soul's celestial journey.
"This vision will become a gradual, aeon-by-aeon ascent from the lower to the upper, from the darkness of the Deficiency to the Fullness of the light. It will break upon you slowly, unfolding like a nightmare that ends in a final revelation."
The saviour eyed each his apostles. Though his face was filled with bliss, they trembled at his final words.
"But through that experience, you will finally have lost your fear of the Archons, even your fear of death - for you will know what lies beyond the sufferings of this world."
| "It is true indeed. But the ways of their people are mysterious to us - at once, seductive and demanding! No woman bestows her gifts without first demanding some small token, some small offering from the one who will receive it."
Feeling the full, dizzying effects of the Cypriot wine, he cried out, "Demand it from me and I will grant it without reserve! Only do as you promised! Dance for me Salome!"
Salome gazed at him like a cat, awaiting the exact moment to pounce.
"The wine makes you bold and reckless, my liege. What token will you offer me first?"
"Take my ring, with its signet of a palm branch. On any document, you may impress it once, taking whatever you desire - up to half my kingdom!"
"It is not your kingdom I desire, great Tetrarch, nor your power. But grant me absolute mastery over one of your subjects, and you will have what you want..."
"One of my subjects?" he queried, gazing at her blankly. "Over Chuza? Is that it? You want his stewardship, to command my armies? Ha hah! Or is it..." He leaned in close. "Is it Herodias you want? To replace her - your own mother?"
Salome smirked and shook her head.
"Neither Herodias nor Chuza. This subject of yours is neither courtier nor freeman. He is lower than a slave."
Herod thought hard, unable to imagine the feint that was concealed in her request.
She leaned in close and caressed his arm. "Do not fear my selfish whim. It's for me alone - a playful fancy. No harm will come to you, I promise. But offer me this one small token of your affection."
Baffled, Herod nodded. "Mastery over one subject - neither courtier nor freeman?"
"I swear it on your throne! Now swear it to me! And I will dance before you - down to the last veil. I will stand before
|you, fully exposed, and hand you that veil - as one token in exchange for the other!"
At last, Herod laughed. "Your request is granted. I swear it - swear it on my throne!"
Salome stood up, and the long robe covering her slender figure fell to the floor. She was swathed in seven diaphanous veils.
At once, the minstrels stopped playing and the acrobats dispersed.
With anklets tinkling, her bare feet padded down the seven steps of the dais. The palace floor, a massive mosaic, was framed by meanders with a labyrinth laid in the middle. Standing at its centre, Salome cried out:
"I promised two gifts to our great king. Both will bring you entertainment and amusement! The first is rarer than all the gold, incense and furs that lie at his feet. I present you with a most special guest. The king's jubilee would not be complete without the Prophet of the Five Seals!"
A great hush fell over the court as John the Baptist was brought out - still bound in chains, but freshly washed and perfumed. The desert ascetic wore his legendary robe of rough camel-hide. But he was wreathed and garlanded like a bridegroom. His combed hair and trimmed beard could still not hide the fiery eyes that glared at them all with uncompromising spite. The most poisonous of his stares he directed at Salome.
"Insolent vipers!" John cried. "Ignorant beasts! Your rich perfume and soft clothing reek worse than all the whores of Jerusalem!"
Herod stood up, unsure if Salome was trying to mock or amuse him. But, when all the courtiers began clapping and cheering, he smiled uneasily.
The guests jostled among themselves, trying to catch a glimpse of the prophet. They had heard so many legends and rumours. Now, here he was - presented for their amusement.
Bowing his head, Christ heartfully intoned the opening oratory for the first baptism.
"<Hear me, my Father - the father of all Fatherhoods, infinite Light! Make my disciples worthy to receive the Baptism of Fire. Release them from their sins and purify them of their transgressions. Yea, hear us, Father, as we renounce the Archons through their two-fold names, inscribed in the aeons, and pronounced once only.>" (1Bk Jeu)
For a long time, they remained silent.
Then Arsinoe <stretched out her arms and folded her fingers together, making a circle before her body.> (Gs Egypt 67:6) Holding her hands in prayer thus, she opened wide her mouth.
The sister of the saviour pronounced the name of the first Archon. Each vowel, sung in a minor key, rose and fell with a strangely dissonant tone.
"Beeeeliiias!" she canted.
The saviour cried out:
"We renounce thee, Belias, Archon of the first aeon! Your name is anathema. Your darkness has no power!"
The disciples intoned the curse exactly as Christ had instructed.
"Meeelceiiiiir-Aaaadoneeeiiiin!" Arsinoe sang, her voice falling into a frightening basso.
Again, the saviour intoned the renunciation, and the disciples responded with the exact same words.
From Armoupieel and Yobel to Abrisene, they abjured the Archons' names, execrating each of them.
Having repudiated the five Archons of the abyss, Christ gazed into the heavens.
"Aaaaabeel!" Arsinoe trilled, and her voice grew more sonorous and restrained.
They renounced the lowest of the seven heavenly Archons, the fire-faced authority who guards the gateway of the moon.
And so it continued through <Cain, Adonaiou and Yabel, then Kalila-Oumbri, Harmas and Athoth.> (Ap Jn 10:23) When Arsinoe intoned the final name, she was tottering and delirious, on the verge of collapse from exhaustion. But the Virgin and Nazarene united with her, giving her strength.
At last they all cried "Amen!"
While the Virgin took Arsinoe in her arms, Jesus raised the cup containing the Jordan's cleansing water. One by one, he poured a drop of the living water on the heads of his disciples. And each who received that drop felt its absolution. Their vision grew clear, their ears were opened, and they heard the Jordan's flow like a thunderous wave of renewal.
From that moment onward, their gaze was cleansed of want and their ears could hear no envy. No hidden voice could whisper its evil intimations or temptations. Awakened from drunken slumber, they felt themselves freed of the Archons' insidious bonds. Like Adam before the Fall, they stood: immaculate, untainted, flawless.
A second time, Jesus joined hands with Arsinoe and the Virgin. Standing perfectly at rest, the apostles joyfully linked arms in the circle.
The saviour re-opened his mouth:
"Hear us, Father of unity, for we are your community, <the incorruptible, spiritual church which gives you praise, singing and giving glory with one voice, with one accord, with a mouth which does not rest!> (Gs Egypt 55:2) <Yea, hear us, Father, as we invoke your imperishable names which reside in the Treasury of Light.>" (1Bk Jeu)
"Miiicheeeuuus!" Arsinoe sang with all the strength and spirit her voice could muster.
| "<Holy are you, Holy are you, Holy are you, immersing angel, Micheus, who exists for ever and ever, Amen!>" (Melch 16:16) Jesus intoned.
As the disciples repeated this prayer, each of them spoke from the spirit within - concentrating their faith and confessing the angel's existence with steadfast, unwavering conviction.
Rising ever higher, their voices of praise ascended the aeons, from the three immersing angels to those who enrobed, enthroned and glorified. (Tri Prot 48:15) And just before the second baptism, they gave praise to the Four Lights, Eleleth, Daveithai, Oriel and Armozel. (Ap Jn 7:30)
Again, the Nazarene poured the Jordan's lustration over their inclined brows. And with that water came a momentary vision of all the aeons. They saw the angels whom they had named. In the watery light, Micheus, Michar and Mnesinous stood ready to receive them and immerse them in the spring of life; Yammon, Elasso and Amenai were holding their robes of glory, ready to invest them with undying radiance. (Tri Prot 48:15)
"The third and final baptism," Jesus pronounced, "is preceded by the chrism."
He looked into the distance, as if remembering.
"The Last Prophet indicated the way, when he baptized us in the Jordan. But he immersed us in the water, knowing full well that one would come after him <who would baptize with the holy spirit and with fire...>" (Mt 3:11)
"John," he said to the son of Zebedee, "<bring me the grape vines for the Baptism of Fire.>" (1Bk Jeu)
Flustered, young John found a sprig of grape vines near the fire, and ceremoniously handed them over.
Carefully, the Nazarene dipped these in a cup containing blessed incense. Then, tossing the drenched branch into the
|fire, he <offered up the strangely aromatic balm consisting of juniper berries, myrrh, frankincense, mastic, nard, cassia flowers and turpentine, all mixed in oil of myrrh.> (1Bk Jeu)
The smoke wafted up, a perfumed but pungent odour that entranced them all with its sweetness.
He took up another cup, containing the holy oil of the chrism. It contained the ancient recipe of <cinnamon and myrrh, ground in cassia and aromatic cane, then pressed in olive oil.> (Exod 30:22) As one final ingredient, he added a distillation of <the dog's head,> (1Bk Jeu) a rare herb with healing properties.
Standing before his beloved disciple, Jesus dipped his fingers and applied the ointment onto John's forehead, then over his ears, under his nose, and finally <onto his tongue.> (1Bk Jeu) All of this was performed in reverent silence.
Fifteen times he stood before his disciples and anointed each of them.
Then Arsinoe and the Virgin led them individually to the banks of the small pool in the Jordan. The saviour stood in the middle of the inlet on a rock, half-submerged in the cool flowing current. The water was dark but inviting.
John was the first to descend. The son of Zebedee stood before his beloved master, trembling with fear and ardour.
"John, son of Zebedee - so you have been called, for it is your worldly name," Jesus said with a smile. "But I have been sent <to baptize you in the Living Water, and pronounce your hidden name. It will become a name among the living names inscribed in the water and the light.>" (Melch 16:11 + Gr Pow 36:15)
He placed his hands over his disciple's brow.
"<This is the holy baptism of those who know the eternal knowledge - born of the word written in the Living Water.> (Ap Adam 85:22) Come, Bonarges, son of the Thunder <- I am inviting you into the exalted, perfect Light!>" (Tri Prot 45:12)
Though Salome was deeply immersed in her oceanic motion, she opened her eyes just wide enough to glance at John.
"Like a reed shaken by the wind..." she cried for his ears only.
And indeed, he saw it. She was moving like a willow, blown by invisible winds. The music carried distant desert sands, and she was alternately buffeted and caressed by their sweet and stinging nettles.
He gazed, his stare unbroken, at this undulating spectre while a voice from within - Salome's voice - whispered to him, 'Behold: this is your soul!'
The waifish figure turned slowly on one foot, her hands rising and falling like waves. Then one of the veils was pinched between thumb and forefinger. As her figure turned faster, the hand rose and the unravelling veil was lifted away.
With a thousand tiny steps she circled the hall, the gossamer kerchief fluttering behind her. Then she leaned over and, with a broad arc of one arm, laid it on the pile of treasures.
Salome turned to John and whispered: "One kiss, and you will save us both..."
A cold sweat broke out on John's brow.
Salome waited. Though the music played on, Salome waited for the sign that would grant her his consent.
John bowed his head in refusal.
Indignantly, Salome turned - but whispered before she left him, "Your love is fickle, my beloved - inconstant as the moon..!"
Immediately, she leaped and then landed, drawing a large circle in the air with her hair.
That cyclic motion, so poetically inscribed, seemed to speak to John with all the vagaries of a prophecy.
It showed, like a mysterious sign, the monthly cycle of the moon - alternating between light and darkness, mutable but regular in its ever-changing aspects.
|know them, just as they will be made known to them.> (Gs Egypt 65:25)
"Therefore, do not fear the vision of the soul's ascent. Stare into the fire and see their terrible faces - fanged, venomous, poised to devour you. Though the Archons will stalk you, do not be afraid! <For your fear gives them power! And if you fear the bestial gate-keeper, he will surely engulf you! Indeed, there is not one among them who will spare you or show you mercy...>" (Dial Sav 122:1)
Jude and James began trembling uncontrollably. But an inner voice told them to stifle their anxiety.
"<But you needn't fear them, since you have mastered every name and sign while still on earth.> (Dial Sav 122:1) <Through the anointing, you may trample the snakes underfoot, and tread on the heads of the scorpions!> (Anoint 40:11) You have <renounced the Archons,> (Melch 10:28) so <all the powers of the Devil will fall before you.> (Anoint 40:11) <Your enemies can in no way convict you.> (Melch 13:11) <Though the crossing place is fearful - you, with a single mind, will pass it by!>" (Dial Sav 123:23)
The flame of their campfire seemed to slow in its flickering. The interval between each movement lengthened, until the glowing tongues undulated like fiery serpents. Strange shapes moved in and out of the furnace.
The saviour raised his voice, pitching it with confidence and encouragement.
"Remember! Your garment of light will protect you! <Not one of the Archons can seize you or drag you down, because you wear the holy garment, which neither darkness can touch nor fire burn. You needn't shut your eyes nor avert your gaze...>" (Gr Pow 46:6)
A loud hissing escaped from the fire, and a log exploded in a shower of sparks. In a flash, they saw Yaltabaoth's face,
|surrounded by twelve auras of flames. It was horrendous, this unocculted view unto the source of all evil.
Slowly, the face dissolved, but its flaming halo expanded, like twelve silhouettes in a spectrum of colours - growing stronger, more intense, blinding them momentarily.
"Do not turn away! See in that hellish glow the Archons' many aeons - seven in the heavens and five over the abyss!"
In the deepening spectral glow they saw a black serpent biting its tail. Suddenly, the viper released its tail and lashed out at them, its five mouths spitting poison and hissing noxious fumes. This was no illusion. The scaly serpent had five heads, which turned and twisted round each other.
One was black, earthen and misshapen, like volcanic rock. Its eyes were fearfully hollow; its mouth a gaping emptiness. Another was white, airy and transparent, like a crystalline skull. The third was aqueous and azure blue, vomiting a torrent of ill-smelling gall. The fourth blazed like a fiery dragon, spitting blinding flames into their eyes. And the last, the fifth, kept moving in and out of their vision, ethereal, fleeting, invisible.
"Behold the Archons of the abyss!" the Nazarene cried. "Dwelling lower than the lunar sphere, they control the four elements and the ether."
In awe the apostles saw the hidden forces animating earth, water, air and fire.
"Do not avert your gaze! Only the lowest form of man need fear them - he who is wholly flesh, with neither soul nor spirit - the man of the hylic race. For these five Archons have mastery over the material body, which itself is an admixture of the four elements in the ether. They strip away the flesh, burn it and consume it. For these gate-keepers know: none will rise bodily in the resurrection. <Nor should you, therefore, wish for a carnal resurrection...>" (Test Tr 36:29)
The second sheath was lifted away, and tossed upon the treasures at the foot of Herod's throne.
Her small chest heaving, fighting for air, Salome stood before John a second time - and waited.
He gazed, spell-bound, at this miraculous image of his soul. Knowing her desire, his body pulled at the restraining chains like an animal awaiting slaughter. One kiss would release them both. But, with a supreme effort, he tumbled forward. Pressing his head to the floor, he manifest his stubborn refusal.
"Give yourself to me - in love!" she cried. "If two lovers possess each other, that isn't greed - it's love freely given!"
She turned and walked away. John watched as his soul turned and walked away. How much it had cost him - that surrender. But the soul-garment of 'greed' had been cast off, and his soul's slender image was passing through its gateway into the next aeon.
The third dance commenced, a sudden explosion of unrequited desire. She caressed her swelling breasts, gyrated her hips and thrust her hands repeatedly between her glistening thighs. She simulated every sexual act, performed every rite of passion. It was, in its lewd and obscene gestures, a wild and orgiastic celebration of lust.
She ripped the third garment from her body as if she were stripping away her own flesh. The pain and ecstasy on her face was manifest for all to see.
Herod slid off his throne and fell to his knees, his mouth open, his eyes in a daze.
But John, crouching like a wounded animal, barely managed to lift his head.
Salome fell to the floor. Thrusting the third garment away from her, she moved her head close to John's.
Breathless, she begged him, "Now! Plant your lips on my lips and I'll be yours forever!"
| But John, burying his head in his cloak, murmured, "Not now, not ever..."
Stiffening, Salome growled through clenched teeth, "Love is lust! It's two bodies thrust against each other - flesh against flesh - clawing to be united! It is a moment of passion that is never repeated and never perishes!"
Thrusting herself to her feet, she marched away, her head held high. Relieved, John felt his soul pass under the archway of lust, and enter the fourth aeon.
The next dance began with a serpentine motion, her head moving from side to side and arms undulating like an ancient goddess of the snakes. Everywhere she turned, she opened wide her eyes and hypnotized anyone who dared to meet her commanding stare. Mesmerized by the Gorgon's gaze, they all turned to stone.
Haughtily, she drew off the fourth veil, exposing the small pert breasts that rose, sharp and erect, from her chest. Her glistening skin reflected the flickering torches of the hall, which danced in flames all along her body.
When this time, she dropped the kerchief on the pile, she barely stooped to recognize the anchorite curled up at her feet.
"Love is pride," she said, "and knows no mercy."
Barely hesitating, without a moment's waiting, she walked away.
But John watched, defeated, as his soul departed. Without pride, without ambition, forsaking all worldly glory, it passed out of this aeon and into the next.
The sharp and jagged movements of the next dance manifest a violence almost incongruent with Salome's girlish figure. But she seethed and raged, releasing a stream of scorn, a storm of vengeance and anger. Her hair whipping and flying, her hands clutched to her head, she flung herself across the floor. The frightened courtiers stepped back, fearing they would become the victims of her unchecked fury.
But the object of her scorn lay heaped upon the floor, trembling at the demon that had gained possession of his soul.
She tore another veil from her body and shredded it into pieces. Wrapping up the fragments round her fist, she threw them hard at the quivering figure before the dais.
Falling to her knees, she grasped John's head by the hair and pulled his face towards hers.
"Love is anger - beloved! It is the seething fury of desire denied - lashing out in blind vengeance, punishing the one who scorned you, who bled you... who refused you even the slightest kiss..!"
Heaving a sigh of relief, John watched as his soul, divested of its wrath, turned away.
As the flutes and lyres improvised new melodies over the complex rhythms, Salome's body responded immediately to those strange conjurings. She conveyed, through her variegated movements, the unusual sensation of balance suddenly tumbling into disorienting confusion.
At times, whirling like a dervish, she would manifest a perfect centripetal motion, spinning no less than seven times on a single arched sole. But, as if blown by invisible winds, that centre would be upset by a debilitating force. It was the most artfully executed of her dances, its choreography spontaneous and alive.
When she emerged from the last of seven spirals, a slender shift had wound itself round her upheld wrist.
Slowly, she surrendered this with the others. Moving closer to John, she bowed her head and whispered, "Love is unjust, my beloved! But love also forgives. Will you cling to injustice? Will you refuse, even now, to forgive Woman for her fault? Or with a kiss, will you make it right? It is not too late... Be merciful, just and fair. Embrace me."
She gazed at him with beseeching eyes, seeking the minutest sign of compassion.
| "Aaaaabeel!" Arsinoe cried, and her screeching decree warded off its vicious attack. For the command contained the Archon's hidden name.
From the midst of the fire, it glared at them furiously, barely restrained by the incantation.
The saviour's voice grew low and ominous.
"This is the first Archon that awaits your soul in the heavenly ascent. This is Abel with the devouring fire-face. But you, with your knowledge of its hidden name, may pass it by!
"Listen - and listen well - as Arsinoe utters the protective spell."
Breathing in deeply, Arsinoe intoned:
"<When they take my soul to the place of Abel,
the great and powerful Archon with the face of fire,
who waits upon the way, and carries off souls by theft;
when they take my soul to that place,> (Fr Bruce)
<I will seal myself with the protective seal,
pronouncing its name once only:
'Fall back Archon of the first aeon,
For I challenge you
Aaaaabeel!>" (2Bk Jeu)
The pronunciation of that name had an utterly eerie effect. The beast grew in size to monstrous proportions. Then, cursing aloud, uttering an unearthly, ear-rending scream, it opened wide its mouth.
And, as the maddening vision expanded, they were sucked through its open maw. All of them felt the first of their seven soul-garments rent and stripped away. It was like a sudden liberation from one of the invisible bonds imprisoning their blind and captive souls. Momentarily plunged into utter darkness, they made the harrowing passage into the next Archon's realm.
The entire hall became entranced by this beguiling spectre. John gazed, spell-bound, at her transporting illusion. At times she appeared ethereal and transparent. At times her flesh, in the throes of desire, seemed like the most palpable and compelling of forms. Which one hid the naked truth - the flesh or the veil?
When Salome finally stood, in utter nakedness, with the veil in her hand - these two choices appeared insoluble.
Crying uncontrollably, Salome wrapped the veil round her hand and knelt before John.
"Love is no illusion, beloved bridegroom. All of this is real. I am yours to possess, in body and soul. Behold the naked truth. If you renounce me now, then you will have sacrificed us both!"
With one hand naked, the other bearing the veil, she cupped her palms round his face. "Kiss me now, beloved consort, or renounce me completely."
The tears in John's eyes, mixing with the torch-light, bathed Salome's face in a radiant aura. The voices and visions had led him this far - to this moment of decision. And then, the path had divided, and he had seen two futures, equally clear. In one he embraced Salome; in the other, he renounced her. Only one led to their union.
Where did the sacred marriage take place - here, on earth, or in heaven? Did one reflect the other? How did God unite with the Goddess? How would the Son, the Bridegroom, unite with his Bride? The mystery was beyond him.
The only way he knew, the only path that had opened before him - was renunciation.
"Salome beloved, you are my true bride. But our marriage is the surrender of one to the other, in sacrifice..."
Salome gazed at him in horror and wonder.
"No, my husband," she whispered. "Ours is the sacrifice... of a man and woman to each other - in love."
Seven times her bare feet kissed the seven steps of the dais, until she stood naked before the king. Surrendering the last veil to him, she spoke loudly for all to hear.
| The fire before their eyes began to hiss and twist, as if a huge abominable monster were struggling in the blasting furnace of its womb.
A terrible wind made the mighty cedars and oaks above them bow their heavy heads. A strange light glowed in the heavens as insects buzzed madly through the air. The night birds screeched in terror.
And suddenly, from the fire, the huge serpent rose up. Opening wide its leonine mouth, it cried like a bastardized child newly-born - screaming, howling, blaspheming with a thousand inscrutable curses. Its fiery eyes radiated with evil. Entwined in its flaming mane, twelve lesser serpents opened wide their bestial mouths and spewed forth streams of profanities.
Above the deafening malediction, Arsinoe screamed a single high-pitched note. This expanded harmonically as she aspirated the sacred vowels over the earthly consonants. Making him her instrument, sounding the blessed pneuma through Yaltabaoth's name, Arsinoe commanded him.
The coiling hydra expanded its hood, disclosing an array of arcane symbols on its scales. Venom dripped from its open mouth, and it gazed hypnotically at Arsinoe. The serpent was poised to strike.
Fearlessly, Arsinoe stood up and approached the fiery apparition. Its noxious fumes assaulted her nostrils and the terrible heat, like a blazing furnace, singed the tips of her hair.
But, concentrating all her emotions on the final incantation, she cried:
"Fall back - Archon of the Final Aeon!
For I challenge you:
Y - AAA - LT - AAA - B - AAAOOO - TH..!"
Like a huge ball of fire, the apparition exploded, blinding them with a light brighter than the sun.
All the disciples had the distinct impression of passing through the sun, as if, through a doorway in the heavens. At the twelfth aeon, the seven passions of their souls were burnt away, just as surely as the body had been consumed after the fifth aeon. They were freed of inconstancy, greed and lust; pride, wrath and injustice. And strangest of all, they were freed of deception. (CH 1:24)
With eyes newly opened, they saw with undying clarity how a thousand demons had kept them in constant blindness, beguiling them with a myriad of appearances - hungering for fresh meat and intoxicating brews, greedy for rich possessions and all the pleasures of the flesh - whose denial had angered them, and whose attainment had made them proud.
Unseeing and in darkness, they had fought with their fellow man - competed with him in envy, enslaved him through labour or imprisoned him through injustice. All the while, unknown to them, they were joined in unity - a brother to that enemy which, in truth, was their own dark reflection. This multiplicity was an illusion, for all were one.
With this knowledge, they passed beyond the last of the Lower Aeons and into the place called 'the Middle'. It glowed with an unusual light, for this realm comprised the curtain between light and shadow. Halfway between the Upper and Lower Aeons, they stood in the eighth heaven, the interstitial realm of Wisdom's repentance.
"As the mother of Yaltabaoth," Christ intoned, "Sophia created this realm when she repented for her fault. And after death, you too will come to exist here, awaiting the final Restitution, when your spirits will finally divest themselves of their repentant souls - and enter the Pleroma."
The saviour stood up, spread his arms, and cried: "Behold, the aeons of the upper light!"
Surrendering their souls, the disciples rose ever higher in their minds. In their collective vision, they beheld a fountain of clear flowing light. It surged upward and outward in a
|crystalline spray of incandescent light, then cascaded through the aeons in a spectral array of translucent colours.
They did not stand apart from the vision, but became it, like droplets of light in a crystalline ocean. As the aeons' fire and liquid fused, its luminous waters bathed them in a multitude of phosphorescent hues. The heavenly stream poured over them and through them - aglow with knowing and pulsing with life. They existed here, in image and in name, as part of the manifold angels surrounding the Godhead.
Each apostle, in his own unique manner, became one of the twelve aeons of the uppermost heavens. Though they swam through the light on the wings of awareness, each transported itself in a singular way: Peter was the Grace-filled Armozel, and Andrew, the After-thought Oriel. James was Daveithai, the Understanding angel, and John, the Perfect Eleleth. Together, they shimmered as Four Lights in the heights, each accompanied by two lesser lights, making twelve in all.
Like a mosaic comprised of flawless crystals, their glittering gems combined into God's glowing image. Each of them shone in rainbow shades, like fragments of Phoenician glass in a sun-stained rosace - and all of them transparent to the same luminous source.
This vision expanded, and they were struck with holy wonder. They saw the source of life like a visionary tree: the translucent fruits on its golden boughs dripping with God's life-giving sap.
Again, the vision transformed, and the source of life became a celestial flower - a lotus, lily or rose, with syllables stained on its pollen-filled petals. On the uppermost lid, three sacred signs were inscribed: truth, grace and form. On the lid to the left: memory, afterthought, and perception. On the lid to the right: idea, understanding and love. And on the last of the petals: peace, perfection and wisdom. Though separate, each scented lid spiralled to the same aromatic centre, overflowing with perfume and sweet-smelling nectar.
|All were forms of knowing, and all found their knowing in the one Mind that was God.
Time passed without measure and space grew limitless. Beyond birth, beyond death, they stood at rest in a realm where movement and stillness combined into a timeless dance of eternal joy.
Linked arm in arm, they spun like unseen planets round an invisible sun. Turning in circles, this cosmos expanded into a celestial city glistening with light: its four glass walls and twelve-gated towers the outward sign of God's hidden kingdom. Here was the heavenly Jerusalem, the true archetype shaped in the divine architect's mind.
Passing from image to abstraction, the light exploded into a network of jewels where each luminous nexus reflected the node that glowed at the centre. Like ruby, emerald and amethyst gems, their angelic bodies glowed with rich inner radiance. And yet, like gold, silver and polished stones, their crystalline forms also reflected each other's light.
In interlacing patterns of incredible complexity, they manifest the geometric perfection of God's infinite matrix. A myriad of shapes - pentagons, triangles and squares - combined into shining polyhedra, increasingly complex, one within the next, until all were inscribed in a vibrant, twelve-sided spheroid. It was the One's divine latticework, endlessly expanding yet flawlessly unified.
Enchanted by this beatific vision, entranced by its diamantine perfection, still they heard the distant timbre of Arsinoe's angelic voice.
Though she spoke <with a tongue of flesh,> (Unt MS) they heard her speaking <with the tongue of the Father> (1Bk Jeu) as, in ecstasy, she cried:
"We call upon you, we invoke you:
<Father of all, upright Nous,
the Mind dwelling silent in the heights!
And Ennoia of the light, ineffable voice,
The Thought speaking the mind of the Father!
And you, the living, untouchable Logos,
the Word speaking two names that are one.>" (Norea 27:11)