THE SEVEN SERMONS TO THE DEAD
WRITTEN BY BASILIDES IN ALEXANDRIA, THE CITY WHERE THE EAST TOUCHES
Transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung.
"The Seven Sermons to the Dead is a mysterious, little known
or understood work of C. G. Jung’s, which was privately
printed in German, without copyright or date, sometime
between 1920 and 1925, and distributed to a select group of
friends. Stephan A. Hoeller translated it from the original,
calling it a Gnostic document and also claiming that Jung
himself was a modern Gnostic".
"The question is: Was Jung really a Gnostic? Certainly he
admired Gnostic thought and his works are liberally
sprinkled with references to them. But he never called
himself a Gnostic; on the other hand he never identified
with any philosophical or religious stream but his own
"Today, humanity’s greatest
need is the attainment of wholeness which comes to the
soul in the form of Gnosis. Religious fanaticism, moral
fervor, political ideologies – none are solutions,
rather are they dangers to the world and to the
individual. As long as many, if not the majority of us,
expect all problems to be solved outside of ourselves,
they will be beset by “inhumanity upon inhumanity,
holocaust upon holocaust”. The predicament we need to
resolve is one of a-gnosis – a lack of intimate,
personal, experiential knowledge of our authentic
- taken from a book review of Stephan A.
“The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead” by
Frank Thomas Smith
The Dead came back from Jerusalem, where they
found not what they sought. They prayed me let them in and besought
my word, and thus i began my teaching. Harken: I begin with
nothingness. Nothingness is the same as fullness. In infinity full
is no better than empty. Nothingness is both empty and full. As well
might ye say anything else of nothingness, as for instance, white is
it, or black, or again, it is not, or it is. A thing that is
infinite and eternal hath no qualities, since it hath all qualities.
This nothingness or fullness we name the
both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinite
possess no qualities. In it no being is, for he then would be
distinct from the pleroma, and would possess qualities which would
distinguish him as something distinct from the pleroma. In the
pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is quite fruitless to
think about the pleroma, for this would mean self-dissolution.
Creatura is not in the pleroma, but in itself. The pleroma is
both beginning and end of the created beings. It pervadeth them, as
the light of the sun everywhere pervadeth the air. Although the
pleroma prevadeth altogether, yet hath created being no share
thereof, just as wholly transparent body becometh neither light nor
dark through the light nor dark through the light which pervadeth
it. We are, however , the pleroma itself, for we are a part of the
eternal and the infinite. But we have no share thereof, as we are
from the pleroma infinitely removed; not spiritually or temporally,
but essentially, since we are distinguished from the pleroma in our
essence as creatura, which is confined within time and space.
Yet because we are parts of the pleroma, the
pleroma is also in us. Even in the smallest point is the pleroma
endless, eternal, and entire, since small and great are qualities
which are contained in it. It is that nothingness which is
everywhere whole and continuous. Only figuratively, therefore, do I
speak of created being as part of the pleroma. Because, actually,
the pleroma is nowhere divided, since it is nothingness. We are also
the whole pleroma, because, figuratively, the pleroma is the
smallest point (assumed only, not existing) in us and the boundless
firmanent about us. But wherefore, then, do we speak of the pleroma
at all, since it is thus everything and nothing? I speak of it to
make a beginning somewhere, and also to free you from the delusion
that somewhere, either without or within, there standeth something
fixed, or in some way established, from the beginning. Every
so-called fixed and certain thing is only relative. That alone is
fixed and certain which is subject to change. What is changeable,
however, is creature. Therefore is it the one thing which is fixed
and certain because it hath qualities: or as even a quality itself.
The question ariseth: How did creatura originate?
Created beings came to pass, not creatura: since created being is
the very quality of the pleroma, as much as non-creation which is
the eternal death. In all times and places is creation, in all times
and places is death. The pleroma hath all, distinctiveness and
non-distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is creatura.It is distinct.
Distinctivness is its essence, and therefore it distinguisheth.
Wherefore also he distinguished
qualities of the pleroma which are not. He distinguisheth them out
of his own nature. Therefore he must speak of qualities of the
pleroma which are not.
What use, say ye, to speak of it? Saidst thou not
thyself, there is no profit in thinking upon the pleroma? That said
I unto you, to free you from the delusion that we are able to think
about the pleroma. When we distinguish qualities of the pleroma, we
are speaking from the ground of our own distinctiveness and
concerning our own distinctiveness. But we have said nothing
concerning the pleroma. Concerning our own distinctiveness, however,
it is needfull to speak, whereby we may distinguish ourselves
enough. Our very nature is distinctiveness. If we are not true to
this nature we do not distinguish ourselves enough. Therefore must
distinctions of qualities.
What is the harm, ye ask, in not distingusihing
oneself? If we do not distinguish, we get beyond our own nature,
away from creatura. We fall into indistinctiveness, which is the
other quality of the pleroma. We fall into the pleroma itself and
cease to be creatures. We are given over to dissolution in
nothingness. This is the death of the creature. Therefore we die in
such measure as we do not distinguish. Hence the natural striving of
the creature goeth towards distinctiveness, fighteth against
primeval, perilous sameness. This is called the PRINCIPIUM
INDIVIDUATIONIS. This principle is the essence of the creature.
From this you can see why indistictiveness and non-distinction are a
great danger for the creature. We must, therefore, distinguish the
qualities of the pleroma. The qualities are PAIRS OF OPPOSITES,
and the ineffective.
Fullness and Emptiness.
Living and Dead.
Difference and Sameness.
Light and Darkness.
The Hot and the Cold.
Force and Matter.
Time and Space.
Good and Evil.
Beauty and Ugliness.
The One and the Many.
The pairs of opposities are qualities of the
pleroma which are not, because each balanceth each. As we are the
pleroma itself, we also have all these qualities in us. Because the
very ground of our nature is distinctiveness, which meaneth...
1. These qualities are
distinct and seperate in us one from the other; therefore they
are not balanced and void, but are effective. Thus are the
victims of the pairs of opposites. The pleroma is rent in us.
2. The qualities belong
to the pleroma, and only in the name and sign of distinctiveness can
and must we possess and live them. We must distinguish ourselves
from qualities. In the pleroma they are balanced and void; in us
not. Being distinguished from them delivereth us.
When we strive after the good or the beautiful, we thereby forget
our own nature, which is disinctiveness, and we are delivered over
to the qualities of the pleroma, which are pairs of opposites. We
labor to attain the good and the beautiful, yet at the same time we
also lay hold of the evil and the ugly, since in the pleroma these
are one with the good and the beautiful. When, however, we remain
true to our own nature, which is distinctiveness, we distinguish
ourselves from the good and the beautiful,therefore, at the same
time, from the evil and ugly. And thus we fall not into the pleroma,
namely, into nothingness and dissolution. Thou sayest, ye object,
that difference and sameness are also qualities of the pleroma. How
would it be, then, if we strive after difference? Are we, in so
doing, not true to our own nature? And must we none the less be
given over to the sameness when we strive after difference? Ye must
not forget that the pleroma hath no qualities. We create them
through thinking. If, therefore, ye strive after difference or
sameness, or any qualities whatsoever, ye pursue thought which flow
our of the pleroma: thoughts, namely, concerning non-existing
qualities of the pleroma. Inasmuch as ye run after these thoughts,
ye fall again into the pleroma, and reach difference and sameness at
the same time. Not your thhinking, but your being, is
Therefore not after difference, ye think it, must ye strive; but
after YOUR OWN BEING. At bottom, therefore, there is only
one striving, namely, the striving after your own being. If ye had
this striving ye would not need to know anything about the pleroma
and its qualities, and yet would ye come to your right goal by
virtue of your own being. Since, however, thought estrangeth from
being, that knowledge must I trach you wherewith ye may be able to
hold your thought in leash.
In the night the dead stood along the wall and cried: We would have
knowledge of god.Where is god? Is god dead? God is not dead. Now, as ever,
he liveth. God is creatura, for he is something definite, and therefore
distinct from the pleroma. God is quality of the pleroma, and everything I
said of creatura also is true concerning him. He is distinguished, however,
from created beings through this, that he is more indefinite and
indeterminable than they. He is less distinct than created beings, since the
ground of his being is effective fullness. Only in so far as he is definite
and distinct is he creatura, and in like measure is he the manifestation of
the effective fullness
of the pleroma.
Everthing which we do not distinguish falleth into the pleroma and is
made void by its opposite. If, therefore, we do noy distinguish god,
effective fullness is for us extinguished. Moreover god is the pleroma
itself, as likewise each smallest point in the created and uncreated is
pleroma itself. Effective void is the nature of the devil. God and decil are
the first manifestations of nothingness, which we call the pleroma. It is
indifferent whether the pleroma is or is not, since in everything it is
balanced and void. Not so creatura. In so far as god and devil are creatura
they do not extinguish each other, but stand one against the other as
effective opposites. We need no proof of their existence. It is enough that
we must always be speaking of them. Even if both
were not, creatura, of its own essential distinctiveness, would forever
distinguish them anew out of the pleroma.
Everything that discrimination taketh out of the pleroma is a pair of
opposites. To god, therefore, always belongeth the devil. This
inseparability is as close and, as your own life hath made you
see, as indissoluble as the pleroma itself. Thus it is that both stand very
close to the pleroma, in which all opposites are extinguished and joined.
God and devil are distinguished by the qualities of fullness and
emptiness, generation and destruction. EFFECTIVENESS is common to
both. Effectiveness joineth them. Effectiveness, therefore, standeth above
both; is a god above god, since in its effect it uniteth fullness and
emptiness. This is a god whom ye knew not, for mankind forgot it. We name it
by its name ABRAXAS. It is more indefinite still than god and
devil. That god may be distinguished from it, we name god HELIOS or
sun. Abraxas is effect. Nothing standeth opposed to it but the ineffective;
hence its effective natyre freely unfoldeth itself. The ineffective is not,
therefore resisteth not. Abraxas standeth above the sun and above the devil.
It is improbable probability, unreal reality. Had the pleroma a being,
Abraxas would be its manifestation. It is the effective itself, nor any
particular effect, but effect in general.
It is unreal reality,
because it hath no definite effect.
It is also creatura, because it is distinct from the pleroma.
The sun hath a definite effect, and so hath the devil.
Wherefore do they appear to us more effective than indefinite
Abraxas. It is force, duration, change.
The dead now raised a great tumult, for they were Christians.
Like mists arising from a marsh, the dead came near and cried: Speak
further unto us concerning the supreme god. Hard to know is the deity of
Abraxas. Its power is the greatest, because man perceiveth it not. From the
sun he draweth the summum bonum; from the devil the infimum
malum: but from Abraxas LIFE, altogether indefinite, the
mother of good and evil.
Smaller and weaker life seemeth to be than the
wherefore is it also hard to conceive that Abraxas transcendeth even the sun
in power, who is himself the radient source of all the force of life.
Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge
of the void, the belittling and dismembering devil. The power of Abraxas is
twofold; but ye see it not, because for your eyes the warring opposites of
this power are extinguished.
What the god-sun speaketh is life.
What the devil speaketh is death.
But Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death
at the same time.
Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the
same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible. It is splendid
as the lion in the instant he striketh down his victim. It is beautiful as a
day in spring. It is the great Pan himself and also the small one. It is
Priapos. It is the monster of the under-world, a thousand-armed polyp,
coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy. It is the hermaphrodite of the
earliest beginning. It is the lord of the toads and frogs, which live in the
water and gets up on the land, whose chorus ascendeth at noon and at
midnight. It is abundance that seeketh union with emptiness.
It is holy begetting.
It is love and love`s murder.
It is the saint and his betrayer.
It is the brightest light of day and the darkest night of madness.
To look upon it, is blindness.
To know it, is sickness.
To worship it, is death.
To fear it, is wisdom.
To resist it not, is redemption.
God dwelleth behind the sun, the devil behind the night. What god
bringeth forth out of the light of the devil sucketh into the night. But
Abraxas is the world, its becoming and its passing- Upon every gift that
cometh from the god-sun the devil layeth his curse.
Everything that ye entreat from the god-sun begetteth a deed from the
devil. Everything that ye create with the god-sun giveth effective power to
the devil. That is terrible Abraxas. It is the mightiest creature, and in it
the creature is afraid of itself. It is the manifest opposition to the
pleroma and its nothingness.
It is the son`s horror of the mother.
It is the mother`s love for the son.
It is the delight of the earth and the cruelty of the heavens.
Before its countenance man becometh like stone.
Before it there is no question and no reply.
It is the life of creatura.
It is the operation of distinctiveness.
It is the love of man.
It is the speech of man.
It is the appearance and the shadow of man.
It is illusory reality.
Now the dead howled and raged, for they were unperfected.
The dead filled the place murmuring and said; Tell us of gods and devils,
The god-sun is the highest good, the devil its opposite. Thus have ye two
gods. But there are many high and good things and many great evils. Among
these are two god-devils; the one is the Burning One , the other the
Growing One. The burning one
is EROS, who hath the form of flame. Flame giveth light because it
consumeth. The growing one is the TREE OF LIFE.. It buddeth, as in
growing it heapeth up living stuff. Eros flameth up and dieth. But the tree
of life groweth with slow and constant increase through unmeasured time.
Good and evil are united in the flame. Good and evil are united in the
increase of the tree. In their divinity stand life and love opposed.
Innumerable as the host of the stars is the number of gods and devils. Each
star is a god, and each space that a star filleth is a devil. But the
empty-fullness of the whole is the pleroma. The operation of the whole is
Abraxas, to whom only the ineffective standeth opposed.
Four is the number of the principal gods, as four is the number of the
One is the beginning, the god-sun. Two is Eros; for he bindeth twain
together and outspreadeth himself in brightness.
Three is the Tree of Life, for it filleth space with bodily forms. Four
is the devil, for he openeth all that is closed.
All that is formed of
bodily nature doth he dissolve; he is the destroyer in
whom everything is brought to nothing.
For me, to whom knowledge hath been given of the multiplicity and
diversity of the good, it is well. But woe unto you, who replace these
incompatible many by a single god. For in so doing ye beget the torment
which is bred from not understanding, and ye mutilate the creature whose
nature and aim is distinctiveness. How can ye be true to your own nature
when ye try to change the many into one? What ye do unto the gods is done
likewise unto you. Ye all become equal and thus is your nature maimed.
Equalities shall prevail not for god, but only for the sake of man. For
the gods are many, whilst men are few. The gods are mighty and can endure
their manifoldness. For like the stars they abide in solitude, parted one
from the other by immense distances. Therefore they dwell together and need
communion, that they may bear their separateness. For redemtion`s sake I
teach you the rejected truth, for the sake of which I was rejected.
The multiplicity of the gods correspondeth to the multiplicity of man.
Numberless gods await the human state. Numberless gods have been men. Man
shareth in nature of the gods. He cometh from the gods and goeth unto god.
Thus, just as it serveth not to reflect upon the plerome, it availeth not to
worship the multiplicity of the gods. Least of all availeth it to worship
the first god, the effective abundance and the summum bonum.. By
our prayer we can add to it nothing, and from it nothing take; because the
effective void swalloweth all. The bright gods form the celestial world. It
is manifold and infinitely spreading and increasing. The god-sun is the
supreme lord of the world. The dark gods form the earth-world. They are
simple and infinitely diminishing and declining. The devil is the
earth-world`s lowest lord, the moon-spirit, satellite of the earth, smaller,
colder, and more dead than the earth. There is no difference between the
might of the celestial gods and those of the earth. The celestial gods
magnify, the earth-gods diminish. Measurelesss is the movement of both.
The dead mocked and cried: Teach us, fool, of the Church and the holy
Communion. The world of the gods is made manifest in spirituality and in
sexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly in
sexuality. Spirituality conceiveth and embraceth. It is womanlike and
therefore we call it MATER COELESTIS, the celestial mother.
Sexuality engendereth and createth. It is manlike, and therefore we call it
PHALLOS, the earthly father. The sexuality of man is more of the
earth, the sexuality of woman is more of the spirit. The spirituality of man
is more of heaven, it goeth to the greater. The spirituality of woman is
more of the earth, it goeth to the smaller. Lying and devilish is the
spirituality of the man which goeth to the smaller. Lying and devilish is
the spirituality of the woman which goeth to the greater. Each must go its
own place. Man and woman become devils one to the other when they divide not
their spiritual ways, for the nature of the creatura is distinctiveness. The
sexuality of man hath an earthward course, the sexuality of woman a
spiritual. Man and woman becomes devils one to the other if they distinguish
not their sexuality. Man shall know of the smaller, woman the greater. Man
shall distinguish himself both from spirituality and sexuality. He shall
spirituality Mother, and set her between heaven and earth. He shall call
sexuality Phallos, annd set him between himself and earth. For the Mother
and the Phallos are super-human daemons which reveal the world of the gods.
They are for us more effective than the gods, because they are closely akin
to our own nature. Should ye not distinguish yourselves from sexuality and
from spirituality, and not regard them as of a nature borh above you and
beyond, then are ye delivered over to them as qualities of the pleroma.
Spirituality and sexuality are not your qualities, not things ye possess and
contain. But they possess and contain you; for they are powerfull daemons,
manifestations of the gods, and are, therefore, things which reach beyond
you, existing in themselves. No man hath a spirituality unto himself, or a
sexuality unto himself. But he standeth under the law of Spirituality and of
sexuality. No man, therefore, escapeth these daemons. Ye shall look upn them
as daemons, and as a common task and danger, a common burdon which life hath
laid upon you. Thus is life for you also a common task and danger, as are
the gods, and first of all terrible Abraxas. Man is weak, therefore is
communion indispensable. If your communion be not under the sign of the
Mother, then is it under the sign of the Phallos. No communion is suffering
and sickness. Communion in everything is dismemberment and dissolution.
Distinctiveness leadeth to singleness. Singleness is opposed to communion.
But because of man`s weakneess over against the gods and daemons and their
invincible law is communion needful, not for man`s sake, but because of the
gods.The gods force you to communion. As much as they force you, so much is
the communion needed, more is evil. In communion let every man submit to the
others, that communion be maintained, for ye need it. In Singleness the one
man shall be superior to the others, that every man may come to himself and
avoid slavery. In communion there shall be continence. In Singleness there
shall be prodigality. Communion is depth. Singleness is height. Right
measure in communion purifieth and preserveth. Right measure in Singleness
purifieth and increaseth. Communion giveth us warmth, Singleness giveth us
The daemons of sexuality approacheth our soul as a serpent. It is half
human and appeareth as thought-desire. The daemon of spirituality descendeth
into our soul as the white bird. It is half human and appeareth as
desire-thought. The Serpent is an earthly soul, half daemonic, a spirit, and
akin to the spirits of the dead. Thus too, like these, she swarmeth around
in the things of earth, making us either fear them or pricking us with
intemperate desires. The Serpent hath a nature like unto woman. She seeketh
company of the dead who are held by the spell of the earth, they who found
not the way beyond that leadeth to singleness. The Serpent is a whore. She
wantoneth with the devil and with evil spirits; a mischievous tyrant and
tormentor, ever seducing to evilest company. The White Bird is a
half-celestial soul of man. He bideth with the Mother, from time to time
descending.The bird hath a nature like unto man, and is effective thought.
He is chaste and solitary, a messenger of the Mother. He flieth high above
earth. He commandeth singleness. He bringeth knowledge from the distant ones
who went before and are perfected. He beareth our word above to the Mother.
She intercedeth, she warneth, but against the gods she hath no power. She is
a vessel of the sun. The serpent goeth below and with her cunning she lameth
the phallic daemon, or else goadeth him on. She yieldeth up the too crafty
toughts of the earthy one, those thoughts which creep through every hole and
cleave to all things with desirousness. The Serpent, doubtless, willeth it
not, yet she must be of use to us. She fleeth our grasp , thus showing us
the way, which with our human wits we could not find.
With disdainful glance the dead spake: Cease this talk of gods and
daemons and souls. At this hath long been known to us.
Yet when night was come the dead again approached with lamentable mien
and said: There is yet one matter we forgot to mention. Teach us about man.
Man is a gateway, through which from the outer world of gods, daemons, and
souls ye pass into the inner world; out of the greater into the smaller
world. Small and transitory is man. Already is he behind you, and once again
ye find yourselves in endless space, in the smaller of innermost infinity.
At immeasurable distance standeth one single Star in the zenith. This is the
one god of this one man. This is his world, his pleroma, his divinity. In
this world is man Abraxas, the creator and destroyer of his one world. This
Star is the god and the goal of man. This is his one guiding god. In him
goeth man to his rest. Toward him goeth the long journey of the soul after
death. In him shineth forth as light all that man bringeth back from the
greater world. To this one god man shall pray. Prayer increaseth the light
of the Star. It casteth a bridge over death. It prepareth life for the
smaller world and assuageth the hopleless desires of the greater. When the
greater world waxeth cold, burneth the Star. Between man and his one god
there standeth nothing, so long as man can turn away his eyes from the
flaming spectacle of Abraxas. Man here, god there. Weakness and nothingness
here, there eternally creative power. Here nothing but darkness and chilling
moisture. There Wholly Sun.
Whereupon the dead were silent and ascended like the smoke above the
herdman`s fire, who through the night kept watch over his flock.
ANAGRAMMA: GAHINNEVERAHTUNIN ZEHGESSURKLACH ZUNNUS.
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