Tag Archives: Gnostic

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica acquires works by René Guénon, including periodical “La Gnose”

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica has acquired “an almost complete run of a periodical edited by Guénon, La Gnose (1909-1912)”

The BPH recently managed to acquire some fifteen works by René Guénon to add to its collection of works by this French occultist. Among these works, which were written in the years 1909-1947, is an almost complete run of a periodical edited by Guénon, La Gnose (1909-1912). Guénon also published his first work in La Gnose. The Western Esotericism collecting area now holds some 50 titles by Guénon.


René Guénon (* Blois 1886 – † Cairo 1951) started out as a follower of Gérard Encausse (better known under his pseudonym Papus), the foremost figure of the French occultist movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Guénon attended lectures at Papus’ ‘Ecole hermétique’ (Hermetic School), and also joined a variety of occult organisations in which Papus was actively involved, such as the ‘Ordre Martiniste’ (a gnostic movement inspiring its members to achieve an inner transformation). In 1908 he turned away from Papus and attached himself to the ‘Église gnostique’ (Gnostic Church) which had been founded in 1890 by Jules-Benoît Doinel after a spiritist séance in the home of Lady Caithness, herself the founder of the Société Théosophique d’Orient et d’Occident, a theosophical society independent of though inspired by Madame Blavatsky.

For a short bio of Rene Guénon, and to read the full article, see here:  http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/recent-acquisitions-2/


Who am I? – All the World’s a Stage and All the Men and Women merely Players by Jaq White

All the World’s a Stage and All the Men and Women merely Players – Which part are you playing? – by Jaq White

One of the questions many of us ask ourselves at some point in our lives is, “Who am I?”

Throughout life, we take on many roles, each one relating to whichever situation we find ourselves in at any moment ; son/daughter, student, teacher, wife, husband, mother, father, financial advisor, scientist, fitness instructor, footballer – of course the list is endless. These roles may not even be “official”; how often do you hear people commenting on their home life with expressions of how they feel like a nurse, or a hotel owner (if you have teenagers!) or a dustman, odd-job man, cleaner, cook, taxi driver etc? If we look closely, we are each playing many roles throughout our day. If we could imagine ourselves in the relevant outfit, or uniform or costume for each character and role we play throughout the day, imagine how many costume changes you have to go through in 24 hours.

Add to this how often we also adopt roles for ourselves in order to “give a good impression”. This has also been referred to as “putting on a mask”. We may want to be seen as generous, kind, caring, strong, charitable, fun-loving etc. yet at times feel quite the opposite, though will go out of our way to give the impression of what we believe we should be. We put on the masks.

At the end of each day, you may have put on quite a few costumes and masks, but have you remembered to take them off?  If we don’t take them off, we start to convince ourselves that this is who we really are. “I am a banker” “I am a policeman” “I am a mother”. We start to identify with a particular role, and pile the costumes and masks on top of each other, until we forget who is underneath all of the disguises. Even when we try to unmask ourselves, to try and remember who we are, we have become so attached to some of the masks and outfits that we are convinced they are really “me”. What we are forgetting, is why we put them on in the first place. When did we put on that “brave face”? What about the warrior mask? The little girl lost mask? Why do we think we have to play the Fool? We each have our own, and some are more difficult to recognise than others.

We can start by developing an awareness of our reactions – how we react to certain people in a different way to others, what pushes my angry button, my rude button, my generous button, my patient button or impatient button, my panic button, my flirt button, my protective button, my Fool button… and so on.  We are actors, playing a role, and our actions and reactions are part of the role.

When we can identify the actions with the role, and question why we acted in such a way, why we put on that mask or invisible costume, we start to become more aware of ourselves, and to recognise our true nature. It isn’t always a pleasant discovery, and you won’t always like what you discover about yourself as you strip away all the layers, but there are many ways of addressing that and of learning to embrace the parts you thought you needed to hide or to ignore.

In ancient teachings, this was referred to as removing your garments without being ashamed – think of the old story of Adam and Eve, naked in the garden until they became ashamed and tried to cover themselves. Like many wise teachings, this story became twisted until it was unrecogniseable and its deeper meaning was all but forgotten.

“Auditions are being held for you to be yourself. Apply within.”

Was Akhenaten’s Atenism monotheistic or polytheistic?

In the 14th Century B.C. Pharaoh Akhenaten, (formerly Amenhotep iv) who is referred to as “The Heretic” ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty -the Armana Period.

He has been viewed as the first monotheist – the belief in the existence of only one god –  by many scholars and has been credited as the inspiration for the beliefs of Moses. He disbanded the priesthoods of Amun and the other major AE Gods, having their images removed from temples as much as possible and elevating the Aten, the sun disc to represent  his religion.


Images of the gods were replaced by images from nature, and the pharaoh was shown as serene, smiling with his family rather than depictions of great war scenes with the pharaoh smiting enemies and foes.

What we do know, is that Akhenaten’s Atenism did not necessarily revolve around “One god”. The Aten was the symbol of his worship, but the Aten symbol always depicted both the Sun disc and the rays that emanated from it – each ray ending with a hand holding an ankh symbol, which represents the life force. The hands are usually holding the ankhs near the nose or mouth of Akhenaten and, if she is included in the depicted scene, to Nefertiti.


These rays are very suggestive of the meaning of the Shekinah as a feminine aspect of divinity, also referred to as the Divine Presence, that occurs in other belief systems. The Shekinah, among other things, represents the majestic presence or manifestation of god which has descended to “dwell” among men, the presence of god on earth or a symbol or manifestation of the god’s presence. 

This is what the Jewish Encyclopedia tells us about the Shekinah.

The Shekinah as Light

“According to this view, the Shekinah appeared as physical light; so that Targ. to Num. vi. 2 says, “Yhwh shall cause His Shekinah to shine for thee.” A Gentile asked the patriarch Gamaliel (c. 100): “Thou sayest that wherever ten are gathered together the Shekinah appears; how many are there?” Gamaliel answered: “As the sun, which is but one of the countless servants of God, giveth light to all the world, so in a much greater degree doth the Shekinah” (Sanh. 39a). The emperor (Hadrian) said to Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah, “I desire greatly to see thy God.” Joshua requested him to stand facing the brilliant summer sun, and said, “Gaze upon it.” The emperor said, “I can not.” “Then,” said Joshua, “if thou art not able to look upon a servant of God, how much less mayest thou gaze upon the Shekinah?”(Ḥul. 60a).

The Nature of Shekinah

“Maimonides regarded the Shekinah, like the Memra, the Yeḳara, and the Logos, as a distinct entity, and as a light created to be an intermediary between God and the world; while Naḥmanides (Maybaum, l.c.), on the other hand, considered it the essence of God as manifested in a distinct form. So in more modern times Gfrörer saw in “Shekinah,” “Memra,” and “Yeḳara” independent entities which, in that they were mediators, were the origin of the Logos idea; while Maybaum, who was followed by Hamburger, regarded the Shekinah merely as an expression for the various relations of God to the world, and as intended to represent: (1) the dwelling of God in the midst of Israel; (2) His omnipresence; (3) His personal presence, etc. (Maybaum, l.c. pp. 51-54).

That the Shekinah was not an intermediary is shown by the Targum to Ex. xxxiii. 15, xxxiv. 9 (Maybaum, l.c. pp. 5, 34), where the term “Shekinah” is used instead of “God.” The word often occurs, however, in connections where it can not be identical with “God,” e.g., in passages which declare that “the Shekinah rests,” or, more explicitly, that “God allows His Shekinah to rest,” on such a one. In short: in the great majority of cases “Shekinah” designates “God”; but the frequent use of the word has caused other ideas to be associated with it, which can best be understood from citations. In this connection the statements of the Talmud and Midrash are more characteristic than those of the Targumim, because they were spontaneous and were not made with reference to the text of the Bible. The Shekinah is frequently mentioned, even in the very oldest portions; and it is wholly unjustifiable to differentiate the Talmudic conception thereof from the Targumic, as has been attempted by Weber, although absolute consistency is observed neither in Targum, nor in Talmud and Midrash, since different persons have expressed their views therein.

Since the Shekinah is light, those passages of the Apocrypha and New Testament which mention radiance, and in which the Greek text reads δόξα, refer to the Shekinah, there being no other Greek equivalent for the word. Thus, according to Luke ii. 9, “the glory of the Lord [δόζα Ḳυρίου] shone round about them” (comp. II Peter i. 17; Eph. i. 6; II Cor. iv. 6); and it is supposed that in John i. 14 and Rev. xxi. 3 the words σκηνοῦν and σκηνή were expressly selected as implying the Shekinah.” Jewish Encyclopedia – Shekinah


Similarly, we have the Gnostic Barbelo, the first emanation of the Monad, Mother of the Aeons, the Perfect Glory, the image of the invisible spirit. In the Apocryphon of John, we have the passage:

“And his thought performed a deed and she came forth, namely she who had appeared before him in the shine of his light. This is the first power which was before all of them (and) which came forth from his mind, She is the forethought of the All – her light shines like his light – the perfect power which is the image of the invisible, virginal Spirit who is perfect. The first power, the glory of Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aeons, the glory of the revelation, she glorified the virginal Spirit and it was she who praised him, because thanks to him she had come forth. This is the first thought, his image; she became the womb of everything, for it is she who is prior to them all, the Mother-Father, the first man, the holy Spirit, the thrice-male, the thrice-powerful, the thrice-named androgynous one, and the eternal aeon among the invisible ones, and the first to come forth.” The Apocryphon of John – Nag Hammadi Library


In the Gnostic Gospel of the Egyptians, the Barbelo is described as virginal, yet “the uninterpretable power, the ineffable Mother. She originated from herself […]; she came forth; she agreed with the Father of the silent silence.


Was the feminine aspect in Atenism important? I believe it was, and Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt has also introduced this theory into understanding the Atenist religion. It has also been suggested that the feminine attributes that Akhenaten was depicted with and which became increasingly prominent – the pendulous breasts, rounded belly, broad hips and heavy thighs – represented the feminine side of his Divinity and fertile side of his kingship.

Who were the main opponents to the religion of the Aten and why? During the reign of the pacifist Akhenaten, Egypt’s power in the region was weakened. Because Akhenaten had denied the existence and prohibited the worship of any other gods, the priesthoods were no longer needed, no longer funded and became impotent. They wanted the priesthood to be as powerful as it had been previously, with many temples dedicated to the multiple gods these priests had served.

I’m not making the usual Moses was Akhenaten claim, but I am suggesting that the followers of the religion of the Aten, with its male and female promincence (reflected in the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and subsequently arguably by Akhenaten and his male co-regent with the feminine epithet) was the same religion..that of Amenhotep’s mother…that of the Hebrews.
“Even Redford assumes the possibility that the (monotheism) of Israel derives its origin from Amarnian religion ”

I’m actually suggesting that none were “monotheistic”, in view of the masculine/feminine aspect and others have argued for this, or philosophised over it, since antiquity.

Temporal and Eternal, Being and Non-Being – “false” time and “changeless” time

While reading ‘A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe’ (‘The Sleepwalkers’) by Arthur Koestler, there was a passage that gave me a “brain itch”; that feeling that something is really familiar, and you know you have definitely come across a similar idea before and you’re struggling to remember because it was in a completely different context. Then it came to me.

Kestler writes: “Herakleides, who died in 310 B.C. was inspired by the work of Philolaus. Herakleides created his so-called ‘Egyptian’ system in which the Earth remained at the centre of the Universe, but spun on its own axis, giving rise to the diurnal motion of the heavens. He explained the erratic orbits of Mercury and Venus by making them orbit the Sun, while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn still orbited the Earth.”

(Anyone know why this has been remembered as ‘his so-called Egyptian system’?)

Anyway, more to the point, Koestler writes:  “This splitting up of the Universe into two regions, the one lowly, the other exalted, the one subject to change, the other not, was to become a basic doctrine of medieval philosophy and cosmology. It brought a serene, cosmic reassurance to a frightened world by asserting its essential stability and permanence, but without going so far as to pretend that all change was mere illusion. [….]It was not a reconciliation of the temporal and the eternal, merely a confrontation of the two, but to be able to take in both in one glance, as it were, was something of a comfort.”

Having come across the early thoughts on ‘sub-lunary regions’, fixed and Vagabond lights in the sky- and Plato’s seeming disgust for change which he equated with degeneration – I couldn’t fail to notice a correlation with the two different ‘times’ of the Ancient Egyptians – nhh time and Dt time


The Hermetic texts of The Divine Pymander are very close to Plato’s philosophy, and it has been said that the Gnostics ‘disliked’ nhh time – it’s said that it was thought to be “false” time. ‘Dt’ was said to be changeless.


Daniel R. McBride writes:   “Gnostic Texts, and Coptic texts in general invariably use sha enech or some Greek loan word as dt seems to have disappeared. However, the distinction remained, and the Gnostics were anti nhh-time as it was viewed to be a false demiurgic “eternity” as opposed to the dt female aeon Sophia.”

To quote McBride further:   “The general consensus is that time as nhh has an end as it is bound up with the cyclic phenomenology of this world; time as dt on the other hand denotes the stasis of Nonbeing, the changeless and formless primordial state – though “pregnant” – which is the backdrop for the dynamic nhh. It would seem that eternity was considered to be Nun in its most archetypal manifestation, using such suggestive qualifiers as “inert” or “hidden” to imply the impending theogonic development of the ennead.”  (quote ©Daniel R. McBride 2002)

The Cartouche of Senwosret is followed by the hieroglyphs proclaiming him to be alive “for ever and eternity” using the symbols for nhh time and Dt time