THE GNOSTIC THREEFOLD PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT

The Ascent of Mind and the Descent of Wisdom
Novum Testamentum XXII, 4 (1980)
by
JOHN D. TURNER
Lincoln, Nebraska

    Many things in Late Antiquity come in threes: three levels of being, three periods of history, three stages of initiation into the mysteries and into the study of philosophy, three stages of the mystical ascent, even the Christian Trinity. Such triads are to be found in a number of Gnostic systems as well. Significant instances of these triads have now come to light in Gnostic documents at home in the so-called Barbeloite Gnosticism of the second century CE. Because some of these documents were read by Plotinus' circle in Rome during the third century CE., the question of the relationship of these documents to contemporary Neoplatonism is immediately raised. Yet these systematized triads go back a long way in Western antiquity, at least as far back as Plato. Beginning with him, and perhaps a good deal before him, the systematic tripartition of the universe into stratified levels of reality and the tripartition of the process by which one comes to know this universe becomes more widespread and increasingly dogmatic in western philosophy and religion. The pattern that emerges is what one might call the three-stage path to spiritual fulfillment, a sort of tripartite structure of spiritual paidaeia by which Hellenistic man might come to know himself, his world, and his place in it. This three-fold path is, of course, found in both Greek and Jewish non-gnostic literature. Specifically however, I suggest that when Gnostic literature portrays this path as a three-stage ascent of the soul to the deity, we have to do with the Platonic tradition, when it portrays this path as a three-fold descent of the deity (or some aspect thereof) to the soul in the lower world, we have to do with primarily Jewish traditions.
    The Gnostic documents to which I wish to call attention are five treatises from the Nag Hammadi Coptic Gnostic Library, all of which are available in translation,[1] and all of which seem to belong to a single Gnostic group or sect, the so-called Barbelo-Gnostics described in book I, ch. 29 of Irenaeus' Against the Heresies. The treatises are: the well-known Apocryphon of John (Ap. John) from Codex II, and the less well-known treatises Trimorphic Protennoia (Trim. Prot.) from Codex XIII, Allogenes from Codex II, Zostrianos (Zost.) from Codex VIII and The Three Steles of Seth (Steles Seth) from Codex VII. Strictly speaking, two other treatises, Marsanes from Codex X, and the anonymous concluding tractate of the Bruce Codex belong to this group, since they clearly draw on the same fund of mythologumena found in the other five treatises (e.g. Invisible Spirit, Triple Power, Barbelo, Triple Male and the Kalyptos-Protophanes-Autogenes triad), but their position in the group seems to be derivative rather than constitutive. I begin with some observations about the contents and genealogical interrelationships of the five main Barbeloite treatises, and then turn to the question of their affinity with Platonic metaphysics.

I. THE BARBELOITES

Near the turn of the century, Carl Schmidt showed that the Christian-Gnostic Apocryphon of John contained in the then recently discovered Berlin Gnostic Codex represented a version of the Barbeloite Gnostic system described around 180 CE by Irenaeus in his Against the Heresies (I, 29.1-4).[2]. Since the Nag Hammadi find, we now possess three more copies of this Ap. John. One of them (NHC III,1: 1,1-40,11) is nearly identical with the Ap. John of the Berlin Codex (BG 8502, 2: 19,6-77,7), with which it witnesses a shorter recension of Ap. John. The other two copies (NHC II, 1: 1,1-32,9; NHC IV,1: 1,1-49,28) belong to a longer recension of Ap. John.
    In the text common to all four versions of Ap. John, the central figure who initiates the salvation of the Gnostic is the First Thought of the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo, often called Pronoia, Metropator, the merciful Father of the All. The saving drama is motivated by Barbelo's attempt to rescue her productive power of thought from the clutches of Sophia's ignorant offspring Yaldabaoth, who has captured it in the lower world by incarnating it into Adam, his counterfeit copy of Barbelo's male aspect. Her saving mission is conceived in three descents which mark three successive saving dispensations: first as the Autogenes Christ who causes the Archon to blow pneuma into the inert Adam (BG, 51,1-52,1); second, as the Epinoia of Light who appears in the form of the spiritual Eve (Zoe) or of the tree of knowledge (BG, 52,18-53,20; 59,660,20); and third, as the Christ of the frame story who now reveals the gnosis to John (BG 75,11-15).
    In the longer versions of Ap. John, this third saving descent is spelled out in the form of a concluding hymnic composition of three stanzas (II, 1: 30,11-31,25), which in effect recapitulates the three descents just narrated. Each stanza narrates in the first person a separate descent of Pronoia, the First Thought of the Unknown God, into the world of chaos to gather up her lost members. At the first two descents (II, 30,11-21; 21-32) this divine First Thought shakes up the world of chaos and its ruling powers; however, because the time is not yet propitious, she does not rescue her members, but re-ascends to the light. On the third descent (II, 30,32-31,25), the First Thought descends to the prison, said to be the body; she awakens the soul from its corporeal forgetfulness, reminds it of its origins, and raises it up to the light by a sort of mystery initiation called the five seals.
    This triadic Pronoia hymn had a further history, for it was soon expanded into a larger independent tractate, the Trimorphic Protennoia of Codex XIII, 1: 35,1-50,24).[3] Instead of a short hymn each of whose stanzas relates a single descent of the saving First Thought of God, Trim. Prot. is a full treatise. It is divided into three separate sub-tractates, each one relating a separate descent of the First Thought of the Unknown God into the lower world. Each descent seems to depict not only a separate saving dispensation, but also a different modality of the First Thought. She descends first as Father, Barbelo, the Voice of the Unknown God's First Thought, she reaches down to chaos and loosens the bonds of her members by explaining to them the evil powers that enslave them ("The Discourse on Protennoia", XIII, 35,1-42,3). She descends second as Mother, Meirothea, the Sound of the Voice of the First Thought, and inaugurates the shift from the old Aeon, ruled by the powers of Destiny, to the new Aeon of salvation whose advent she announces to her fallen members ("On the Heimarmene," XIII, 42,4-46,4). She descends the third time as Son, Christ the Logos or Word of the Voice of the First Thought, and disguising herself from successively lower levels of evil powers, she leads her members back into the light by means of the noetic ascent ritual of the five seals ("The Discourse on the Appearance," XIII, 46,5-48,35).
    Clearly TriPot derives its structural division into three subtractates from the three stanzas of the Pronoia hymn concluding the longer ending of Ap. John. Furthermore, compositional seams and other formal and material considerations enable one to see that after the short opening aretalogy (XIII, 35,1-32), each sub-tractate is also composed of three sub-sections: an aretalogy cast in the ego eimi style of self-predication (35,32-37,3 on the Voice; 42,4-16 on the Sound, 46,5-32 on the Logos); a doctrinal exposition (37,3-40,29 on Barbeloite cosmology; 42,17-44,29 on eschatology; 46,33-48,35 on soteriology), and a closing aretalogy in which Protennoia narrates her saving deeds in the first person (40,29-42,2; 44,29-46,3; the final section seems to be a later Sethian-Christian conclusion, 48,35-50,20). The doctrinal exposition of the first sub-tractate constitutes the other main point of contact between Trim. Prot. and Ap. John, since it contains a version of the Barbeloite cosmogony and Sophia myth common to the portions of Ap. John that parallel Iren. Haer. I, 29.1-4 (= BG, 26,14-44,19 = II, 4,19-13,13). Glosses containing the name of Christ inserted into this Barbeloite cosmogony betray a process of Christianization at work in Trim. Prot., a process which is most evident in the later Sethian-Christian conclusion of the entire treatise, according to which Protennoia raises Jesus aloft from the cross. In Ap. John, the originally non-Christian Pronoia hymn was made serviceable to Christian Barbeloite Gnosticism simply by being appended to a treatise already of that character. In Trim. Prot., the Pronoia hymn provided a framework which was expanded in the form of lengthy aretalogies, then drawn into the Barbeloite sphere through the interpolation of the Barbeloite cosmogony, and then Christianized by means of the Christian-Sethian conclusion. At this point, two other Barbeloite documents call for comment.
    In Codex XI, we find the treatise Allogenes, and in Codex VIII a document containing much the same doctrine, Zost. Now these documents are very probably those Gnostic revelations of the same name which Porphyry in his Life of Plotinus 16 says were displayed before Plotinus' circle in Rome around CE 244-269.[4]
The first section of Allogenes (XI, 45,1-49,38) contains a cosmology whose structure and inhabitants are nearly identical with those of Zost.. and Steles Seth, and to a lesser degree with those found in Irenaeus' Barbeloite source and ill the Ap. John. Although it contains a brief sketch relating the unfolding of the supreme principle into its subordinate powers, Allogenes mostly confines its attention to a cosmology which analyses the cosmos into three levels. The highest level is occupied by the Unknown God and/or the Invisible Spirit, who seems to be related to the immediately subjacent intelligible world through a mediating principle called the Triple Power, a single being who exists in three modalities, Being, Vitality and Mentality.[5] The second level is occupied by the Aeon of Barbelo, the self-knowledge of the Unknown God, who consists of three aspects or hypostases: Kalyptos, Protophanes and Autogenes (a fourth being, Triple Male, is present in the Aeon of Barbelo, but its position therein is uncertain.[6] The third level of the world is not described, but only alluded to as the realm of Nature, Physis. The second section of Allogenes contains a revelation of the way to the divine vision, related by a figure named Youel, who figures as a minor power in Zostrianos and the anonymous Gnostic tractate of the Bruce Codex. The final section of Allogenes reports the successful completion of Allogenes' visionary ascent through the intelligible world of the Aeon of Barbelo, and then through the modalities of the Triple Power, from the level of self-knowledge (i.e. blessedness or Mentality), through the level of Vitality, to the level of Existence; at the summit of the world of being, the Triple Power reveals itself and the Unknown One above it to Allogenes by a primary revelation of the Unknown God (XI, 58,26-61,20). This primary revelation is a negative theology which contains a word-for-word parallel with the Coptic text of a similar negative theology at the beginning of all versions of Ap. John (XI, 62,28-63,23 = BG, 23,3-26,13 = II, 3,18-35). Thus not only Trim. Prot., but also Allogenes is documentarily dependent on some version of Ap. John.
    In Allogenes, the triad of the Unknown God, his self-knowledge, and Nature is rather close to Plotinus' triad of the One, Intellect and Soul, in which the lower soul is called Nature. Furthermore, Plotinus a number of times alludes to a tripartition of Intellect, .his second hypostasis, into Being, Life and Intellect, much as the Being, Vitality and Mentality triad of Allogenes (XI, 49,28-38) represents the tripartition of the Triple Power of the Invisible Spirit.
    The triadic scheme of Allogenes is also present in Zost., although Zost.. seems to interpret the ascent through various levels by a series of baptisms. The Steles Seth utilizes a triadic ontology similar to the one found in Allogenes, but instead of systematically expounding it, Steles Seth conveys glimpses of it in the course of three lengthy aretalogical doxologies addressed respectively to Adamas (a sort of ideal Anthropos figure), Barbelo, and lastly the Unknown God. The concluding paragraph of Steles Seth makes it clear that these three doxologies are to be used in connection with a spiritual ascent and descent, consisting of three stages. Besides the three-level cosmology and the use of the Kalyptos-Protophanes-Autogenes triad, Allogenes, Zost., and Steles Seth all witness the triad Being or Existence, Vitality, and Mentality found incipiently in Plotinus and perhaps Porphyry, and rampantly in Proclus and Damascius.
    We have an interlocking web of five Barbeloite Gnostic treatises. Zost.. and Steles Seth clearly display the same cosmology and terminology found in Allogenes; Allogenes and Trim. Prot. are both literarily dependent on some version of Ap. John, and the central figure that relates them all is Barbelo, the First Thought of the Unknown God. As his Intellect or Self-Knowledge, Barbelo constitutes the focus of the Gnostic experience of salvation. All five treatises possess a three-level ontology consisting of a level beyond being, an intelligible or aeonic level, and a lower realm of Nature sometimes so devalued as to be called Chaos or the prison. In each, the intelligible world, the Aeon of Barbelo, is also tripartitioned whether structurally (the three levels of Allogenes, Zost., Steles Seth) or narratively (the three descents of Pro[ten]noia in Ap. John and Trim. Prot.). The goal of each treatise is to reunite the Gnostic's intellect to its source in the aeonic world by the reception of a revelation of and from the highest realm made available to the lowest.
    Yet in spite of these similarities, these five treatises are all different. They all deck out their ontological structure with various hypostatic aeons, whose coming-to-be and deployment constitute a myth that predominates in varying degrees in the various tractates. The major mythological feature I take to be a cosmogony narrating the successive begetting of personified powers or Aeons who occupy ever lower levels of being. Under this definition, Ap. John and Trim. Prot. would be the most mythological, with Zost., Steles Seth and Allogenes as the least mythological, according to the degree to which this mythological cosmogonic narrative predominates or is alluded to. In the most mythological, Ap. John and Trim. Prot., revelation occurs through the three-stage descent of a divine noetic principle into the world of mortals, while in the less mythological treatises, Zost., Steles Seth and especially Allogenes, the revelation occurs only after the three-stage ascent of the Gnostic's intellect to its own proper ontic level. Once one has caused one's mind to ascend to the highest level of being, a revelation of the unknown God who is beyond being is disclosed to the successful Gnostic. In Allogenes, this "primary revelation" is a negative theology; one knows the Unknown God by not knowing him (XI, 59,30-32; 61,17-19), a motif known already from the Chaldean Oracles ("It is necessary to know [that one] . . . by stretching a vacant mind to the object of knowledge" (p. 11 Kroll, frg. 1,7-9 des Places).
    In the main body of Ap. John, the saving gnosis is mediated by the three descents of Barbelo: the merciful Father (-Mother), in the guise of the Autogenes Christ who blows pneuma into Adam; the Epinoia of Light who appears as the spiritual Eve (Zoe) or as the tree of knowledge, and finally as the Christ of the frame story. In the hymnic narrative of the threefold descent of the First Thought (Pronoia) added to the longer version of Ap. John, the saving gnosis is manifested on the third descent of the First Thought where she communicates the mysterious five seals. Trim. Prot. is essentially an expansion of the same scheme, except that here the three descents of the First Thought are interpreted by a three-stage progressive revelation each stage of which is identified by an auditory metaphor: the Father or Voice who awakens the Gnostics from the bonds of oblivion, the Mother or Sound of the Voice who overthrows the rule of Fate and announces the shift of the ages; and the Son or Logos of the Voice, who strips away the corporeal and psychic accretions and puts the garment of light on the Gnostic through the five seals.
    On the other hand, in the treatises Zost., Steles Seth and Allogenes, revelation is not brought below by a descending revealer, but rather occurs only after the Gnostic has ascended to the peak of the world of being in successive stages of detachment and self-unification by an autonomous mystical technique; only at this point does revelation of the Unknown God occur. To be sure, revelation is brought down to the Gnostic in the form of these treatises themselves according to which a famous mortal, Dositheus, Zoroaster or Allogenes, has achieved the vision and redescended to communicate it by depositing a record of their experience with a trusted disciple who teaches it to others. But the means by which gnosis is achieved is a self-performable technique. What occupies the center of attention in these treatises is the structure of the divine world, not its production, and the spiritual ascent through the intelligible levels of that divine world--here there are no archons, no fall of the soul, no secret passwords, no dissolution of the bonds of oblivion by a Redeemer.

II. THE PLATONIC LEGACY

The achievement of gnosis in three stages of enlightenment, whether conveyed by a descent or an ascent, is not as such the legacy of Plato to these Barbeloite treatises, since this feature is found also in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic. Rather, the peculiar legacy of Plato is to be found in the basically emanationistic metaphysical ontology that structures the transcendent world of these treatises. In the final section, it will be suggested that the three-stage descent scheme of these treatises is basically un-Platonic, on the other hand, in these treatises, the three-stage ascent, although found in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic, is of Platonic inspiration insofar as the knower at each stage assimilates to his own being the form of being proper to the level at which he finds himself. First we turn to the ontology of these treatises, and then to their epistemology.

A. Ontology

All five treatises seem to display at least a three-level ontology: a level beyond being occupied by the Unknown God or Invisible Spirit; a level of pure being occupied by the First Thought of the Unknown God, Barbelo and her Aeon, and a perceptible level consisting of the material world. A fourth, psychic level intermediate between the aeons and the material world is possible, but is not consistently portrayed. In accordance with the Gnostic ambivalence toward the soul and psychic existence, the metaphysical status of the soul is ambiguous in these texts.
    This three or perhaps four-level ontology seems to be present in Ap. John and Trim. Prot., but in a less systematic manner. For them, the sphere of revelation is predominantly the psychic and/or material sphere in which gnosis is conveyed through a series of descents of the First Thought or some aspect thereof. In Allogenes, Zost.. and Steles Seth, the three- or four-level ontology is very prominent, since it forms the staircase by which revelation is obtained by the Gnostic directly at the level from which it derives, through a gradual ascent.
    H.J. Krämer has pointed out that there are two basic ontological structures prevalent in the Platonism of late antiquity.[7] One consists of three levels: 1) the sphere of pure being consisting of a monadic intellectual principle containing the ideal forms and numbers; 2) the demiurgic sphere of the World Soul, often considered to be the lower level of a bipartite Intellect rather than a separate sphere, and 3) the sphere of the material principle. This structure, represented by most Middleplatonists (Albinus, Apuleius, Celsus, Maximus and Numenius) and by Aristotle, is said to derive from Xenocrates, the successor of Speusippus as leader of the Old Academy after Plato's death. The other basic structure consists of four levels and is the same as the three-level structure except that a highest level beyond being, occupied by "the One," dominates the other three. This structure is typical of Neo-pythagoreans (Nicomachus, Moderatus, pseudonymous numerological treatises), Philo and many Gnostics (Basilides, the monistic Valentinians of Hippolytus, the Megale Apophasis), and is said to derive from the esoteric teaching of Plato and his successor Speusippus. The four-level structure of course found its clearest exponent in Plotinus with his spheres of the One, the Intellect, the Soul, and Matter. It appears that the Barbeloite treatises belong to the four-level structure, bearing in mind that the position of soul is ambiguous. In Ap. John and Trim. Prot., soul has its roots in the Intellect, yet it has fallen into the realm of matter through the abortive demiurgic work of the indiscreet Sophia and the arrogant Yaldabaoth. In Allogenes and in Steles Seth, which omit the Sophia myth, the soul is not mentioned as such, although it may occupy the lowest level of Barbelo's Aeon. Among the Barbeloite treatises, Allogenes certainly displays the greatest interest in a systematic metaphysics. Because of its similarity to Plotinus' metaphysics and because this treatise as well as Zost.. was almost certainly known to Plotinus and Porphyry (Vita Plot. 16), the metaphysical structure of Allogenes merits some extended comment.
    The cosmology of Allogenes is tripartite, but belongs to the four-level metaphysic of Speusippus, the Neopythagoreans and Plotinus. The highest being, corresponding to Plotinus' One, is the Unknown God or Invisible Spirit, characterized by non-being existence, silence and stillness, he is not an existing thing and is completely unknowable (XI, 62,23-64,14). The second major level is that of the Aeon of Barbelo, corresponding to Plotinus' Intellect, which consists of three personae: Kalyptos (the nous noêtos), the domain of "the authentic existents" (the noêta), Protophanes (the nous theôrêtikos or kinoumenos akinêtos ôn), the domain of "those who exist together" (cf. Enn. IV.1.1: ekei [en tôi nôi] homou men pas nous ... homou de pasai psychai] ); and Autogenes (the nous dianooumenos), the domain of the "individuals" (perhaps individuated souls).The third level, Nature, is only alluded to, and appears to hold no interest for the author of Allog.
Clearly the most intriguing feature of Allog's metaphysics, and perhaps the crucial feature by which it can be placed at a definite point in the Platonic tradition, is the Triple Power. This being is mentioned sometimes independently, sometimes in conjunction with the Invisible Spirit, and once in conjunction with Barbelo. By a static self-extension, the Triple Power becomes the Aeon of Barbelo (XI, 45,21-30). Furthermore it is said that the Triple Power traverses the boundlessness of the Invisible Spirit that subsists in the Triple Power, so that this "boundlessness" might (in turn) surround the Invisible Spirit as his self-knowledge (49, 7-21). Thus the Triple Power probably is the potency (dynamis) of the Unknown One and/or Invisible Spirit by which he unfolds himself into the world of Being and Intellect. The Triple Power is said to consist of three modalities: That-which-is (Being), Vitality and Mentality (XI, 49,26-38).
    Now according to Plotinus' doctrine of Intellect, there emanates from the superabundant potency of the One a "trace" called "Life." This Life, declining from the One, is at first boundless, but once it has turned back to the One in an act of vision it receives a limit. By receiving a limit this "boundless Life" becomes definable being and at the same time thinking Intellect (Enn. VI.7.17). This seems to correspond exactly to the function of the Triple Power in Allogenes, except that while in Plotinus the triad Being-Life-Mind is an aspect of the second hypostasis (Intellect), in Allogenes the Triple Power of Being-Vitality-Mentality seems to exist above the second hypostasis (Barbelo) as a sort of quasi-hypostasis. This quasi-hypostatic status of the Triple Power seems to find its analogy for the first time in the metaphysics of Porphyry, Plotinus' disciple.
    According to P. Hadot, Porphyry posited the existence of a triadic being called "Life" as a mediating hypostasis between the Plotinian One and Intellect, because he wished to demonstrate that the Intellect which for Plotinus is completely discontinuous with the transcendent One, is paradoxically at the same time discontinuous and continuous with the One.[8] In effect, Porphyry attributed three modalities or phases to the Intellect, which he analyzed into the triad, Existence, Life and Intellect. Porphyry's term existence (hyparxis), which is also used of the Triple Power in Allogenes and Zost., is meant to refer to the absolute being (auto to einai) of the One, which is the idea of the derived being (to on) proper to the Intellect. Intellect thus unfolds from the absolute being of the One in three phases according to which each modality of the Intellect predominates at a given stage. First, qua hyparxis, Intellect is purely potential Intellect resident in and identical with its idea, the absolute being of the One. Last, qua. Intellect, it has become identical with the derived being (to on) of Intellect proper, the second hypostasis, as the hypostatic exemplification of its idea, the absolute being of the One. The transitional phase between the first and last phases of intellect in effect constitutes a median modality of Intellect in which it is "boundless thinking" or Intellect qua Life. Porphyry apparently conceived this transitional phase of Intellect qua Life to have hypostatic reality, and it is tempting to see the Triple Power of Allogenes in the same light. Thus in Allogenes, the Triple Power is continuous with the Invisible Spirit qua its Existence-modality, discontinuous with the Invisible Spirit but continuous with Barbelo qua its Mentality-modality, and qua its Vitality-modality, it is simultaneously continuous and discontinuous with both the Invisible Spirit and Barbelo. Hence the Triple Power serves to emphasize the transcendence of the Invisible Spirit, but at the same time to prevent any ultimate gap in the chain of being. Since Plotinus in his treatise "Against the Gnostics" (Enn. II.9.1 and 6) rejects such attempts to partition the Intellect and posit more than three hypostases, it is quite possible that by restricting his Being-Life-Intellect triad to the second hypostasis, he is reacting against such hypostatic entities as the Triple Power of Allogenes and the Porphyrian median phase of the triad in which Life predominates (significantly, Allogenes also calls the Triple Power an "Eternal Life," XI, 66,32-36). If so, it is possible that Allogenes may have originally introduced this triad to Plotinus and his circle.
    If Allogenes be considered as one of the sources from which Plotinus could have derived this triad, one must try to account for its appearance in Allog. To answer this it is necessary to recognize two different kinds of triads functioning in Allog. The Being or Existence-Vitality-Mentality triad represented by the Triple Power belongs to the subject of first principles (archai) or what one might call "stoicheology," that branch of metaphysics where one is concerned to show how all things originate from primal principles. On the other hand, the tripartition of Intellect or Barbelo by means of the triad Kalyptos-Protophanes-Autogenes belongs more properly to ontology, or better, to "noology."
    Now the "stoicheic" triad seems to derive from contemporary Neopythagorean speculation on the origin of all things from the monad. Thus the second-century CE Neopythagoreans Nicomachus of Gerasa (Eisagoge, 11.8.1) and Theon of Smyma (Expositio, p. 37,15-18 Hiller) posit a triad (trigonos) to be potentially resident in the original monad. This triad is evidently composed of the old Pythagorean "even" and "odd," which in the Old Platonic Academy were called the "one" and the "indefinite dyad," two principles whose interaction produces the transcendent ideas conceived as numbers, and from them, all else. Xenocrates identified this "one" with a transcendent Mind who imposed limit on the "indefinite dyad" or material principle, thus producing the world-soul or definite dyad, which he regarded as a self-moving number. This stoicheic metaphysics was later modified (as early as Eudorus of Alexandria in the first century BCE) in such a way as to incorporate the doctrine of a transcendent One beyond being espoused by Plato and Speusippus. Thus one arrives at the Neopythagorean stoicheic metaphysics of a One beyond being from whom derives a pair of elements, the monad and indefinite dyad, from this triad all else derives.[9] On the other hand, the "noetic" tripartition of the divine intellect has little to do with the Neopythagorean speculation on first principles, but derives from contemporary Middle-Platonic exegesis of Plato, Timaeus 39E: "the Nous beholds (kathora) the ideas resident in the veritable living being (ho esti zôion); such and so many as exist therein he purposed (dienoêthê) that the universe should contain." As one can judge from the noology of the Chaldean Oracles, Numenius, Albinus and Maximus, the Timaeus passage was taken to imply two intelligences or Gods, one inert, the other demiurgic. The first God, an inert intelligence (nous noêtos, nous en hêsychia) was found in the "living being" of the Timaeus. The second God, a demiurgic intelligence, was regarded as double: as contemplative intellect (nous nooun, nous theôrêtikos, cf. kathora) he is directed upwards in contemplation of the first God or inert intelligence, and as the planning intellect (nous dianooumenos) he is directed downward to his creation. Plotinus himself plays with such a notion (Enn. III.9.1) which he later attributes to the Gnostics and abandons (Enn. II.9.1 and 6) by equating the lower planning intellect with his Soul-hypostasis, and interpreting the upper (inert) contemplated and (active) contemplating intellects as two indivisible phases of his Intellect-hypostasis.
    Now it is quite possible that behind Allogenes there stands a group whom Plotinus mentions as "others" who view the living being, the intellect and the planning principle as a single being (Enn. III.9.1,26-27; cf. II.9.1,14-57; 9.6,14-35). For in Allogenes, the intellective level called the Aeon of Barbelo is tripartitioned into three levels. The highest, Kalyptos, contains "those who truly exist"; this level would be the inert nous noêtos (but which can somehow "act," XI, 45,32). The median level, the male Mind Protophanes, would be the nous nooun (cf. noeron, XI, 51,18). The lowest level, Autogenes, would be the nous dianooumenos (who "works successively and individually" on nature (XI, 51,28-32; cf. the nous merisas, Enn. III.9.1). This scheme comes very close to that mentioned and rejected by Plotinus.
    Yet according to the earliest version of the Barbeloite cosmogony contained in Ap. John (BG, 26,14-29,18) and Iren. Haer. I.29.1, Barbelo is not actually tripartitioned. Rather, once she appears on the stage, she requests what appear to be three powers or faculties: Prognosis, Aphtharsia, and Aionia Zoe (a fourth, Ennoia, is only redundant hypostatization of Barbelo's cognomen Ennoia). When one reads further in Ap. John that Barbelo is associated with three powers and three names, one begins to think of the Triple Power, which in Allogenes is called Being or Existence, Vitality or Life, and Mentality. Now conceptually the term Prognosis is close to the term Mentality (derivatives of gnôsis and nous respectively). Aphtharsia certainly characterizes the permanence of pure being as opposed to becoming, and Aionia Zoe already contains the term Life. It is therefore tempting to regard the "stoicheic" triad Being-Vitality-Mentality as a speculative Analogiebildung of the "noological" triad Prognosis-Aphtharsia-Aionia Zoe. Owing to its more abstract character, it could be pressed into the service of a Gnostic-philosophical "stoicheology" whose intent would be to show how the intellectual Aeon of Barbelo derives from the Unknown God or Invisible Spirit. In Ap. John, Barbelo derives from the thought of the Invisible Spirit which arises from his image reflected in the Water of Life that surrounds him. By means of the triad Being-Vitality-Mentality, Allogenes merely spells out the nature of this process in a monistic rather than dualistic fashion. In place of the dual principles of Invisible Spirit and Water of Life, Allogenes conceives in the Triple Power a single principle, the boundless power of the Invisible Spirit, which objectifies itself in an act of contemplative reversion to its source. The high deity does not objectify himself in an act of conception, rather his potency objectifies itself in three phases of spontaneous emission.
    It is possible that Plotinus, in his desire to emphasize the absolute transcendence of the One, may have accepted the generative function of the Triple Power triad of Allogenes, but not its hypostatic status between the One and intellect. Thus he demoted the triad Being-Life-Mind to his second hypostasis, taking his lead from a favorite passage of Plato, Sophist 248E: "Are we really to be so easily persuaded that change, life, soul and intelligence have no place in the perfectly real (pantelôs on), that it has neither life (zôê) nor intelligence, but stands solemnly aloof, devoid of intelligence (nous)?[10] While for Allogenes "perfectly real" means something beyond Intellect, for Plotinus this could be Intellect only, and no more.
    If this hypothetical process accounts for the role of the Triple Power in Allogenes, one must yet account for the nomenclature it attaches to the tripartite Aeon of Barbelo. How was the triad Kalyptos- Protophanes- Autogenes attached to Barbelo in Allogenes substituted for the Prognosis-Aphtharsia-Aionia Zoe triad of Ap. John?
    To begin with, if the triad Being-Vitality-Mentality was formed on analogy with the Prognosis- Aphtharsia-Aionia Zoe triad, the latter triad may have been abandoned altogether to avoid confusion with the new triad that transcended it. Thus a new triad of names had to be substituted for it, or even conceivably displaced it. This is the triad Kalyptos-Protophanes-Autogenes.
    These names in this particular triadic arrangement are witnessed only in Allogenes, Zost., the anonymous final tractate of the Bruce Codex ("the ninth Father has a kalyptos- aspect, a prôtofanês-aspect, and an autogenês- aspect" Schmidt-Till 341,5-7), Steles Seth, and in Marsanes (X, 3,25-4,10). While the triadic structure of the Aeon of Barbelo seems to have more or less clear antecedents, the names of this triad are unattested in the earliest Barbeloite literature, and their source can only be a matter of conjecture. Thus the term Kalyptos, which can mean either "hidden" or "that which covers " probably derives from the conception of the veil or kalumma separating the higher from the lower realm. The position of Kalyptos as the highest entity in the intelligible Aeon of Barbelo comes very close to that of the Valentinian upper Horos or Limit that separates the highest deity Bythos from the other Aeons that derive from him (cf. Iren. Haer. I.11.1; ValExp XI, 27,37-38; the "veil" of GPhil II, 3,69,36; 84,23).
    The term Protophanes may be of Orphic origin: in the Orphic Rhapsodies, Phanes (called also Eros, Metis, and Erikepaios) was so-called because he was "first to appear" (prôtos gar efanthê, Orph. Arg. 14-16 Hermann) from the cosmic egg. Bisexual, he was regarded as "always two-formed," "looking this way and that," and called (according to Proclus) "the key of Mind" (Orph. frag. 72-89; 167 Kern, Synesios, Hymns 2.63 calls the "Son" protofanes eidos). Both the Orphic etymology "first-appearing" and his characterization as mind and as mediating between above and below are clearly reflected in Protophanes' position in Allogenes, where as "the great male Mind" (XI, 45,34-36; 46,24-25) he represents the progression from the psychic ("individuals" in Autogenes) to the intelligible ("those who truly exist" in Kalyptos) levels of the aeon of Barbelo (XI, 46,25-34).
    Finally, the term Autogenes probably derives from the Autogenes-Monogenes light (identified with Christ) who according to Ap. John is generated in Barbelo by the Father. Irenaeus (Haer. I.29.1) adds the interesting comment that the production of Autogenes was the "beginning of the genesis of all things," that is, the origin of the world of becoming and multiplicity. In Platonic metaphysics, this would be the role of the Demiurge who shapes the World Soul (Timaeus 39E ff.). The Valentinians attribute this role to Jesus, the Fruit of the Pleroma, who fashions Sophia's passions into the psychic (and material) world. One may therefore adduce relevant mythological sources for the names contained in the triad, but since the names are not associated together in a triad prior to Allogenes and Zost., one must assume that it was the Gnostics behind these documents who developed this triad. Be these theories concerning the nomenclature of the Barbeloite triads as they may, it cannot be doubted that the structure and deployment of these triads in Allogenes, Zost., and Steles Seth derive from the metaphysics originating in the Platonic Academy. The triad of the Triple Power belongs to the "stoicheological" speculation of the Alexandrian Neopythagoreans, and the triad of the Aeon of Barbelo belongs to the "noological" speculation of the Middleplatonic interpretation of Plato's Timaeus. The general ontology and cosmology of the upper world in Ap. John and Trim. Prot. also intersects with the general Platonic ontological stratification of the cosmos, but the center of gravity in these documents is clearly anthropological and soteriological rather than metaphysical. Accordingly, the cosmology of these documents is a prelude to the myth of Sophia, the description of man's condition in the material world and the saving initiatives of the higher world in response to that condition. Here, there is no contemplative or ecstatic ascent through the intelligible world. Man has been so tightly bound in matter that his intellect cannot raise itself above it; he is dependent on the descent of the divine intellect to his own level. Yet, oddly enough, in Ap. John and Trim. Prot., this descent of the divine intellect takes place in three stages, just as in Allogenes, Zost.. and Steles Seth, the ascent of the Gnostic intellect occurs in three stages. In Allogenes, Zost.. and Steles Seth these stages are conceived vertically, while in Ap. John and Trim. Prot., they are described as a horizontal temporal succession.

B. Epistemology

We now turn to a consideration of the epistemology of these tractates, specifically the feature that, whether conveyed by descent or ascent, gnosis is achieved in three steps. First, the threefold ascent.
    The attainment of enlightenment in progressively higher levels of ecstatic ascent is a feature not only of the Platonic tradition, but also of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature.[11] Here the levels of ascent are usually called heavens, thrones or palaces and vary in number between three and ten. But even in the cases when apocalyptic literature portrays a three-stage ascent, the object of vision is generally a personal deity or his throne (who is not ontologically consubstantial with the seer's soul), the course and end of history, the abode of souls, the last judgment, the nature of the heavens, and the divine glory. Similar visionary ascents are also part of the Platonic tradition, such as the myth of Er in Republic X, Plutarch's "Poseidonian" myths of Thespesius (De sera num. vind.) and Timarchus (De gen. Soc. ) and so on, but unlike Jewish visionary literature, the Platonic literature conceives the ascending soul to be returning to its point of origin, and the supreme object of vision is not a personal deity.
    The three-stage ascent of Allogenes, Zost.. and Steles Seth seems to have as its object not so much a vision of the upper world, but rather the actual assimilation of the state of one's own being to the state of being that characterizes each level, one undergoes the ascent according to a prescribed sequence of mental states characterized by increasing self-unification and mental abstraction. The movement from multiplicity to solitariness and from motion to stillness is precisely coordinated with the ontological character of each level of the ascent. The progressively higher levels of being require a corresponding ascending scale of self-performable mental states. Because the monistic ontology is emanationistic, evolving from one to many, the ascent is a gradual purification and reintegration of the time bound self, alienated from its ground, back up to its atemporal self-identity. The structure of such a movement is at home, not in apocalyptic, but in the mystery religions, except that the stages of the ritual have been interiorized.[12]
    A firm prototype of this threefold ascent is certainly to be found in Plato's Symposium (210A-212A) in the speech where Socrates recounts the path to the vision of absolute beauty into which he had been initiated by the wise Diotima. The method consists of a three-stage qualitative and quantitative purification or purgation of the soul by a redirection of Eros, the moving force of the soul, away from the lower realm to the higher. The qualitative purgation is a progressive shift of attention from the sensible to the intelligible realm in three levels of knowing, which correspond to three levels of life: physical beauty, moral beauty and intellectual beauty; these are the objects respectively of the bodily senses, the ethical components of the soul, and the intelligizing, contemplative faculty of the reflective soul. The quantitative purgation is a shift of attention away from individual instances of beauty, to the ideal beauty of all forms, and finally to absolute beauty itself, which then discloses itself as a sudden and immediate intuition. The next higher stage is therefore achieved by a purifying and unifying synthesis of the experience of the lower stage.
    Indeed Plato seems to have applied this three-stage progression not only to his own study of philosophy but also to the program of study in the Academy he founded.[13] In the seventh book of the Republic (533E-540B) he lays down the plan for educating the guardians of the ideal state. After the propaedutic study of mathematics up till the stable and mature age of fifty, one took up the study of dialectic for five years, and then after a fifteen year period of fieldwork, one is at age fifty ready for the goal, the highest philosophy, contemplation of the ideas.
    Plato's successors such as Xenocrates and Aristotle also maintained a threefold approach to philosophy, subdividing it into theology, mathematics and physics Aristotle) or into physics (including the idea theory), ethics, and logic (Xenocrates).[14] The latter became the standard division of subject matter in the Academy as well as within the Peripatetic and Stoic traditions, even the Epicureans divided philosophy into physics, ethics, and epistemology (to kanonikon). Since Aristotle, physics was the domain of theoretical philosophy, at its summit was "first philosophy," called theology or metaphysics, then mathematics, including astronomy, and then physics proper.
    In the first four centuries of our era to which the Barbeloite treatises belong, the Platonic tradition regarded metaphysics or theology as the highest of the three stages of enlightenment or spiritual progress. It corresponded to the highest stage of initiation into the mysteries and was in fact called epopteia, the supreme vision of the highest reality (Plut., De Is. et Os. 382d; Theon of Smyrna, Expos. p. 14 Hiller; Clem. Alex., Strom. I.28.176,1-2; Origen, In cant. cant. p. 75,6 Baehrens). Commenting on this phenomenon, P. Hadot points out that Porphyry's systematic arrangement of Plotinus' Enneads conforms to this scheme (Enn. I = ethics; Enn. II, III = physics; Enn. IV, V, VI = epoptic, the objects of contemplation), as do certain Neoplatonic prescriptions for the order of the study of Plato's dialogues (Republic = ethics; Timaeus = physics; Parmenides = theology; cf. Chalcidius, In Tim. 272 & 335; Proclus, In Tim. I, p. 202 Diehl).[15]
    Vision or epopteia of the highest reality was thus the object of the Platonic metaphysics of Late Antiquity. The methods for achieving this vision of the divine by means of dialectic were called "paths" of ascent (cf. Albinus, Didasc. X.5.6, p. 165,14 ff. Hermann; Origen, Contra Cels. VII,42; Maximus of Tyre, Dial. XI,11b).[16] The via analogiae or way by comparison was based on the parable of the sun in the sixth book of Plato's Republic. The via negationis (kat' afairesin), or way by abstraction or negation of all perceptible affirmative predicates, was regarded as the only logically self-sufficient path to the divine, although it was not based on any of Plato's works. This method figures prominently in the negative theologies at the beginning of Ap. John and at the end of Allog. Complementing the via negationis was the via additionis (kata prothesis or synthesin) or way by approximation from effects to cause. The via eminentiae or way by ascending degrees (anabasmoi) was based on Plato's Symposium, and corresponds to the stage by stage withdrawal (anachôrêsis) to the highest level of the Triple Power in Allogenes as well as to the ascents presupposed in Zost.. and Steles Seth. There is perhaps yet a final way which transcends dialectic, the via imitationis or way by assimilation, probably based on Plato's Theaetetus (176B) where the goal is said to be flight from this world to the other, to be assimilated (homoiôthênai) to the divine so far as possible. This method seems to correspond to the "primary revelation" or non-knowing knowledge of the Unknown One in Allogenes and perhaps to the "command" of Steles Seth (VII, 125,15-16;). The sequence of these methods is illustrated by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. V.11.71.2): first, purification by acceptance of the given, second, dialectical contemplation (epopteia), consisting of the analysis of the given leading to primary intellection and abstraction of all dimension and position pertaining to corporeal and incorporeal objects (the via negationis) leading to the pure monad, finally one achieves the intellection of the highest being in terms of knowing what he is not. So also Plotinus suggests a similar approach (Enn. VI.7.36): one begins by instruction through analogies, negations, syntheses and ascending degrees; he draws near by purifications, virtues, orderings (of the soul) and gradations of the intelligible until one "stands firmly" upon it (the via eminentiae, cf. Allogenes 59,18-20; 60,28-31); at that point where one becomes simultaneously subject and object of one's own vision, all learning is abandoned and "suddenly" (cf. Symposium 210E) one sees the source of light itself (the via imitationis). The culmination of the vision, the via imitationis or way of assimilation, transcends philosophy for mysticism or ecstasy. Since it involves contemplative imitation of the virtues of which the divine is the source, and since his only virtue is oneness, aloneness, tranquillity and absolute goodness, the via imitationis is the ascetic way, a purgative stripping away of all powers of soul and intellect a self-concentration into pure solitariness where no object of knowledge exists outside the knower. At this point, to know is not to know. This appears to be the culminating experience envisaged in Allogenes and Steles Seth. It has its roots in the three-stage ascent to the vision of the Beautiful described in Plato's Symposium. To be sure, the roots have been bent in a very ascetic direction, perhaps by Neopythagorean rigorism and the Gnostic spirit itself, but the fruit continues to bear the stamp of the Platonic tradition.
    When we turn to the other main Barbeloite vehicle for enlightenment, the revelation of gnosis through the threefold descent of a hypostasis of the divine intelligence as depicted in Ap. John and Trim. Prot. we seem to have left the Platonic territory. To be sure, the ontology of these treatises still resembles that of late Platonism, but the triple descent motif is foreign to it.
    Recent scholarship locates the descent motif in the Jewish myth of the descending and demiurgic figure of the divine wisdom (Sophia) that works itself out in Proverbs 8, 1 Enoch 42, Sirach 24, Wisdom of Solomon 6-10 and other Jewish sources (cf. also the descent of God's Name and Shekinah.[17] This myth seems to have influenced Philo's doctrine of the Logos (especially the logos prophorikos) as well as that of the author of the Johannine prologue and the Alexandrian Fathers, who interpreted Christ as the Logos.
    In general the three-stage advent of redemption into the world is depicted in two basic schemes. The first scheme is horizontal and temporally successive, where redemption is conveyed by descents of separate figures or by repeated descents of the same figure. The second is a more vertical and modalistic scheme in which a single revealer is manifested in each of the three levels of the cosmos in a form and modality suited to the being and needs of each level. Generally neither the first nor the second scheme is found in pure form, they almost always occur in some combination. The first (horizontal) scheme clearly predominates in the Pronoia hymn of Ap. John, where the same figure (Pronoia) makes repeated descents. The same scheme occurs in Gos. Eg. (III, 63,4-64,9; IV, 74,17-75,24) where the same figure, Seth, is said to pass through three parousiai experienced by his seed, the incorruptible generation: the flood, the conflagration, and finally the judgment of the hostile powers by Seth in the form of Jesus. On the, other hand, in ApocAdam there are three saving descents, but the, other hand in ApocAdam there are three saving descents, but in each case the redeeming figures appear to be different: at the flood the seed of Seth is rescued by great angels (V, 69,1-25); at the conflagration, the seed of Seth is rescued by Abrasax, Samblo and Gamaliel (V, 75,9-76,7); thereafter "for the third time" at the advent of the days of death the Illuminator will save their souls (V 76,8-77,3). However, the modalistic scheme is already making inroads in ApocAdam, since, although the successive descents are each ascribed to separate figures, the phrase "the third time" is clearly a device to cause the reader to see them all as manifestations of a single figure, the Illuminator.
    Moreover, Gos. Eg. and ApocAdam provide a clue concerning the origin of the horizontal scheme of three successive descents, of which the first two are preparatory and accompanied by purificatory destructions, and the third conveys final salvation. The periodization of the Gnostic history of salvation into three saving dispensations by means of fire and flood seems to derive from Jewish apocalyptic.[18] This scheme seems to be present in 1 Enoch 10 and 99-100 and in the legend of the steles of stone and clay established by the seed of Seth to preserve their wisdom against destruction by flood and conflagration (Vita Ad. et Ev. 49-50 Charles; Josephus, Ant. 1.2.3 Whiston; Cf. Lk 17:25-30; 2 Pt 2:4-9). As for the Barbeloite texts, while flood and conflagration are not mentioned in the Pronoia hymn of Ap. John, the main body of Ap. John (BG, 72,14-73,18) mentions the flood, and Trim. Prot. (XIII, 43,8-12) mentions the conflagration; in each case these are destructions that preface the third descent of the redeemer. .
    While in ApocAdam the horizontal scheme of the threefold descent still predominates, the vertical modalistic scheme is beginning to make an appearance in the tendency to regard the descent of angels, a triad of powers, and the Illuminator as separate manifestations of a single being, the Illuminator. Somewhat the same combination of schemes occurs in Ap. John where Barbelo, the merciful Father-Mother, descends through the agency of the Autogenes (BG, 51,1-52,1), the Epinoia of Light (BG, 52,1853,20; 59,6-60,20) and Christ (BG, 75,11-15). In the Barbeloite tradition, it is in Trim. Prot. that the vertical modalistic scheme becomes most prominent with the Voice, Sound and Word modalities of Protennoia. Yet the horizontal scheme of the underlying Pronoia hymn remains dominant.
    The vertical modalistic scheme seems to be purest in the triple Sonship of Basilidean system (Hipp. Ref. VII.22.7 ff.), the intellectual, psychic, and earthly Christs of the Naasenes (Hipp. Ref. V.6.5.6), the Christ of three natures, three bodies and three powers of the Peratae (Hipp. Ref. V.12.4) and in the pneumatic, psychic and sensible Christs of the Valentinians (Iren. Haer. I.7.1-2; Exc. Theod. 59; Hipp. Ref. VI.36.3-4). Generally this tripartite redeemer originates from the next to the highest metaphysical level and is subsequently manifested at each of the three cosmic levels (Pleroma, Middle, Earth or sometimes agennêtos, autogenês, gennêtos) in a form corresponding to the ontological status of that level and the figures that inhabit it. In the Christian Gnostic systems, the tripartite redeemer is often Christ, although just as often one finds that Christ is identified with the final modality in which a more exalted tripartite redeemer is manifested, as is the case with Barbelo in the Christianized Barbeloite texts. Insofar as the redeemer originates from the next to the highest ontological level, it is often identical with the divine Mind or Thought or some aspect thereof. This feature seems to draw on the late Platonic noology. But even in texts that seem to be very distant from the late Platonic noology, one finds evidence of a three-stage descent, just as in the Hymn of the Pearl, where the redeemer originates from the East, passes through Babylon and. reaches "down to Egypt" (Acta Thom. 108-113).
    We conclude, then, that the motif of the attainment of gnosis or enlightenment in three stages is a major Gnostic motif. When this three-stage process is described in the form of a threefold (horizontal, temporally successive) or three-stage (vertical, modalistic) descent, it seems that one is dealing with a conception of basically Jewish provenance. This conception combines such motifs as a tripartitioning of historical epochs originating within Jewish (and Christian) apocalyptic, Jewish speculation on the descending figure of the Wisdom, Name and Glory of God, and Hellenistic Jewish and early Christian speculation on the Logos. To be sure, the descent pattern has prototypes in the Greek tradition, as does the partitioning of history into world epochs as well as speculation on the Logos. But when Greek myths recount the descent of heroes and gods to redeem lovers and protégés from Hades, the descents do not involve a progressive revelation of the deity either in successive periods of history or in successive levels of the universe.
    On the other hand, the motif of the threefold ascent in the Gnostic literature seems to emanate from the Platonic tradition. In cases where the stages of this ascent represent levels of being whose characteristics become part of the beholder's psychic state, as in Allogenes, the influence of Plato as well as of Neopythagoreanism and certain mystery religions seems undeniable. To be sure, the ascent through three levels is to be found in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic. But here the object is not to assimilate one's psychic states to the ontic characteristics of those levels by a progressive purgation of sensory illusion, multiplicity and alienation leading to an absolute unitary stasis characteristic of deification. When such assimilation does occur in apocalyptic, as in 2 Enoch 22, it is not regarded as an assimilation to the deity, and it is always a gift from the higher powers, and not a self-performable technique. Between Greek and Jewish portrayals of the way to enlightenment, there seems always to be the characteristic respective opposition between nature and grace, even in the Gnostic versions. In Judaism and most mythological Gnosis, the deity descends to the aid of man. In the Platonic tradition and in philosophical Gnosis, man ascends to the deity. Even if a higher revelation awaits him at the summit of the world of being, and even if the way needs to be shown by another initiated one, it is man's duty to raise himself to the threshold of deity, "to become like God so far as possible" (Theaet. 176B).
    The progressive attainment of enlightenment through the threefold descent of a revealer figure was preserved in the western tradition in Christian theology where Christ, the pre-existent Word of God, was seen to be active in the time of the prophets, in the mission and message of Jesus, and in his future advent as the eschatological judge. Likewise the Christian mystical tradition received the three-stage ascent pattern through the influence of Plotinus and the pseudo-Dionysius; the pattern gained its greatest literary expression in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.

[1]In The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by J. M. Robinson, (San Francisco: Harper & Row and E. J. Brill, 1977). Other translations: Ap. John in W. C. Till, Die gnostischen Schriften des koptischen Papyrus Berolinensis 8502 (TU 60; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, I955) and in M. Krause and P. Labib, Die drei Versionen des Apokryphon des Johannes im Koptischen Museum zu Alt-Kairo (Abh. des Deutschen Archäl. Instituts Kairo, Koptische Reihe I; Wiesbaden, I962); Trim. Prot. in G. Schenke, "Die dreigestaltige Protennoia," ThLZ 99 (1974), 731-746; Y. Janssens, "Le Codex XIII de Nag Hammadi," Le Muséon 87 (I974), 341-413; Steles Seth in M. Tardieu, "Les Trois Stèles de Seth," RevSchPhTh 57 (1973), 545-575. The Coptic text and English translation with notes of Allogenes (by J. D. Turner and O. S. Wintermute), of Zost. (by J. Sieber), of Steles Seth (by J.M.Robinson) and of Trim. Prot. (by J.D. Turner) are contained in Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII and XIII (Nag Hammadi Studies 28; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990) and Nag Hammadi Codex VIII (Nag Hammadi Studies 31; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991).
[2]C. Schmidt, "Irenäus und seine Quelle in adv. haer. I, 29," in Philotesia: Paul Kleinert zum LXX Gebusrtstag dargebracht. Berlin: Weidmann, 1907, pp. 315-336.
[3]It is more reasonable to suppose Trim. Prot. is an expansion of Ap. John (II, 34,11-31,25) than that the latter is an abridgement of the former. The Pronoia hymn is clearly added to the conclusion of Ap. John. The first subtractate of Trim. Prot. ("The Logos of the Protennoia" XIII, 35,1-42,3) contains the cosmology of Ap. John II, 4,10-12,9 (= Iren. Haer. I, 29, 1-4) as an inserted section (XIII, 37,20-40,18) without which Trim. Prot. would reproduce little more than the Pronoia hymn of Ap. John. This suggests that the author of Trim. Prot. is dependent on the longer version of Ap. John in which he found the Pronoia hymn ready-to-hand.
[4]"There were in his time many Christians and others, and sectarians who had abandoned the old philosophy, men of the schools of Adelphios and Aculinos, who possessed many treatises of Alexander the Libyan and Philocomos and Demostratos and Lydos and produced revelations by Zoroaster and Zostrianos, and Nicotheos, and Allogenes and Messos, and other people of the kind ..." Zoroaster and Zostrianos probably refer to Zost. of Codex VIII (hendiadys); Allogenes and Messos probably refer to Allogenes of Codex XI; for Nicotheos, see Anon. Bruc. 342: 2-8 Schmidt-Till. See also J.H.Sieber, "An Introduction to the Tractate Zostrianos from Nag Hammadi," Novum Testamentum 15 (I973), 233-240, and F.G. Bazan, "Gnostica: El Capitulo XVI de la Vida de Plotino de Porfirio," Salesianum 36 (1974), 463-478.
[5]Triple Power is frequent in such Gnostica as the Bruce and Askew Codices (passim, see Index in Schmidt-Till, p. 397), Steles Seth (VII, 121, 31-33; 122,13; 133,23-25), Zost. (VIII, 24,12-13; 79,21; 87,15-16; 97,2; 118,11-12; 128,20), and Marsanes (X, 1: passim).
[6]For the Kalyptos-Protophanes-Autogenes triad, cf. Zost., VIII,15, 4-17; 22,4-14; 44,24-31; 58,14-16; 60,13-17; (also 25,10-18; 135,12-17; 119, 4-17); Allogenes. XI, 45,31-47,7; 31,7-38; 58,12-26; in Steles Seth the names do not occur in a triadic context: Kalyptos VII, 122,14; 123,1; 126,5; Protophanes, VII,113,5-6; Autogenes, VII, 119,16. Cf. also Marsanes X, 3,25-4,12 and Anon. Bruce, 341,5-7 Schmidt-Till. For Triple Male, cf. Steles Seth, VII, 110,17-19. 29-30; 121,8-9; Zost.. VIII,24,4; 44,30; 51,22; 52,16; 61,17-18; Allogenes, XI, 45,37; 51,33; 55,36; 58,15; Ap. John, BG, 27,21; II, 5,8; Trim. Prot., XIII, 37,16; Anon. Bruce 341,8 Schmidt-Till.
[7]H. J. Krämer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Platonismus zwischen Platon und Plotin (Amsterdam: P. Schippers, I964).
[8]P. Hadot, "La métaphysique de Porphyre," in Porphyre (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique XII; Vandoeuvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, I960), pp. 127-157; "Discussion," pp. 158-163. Hadot does not discuss the possible role of the Chaldean verse hê men gar dynamis sun ekeinôi [scil. tôi patri] nous de ap' ekeinou (Procl. Theol. Plat. 365,3) which H. Lewy relates to Anon. Taur. IX, 1 (Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy: Mysticism, Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire [Recherches d'archéologie, de philologie et d'histoire XIII; Cairo: Institut Francais d'Archéologie Orientale, 1956], p. 79, n. 47). While Lewy thinks this nous is an emanation of the patrikos nous of the Chaldeans, it is also possible that it is the patrikos nous itself. This verse may have formed, along with Ap. John and Neopythagorean speculation, the basis on which Allogenes or perhaps Porphyry developed the Being or Existence-Life or Dynamis-Mind triad. While the present article suggests Allogenes as the source of the triad, Hadot claims Porphyry as the originator on the basis of his theory that the anonymous Parmenides commentary (Anon. Taur.) is by Porphyry ("Fragments d'un commentaire de Porphyre sur le Parménide," REG 74 [1961], 410-438).
[9]On this, see A. J. Festugière, La révélation d'Hermès Trismégiste,Vol. I, Le dieu inconnu et la gnose (Études bibliques; Paris: J. Gabalda, I954), pp. 18-53; Krämer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik, pp. 193-369.
[10]For extensive analysis of this triad in Plotinus, see P. Hadot, "Etre, Vie, Pensée chez Plotin et avant Plotin," Les sources de Plotin (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique V; Vandoeuvres-Geneva, Fondation Hardt, I960), pp. 159-174; "Discussion," pp. 175-190.
[11](1 Enoch 42, 2 Enoch 2-23; Test. Levi. 2-5; Asc. Is.; Apoc. Bar 6, 3 Bar 1; Vita Ad. et Ev. 25, Apoc. Sophonias apud Clem. Alex. Strom. V.11, Apoc. Abraham 15; Apoc. Moses 37; often in rabbinic Merkaba and Hekhaloth speculation; 2 Cor 12 and numerous Christian and Gnostic Apocalypses). See W. Bousset, Die Himmelreise der Seele (Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 4 [1901], 136-169; 229-273; reprint Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1960). Bousset tries to show that the three-heaven cosmology is original in the earliest Jewish apocalyptic and is of Iranian origin; only later was it displaced by the Neo-Babylonian seven-heaven cosmology. C. Colpe has attempted to establish a phenomenological criterion for the gnostic version of the ascent of the soul ("Die Himmelreise der Seele," in Le Origini dello Gnostismo: Colloquio di Messina, 13-18 Aprile 1966; Testi e Discussioni. Ed. by U. Bianchi. [Supplements to Numen XII; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967, pp. 429-445). He points out that in Iranian and Jewish sources depicting the ecstatic ascent of the soul through the heavens, the soul of the visionary is never aboriginally consubstantial with the object of vision. When assimilation occurs, as in investiture with the cloak of glory (1 Enoch 62; 2 Enoch 22), it is conferred, not achieved by mental praxis. In Greek and Gnostic sources, the ascending soul is as a rule consubstantial with the object of vision according as these sources reflect the notion of the analogy between the microcosmos (= highest part of the visionary's soul) and the macrocosmos (the highest level of the cosmos). The notion of consubstantiality is also found in Jewish wisdom literature, but except for Philo, these sources depict neither the microcosmos-macrocosmos conception nor the ascent motif, portraying instead the descent motif. The gnostic descent and ascent scheme is distinguished by the motif of the redeemed redeemer, according to which the upper macrocosmic soul becomes the redeemer of the lower microcosmic soul by awaking the latter from the sleep of incarnation so as to release it for its ascent to its origin. In this respect, Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth cannot be regarded as truly gnostic. On the other hand, Ap. John and Trim. Prot. are gnostic, since they depict the descents of the First Thought (like the descent of Wisdom) as redemptive of its fallen (consubstantial!) portions (merê, melê). In this connection, it is perhaps significant that Trim. Prot. and the Pronoia hymn of Ap. John depict the ascent of the redeemed soul by means of the mystery initiation motif of the five seals (cf. Apuleius, Metam. XI, 24). The five seals are not portrayed as a self-performable ascent. Rather the soul must be raised up from its sleep by a succession of celestial helpers or psychopomps located at various levels of the ascent; it cannot raise itself, as in Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth. It therefore appears that Jewish wisdom literature forms the pre-gnostic prototype for the descent motif of Ap. John and Trim. Prot., while the Greek visionary literature provides the pre-gnostic prototype for the ascent motif of Allogenes, Zost. and Steles Seth. The visionary ascent motif of Jewish apocalyptic, lacking the motif of the consubstantality of knower with known seems to stand apart here, but on the other hand may indeed have contributed to the gnostic descent motif through its eschatological speculations rather than its ascent motifs (see note 18 below).
[12]See the analysis of H. Jonas, "Myth and Mysticism: A Study of Objectification and Interiorization," Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1974), pp. 291-304.
[13]On this, see H. Cherniss, The Riddle of the Early Academy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945), pp. 60-85.
[14]On this division and its history in western thought, see P. Merlan, From Platonism to Neoplatonism (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953), pp. 53-77. Cf. Aristotle, Met. 1026a 6-19; 1064b 1-3; Xenocrates apud Sext. Emp. Adv. Math. VII, 16,147 (= frags. 1 and 5 Heinze).
[15]Hadot, "La métaphysique de Porphyre," pp. 127-129.
[16]For these "ways," see H. Dörrie, "Die Frage nach dem Transzendenten im Mittelplatonismus," Les sources de Plotin (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique V; Vandoeuvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, I960), pp. 2I3-2I4; A.-J. Festugière, Le dieu inconnu et la gnose, pp. 92-140; Krämer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysik, pp. 105-I08.
[17]See G. W. Macrae, "The Jewish Background of the Sophia Myth," Novum Testamentum 12 (1970), 86-101; but Cf. H. Conzelmann, "Die Mutter der Weisheit," Zeit und Geshichte: Dankesgabe an Rudolf Bultmann zum 80. Geburtstag. Ed. E. Dinkler (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1964, pp. 225-234, who argues that the prototype of the hypostatized Sophia is Isis.
[18]P. Perkins has shown that the threefold schematization of ApocAdam derives from Jewish apocalyptic speculation on Adam and Seth in relation to a periodization of history based on the Genesis tradition of the flood and of Sodom and Gomorrah; the speculative Gnostic reworking of these traditions as one moves from ApocAdam to GEgypt and on to ParaShem (VII, 25, 9-20), Ap. John and Trim. Prot. show increasing distance from the Jewish roots of this periodization ("Apocalyptic Schematization in the Apocalypse of Adam and the Gospel of the Egyptians," Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Literature, One Hundred Eighth Annual Meeting: Book of Seminar Papers, Vol. 2 [Society of Biblical Literature, I972], pp. 591-595). Attention should also be called to Pindar's second Olympian Ode (68 ff.), where only those souls who "thrice had been courageous in keeping their souls pure from all deeds of wrong" will achieve the Isles of the Blessed; to Plato, Phaedrus 249A, where the soul who has chosen the life of philosophy in each of three thousand-year periods of incarnation will regain its wings; and to Empedocles, Frg. 115 Diels, where the daimon is eligible for heavenly bliss only after three transmigration periods of ten thousand years. Although this Greek, perhaps Orphic or Pythagorean, eschatology certainly involves a three-phase purification, the conclusion of each period involves a new ethical choice of the soul, but not a judgmental visitation from without. The Stoic doctrine of the periodic ekpyrôsis of the cosmos involves the destruction scheme, but these periods are eternally repetitive with no salvific goal (e.g. Nemesius, De nat. hom. 38, p. 277 = SVF II 625). Seneca (Nat. quaest. II, 28,7) mentions periodic destructions by flood and renewal after the conflagration, but these occur without any schematization (solutus legibus sine modo fertur). Significantly, following Plato, Philo denies these destructions (De aetern. mundi 497; 508). Origen also rejects the Stoic scheme of periodic conflagration, since destnrction by fire and flood are God's way of purging the soul's evil (Contra Celsum IV, 11-13): when Celsus appeals to the world-catastrophes mentioned by Plato (Timaeus 22), Origen reminds him that this myth is the product of irrational thinking, whence even Plato put the myth into the mouth of an Egyptian priest (Contra Celsum I, 19-10; cf. IV, 4I).