Monday, June 16, 2008

A Description of the Demiurge

Abridged Text from Wikipedia. The full text is here.


The term appears in Gnosticism. The material universe is seen as evil or at least a place created by an insane, malevolent, and/or inferior creator deity.

The Gnostics attributed many of the actions and laws which in the Tanach or Old Testament are attributed to the Hebrew God Yehovah, to the Demiurge (see the Sethians and Ophites).

Alternative Gnostic names for the Demiurge, include Yaldabaoth, "Samael", "Saklas", and "Kosmokrator". He is known as Ptahil in Mandaeanism. The figures of the "Angel of YHWH" and the "Angel of Death" may have contributed to the Gnostic view of the Demiurge.


Gnostic myth recounts that Sophia (Greek, literally meaning "wisdom"), the Demiurge’s mother and a partial aspect of the divine Pleroma or “Fullness,” desired to create something apart from the divine totality, and without the receipt of divine assent. In this abortive act of separate creation, she gave birth to the monstrous Demiurge and, being ashamed of her deed, she wrapped him in a cloud and created a throne for him within it. The Demiurge, isolated, did not behold his mother, nor anyone else, and thus concluded that only he himself existed, being ignorant of the superior levels of reality that were his birth-place.

The Gnostic myths describing these events are full of intricate nuances portraying the declination of aspects of the divine into human form; this process occurs through the agency of the Demiurge who, having stolen a portion of power from his mother, sets about a work of creation in unconscious imitation of the superior Pleromatic realm. Thus Sophia’s power becomes enclosed within the material forms of humanity, themselves entrapped within the material universe: the goal of Gnostic movements was typically the awakening of this spark, which permitted a return by the subject to the superior, non-material realities which were its primal source. (See Sethian Gnosticism.)

Under the name of Nebro (rebel), Yaldabaoth is called an angel in the apocryphal Gospel of Judas. He is first mentioned in "The Cosmos, Chaos, and the Underworld" as one of the twelve angels to come "into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld]". He comes from heaven, his "face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood". Nebro creates six angels in addition to the angel Saklas to be his assistants. These six in turn create another twelve angels “with each one receiving a portion in the heavens.”


Samael” literally means “Blind God” or “God of the Blind” in Aramaic (Syriac sæmʕa-ʔel). This being is considered not only blind, or ignorant of its own origins, but may in addition be evil; its name is also found in Judaica as the Angel of Death and in Christian demonology. This leads to a further comparison with Satan.


Another alternative title for the Demiurge, “Saklas,” is Aramaic for “fool” (Syriac sækla “the foolish one”).


Some Gnostic teachers (notably Marcion of Sinope and the Sethians) seem to have identified the evil Demiurge with Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, in opposition and contrast to the God of the New Testament. Still others equated the being with Satan. Catharism apparently inherited their idea of Satan as the creator of the evil world directly or indirectly from Gnosticism. However, "YHWH" is generally not used as a name of the demiurge in Gnostic texts. Yaldabaoth isn't likely from "YHWH Sabaoth" since Yaldabaoth has an "L" at the end of "ya", suggesting the name of an angel is the origin of the term. The names of most angels of Jewish origin end with the syllable "el". On the other hand, some angels were called by some YHWH because they represented God's power and authority. This was especially true of the supreme angel that represented God, who was sometimes called the "lesser YHWH". A Jewish sect of first century B.C., called the Maghariyyah, held that angels organized the world and ordained the Law. Such views may have been part of the origin of Gnostic Christian belief in the Demiurge and his archons.

Nowhere in the Old testament, or New Testament canon, is the creator of the world or the universe identified as Satan. Nor in the Old (see the Septuagint) or New Testament is the cosmos, nature or earth created by the creator referred to as evil. Rather than presenting Satan as the creator of the world as we know it, orthodox Christianity holds that the New Testament presents the view that creation has been subjected to his rule through mankind's defection from the creator Yahweh. As a result, Satan is called "the god of this world" at (2 Cor. 4:4), and John states that "the whole world lies in the grip of the Wicked One." (1 John 5:19) The vilification of the Creator of the material world is to both traditions orthodox Christian and Jewish movements, foreign and not documented as a traditional perspective. [11]

This, in fact, is a crucial doctrine often overlooked by those who have difficulty harmonizing the goodness of Yahweh the Creator with the evil that is evident in the world (see the problem of evil).

While concepts such as syzygies (see Valentinus) and the soul and spiritual as good and the body and the material universe as evil would indeed reflect a very distinct and clear duality as it is expressed within the Sethian and other gnostic traditions (also see Mind-body dichotomy).

An example of vilifying the Creator would be to attribute the term “Kosmokrator” (found in the New Testament) to the Old Testament creator as the fallen Gnostic demiurge (see Marcion and the Cathars). If one sees the attribute of organizor of the cosmos as inherent in the concept of God, then the title “The God of this Aeon”, becomes a powerful indicator that Satan is indeed the creator. Modern-day Cathars see the epithet κοσμοκράτορας (Kosmokrator) (Koine Greek kosmokratoras (lit. "world ruler", κόσμο cosmos + κράτορας ("kratia"), which is applied to Satan in Ephesians 6:12, as a possible further indication of the creatorship of Satan and his identity with the Demiurge.

This usage would, according to some, vilify the logos[12] as it was used by Heraclitus, meaning the ruling or guiding principle of the universe.

Some people think St. Paul's passage was referring to men of power falling under the influence of evil as in the world-rulers (since the word Kosmokrators in Ephesians is plural meaning many rulers not one ruler) of the darkness of the age this then meaning many evil rulers not just one. The Gnostics held there were several archons under the supreme archon of the cosmos, the Demiurge.


Anonymous said...

As I remember the basical theological problem is the unity of the God: The christian God - besides that very strange tridentity that Augustinus brought up and is basically not Christian - is one, as the Gnostic idea sees it as two.
But its a time that I read catharian texts. Never became wise. Via Augustin gnostic ideas actually came into the Christian tradition.