Devotion to the Triune Deity
One of the common questions we receive as Gnostics is Why do you espouse
the doctrine of the Christian Trinity? To answer this question we have
only to listen to the voices of the early Gnostics themselves. In the entire
canon of Biblical scripture there are only a few vague references to a
trinity in the letters of St Paul, yet the Gnostic scriptures of the Nag
Hammadi collection are filled with trinitarian expressions of God. In the
Gospel of Philip,we see written, ...the name of the Father and
the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no place in the mainstream canon
of the Bible where we can find so clear a reference to the Christian Trinity.
In this way, we can state quite emphatically that we, as Gnostics, are
trinitarians, yet we encompass far more than any dogma of the Church concerning
Whereas the mainstream Church has spent nearly two thousand years developing
a dogma of the Trinity, Gnostics have always approached the Trinity as
an archetypal symbol and a mystery. As an archetype, the Trinity arises
in every culture, in every place and time. Even in terms of physical processes,
most every phenomenon can be described as a trinitarian expressionactive,
passive, and their connecting interaction; motion, inertia and rhythm;
thesis, antithesis and a resolving and connecting principle.
Many religions besides Christianity include a triune deity. The Goddess
of modern Wiccans includes Maid, Mother and Crone. The Hindu pantheon includes
the Creator (Brahma), the Destroyer (Shiva) and the Preserver (Vishnu).
Religions that have a triad of gods often develop family relationships
between the members of the triad. This is particularly the case in the
Egyptian mysteries with Osiris (Father), Isis (Mother) and Horus (Son),
as well as Ra (Father), Pharaoh (Son of Ra) and Ka (the connecting and
transmitting Spirit). The Gnostic symbol of the Trinity incorporates these
two trinitarian formulae from the Egyptian mysteriesFather, Son and Holy
(Mother) Spirit. The Gospel of the Egyptians describes such an emanation
of the Trinity: Three powers came forth from him; they are the Father,
the Mother, and the Son. Here the Mother (Holy Spirit) is the second person
of the Trinity, where she might also be identified with the Egyptian Ka.
The Gospel of the Egyptians further describes the emanation of a triune
series of ogdoads making a total of 24 powers, as described in the Book
of Revelation. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats;
and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white
raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
In the tradition of the Pharaonic succession in ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh
is a divine king, an Anointed One, a Christos, through the connecting power
of the Ka (Spirit) that unites the Father and the Son and passes on to
the Pharoah the power and consciousness of the Sun God, Ra. The Pharaoh
is called the Son of Ra after receiving the Ka (Hereditary Spirit) of the
Father. Also, in the Mass, immediately before the minor elevation, this
uniting principle of the Holy Spirit, the Ka, is again invoked. To whom
with Thee, O Mighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be ascribed
all honor and glory, throughout the aeons of aeons.
The mainstream Catholic tradition emphasizes the relationship between
the Father and the Son, as an exclusive relationship between God and one
man in history, called Jesus. Most of the controversy over the Trinity
throughout the centuries has been over the relationship of the Holy Spirit
to the other two persons of the Trinity and how that might influence the
doctrine of both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. The traditional
Credo provides only one minimal reference to the Holy Spirit, as the Giver
of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who together with the
Father and the Son, is adored and glorified: Who spoke by the prophets.
The Eastern Orthodox differs in that the Father alone brings forth both
the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Gospels record that Jesus would send the
Holy Spirit to remain on earth to guide and care for us, yet, in Orthodox
and Catholic liturgy, the Holy Spirit is never invoked alone and is not
fully explained as to its relationship to all of humanity.
A fuller explanation and development of the Holy Spirit in the mystery
of the Trinity is threatening to the mainstream position in two principle
ways. One is that the Holy Spirit is primarily a feminine Power, as realized
by the early Gnostics and later mystics of the Church. One cannot pursue
the imagery and mystery of the Holy Spirit without encountering a feminine
energy, the Mother of the Holy Trinity. Julian of Norwich recognizes this
when she writes, The Light, breathed forth in the Logos, is at one and
the same time the Mother and the Daughter of the Logos. She again relates
this when she writes, The deep wisdom (the Sophia) of the Trinity is our
Secondly, the full development of the mystery of the Holy Spirit intimates
that all of humanity participates in the Sonship of God. If the Father
appears in the Son and breathes the Holy Spirit together with the Son,
who leaves the Holy Spirit with humanity, then the Holy Spirit that breathes
in all humanity is the same Holy Spirit that unites the Father and the
Son. In this way, all of humanity constitute the children of the Light
of the Father, born of the Holy Spirit, our Mother.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims to the multitudes, Ye
are gods! In the Acts of John he again exclaims, Know ye not that
ye are all angels, all archangels, gods and lords, all rulers, all great
invisibles; that ye are all, of yourselves and in yourselves in turn, from
one mass and one mixture and one substance! If we can accept that we are
both divine and human, then it is not such a great stretch to conceive
of Jesus as an exemplary of that dual nature. God is manifest in the mystery
figure of Jesus, as in ourselves through the Holy (Mother) Spirit; the
distinction is quantitative rather than qualitative. Jesus manifested the
unity and wholeness of his divine nature, and brought to us the message
of our own unity with the Father, while we are yet in the process of remembering
and uniting with that divine nature, the Christ within.
We, as Gnostics, do not promulgate a Triune Deity to fragment God or
to argue the divinity of one man in history but to affirm the divine nature
within all of us. The Gospel of Philip makes the Gnostic approach
to the Trinity very clear.
It is fitting for those who do have it not only to receive the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but to obtain them for themselves.
If anyone does not obtain them for himself, the name also will be taken
from him. But one receives them in the chrism of the fullness of the power
of the Cross, which the apostles call the right and the left. For this
one is no longer a Christian but a Christ.
The Trinity is not something to be argued about or explained in rational
terms but a mystery to be experienced, the mystery of our own unity in
God. It is a sanctfifying and mysterious presence, like a bright cloud
with a voice of fire and the fluttering of wings, an indwelling Spirit,
a boundless Light, a presence we manifest in ourselves whenever we invoke
the Holy Trinity in the Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et
Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
-- Rev. Steven Marshall