Monday 12 October 2020

Christian Gnostic Understanding of Satan The devil

Christian Gnostic Understanding of Satan The devil

The theology of orthodox Christianity places the devil in juxtaposition with God. As the one is presented for worship as the source and embodiment of all good, so the other is held up for detestation and dread, as the instigator and promoter of all evil. Practically, the one is regarded in the light of the good God, and the other as the bad god. It is the polytheism of paganism in its smallest form: and the philosophy of the ancients embodied in names and forms supplied by the Bible.

The first thing we have to address is the definition of Satan. While fundamentalists will tell you that Satan was present in the Bible from the very foundations laid in Genesis, history tells us a different story. The words Satan, Devil, demon, Lucifer, fallen angel etc. simply don't occur in the whole of the book of Genesis. Throughout the Old Testament, the one and only God is presented as all powerful, without equal and in no competition with any other cosmic force. The Old Testament makes it clear that any 'adversary' to God's people was ultimately under the control of God Himself.

The period between the Old and New Testaments saw the production of a huge volume of Jewish literature advocating a personal Satan. Jewish writings speak of a figure called Beliar, a kind of personal Satan figure. The Book of Enoch and the story of the "watchers" became accepted as dogma amongst the Jews- i.e. that the "watcher" Angels had sinned and come to earth at the time of Genesis 6 and married beautiful women. Thus the Book Of Jubilees, dating from around 104 B.C., claims that God placed "over all nations and peoples, spirits in authority, to lead them astray" (15:31). Why would the righteous God place His people under the authority of those who would lead them astray- and then judge us for going astray? Jubilees 5:2 blames the flood on the fact that the earth was morally corrupt, but it claims that the animal creation also sinned and brought about the state of corruptness which required the destruction of the flood- thereby taking the spotlight off human sin as the sole cause for the flood.
The Bible clearly states that the suffering and disease that there is in the earth is a result of Adam's sin; but Jubilees claims that all such illnesses were a result of evil spirits, "And we explained to Noah all the medicines of their diseases, together with their seductions, how he might heal them with herbs of the earth" (Jub. 10:12-13).

After the fall of the second temple Rabbinical scholars rejected all of the Enochian writings mentioning Satan as a literal, heavenly figure and fallen angels, and viewing Satan to symbolize evil inclination (malicious impulses) yetzer hara (Hebrewיֵצֶר הַרַע‎)
SATAN is a Hebrew word that has been transferred to the New Testament and to the English. It denotes an adversary, an opponent or an enemy. It has been translated seven times: “adversary”; five times: “be an adversary”; once each: “resist” and “to withstand”; nineteen times: “satan” (as in Numbers 22:22; Matthew 16:23).

The Accuser (often said by clergy to be Satan) in the Book of Job is literally an agent of the court, much like Prosecutors in the modern legal system. There’s no indication that this is a fallen angel. (One has to ask, how on earth did a fallen angel even appear before God if said fallen angel is supposed to be suffering in the fires of Hell?) The original Hebrew word HaSatan simply means adversary or accuser.

The first place where it occurs is Num. 22:22 :--"And God's anger was kindled because he (Balaam) went; and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary (SATAN) against him."

It next occurs in the same chapter, verse 32 :--

"And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand (marg., to be AN ADVERSARY--a Satan to) thee."

In this case, Satan was a holy angel. Understanding "Satan" to mean adversary in its simple and general sense, we can see how this could be; but, understanding it as the evil being of popular belief, it would be a different matter. The following are other cases in which the word is translated "adversary," in the common version of the Scriptures:--

"Let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary (SATAN) to us" (1 Sam 29:4).

"And David said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries (SATANS) unto me?" (2 Sam 19:22).

"But now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary (SATAN) nor evil occurrent" (1 Kings 5:4).

"And the Lord stirred up an adversary (SATAN) unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom" (1 Kings 11:14).

"And God stirred him up another adversary (SATAN), Rezon, the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah."

"And he was an adversary (SATAN) to Israel all the days of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:23, 25).

Matthew 16:23 - “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of MEN.”

The foregoing literal definitions indicate certain characteristics applicable to mankind and NOT to a superhuman evil god of the lower regions.

These definitions indicate characteristics of mankind, NOT a superhuman evil god.

The devil of popular opinion (the demigod of the lower region) cannot be found in the Hebrew Old testament writings.

The deceiving phase of mind in man that has fixed ideas in opposition to Truth (adversary, lier in wait, accuser, opposer, hater, an enemy). Satan assumes various forms in man's consciousness, among which may be mentioned egotism, a puffing up of the personality; and the opposite of this, self-deprecation, which admits the "accuser" into the consciousness. This "accuser" makes man believe that he is inherently evil.

Satan is the "Devil," a state of mind formed by man's personal ideas of his power and completeness and sufficiency apart from God. Besides at times puffing up the personality, this satanic thought often turns about and, after having tempted one to do evil, discourages the soul by accusing it of sin. Summed up, it is the state of mind in man that believes in its own sufficiency independent of its creative Source.

Satan--The Adversary, the great universal negative whose power is derived from the unlawful expression of man's own being. The serpent as "Satan" is sensation suggesting indulgence in pleasures beyond the law fixed by creative Mind.

The Devil

In the New Testament, the word DEVIL is derived from the Greek word ‘diabolos’ which literally means a slanderer, a false witness, or a liar, which can only apply to mankind and not to one of God’s heavenly hosts.

As Jesus applied "Satan" to Peter, so he applied "devil" to Judas: "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is A DEVIL?" (John 6:70). Judas proved a liar, a betrayer, a false accuser, and, therefore, a devil. Paul, in 1 Tim 3:11, tells the wives of deacons not to be devils. His exhortation, it is true, does not appear in this form in the English version. The words, as translated, are "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers (diabolous)." The same remark applies to 2 Tim 3:2, 3 "For men shall be... without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers (diaboloi)"; and to Titus 2:3: "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers (diabolous)."

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might DESTROY him that had the power of death, THAT IS, THE DEVIL."

On the supposition that the devil here referred to is the orthodox devil, or a personal devil of any kind, there are four absurdities on the face of this passage.

In the first place, to take on the weakness of flesh and blood was a strange way of preparing to fight a powerful devil, who, it would be imagined, would be more successfully encountered in the panoply of angelic strength, which Paul expressly says Jesus did not array himself in; for he says, "He took not on him the nature of angels" (Heb. 2:16).

In the second place it was stranger still that the process of destroying the devil should be submission to death himself! One would have thought that to vanquish and destroy the devil, life inextinguishable, and strength indomitable, would have been the qualification. Undoubtedly they would have been so, if, the Bible devil had been the orthodox devil--a personal monster.

In the third place, the devil ought now to be dead, or whatever else is imported by the word "destroyed," for Christ died nineteen centuries ago, for the purpose of destroying him by that process. How comes it then, that the devil is clerically represented to be alive and busier than ever in the work of hunting immortal souls with gin and snare, and exporting them to his own grim domain?

 The devil Christ has come to destroy is sin. If anyone doubts this, let .him reconsider Paul's words quoted above. What did Christ accomplish in his death? Let the following testimonies answer:--

"He put away SIN by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3).

"He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities" (Isa. liii, 5).

"His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (2 Pet 2:24).

"He was manifested to take away OUR SINS" (1 John 3:5).

Christ, through death, destroyed, or took out of the way, "the sin of the world ". In this, he destroyed the Bible devil. He certainly did not destroy the popular devil in his death, for that devil is supposed to be still at large, but in his own person, as a representative man, he extinguished the power of sin by surrendering to its full consequences, and then escaping by resurrection, through the power of his own holiness, to live for evermore. This is described as "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. viii, 3). Sin in the flesh, then, is the devil destroyed by Jesus in his death. This is the devil having the power of death, for it is sin, and nothing else but sin that causes death to men. Does anyone doubt this ? Let him read the following testimonies:

By one man sin entered into the world, and death BY sin" (Rom. v, 12)

"By man CAME DEATH (I Cor. xv, 21).

"The wages of sin is DEATH" (Rom. vi, 23). "SIN hath reigned unto death" (Rom. v, 21). "SIN... bringeth forth death" (James i, 15). "The sting of death is SIN" (I Cor. xv, 56).

The devil, a Bible synonym for sin - abstract and concrete - existing as the spirit of disobedience in the children of men and embodied and manifested in the persons and institutions of present order of things.

Satan The devil is a personification of human nature this is not an abstraction but that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh "which has the power of death" and it is called sin, because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled "sinful flesh," that is, "flesh full of sin"; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. In human flesh "dwells no good thing" (Rom. 7:17,18); and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him.

the devil

Same as Satan, which see. The "devil" signifies the mass of thoughts that have been built up in consciousness through many generations of earthly experiences and crystallized into what may be termed human personality, or carnal mind. Another name of the "devil" is sense consciousness; all the thoughts in one that fight against and are adverse to Truth belong to the state of mind that is known to metaphysicians as the Devil.

The "devil" is a state of consciousness adverse to the divine good. Other names for this state of consciousness are the Adversary, carnal mind, the accuser, and the old man. There is no personal devil. God is the one omnipresent Principle of the universe, and there is no room for any principle of evil, personified or otherwise.

Devil, how to overcome the--The Devil is overcome by denying his existence and by affirming universal Christ love for God and all men. The devils that we encounter are fear, anger, jealousy, and other similar negative traits, and they are in ourselves. Christ gives us the power to cast out these devils, thereby cleansing our consciousness.

Who is Satan in Gnosticism?

If we take, for example, the Valentinian Gnostic cosmogony, the Christian notion of Satan doesn’t come into play at all.

According to the sethian Gnostics The God of the Jews and the Christians is either Yaldabaoth or Sabaoth the ill-begotten son of Sophia, who gave birth outside of the normal pattern of reproduction for the Divine Syzygies in the Pleroma.

It is I who am God, and there is none apart from me.’  When he said this, he sinned against the whole place. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying,
“You are wrong, Samael,” that is, “God of the blind.” . . .
And he said, “If anything else exists before me, let it become visible to me!”

Samael  is an archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore; a figure who is the accuser (Ha-Satan), In the Apocryphon of JohnOn the Origin of the World, and Hypostasis of the Archons, found in the Nag Hammadi librarySamael is one of three names of the creator God, whose other names are Yaldabaoth and Saklas

In the system depicted by the sethians there is no satan and there is no need for one, for “Yahweh”—the God of Jews and Christians alike—himself acts as chief of the fallen angels who seduces and enslaves human beings. By declaring himself to be the supreme and unique God of the universe

The Albigenses or Cathari believed that the "the creator of the material world is the source of all evil (Albigenses by Nicholas Weber in Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907)

In the Old testament Yahweh is referred to as Satan by comparing 1 Chronicles 21, and 2 Samuel 24 In the Book of Samuel, Yahweh himself is the agent in punishing Israel, while in 1 Chronicles an "adversary" is introduced. The adversary seems to have been God; for we read in 2 Sam. 24:1, "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and HE moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." The angel of God was a Satan to Balaam, as we have seen, and, in this case, God proved a Satan to Israel. Moved, doubtless, by the general perversity of the people, He impelled David to a course which resulted in calamity to the nation.

In contrast, Ptolemy, and other Valentinians steadfastly maintained that "the creation is not due to a god who corrupts but to one who is just and hates evil" (Letter to Flora 3:6). He carefully distinguished the Demiurge from both God and the Devil. According to Ptolemy, "he is essentially different from these two (God and the Devil) and is between them, he is rightly given the name, Middle" (Letter to Flora 7:4). He is "neither good nor evil and unjust, can properly be called just , since he is the arbitrator of the justice which depends on him" (Letter to Flora 7:5)

In the gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip Satan and the devil never appear. however the devil appeas once in the Gospel of Truth  

Be concerned about yourselves. Don’t be concerned about other things which you’ve rejected from yourselves. Don’t return to eat your vomit. Don’t be eaten by worms, because you’ve already shaken it off. Don’t become a dwelling-place for the devil, because you’ve already brought him to naught. Don’t strengthen your obstacles which are collapsing, as though you’re a support. For the lawless one is nothing, to be treated more harshly than the just, doing his works among others. (Gospel of Truth)

To be “a dwelling-place for the devil” implies that the Devil enters us. “The lusts of other (sinful) things entering in” (Mk. 4:19) cause us to sin. Our lusts are described several times as physically moving into our heart from our evil nature where they are stored "an evil man brings forth evil things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things. For out of the abundance of the heart he brings forth evil things." (Gospel of Thomas Saying 45)

Do not become a place for the Devil, for you have already defeated him defeating the devil or bringing him to naught refers to 1 John 2:13: ‘because you have overcome the evil one.’

From the use of the word in Matthew 6:13; 13:19, it is obvious that it is the flesh that John is referring to, and which these ''young men had conquered by their acceptance of Christ. The evil propensities of the flesh dominate the world (1 John 3:12; 5:18-19), but these "young men had come out of the world, and had learned to conquer the flesh.

The Gospel of Philip like the book of Isaiah (45:7) does not see good and evil as cosmic opposites instead—“light and dark, life and death, good and evil”—are in reality pairs of interdependent terms in which each implies the other.

Philip, on the other hand, interprets the human inclination to sin without recourse to Satan

The gospel of Thomas and Philip teach that within each person's heart lies the root of wickedness. This is Philip’s interpretation of the traditional Jewish teaching of the yetzer hara, which the rabbis called the “evil inclination.” So long as we remain unaware of “the root of evil” within us, Philip says, “it is powerful; but when it is recognized, it is destroyed.” 

45. Jesus said, "Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they yield no fruit. Good persons produce good from what they've stored up; bad persons produce evil from the wickedness they've stored up in their hearts, and say evil things. For from the overflow of the heart they produce evil."

The Root of Evil

Let each of us also dig down after the root of evil within us and pull it out of our hearts from the root. It will be uprooted if we recognize it. But if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces fruit in our hearts. It dominates us. We are its slaves, and it takes us captive so that we do what we do [not] want and do [not] do what we want. [cf. Rom. 7:14—15] It is powerful because we do not recognize it. As long as [it] exists, it stays active. .

Essential to gnosis is to “know” one’s own potential for evil. According to Philip, recognizing evil within oneself is necessarily an individual process: no one can dictate to another what is good or evil; instead, each one must strive to recognize his or her own inner state, and so to identify acts that spring from the “root of evil,” which consists in such impulses as anger, lust, envy, pride, and greed. This teacher assumes that when one recognizes that a certain act derives from such sources, one loses the conviction needed to sustain the action. In order to do evil— whether to indulge in an angry tirade, commit murder, or declare aggressive war—one seems to require the illusion that one’s action is justified, that one is acting for right reasons. This author holds, then, the optimistic conviction that “truth ... is more powerful than ignorance of error.”90 Knowing the truth in this way involves more than an intellectual process; it involves transformation of one’s being, transformation of one’s way of living: “If we know the truth, we shall find its fruits within us; if we join ourselves with it, we shall receive our fulfillment


  1. As a student of the Alice Bailey literature, I understand the exoteric manifestation of the great world religions as serving the development of the masses who follow it, at least for many centuries. This means that many absurdities in their orthodox presentation have been actually useful. The concept of a personal devil who tries to capture you for unending and unthinkably horrible punishment in hell would perhaps have helped people to realize that there are consequences for their sins and motivate a struggle to overcome them.

    An esoteric approach to Christianity permits one to reject so much nonsense, which can be detrimental. It has been sad for me to know some schizophrenic people who were terrified of the devil and of ending up in hell. I spent years trying to reassure them. I think it is time for a more psychologically sound and esoteric version of the world's religions to reform them to make them more useful--a tall order, to be sure.

    Thank you for posting.

  2. Be honest with yourself. If on the day you are scheduled to watch a movie you are feeling really attracted to him, don't do it. You don't want to set yourself up for failure. Remember the scripture James 4:7, which says "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Christian singles