Tag Archives: nag hammadi library

A Vicarious Mystic

15 Mar

“My father, yesterday you promised me that you would bring my mind into the eighth and afterwards you would bring me into the ninth. You said that this is the order of the tradition.” – Initiate, The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth

For having such a dull title, The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth might be one of the most exciting texts in the Nag Hammadi Library; it offers an intimate glimpse into third-century mystical practice. The only version of its kind, it describes a conversation between a mystagogue (instructor of transcendental teachings and excursions–think Jedi Master) and an initiate (eager young Padawan). The mystagogue guides the initiate into an experience of eighth and ninth heavenly spheres by experiencing them first himself, and then describing to his pupil what he sees. (They’ve already taken the trip to “the seventh sphere” together, apparently, “since [they] are pious and walk in [God’s] law.”) The mystagogue tells his spiritual “son,” “Your part, then, is to understand; my own is to be able to deliver the discourse from the fountain that flows to me.”

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I Am the Utterance of my Name

28 Jan

In a text called The Thunder, Perfect Mind, an enigmatic, divine female figure describes herself as a series of opposites. Beckoning her hearers to listen, know her, and be on their guard, she proclaims:

I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter…
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.

I am the utterance of my name. It’s such a strange idea, and seems so counterintuitive. We receive (or later choose) our names. We hear our names spoken, and look around to find out who wants our attention. What would it mean to be the very sound of one’s name?

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