The Gnostic Library of Nag Hammadi

Published On: June 22, 2023Categories: Blog2771 words13.9 min read

When Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in the year 367 of our era orders his parishioners, by means of a letter, to destroy all the documents referring to Christianity which were excluded from the official canon in the Council of Nicaea of 325 A.D. (which are those that at the moment make up our New Testament), he is ignorant that he is also fulfilling a definitive role in the eyes of History for the intact preservation of 52 gnostic texts (46 originals and 6 duplicates) about the life of Jesus and his disciples and of the evolution and functionalism of the Gnostic Christian communities of the first centuries of Christianity.

Let’s see what that letter said according to Tobias Churton’s version, remembering that “apocryphal” literally means “secret”:

“For as much as some have taken in hand, to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, delivered to the fathers; it hath seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by the brethren and having learned from the beginning, to bring before you the books included in the cannon, and handed down, and accredited as divine; to the end that anyone who has fallen into error may correct those who had led him astray; and that he who continues steadfast in purity, may again rejoice, having those things brought to his remembrance.”

Obviously, Athanasius once again reminds the Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Pachomius which ones are the officially approved texts so that he can act accordingly, as much with respect to himself as to the monks he is in charge of. Possibly the author of this letter does not know or perhaps he does not want to remember that these “official” texts have already been manipulated and reinterpreted by St. Jerome, official translator of the Bible, including the letters of Paul, in order “to adapt them” to the postulates of the new institution. This adaptation of the translations, on the other hand customary in the history of humanity and, above all, in the history of religions, seeks to accommodate the texts to the necessities of the “Catholic” Church of the moment and, thus to radically differentiate them from the rest of the texts that point towards the obtaining of self-Gnosis through the knowledge and incarnation of the intimate Christ. And he adds:

These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsteth may be satisfied with the words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to them, neither let him take aught from them… …None of the canonical or official scriptures refers to the apocryphal or unofficial writings, but this is an intension of heretics, writing them to favor their own views, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, and producing them as ancient writings, that thereby they might find occasion to lead astray the simple.”
Athanasius, with the ignorance of the inquisitor, did not know that this disposition would be fundamental so that those texts were conserved, until the present time, thanks to the dryness of the desert.

Due to this official position, one or several monks from the Monastery of Saint Pachomius, located in Upper Egypt between Thebes and Abydos, decides to hide in the desert a clay jar of approximately 60 cm., sealed by bitumen and containing 12 or 13 books or codexes made with papyrus leaf, bound with leather and of an excellent quality for its time.

These books contain the texts previously mentioned and were found “causally” in December of 1945 by Egyptian farmers of the nearby district of Al-Qasr, while they looked for natural fertilizer for their planting. This “accidental” discovery has been described by scholars as the major archaeological treasure of the XX century, and known as “The Gnostic Library of Nag Hammadi,” due to the Arab name of the place where they were found.

What happened after has comprised one of the most strange and unheard of stories of international archaeology: intrigue, traffic of antiques, professional envy, competition to be the first, contraband, bribing of authorities, and who knows if the death of one or two accompanies these texts since they were discovered. All of this as a sample of the level of being of the scholars, and obviously, due to the intervention of the dark interests of this society; those tenebrous forces who control the collective unconscious. This is known in esoterism as the “Black Lodge,” which is very active in these “modern” times through disdain for what is true. The same ones who crucified the Lord and that later clouded his message. They still perpetuate their attacks against that psychological prototype of perfection called “the Christ.” Those who have structured a world based on the cult to the material, foreign to the intervention of the Eternal, in which the souls that yearn for the light of the Being drown. The French scholar Jean Doresse went so far as to exclaim: “If I had to go through everything again… I would probably think twice before getting involved again in a discovery that awoke so much envy.”

For the complete history of this shameful spectacle we refer the interested reader to the book “The Gnostic Gospels” by Dr. Elaine Pagels, in which the details of this story are explained with clarity.

Finally, at the request of several investigators, UNESCO intervenes, and the complete texts end up being placed at the disposal of the English speaking public in 1977.

“Causally” once again, on dates very close to the discovery, specifically in 1950, on the other side of the world, in Colombia (South America), emerges a spiritual movement whose initiatic essence coincides in the fundamental points with the traditional expositions of Primitive Gnosticism: the contemporary Gnosis unveiled by the V. M. Samael Aun Weor.

That intervention of the powers of darkness and materialism that manages to keep the texts “asleep” in the hands of the scholars, without being published, until the precise moment in which Master Samael, in the culmination of his esoteric process, disincarnates, also in 1977, is odd. Thirty- two years to translate 46 texts from Coptic to English and to put them at the disposition of the public. It is much more than a fatal chance or simple academic jealousy!

Contemporary Gnosticism qualifies this discovery as completely “causal” for the following reason. Primitive

Christianity had impelled a great number of consciousnesses towards their own intimate process of self-realization. With the passage of time, as we will study in the next chapter, the Christian-Catholic institution keep on degenerating until the present state. Therefore, the White Lodge preserved these texts for more than 1,600 years in an exceptional place for their conservation. That is why they are found in 1945, as a source of spiritual inspiration for the new Age of Aquarius. And, especially prepared for this age, in 1950 the Contemporary Gnostic Movement also emerges. Together, hand in hand, both had to re-emerge so that the properly prepared gnostics were able to reinterpret the history of Christianity and to give to humanity the authentic version of the gnostic reality.

Therefore the contemporary gnostics of the lineage of transmission of Master Samael have the responsibility to unveil these texts in full form from the point of view of universal Gnosticism.

Gnostic Transcendence of these Gospels

These texts shed a lot of light on primitive gnostic Christianity, but above all, the most important thing is that we find ourselves before authentic, first hand documents of our spiritual parents. For the first time, and by their own hand, the gnostics express the true nature of Gnosticism. Having the tradition unveiled by the current Gnosticism, we have the keys that allow us to understand this matter in a deep form.

Until this discovery, the sources of the investigators of Gnosis were based fundamentally in the writings from the critics of Gnosticism, due to the fact that this “heresy,” being the most important one, was persecuted in a systematic form until obtaining that not even one of their books survived the persecution intact.

Let’s remember that the “heresy” is considered like a deviation of the true faith. And when the institution had been deviated in full, those few who maintained the essential principles of the true Christianity were obviously described as “heretics” by the dominant majority.

For history, Gnosticism disappears, as an organized and recognizable movement in Christianity, approximately in the IV century. From then on, all those who write about it will do so based on texts from their inquisitors, fundamentally Irenaeus of Lyon, Hypolitus of Rome and Epiphanius of Salamis. These texts include gnostic passages in their writings like rebuttal material, to eliminate any possible re-sprouting of the “heresy.” But this changes radically in 1945, when the discovery of Nag Hammadi rescues the voice of the gnostic patriarchs in an active form, free from ill intended interpretations. Thus, again, gnostic masters of the stature of Valentinus, Basilides, Carpocrates, Silvanus, etc., return to take the word to address a world that needs of their teachings much more than could be suspected.

Scholars from many universities, therefore, hurl themselves to the investigation and historical dating of these texts, with results as surprising as those that demonstrate that some of them (for example, the Gospel of Thomas) are as old or older than the gospels considered official.

It is necessary to emphasize that the texts are translations to Coptic (common Egyptian of the time), made between the III and IV centuries, of much older manuscripts written in Greek. The dating of these originals is dated around 120-150 A.D. approximately. There are even scholars who manage to affirm, based on the commentaries of Irenaeus of Lyon himself (180 A.D.), that several of these texts had to be contemporary or even previous to those of the New Testament, due to the ample diffusion and to their so evident penetration in the primitive Christian communities. They managed to date the Gospel of Thomas itself as possibly written from sources from the second half of the first century, that is to say, older than the canonical gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

Thus, the specialists translate texts, write thesis and essays, conference papers, and books about these Gnostics and their doctrines. But they have a great limitation. Even presupposing their good will, they are not connected with the tradition and, as a logical consequence; they are not intimately living the gnostic revelation. They are ignorant of the connection between master and disciple; they have not received any intuitive opening. Yet being academically well prepared (for which we thank them while making good use of their translations) and dominating dead languages like Coptic and Greek, their versions are always focused on the study of Gnosticism as something archaic, dead in time. And, although they admire the movement in an ignorant way, they cannot extract from the texts the scientific postulates they contain, due to their lack of preparation in the field of the spiritual gnostic initiatic tradition, since without the initiation in these mysteries it is not possible “to see” or “to hear” beyond the “dead letter.”

Even so, there are some with good will and some of them, like Dr. Pagels, with splendid works, which imply a certain connection with the primitive gnostic postulates. Others, acting as modern inquisitors, underestimate the discoveries and the gnostics themselves. And still some, greatly wrong, dedicate themselves to a pure exercise of confusion. They pose the study of the Gnostic School as something that happened exclusively in the past, like an object of archaeology. Few are those who, like Dr. Jung, are able to manifest that “these gnostics indeed knew the psyche of the individual.”

Gnosis nowadays receives the challenge of unveiling these texts based on the tradition unveiled by a contemporary master who, due to his doctrinary loyalty, incarnated the revelatory dynamism of the Being in himself. One long chain of traditional transmission exists, as we will see further on, but this is not enough on its own. In fact, tradition without revelation will sooner or later cause the degeneration of a school, as we have already seen, because the gnostic truth cannot be transmitted in a discourse or be shaped onto paper. It cannot be systematized or be outlined with the purpose of preserving it for posterity. The gnostic truth can only be experienced from moment to moment. And only those who enter through the initiatic path, that is, the Christic Gnostic Path, are really able to gain access to the Gnosis of the Father. Those are the ones who are capable to transmit the Gnosis again. In turn, if the new disciples do not incarnate the Gnosis, they will only be able to transmit dead words, ideas from others. This is the sense of the words of Jesus in saying 52 of the Gospel of Thomas: “His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty- four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you.’ He said to them, ‘You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead.’

In other words, you pay attention to texts that in the past had meaning, that serve as a guide point to connect with the Christ, but now that you have it in front of you, you are not able to know what it means or where to find it inside yourselves.

With these Nag Hammadi texts not only is the gnostic heresy known within, but one can also appreciate clearly why it was so dangerous for the Orthodoxy, as we will analyze in the next chapter. Also one deeply understands which were the secret mysteries those gnostics were said to have, and why they were so dangerous for the official church. The role of the woman, clearly expressed by the Gospel of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is understood better. The primordial sense of the relation between master and disciple is exposed (Gospel of Truth, Allogenes, The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth). The sense of self-Gnosis and the role of the intimate Christ (in several of them, of which we emphasize the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Truth) are clarified. Also the meaning of the work with the creative energy in the Bridal Chamber (Gospel of Phillip) is also clearly defined. We find sacred hymns, mantras, words of power, meditations and prayers, correct use of the ritual… and above all, the importance of the mystical experience as the initiatic path for the return of Sophia to the bosom of the Imperishable Aeon. Thus we will understand why, for the primitive gnostics, “the orthodox” movement that prevailed (and orthodox only means “the one of correct thought”), denominated “catholic” or universal, was considered like the failed church, due to its poor expositions, deficient objectives and a development deviated from the christic postulates.

In order to finish this presentation, and as an example of the intimate connection that exists between primitive Gnosticism and contemporary Gnosticism, let’s take three fragments from that library that make reference to the fundamental postulates of the current Gnosis: the three primordial factors of the revolution of the consciousness.

1- About the “second birth” the Gospel of Phillip says:

“Every one who will enter the bridal chamber will kindle the light, for […] just as in the marriages which are […] happen at night. That fire […] only at night, and is put out. But the mysteries of that marriage are perfected rather in the day and the light. Neither that day nor its light ever sets. If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the light. If anyone does not receive it while he is here, he will not be able to receive it in the other place. He who will receive that light will not be seen, nor can he be detained.”

2- About the “mystic death” the Gospel of Thomas says:

“Jesus said, ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you.'”

3– And on “sacrifice for humanity,” with golden seal the Gospel of Truth says:

“Speak concerning the truth to those who seek it and of knowledge to those who, in their error, have committed sin. Make sure-footed those who stumble and stretch forth your hands to the sick. Nourish the hungry and set at ease those who are troubled. Foster men who love. Raise up and awaken those who sleep.”

Gnostic master