C. G. Jung


Written by Basilides in Alexandria, the City where East toucheth the West
Translated by H G Baynes, Watkins (1967)


     Jung, in his autobiography 'Memories, Dreams, Reflections', speaksof a period in his life when he was experiencing a series of visionsand fantasies, an important period in that from these experiencesstemmed all the creative work which he accomplished in later years. It was during this phase of his development that 'SeptemSermones ad Mortuos' came into being. Its writing was accompanied bystrange phenomena and, as Jung says: 'Then it began to flow out of meand in the course of three evenings the thing was written. As soon as Itook up the pen, the whole ghostly assemblage evaporated. The roomquietened and the atmosphere cleared. The haunting was over.' Jung, in the guise of the second century gnostic Basilides ofAlexandria, teaches the unperfected souls of Christians that theycannot be true to their own nature because they 'replace theincompatible many by a single god...and mutilate the creature whosenature and aim is distinctiveness... For redemption's sake I teach youthe rejected truth, for the sake of which I was rejected'.

Sermo I

      The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what theysought. They prayed me let them in and sought my word, and thus I beganmy teaching.

     I begin with nothingness. Nothingness is the same asfullness. In infinity full is no better than empty. Nothingness is bothempty and full. One might as well say anything else of nothingness, forinstance, that it is white or black, or it is or is not. A thing thatis infinite and eternal has no qualities, since it has all qualities.

     This nothingness or fullness we call the PLEROMA.Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinitepossess no qualities. It contains no being, for it would then bedistinct from the pleroma, and would possess qualities which woulddistinguish it as something distinct from the pleroma. In the pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is quitefruitless to think about the pleroma, for this would meanself-dissolution. CREATURA is not in the pleroma, but in itself.The pleroma is both beginning and end of created beings. It pervadesthem as light pervades the air. Although the pleroma pervadeseverywhere, yet it has no share of created being, just as a transparentbody becomes neither light nor dark through the light which pervadesit. We are, however, the pleroma itself, for we are a part of theeternal and infinite. But we have no share in it, as we are infinitelyremoved from the pleroma; not spiritually or temporally, butessentially, since we are distinguished from the pleroma in our essenceas creatura, which is confined within time and space. Yet because we are parts of the pleroma, the pleroma is alsoin us. Even in the smallest point is the pleroma endless, eternal, andentire, since small and great are qualities which are contained in it.It is that nothingness which is everywhere whole and continuous. Onlyfiguratively, therefore, do I speak of created being as a part of thepleroma. Because, actually, the pleroma is nowhere divided, since it isnothingness. We are also the whole pleroma, because, figuratively, thepleroma is the smallest point in us and the boundless firmament aboutus.

      But wherefore, then, do you speak of the pleroma at all, since it is thus everything and nothing?

     I speak of it to make a beginning somewhere, and also to free youfrom the delusion that somewhere, either without or within, therestands something fixed, or in some way established, from the beginning.Every so-called fixed and certain thing is only relative. That alone isfixed and certain which is subject to change. What is changeable, however, is creatura. Therefore it is theone thing which is fixed and certain; because it has qualities : it iseven quality itself.

      How then did creatura originate?

     Created beings came to pass, not creatura; since created being isthe very quality of the pleroma, as much as non-creation which is theeternal death. In all times and places is creation, in all times andplaces is death. The pleroma has all, distinctiveness andnon-distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is creatura. Distinctiveness is its essence,and therefore it distinguishes. Therefore man discriminates because hisnature is distinctiveness. Therefore he also distinguishes qualities ofthe pleroma which are not. He distinguishes them out of his own nature.Therefore must he speak of qualities of the pleroma which are not.

      What use, then, to speak of it? You said there is no profit in thinking upon the pleroma?

     I said that to free you from the delusion that we are able to thinkabout the pleroma. When we distinguish qualities of the pleroma, we arespeaking from the ground of our own distinctiveness and concerning ourown distinctiveness. But we have said nothing concerning the pleroma.Concerning our own distinctiveness, however, it is necessary to speak,so that we may distinguish ourselves enough. Our very nature isdistinctiveness. If we are not true to this nature we do notdistinguish ourselves enough. Therefore we must make distinctions ofqualities.

      What is the harm in not distinguishing oneself?

     If we do not distinguish, we get beyond our own nature, away fromcreatura. We fall into the indistinctiveness, which is the otherquality of the pleroma. We fall into the pleroma itself and cease to becreatures. We are given over to dissolution in the nothingness. This isthe death of the creature. Therefore we die in such measure as we donot distinguish. Hence the natural striving of the creature goethtowards distinctiveness, fightes against primeval, perilous sameness.This is called the PRINCIPIUM INDIVIDUATIONIS. Thisprinciple is the essence of the creature. From this you can see whyindistinctiveness and non-distinction are a great danger for thecreature. We must, therefore, distinguish the qualities of the pleroma. The qualities are PAIRS OF OPPOSITES, such as -

     The Effective and the Ineffective
Fullness and Emptiness
Living and Dead
Difference and Sameness
Light and Darkness
The Hot and the Cold
Force and Matter
Time and Space
Good and Evil
Beauty and Ugliness
The One and the Many

     The pairs of opposites are qualities of the pleroma which are not,because each balances the other. As we are the pleroma itself, we alsohave all these qualities in us. Because the very ground of our natureis distinctiveness, therefore we have these qualities in the name andsign of distinctiveness, which means -

     1. These qualities are distinct and separate in us onefrom the other; therefore they are not balanced and void, but areeffective. Thus are we the victims of the pairs of opposites. Thepleroma is rent in us.
2. The qualities belong to the pleroma, and only in the nameand sign of distinctiveness can and must we possess or live them. Wemust distinguish ourselves from qualities. In the pleroma they arebalanced and void; in us not. Being distinguished from them frees us.

     When we strive after the good or the beautiful, we thereby forgetour own nature, which is distinctiveness, and we are delivered over tothe qualities of the pleroma, which are pairs of opposites. We labourto attain to the good and the beautiful, yet at the same time we alsolay hold of the evil and the ugly, since in the pleroma these are onewith the good and beautiful. When, however, we remain true to our ownnature, which is distinctiveness, we distinguish ourselves from thegood and the beautiful, and, therefore, at the same time, from the eviland the ugly. And thus we avoid falling into the pleroma, namely, intonothingness and dissolution.

      But difference and sameness are also qualities of the pleroma.How would it be, then, if we strive after difference? Are we, in sodoing, not true to our own nature? And must we none the less be givenover to sameness when we strive after difference?

     You must not forget that the pleroma has no qualities. We createthem through thinking. If, therefore, you strive after difference orsameness, or any qualities whatsoever, you pursue thoughts which flowto you out of the pleroma; thoughts, namely, concerning non-existingqualities of the pleroma. In as much as you run after these thoughts,you fall again into the pleroma, and reach difference and sameness atthe same time. Not your thinking, but your being, is distinctiveness.Therefore not after difference, as you think it, must you strive, butafter your YOUR OWN BEING. At bottom, therefore, thereis only one striving, namely, the striving after your own being. If youhad this striving you would not need to know anything about the pleromaand its qualities, and yet would you come to your right goal by virtureof your own being. Since, however, thought estranges from being, thatknowledge I must teach you with which you may be able to hold yourthought in leash.

Sermo II

In the night the dead stood along the wall and cried : We would have knowledge of god. Where is god? Is god dead?

     God is not dead. Now, as ever, he lives. God iscreatura, for he is something definite, and therefore distinct from thepleroma. God is quality of the pleroma, and everything which I said ofcreatura is also true concerning him.

     He is distinguished, however, from created beings through this,that he is more indefinite and indeterminable than they. He is lessdistinct that created beings, since the ground of his being iseffective fullness. Only in so far as he is definite and distinct is hecreatura, and in like measure is he the manifestation of the effectivefullness of the pleroma. Everything which we do not distinguish falls into the pleromaand is made void by its opposite. If, therefore, we do not distinguishgod, effective fullness is for us extinguished. Moreover god is the pleroma itself, as likewise each smallest point in the created and uncreated is the pleroma itself.Effective void is the nature of the devil. God and devil are thefirst manifestations of nothingness which we call the pleroma. It isindifferent whether the pleroma is or is not, since in everything it isbalanced and void. Not so creatura. In so far as god and devil arecreatura they do not extinguish each other, but stand one against theother as effective opposites. We need no proof of their existence. Itis enough that we must always be speaking of them. Even if both werenot, creatura, of its own essential distinctiveness, would foreverdistinguish them anew out of the pleroma. Everything that discrimination takes out of the pleroma is a pair of opposites. To god, therefore, always belongs the devil.This inseparability is as close and, as your own life has madeyou see, as indissoluble as the pleroma itself. Thus it is that bothstand very close to the pleroma, in which all opposites areextinguished and joined. God and devil are distinguished by the qualities fullness and emptiness, generation and destruction. EFFECTIVENESSis common to both. Effectiveness joins them. Effectiveness, therefore,stands above both; it is a god above god, since in its effect it unitesfullness and emptiness. This is a god whom you knew not, for mankind forgot it. We name it by its name ABRAXAS. It is more indefinite still than god and devil.That god may be distinguished from it, we name god HELIOS or Sun.Abraxas is effect. Nothing stands opposed to it but theineffective; hence its effective nature freely unfolds itself. Theineffective is not, therefore resists not. Abraxas stands above the sunand above the devil. It is improbably probability, unreal reality. Hadthe pleroma a being, Abraxas would be its manifestation. It is theeffective itself, not any particular effect, but effect in general. It is unreal reality, because it has no definite effect.It is also creatura, because it is distinct from the pleroma.The sun has a definite effect, and so has the devil. Wherefore do they appear to us more effective than indefinite Abraxas.It is force, duration, change.

      The dead now raised a great tumult, for they were Christians.


Sermo III

      Like mists arising from a marsh, the dead came near and cried : Speak further unto us concerning the supreme god.

     Hard to know is the deity of Abraxas. Its power is the greatest, because man does not perceive it. From the sun he draws the summum bonum; from the devil the infinum malum; but from Abraxas LIFE, altogether indefinite, the mother of good and evil.

     Smaller and weaker life seems to be than the summum bonum; whereforeit is also hard to conceive that Abraxas transcends even the sun inpower, who is himself the radiant source of all the force of life. Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge of the void, the belittling and dismembering devil.The power of Abraxas is twofold; but you see it not, because for your eyes the warring opposites of this power are extinguished.What the god-sun speaketh is life.

     What the devil speaketh is death.But Abraxas speaks that hallowed and accursed work which is life and death at the same time.Abraxas begets truth and lying, good and evil, light anddarkness, in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxasterrible. It is splendid as the lion in the instant he striketh down his victim.
It is beautiful as a day of springIt is the great Pan himself and also the small one.
It is Priapos.
It is the monster of the under-world, a thousand-armed polyp, coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy.
It is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.
It is the lord of the toads and frogs, which live in the water andgo up on the land, whose chorus ascends at noon and at midnight. It is abundance that seeks union with emptiness.
It is holy begetting.
It is love and love's murder.
It is the saint and his betrayer.
It is the brightest light of day and darkest night of madness.To look upon it, is blindness.
To know it, is sickness
To worship it, is death.
To fear it, is wisdom.

     To resist it not, is redemptionGod dwells behind the sun, the devil behind the night. What godbrings forth out of the light the devil sucks into the night. ButAbraxas is the world, its becoming and its passing. Upon every giftthat comes from the god-sun the devil lays his curse.
Everything that you entreat from the god-sun begets a deed of the devil.
Everything that you create with the god-sun gives effective power to the devil.
That is terrible Abraxas.It is the mightiest creature, and in it the creature is afraid of itself.
It is the manifest opposition of creatura to the pleroma and its nothingness.
It is the son's horror of the mother.
It is the mother's love for the son.
It is the delight of the earth and the cruelty of the heavens.
Before its countenance man becomes like stone.
Before it there is no question and no reply.It is the life of creatura.
It is the operation of distinctiveness.
It is the love of man.
It is the speech of man.
It is the appearance and the shadow of man.
It is illusory reality.

      Now the dead howled and raged, for they were unperfected.


Sermo IV

The dead filled the place murmuring and said: Tell us of gods and devils, accursed one!

     The god-sun is the highest good; the devil the opposite. Thus haveyou two gods. But there are many high and good things and many greatevils. Among these are two god-devils; the one is the BURNING ONE, the other is the GROWING ONE.The burning one is EROS, who has the form of flame. Flame gives light because it consumes. The growing one is the TREE OF LIFE.It buds, as in growing it heaps up living stuff. Eros flames up anddies. But the tree of life grows with slow and constant increasethrough unmeasured time.
Good and evil are united in the flame.
Good and evil are united in the increase of the tree.
In their divinity stand life and love opposed.Innumerable as the host of the stars is the number of gods and devils.

     Each star is a god, and each space that a star fills is a devil. But the empty-fullness of the whole is the pleroma. The operation ofthe whole is Abraxas, to whom only the ineffective stands opposed. Four is the number of the principal gods, as four is the number of the world's measurements.
One is the beginning, the god-sun.
Two is Eros; for he binds two together and outspreads himself in brightness.
Three is the Tree of Life, for it fills space with bodily forms.
Four is the devil, for he opens all that is closed. All that isformed of bodily nature does he dissolve; he is the destroyer in whomeverything is brought to nothing. For me, to whom knowledge has been given of the mulitplicityand diversity of the gods, it is well. But woe unto you, who replacethese incompatible many by a single god. For in so doing you beget thetorment which is bred from not understanding, and you mutilate thecreature whose nature and aim is distinctiveness. How can you be trueto your own nature when you try to change the many into the one! Whatyou do unto the gods is done likewise to you. You all become equal andthus is your nature maimed. Equality shall prevail not for god, butonly for the sake of man. For the gods are many, whilst men are few.The gods are mighty and can endure their manifoldness. For like thestars they abide in solitude, parted one from the other by immensedistances. But men are weak and cannot endure their mainfold nature.Therefore they dwell together and need communion, that they may beartheir separateness. For redemption's sake I teach you the rejectedtruth, for the sake of which I was rejected. The mulitplicity of the gods corresponds to the muliplicity ofman. Numberless gods await the human state. Numberless gods have beenmen. Man shares in the nature of the gods. He comes from the gods andgoes to god. Thus, just as it does not serve man to reflect upon thepleroma, it is to no avail to worship the multiplicity of the gods.Least of all does it avail to worship the first god, the effectiveabundance and the summum bonum. By our prayers we can add to itnothing, and from it nothing take; because the effective void swallowsall. The bright gods form the celestial world. It is manifold andinfinitely spreading and increasing. The god-sun is the supreme lord ofthat world. The dark gods form the earth-world. They are simple andinfinitely diminishing and declining. The devil is the earth-world'slowest lord, the moon-spirit, satellite of the earth, smaller, colder,and more dead than the earth. There is no difference between the mightof the celestial gods and those of the earth. The celestial godsmagnify, the earth-gods diminish. Measureless is the movement of both.


Sermo V

The dead mocked and cried: teach us, fool, of the church and the holy communion.

     The world of the gods is made manifest in spirituality andsexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly insexuality. Spirituality conceives and embraces. It is woman-like andtherefore we call it MATER COELESTRIS, the celestial mother. Sexuality engenders and creates. It is man-like, and therefore we call it PHALLOS, the earthly father.The sexuality of man is more of the earth, the sexuality of woman is more of the spirit.
The spirituality of man is more of heaven, it goes to the greater.
The spirituality of woman is more of the earth, it goes to the smaller.
Lying and devilish is the spirituality of the man which goes to the smaller.
Lying and devilish is the spirituality of the woman which goes to the greater.
Each must go to its own place.Man and woman become devils one to the other when they do notdivide their spiritual ways, for the nature of creatura isdistinctiveness. The sexuality of man has an earthward course, thesexuality of woman is spiritual. Man and woman becomes devils one tothe other if they do not distinguish their sexuality. Man shall know ofthe smaller, woman of the greater. Man shall distinguish himself both from spirituality and fromsexuality. He shall call spirituality Mother, and set her betweenheaven and earth. He shall call sexuality Phallos, and set him betweenhimself and the earth. For the Mother and the Phallos are superhumandaemons which reveal the world of gods. They are for us more effectivethan the gods, because they are closely akin to our own nature. Shouldyou not distinguish yourself from sexuality and from spirituality, andnot regard them as of a nature both above and beyond you, then you aredelivered over to them as qualities of the pleroma. Spirituality andsexuality are not your qualities, not things which you possess andcontain. But they possess and contain you; for they are powerfuldaemons, manifestations of the gods, and are, therefore, things whichreach beyond you, existing in themselves. No man has a spirituality tohimself, or a sexuality to himself. But he stands under the law ofspirituality and of sexuality. No man, therefore, escapes these daemons. You shall look uponthem as daemons, and as a common task and danger, a common burden whichlife has laid upon you. Thus is life for you also a common task anddanger, as are the gods, and first of all terrible Abraxas. Man is weak, therefore is communion indispensable. If yourcommunion is not under the sign of the Mother, then it is under thesign of the Phallos. No communion is suffering and sickness. Communionin everything is dismemberment and dissolution. Distinctiveness leads to singleness. Singleness is opposed tocommunion. But because of man's weakness over against the gods anddaemons and their invincible law is communion necessary. Thereforeshall there be as much communion as is needful, not for man's sake, butbecause of the gods. The gods force you to communion. As much as theyforce you, so much is communion needed, more is evil. In communion let every man submit to others, that communion be maintained for you need it.In singleness the one man shall be superior to the others, that every man may come to himself and avoid slavery.
In communion there shall be continence.
In singleness there shall be prodigality.Communion is depth
Singleness is height.
Right measure in communion purifies and preserves.
Right measure in singleness purifies and increases.
Communion gives us warmth, singleness gives us light.


Sermo VI

     The deamon of sexuality approaches our soul as a serpent. It is half human and appears as thought-desire.The deamon of spirituality descends into our soul as the white bird. It is half human and appears as desire-thought.The serpent is an earthy soul, half daemonic, a spirit, and akinto the spirits of the dead. Thus too, like these, she swarms around inthe things of earth, making us either fear them or pricking us withintemperate desires. She seeks the company of the dead who are held bythe spell of the earth, they who have not found the way beyond thatleads to singleness. The serpent is wanton with the devil and with evilspirits; a mischievous tyrant and tormentor, ever seducing to evilcompany. The white bird is a half-celestial soul of man. He abides withthe Mother, descending from time to time. The bird is effectivethought. He is chaste and solitary, a messenger of the Mother. He flieshigh above earth. He commands singleness. He brings knowledge from thedistant ones who went before and are perfected. He bears our word aboveto the Mother. She intercedes, she warns, but against the gods she hasno power. She is a vessel of the sun. The serpent goes below and withher cunning she lames the phallic daemon, or else goads him on. Sheyields up the too crafty thoughts of the earthy one, those thoughtswhich creep through every soul and cleaves to all things withdesirousness. The serpent, doubtless, does not will it, yet she must beof use to us. She flees our grasp, thus showing us the way, which withour human wits we could not find.

      With disdainful glance the dead spake: Cease this talk of gods and daemons and souls. At bottom this has long been known to us.


Sermo VII

Yet when night was come the dead again approached withlamentable mien and said: There is yet one matter we forgot to mention.Teach us about man.

     Man is a gateway, through which from the outer world of gods,daemons, and souls you pass into the inner world; out of the greaterinto the smaller world. Small and transitory is man. Already he isbehind you, and once again you find yourselves in endless space, in thesmaller or innermost infinity. At immeasurable distance stands onesingle Star in the zenith. This is the one god of this one man. This is his world, his pleroma, his divinity.
In this world is man Abraxas, the creator and the destoyer of his own world.
This Star is the god and the goal of man.
This is his one guiding god. In him goes man to his rest. Towardhim goes the long journey of the soul after death. In him shines forthas light all that man brings back from the greater world. To this onegod shall man pray. Prayer increases the light of the Star. It casts a bridge overdeath. It prepares life for the smaller world and assuages the hopelessdesires of the greater. When the greater world waxes cold, burns theStar. Between man and his one god there stands nothing, so long as man can turn his eyes away from the flaming spectacle of Abraxas.
Man here, god there.
Weakness and nothingness here, there eternally creative power.
Here nothing but darkness and chilling moisture. There wholly sun.

      Whereupon the dead were silent and ascended like the smoke abovethe herdsman's fire, who through the night kept watch over his flock.