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Re: Unveiled Isis and Irenaeus

Jun 16, 1996 05:57 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Abrantes writes:

>We have a small problem. My portuguese edition, was published in
>four volumes, and I think that your original english edition in

I'm using a photographic copy of the original 1877 edition, which
was, as you say, published in two volumes.  The first volume was
subtitled "Science," the Second subtitled "Theology."  Most
likely, your Portuguese translation uses the same chapter and
book  divisions, and just divided each volume in half, thus
making four volumes instead of two.  Therefore, Chapter VII of
Book II should correspond to Chapter VII of Book III in your

>To facilitate identification, now I will refer to my edition,
>saying to you the start and final page of the chapter. For
>instance "bible-kaleidoscopist" is found at BOOK III, chapter
>VII (start page 256, and final page 296) at page 267.

Yes, that might help somewhat.  It tells me that at that your
translation is about 33 pages off from the original, in this
case, so I can add 33 to the page number you give and come close
to your citation.

>We can also read at same chapter VII, at page 281: "must we do
>frighten when even century XIX scolars, having only a few
>fragments of gnostic manuscripts, was able to detect forgeries i
>ALMOST ALL PAGES" ,of his slanderes as Irenaeus)
>Surely HPB makes a unfair commentary about Irenaeus'works, as
>you have seen in my last e-mail, when I reproduce text from
>Britannica Enc.

I found your quote on page 324-25 of the original edition (about
43 pages later), but it was not in a footnote as you originally
indicated.  But be that as it may, it seems that my understanding
of the meaning of this quote is different from yours.  As I
understand this quote, taking in consideration the surrounding
context, HPB was not criticizing Irenaeus specifically, but those
who wrote the scriptures and created the Christian traditions
generally.  HPB is arguing that the 19th century scholars where
able to detect "fraud" in the Christian writings when they
compared them to what they had of Gnostic mss.  Allow me to
transcribe the quote in context from the original English.  The
section you quoted comes in the second sentence of the last

             As a last word, the *Christian* Gnostics sprang into
      existence toward the beginning of the second century, and
      just at the time when the Essenes most mysteriously faded
      away, which indicated that they were the identical Essenes,
      and moreover pure *Christists*, viz.: they believed and were
      those who best understood what one of their own brethern had
      preached.  In insisting that the letter Iota, mentioned by
      Jesus in *Matthew* (v. 18), indicated a secret doctrine in
      relation to the ten aeons, it is sufficient to demonstrate
      to a kabalist that Jesus belonged to the Freemasonry of
      those days; for I, which is Iota in Greek, has other names
      in other languages; and is, as it was among the Gnostics of
      those days, a pass-word, meaning the SCEPTRE of the FATHER,
      in Eastern brotherhoods which exist to this very day.
             But in the early centuries these facts, if known, were
      purposely ignored, and not only withheld from public notice
      as much as possible, but vehemently denied whenever the
      question was forced upon discussion.  The denunciations of
      the Fathers were rendered bitter in proportion to the truth
      of the claim which they endeavored to refute.
             "It Comes to this," writes Irenaeus, complaining of the
      Gnostics, "they neither consent to Scripture nor tradition."
      ("Adv. Her., iii., 2, 2).  And why should we wonder at that,
      when even the commentators of the nineteenth century, with
      nothing but fragments of the Gnostic manuscripts to compare
      with the voluminous writing of their calumniators, have
      been enabled to detect fraud on nearly page?  How much more
      must the polished and learned Gnostics, with all their
      advantages of personal observation and knowledge of fact,
      have realized the stupendous scheme of fraud that was being
      consummated before their very eyes!  Why should they accuse
      Celsus of maintaining that their religion was all based on
      the speculations of Plato, with the difference that his
      doctrines were far more pure and rational than theirs, when
      we find Springel, seventeen centuries later writing the
      following?--"Not only they (the Christians) think to
      discover the dogmas of Plato in the books of Moses, but,
      moreover, they fancied that, by introducing Platonism, into
      Christianity, they would *elevate the dignity of this
      religion and make it more popular among the nations."

In the following paragraph she introduces her proofs for the
above assertions.  From Platonism and the current legends she
argues that the Christians borrowed the concept of the trinity. From 
the legend of Periktione, Plato's mother, came the model for
the "miraculous conception."  The annunciation, she argues, was
borrowed from the message of Apollo to Ariston, Periktions's

Therefore, my reading of your quote is *not* that HPB is accusing
Irenaeus of intentionally misrepresenting the Gnostic teachings,
but pointing out why she believes that Irenaeus' criticism of the
Gnostics for not abiding by "scripture nor tradition" was unfair.
She argues and tries to prove that the Gnostics were completely
justified in their reasons for not doing so.  HPB's above
argument forms a part of her broader argument that Christian
Gnosticism represented a purer form of Christianity than the
Christianity of today's Roman Church.

>Even HPB, seems to give credit to Irenaeus!
>BOOKIII, CpIII (start 116,final 145) page 140 HPB refers to
>Irenaeus' description of gnostic Basilides' system, and his
>notion of <nous> (Adv. Haer. I,XXIV,4) and HPB says "this is not
>surely neither sacrilege against religious idea itself, nor to
>all unbiased thinker". So Iraeneus seems to describe correctly

Yes, this seems to be further evidence that HPB is not attacking
Irenaeus for intentional inaccurately in describing Gnostic

>BOOKIII, CpIV page 160 "Irenaeus seems so irreducibly entangled
>in his useless efforts to explain, at least in his external
>aspects, the truly doctrines of many gnostics sects and to
>present then, at same time, as 'heresies',abominations; that,
>deliberately, or by pure ignorance, he confuse it in such way,
>that only a few methaphics would be able to disentangle, without
>help of Qabala or Codex". HPB continues giving two examples of
>misconceptions made by Irenaeus. The confusion between
>sethianites and ophites; and about doctrines of Cerinthus. At
>page 167 again HPB says that Irenaeus gives a erroneous
>conception about ophites.

Here, I think is developing another aspect of her argument.  Not
that Irenaeus is misrepresenting the doctrines of the Gnostics,
but that he does not properly understand some of the deeper
teachings.  Behind this argument, HPB is contending that an
understanding of the Nabatheans and of Jewish mysticism is
required to understand some Gnostic teachings.  But very little
is known about the Sethianites and Ophites today, and the Nag
Hammadi finding threw no further light upon those groups.

>Jerry, sorry about my english translations, probably I commit
>some erros, so I prefer that you check this passages in your
>text. I also agree with you when you say about early church:
>"Their task was to discredit and destroy the gnostic movement
>through debate, and later by political force".  I only want to
>make clear that we must look with respect about Irenaeus' work.

I think HPB had more respect for Irenaeus' representation of
Gnosticism then she did for many of the other ante-nicean
fathers.  She seems to feel that his summaries of Gnostic
Doctrine were honest--that is, his intention was to fairly
represent those doctrines, and that he was on the whole
successful in doing so.  On the other hand, she finds fault with
his understanding of some of the more obscure doctrines, which we
know little of even today.


   |Jerry Hejka-Ekins,                      |
      |Member TI, TSA, TSP, ULT                |
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