The Creed of the Gnostic Catholic Church: an Examination
by Helena and Tau Apiryon
The text of the Creed of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica is as follows:
I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD; and in one Star in the company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon Earth; and in one Air the nourisher of all that breaths.
And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.
And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.
And I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is THELEMA.
And I believe in the communion of Saints.
And, forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.
And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.
And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.
AUMGN, AUMGN, AUMGN.
Note that the Creed is divided into 8 clauses followed by three repetitions of the Thelemic form of the Pranava. The first 4 clauses are attributed to the four letters of Tetragrammaton YHVH: the Father (Chaos); the Mother (Babalon); the Union of Father and Mother in the Son (Baphomet); and the Daughter, the Bride of the Son (the Church). The two following clauses describe the essential products of the Mass from the perspective of the congregation. The final two clauses are in the form of confession rather than belief and describe parallels between the occurrences in the Mass and the life of the individual.
On the LORD, the STAR, the FATHER, and the AIR
“I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD”
The word “ineffable” means beyond description, beyond speech. It refers to Kether, the ultimate Unity which is beyond all Understanding and cannot be comprehended even through the highest Wisdom.
“…and in one Star in the company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return”
This refers to Sol, the Sun, our “Lord visible and sensible” the ultimate source of all physical energy upon and within our planet, which is but one among myriads.
“…and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon Earth”
The name CHAOS is derived from Liber CDXVIII, 14th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd Aethyrs, wherein it is identified as a Name of Chokhmah. CHAOS is the name used by the Orpheans to denote the primal, undifferentiated substance from which the Universe was formed. The alchemists used the word “chaos” to mean the “essence” or “soul” of something– its “airy” part– it is from this usage of the word “chaos” that we derive our modern word “gas.” Here, it refers to the Creative Paternal Principle, the Yod of Tetragrammaton, the Fire of Heraclitus and of the Chaldean Oracles.
We know from Crowley’s other writings that “the sole viceregent of the Sun upon Earth” refers to the PHALLUS, which is, therefore, to be identified with the name CHAOS. The PHALLUS, then, in its capacity as “the sole viceregent of the Sun upon Earth,” represents the creative and life-giving Fire as it manifests itself in living beings who dwell on the surface of this planet.
In the context used in the Gnostic Mass (as well as in the Star Ruby), the name “PHALLUS” or “PHALLE” should not be confused with the word “penis,” although the penis does serve as an ancient, yet imperfect, symbol for the PHALLUS. The term “Phallicism” as used by Sir Richard Payne Knight and others does not refer to penis-worship, but to the worship of the Generative Power– a Power which dwells in sexually mature individuals of both sexes. A sexually mature and active woman embodies the PHALLUS as much as any man.
Nevertheless, the Generative Power expressed by the names CHAOS and PHALLUS (or PHALLE) is distinct from that expressed by the name BABALON. Whereas CHAOS represents raw generative power or creative energy, BABALON represents the influence which captures, restricts, concentrates, directs and applies that raw Energy as a refined and focused Force for the Accomplishment of the Great Work.
The Womb which this PHALLUS makes fertile is the “one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest,” or the matter/space/time continuum which comprises the universe.
Israel Regardie, in The Eye in the Triangle, quotes Crowley as having said, “When you have proved that God is merely a name for the sex instinct, it appears to me not far to the perception that the sex instinct is God.”
“…and in one Air the nourisher of all that breaths.”
Air, of the four elements, is attributed to the Vav of Tetragrammaton, the Third Person of the Holy Quaternity. It is Tiphareth to the Chokhmah of CHAOS, it is Yesod to the Tiphareth of Spirit. As the Ruach, it is the Holy Spirit, the Mind of the Formative World, and the Son of the Father, which caresses the cheek of our fair Mother, and which descends from the sky to mediate between us and our Father the Sun by communicating the Holy Prana into our blood through Inspiration. Physically, this one Air unites us in a single, sensible continuum with all other living beings who have ever dwelt on the surface of the Earth. From it, the plants partake of carbon dioxide gas, which they combine with the Salts of the Earth, Water, and the Light of the Sun to give us our bread and wine; and to it they return the oxygen gas of which we, as animals, partake. This oxygen gas feeds our interior flames of metabolism, in which the bread and wine is sacrificed, and whose incense returns the carbon dioxide gas to the Air, in just measure, as an offering of thanksgiving for our nourishment. Thus, all terrestrial life is linked in physical, cyclic communion through the medium of the one Air.
On the EARTH, the MOTHER and the WOMB
“And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.”
The name BABALON, like the name CHAOS, comes from the 12th – 2nd Aethyrs of Liber CDXVIII, where it is identified as a Name of Binah, the Great Mother, the Heh of Tetragrammaton paired with the Yod of CHAOS. In Gnostic terms, Babalon represents SOPHIA, the Mother of All; and, with CHAOS, the first Syzygy: the first of the dual principles responsible for manifested existence.
The CHAOS/BABALON Syzygy may also be identified as Sun/Moon, Sky/Earth, Shiva/Shakti, Shamash/Ishtar, Dumuzi/Inanna, Zeus/Semelê, Simon/Helena and other pairs of “divine lovers.”
BABALON, as the Great Mother, represents MATTER, a word which is derived from the Latin word for Mother. She is the physical mother of each of us, the one who provided us with material flesh to clothe our naked spirits; She is the Archetypal Mother, the Great Yoni, the Womb of all that lives through the flowing of Blood; She is the Great Sea, the Divine Blood itself which cloaks the World and which courses through our veins; and She is Mother Earth, the Womb of All Life that we know.
“And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.”
The Lion/Serpent symbol complex is very ancient, and occurs in Mithraic as well as Egyptian and Gnostic iconography.
The Lion is the “King of Beasts,” due to its strength, regal bearing, tawny solar color, and because its mane resembles the aurora of the Sun. The Serpent, perhaps because it allegedly guarded the Tree of Knowledge, is associated with Wisdom. Also, because it sheds its skin, and because it moves in an undulatory pattern, the Serpent has long been a symbol of renewal, and the cycle of death and rebirth. Some cultures have noted that, because the serpent has lidless eyes, it is the only creature that can look directly at the Sun without blinking.
The name of the Hebrew letter Teth means serpent, and Teth is attributed to the zodiacal sign of Leo, the lion. Teth corresponds to the Tarot Trump called “Lust,” or, in the old system, “Strength.” This Trump depicts the relationship between CHAOS and BABALON.
While the Lion and the Serpent are both associated with Teth/Leo, the serpent is also a symbol of the zodiacal sign Scorpio. Leo and Scorpio are both Fixed Signs, but whereas Leo is a fiery sign, ruled by the Sun, Scorpio is a watery sign, ruled by Mars (or Pluto), and Scorpio and Leo are located square to each other on the wheel of the zodiac. Also, Scorpio is attributed to the Hebrew letter Nun, which corresponds to the Tarot Trump called “Death.” Leo can be viewed as representing the conscious Will, or the Will to Live, Scorpio can be viewed as representing the unconscious Will, or the Will to Die.
Thus, the symbolism of the Serpent and the Lion can be taken as referring to the “Lust” or desire which perpetually drives the wheel of birth, life and death. This doctrine is recapitulated in the Priest’s second invocation before the Veil, which contains the following quote from the Book of the Law: “I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.”
Our tradition teaches us that there is no death without life, and there is no life without death. Life and death are two sides of the same Wheel: the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in his name BAPHOMET.
BAPHOMET is the name of the idol the Knights Templars were accused of worshipping. Baphomet has been interpreted in many different ways by different authorities, here are some examples:
- Visconti: a French corruption of Mahomet (Mohammed).
- Von Hammer-Pürgstall: Gk. Baphe Metis = the Baptism of Wisdom 1
- Von Hammer-Pürgstall: Heb. Maphtah Bet Yahweh = The Key to the House of God.
- Raspe: Gk. Baphe Metros or Baphe Metios = the Baptism or Tincture of Wisdom.
- C.W. King: Gk. Baphe Metros = the Baptism of the Mother, or a corruption of “Behemoth.”
- Lévi: a symbol of the Universal Agent, or of Mercury, or of Pan, or of Sulfur, or of the Gnostic Hylê; also a reverse notariqon – TEM.O.H.P.AB. = TEMpli Omnium Hominum Paces ABbas – “The Father of the Temple, the universal peace of men.”
- Mackey: a symbol of mortality.
- Blavatsky: a symbol of Azazel, the “Goat of God” or “Strength of God,” the ancient Hebrew “scape-goat.”
- Crowley: BAFOMIThR = Father (of) Mithra; also 8 letters indicates Mercury; also 729 = Kephas, stone, the name Jesus gave Peter as the founder of the Church, the Cubic Stone which was the Corner of the Temple; also the inverted pentagram, the hermaphrodite fully grown; also the original being, Zeus Arrhenothelus or Bacchus Diphues; also the Androgyne, the hieroglyph of arcane perfection; also the emblem of Pan Pangenetor as symbolized by Atu XV, the “Devil” Trump of the Tarot.
- by AThBaSh Temurah: בפּומת (Baphomet) = שופּיא (Sophia).
- Baigent & Leigh, after Idries Shah: Arabic Abufihamet, pronounced in Moorish Spanish as Bufihimat = “Father of Understanding,” or “Father of Wisdom.”
The Baphometic idol was usually described as “a bearded head with a fierce expression.” Von Hammer-Pürgstall (Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum, 1816) associated a series of carved or engraved figures found on a number of 13th century Templar artifacts (such as cups, bowls and coffers) with the Baphometic idol. Three such figures are shown below:
Images similar to the first two of the above images were found on a number of different artifacts. The image is typically of a female or androgynous figure with a dour expression, sometimes bearded, naked except for a cape and headdress similar to that worn by Cybelê in ancient monuments, holding a chain in each hand and flanked by images of the sun and moon, and/or a five-pointed and six or seven-pointed star, and with a skull beneath its feet.
Drawing in part upon the images published by Von Hammer-Pürgstall, Eliphas Lévi depicted Baphomet in his now famous drawing of “The Devil” of the Tarot, a winged, goat-headed being with human female breasts and a Caduceus for a phallus, seated upon a cubic stone which rests upon a globe, with its right arm raised toward a waxing crescent moon and inscribed solve, its left arm lowered toward a waning crescent moon and inscribed coagula, a flaming torch between its horns and an upright pentagram on its forehead.
Is Baphomet the “Devil”? Do we worship an “evil” deity? Not by our definition, or even by the definition used by our detractors. The “evil” of Baphomet, the “Devil” of the Tarot, is not the evil of crime or oppression or superstitious blasphemy, but that which was considered most “evil” by the Manichaeans and other Old Aeon Gnostics, namely generation, which results in incarnation, the “imprisonment” of pure Spirit in the impure “Tomb” of matter. Hence, Baphomet is symbolized by both the right and averse pentagrams– the right pentagram showing Spirit interlocked with the four elements of Matter, the averse pentagram showing Spirit submerged within the four elements of Matter.
Baphomet can be seen as the Dialectic Union of Opposites: the union of Chaos and Babalon; the Synthesis of Thesis and Antithesis, Chokhmah and Binah united in Tiphareth; the sperm and egg united in the zygote; Yod the Father and Heh the Mother united in Vav the Son; will and memory united in the conscious mind. Recall that Vav is the Hebrew word for “a nail,” that which unites. Thus, Baphomet is the Serpent and the Lion, the Androgyne, the Hermaphrodite, the Rebis of the alchemists, and the double-headed eagle of the Freemasons. Baphomet is also, therefore, the “Baptism of Wisdom” whereby we accomplish the “miracle of incarnation”: Zeus swallowing the Mercurial Mêtis, who rose into his skull as Athena, goddess of wisdom; or the plunging of the Will of Chokhmah into the Great Sea of Binah, resulting in the seven rivers and the breaking of the vessels; or the descent of Sophia/Achamôth into the outer darkness, there to cause the creation of the World; or the descent of the Dove upon the Chalice and Host to sanctify the Eucharist.
Those familiar with the Simonian Gnostic treatise called the Apophasis Megalê will also recognize Baphomet as the Father, the Demiourgos which manifests in the Middle Space between the male Great Power and the female Great Thought.
Further insight into the nature of Baphomet may be gained by the consideration of the Lion as “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, of the root of David,” and the Serpent as that memorialized and foreshadowed by Moses when he crucified a fiery serpent of brass in the desert– the Serpent whose number is 358.
The following are all symbols attributable to Baphomet from different perspectives: the Sun and Moon conjoined; the Point within the Circle; the Greek letter Theta; the Orphic Egg; the Heart girt with a Serpent; the Kundalinî Serpent entwined about the Svayambhu-Linga; the Ardhanârîshvara image; the Greek letter Upsilon; the Roman letter Y; the Right Pentagram; the Averse Pentagram; the Hexagram (as union of Fire & Water); the Two Stars (5 and 6 pointed); the Unicursal Hexagram (as Sun and Moon united by the 4 Elements); the Sekhemti Crown (the Crown of North and South United); the Cone; the Rose and Cross; the Ankh; the Emblem of Venus; the Emblem of Mars; the Emblem of Mercury; the Caduceus; the Chief Adept’s Wand; the Celtic Cross; the Solar Cross; the Orb and Cross; the Crucifix; the Wheel; the Skull and Crossbones; the Skull with a Green Sprig or Leaf in its mouth; the Tree growing from a corpse; the Grip; the Praying Hands; the Child; Jesus in the Mandorla; the Alpha and the Omega; the Dove descending upon the Chalice; the Dolphin sporting in the Sea; the Gryllus; the Square and Compasses; the Level and Plumb; the Lance and Cup; the Sword and Disk.
On the GNOSTIC and CATHOLIC CHURCH
“And I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is THELEMA.”
The union of Yod the Father and Heh the Mother in Vav the Son gives rise to Heh the Daughter. The union of CHAOS and BABALON in BAPHOMET gives rise to the “Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is Thelema.”
The word “church” comes from the Greek Dôma Kuriakon, meaning “House of the Lord.” As such, it is the place where we gather in fellowship to commune with the Highest.
Our Church is both Gnostic and Catholic. We are Gnostic because we accept the emanationist cosmogony of the Gnostics (as exemplified by the Tree of Life and the Thirty Aethyrs of Enoch) and their doctrine of individual redemption/illumination through Gnosis. We are Catholic because our system is non-elitist, open to all and “of universal interest”; but also because we, in common with the Catholic Church of Rome but in opposition to the Old Aeon Gnostics, affirm life and childbirth to be sacred, and marriage to be a holy sacrament.
We claim descent from the Gnostics of old, through the secret traditions of the Knights Templar, the grail legends of the troubadours and minnesingers, and the veiled teachings of the alchemists, hermeticists, qabalists, magicians, Rosicrucians, Masons and Sufis. However, we are not Gnostics in the sense of the word used by the modern-day Gnostic revivalists, who are attempting to breathe life into the dry skeletons of Basilides, Valentinus and Mani. Our Gnosis has been tempered in the furnace of 18 centuries of trial, experiment and dialogue, and has been ultimately transmuted by the Gnosis of a New Word: THELEMA.
We are Gnostics by heirship, communion, and by elements of theory and practice; but we have shed the old slavish longing for deliverance. No longer do we perceive incarnation as the incarceration of Spirit by Matter, but as the information of Matter by Spirit. No longer do we shut ourselves up in ascetic withdrawal, turning our backs on life and scorning experience as defilement of our purity. Now, having been armed with the New Law, we go forth on the face of Earth to do our Wills among the living; to radiate our Light into every dim recess of the world, and to unite with all the possibilities of Existence, which is Pure Joy.
The formula of the word QELHMA may be studied in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter VII, Section III; and in The Law is for All, commentary on Liber AL I:39. The Greek word QELHMA may be translated as “will,” “desire,” or “duty.” It enumerates to 93, as does the Greek word ’AGAPH, Agapê, meaning “love.”
On the SAINTS
“And I believe in the communion of Saints.”
Communion means mutual participation.
The saints of the true church of old time are invoked by the Deacon in Collect No. 5:
“Lord of Life and Joy, that art the might of man, that art the essence of every true god that is upon the surface of the Earth, continuing knowledge from generation unto generation, thou adored of us upon heaths and in woods, on mountains and in caves, openly in the marketplaces and secretly in the chambers of our houses, in temples of gold and ivory and marble as in these other temples of our bodies, we worthily commemorate them worthy that did of old adore thee and manifest thy glory unto men, Lao-tzu and Siddhârtha and Krishna and Tahuti, Mosheh, Dionysus, Mohammed and To Mega Thêrion, with these also, Hermês, Pan, Priapus, Osiris and Melchizedek, Khem and Amoun and Mentu, Hêraclês, Orpheus and Odysseus; with Vergilius, Catullus, Martialis, Rabelais, Swinburne, and many an holy bard; Apollonius Tyanæus, Simon Magus, Manes, Pythagoras, Basilides, Valentinus, Bardesanes and Hippolytus, that transmitted the Light of the Gnosis to us their successors and their heirs; with Merlin, Arthur, Kamuret, Parzival, and many another, prophet, priest and king, that bore the Lance and Cup, the Sword and Disk, against the Heathen; and these also, Carolus Magnus and his paladins, with William of Schyren, Frederick of Hohenstaufen, Roger Bacon, Jacobus Burgundus Molensis the Martyr, Christian Rosencreutz, Ulrich von Hutten, Paracelsus, Michael Maier, Roderic Borgia Pope Alexander the Sixth, Jacob Boehme, Francis Bacon Lord Verulam, Andrea, Robertus de Fluctibus, Johannes Dee, Sir Edward Kelly, Thomas Vaughan, Elias Ashmole, Molinos, Adam Weishaupt, Wolfgang von Goethe, William Blake, Ludovicus Rex Bavariæ, Richard Wagner, Alphonse Louis Constant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hargrave Jennings, Carl Kellner, Forlong dux, Sir Richard Payne Knight, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Paul Gauguin, Docteur Gérard Encausse, Doctor Theodor Reuss, and Sir Aleister Crowley—oh Sons of the Lion and the Snake! with all Thy saints we worthily commemorate them worthy that were and are and are to come.
May their Essence be here present, potent, puissant, and paternal to perfect this feast!”
It is to be noted that this list of saints is incomplete, as evidenced by such phrases as “and many an holy bard” and “and many another.” Even though the names of these other saints of our Church are not mentioned in this place, their Essence is nevertheless invoked with that of those given specific mention. Let us not forget that among these silent saints are all the female saints of our Church (including all mothers, according to our Past Patriarch Peregrinus), whose names, in accordance with tradition, are never divulged.
After the Essence of the Saints has been invoked by the Deacon in the Collects, the Priest, during the Consecration of the elements, just prior to the Trisagion, addresses the invoked Essence of the Saints with these words:
“Hear ye all, saints of the true church of old time now essentially present, that of ye we claim heirship, with ye we claim communion, from ye we claim benediction in the name of IAO.”
When speaking these words, the Priest may choose to focus his attention upon the Cup which is in the hand of the Priestess, for the saints are those who have drained every drop of their Blood, their Essence, into the Cup of BABALON. And, since the wine within that Cup has already been transmuted into the Blood of God, the Blood of the Saints and the Blood of God are One Blood: “the essence of every true god that is upon the surface of the Earth, continuing knowledge from generation unto generation.”
Therefore, as the Church invokes its Saints, its progenitors whose Divine Blood fills its Cup, informs its rites, and frames the walls of its Spiritual Edifice; so do each of us invoke our own saints, our progenitors and ancestors, whose Divine Blood fills our bodies, informs our intuition, and frames the Astral Walls of our Holy Temples.
The formula of IAO is to be studied in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter V. In The Heart of the Master, IAO is represented as “The Voice of the Pelican,” attributed to Tiphareth: “all that liveth is blood of the Heart of the Master: all Stars are at Feast on that Pasture, abiding in Light.”
“And, forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.”
The Miracle of the Mass is the Alchemical transmutation of “base metal” into “gold”; i.e. the transubstantiation of matter into Divine Energy. This transmutation occurs not only to the Elements of the Eucharist during their consecration, but also within the communicants during their communion. Hence the words, “There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.” The qualifying remark about meat (which means all food) and drink is an acknowledgment that this Miracle is really a natural process, which is realized by the recognition of its miraculous nature.
“And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.”
Von Hammer’s elucidation of the name Baphomet is Baphe-Metis, the Baptism of Wisdom. The word “confess” is from the Late Latin confiteri, meaning, in this case, “to acknowledge.”
“And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.”
This may be viewed as a concise summary of all that has been stated previously in the Creed. It has many potential interpretations on many different levels. It could be interpreted as implying a doctrine of metempsychosis, or that Life is a single continuum, or that each individual partakes of the nature of Hadit. In any case, the individual acknowledges that the life that he or she possesses transcends apparent temporal limitations. The phrase “that was, and is, and is to come” is reminiscent of the Simonian symbolon of “He who has stood, standeth, and shall stand.”
This is the Thelemic form of the Pranava, the sacred Vedic syllable “Aum.” Its usage here is equivalent to that of the word “Amen” of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The usage of this word “Amen” by the Hebrews probably originated in the Egyptian custom of taking oaths in the name of the god called Amon, Amoun or Amen, known as “King of the Gods” and “Lord of Heaven,” whose name means “hidden.” AUMGN is also the Voice of the Swan from The Heart of the Master, attributed to Kether: “through the Bornless, through the Eternal, the Thought of the Master goeth, afloat in the Aethyr.”
The particular “m” sound used in the Pranava is different from the familiar “m” of English. It is made with the lips slightly open, and represents a nasalization of the syllable rather than a separate, independent phoneme. The Thelemic Pranava may, therefore, be pronounced as follows: begin vocalizing with the mouth wide open; gradually narrow the lips while keeping the jaw open; when the lips are nearly closed, close the jaw and continue vocalizing a strong nasal sound for a few moments.
For a complete exegesis of the Thelemic Pranava AUMGN, see Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter VII, Section V.
The formula of AUMGN contains a summary of the entire creed. Its threefold repetition at the end of the Creed seals and completes the Creed, calling forth the Holy Virgin who next appears.
- Baphê is Greek for “dipping,” as in a vat of dye; Mêtis was a Titaness who presided over the fourth day of the week, the planet Mercury, and all wisdom and knowledge. After the overthrow of the Titans by the gods, Zeus developed a lust for Mêtis and seduced her. An oracle predicted that their child would be a girl, but that the next child of Mêtis, if there were one, would be a boy who would eventually depose Zeus as he had deposed Cronus. To avoid such a catastrophe, Zeus trapped Mêtis and swallowed her whole. Days later, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, burst forth from Zeus’s skull.
Original Publication Date: 5/9/95
A version of this essay was originally published in Red Flame No. 2 – Mystery of Mystery: A Primer of Thelemic Ecclesiastical Gnosticism by Tau Apiryon and Helena; Berkeley, CA 1995 e.v.