The Structure and Liturgy of the French Gnostic Church of Jules Doinel
by T. Apiryon
The theology of Doinel’s Gnostic (Neo-Albigensian) Church was based on a study of early Gnosticism, primarily that of Simon Magus and Valentinus; its sacraments were derived from Catharism, and its structure and liturgy were based on a blend of Roman Catholicism, Catharism and Freemasonry.
The Church was governed by the Most High Synod, which consisted of all the bishops and sophias (female bishops). The Most High Synod elected the patriarch as its president for life and the temporal chief of the clergy and the church. The “spiritual chief” of the Church was considered to be the celestial Sophia herself.
The patriarch, who was considered to be “the direct successor to the apostle John,” was empowered to promulgate decisions on his own accord, suspend or depose the bishops, approve or annul their elections, veto the decrees of the Synod, excommunicate and reconcile the members of the church, and create dioceses. He signed the Double Tau before his mystic name and was addressed as “Your Grace.”
Each bishop was elected by a convened college of the faithful and the deacons. He chose a mystic name, which he signed with a Tau and the title Electus Episcopus; however, the bishop-elect did not possess his full powers until after his consecration by the patriarch, which was performed only after his election was confirmed by the Most High Synod and approved by the patriarch. The bishops and the sophias were addressed as “Your Lordship (or Ladyship),” Votre Seigneurie, and wore upon their right hands a silver ring in which was set an amethyst. One bishop and one sophia were, as a couple, in charge of each diocese, which encompassed several “churches” or congregations. The bishop officiated in person at the church located at the place of his residence.
Each individual congregation was administered by a deacon and a deaconess, who were ordained by the bishop. The body of the faithful consisted of the “Perfect,” the men were termed the “Parfaits,” and the women “Parfaites.” Admission as a Parfait or Parfaite was obtained through the rite of the Consolamentum, which was administered by the bishop, or by a deacon if the bishop was unavailable.
The Gnostic Church accepted the Valentinian doctrine that Humanity is divided into three fundamental classes, the spiritual Pneumatics, to whom the Gnosis is natural; the materialistic Hylics, for whom the Gnosis was unreachable; and the intermediate Psychics, for whom the Gnosis was attainable only through effort. However, it did not accept the rigid determinism of the Valentinian doctrine. It recruited its faithful among those men and women whose culture and open-mindedness rendered them capable of seizing the significance of its doctrines, and of thus ultimately obtaining the Gnosis and becoming Pneumatic. Gross and uncouth individuals were excluded as Hylics from the community.
The principal ceremonies of the Gnostic Church included the Consolamentum, the Appareilamentum, the consecration of bishops, and the Fraction du Pain.
The Consolamentum, or “Baptism of the Spirit,” was a mystic initiation ritual in which aspirants were brought into spiritual communion with the Gnostic Paraclete. It was based on the Cathar ceremony of the same name in which a simple believer became a Parfait (corresponding to the Manichaean “sealing” in which a Hearer became an Elect). To the Cathars, the Consolamentum encompassed the functions of baptism, confirmation and ordination in a single simple ceremony. It was also considered to be an essential prerequisite to salvation, and to guarantee salvation if the Consolee kept his or her vows. In Doinel’s Gnostic Church, the Consolamentum was not considered to be an absolute prerequisite for salvation and did not entail the strict obligations of the Cathar ceremony.
The Appareilamentum was a sacrament of confession and absolution, conferred at the request of a penitent who had previously received the Consolamentum. It was intended to allow the penitent to come into closer communion with the Pleroma. It was modeled after the Cathar ceremony of monthly public confession, but was revised so as to be administered privately, face-to-face, by the patriarch himself. In this ceremony, the penitent approached the patriarch with bound hands and confessed to guilt (of a general nature) and to a fallen state, like his mother Sophia-Achamôth. He demanded the pardon of the Eons through the intervention of the patriarch. The patriarch then granted his pardon, petitioning Helene-Ennoia to send a permanent Eon-Protector to the penitent; and unbound his hands.
The Fraction du Pain, or Breaking of the Bread, was the regular communal office of worship of the Gnostic Church. It was loosely modeled after the Cathar ceremony of the same name, and corresponded to the Roman Catholic Mass. As such, it constitutes a forerunner of our E.G.C. Gnostic Mass.
The Breaking of the Bread
The following is a brief description of the ceremony of the Breaking of the Bread of Doinel’s Gnostic Church.
The bishop is vested in a violet stole, wears violet gloves on his hands and the Infula (a simplified mitre) upon his head. He wears a silver episcopal ring, set with an amethyst, on his right hand, and the Sacred Tau hangs upon his breast by a violet ribbon. He stands upright between the deacon and deaconess, behind a table draped in white (it is simply a table, not an altar; the Cathars rejected any notion of the sanctity of physical objects). Upon the table are two candlesticks, between which rests the Greek Gospel of Saint John, open at the first page.
The Parfaits, the women with heads covered by white veils, the men girded with white sashes, kneel and receive the Gnostic Benediction of the bishop, which is given with three fingers in the sign of the Tau. Rising, they sing the canticle:
Beati vos Eones
Vera vita vividi;
Stolis albis candidi.
The bishop next recites the Lord’s Prayer in Greek:
Pater hêmôn ho en tois ouranois:
Hagiasthêtô to onoma sou;
Elthetô hê basileia sou;
Genêthêtô to thelêma sou,
Hôs en ouranôi kai epi gês;
Ton arton hêmôn ton epiousion dos hêmin sêmeron;
Kai aphes hêmin ta opheilêmata hêmôn,
Hôs kai hêmeis aphêkamen tois opheiletais hêmôn;
Kai mê eisenenkêis hêmas eis peirasmon,
Alla hrusai hêmas apo tou ponêrou.
Hoti sou estin hê basileia,
Kai hê dynamis, kai hê doxa,
Eis tous aiônas. Amên.
The congregation responds “Amen.” The deacon presents the chalice and the bread to the bishop, who imposes his hands thereon, and says: “Eon Jesus, priusquam pateretur mystice, accepit panem et vinum in sanctas manus suas et, elevatis oculis ad coelum, fregit (he breaks the bread), benedixit (he forms the Tau over the chalice and the bread) et dedis discipulis suis, dicens (all the assembly prostrate themselves): Accipite et manducate et bibite omnes!”
A slow processional is then played on the organ, and the bishop approaches the Faithful. The deacon, carrying the paten, and the deaconess, holding the chalice, precede him.
Taking up the bread, the bishop elevates it above his head, and says: “Touto estin to soma pneumatikon tou Christou”; he rests it on the paten, kneels before it and adores. He rises, grasps the chalice, elevates it, and says: “Calix meus inebrians quam praeclarus est! Calicem Salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo, touto estin to aima pneumatikon tou Christou.” He kneels again and adores. Finally, he eats a fragment of the spiritual body of the Eon Jesus and drinks of the chalice of the divine blood.
There is a brief pause, during which the organ plays. The bishop then advances and stops before each of the Faithful, offering to each one the bread and the chalice.
After the last of the Faithful has partaken of the bread and wine, there is an additional pause for meditation and adoration, during which the organ continues to play. The bishop then returns to his initial place behind the table. He extends his hands, and says: “May the grace of the Most Holy Pleroma be ever with you!” The remains of the consecrated species are then burned on a chafing dish.
The office is completed by the singing of a long canticle in French, whose first strophe is as follows:
Salut, salut royaume
Salut, salut Plérome
De la Divinité!
Abîme, ô mer immense
O— se meut la substance;
Mystère de Silence,
D’Amour et de beauté!
[Translation: Hail, hail kingdom
Of eternal brightness.
Hail, hail Pleroma (Fullness)
of the Divinity!
Abyss, o immense sea
Where matter is set in motion;
Mystery of Silence,
Of Love, and of Beauty!]
The bishop gives the gnostic benediction and retires, escorted by the deacon and deaconess, who carry with them the two candles from the table.
When the patriarch officiates in person, he wears the pallium, a wide satin scarf of a deep violet, embroidered with fine gold, which is placed on his shoulders. Its two tails drape equally to the front, rejoin at the height of the waist, and fall as far as the feet. On the part covering the shoulders is embroidered a white dove, holding in its beak a banner with the inscription in Greek characters: “To pneuma hagion.”The tails of the pallium are partly covered with an embroidery representing palm trees which frame the letters S.G. (Sacra Gnosis).
In the medieval Cathar Church, only the Parfait were allowed to preach or to recite the only approved prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, which the Parfait recited repetitively, like a mantram. Not being purified, the Believers were considered unfit to address God as “Our Father.” A one-year probationary period was required before a Cathar Believer was permitted to take the Consolamentum, during which time the Candidate participated in fasts and was instructed in the complete Cathar doctrine, which was not available to the majority of Believers. The ceremony was administered by the taking of vows followed by the laying on of hands (the Cathars rejected baptism with water). After having been made Perfect through the Consolamentum, the Parfait was expected to abide by a strict and detailed code of ascetism. If, through his or her own weakness, a Parfait violated his or her vows, which included absolute chastity, the state of grace bestowed by the Consolamentum was lost for the Parfait as well as for anyone who had received the Consolamentum from the Parfait. It could only be regained by reconsolation after severe penance. Parfaits who doubted their ability to keep their vows were permitted to preserve their state of grace by undergoing another sacrament, the Endura. The Endura consisted of sacred suicide, usually by extended fasting or exposure.
To become a member of the class of Believers in the Cathar Church, one was required to promise to take the Consolamentum at some point in one’s life. However, few within the Cathar community were able to abide by its strict obligations, and Believers were permitted to fulfill their promise by taking a special version of the Consolamentum on their death beds. This sort of Consolamentum was generally followed by the Endura.
The Consolamentum of Doinel’s Gnostic Church, while modeled after the Cathar ceremony, differed significantly in function and implication. It did not confer a guarantee of salvation, nor was it considered to be an absolute prerequisite for salvation. Rather, it was considered as a mystic initiation ritual for those aspirants who wished to be symbolically brought into spiritual communion with the Gnostic Paraclete. Also, it did not require a long probationary period, did not require vows of ascetism, and was not considered as the dividing line between Believer and Parfait; between which no distinction was made. The term Parfait was also understood in a much more liberal sense than in the original Cathar Church.
The following is a brief description of the ceremony of the Consolamentum of Doinel’s Gnostic Church.
The bishop is seated behind the table covered with a white cloth. On the table rests the Fourth Gospel, open, between the two candles. The deacon and deaconess are seated at the sides of the Episcopal Throne. The Parfaits are lined up to the left of the table and the Parfaites to the right. Each Parfait has a white sash around his waist, each Parfaite wears a white veil over her head and face. Those who are due to receive the sacrament are on their knees in the first row, candles in their hands.
The assembly rises at the entry of the bishop and sings the canticle: “Beati vos eones.” The deacon reads the first verses of the Fourth Gospel, first in Greek, then in French.
En arkhêi ên ho logos, kai ho logos ên pros ton theon, kai theos ên ho logos. Houtos ên en arkhêi pros ton theon. Panta di autou egeneto, kai khôris autou egeneto oude hen ho gegonen. En autôi zôê ên, kai hê zôê ên to phôs tôn anthrôpôn; kai to phôs en têi skotiai phainei, kai hê skotia auto ou katelaben.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. Through him all things became; and without him nothing became that has become. In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
The bishop delivers his homily, then the choir intones the Pater Noster, to which the congregation responds “Amen.” The deacon and deaconess lift the two candles from the table and flank the bishop as he removes the glove from his right hand and approaches the faithful who are to receive the Consolamentum. These have relinquished their candles and remain on their knees, their hands joined. The women have raised their veils. The bishop imposes his hand successively upon the head of each Consolee and says: “Memor esto verbi tui servo (servae) tuo (tuae), in qui mihi spem dedisti Haec me consolata est in humilitate mea.” The Consolee responds “Amen.” The bishop kisses him or her on the forehead and says: “Osculetur me osculo oris sui.”
When the bishop has returned to his place on the throne, the choir sings the canticle of the Consolamentum:
Consoletur me misericordia tua!
Eructabunt labia mea hymnum.
Concupivi salutare tuum.
Attolite portas, Eones, vestras;
Et elevamini portae Pleromatis!
Consoletur me misericordia tua!
The bishop rises, the assembly kneels, the deacon and deaconess elevate their candles; the bishop gives the Gnostic Benediction, and says: “Consoletur vos Sanctissimum Pleroma, Eon Christos, Eon Sophia et Eon Pneuma Hagion!”
The choir responds “Amen.”
As the bishop retires, the choir sings:
Domina, salvam fac Ecclesiam et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.
Domina, salvum fac patriarcam nostrum Valentinum et exaudi etc.
Domina, salvos fac episcopos et exaudi etc.
The following is a brief description of the ceremony of the Appareillamentum of Doinel’s Gnostic Church.
The petitioner addresses his or her request to the patriarch following the formula: “N. prays His Grace the patriarch that he (she) may receive the Holy Appareillamentum.” The request is submitted to and approved by the bishop or the sophia of the diocese. The patriarch then informs the bishop of the day when he will be able to receive the petitioner in the chapel. The petitioner is presented vested in black, head bare, hands tied with a white bandlet. He kneels before the patriarch, who is seated and vested with the pallium, and says: “I come here, before Pneuma Hagion, to declare myself guilty and fallen, like my mother Sophia Achamôth; to renounce the works of the Demiurge; and to demand the pardon of the Holy Eons through you, Your Grace.”
The patriarch extends his hands upon the head of the penitent and says: “Remittuntur tibi peccata tua, quae sunt peccata mundi. Amen.” He then imposes the right tail of the pallium on the head of the faithful and says: “Our Lady Sophia, Our Lady the Holy Spirit, Our Lady Hédoné, remember your servant, who renounces the Demiurge in his thoughts and in his works. Grant him an Eon-Protector, who may quit him nevermore. Amen.”
He then takes in his two hands the tied hands of the penitent, and briefly speaks to the penitent in private. He then unties the penitent’s hands and says: “The Eons unbind in the Pleroma that which I unbind in the third world of the Kenoma and of the Void. By Helene-Ennoia, by Hédoné, by Sophia are you assisted, and they are with you. Receive the mystic kiss.” He kisses the penitent on the forehead by two kisses in the form of the Tau. The penitent, kneeling and half prostrated, recites the first verses of the Fourth Gospel, rises, and says: “God is Love.” He bows to His Grace and goes out in silence. Remaining alone, the patriarch stays in adoration for a quarter of an hour.
The Consecration of a Bishop
The following is a description of the ceremony of consecration of a bishop in Doinel’s Gnostic Church.
The consecration of a bishop-elect takes place in the presence of the assembly of the Parfaits and the Parfaites. The patriarch, assisted by two bishop-consecrators, poses to the bishop-elect these questions:
1. “Do you believe in the Most Holy Gnosis?
2. Do you accept the two fundamental doctrines of the Most Holy Gnosis (emanation and salvation by knowledge, as stated in the preliminary profession of faith)?
3. Do you accept the Election and the charges which follow?”
After having responded affirmatively, the bishop-elect takes his place on a seat facing the Patriarchal Throne, while the deacon lights the two white candles. The patriarch and the two assistant bishops, withdraw, preceded by the deacon who bears the Double Tau.
The bishop-elect meditates and prays mentally, while the deaconess opens the book of the Fourth Gospel and arranges the salt, the oil, and the accessories on the table. The choir, accompanied by the organ, sings the Valentinian psalm: “Dixit Dominus Dominae meae, sede a dextris meis.”
The consecrators then return, and the bishop-elect kneels before the patriarch, who delivers the oration: “Domine-Domina, Dea-Deus, benedicere digneris huic electo episcopo N. et gregi quae ei committitur. Per Helenam Dominam Nostram Amen.” The first assistant bishop recites the Lord’s Prayer in Greek, the second reads the Gnostic Gospel.
The three consecrators approach the bishop-elect and in turn impose their hands upon him, saying: “Electe episcope N. ego, auctoritate Eonum, te sacro, te consacro, te creo et te confirmo episcopum N. (name of the episcopal seat).” They embrace him, then annoint him with consecrated oil in the form of a Tau on the forehead, saying: “Pleroma te sanctificet”; on the lips, saying: “Pleroma te amplificet”; and on the heart, saying: “Pleroma te magnificet.”
They drop a few grains of salt on his tongue, saying: “Vos estis sal terrae. Quod si sal evanuerit, in quo salietur?” They place a candle in his right hand, saying: “Vos estis lumen mundi.” They present him with a cup full of water, and say: “Vos estis fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam.”
After this, the consecrators return to their seats, and the bishop-elect comes to kneel before them. He places his hands in theirs to take the oath: “I swear between the hands of Your Grace and Your Lordships, by the dread name of the Most Holy Pleroma, to faithfully fulfill my charge as bishop of N. For which, may Sophia and all the Eons be with me in aid!” All present respond: “Sic! Amen!”
The patriarch then blesses and bestows upon the newly consecrated bishop his episcopal insignia: the Tau, suspended from a violet ribbon; the violet gloves; the Infula; and the episcopal ring. Finally, he delivers the homily, gives the Patriarchal Benediction and presents the new bishop to the Parfaits and to the Parfaites, declaring: “I proclaim N. bishop of N.” The assembly responds: “Fiat! Fiat!” All the faithful kneel to receive the benediction of the new bishop; and afterward, they each come forward to kiss his ring.
- Brightman, F.E.; Liturgies Eastern and Western, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1896
- Le Forestier, René; L’Occultisme en France aux XIXème et XXème siècles: L’Église Gnostique, Ouvrage inédit publié par Antoine Faivre, Archè, Milano 1990
- Geyraud, Pierre; Sectes & Rites, petites églises, religions nouvelles, sociétés secrètes de Paris, Éditions Émile-Paul Frères, 1954
Original Publication Date: 5/20/95
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.