The Late Egyptian Background of Gnosis

By Jorgen Podemann Sørensen

"The Nag Hammadi Texts in the History of Religions"

Preceedings of the International Conference at the Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen, September 19-24, 1995

      Notice the three symbols in this late 1800s European painting that match the ritual objects in the Tomb, the secret and "sacred" domain of The Order of Skull and Bones: The skull (under the adept's finger), the open book, and the mathematical instruments (some are in front of the book stand). The cap he is wearing bears some resemblance to the "fool's cap" -- a name that cloaks the mythical meaning of the red Phrygian cap (notice the reference to "fool's cap") also representative of the Rosicrucians.



Notice the first of the two words near the top of this late 9th century Swiss or German painting: COOYN. Rooted in ancient mysticism, its occult branches are now reaching into today's global government, communities, and churches. To understand the meaning of that word, read these explanations from the 1995 International Conference at the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters:

"Eugnostos [from the gnostic "Epistle of Eugnostos"] speaks of gnosis or COOYN as the revelational experience which cannot in itself be taught since it transcends rational discourse..."


"COOYN is an Egyptian word....  In Egyptian funerary literature from the Pyramid Texts to the Greco-Roman Period, there was an idea of ritual knowledge...." (p.139)  [Emphasis added here and below]


"... the Nag Hammadi texts are written in the Egyptian language.... [S]ome of the texts are undoubtedly translations for the Greek.... The Greek, the Jewish and the Christian religious traditions are extremely common in the tests, and some texts imply presume in their readership a rather detailed knowledge of the Old Testament.... There are very few original motifs and ideas in these texts. An important exception, however, is the idea of gnosis....


"Hans Jonas excellently characterized the logic of the gnostic idea of religious knowledge by stating that -- as the knowledge of God, of the order and development of the upper worlds, and of the salvation of man -- it is a knowledge of the unknowable 'and therefore itself not a natural condition.' This condition is attained in revelational experience, 'either through sacred and secret lore or through inner illumination,' and through rational argument.


"It is not rationally conveyed information that guides its receiver towards salvation; the knowledge called gnosis implies in itself a modification of the human condition and is more directly instrumental in the bringing about of salvation.

"Thus Gnostic 'knowledge' has an eminently practical aspect. the ultimate 'object of gnosis is God: its even in the soul transform the knower by making him a partaker in the divine existence (which means more than assimilating him to the divine essence). Thus... the 'knowledge' is not only an instrument of salvation but itself the very form in which the goal of salvation, i.e. ultimate perfection, is possessed.


"...knowledge and attainment of the known by the soul are claimed to coincide-- the claim of all true mysticism." (pp. 137-138) ...

"Kurt Rudolph's monograph on Gnosticism is a much broader empirical basis that was available to Jonas, due... mainly to the publication of the Nag Hammadi library and the general increase in Gnostic studies that it caused.... Rudolph sees Gnostic knowledge as distinct from intellectual or theoretical knowledge, and as having a liberating and redeeming effect. It is given to the elect through revelation and is thus esoteric in character....

"All Gnostic teachings are in some form part of the redeeming knowledge which gathers together the object of knowledge (the divine nature), the means of knowledge (the redeeming gnosis) and the knower himself.... A man who possess 'gnosis' if for that reason a redeemed man...."(p.138)

"Eugnostos [from the gnostic "Epistle of Eugnostos"] speaks of gnosis or COOYN as the revelational experience which cannot in itself be taught since it transcends rational discourse, but of which the teachings of his epistle are nevertheless the arch or, to emphasize the practical, pedagogical aspect, the preparation.


"COOYN is an Egyptian word....  In Egyptian funerary literature from the Pyramid Texts to the Greco-Roman Period, there was an idea of ritual knowledge....


"One of the points made by Jonas is that in gnosis, the relation of knowing is mutual; to know is also to be known. A very similar idea is widespread in ancient Egyptian funerary literature; let me just quote a Pyramid Text from c.2200 BC:

"Whoever really knows it, this utterance of RE, and recites them, these spells of Harakhti, he shall be the familiar (known by) Re [or Ra--Egyptian sun god], he shall be the companion of Harakhti [or Horus]."

"This may conveniently be compared with one of the texts from the Gospel of Truth which Rudolph quotes as illustration of his account:

"If anyone has gnosis, he is a being who comes from above...." [as in Mormonism?]

"...there are hundreds of examples in Egyptian funerary literature of a kind of ritual knowledge-- of spells, gods, mythological events... etc.--which serves to render the deceased person co-primeval with the gods and mythological features of which he claim to have knowledge..."(p.139)


"Recited daily by a living man [this religious knowledge] will keep him hale as long as he lives. ...such a recitation had soteriological aims: regeneration after death and protection in life..... This use of the Book fort the Dead 'on earth' is also called knowledge.


"Chapter 70 ends with the words:

"As for him who knows this book on earth, he shall come out into the day, he shall walk on earth among the living, and his name shall not perish forever."

... The Book of the Dead is no devotional tract, and its idea of religious knowledge is still that of a ritual knowledge, efficacious in a ritual sense.... There are... obvious differences between ritual and revelation. Above all, in the sense which is relevant here, revelation presupposes a dualism alien to classical Egyptian religion, but prominent in the Hellenist and Roman world.


"During the Late Period and the Greco-Roman Period, however, Egyptian religion develops both he "mental" and an apocalyptic dimension that bridges, at least to certain extent, the gap between ritual and revelation. This development can be traced above all in the Demotic and Greek magical papyri, which are still very faithful to the classical Egyptian way of constructing magical formula, but open to new applications of the magic art.


"Whereas classical Egyptian magical texts were designed for practical purposes such as healing oft he handling of dangerous situation, their late descendants are definitely more luxurious; Love magic and formulae designed to give enemies nightmares and other disturbances...."(p.140)


We hope to finish this page soon.

 See The Secret - Christianity or New Age

Clothed with His Truth (First lesson in a Bible study on the Armor)



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