Did the Valentinian Gnostic Marcus use Gnosticism to Sexually Harass Women?
“It is also worth noting that some of the Gnostic leaders’ supposedly pro-woman stance is not all it is cracked up to be. The Valentinian Gnostic Marcus was actually known for bringing women into the movement so that he could sexually seduce them (Irenaeus, Haer. 1.13.5).” (Michael J. Kruger, Five Myths About the Ancient Heresy of Gnosticism)
Q. Did the Valentinian Gnostic Marcus sexually harass women?
Ans. The short answer, no. Let us explain.
The Theosophist, H.P. Blavatsky reminds her readers in Isis Unveiled (Vol. II, 574) firstly, that “such men as Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Eusebius have transmitted to posterity a reputation for untruth and dishonest practices; and the heart sickens at the story of the crimes of that period. The more so, since the whole Christian scheme rests upon their sayings.” Indeed, for it is Irenaeus who speaks an untruth about this disciple of Valentinus, the Gnostic Marcus; and even that, the doctrines of Marcus are exclusively known to us through the writings of Irenaeus’ account of his teaching and Marcosian school. This Christian biography of Marcus reads in the snide manner of certain types of Christians we discussed in The Meaning of Pistis and the Science of Gnosis, when it states:
“What Marcus added to the teaching of his predecessors is perhaps the most worthless of all that passed under the name of “knowledge” in the 2nd cent. It merely contains magical formulae, which the disciples were to get by heart and put trust in, and puerile speculations, such as were in vogue among the later Pythagoreans, about mysteries in numbers and names” (Henry Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies).
It is strange, that any Christian should be defining Gnostic doctrines and speculations as “puerile,” and fails to apply the description of “puerile” to Church doctrines and theology. Good grief. No man’s degree can avail one convinced of their own “puerile speculations.”
We are told, that the attitude of the Gnostics was “elitist,” because Gnostics believed only a very few number of people were capable of attaining gnosis and salvation. Yet, the Bible numbers 144,000 chosen at the Second Coming, who are virgin (Revelation vii. and xiv.). What is so awful, that the attainment of gnosis is not made so simple by a demi-god that is claimed to have lifted man from the ancient curse of sin therefore relieving man of need for discipline? If the knowledge exists in nature, or man’s inner nature may reflect the starry (or sidereal) elements and divine heavens, yet all cannot be made to understand it. All cannot be made to become inclined toward that knowing, nor the study of it. Does not the Bible also in many areas sound elitist, exclusive or even bigoted? Resorting to simplistic comparisons is not a good measurement.
The article Five Myths About the Ancient Heresy of Gnosticism asserts that, traditional Christianity was favorable towards women, and women flocked to the Church in droves and were welcomed. It then proceeds to argue, the Church priests held a balanced view of sex, whereas the Gnostics advocated extreme celibacy — said in way as if it is bad.
“A final myth about Gnosticism is that it was pro-sex and that traditional Christianity was anti-sex. In other words, Gnostics celebrated sexuality and traditional Christians were puritanical prudes. Again, the reality is very different. While some Gnostics were quite sexually licentious (as noted above with Marcus), a large strain of the movement was utterly against sex. Indeed, much of the movement advocated a harsh asceticism and celibacy.”
It is before the above quote, that the article claims the Valentinian Gnostic Marcus seduced and sexually harassed women based on what Irenaeus says. Irenaeus’s suggestion is a misunderstanding of Marcus’s words, and of the poetic language of the Valentinian.
Unlike some, others including Christians would like to widen their understanding of history and religious thought beyond the false polemics of their instructors. Let us use a scholar against this myth of Gnostic so-called heresies, James E. Goehring.
James E. Goehring explains in his work, The Image of the Feminine in Gnosticism, the origin of the passage regarding the ritual of the Charis, in which Marcus is accused of using the Gnostic movement to seduce women.
“…Irenaeus relates that the Charis is received by the women through a ritual of the bridal chamber. He offers the following citation of Marcus’s seductive words:
“I wish to share my Charis with you, since the Father of all sees your angel continually before his face. The place of the greatness is in us. We must be united. Receive the Charis first from me and through me. Adorn yourself as a bride awaiting her bridegroom, so that you may be what I am and I what you are. Establish the seed of light in your bridal chamber. Receive the bridegroom from me and contain him and be contained in him. Behold the Charis has descended upon you. Open your mouth and prophesy.”
James E. Goehring wrote that the language of Marcus here is Valentinian (page 336), i.e., it is esoteric.
Irenaeus suggests that there is a physical nature to the rite of the bridal chamber, and wants the reader to assume Marcus and the woman is involved in sexual intercourse. Yes, only after the near oracle prophesies after uniting herself with the Charis, who is Nara the self-existent, the Waters of Akasa, Ea, Dagon (or Oannes), Ouranos, does she supposedly reveal to Marcus her illuminated vagina!
So, when Irenaeus is put to me by one as a source to engage in rebuttal I never asked for, why should I trust such an incredibly poor interpretation? Is his fame on name alone? Irenaeus himself after remarks in those same Haeresies (1.7.2), that the Marcosians assert, the ritual of the bridal chamber is a spiritual marriage — yes, because it was.
It is only when Irenaeus moves from the abstract to concrete example, James E. Goehring states, that Irenaeus believes the rite is a mere act of seduction and sexual intercourse, or a means for seducing the female disciple. The passage of Marcus is an example of the poetry and jargon of the mystery language in expressing or teaching certain doctrines and concepts.
“It has been shown in previous lectures that the matter of our Canonical Gospels is, to a large extent, mythical, and that the Gnosis of Ancient Egypt was carried into other lands by the underground passage of the Mysteries, to emerge at last as the literalised legend of Historic Christianity.”GERALD MASSEY, PAUL THE GNOSTIC OPPONENT OF PETER
We are preservers of the doctrine of the “’Christ’ of the Gnosis,” and say this doctrine is the truer and precedes historical Christianity; and it was Kabbalist, as it is Gnostic, as it is Chaldean, as it is Egyptian, as it was Indian, as it was Zoroastrian, with Ahura and Mithra.
“I knew you fine, sight dream of mine
But I know my eyes, they’ve often lied
And I move like blood, like fire and flood
FLEET FOXES, FOOL’S ERRAND