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BASILIDGS


328


BASILIDES


The same process is repeated and we have a second Archon and his Son and the sphere where they rule is the Hebdomad, beneath the Ogdoad. Lastly, the third Filiation must be raised to the Not-Being God. This took place through the Gospel. From Adam to Moses the Archon of the Ogdoad had reigned (Rom., V, 14); in Moses and the Prophets the Archon of the Hebdomad had reigned, or God of the Jews. Now in the third period the Gospel must reign. Tliis Gospel was first made known from the First Filiation through the Holy Ghost to the Son of the Archon of the Ogdoad; the Son told liis Father, who was astounded and trembled and acknowledged his pride in thinking himself the Supreme Deity. The Son of the Archon of the Ogdoad tells the Son of the Archon of the Hebdomad, and he again tells his father. Thus both spheres, including the 365 heavens and their chief Archon, Abrasax, know the truth. This knowledge is now conveyed through the Hebdomad to Jesus, the Son of Mary, who through his life and death redeemed the third Filiation, that is: what is material must return to the Chaos, what is psychic to the Hebdomad, what is spiritual to the Not-Being God. When the third Filiation is thus redeemed, the Supreme God pours out a blissful Ignorance over all that is and that shall so remain . forever. This is called "The Restoration of all things".

From Clement of Alexandria we get a few glimpses into the etliical side of the system. Nominally, faith was made the beginning of the spiritual life; it was not, however, a free submission of the in- tellect, but a mere natural gift of understanding (Gnosis) bestowed upon the soul before its union with the body and which some possessed and others did not. But if faith is only a natural quality of some minds, what need of a Saviour, asks Clement, and Basilides would reply that faith is a latent force which only manifests its energj- through the coming of the Saviour, as a ray of light will set naphtha on fire. Sin was not the result of the abuse of free will but merely the outcome of an inborn evil principle. All suffering is punishment for sin; even when a child suffers, this is the punislmient of its own sin, i. e. the latent evil principle within; that this indwelling principle has had no opportunity to manifest itself, is immaterial. The persecutions Christians under- went had therefore as sole object the punishment of their sin. All human nature was thus vitiated by the sinful; when hard pressed Basilides would call even Clirist a sinful man, for God alone was righteous. Viewed in another way evil was a sort of excrescence on the rational soul, the result of an original disturbance and confusion. "Their whole system", says Clement, "is a confusion of the Pan- spermia (All-seed) with the Phylokrinesis (Difference- in-kind) and the return of things thus confused to their own places." St. Irena^us and St. Epiphanius reproach Basilides ■with the immorality of his system, and St. Jerome calls Basilides a master and teacher of debaucheries. It is likely, however, that Basilides was personally free from immorality and that this accusation was true neither of the master nor of some of his followers. That Basilidianism. together with the other forms of Gnosticism, eventually led to gross immorality, there can be no doubt. Clement of Alexandria and St. Epiphanius have preserved for us a passage of the writings of Basilides' son and successor, which counsels the free satisfaction of sensual desires in order that the soul may find peace in prayer. And it is remarkable that Justin the Martyr in his first Apology (xx\'i), that is, as early as 150-155, suggests to the Roman emperors that possibly the Gnostics are guilty of those immoralities of which Christians are falsely accused. It is true that in this passage he mentions only Simon, Menan- der, and Marcion by name; but the passage is general


in tone, and elsewhere Valentinus, Basilides, and Saturninus follow in the list.

Writings. — Nearly all the writings of Basilides have perished, but the names of three of his works and some fragments have come down to us. (a) A Gospel. Origen in his Homily on Luke, i, states that Basilides had dared to write a Gospel according to Basilides. St. Jerome and St. Ambrose adopt this statement of Origen; and St. Jerome, in the Prologue of his Commentary on St. Matthew, again speaks of an "Evangehum Basilidis". In all like- lihood this "Gospel" was compiled out of our canoni- cal Gospels, the text being curtailed and altered to suit his Gnostic tenets, a diatessaron on Gnostic lines. (b) A Gospel Commentary in twenty-four books. (Clement of Alexandria calls it "Exegetica"; the Acta Archelai et Manetis, "Tractatus".) Frag- ments of this Commentary have come down to us (in Stromata, IV, 12-81, sqq.; Acta Arch., Iv; probably also in Origen, Commentary on Romans V, i). (c) Hymns. Origen in a note on Job, xxi, 1 sqq., speaks of "Odes" of Basilides; and the so-called Muratorian Fragment, containing a list of canonical and non- canonical books (170 or thereabouts) ends with the words: "etiam novu psalmorum librura marcioni conscripserunt ima cum Basilide assianum catafrj-cum constitutorem". This sentence, notwithstanding its obscurity, supports Origen's statement. For a collection of Basilidian fragments see Hilgenfeld, " Ketzergeschichte desUrchrist" (Leipzig, 1884), 207, 213.

School. — Basilides never formed a school of dis- ciples, who modified or added to the doctrines of their leader. Isidore, his son, is the only one who elabo- rated his father's system, especially on the anthropo- logical side. He ■i^Tote a work on the " Psyche Pros- phyes " (""epi irpo<r4)voCs i'vxvs), or Appendage-Soul; another work, called " Ethics " by Clement and " Pa- raenetics" by Epiphanius; and at least two books of "Commentaries on the Prophet Parchor. Basilidian- ism survived until the end of the fourth century as Epiphanius knew of Basilidians living in the Nile Delta. It was however almost exclusively limited to Egj'pt, though according to Sulpicius Severus it seems to have found an entrance into Spain through a certain Mark from Memphis. St. Jerome states that the Priscillianists were infected u-ith it. Of the customs of the Basilidians, we know no more than that Basili- des enjoined on his followers, like Pythagoras, a silence of five years; that they kept the anniversary of the Baptism of Jesus as a feast day and spent the eve of it in reading; that their master told them not to scruple eating things offered to idols; that they wore amulets with the word Abrasax and sjTnbolic figures engraved on them, and, amongst other things, believed them to possess healing properties.

Although Basilides is mentioned by all the Fathers as one of the chiefs of Gnosticism, the system of Valentinus seems to have been much more popular and wider spread, as was also JIarcionism. Hence, though anti-Gnostic literature is abundant, we know of only one patristic work, which liad for its express purpose the refutation of Basilides, and this work is no longer extant. Eusebius (Hist. EccL, IV, vii, 6-8) saj's: "There has come do^Ti to us a mo.st powerful refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor, one of the most renowned writers of that day, which shows the terrible imposture of the man." With the exception of a few phrases given by Eusebius we know nothing of this Agrippa and his work. (See Gnosticism.)

BuoNAiuTi, Lo Gnosticismo (Rome, 1907): Ddchesnk, Hisl. ancienne de VEgKse (3d ed., Paris, 1907), I. xi, s. v. La Onose et le Marcionisme: Bareille in Dict.de theol. cath., s. \t. .\hrasax, Basilide: Leclercq. Diet, d'arch. chrH., s. v. Ahraaa'-: Bardenhewer, Geach. der altkirch. Lit. (Freiburg, 1902). I; King, The Gnostics and Their Remains (2d ed., London, 1887);