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Phaethon, by Gustave Moreau [1878] (Public Domain Image)
Phaethon, by Gustave Moreau [1878] (Public Domain Image)

The Gnostics and Their Remains

by Charles William King


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In the mid-19th century, eighty years before the chance discovery of a treasure trove of Gnostic manuscripts in a dump in Egypt, C.W. King collected what was known about the Gnostics in this book. At that time there were only three sources of information on Gnosticism: polemics against them by early Christian writers, the Pistis Sophia, and a jumble of confusing images and cryptic inscriptions on Roman-era gems and amulets.

In spite of all of the missing jigsaw pieces, King managed to assemble a picture of the Gnostics which is still cited today as authoritative. Rather than one monolithic group, the Gnostics had very diverse beliefs. Some thought that Jesus was a man, while others thought that he was a God, and some believed that he became a God only after he was baptized. Some believed in a struggle between good and evil, others were non-dualistic. Most had widely-varying intricate systems of intermediaries between the ultimate deity and humanity. On the face of it, this looks polytheistic, but instead was an attempt to solve the problem of how a perfect God could create an imperfect world. Many of these Aeons later became the demons and angels of Medieval and Renaissance magic.

King seeks links to Gnostic symbols and beliefs far afield, from India, to the Templars, Rosicrucians and Illuminati. He discusses Mithra and Serapis worship, and gives many examples of Roman and Greek magical spells and talismans. He discusses the fudged birthdate of Jesus, Masons' marks, and Simon Magus. The book is a fascinating tour of hidden knowledge.

Production Notes: This text uses Unicode extensively, so you should consult the sacred-texts Unicode help page if the Greek and Hebrew text in this text is not displayed correctly in your browser. There are many quotations of Greek and Latin text from inscriptions. In some cases I have silently replaced rare forms of some greek letters (particularly uppercase omega) with the more common ones. In the final part of the book, there were no sub-sections. To break up this long part of the book into files, I have inserted logical sub-section headings. As usual, these are in green type.

--J. B. Hare, 5/28/2006

Title Page

Part I. Gnosticism and its Sources

Gnosticism and its Origin
The Book of Enoch
Gnosticism in its Beginning
Influence of Judaism on the Ancient World
The Zendavesta
The Kabbala and the Talmud
Indian Sources of Gnosticism.--Manes
The Ophites
Machinery of the Gnosis

Part II. The Worship of Mithras and Serapis

I. Origin of Mithraicism
II. The Mithraic Sacraments
III. A Roman Mithras in His Cave
IV. Mithraic Talismans
V. Gnostic Sacraments and Initiations as Connected with the Mithraic
St. Augustine on Gnosticism
I. The Figured Representations of Serapis
II. The Probable Origin of Serapis
III. Monuments of the Serapis Worship
The Caduceus, and its Symbolism
Death, as Depicted in Ancient Art
I. The Evil Eye
II. On a Ceraunia of Jade Converted into a Gnostic Talisman

Part III. Abraxas, Abraxaster, And Abraxoid Gems

The Agathodæmon Worship
The Chnuphis Serpent
I. Abraxaster, or Borrowed Types
II. Abraxoids, or Gems Confounded with the True Gnostic
III. The True Abraxas Gems
Gnostic Plaque
IV. The God Abraxas as Described by the Christian Fathers
V. ''Abraxas''--Etymology of
VI. Abraxas--Its Numerical Force
The Abraxas Religion
The Ineffable Name in the Hindoo Form
Abraxas-Gems, Their Materials, Workmanship, and Nature
Legends and Formulæ

Part IV. The Figured Monuments of Gnosticism

Gnostic Siglæ, Symbols, Legends Explained
The Name ΙΑΩ
Abraxas, New Type of
Original Purpose of These Formulæ
Gnostic Theogony
The Scheme of the Ophites
The Cause of Sin
State After Death of the Uninitiated
Future Punishments
Talismanic Leaden Scrolls

Part V. Templars, Rosicrucians, Freemasons

Masonic Origins
The Earliest Masonic Document
No Relation of Modern Masons to Mediæval Guilds
Masons’ Marks
Origin of Modern Freemasonry
The Rosicrucians
The Templars
Idols of Baphomet
The Assassins
The Sufis
Diffusion of Oriental Culture
Profession of Continence
The Transmission of Gnostic Symbols
The Illuminati


Woodcuts in the Text

Description of the Plates

Plate A. Various Types of the God Abraxas
Plate B
Plate C
Plate D. Sigils of the Cnuphis Serpent
Plate E. Monuments of the Serapis Worship
Plate F. Ancient Egyptian Types Adapted to Gnostic Ideas
Plate G. Egyptian Types (continued)
Plate H. Egyptian Types (continued)
Plate J. Subjects Connected with the Mithraic Mysteries
Plate K. Mithraic (continued)
Plate L. Mithraic (continued)
Plate M. General Talismans
Plate N. General Talismans (continued)
Plate O. Hindoo Symbols and Caste-Marks


Bibliographical Appendix