The Three Steles of Seth is the fifth and last tractate of Codex VII from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in 1945.
The traditional steles, or tablets of stone and brick, preserved Seth’s writings from destruction by flood or fire, and record three ecstatic hymns glorifying Barbelo.
It is thought they were used during a communal ritual of celestial ascent practised by a community of Seth’s descendants (those who viewed the biblical Seth as their hero and later reincarnated as Jesus).
The hymns are addressed by Seth to, in ascending order, his own father, Pigeradamas (the heavenly Adam), and the three members of the Sethian trinity: the self-Generated son, the divine mother Barbelo, and the pre-existent Father.
These hymns of praise, anciently preserved for the elect “living and unshakeable generation” and apparently discovered by Dositheos, reputed founder of the Samaritan gnostic religion.
The Three Steles of Seth is a simplified version of the ascensional technique described in Zostrianos and Allogenes the Stranger.
It describes two main transcendent levels in addition to the cosmos; that of the supreme and absolutely singular pre-existent One or truly living Spirit (or supreme Invisible Spirit), and that of its product, the triple-powered Aeon of Barbelo.
There is no mention of baptismal seals in this celestial ascent – it is a practice of contemplative ascent.
The text concludes with Dositheus’ directions for use of the hymns: the mystical ascent:-
“Whoever remembers these things and always glorifies will be perfect among the perfect and free of suffering beyond all things..
As it has been ordained for them, they ascend. After silence, they descend from the third. They praise the second, and afterward the first. The way of ascent is the way of descent.
So understand as those who are alive that you have succeeded. You have taught yourselves about things infinite. Marvel at the truth within them, and at the revelation.”
This final section refers to the mystical ascent of the soul back to the Pleroma (fullness) within Barbelo (see also Zostrianos). The silence referred to is the climax moment of contemplation in ascension, where the soul resides in the third and highest realm within Barbelo, at which point the descension back to the first realm where Adam and Seth reside begins, blessing the other realms on the way down.
The text indicates that those who remember and recite the tablets and always glorify Barbelo will ascend to the Pleroma where they rightly belong.
My brief summary does not do justice to these beautiful hymns; ‘wisdom from the books’ cannot give you an experience of the divine.
I suggest you read them for yourself and see how the words makes you feel..
Along with the rest of codex VII, (The Paraphrase of Shem, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, The Revelation of Peter and The Teachings of Silvanus) I believe the Three Steles of Seth was written by Jude (grandson of Mary Magdalene) at Lake Mareotis, Alexandria in the 1st century.
#gnostic #jude #naghammadi #seth