Zostrianos is the first tractate of Codex VIII from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in 1945. It is the longest text in the Library and relates how one initiate (Zostrianos) attains enlightenment, implicitly setting out a programme for others to follow.
Zostrianos is taken from earth and led to heaven by an angel, where he ascends progressively through the thirteen aeons of the inferior sphere without being stopped by their archons.
Taken in charge by an angelic entity, he is purified, anointed, clothed with heavenly garments, crowned and enthroned. He receives a great number of revelations, until he reaches the highest knowledge that God commands him to record in order to hand it down to his genos (kind, race, class, generation) after having coming back to earth.
Zostrianos relates that, first, through ascetic practices he had to remove physical desires from himself:
“I mentally abandoned my inner corporeal darkness, psychical chaos, and dark, lustful femininity…”
Then, he says,
“A holy spirit higher than God settled upon me as I was improving myself, and I saw the perfect child” – a vision of the divine presence. Later he says,
“Seeking to understand these things I would offer them up daily to the god of my fathers… I did not stop seeking a place of rest worthy of my spirit, where I would not be bound in the perceptible world.”
But then, becoming ‘deeply troubled’, discouraged with his progress, he goes out into the desert, prepared
“to deliver myself to the wild beasts of the desert for a violent death.”
There he receives a vision of “the angel of the knowledge of the eternal Light”.
At each level of the ascent, Zostrianos is instructed about its character and spiritual inhabitants, whereupon he contemplates them and is assimilated to their nature. At each stage Zostrianos also receives baptism – not by immersion in water but by philosophical enquiry.
Zostrianos receives his final 22nd baptism from Youel, the all-glorious virgin, mother of the Glories (celestial helpers) residing in the Aeon of Kalyptos (first and highest of three subaeons within the Barbelo Aeon – Protophanes and Autogenes are the others)
After 125 pages of visions and revelations, the narrative ends with his descent to earth, where he is now able to master the physical aspect of his existence.
He records the revelations he has received on three wooden tablets and launches a mission to awaken ordinary mortals to the dangers of lustful materiality. He issues a strong warning to the ‘seed of Seth’ not to be baptized with death – that is, to stop practicing the earthly ritual of the Five Seals.
Zostrianos stresses the transcendental baptisms into knowledge characteristic of his visionary ascent are the way to become enlightened through the grace of the trustworthy Father.
“The kind Father has sent you the Saviour and empowered you! Why do you hesitate? Seek when you are sought; when you are invited, listen.. Behold the Light! Flee the darkness. May you not be led astray to your destruction.”
Scholars say the text was originally composed in Greek around late 2nd century Alexandria.
The author, Zostrianos, portrays himself as a man but I believe the author is a woman. The reference to “lustful femininity” in the 1st person (third paragraph page 1) sounds like a woman to me..
I believe Codex VIII, Zostrianos and The Letter of Peter to Philip were penned by Mary, elder sister of Jude, daughter of Sarah and granddaughter of Mary Magdalene. Mary also wrote The Sentences of Sextus (Codex XII), a collection of 451 concise spiritual sayings, as she recognized her mighty tome Zostrianos would not be read by the masses.
#egypt #gnostic #naghammadi #spiritual