Marsanes is the one and only tractate from Codex X from the Nag Hammadi Library.
The Greek original is lost and the Coptic version is badly damaged with over half of the text lost.
Marsanes, a gnostic prophet, writes in the first person of an ecstatic visit to heaven. He describes visionary revelations on knowledge (gnosis) and ‘the great Father’, which he shares with his gnostic community.
He describes the origin of the cosmos within which there are 13 seals, or levels of existence, from the first and lowest “wordly” levels to the last and highest level of the supreme God, “the Silent One who has not been known.”
The author, Marsanes, claims he has attained true knowledge (gnosis).
Through his ascent beyond the limits of this world, he has accessed the knowledge of “the entire place” and reached the conclusion that,
“in every way the sense-perceptible cosmos is worthy of being completely saved.”
The theme of salvation leads Marsanes to introduce the descent, work and ascent of the saviour Autogenes through the manifestation of Sophia into the lower world. Autogenes is also known as the “Self-begotten One”, who “descended from the Unbegotten One” and “saved a multitude”.
Marsanes asks questions about the nature of existence and then rises to an awareness of “the supremacy of the silence of the Silent One”, offering praise.
Further revelations follow, and it is shown that as the “the Invisible Spirit” ascends back up toheaven, so also his Gnostic brothers and sisters achieve bliss by ascending with him to glory.
After several fragmentary pages, the tractate moves onto a fascinating section on the nature and function of Greek letters, sounds and numbers, which are linked to the powers and capacities of angels, deities and souls.
Occasionally, Marsanes interrupts his discourse with exhortations to piety, where a pronouncement against sin is within a discussion of vowels, consonants and the nature of the soul, both individual and cosmic, embodied and disembodied.
Such knowledge of the alphabet will help Gnostics to “be separated from the angels” and “to seek and find who they themselves are.”
He discusses how astral powers affect the soul, and the means by which the gnostic may manipulate these powers and ascend through the levels of the universe, until their souls reach the highest heaven where God resides.
Marsanes also offers guidance on forming and building a community. Both Marsanes and The Three Steles of Seth are aimed at the practices of an entire community, rather than the enlightenment of the individual (cf Zostrianos and Allogenes). It includes guidance for the behaviour of community members, both inside and their interaction with those outside the community who earnestly seek the truth.
Marsanes is an inspired leader and teacher who not only wishes to share his ecstatic revelations with his community, but who urges solidarity to ensure their future survival. The Gnostics had many enemies, but dissension from within the community was considered a greater threat than any exterior one.
As related in Mary Magdalene’s Final Legacy, Jude succeeded his mother Sarah as leader of this community when she ascended in 94, and would be an inspired leader for the next 30 years.
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