The Fourth Sermon, Seven Sermons to the Dead

Sermones ad Mortuos
Seven Sermons to the Dead

Seven exhortations to the dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where East and West meet.

The Fourth Sermon

Grumbling, the dead filled the room and said: "Speak to us about gods and devils, thou accursed one!"

-- God-the-Sun is the highest good, the devil is the opposite; thus you have two gods. But there are many great goods and many vast evils, and among them are two god-devils, one of which is the BURNING ONE, and the other the GROWING ONE. The burning one is EROS in his form as a flame. It shines and it devours. The growing one is the TREE OF LIFE; it grows green, and accumulates living matter while it grows. Eros flames up and then dies away; the tree of life, however, grows slowly and reaches stately stature throughout countless ages.

Good and evil are united in the flame.
Good and evil are united in the growth of the tree.
Life and love oppose each other in their own divinity.

Immeasurable, like the host of stars, is the number of gods and devils. Every star is a god, and every space occupied by a star is a devil. And the emptiness of the whole is the Pleroma. The activity of the whole is Abraxas; only the unreal opposes him. Four is the number of the chief deities, because four is the measurements of the world. One is the beginning; God-the-Sun. Two is Eros, because he expands with a bright light and combines two. Three is the Tree of Life, because it fills space with bodies. Four is the devil, because he opens everything that is closed; he dissolves everything that is formed and embodied; he is the destroyer, in whom all things come to nothing.

Blessed am I, for it is granted unto me to know the multiplicity and the diversity of the gods. Woe unto you, for you have substituted the oneness of God for the diversity which cannot be resolved into the one. Through this you have created the torment of incomprehension, and the mutilation of the created world, the essence and law of which is diversity. How can you be true to your nature when you attempt to make one out of the many? What you do to the gods, that also befalls you. All of you are thus made the same and in this way your nature also becomes mutilated.

For the sake of man there may reign unity, but never for the sake of god, because there are many gods but only few men. The gods are mighty, and they bear their diversity, because like the stars they stand in solitude and are separated by vast distances one from another. Humans are weak and cannot bear their own diversity, because they live close to each other and are desirous of company, so that they cannot bear their own distinct separateness. For the sake of salvation do I teach you that which is to be cast out, for the sake of which I myself have been cast out.

The multiplicity of the gods equals the multiplicity of men. Countless gods are waiting t become men. Countless gods have already been men. Man is a partaker of the essence of the gods; he comes from the gods and he goes to God.

Even as it is useless to think about the Pleroma, so it is useless to worship the number of the gods. Least of all is it of any use to worship the first God, the effective fullness and the highest good. Through our prayer we cannot add to it and we cannot take away from it, because the effective emptiness swallows everything. The gods of light compose the heavenly world, which is multiple and stretches into infinity and which expands without end. Their highest lord is God-the-Sun.

The dark gods constitute the underworld. They are uncomplicated and they are capable of diminishing and shrinking into infinity. Their deepest lord is the devil, the spirit of the moon, the serf of the earth, who is smaller, colder and deader than the earth.

There is no difference in the power of the heavenly and the earthly gods. The heavenly ones expand, the earthly ones diminish. Both directions stretch into infinity.

Previous Sermon Next Sermon
Go Back to Shy David's Seven Sermons To The Dead Page.