Seven exhortations to the dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where East and West meet.
The Sixth Sermon
The demon of sexuality comes to our soul like a serpent. It is half a human soul and is called thought-desire.
The demon of spirituality descends into our soul like a white bird. It is half a human soul and is called desire-thought.
The serpent is an earthly soul, half demonic, a spirit, and related to the spirits of the dead. Like the spirits of the dead, the serpent also enters various terrestrial objects. The serpent also induces fear of itself in the hearts of men, and enkindles desire in the same. The serpent is of a generally feminine character and seeks forever the company of the dead. It is associated with the dead who are earthbound, who have not found the way by which to cross over to the state of solitude. The serpent is a whore and she consorts with the devil and with evil spirits; she is a tyrant and a tormenting spirit, always tempting people to keep the worst kind of company.
The white bird is the semi-heavenly soul of man. It lives with the mother and occasionally descends from the mothers abode. The bird is masculine and is called effective thought. The bird is chaste and solitary, a messenger of the mother. It flies high above the earth. It commands solitude. It brings messages from the distance, from those who have gone before, those who are perfected. It carries our words up to the mother. The mother intercedes and warns, but she has no power against the gods. She is a vehicle of the sun.
The serpent descends into the deep and with her cunning she either paralyzes or stimulates the phallic demon. The serpent brings up from the deep the very cunning thoughts of the earthly one, thoughts that crawl through all openings and become saturated with desire. Although the serpent does not want to be, she is nevertheless useful to us. The serpent eludes our grasp, we pursue her and she thus shows us the way, which, with our limited human wit, we could not find.
-- The dead looked up with contempt and said: "Cease to speak to us about gods, demons and souls. We have known all of this in essence for a long time!"