The Gnostic Creed: a Qabalistic view

At the start of every Gnostic Mass, the congregation recites a creed wherein they profess to believe a collection of improbable things: one Lord, one Mother, Baphomet, blah blah blah through a list of eight different professions and confessions.[1] This makes a lot of people wonder, what exactly am I claiming to believe in?

Here's one way to understand it. I don't claim it's the only way, but it works for me. Looking at it clause by clause:

I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD, and in one Star in the Company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth, and in one Air the nourisher of all that breathes.

"One secret and ineffable LORD" refers to Kether, the undifferentiated point through which the original Will begins to manifest. Kether is also the "one Star in the Company of Stars". Although it is One, it is but one part of one Tree among many Trees.

However, Kether's energy is balanced, which by itself isn't an active, emittive force. It must become unbalanced before it can begin to bestow. Thus, when we say "one Father of Life" we are no longer referring to Kether but to Chokmah, the top Sephirah of the tree's active, right pillar. The Creed demonstrates this by referring to it as CHAOS, firmly establishing it as meaning Chokmah and equating it to the Knights of the Tarot.

We have now named the initial impulses of creation, Kether and Chokmah. But then we tack on a surprising addition: "one Air, the nourisher of all that breathes." Huh?

This serves two purposes. Air is a reference to the Tree's middle Pillar, which we aren't exactly naming just yet because it will figure into a later portion of the Creed. But "air" is also Aleph, the path of the Pure Fool (the first Tarot trump), which connects Kether to Chokmah. The Fool is the path by which the first, balanced energy of Kether becomes unbalanced in Chokmah for the purpose of bestowal. Thus the first clause of the Creed finishes by placing us in Chokmah, the foundation of the active element of creation, the raw energy of CHAOS that is embodied by the Tarot Knights.

And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.

Having started at the top of the Tree, now we jump to the bottom. "One Earth" is Malkuth, the final point of manifestation in Assiah, the world of Matter. She is also the "Mother of us all," and the "one Womb" that begets us.

…Ah, but Binah is also the "one Womb". It is Binah that receives and gives form to the raw energy emitted from the CHAOS that resides in Chokmah, which Binah then will set on its way to manifestation as it crosses the Abyss. The Creed makes this plain by naming that Womb BABALON, thus placing us firmly in Binah.

Magically, this is the operation of "setting the Daughter upon the throne of the Mother". We elevate Malkuth, placing it in Binah, so that the exchange that takes place secretly between Kether and Malkuth can show itself openly between Chokmah and Binah.[2] The reference to Binah also shows that this clause of the Creed indicates the Queens of the Tarot, the receptive element that balances the active element of Chokmah. We have now established a connection between the Knights in Chokmah and the Queens in Binah. This equivalence provides the horizontal component of the magical working we are about to begin: Chokmah and Binah.[3]

Chokmah is also the seat of the Tarot's Wands (the "lance", Fire), where Binah is the seat of its Cups (Water); so we have now named the Lance and Cup, one pair of polar opposites that allude to the procreative nature of the work. These will of course figure strongly into the Mass itself.

And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.

Here, the Creed equilibrates the two previously named forces and brings them into balance in the middle Pillar. We have combined the Serpent and Lion through the operation of the path Zayin, which communicates between Binah and Tiphareth. Zayin is the path of the Tarot trump "The Lovers", where you can see the operation of the Serpent and Lion more clearly.[4]

Tiphareth is the seat of the Magician's will. The Creed here identifies it with BAPHOMET, whose "one arm is female, the other male … The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter…."[5] That combination of male and female forces plus the reference to "soul" shows that BAPHOMET indicates Tiphareth, the equilibrating center of the Tree. Tiphareth also indicates the Princes of the Tarot, and its Swords, the suit of Air.

And I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is Θελημα.

Here, we name the entire middle Pillar:[6] Light is Kether, source of all light and root of the Supernal triad; Life is Tiphareth, seat of Will and root of the Ethical triad; Love is Yesod, treasure house of images and root of the Astral triad; and Liberty is Malkuth, the place of manifestation that is the only place where "liberty" can have any real meaning. Note though that the Word of its Law, Thelema (will), comes from its Life: Tiphareth, the place of the Magician's will. Light sets the work in motion, but Life — your Will — directs the work.

However, this statement refers more specifically to Malkuth, the sphere of manifestation. Only in manifestation can we even think about establishing a "Church". This clause, being about Malkuth, indicates the Princesses of the Tarot, and its Disks. Thus we have now identified the vertical component of the work and have named the other pair of opposites in the Tarot, the Sword and Disk.

We have now described a Qabalistic cross: Kether to Malkuth, Chokmah to Binah, which we equilibrated in Tiphareth and then brought down into Malkuth. We've also identified two pairs of opposites, Fire/Water and Air/Earth, that are the horizontal and vertical components of a creative or procreative working. What happens next?

And I believe in the Communion of Saints.

What else? We let those pairs of opposites combine. The "Communion of Saints" is the conjoining of those elements, the Lance with the Cup and the Sword with the Disk, to fertilize the work. Thus we have blended pairs that can germinate and grow, both on this plane and across all planes. So that's what we say next.

And forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.

The syllogism being drawn here is not exact, but we'll work with it. This statement equates meat/drink with Lance/Cup and with Sword/Disk. While we know that really meat and drink are two forms of the same substance, fuel for the fire of the internal operations that yield the energy that sustains us, used here, they represent the Lance and Cup, the Sword and Disk. Remember, effects of the operation are what's important. We are arguing "as below, so above" — that even as one operation converts gross physical matter into energy (i.e., "spiritual substance"), another operation combines the opposed forces into a balanced unity, us.

The "Miracle" of the Mass is that if you combine the opposing halves of a generative operation in the prescribed fashion, it will generate a Magickal Child. The effectiveness of that operation depends upon the will of the Magician. The stronger and more focused the intent, the more effective the outcome. Which we can show, because…

And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.

We aren't professing any belief here. Instead, we are confessing, admitting something that has already been demonstrated. Look at me, I am proof that this operation works. I incarnated. I am.

"Incarnation" operates on multiple levels. On a purely physical level, your body exists as the result of combining the opposite gametes of mother and father through an operation that was carried out in the mother's body. On a spiritual level, your will exists as the result of combining the energy provided by Chokmah with the control of Binah. This operation shows its result as it crosses the Abyss and explodes downward into manifestation. That's Wisdom (Chokmah) being "baptized" by Understanding (Binah).

And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.

In conclusion we say that the process does not end. This cycle of birth, life, death is but one link in a chain that began ages ago and will continue ages hence. This life — what we are doing right now — is the process of defining and refining our Will so as to be better able to incarnate its next manifestation. We are stating what the Priest recapitulates at the end of the Mass, that our LORD will bring us to the accomplishment of our True Wills, the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, true wisdom, and perfect happiness.


[1] Candidates for confirmation in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica are required to memorize this Creed.

[2] You can see this reflected in the Tarot trump "the Universe", which refers both to Earth (Malkuth) and to Saturn (Binah) through the path Tau. Remember as well that among the double letters, Tau refers to the center of the box that is space: you. You are the Center of All.

[3] The "horizontal" component is the part of a working that operates entirely on one level — for example, entirely on the material plane — as opposed to the "vertical" component that communicates between the planes.

[4] The "serpent" in that card appears as the White Eagle. Eagle, serpent, scorpion are three ways of looking at the same force, the Water that balances the lion's Fire.

[5] Eliphas Lévi, Ritual and Dogma of High Magic

[6] I said earlier that we weren't naming the middle Pillar with our "air" reference because it would figure into a later part of the Creed. Here it is.

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Wed, 24 Jul 2024 3:16 AM.
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