Phylogeny of Modern Gnosticism

by T Polyphilus
a bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica

There are fifteen distinct churches shown in this representation of the evolution of Gnostic churches in the 19th and 20th Centuries e.v. Only eight of those churches are avowedly Gnostic in character. Their boxes in the diagram have solid borders. An additional two churches have esoteric or magical dimensions that have allied them to the Gnostic tradition and/or attracted Gnostics to their priesthoods. Those three are shown in boxes with borders made up of long, heavy dashes. Five other churches are shown in boxes with fainter borders. Those five are more exoteric bodies from which founders and organizers of some of the Gnostic churches received their initial authority and/or training.

Click on any box in the chart for more detailed information on that church. (There is also a larger chart that is easier to read.)

The chart follows a top-to-bottom--but not left-to-right--chronological sequence. For the Gnostic churches only (those with solid borders), the boxes occupy vertical space to reflect the time-span of the church's operation. References for individual churches are given below in alphabetical order.

Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church | Church of the Gnosis | Dutch Church | Ecclesia Gnostica | Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica | Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum | Eglise Catholique Gnostique | Eglise Gnostique [de France] | Eglise Gnostique Apostolique | Eglise Gnostique Catholique Apostolique | Eglise Gnostique Universelle | Eliate Church of Carmel | Gnostic Catholic Church | Gnostische Katholische Kirche | Johannite Church of Primitive Christians | Liberal Catholic Church | Old Catholic Church | Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church | Roman Catholic Church | Syrian Jacobite Orthodox Church

Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church
(Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira)

Fr. Conego Manuel Carlos de Arnorim Correia originally established the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church in Itapira, Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1913.

In 1942, Mgr. Carlos Duarte de Costa, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Botacatu, began to work against Fascist sympathizers among the clergy in Brazil. Duarte de Costa criticized the blessing by Pope Pius XII of Nazi and Fascist troops in St. Peter's Square in 1943, and in 1944 he was briefly imprisoned by the Brazilian government at the request of the Roman Apostolic Nuncio. In 1945, Duarte de Costa was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, and he reconstituted the then-defunct Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, taking issue against Roman positions on priestly celibacy, divorce, the taxation of sacraments, and traditional dress and rituals.

Duarte de Costa died in 1961. The church took a more conservative turn after his death, but canonized him as "Saint Charles of Brazil" in 1970.


Dutch Church

The Dutch Church was established in 1739, following a severe break from the Roman Catholic Church in 1704. Rome had taken the side of Jesuits against the Dutch Catholics' harboring of Jansenist heretics and the Dutch resistance to the then-new doctrine of papal infallibility. The Dutch Church maintained its independence as a form of Christian orthodoxy until 1889, when it merged with various other schismatic churches in reaction to the pronouncements of the First Vatican Council.


Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
(a.k.a. Gnostische Katholische Kirche, Gnostic Catholic Church)

As the chart shows, the modern Gnostic churches divide roughly into two camps, the "French" (oriented largely around Martinism) and the "English" (derived from the Liberal Catholic Church and its milieu in the Theosophical Society). The E.G.C. of O.T.O. belongs to the Anglo-German faction of the "French" camp. It is further distinguished by having renounced traditional Christian doctrines, in favor of the philosophy of Thelema, as promulgated by Aleister Crowley, the second Patriarch of the Church. CROWLEY'S CREED

The official German-language publication of the Thelemic Gnostic Mass in 1920 under the auspices of Reuss' Gnostische Katholische Kirche is here taken as a conservative date for the initial establishment of the Gnostic Catholic Church. Crowley had already published the canon of Liber XV as a ritual of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica in English. Reuss' original authority derived from the 1908 "International Masonic and Spiritualist Conference" in Paris, where he had been involved in a pooling and exchange of authorizations with Gerard Encausse (a.k.a Papus), a bishop of Eglise Catholique Gnostique. But Reuss was also reconsecrated sub conditione by Jean Bricaud of Eglise Gnostique Universelle in 1919. When Crowley succeeded Reuss in 1922, the establishment of a Thelemic E.G.C. within O.T.O. was taken as axiomatic.

In 1979, Patriarch Hymenaeus Alpha (Grady Louis McMurtry) separated E.G.C. from O.T.O. as a distinct corporation, although he remained the head of both groups, and passed those headships to a single successor. The experiment of an "externalized" E.G.C. was concluded in 1987, when Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta formally reunited the two groups, having dissolved the Gnostic Catholic Church corporation in 1985. Further changes in 1991 directly tied E.G.C. episcopal and sacerdotal standing to initiatory degree status in O.T.O.


Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum
(a.k.a. Church of the Gnosis)

Rosamonde Miller established this church prior to her episcopal consecration in 1981 by Stephan A. Hoeller of Ecclesia Gnostica, but she had been working previously under sacerdotal orders from the same source. In addition to the "masculine" authorizations received through Hoeller, Miller claims to be the recipient of orders and consecration from the Holy Order of Miriam Magdala in Paris, France, and thus possessed of an unbroken succession of consecrations from Mary Magdalene. This claim resists casual verification, but it is, as far as I know, unique.


Eglise Gnostique [de France]

Jules Doinel established the modern Gnostic Church in 1890, working in response to a vision he had experienced in 1888, which included his consecration as "Bishop of Montsegur and Primate of the Albigenses" at the hands of the "Eon Jesus." During the intervening two years, Doinel labored over the preparatory researches, both through his work as a librarian and antiquary, and through a series of seances to contact Cathar and Gnostic spirits. DOINEL'S CREED

Originally presiding over the church as Patriarch Tau Valentin II, Doinel later abdicated and converted to Roman Catholicism, under the influence of the great Palladist hoax of Gabriel Jogand ("Leo Taxil"). Doinel was eventually readmitted by his synodically-elected successor Fabre des Essarts (Patriarch Tau Synesius), taking the name Tau Jules.

After the establishment of l'Eglise Catholique Gnostique in 1907, l'Eglise Gnostique became known as l'Eglise Gnostique de France.

L'Eglise Gnostique de France was retired by its fourth patriarch Patrice Genty (Tau Basilide) in 1926, leaving the French field of Gnostic ecclesia to l'Eglise Gnostique Universelle. But Genty was later reconsecrated by Victor Blanchard, who had decamped from E.G.U. due to rifts in the Martinist Order. Blanchard's activities were to result in Eglise Gnostique Apostolique, among other non-ecclesiastical occult groups.


Eglise Gnostique Apostolique

Robert Ambelain (Tau Robert, later Tau Jean III), the founder of l'Eglise Gnostique Apostolique was initially consecrated in 1946 by Roger Menard (Tau Eon II), who had been consecrated in turn by Victor Blanchard (Tau Targelius), a schismatic bishop from l'Eglise Gnostique Universelle acting on his own authority. Ambelain established l'Eglise Gnostique Apostolique in 1953, immediately following Blanchard's death.

In 1978, the fourth patriarch of E.G.A., Edmond Fieschi (Tau Sialul I) abdicated in favor of Fermin Vale-Amesti (Tau Valentinius III), who declined to take the office, thus eliminating the patriarchate and the church.


Eglise Gnostique Catholique Apostolique

Pedro Friere (Tau Pierre) had served as the primate of South America in l'Eglise Gnostique Apostolique, but in 1970 he was reconsecrated as Mar Petrus-Johannes XIII, patriarch of l'Eglise Gnostique Catholique Apostolique, at the hands of Dom Antidio Vargas of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. Later that same year, Friere succeeded to the patriarchate of E.G.A.

After his death, Friere's designated successor for the patriarchate of both churches, Edmond Fieschi (Tau Sialul I) abdicated in favor of Fermin Vale-Amesti (Tau Valentinius III), who declined to take the office, thus eliminating the patriarchate, although the church persisted in North America under the direction of Roger Saint-Victor Herard (Tau Charles), until the latter's death in 1989. Some E.G.C.A. bishops are still active in the U.S., but Herard did not appoint a successor.


Eglise Gnostique Universelle
(Originally Eglise Catholique Gnostique)

Jean Bricaud (Tau Johannes), Louis-Sophrone Fugairon (Tau Sophronius), and Gerard Encausse (Tau Vincent) established l'Eglise Catholique Gnostique in 1907, and in 1908 they elected Bricaud as its head Tau Jean II. On the one hand, these three bishops of l'Eglise Gnostique were working to construct a Gnostic church that would be structurally and doctrinally closer to the Roman Church, to cater to the adherents of Encausse's Martinist Order. On the other hand, Bricaud's previous involvement in the Eliate Church of Carmel and the Johannite Church of Primitive Christians provided a basis for claiming that the new Eglise Catholique Gnostique was a synthesis of the three Gnostic churches of 19th Century France. BRICAUD'S CREED

After the 1908 "International Masonic and Spiritualist Conference" in Paris, Bricaud's church changed its name from Eglise Catholique Gnostique to Eglise Gnostique Universelle. And in 1911, Bricaud, Fugairon, and Encausse proclaimed that the E.G.U. was the official church of Martinism.

In 1913, Bricaud received consecration in the Antioch Succession of the Syrian Jacobite Orthodox Church from Louis-Marie-Francois Giraud. This "Vilatte" succession (named for Joseph Rene Vilatte, the bishop who performed the first antecedent consecration outside the purview of the Antioch church) was important in that it--however remotely--incorporated the Roman Catholic apostolic catena into E.G.U., which had previously only enjoined the benefit of Eglise Gnostique consecrations deriving from Doinel's mystical experiences.

The Vichy government dissolved and banned E.G.U. in 1942. Bricaud's successor Constant Chevillon (Tau Harmonius) was later assassinated by forces of the German occupation.

In 1945, E.G.U. was reconstitued, with Tau Renatus elected as its third patriarch. The fourth patriarch Charles-Henry Dupont (Tau Charles-Henry) abdicated in 1960 in favor of Robert Ambelain. Eventually Ambelain retired E.G.U. in favor of his own Eglise Gnostique Apostolique.


Eliate Church of Carmel

Eugene Vintras founded the "Work of Mercy" (l'Oeuvre de la Misericorde) in 1839 to proclaim visionary communications from the Archangel Michael, the Holy Ghost, St. Joseph, and the Virign Mary. In the vision(s) Vintras had been informed that he was the reincarnation of the Hebrew prophet Elijah, and that Charles Naundorf was "the true king of France." After four years of evangelizing and five years of imprisonment, he began the "Interior Sanctuary of the Elie of Carmel," or the Eliate Church of Carmel. Though popular historians point to Vintras as a Satanist, his Christian doctrines and liturgies appear to have been quite conventional, although his visionary claims to authority were radical, and his political connections dubious. After Vintras' death in 1875 the notorious Abbe de Boullan assumed control of the Church of Carmel, alienating most of the existing membership. Accusations of Satanism against Boullan appear to be entirely more credible, and were made by Stanislas de Guatia and Oswald Wirth, among others. The Dr. Johannes occultist character in J.K. Huysmans' novel La-Bas is rumored to have been modeled on Boullan.


Johannite Church of Primitive Christians

Ledru, de Chevillon, de Saintot and Raymond Fabre-Palaprat were the originators of a neo-Templar Order in 1804. Fabre-Palaprat claimed to be the heir to the Apostolic Succession of John the Divine, and it was on this authority that he founded the "Johannite Church" (Eglise Johannites des Cretiens Primitif), primarily to serve as an ecclesiastical vehicle for his Templar revival. The Johannite Church used a variant version of the Fourth Gospel, called the Evangelikon, as its principal scripture. Neither the Johannite Church nor the associated Templar Order appear to have survived Fabr -Palaprat's death in 1838, but members of the Johannite clergy appear to have continued to exercise their ecclesiastic prerogatives in other venues.


Liberal Catholic Church

James Ingall Wedgwood was consecrated in the Old Catholic Church, and he was very active in the Theosophical Society, holding the post of General Secretary for some time. Rifts among the English episcopate for the Old Catholic Church, along with Wedgwood's studies in esotericism, induced him to consecrate Theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater and to collaborate with the latter in the formation of the Liberal Catholic Church. Liberal Catholic doctrine emphasizes freedom of thought, and phrases of "fear and helplessness" have been expunged from their liturgy, which is based on the Tridentine Mass. In more recent times, the Liberal Catholic Church has experienced an organizational rift between the "Liberal Catholic Church International" and the "Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States," with the latter maintaining Theosophical doctrines as an intrinsic feature. Neither of these "Liberal" churches confers sacerdotal orders or episcopal consecration on women.


Old Catholic Church

The Old Catholic Church was formed at Utrecht in 1889 by various national churches in Europe as a reaction to doctrines issued by the First Vatican Council of 1870, particularly that of "papal infallibility." The term "Old Catholic" is often used confusingly as a generic term in the modern U.S. to refer to Old Catholic, Old Roman Catholic, Independent Catholic, and Western Orthodox Churches.


Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church
and Ecclesia Gnostica

Richard, Duc de Palatine (born in Australia as Ronald Powell) was a bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church, and he additionally founded the "Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church" and the "Order of the Pleroma" as vehicles for his Gnostic interests. In addition and prior to any Liberal Catholic consecration he may have received, Palatine was also consecrated by the independent Catholic prelate Hugh George de Wilmott Newman. Palatine died in the 1970's, and Stephan A. Hoeller, who had been consecrated by him in 1967, became the leader of the Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church in the U.S., which changed its name to Ecclesia Gnostica. This church and its lay association the Gnostic Society were the most visible organized Christian Gnostics in the English-speaking world of the late 20th Century e.v.


Roman Catholic Church

This institution claims to be the original custodial body for Christian apostolic succession, and most Western churches view it as such, whether or not they accept apostolic succession as a significant doctrine.


Syrian Jacobite Orthodox Church

This church was the home of the bishop from whom the Vilatte succession derives. While detractors often point out that the consecrations and ordinations performed by Rene Vilatte were "not recognized" by the Jacobite Church, the Syrian-Antiochan Church or the Roman Catholic Church, that does not mean that they were invalid. "Recognition" is a technical term in ecclesiastical rites, which indicates institutional endorsement.

Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church | Church of the Gnosis | Dutch Church | Ecclesia Gnostica | Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica | Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum | Eglise Catholique Gnostique | Eglise Gnostique [de France] | Eglise Gnostique Apostolique | Eglise Gnostique Catholique Apostolique | Eglise Gnostique Universelle | Eliate Church of Carmel | Gnostic Catholic Church | Gnostische Katholische Kirche | Johannite Church of Primitive Christians | Liberal Catholic Church | Old Catholic Church | Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church | Roman Catholic Church | Syrian Jacobite Orthodox Church
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