A Discourse on the Seventh Article
And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom,
> whereby we accomplish the miracle of incarnation.
The seventh article of our Creed in the Gnostic Mass
breaks a pattern set by those that came earlier
by dropping the verb “to believe”
and instead claiming “to confess.”
This word is less loaded with the associational baggage
that catches “belief” between credibility and credulity.
To confess is from the Latin confiteri,
and simply means “to acknowledge” or “recognize.”
Like the previous article, though,
this one also refers to a miracle.
And it alludes to another important ritual
of the ecclesiastical traditions.
Where the sixth article addressed the Eucharistic Mass,
the seventh brings up the matter of Baptism.
The word baptism is from the Greek baptizein,
which means “to dip” or “to dunk,”
and it refers to a profound religious ritual
that has been performed since time immemorial.
Virtually all cultures have some instances of ceremony
in which water and/or oil is applied to the individual,
in order to cleanse or empower him or her.
Our Saint Forlong Dux mentions various purifying and dedicatory
Immersions found in Hindu religion,
especially those associated with sacred rivers;
and he also points out a pre-Christian Scandinavian ritual:
the Ausa Vatni or “water-sprinkling” conferred on children.
A Jewish ceremony of baptism substantially pre-dates Christianity.
It was used expressly for those who converted to the Hebrew faith.
A Gentile could join a synagogue after baptism and circumcision;
while those born of Jewish mothers only needed to be circumcised.
The complete cleansing symbolized by the ritual
required the practice of total submersion in the water.
The Hellenic and Roman mystery cults also enacted baptisms.
Tertullian noted that baptism was the principal initiation
for the Mysteries of Isis and Mithras alike.
Clement of Alexandria observed that “lustrations” or washings
were the most important operation of the Greek mysteries.
Aspirants to the Eleusinian Mysteries baptized themselves in the sea.
Baptisteries have been discovered in various pagan temple sites.
And the most extreme “baptism,”
for those who choose to regard it as one,
was the taurobolium: a “baptism of blood,”
in which a bull would be gutted on an open latticework over the initiands.
Like other religions of its period and region,
early Christianity placed great importance on baptism.
The Christian Bible documents another, slightly older religion
that prized baptism for the remission of sins;
they revered a holy man named John the Baptizer or the Baptist.
John is described as an apocalyptic cult leader
who baptized his followers in the “living water” of the Jordan river.
Like Jesus, this Baptizer may have mythical origins:
John is “Ioannes,” which is provocatively similar
To name of the Philistine fish-god Oannes.
In any case, the cult of the Baptizer was older than Christianity.
And Christian scriptures demonstrate
that the younger faith used its predecessor
to establish its credibility and authority.
There is still a religion in today’s Middle East
whose members claim John the Baptist for their prophet-messiah,
regarding Jesus as a mere follower or unimportant latecomer.
They are usually known to outsiders as Mandaeans,
but call themselves Nasoreans, which is an Aramaic equivalent
of the Greek word “Gnostics.”
With the persistence of the John cult,
it eventually became necessary for Christians
to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus to John,
and we can find Bible stories with such an obvious purpose.
In particular, Christians began to insist
that their baptism was superior to the baptism of the John cult.
So that we find in the Biblical Acts of the Apostles
A resurrected Jesus declaring,
“For John truly baptized with water;
“but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost
“not many days hence.”
And a similar distinction is in the Christian gospels,
where it is put into John the Baptist’s own mouth:
“I indeed baptize you with water;
“but one mightier than I cometh,
“the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose:
“he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
Now the “baptism by fire and the spirit”
seems to refer to the Pentecostal miracle,
in which a large group of Jesus’ followers
were said to have had their heads crowned with flames
and to have suddenly gained the ability to speak foreign languages.
And although the author of Acts
claimed that Paul could confer this same experience
through laying on of hands,
the effective technique appears to have become scarce.
The earliest extra-biblical records of orthodox Christian baptism
indicate a straightforward baptism with water.
The Didache of the second century provides simple directions:
Concerning baptism, baptize in this way.
Having first rehearsed all these things,
baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,
in living water (that is to say, running water, like a river).
But if you have not living water,
baptize into other water;
and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm.
And if you have neither, then pour water thrice on the head.
This early instruction expresses a clear preference
for immersion, that is, full dunking of the whole body,
over affusion, the mere pouring or sprinkling onto the candidate.
Some later rituals added an anointing with oil,
or included milk or honey or wine in the baptismal fluid.
Infant baptisms did not begin until the late second century,
and did not become a widespread convention until the fourth.
In more recent centuries, the Protestant Baptist Church
has rejected infant baptism once more, in favor of adult baptism.
Most of the ancient Gnostic sects held to the idea
of “baptism by fire and spirit,”
emphasizing a particular spiritual experience,
and dropping the water-based ceremony.
They would advocate a “baptism in heaven”
over mere “terrestrial baptism.”
The medieval Cathar heretics also rejected baptism by water.
Instead, they had a ceremony called the consolamentum,
a sacramental initiation conducted by laying on of hands,
after which the adherent became one of the perfecti,
committed to a pure life with complete abstention
from all forms of carnality.
The nineteenth century French Gnostic Church
was modeled in part on the Cathars,
and it included a consolamentum as a “baptism of the spirit.”
Meanwhile, Freemasonic high degrees
also instituted particular lustrations as part of their systems.
Considering the contributions
of the French Gnostic Church and the Masonic high degrees
to the origins and early development of O.T.O.,
it is no surprise to find a ceremony of baptism
in the rite of the Gnostic Catholic Church within O.T.O.
Aleister Crowley’s Liber Fifteen specifies communion procedures
for a Gnostic Mass at which there are baptisms.
And our recent and contemporary Church leadership
have developed ceremonies for the purpose of baptism
on the basis of notes left by Crowley.
We baptize with three splashes of water,
in keeping with ancient tradition.
And we add a measure of wine,
symbolizing ecstasy and inspiration.
And we baptize only those who have reached the age of reason.
Our baptism is symbolic of birth on the social plane:
it re-presents that wet entry into the world of matter
through a wet entry into the community of the Church.
So that first ceremony of initiation into our Church
is not the one Baptism of Wisdom
that we find in our Creed.
Instead, it is only an adumbration, a shadowing-forth,
of that sovereign Mystery.
This phrase “Baptism of Wisdom”
is an enigma that recurs in our literature.
We have encountered it as a proposed etymology
for the BAPHOMET of the Creed’s Third Article.
The word Wisdom is very significant, of course.
It is the translation of the Greek Sophia,
who served as the central figure of Biblical wisdom literature,
as the beloved and faithful spouse of God.
It is Wisdom-Sophia who speaks in Proverbs:
She standeth in the top of high places,
by the way in the places of the paths.
She crieth at the gate at the entry of the city,
at the coming in at the doors.
Unto you, O men, I call;
and my voice is to the sons of man. …
For whoso findeth me findeth life,
and shall obtain favor of the Lord.
And in the gospels, Jesus speaks of this same figure,
saying, “Wisdom is justified of all her children.”
In the cosmic narratives of many ancient Gnostics,
Sophia became the mother of the demiurge:
she fell into ignorance and transgression,
and was redeemed by the Christ.
Medieval theologians and mystics
also recognized the person of the divine Sapientia, or Wisdom;
and our Saint Jacob Boehme generated a theosophical tradition
with his attention to the “noble Virgin Sophia.”
In the Qabalistic discourses,
Wisdom is a translation of Chokmah, the second sephirah,
which is identified with the chiah or life-force.
And at one point in The Equinox of the Gods,
Crowley wrote that Man overcomes death
by the Magick of the sexual function,
and that in more ways than one,
ways that are known to none
but the loftiest and most upright Initiates,
baptised by the Baptism of Wisdom,
and communicants at that Eucharist
where the Fragment of the Host in the Chalice becomes whole.
And this passage should cause us to reflect
on the sense in which the one Baptism might be
the means whereby humans become incarnate.
According to some traditions,
the so-called “soul” comes to indwell the body
with the first breath of the newborn,
or at the cutting of the umbilical cord
immediately upon birth.
Others maintain that it happens with the quickening,
when the mother first feels the fetus moving.
Or even earlier, at the conception
or uterine implantation of the zygote.
Crowley asserted that “The reincarnating ego
“is supposed to take possession of the foetus
“at about” the beginning of the second trimester.
But that word “whereby” could refer either
to the immediate process at the time of incarnation,
or to a prerequisite event prior to incarnation.
Such a “baptism” might indicate
the immersion of the egg in the seminal fluid
or the affusion of the womb by the ejaculate
or even the immersion of the penis in the wet vagina.
Which is the one Baptism?
What is the key to the miracle of incarnation?
For it is not merely incarnation at stake,
but rather the miracle of incarnation.
This phrase too has a long history:
Christians claim that the birth of Jesus
was a miraculous union of the human and divine.
God is supposed to have become clothed with flesh,
in order to suffer and die for humanity.
Many of the chief Christian heresies in the early centuries
had to do with different ideas about this incarnation.
There were those for whom Jesus was simply a human prophet,
and who did not accept his divinity.
Some held that the divine component
only entered into Jesus at his baptism,
and that it departed from him on the cross before his death.
Others claimed that Jesus was entirely divine:
that his human features were only appearance.
And there were variously arcane combinations
of these and other theories
among the great diversity of Gnostic heresy.
But our Creed is not concerned
with the miracle of the incarnation of Jesus!
It is we who accomplish the miracle.
Each and every one of us
expresses a “mingled soul of god and beast.”
How many ways can we approach this Wisdom?
“I am clothed with the body of flesh;
“I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God.”
There is no part of me that is not of the gods.
Deus est homo.
There is no god but man.
In the name of CHAOS, Amen.
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