I was reading Irenaeus’ ‘Against Heresies’ last night. I’m in book one where Irenaeus lays out all the different gnostic beliefs, explaining in detail what they teach. Not the most exciting reading, but it did have what has to be one of the funniest lines in the history of the Church’s writings, or at least during the Patristic period:
“But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus.” (Book I, ch XI)
Anyway, in Book I Ch XXI, he mentions groups that initiates people through a ‘mystic rite’ of sexual acts followed by a baptism “Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe— into truth, the mother of all things—into Him who descended on Jesus—into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers.” What struck me in the passage was how the gnostic group’s dualistic view of body and soul was held with the worship of sex (as representing heavenly conjunctions) and the confusion of sexes as in the following passage where the son is to say :—“I am a vessel more precious than the female who formed you. If your mother is ignorant of her own descent, I know myself, and am aware whence I am, and I call upon the incorruptible Sophia, who is in the Father, and is the mother of your mother, who has no father, nor any male consort; but a female springing from a female formed you, while ignorant of her own mother, and imagining that she alone existed; but I call upon her mother.”
Looks like current challenges to orthodox views of the Holy Trinity, Baptism and our bodies aren’t so progressive after all.