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made the world, and in Gnostic philosophy a god subordinate to the supreme god, sometimes considered the originator of evil, or identified with the Jehovah of the Bible” (Webster’s New World Dictionary).

The Gnostic Cosmos

The Gnostic cosmology was incredibly complex. The whole of the sensible, physical universe is the realm of the archons or rulers (from the Greek άρκονοι). It is a vast prison, the innermost dungeons being our world. Hellenic philosophers from Aristotle on knew perfectly well that the earth was a globe. The Alexandrian geographer Aristarchus calculated that the circumference of the earth was 25,000 miles, only 500 miles off. He also posited the heliocentric theory, that the earth and other planets circle around the sun. However, Aristotle’s paradigm was adopted and elaborated on instead by the geographer Ptolemy. It was adopted by Christians, and became the received standard cosmological theory until Nicholas Copernicus, a Polish monk, published his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestum (The Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) in 1534, a restatement of the theory advanced centuries before by Aristarchus.

Planets had been discovered by the Sumerians around 3000 B.C.E., who noted their movements through the heavens along a path of constellations which Hellenistic astrologers called the zodiac, meaning “animal way,” from the names given the constellations (such as Aries, the ram). Following Aristotle, Ptolemy proposed that since moon, sun, and five planets appeared to be somehow contained, there must be spheres to do so, which, since they could not be seen, must be transparent. The only substance then known that fit that requirement was crystal. It was therefore proposed that the earth was surrounded by seven crystalline spheres, one inside the other, extending outward into space.

According to Babylonian astrologer/astronomers of the third millennium B.C.E., each of the planets was presided over by a god or goddess. The name of the planet Venus, for example, is the Latin (Roman) name for the Greco-Roman goddess of love, Aphrodite, who, in turn, is the Hellenic version of the Babylonian Ishtar, the Sumerian Inanna.

The Jewish Gnostics of Alexandria adopted and adapted the same system, but called the planets by Hebraic names drawn from the Torah such as: Iao (אי), Sabaoth (תאבש), Adonai (יאןדא ), Elohim (םל) El Shaddai (םלדש), names of the Supreme Being transformed into those of archons. Each of the archons rules his or her own sphere, and collectively, the cosmos. This is called the heimarme (ειμάρμη) and is subject to fate (υέμήςισ) as determined by the movements of the heavenly bodies. Gnostics added their emphasis on the evil which pervades the material cosmos.

To translate this idea into contemporary terms of present-day cosmology, the Gnostics would say that the cosmos, which began with the Big Bang some fifteen billion years ago, with its ten billion or more galaxies expanding at ever-increasing rates, is all ruled by mechanistic and material astro-physical forces. We are trapped in a space/time continuum on the third planet circling an undistinguished star, ruled by the laws of physics and by the organic laws of

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