Phillip Medhurst

Wisdom from a Gnostic Sage

Category: Poetry


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Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max (1840-1915). Austrian painter. Image of Christ’s face. Veil of Veronica, 1874. Engraving by A. Reculski. El Universo Ilustrado, 1880.

Nag Hammadi 1945


Four-times-four centuries out of view,

First born, then buried, then born anew,

Seth was my father, Eugnostos my groom,

Gongessos my midwife, Charaxio my tomb.

Through seventy summers the dust-cloud of gold

Released at my re-birth has brightly rolled

Around the globe – the Nile’s gift of reeds

Kindled by knowledge and sowing light’s seeds.

Though delivered third-hand to your perception,

I am, nonetheless, The Immaculate Conception.




Conceived immaculate, I nonetheless

Wished for a thing exclusive to myself,

And so I exercised effective will,

With freedom to elect as I desired.

Engend’ring Self, therefore, I hatched a god

Out of the womb of all that made me “me.”


But who I willed was not immaculate:

He marred the vision I had once enjoyed

While contemplating all reality.

He gazed at his reflection on The Deep,

And when he saw it, thought that it was good,

And said, “I AM. There is no god but me.”


I heard the idol’s bombast. In this way

I knew what kind of thing the upstart was,

So turned again in sorrow to my Source,

And caught a spark which turned to living flame

Fed by the fuel of Love. That fire took shape,

And all religion tries to emulate


Appeared. No seeing eye could ever then resist

The Light transcending every faculty

By which these words are imaged on true hearts:

“The One is one (there is no other One) –

Unsigned in any mortal register,

And self-subsistent, without any peer.


Thus none can speak of One except this Word

Proceeding from the Gnosis – I am He.”

On meeting Matter’s realm this testament

Fell to The Deep as incandescent drops

Into that space and time where nature’s laws

Are fetters from which none can be exempt.


 Yet what descended still remains unquenched

Although bemired within this tomb of clay:

Knowing the beginning and the end,

From whence it came, and whither it must go.

A distant beacon for that Light, I send

What light I have, what wisdom I dare show.



The Gnostic Genesis


The Gnosis issued forth, and stood at once

In rank with Forethought, born to mother true,

Who by her wish had helped to bring him forth.

The One whose sight blinds mortal eye was glad

To see effulgent fruit swell on His bough,

And He anointed him with chrism pressed

From His own goodness, and from His own store

Of overflowing virtue’s essence, pure.

And thus endowed, he waited on his source,

And added to the glory that no eye

Can see of his progenitor, and His

Prevenient grace, the matrix of the All.

And Gnosis asked for Truth. The One agreed,

And swift on His consent that Truth came forth,

And joined the heavenly rank of all who dwell

As mind ineffable. But Truth would speak,

And so the Word then issued forth and joined

The sphere in which Truth lives and moves and has

Its being. And from that Word, imbued with Light

And Life, came what could turn a Word to Deed.

By active Word, Sophia came to be.

But she desired a thing exclusive to

Herself. This thought was not inert, and so

It reified: short of perfection, shorn

Of that ideal beauty typical

Of her who gave him birth, a thwarted clone

Of one true-born of heavenly gene and stock,

All self-engendered, selfishly conceived.

The One had not engaged or wed with her

In union divine; no spouse or sire

Had courted her consent, no nuptial bliss

Had blessed the product of chaste amity;

For what she willed was without conference

Of family, or consummation of

Conjugal love; concupiscence instead,

Without relationship, a fantasy impure,

And alien to the hymns its Mother sang

When in accord with her pure ancestry.

In this her wish came true: a monster formed,

A snake with lion-jaws and eyes that blazed

With horrid fire of self-will. She cast

It out, beyond the zone of purity

Where he might not be seen by all her peers:

From Wisdom born, in ignorance to dwell.

She gave her child a name, as it befits

A ruler who inherits a great power:

It is Ialdabaoth, matter’s prince.

Ialdabaoth strutted forth, and marched

From place to place, far from the place where he

Was born. And annexing still more he formed

Self-glorifying spheres of fire that still

Flare on unto this day in heaven’s dome.

The tyrant raised his hand – his arrogance –

And masturbated, got Authorities,

Egged on by fantasies of unknown realms.

And as Sophia’s light within him shone

And gave him unique power: because of this

He blasphemously called himself a god.

So he created seven Angels, each with Powers

Sufficient for a year of days, and all

In mimicry of that intuited

From what was long before. But those whom he

Begot, those children of the ignorance

And dark, lacked intimation of the source

And principle from which all things had come.

A week of angels this way rules the world,

For Ialdabaoth, who is Saklas, has

A multitude of faces, more than all,

So he can show himself in any face,

Just as he wills. He shares his nature with

Them – ev’rything except the pristine power

That he drew from his mother, Wisdom: that

He would not share. This made him cosmic lord,

Conferring – as he thought – divinity

Upon his minion powers. And their “god”

Gave each a place to dwell, a so-called “heaven”.

Their urge to rule instilled makes them believe

That they are gods; but Truth is not deceived:

Their bestial natures are revealed to those

Who know. Their god-like attributes are part

And parcel of a fantasy dreamed up

By Saklas; but illusion will not have

Its way – except with those who dwell within

The dream. The light of Truth will chase away

The fog, dissolve its shifting, swirling shapes

Which scare all the deceived like flimsy masks

Pinned onto wind-puffed cloaks. Such images

Invoke some dread reality, from which

They draw their fearful influence and power.

And so it was with these, for Saklas shaped

His schemes upon a kind of memory

Of what he had experienced in the womb

Of what is truly real. And when he saw

The world he had created all laid out,

And gazed upon the panoply which he

Had spun, enveloping his nakedness,

His tongue clapped in his bell, and said:

“I am a jealous god. There is no god

But me.” And so in his stupidity

He gave the game away, and told his friends

There was a God who spurned “Divinity” –

The title of this insane jealousy.

The Mother then became aware of her

Deficiency, and how her light had dimmed.

For when she saw her blemishes within

The light of the Pleroma, she then drew

Across her face a veil of darkness: she

No longer could return her consort’s smile

Without deception, and be unabashed.

Her holy fear caused her to hover at

The gate of Truth, unable to go in.

For when her offspring in his arrogance

Had taken power from his Mother, he

Was ignorant of any provenance

And thought her womb was all that there had been.

Infatuated with his handiwork,

He placed himself upon a pedestal,

An idol to himself. And so she turned;

And so was heard in her humility.

For now she knew what kind of thing he was,

And how he lacked perfection’s symmetry.

Up to her source she raised her tear-filled eyes.

He gave the consent, and so a healing flood

Of cleansing holiness washed over her

To make her whole; for Providence agreed

To supervise her in austerity

Within a place of penance set aside

Beyond carnality and snares of sin,

Where she could re-acquire her modesty.

And then a voice came forth: “Behold the Man!’

And when the chieftain of the Powers heard

He had no inkling of from whence it came.

At once, however – ignorant or not –

They were aware – to their damnation – that

There was a holy, perfect Source above:

The Mother-Father, Parents who brought forth

All that there is, and whose beneficence

Was now displayed in dazzling Anthropos.

A shiver went through Ialdabaoth’s world,

And rippled through its fundamental sands.

And in the sky the purest element,

Transfigured by the bright epiphany,

Revealed that Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth.

And so the carnal gang beheld a light

Infuse the cavern of the world below.

Their eyes were opened, and they saw revealed

The shimmering glory of the Son of Man.

The upstart god addressed his fawning clan:

“Come let us make a thing like what we saw

To give some aim and purpose to our plans.”

So each and every one of them then gave

A little something from his psychic pouch,

And made an entity from out themselves,

Each adding layer on layer of plastic stuff,

Along the lines of what they had just seen.

Thus a reflection creaturely became,

And looked just like the sole original –

The perfect Anthropos. And then they said,

“Now let us call him Adam, that his name

May light our high road to imperium.”

And so this wondrous work, this body came

About – not yet of flesh, but harbouring

A vital force that tapped the secrets of

Their universe, their sevenfold harmony,

Encapsulated microcosmically

In sense and a potential agency.

And yet there was something in short supply:

The thing had no vocation to fulfil,

And thus no will to try, and lay inert.

No aspiration graced that dawning day.

Sophia wanted to retrieve the power

Which she had given to her bastard son.

In innocence she came and humbly asked

The Mother-Father of transcendent All

Who is most merciful. And He decreed

That Gnosis should go down to that cold place

Where ignorance prevails. Elsewhere, within

The stony hearts of all the Powers the weed

Of envy sprang. Their flaws exposed by this

Wise luminosity, they cast the Man

Into a pit, heaped on him all their dung,

Detestable excrescence of their days.

So Adam came within the mortal sphere,

Coiled there and then of base material,

Engendered from desire within the dark,

Enlivened by a soul-less breath, mere air.

Thus was our fetter forged, our dungeon made,

By which these bandits now enslaved the Man,

Who, in the darkness, soon forgot the light

And grew accustomed to the stench of death.

And then Heimarmene was made, so that in time

The cruellest jailer shackled all his being,

With an array of manacles and chains

Called times and seasons, moments, ages, dates,

Those fetters from which none could be exempt

Outside the All, nor gods nor mortal men,

Now doomed to live within a space of time

That was the past, or will be days to come –

But never now, the present never seized,

With minds obsessed with what will be and what

There might have been, with schemes and plans stretched to

Infinity, but that eternal now

Beyond their ken. And hence the consciousness

Of the Beyond eluded Man again.

And furthermore he was engenderised,

By which the husband, stronger than the wife

In limb, for males might claim a spiritual

Domain irrelevant to Truth derived

From high authority – for Saklas knew

He must divide and rule. And thus it was

Ialdabaoth’s die was cast and stamped

On all; and in his image, in due course

Two sons were born, and Cain and Abel named;

And thanks to Saklas, human creatures were

Endowed with seed to replicate themselves,

The carnal and the psychic; one inspired

By wind, the other by Sophia’s ghost.

Meanwhile, within a bower of Life the Man

Called Adam met the Woman Eve, and each

Encount’ring each within their very core

Begot the Son of Man called Seth, the True.

This son and all his offspring, blessed by those

On high, are called to dwell in heaven’s courts,

And taught to trace their names inscribed upon

The scroll of Life, while monuments to flesh

Collapse, their epitaphs erased. For those

Who truly live cannot abide the dark:

They must illumine all the catacombs

Where the enlightened have been forced to dwell,

And lead them to the sunlight up above.

Thus shall the righteous gather, and assist

Each other on the way, that true mankind

Might find its rightful place within the All,

And holiness, made whole, might be complete.


A Ship For My Death


I wish to leave some monument, before

I die, so I am able to reflect

On what I should have been; because the shore

That I must pass has no return, once wrecked

The only ship that might have brought me home –

Dismembered, rolling on the pallid foam


Of the Dark Sea. From splintered matchwood, who

Could reconstruct the beauty of that boat,

Or purpose, why and where it meant to go

In carrying my soul, how it would float

Back to that far original sunrise

Whose light exposes what is truth, what lies,


And what the nature of its cargo was?

So I must build a ship for death, a barque

That bears a memory of me, because

That other ship, my body, will not hark

Back to my life, for once its subtle winds

Become dispersed, and once the cord that binds


It has been cut by fate’s capricious hand,

Then those still travelling upon the sea

May never contemplate before they land

On shore unknown my last vitality,

As once I did in tombs that I then saw

Like upturned boats upon the Lycian shore.


Of what then can I build this ark of mine,

To bear within my immortality?

What oak or ash can I cut down, what pine

Or cedar hew for my security?

Whatever forest, and whatever wood,

I shall be taking what has been made good


By other planting, toil and nurture, long

Before the hand that plunders that slow growth

Had digitally sprouted from among

The cells established by a plighted troth

Of two conjoined in random circumstance

By centripetal force of nature’s dance.


And who am I to pluck the fruit of slow

Maturity? Such sacrilege negates

All righteous memory. Where can I go

When every broken bough thus violates

The work of nature if not husbandry,

And tooth of saw destroys a legacy?


The matter that I work on must needs be

Some thing I almost made from no thing –

An interstice which every one can see

And filled by what I was – a vacant ring

Become a diadem, a hollow bell

That tolls a fame no mortal voice could tell.


Perhaps the treasure I will use to deck

My ship was won by force of arms, and set

A record straight, a torque torn from the neck

Of a foul enemy who won a bet,

And came by it without a just dessert –

A harvest sprung from bitterness and hurt,


Now righteous cause of this my great effect.

Or maybe I could cause to rise from dross

Some thing magnificent, some thing correct

From what was wrong, to turn what was a loss

Into a gain, and thereby leave my mark,

And turn a waste, perhaps, into a park –


But then be charged with exploitation of

Goods purchased at a knock-down price, a way

To white the sepulchre I raised above

A mess of bones that will not rise, the pay

That I must give, too grudgingly,

To get what should be rendered to me free:


Unstinting praise from men for my good deeds

Which should be done with no reward in mind,

Except to make a no thing of those needs

Which buried folk alive, and help them find

A new beginning. This should be the way

My chantry-priest receives his fee to pray;


For well we know that knights of olden times

Paid handsomely for masses in their name,

Because the ones who wondered at their tombs,

Illiterate, saw eulogies in vain,

But yet could hear an echo of the gold

Which brought a kind of warmth to what was cold


And hard: the real blood enchaliced there

(At least to faith if not to sight) spelled life

Eternal to a statue’s stony stare,

And monkish chant could pass for keen of grief

As long as those whose arms, there carved, prevailed,

And could ensure it was for them it wailed.


But now the masses read. And read they shall,

If they are so inclined to now descend

These metered steps, to read upon the wall

Of this my tomb my verse, just how my end

Has justified my ragged means: my lines

That vanish to eternity in signs.


So thus it is: my ship for death, festooned

With leaves torn from the story of my life,

A rich thesaurus where each item, honed

From love and hate, from passion and from strife

Goes up in flames that blend with setting sun,

And sheds some light on what was lost, what won.


Except no one will read it, that’s a fact –

Unless their own concerns will prompt them to.

Then my reflections in a mirror cracked

Become a virtual quarry for some new

Memorial to some one unknown to me

Which leaves no trace of what I used to be.


So that’s the end of it, the full stop to

My life, the chiselled epitaph obscured

By overgrowth, my only hope a clue

In worn-out letters made out on the floor

Made smooth by those who come, then go

Of what the story was of those below.

Ida the Fossil (2)


And yet I hope that soon this week will end,

That dawn will break, and broken hearts will mend

So that a wholesome Sabbath day will bring

Enlightened rest; that birds again will sing

Instead of fearsome rustlings in the dark;

And the whole world will be a pleasant park:

The wood in which we wandered just a copse,

A refuge for the timid beast, which hops

To cover, then comes out at will to see

The sunlight play, no need at all to flee

From hungry predator. A dream! As such

It does not heal, but just provides a crutch

For fractured consciousness, which seeks in vain

To mend its broken world, where only pain

Defines reality, and we are lame,

And cannot run, compete against, or tame

The ravening beast which seeks us, and devours

The meagre gleanings of successful hours.

The dawn will show a good God to be lies,

And noonday sun expose a Lord of Flies.


I know the time is nigh: the global scale

Has tipped towards destruction. Soon the tale

Of all man’s deeds and misdeeds will just stop,

And end in silence. Sin’s ripe fruit will drop

And smash upon the ground of all our being.

That ground may then remain, all else then fleeing,

As cold and hard as it has ever been,

Unheard, unsmelt, untouched and all unseen

By anything that mars the pristine scape

Of nothingness with any wanton shape

Irrelevant to Being-in-Itself –

All life placed on that continental shelf

Where fossils lay well out of sight and out

Of mind, mere rocks embedded there to flout

The law of life which says that we must change,

And we must use our power to arrange

Some continuity of gene, no noise

To rattle or disturb death’s equipoise.

So IDA is our perpetuity,

Extinct and petrified where none can see.


Ida the Fossil (1)


Scientists have discovered an exquisitely preserved ancient primate fossil that they believe forms a crucial “missing link” between our own evolutionary branch of life and the rest of the animal kingdom.The 47million-year-old primate – named “Ida” – has been hailed as the fossil equivalent of a “Rosetta Stone” for understanding the critical early stages of primate evolution. The Guardian 2009


In this, the Sabbath vigil of my life, I found

Myself prostrate, all helpless on the ground,

For sin had made me blind. It was as though

Throughout my life I strayed, and did not know

Where I was going or from whence I came,

Just led by some ephemeral, dancing flame

Snuffed out once it was glimpsed, and dead to sight

Before it could be fixed – the moth’s mad flight

More full of rhyme and reason than my life,

Now so replete with grief and full of strife.


I’ve looked at ev’ry explanation that

There is of life, and none come near to sat-

Isfying all criteria of truth,

Or come up with the necessary proof

That they’re the answer. All require a leap

Into absurdity – alright for sheep

Who find their comfort in conformity,

But useless for all lone-wolves such as me.

There is a way to make it work, of course,

Which is: to put on blinkers like a horse


And go just where the drayman tells you to.

But in your heart you’ll know it to be true

That, even though you’re willing to work hard,

All roads end up inside the knacker’s yard.

“Arbeit macht frei” is true to a degree,

But not the way we wish that it could be.

A product of conception, you will be

From life aborted, howe’er belatedly.

Meanwhile, you strive where chance gives no reward:

Your feeble hand upturns an empty gourd.

And so our ends are like a jelly-fish:

Sans spine, sans brain, a wat’ry upturned dish

Borne on through vastness we cannot perceive,

Still less control enough to steer. Believe

We may, but proof of purpose or a plan

Revealed consistently denied, we can

Not fabricate from our own stuff, for we

Are empty, blind, insensate, falsely free,

Borne on by tides, by winds, by currents, all

Uncomprehended, landing where we fall.


The birds seem free; no wonder, then, the dove

Is symbol of God’s Spirit from above.

But what became of all the other kinds

Of beasts not taken to the ark? – They died.

So we: into oblivion. We: free

To die and be forgotten; the elect

Disclose God’s will to naturally select.

Just like a snail I leave a glistening train

To be erased by the first fall of rain;

Or, like the scarab, roll a ball of dung,

My pyramid for when I have no tongue

To extol my own deeds. For like that bird,

(Though it may seem unlikely and absurd)

The phœnix, from the ashes (I surmise)

Once fire is spent I presently will rise

To live again; although we know within

That in this legend ashes are the “fin”.


Lament (2)


We came. We paused. We went. We had our say.

And whether night or day, it makes no sense:

Our toil receives no lasting recompense.

The arbit’ry division of the days

As hours, minutes, seconds; and the ways

In which these segments must be spent; and how

We should be happy and fulfilled; who bow

To, who revere; and where we are consigned

To at our death: all these make chains that bind

Us. We embrace these shackles, since the free

Must for themselves define what they must be:

What “happy” is, and what should make them sad,

And wherein dwells the good, and where the bad.

Night brings no rest unless we lose ourselves

Inside a dream-world where our psyche delves

Into those wishes unfulfilled, beyond

The grasp of nightmare’s reach, a pond

Beneath whose surface deep desire thrives

Without diminishing our thwarted lives;

A magic chalice where all beauty lives,

Which takes from no-one, ever – only gives

To all, and none must beg: its grace

Wells up to all, and all can find a place.

But dawn’s cold light reveals it full of lies.

Best not to dream when we must close our eyes.