Tag Archives: Martinism


He caused the letter Dalet to reign over Wisdom, and He tied a crown to it, and He
combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Mars in the universe, the third
day in the year, and the right ear in the body of male and female.

Sefer Yetzirah


أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا أَوْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَٰكِن تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِي فِي الصُّدُورِ

سورة الحج‎ (Surat al-Hajj 22:46)



“Think, then, O Man, of the holiness of your destination; you have this glory, that you were chosen to be, in some sort, the seat, sanctuary, and minister of the blessings of our God; and your heart may still be filled with these delicious treasures, whilst, at the same time, it sheds them abroad in the souls of your fellow-creatures; but, the more important your ministry is, the more just and right it is, that you should answer for your management.”

L.-C. de Saint-Martin, Man: His True Nature and Ministry


Review of Tony Silvia’s “Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame”

After two years of hard work, Father Anthony Silvia + brings to us an amazing primer in Johannite spirituality in his Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame bringing to light the foundational practices of the Apostolic Johannite Church for all to see including the Logos Liturgy and the ceremony of the Agape Feast.

The Apostolic Johannite Church is a world-wide network of communities united by the pursuit of gnosis and the communal celebration of the Divine. In Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame, Father “Tony” explains the significance of the central spiritual practices of the AJC after many years of personal practice, explores traditional devotionals in an applicable and approachable way, all the while maintaining his own sincere sense of humility and humor.

This text, following six years on the heels of Monsignor Jordan Stratford’s+ Living Gnosticism and three years on the heels of Father Donald Donato’s+ dutiful translation of The Levitikon: the Gospels According to the Primitive Church, is a foundational text for anyone looking to begin their own personal practice in the tradition of the disciples of the Divine Beloved and includes practices innovated by members of this community in the modern age.

Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame is sure to be a text I will myself refer to in the future as I undergo the seminary program toward priesthood in the AJC and am proud to  suggest to anyone looking for a change of pace in their spiritual practices. My only complaint is that it is a little light on ‘in depth’ philosophy, but it makes up for it in the depth of experience of all the practitioners whose work contributed to the creation of such an amazing text.


A Brief Overview of Modern Gnosticism

a contemporary seal of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica

In my previous entry, I shared my recent experiences as a Thelemic gnostic and current member of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica attending a Eucharistic service operating under the auspices of one of our sister traditions, Ecclesia Gnostica. In this particular appreciation, I mentioned some of the similarities I noticed, but not many of the differences on account of not wanting to distract myself from the experience of writing and sharing my experience. For individuals not particularly familiar with contemporary forms of Gnosticism, it might seem strange to suggest that there are many differences between different gnostic groups – after all, we’re all dirty, stinky, filthy heretics – but the truth is, as in other denominations or traditions with similar backgrounds, gnostics as individuals and as groups are very heterodox in particular viewpoints despite coming from a very similar background and even in praxis there are some strong ritual differences which may vary from sect to sect.

Episcopal seal of Jules Doinel, Eglise Gnostique Universelle Catholique

For the purposes of this essay, I’m not going to focus much on historical Gnosticism as practiced in the second and third centuries CE. This reason is twofold: first, despite having access to scriptures and first and second hand accounts of our religious forbears, early gnostic groups were widely varied and the information we have about their practices come primarily from heresiological sources which cannot be adequately trusted; secondly, contemporary Gnosticism does not represent an unbroken line of praxis or scriptural coherency from the early sects and, at best, can only be traced back to the gnostic revivals of 19th Century Europe. This notwithstanding, I must also mention that there are elements of historical Gnosticism which have been preserved culturally as well as theologically amongst mainline Christian churches – in particular amongst the Hesychastic practices in Eastern Orthodoxy and in some of the writings of the early Church Fathers and mystics, but this is deserving of a more thorough study for a later date.

Ecclesiastical seal of the Apostolic Johannite Church, modern

As I mentioned, contemporary Gnosticism dates back no earlier than the 19th Century. It was during this period of European expansionism that modern Biblical archeology became a field of serious inquiry, leading to the discovery and subsequent translation of many texts that had a coherent connection to historical Gnosticism, early Christianity and late Greco-Egyptian pagan religious traditions. In 1769 the Bruce Codex was brought to England from Upper Egypt by the famous Scottish traveller Bruce, and subsequently bequeathed to the care of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Sometime prior to 1785 The Askew Codex (aka Pistis Sophia) was bought by the British Museum from the heirs of Dr. Askew. Pistis Sophia text and Latin translation of the Askew Codex by M. G. Schwartze published in 1851. During this time as well, the formation of the Theosophical Society by Mme. Blavatsky as well as the existence of various strains of esoteric Freemasonry contributed to a strong countercultural interest in esoteric Christianity, in particular Gnosticism.

A contemporary episcopal crest of the Liberal Catholic Church

All of this came to a head in 1890 when, after a series of visions and impacted by the rediscovery of various Cathar (Albegensian) documents, a librarian named Jules-Benoît Stanislas Doinel du Val-Michel (aka Jules Doinel) established the Eglise Gnostique (French: Gnostic Church) and declared a “the era gnosis restored.” The establishment of Eglise Gnostique represented a major departure from the Christianities of its day in that its liturgy and theology represented the fullest extant understanding of Cathar liturgy and theology of the day and, secondly (arguably most importantly) allowed the ordination of men and women on an egalitarian basis. It is also important to note that, in a departure from apostolic Christianity, Doinel was “spiritually consecrated” in a spiritual experience in 1888 and not into a line of Apostolic Succession. Doinel subsequently consecrated a number of bishops for the Eglise Gnostique, notable among these was Gérard Encausse founder of the closely allied Martinist Order.

The importance of apostolicity as validating one’s abilities as clergy prior to this has been one of the defining characteristics of liturgical Christian traditions prior to the Protestant Reformation going back at least as far as the Donatist controversy of the fourth and fifth centuries. The importance is emphasized most in Western Christianity which teaches that any bishop can consecrate any other baptized man as a bishop provided that the bishop observes the minimum requirements for the sacramental validity of the ceremony. This means that the consecration is considered valid even if it flouts certain ecclesiastical laws, and even if the participants are schismatics or heretics. In certain historical periods where various regions lacked formal access to bishops or in which no formal Bishophoric Seat has been established, there has been a long line of episcopi vagantes (wandering bishops) whose job it was to travel and oversee particular jurisdictions. It is from these groups that modern Gnostic groups would obtain their apostolicity, in particular through two lines: Fabré-Palaprat’s l’Église Johannites des Chretiens Primitif (Johannite Church of the Primitive Christians) and Joseph René Vilatte whose participation with the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht would also pave the way toward the development of the Liberal Catholic Church which would be deeply involved from the onset with the Theosophical movement.

As a brief departure, I would like to present the following graphical illustration of contemporary gnostic churches for the purposes of better understanding the various streams which exist currently to show their development over time while avoiding the complexity of succession:

Church l’Église Johannites des Chretiens Primitif Eliate Church of Carmel Eglise Gnostique Eglise Gnostique Universelle The Liberal Catholic Church Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church(Ecclesia Gnostica) Eglise Gnostique Apostolique
Name of Founder Fabré-Palaprat Eugene Vintras Jules Doinel Jean Bricaud James Wedgewood and Charles Leadbeater Theodore Reuss Duc du Palatine Robert Amberline
Foundation 1803 1848 1890 1907 1919 1920 1952 1953

These particular churches represent the primary streams of contemporary Gnosticism, however matters are somewhat complicated by individual churches such as Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica which, while founded upon the apostolic succession bestowed on Theodore Reuss through the Bricaud and Dionel successions, represents an interesting case-study in that Reuss’ successor, Aleister Crowley, doesn’t seem to indicate whether he obtained consecration from Reuss and, secondly that it makes a near complete break with other, Gnostic Christian churches in favor of Crowley’s religious philosophy of Thelema. Due to this, there is some debate some gnostic branches today which question the validity of considering Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica as part of the gnostic community. This is deserving of further study on many grounds. Important to note, however, is that the contemporary Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica does not itself rely on Apostolic Succession from Christian lineage and, instead, according to current United States Grand Lodge representative Sabazius X°, relies solely on the authority of Aleister Crowley as To Mega Therion DCLXVI. Despite this, many bishops in EGC do have consecrations from other gnostic lineages which can be adequately traced back to early sources.

An interesting point of difference can be made by comparing three of the four major streams of Gnosticism active in North America – Ecclesia Gnostica, Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica and the Apostolic Johannite Church. While there are other churches that may represent varying degrees of “gnostic apostolicity”, I present these four as representative of the greater gnostic tradition due to their apostolic lines as well and the number of adherents.

Name of Church Ecclesia Gnostica Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Apostolic Johannite Church
Date Founded 1953 1978 1919 1804 (original), 2000
Name of Founder Rev. Richard Duc de Palatine Rosamonde Miller Theodor Reuss Palaprat (?)
Apostolic Succession Old Catholic and Leadbeater/Wedgwood Old Catholic, Liberal Catholic, Palatine, Marian (?) Palaprat, Doinel, Bricaud, Villate Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, Palaprat, Doinel, Vilatte
Current Patriarch Rev. Stephen Hoeller Rosamonde Miller Hymanaeus Beta, XII°, T Apyrion (US) The Most Rev. Mar Iohannes IV, Ep.Gn. (CA), The Most Rev. Mar Thomas, AC, Ph.D, Ep.Gn. (US)

For now, I hope this exploration in the different traditions of modern Gnosticism provides an adequate example of the complexities involved in understanding the differences that may arise in understanding individual traditions. While historically it has been near to impossible to probe deep enough to look at this particular subgroup of the Western religious tradition, it is my hope to delve deeper into the individual schools of gnostic thought and, hopefully, be able to provide a comprehensive survey of modern Gnosticism and its relevance today.