Devotion to the Triune Deity

A Homily for Trinity Sunday

by Bishop Steven Marshall

One of the common questions we receive as Gnostics is “Why do you espouse the doctrine of the Christian Trinity?” To answer this question we have only to listen to the voices of the early Gnostics themselves. In the entire canon of Biblical scripture there are only a few vague references to a trinity in the letters of St Paul, yet the Gnostic scriptures of the Nag Hammadi collection are filled with trinitarian expressions of God. In the Gospel of Philip,we see written, “…the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” There is no place in the mainstream canon of the Bible where we can find so clear a reference to the Christian Trinity. In this way, we can state quite emphatically that we, as Gnostics, are trinitarians, yet we encompass far more than any dogma of the Church concerning this Trinity.

Whereas the mainstream Church has spent nearly two thousand years developing a dogma of the Trinity, Gnostics have always approached the Trinity as an archetypal symbol and a mystery. As an archetype, the Trinity arises in every culture, in every place and time. Even in terms of physical processes, most every phenomenon can be described as a trinitarian expression—active, passive, and their connecting interaction; motion, inertia and rhythm; thesis, antithesis and a resolving and connecting principle.

Many religions besides Christianity include a triune deity. The Goddess of modern Wiccans includes Maid, Mother and Crone. The Hindu pantheon includes the Creator (Brahma), the Destroyer (Shiva) and the Preserver (Vishnu). Religions that have a triad of gods often develop family relationships between the members of the triad. This is particularly the case in the Egyptian mysteries with Osiris (Father), Isis (Mother) and Horus (Son), as well as Ra (Father), Pharaoh (Son of Ra) and Ka (the connecting and transmitting Spirit). The Gnostic symbol of the Trinity incorporates these two trinitarian formulae from the Egyptian mysteries—Father, Son and Holy (Mother) Spirit. The Gospel of the Egyptians describes such an emanation of the Trinity: “Three powers came forth from him; they are the Father, the Mother, and the Son.” Here the Mother (Holy Spirit) is the second person of the Trinity, where she might also be identified with the Egyptian Ka. The Gospel of the Egyptians further describes the emanation of a triune series of ogdoads making a total of 24 powers, as described in the Book of Revelation. “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”

In the tradition of the Pharaonic succession in ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh is a divine king, an Anointed One, a Christos, through the connecting power of the Ka (Spirit) that unites the Father and the Son and passes on to the Pharoah the power and consciousness of the Sun God, Ra. The Pharaoh is called the Son of Ra after receiving the Ka (Hereditary Spirit) of the Father. Also, in the Mass, immediately before the minor elevation, this uniting principle of the Holy Spirit, the Ka, is again invoked. “To whom with Thee, O Mighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be ascribed all honor and glory, throughout the aeons of aeons.”

The mainstream Catholic tradition emphasizes the relationship between the Father and the Son, as an exclusive relationship between God and one man in history, called Jesus. Most of the controversy over the Trinity throughout the centuries has been over the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other two persons of the Trinity and how that might influence the doctrine of both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. The traditional Credo provides only one minimal reference to the Holy Spirit, as “the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified: Who spoke by the prophets.” The Eastern Orthodox differs in that the Father alone brings forth both the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Gospels record that Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to remain on earth to guide and care for us, yet, in Orthodox and Catholic liturgy, the Holy Spirit is never invoked alone and is not fully explained as to its relationship to all of humanity.

A fuller explanation and development of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of the Trinity is threatening to the mainstream position in two principle ways. One is that the Holy Spirit is primarily a feminine Power, as realized by the early Gnostics and later mystics of the Church. One cannot pursue the imagery and mystery of the Holy Spirit without encountering a feminine energy, the Mother of the Holy Trinity. Julian of Norwich recognizes this when she writes, “The Light, breathed forth in the Logos, is at one and the same time the Mother and the Daughter of the Logos.” She again relates this when she writes, “The deep wisdom (the Sophia) of the Trinity is our Mother.”

Secondly, the full development of the mystery of the Holy Spirit intimates that all of humanity participates in the Sonship of God. If the Father appears in the Son and breathes the Holy Spirit together with the Son, who leaves the Holy Spirit with humanity, then the Holy Spirit that breathes in all humanity is the same Holy Spirit that unites the Father and the Son. In this way, all of humanity constitute the children of the Light of the Father, born of the Holy Spirit, our Mother.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims to the multitudes, “Ye are gods!” In the Acts of John he again exclaims, “Know ye not that ye are all angels, all archangels, gods and lords, all rulers, all great invisibles; that ye are all, of yourselves and in yourselves in turn, from one mass and one mixture and one substance!” If we can accept that we are both divine and human, then it is not such a great stretch to conceive of Jesus as an exemplary of that dual nature. God is manifest in the mystery figure of Jesus, as in ourselves through the Holy (Mother) Spirit; the distinction is quantitative rather than qualitative. Jesus manifested the unity and wholeness of his divine nature, and brought to us the message of our own unity with the Father, while we are yet in the process of remembering and uniting with that divine nature, the Christ within.

We, as Gnostics, do not promulgate a Triune Deity to fragment God or to argue the divinity of one man in history but to affirm the divine nature within all of us. The Gospel of Philip makes the Gnostic approach to the Trinity very clear.

“It is fitting for those who do have it not only to receive the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but to obtain them for themselves. If anyone does not obtain them for himself, the name also will be taken from him. But one receives them in the chrism of the fullness of the power of the Cross, which the apostles call the right and the left. For this one is no longer a Christian but a Christ.”

The Trinity is not something to be argued about or explained in rational terms but a mystery to be experienced, the mystery of our own unity in God. It is a sanctfying and mysterious presence, like a bright cloud with a voice of fire and the fluttering of wings, an indwelling Spirit, a boundless Light, a presence we manifest in ourselves whenever we invoke the Holy Trinity in the Sign of the Cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

Coming of the Holy Spirit

A Homily for Pentecost

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Pentecost is a very important feast day in our Gnostic liturgical calendar. It commemorates the promised coming of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples, which was predicted by Jesus prior to his mystical death and resurrection. The mythic cycle of the liturgical year seems to come to an end at Pentecost, yet, for the Gnostic, it is the beginning of the true spiritual mission of the Christos. The Pistis Sophia describes twelve years of activity by the Logos among the disciples after the Ascension. It also describes the Apostleship of Mary Magdalen and the mythic cycle of the feminine power represented in the descent, suffering and assumption of Sophia.

Pentecost with the insertion of the Trinity season begins an entire half of the year, representing the mythic cycle of the feminine aspect of God, the season of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, like Advent, is a beginning, the beginning of a new level of spiritual activity in our archetypal life. The Holy Spirit, like a great wind, blows into our spiritual life with something new, unexpected, and, even if somewhat unsettling, yet as a consoler and comforter that is not of this world.

The Gospel of St. Matthew states quite accurately “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth.” We cannot constrain the Holy Spirit into artificially created, ego-designed vessels. It does not matter how politically correct or psychologically comfortable they may be; it just doesn’t work. The wisdom of the Spirit suggests an entirely different value system than that of the material and ordinary world. The 8th Ode of Solomon gives a speech from the Holy Spirit to humanity. “Your flesh may not understand that which I am about to say to you; nor your garment that which I am about to show you.” The Holy Spirit requires a vessel for its manifestation, but it is not a worldly vessel or garment; it is a vessel of consciousness. The Gospel of St. John calls Her “the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Her not, neither knoweth Her; but ye know Her, for she dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The world cannot receive Her because it cannot see Her, because it is not conscious of Her. In order to know Her indwelling we must acknowledge Her, become conscious of Her, feel Her presence, see Her, and finally hear Her. The Holy Prophet Mani was such a vessel; even his name means “vessel.” Mani received the visit of his Light Twin whom he recognized as the Paraclete, the promised Comforter, three times during his earthly life. In this instance, the coming of the Holy Spirit is a direct mystical experience of a transcendent reality. The inscrutability and timelessness of the Holy is expressed by the holy prophet Mani by comparing the timelessness of the Spirit as even beyond the task of counting all the grains of the dust of the earth:

“Know that the grains of the dust of the earth can be measured, one can count the grains of the dust of the earth year after year; but the length of time the Holy Spirit passed with the Father, that one cannot count.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

The coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles was not something that came and went in History; it is a present and timeless, spiritual reality. Jesus knew of his impending death and told his disciples of the Comforter, who would come after him. He told them to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit which would abide with us forever, who “…shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Our Teacher of Gnosis is still here. Her voice remains to teach, to guide, to care for us, and to comfort us.

The Kephalaia of the Paraclete by the holy prophet Mani describes how the Holy Spirit not only looks after the sparks of light on earth, but all of the aeons of the light:

“He first formed her in his inner chambers in quiet and in silence; but when she was needed, than was she called and came forth from the father of greatness; she looked after all the aeons of the light.”

In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus reiterates to the disciples the timeless and unworldly nature of the Holy Spirit:

“Jesus said unto his disciples: I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, the she may abide with you forever… Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

To know the event of Pentecost as an immanent and interior reality is the goal towards which the Gnostic’s striving is always directed. If we are to know this other Comforter, we must somehow come to the place in spirit where we can reach out and touch this timelessness and transcendence; we must pass over to a non-ordinary state of consciousness and perception.

Pentecost comes from an Israelite harvest festival called the “feast of weeks,” which occurred 50 days (seven weeks) following the Passover. It was a feast prepared from the first fruits of the grain in the form of leavened bread. The leavened as opposed to unleavened bread is symbolic of the power of the Holy Spirit, for the leavening that fills the dough with air and makes it rise has been long regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Thomas makes such a comparison between leavening and the Holy Spirit. “Jesus said: The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman, who has taken a little leaven and has hidden it in dough and has made large loaves of it.” Here the Holy Spirit is associated with the Kingdom and the feminine task of making bread.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit signifies a recognition, a knowing of the feminine aspect of God. The Holy Prophet Mani also describes the Holy Spirit as a feminine image:

“The fount of every blessing and all the invocations is the mother of life, the first Holy Spirit, the first mother who has come forth from the Father and first appeared, the glorious one who is the beginning of all emanations that have come to this world.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

Jewish Christians known as the Ebionites called the Holy Spirit “The Lady,” and described her as the real Mother of Jesus. They prayed to her as God, but called her an Angel because they experienced her personality so strongly and so personally. The Holy Spirit, as the Mother of Jesus occurs in many places in Gnostic literature. “Even so did my Mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to Mt. tabor.” (Gospel of the Hebrews) In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, “My mother gave me a body, but my true Mother (the Holy Spirit) gave me life.” As we begin to contact transcendent reality, the feminine image of Deity is almost always the first to be experienced, often as an interior vision and voice.

In the Christian mythos the festival of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the fire of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Two principle symbols appear here. The first is the tongue of flame. Shin, the name of the Hebrew letter corresponding to Fire and Spirit, means tooth and also tongue of flame. The addition of the letter Shin (the Holy Spirit) to the name Jehovah (YHVH) reveals the mystery of the Spirit in the qabbalistic name of Jesus, YHShVH. In this fashion, the name of Jesus represents the healing of the deficient and unregenerate Demiurge Jehovah (YHVH) by the addition of the missing feminine aspect of deity, the Holy Spirit. The second image in this description of Pentecost is the speaking “in tongues.” This is not described as the babbling of jibberish, but as recognizable languages, symbolizing a speech that was miraculously understandable to everyone regardless of their language: symbolically, a healing of the division symbolized by the division of languages in the story of the Tower of Babel. This “speaking in tongues” suggests a phenomenon of communication associated with experiences of an otherworldly and transcendent reality, yet on a mass scale.

This phenomenon comes about also through the coming together of the feminine and masculine potencies of the Trinity. While the Logos is the Word, the Holy Spirit is the breath that gives it its utterance, that gives it a voice. Whereas the Logos (the Word) is symbolic of the masculine polarity, the voice of the Holy Spirit is feminine. In Qabbalah, this voice, like the Holy Spirit, is represented by a dove, and is called Bath Qol, “the Daughter of the Voice.î” In the Song of Solomon she is the “voice of the dove… heard again in our land.” In the Jewish Targum she is called the “Voice of the Holy Spirit of Salvation.”

The recognition of the Holy Spirit is an essential step to the restoration of the Kingdom of Heaven, the descent of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom which is spread out upon the earth but cannot be seen by the eyes of the world. As stated in the Gospel of Thomas, “Jesus said: It (the Kingdom) will not come by expectation; they will not say: ‘See here’, or: ‘See there’. But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.” In late versions of the Gospel of Luke, the portion of the Lord’s Prayer which reads “thy Kingdom come,” is translated as “Thy Holy Spirit come and cleanse us.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the manifestation in a greater consciousness of the Holy Spirit on earth.

In Qabbalah, the Kingdom is referred to the sphere of Malkuth, which is also titled Shekinah, Matrona and Bride, the Kingdom adorned as a Bride as written in the Revelation of St. John the Divine. In Qabbalistic teachings, the Shekinah is a feminine symbol of the immanent presence of God on earth. Followers of Valentinus called the Holy Spirit, “this Holy Earth,” “Mother,” and “Jerusalem.” In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells the disciples of the Holy Spirit that will come in his name and shall bring all things to their remembrance. Remembering the teaching of the Word and the role of the Holy Spirit in giving it a voice gives the Holy Spirit with Her title of “Jerusalem” remarkable meaning. It refers Jerusalem to that spiritual Kingdom of Light, which has been called the New Jerusalem, and which the Gnostics consider their true origin and home. The verse of the 137th Psalm, which is included in our Gnostic Ordination to Cleric reads, “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember not Jerusalem above my highest Joy.”

Jerusalem is not for us an earthly city but the celestial City, the Kingdom of Light, our true home among the Aeons of the Light. The Holy City is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the Heavenly City to dwell in our hearts in greater consciousness. Quispel translates Jerusalem as the “Kingdom of Peace.” Such a “Kingdom of Peace” is the Rest, the Repose that the Gnostics used as a metaphor for the Fullness of the Pleroma where all of the warring dualities and opposites are transcended and resolved into a “single one.” Dr Carl Jung, in his treatise on the Trinity, makes a case for the recognition of the feminine aspect of God as the completion and final individuation of the Trinity of God. Therefore, the coming of the Holy Spirit, as an immanent reality in the Gnostic soul, represents not just a beginning but the culmination of Gnosis, both the beginning and the end.

The recognition of the feminine aspect of the Godhead is not a political fancy but a spiritual necessity; our own wholeness as spiritual beings, even the wholeness of God, depends on it. And so we remember this day in honor of the Holy Female Power in every place, who is the Mother of Christ in every heart, and the “wholeness upon which the universe is erected and destroyed.” We, as Gnostics, seek not a political and worldly kingdom on earth but a spiritual kingdom of an interior and transcendent reality that is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit within us. May the Voice of the Holy Spirit guide us on our quest to the Light of the Divine Soul within, comfort us in our travails in the world and restore within us the Kingdom of this Holy Earth within which we “live and move and have our being.” Amen.


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

The Temporary Triumph of the Light before its Obscuration

A Homily for Palm Sunday

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week recounts a complex and meaningful series of mythic events which lead to the Resurrection on Easter Day. Palm Sunday represents a preparation, a setting up, for the Resurrection to occur. As Gnostics we may differ from the mainstream in our interpretation of these events, as to whether they are literal history or strictly symbolic, or something in between. What is important for us to focus on is that these events recount an interior experience of archetypal dimensions. It does not matter if the events of Holy Week are historical or purely mythical; they have a deep and archetypal meaning to the Gnostic soul. The series of events in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, describe a process of our own apotheosis and psychological transformation. Blind belief in historical events is not going to transform us; we must cultivate an experience of this archetypal reality. For this reason we celebrate Palm Sunday not as a commemoration of an historical event but as an archetypal mystery and another step in the process of psychological and spiritual transformation.

This story is one of the most Paradoxical in the New Testament, and for that reason, one of profound, personal meaning for the Gnostic. The Gospel story tells of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He rides upon the colt of an ass, a donkey, just as Mary, his mother, rode a donkey into Bethlehem. People lay garments in his path and wave palm branches in celebration. The Revelation of St. John the Divine describes a contrasting image of an archetypal figure on a white horse. “…and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.” We can contrast the archetypal reality of the Saviour upon a white horse with the humble figure of Jesus riding on a donkey. The people who cheered Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem seem to have seen beyond the humble appearance to see the archetypal reality of Jesus. Yet this insight is short-lived, for some of these same people later yelled “crucify him;” They were expecting a worldly and terrestrial king who would throw off the yoke of Roman rule. And so the Light triumphs only for a brief time before it is obscured by the archons of the world. Much has been written concerning the political forces and machinations that may have led to the crucifixion of Jesus, yet this is not really the concern of the Gnostic. Our concern is with what this contrasting of archetypal and terrestrial images, of spiritual insight and worldly expectation, might mean to us in our present situation as Gnostics in the world. The Gnosis is not and will never be a political movement, for it transcends any such boundaries to penetrate to the very core of human experience and consciousness.

What these contrasting images can mean to us is both deeply personal and cosmic in scope. The story of Palm Sunday can stimulate the recognition that there exists a royal archetypal reality behind the earthly reality of our own lives. Sometimes it shines through onto our worldly stage of existence — we have our moment of glory — but often it is obscured in this material world. We often suffer revilement and condemnation when we do not meet others worldly expectations. The palm branches that we receive on Palm Sunday might, therefore, represent the recognition of our own and each other’s triumphal light and royal spiritual heritage.

The triumph of the Light before its obscuration is an expression of the divine, royal Selfhood within each one of us, that is so powerfully obscured by mundane and conventional reality. There are times when we want so badly for that light to shine out of us, for it to be recognized by the world. When the only vehicle for expression is the ego-personality our strivings to be seen are usually in vain. Personality actually comes from the Greek “persona” meaning “mask.” While in this terrestrial incarnation, we are like the Count of Monte Cristo in The Man in the Iron Mask; our behavioral gyrations and efforts to have others recognize our light only serve to convince them that we are egotists, madmen or charlatans. Often we create a false glamour that is not our true Self; we put on an entertaining song and dance act; we live a lie and shine forth a false light: or we simply forget about our light and live our lives as if it had never been.

When we are not anxiously attempting to show forth our light, we are often acting in fear of the consequences of letting our light shine. We either turn down our light or turn it off completely, so that we might pass unseen through this world. Yet, “Within a man of light, there is light, and he lighteth up the whole word. If he does not shine, he is darkness.” This is the sham, the cover up, that we are either parading a false light or hiding our light beneath a bushel. The issues are not safety or creative self-expression, the core issues are authenticity and consciousness. We must be conscious of who we really are as spiritual beings and not let either fear or love of the world pervert or hide the authenticity of our own true Self. We must not let ego-inflation or an arrogant and false playing down of ourselves deflect us from the authentic role we have in the divine archetypal drama behind the background of our lives. Just as Gandalf and Strider, in the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein, remain conscious of their spiritual and royal origins and destiny while they pass behind the scenes in obscurity until the time that they must uncloak themselves to the dark powers of the world, so must we be conscious in our spiritual work, neither shirking our spiritual destiny nor running after the accolades of the world. Our spiritual light can never really be seen in this world, for the eyes of the world cannot see it. “The images are manifest to man, but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the Father.” (The Gospel of Thomas) If we live our spiritual lives consciously and authentically we will be hid in that Light whatever befalls us in our mundane lives.

On the mythological and archetypal level of reality , we have our eternal and real parts to play out. Behind the appearances and scenes of our mundane lives, we participate in a mystical and archetypal play of cosmic dimensions. Occasionally we recognize each other for the parts we play in the divine drama, yet even beyond this, we are archetypal and royal beings with the capacity to enter that realm of consciousness where we are flames of the Divine Light dwelling together in love and unity, embracing and merging without physical touching or separation of flesh. It is when we do not recognize or we forget our true royal Selfhood, when we are lacking in self-esteem and fearful, that we have problems with others. To recognize our own light we must recognize it in others. We must begin the process of Holy Week by seeing through appearances to the background of spiritual and archetypal reality within ourselves and others. When we have and can hold onto this insight and not let it be obscured by worldly expectations, then we will know even as we are known; we will recognize the pearl whether it is anointed with balsam oil or cast into the mud.

Yet this recognition brings with it a great sorrow. It is as if we, as some extra-terrestrial explorers, had to leave some of our closest kin upon some far-flung outpost of the universe until we could return for them. When we returned for them they did not remember that they were alien to this world or that they were kin to another race. All our efforts to remind them brought criticism, scorn or ridicule. Sometimes, at their hands, we were even put to death. This is not to be taken literally but simply as another story by which we may grasp the existential and paradoxical reality of our worldly existence. By remembering who we are and becoming authentically translucent to that reality, we can serve to remind others of who they are and from whence they have originated as well.

The message of Palm Sunday is the recognition that we can become authentically translucent to our interior light of being, which, shining outward, allows us to see through the worldly and temporal reality to the eternal things that are truly real. In the collect for Palm Sunday the Archetypal Self is invoked as Aleph the First and Tav the Last, the beginning and the end, another paradox. In the same paradoxical fashion this translucency to the light is symbolized in the beginning and ending of our terrestrial life. At the moment of birth and the moment of death, it is reported that the skin takes on a strange translucency, as if to give visibility to an invisible and interior light. The young and the old are also closer to the archetypal reality. The old have had a whole lifetime to remind them, the young have not had as much time to forget. The traditional hymn for Palm Sunday includes the refrain “To whom the lips of children made loud hosannas ring.” Children often recognize the archetypal reality of themselves and others, they have not had as much time to forget the spiritual and imaginative dimension of life. The world and other people are more translucent to them. For this reason, those who are awakened to Gnostic insight are sometimes referred to as “little ones.” So we by becoming more authentically translucent to the light within may become more like “little ones.” We can see through the false facade of the world; we can see the archetypal dramas played out; we can see the true royal Selfhood in all of us; we can know ourselves as part of a greater consciousness, who is truly “King of kings and Lord of lords, who is called Faithful and True.”


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.