In the summer of 1916, C. G. Jung had a mystical experience which he later wrote down under the pseudonym of the Gnostic Basilides, and called it 'Seven Sermons to the Dead.' (1), Gnosis, means knowledge in the sense of insight and wisdom. The Sermons are deeply rooted in the Gnostic tradition. Their metaphors remind of Kabalistic  texts. They are profound and fascinating. Jung’s interpretation of his mystical experience reflects the culture in which he was brought up.  

Even today, more than  80 years later, the Sermons still capture the imagination of the reader. To me the text reveals a new and deep dimension of the  Wisdom of the Body (WOB), provided that the Sermons are interpreted from a different viewpoint.

Abraxas: Change (élan vital)
Pleroma:  Nature's wisdom, or Gaia
Pleroma: Wisdom of the Body (WOB)
Creatura: stands for Metaphor
The dead: Scientists

(Original text is in italics)

Sermon 1

The original version begins with : "The Dead came back from Jerusalem
(bastion of Religion), where they found not what they sought"   Here it  turns into "The scientists came back from Boston (bastion of science), where they found not what they sought."
Science reached an impasse. Its theories fail to explain Nature. This misunderstanding threatens our very existence since we gradually destroy our habitat. Hitherto scientists claimed that their models stood for nature. Yet while their models and theories are linear, nature is non-linear, chaotic and complex. 


First Basilides  describes Pleroma, which is called  here Wisdom of the Body (WOB) , and has the following properties :
- Nothingness is the same as fullness.
- In the pleroma there is nothing and everything.
- Pleroma  pervades them, as the light of the sun everywhere pervades the air.

Pleroma (WOB) stands for two concepts:
1.     WOB content (-In the pleroma there is nothing and everything.)
2.     Its wisdom (-Pleroma  pervades them)
We shall first explore its content, and imagine that Pleroma is a container full of points.  In order to find our way in it, we have to create a map of Pleroma.


We shall first assign to each point an integer {2,1,0,-1,-2}, and label an infinite number of points. This number system may serve to to measure Pleroma. We add
up all the integers. Since for every positive integer there is also a negative one. The sum is zero. We add up everything and get nothing. (- In the pleroma there is nothing and everything).

In order to travel in Pleroma we need a procedure which specifies how to get from point to point. It is called iteration. You take a value and add to it the smallest number you have (1). Then you replace the original number with the result. This is where you are heading. Suppose that you are at point 5 you add to it 1 and replace it with the new value that you got (6), which is also the point where you will land. With this procedure you travel through Pleroma. Your smallest step is one.

As you travel you notice  that many points in Pleroma are not labeled. You have to choose a more refined numbering system which will label all points.  You choose rational numbers which are fractions of integers and get a more refined map. Still many points remain unlabeled. You then turn to other number systems, like, irrational, real or complex. Each creates a more refined map of Pleroma. Each displays also  the ' nothing and everything' property.

These number systems may be arranged hierarchically. Each contains the previous one, and is therefore more powerful for describing Pleroma. They are Pleroma’s Number-Gods. (v. Sermon 2)


At the end of the nineteenth century, mathematicians discovered unusual numbers, which later, Benoit Mandelbrot called  fractals. Hitherto when iterating a number, one could guess where one is heading. Yet when iterating fractals one does not know where one will land next. This Number-God was called Chaos. Scientists realized that a reliable map of Pleroma does not exist. This is why  "they came back from Boston, where they found not what they sought." They don't know how to handle complexity, neither  complexity of Nature nor that of WOB. Science reached an impasse.


Any description of Pleroma, is an imperfect metaphor called Creatura. Any distinct feature in Pleroma like, map, time or space is a Creatura.
- We are distinguished from the pleroma in our essence as creatura, which is confined within time and space.
- Distinctiveness is creatura. Distinctiveness is its essence.
- This [distinctiveness] is called the PRINCIPIUM INDIVIDUATIONIS. This principle is the essence of the creature.|
- What is changeable, however, is creature.
- Indistinctiveness, is the death of the creature
- Not your thinking, but your being, is distinctiveness.

WOB is Pleroma

Distinctiveness has two meanings.
1. A metaphor
created by our mind for understanding other creatures in Nature, and
2. It stands for our individuality. For instance a sick patient  requests medical help. His illness starts when he (WOB) feels sick. WOB then signals the mind to get help. In order to understand  illness which is extremely complex (the pleroma is also in us), the physician applies the “principle of distinctiveness” and diagnoses a disease. Disease is only a metaphor, and does not capture the complexity of whatever the patient feels as illness.

- Because we are parts of the pleroma, the pleroma is also in us.
- Even in the smallest point in  pleroma is endless, eternal, andentire, since small and great are qualities which are contained in it.
- Pleroma has no qualities. We create them through thinking

The philosopher Ludwik Fleck said that diseases do not exist in nature but are constructed by physicians for didactic reasons. Not only diseases are arbitrary but all qualities: - When we distinguish qualities of the pleroma, we are speaking from the ground of our own distinctiveness and concerning our own distinctiveness.
- These qualities are distinct and separate in us (in our Mind)
- In the pleroma they are balanced and void; in us not
- The qualities are PAIRS OF OPPOSITES:
- The pairs of opposites are qualities of the pleroma which are not, because each balances each.

- In all times and places is creation, in all times and places is death.
This statement refers to  Pleroma turnover, and  is discussed  in Sermons 3 and 4. The final messages of Basilides are:
- When we strive after the good or the beautiful, we thereby forget our own nature.
- Therefore not after difference, ye think it, must ye strive; but after YOUR OWN BEING.

Think of all the specialties which reduce the complexity of our being only to be able to measure some of its qualities. Like psychology, cognition, neuroscience, or  behavioral science. While Being (WOB) may be grasped only as a whole

Sermon 2

In the night the dead stood along the wall and cried: We would like to have knowledge of god. Where is god? Is god dead? In the night the scientists stood along the wall and cried: We would like to have knowledge of Nature. Where is science? Is science dead?

When Nietzsche declared that God is dead he meant also Metaphysics that underlies science. The same applies also to medicine, whose metaphysics are outdated. Pleroma cannot be comprehended in itself. Any statement about it is a metaphor (Creatura). - God is creatura, for he is something definite, and therefore distinct from the pleroma. Gods are means to understand Pleroma, like the Number-Gods mentioned above. The higher a rank of a Number-God in the hierarchy, the more powerful (and efficient) is he for describing Pleroma.

Basilides then discusses two deities which guide reasoning: The rational (God) and the irrational (Devil) (v WOB and Theology) While in Pleroma - the pairs of opposites are qualities of the pleroma which are not, because each balances each. The rational and irrational are true opposites and  do not extinguish each other.
- God and devil are the first manifestations of nothingness, which we call the pleroma.
- God and devil are creatura they do not extinguish each other, but stand one against the other as effective opposites.

The irrational always accompanies the rational, and they cannot be separated. -To god, therefore, always belongs the devil. What appears as irrational to you may still be rational to me. It all depends on our thought-styles.  None of the beliefs are bad, since both promote creativity (Effectiveness).
- God and devil are distinguished by the qualities of fullness and emptiness, generation and destruction. EFFECTIVENESS is common to both.


After exploring Pleroma's content, lets turn to Pleroma's wisdom  (-Pleroma  pervades them). Both Nature and our body maintain homeostasis (homeorhesis) which requires a wisdom that still eludes our understanding. This force is Abraxas, and was called by Bergson élan vital:
- It is more indefinite still than god and devil (rationality and irrationality)
- Abraxas is effect. It is force, duration, change.
- Its effective nature freely unfolds itself.
- It is improbable probability, unreal reality.

However once we give this , unreal-reality a name it becomes a Creatura. - It is also creatura, because it is distinct from the pleroma.

Abraxas exists and has to be taken for granted exactly as gravity is. Gravity may be regarded as Abraxas of the exact sciences. We may attempt to measure Abraxas' might with our incomplete number systems (gods), yet will never grasp its essence.  Therefore once we label it as élan vital or gravity, it turns into a metaphor:

Sermon 3

Like mists arising from a marsh, the dead came near and cried: Speak further unto us concerning the supreme god. Like mists arising from a marsh, the scientists came near and cried: Speak further unto us about Life.

All streams

Abraxas is turnover and since man is not aware of the turnover in his body: - man perceives it not
- Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge of the void, the belittling and dismembering devil.
- Everything that you create with the god-sun gives effective power to the devil.
- What the god-sun speaks is life. What the devil speaks is death. But Abraxas speaks that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time.

Life and death, sun and devil are necessary ingredients of turnover which is essential for maintaining life. In the food chain that makes Pleroma, death of one is a creation of the other. - From the sun he draws the summum bonum; from the devil the infimum malum: but from Abraxas LIFE, altogether indefinite, the mother of good and evil.

But Abraxas is more than that, It is both pleroma, and change. - Abraxas is the world, its becoming and its passing

Sermon 4

The dead filled the place murmuring and said; Tell us of gods and devils, accursed one! The scientists filled the place murmuring and said; Tell us of turnover (change), accursed one, who destroyed our  truth. Basilides then describes the gods of life which dwell in pleroma and are parts of Abraxas. Each god contains its opposite and is therefore a god-devil. Like the number-gods  that exist in couples. Each number and its negative one.


- Among these are two god-devils; the one is the Burning One , the other the Growing One. The burning one is EROS, who has the form of flame.  Flame gives light because it consumes. The growing one is the TREE OF LIFE. It buds, as in growing it heaps up living stuff. Eros flames up and dies. But the tree of life grows with slow and constant increase through unmeasured time.
- Good and evil are united in the flame. Good and evil are united in the increase of the tree. Both Good or birth, and Evil or death,  contribute to the growing Nature.  Both are essential and equally important, like the opposite numbers of Number-Gods.
-Four is the number of the principal gods, as four is the number of the world's measurements. One is the beginning, the god-sun. Two is Eros; for he binds two together and outspreads himself in brightness. Three is the Tree of Life, for it fills space with bodily forms. Four is the devil, for he opens all that is closed.
- The multiplicity of the gods corresponds to the multiplicity of man.

The essences of Abraxas (life) cannot be reduced to a single theory of everything as physicists attempt to achieve.
- But woe unto you, who replace these incompatible many by a single god ---- you  mutilate the creature whose nature and aim is distinctiveness.

Sermon 5

The dead mocked and cried: Teach us, fool, of the Church and the holy Communion. The scientists mocked and cried: Teach us, fool, of Quackery and Shamanism. This is how holistic theories are regarded by the  exact sciences.

Two kinds of experience

There are two kinds of experience. That of the exact sciences, represented by Phallos, and spiritual experience, represented by Mater Coelestis.  These superhuman demons guide us when exploring reality.
- The world of the gods is made manifest in spirituality and in sexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly in sexuality. Spirituality conceives and embraces. It is womanlike and therefore we call it MATER COELESTIS,
- Sexuality engenders and creates. It is manlike, and therefore we call it PHALLOS, the earthly father.
- For the Mother and the Phallos are super-human daemons which reveal the world of the gods.
- Spirituality and sexuality are not your qualities, not things ye possess and contain. But they possess and contain you; for they are powerful daemons, manifestations of the gods, and are, therefore, things which reach beyond you, existing in themselves.

These demons help man (mind) to be in communion with Abraxas (Nature). Otherwise man sinks in ignorance which is sickness of the mind. - Man is weak, therefore is communion indispensable. If your communion be not under the sign of the Mother, then is it under the sign of the Phallos. No communion is suffering and sickness
- Communion is depth.
- Communion gives us warms, Singleness gives us light.

Sermon 6

Basilides reminds us of  two ancient metaphors which still linger in our culture. Two kinds of love, spiritual (white bird) and carnal (serpent , stands for Original Sin .  Both are regarded as sexuality. The first is obvious,  while the second applies to the mystic  to whom sexuality means a  spiritual union  with god (unio mystica).
- The daemons of sexuality approaches our soul as a serpent  It is half human and appears as thought-desire. The daemon of spirituality descends into our soul as the white bird. It is half human and appears as desire-thought
- The Serpent is a whore. She wantons with the devil and with evil spirits; a mischievous tyrant and tormentor, ever seducing to evilest company. The White Bird is a half-celestial soul of man. He bids with the Mother,
The scientists find all this uninteresting and ask the preacher: - Cease this talk of gods and daemons and souls. As this has long been known to us.

Sermon 7

At  night  the dead  approached again with lamentable mien and said: There is yet one matter we forgot to mention. Teach us about man. At night the scientists approached again with lamentable mien and said: There is yet one matter we forgot to mention. Teach us about  mind.
- Man is a gateway through which from the outer world of gods, daemons, and souls you pass into the inner world; out of the greater into the smaller world.

Mind is an interface between Nature (Gaia) and WOB. Gaia is a theory formulated by James Lovelock  in collaboration with Lynn Margulis. Despite its immense complexity,  Nature, like WOB,  maintains homeostasis. This Wisdom of Nature is represented here by the Gaia metaphor. Gaia maintains homeostasis in the same way as our WOB does.

Attention of the mind (man) is directed into two opposite directions. Outward he experiences Gaia, and inward he experiences WOB. Both are Pleroma. Gaia is the external divine. Since man is part of a food chain he is controlled by Gaia, and after death will join it. His WOB (soul) will join Pleroma.
- Toward him goes the long journey of the soul after death

WOB is the inner divine. Therefore:  Between man and his one god there stands nothing.  According to Joseph Campbell:"We are all manifestations of Buddha consciousness, or Christ consciousness, only we don’t know it. . . The word Buddha means 'the one who waked up' . . We are all to do that"(2). Once we wake up we shall realize that in our inner world we are Abraxas (Principium individuationis of Sermon 1) - In this world  man is Abraxas, the creator and destroyer of his one world.

Abraxas is Nietzsche's overman. Since this site is about the healing power of WOB, Abraxas is also Cancer-Yogi.


1. The Seven Sermons to the Dead written by Basilides in Alexandria, the City where the East touchest the West.
Transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung.
2. Campbell J. The Power of the Myth. Anchor Books N.Y 1991.