The Apocryphon of John, The Secret Revelation of John, The Secret Book of John…..whatever you want to refer to it, this particular text, next to the Gospel of Thomas, is perhaps the most well known “Gnostic” text out there. It survives in at least four manuscripts, more so than any other gnostic text. I do not plan to tackle this text in a single blog post but rather just a hymn that is included towards the end of the text. I will be using Marvin Meyer’s translation and the hymn I am referring to is what he refers to as the “Hymn of the Savior.”
Now I, the perfect forethought of all, transformed myself into my offspring. I existed first and went down every path. I am the abundance of light, I am the remembrance of fullness. I went into the realm of great darkness and continued until I entered the midst of the prison. The foundations of chaos shook, and I hid from them because of their evil, and they did not recognize me. Again I returned, a second time, and went on. I had come from the inhabitants of light — I, the remembrance of forethought. I entered the midst of darkness and the bowels of the underworld, turning to my task. The foundations of chaos shook as though to fall upon those who dwell in chaos and destroy them. Again I hurried back to the root of my light so they might not be destroyed before their time. Again, a third time, I went forth— I am the light dwelling in light, I am the remembrance of forethought— so that I might enter the midst of darkness and the bowels of the underworld. I brightened my face with light from the consummation of their realm and entered the midst of their prison, which is the prison of the body. I said, Let whoever hears arise from deep sleep. A person wept and shed tears. Bitter tears the person wiped away, and said, Who is calling my name? From where has my hope come as I dwell in the bondage of prison? I said, I am the forethought of pure light, I am the thought of the virgin spirit, who raises you to a place of honor. Arise, remember that you have heard and trace your root, which is I, the compassionate. Guard yourself against the angels of misery, the demons of chaos and all who entrap you, and beware of deep sleep and the trap in the bowels of the underworld. I raised and sealed the person in luminous water with five seals, that death might not prevail over the person from that moment on.
This hymn concludes the book, but it feels like a later addition to the story. That being said, taken on its own, this hymn presents the story of achieving gnosis through divine intervention. I have never shared my story of divine intervention (perhaps for another time) but the situation was pretty similar to this set up, particularly this section: “I said, Let whoever hears arise from deep sleep. A person wept and shed tears. Bitter tears the person wiped away, and said, Who is calling my name? From where has my hope come as I dwell in the bondage of prison?” I have this hymn printed out and included in my special binder (which includes various pieces of gnostic scriptures) that I often meditate upon. I highly recommend the readers of this post reflect upon this passage. It’s a very powerful hymn.
Read the entire translation of the Secret Book of John here: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/apocjn-meyer.html
Featured artwork is midjourney based and created using part of this text.