The General Doctrine of Pasqually and Gnosticism


There is discussion about whether the theogony of Martinez de Pasqually was gnostic. In my view it was not. Here are some of the reasons why.

Firstly, although Pasqually’s Universal Table (pictured) shares many similarities with gnosticism – not least that of the Simonians – it differs markedly in a number of areas, not least in the absence of a demiurge. In gnosticism, the Demiurge ("Half-Maker") was already in rebellion against God when he created the cosmos, and forcibly incarnated spirit into matter against its will. In the Simonian system this included Wisdom Herself. In contrast, Pasqually’s thema incorporates a philosophical system where Creation was begun by God but who, realising that certain of his creatures had evil latent within them, was compelled to conceive the material universe in which to imprison them. It would be in the material sphere that such fallen beings would exercise their free will having broken from God to go about their nefarious purposes.

Now, it is true that God created the Major and Minor Spirits (the latter including the Archetypal Man, Adam) to construct the physical cosmos as a prison for these prevaricating beings. The collective, group soul of Primitive Adam was made in God’s image, with unique powers, capable of reading his thoughts and was given command over Creation. Initially Adam occupied a glorious form and existed in a state of bliss in the 'Garden' of Eden. This creation was therefore good, and it came about via the thought of God being operated by Adam and his spiritual helpers. Indeed, Pasqually equates Adam with the Great Architect of the Universe of Freemasonry, and this designation is in no way comparable with the Demiurge of gnosticism, who created a bad world from the get-go.  Thus, while Adam was indeed the Man-God of this world, it was God who freely bestowed his powers on Adam, and created the conditions for him to go about his work with the help of the planetary spirits who shaped the cosmos under his direction.  It was, if you will, devolution in its finest form.  The Demiurge of the gnostics, in contrast, stole the Divinity's powers and acted against the Will of the Father-God, wherein lies the myth of Prometheus, and which Adam certainly was not. 

Another great disparity between Martinezism and gnosticism is the concept of sin.  In Pasqually’s General Doctrine, Man sinned (prevaricated) when he sought to create material life without God’s dispensation, for purposes other than building and policing the universe.  Adam was influenced by evil to make beings to worship himself. In this there are parallels with the Demiurge, but the distinction is that Adam was tempted by the prevaricating spirits he was sent to punish, and opted to be influenced by them.  Sin, therefore, is the fault of Man. For the gnostics, however, the human spirit was not part of a mighty angel that splintered into material matter, but was rather splinters of the Father God carried into matter by the Demiurge in order for him to create life. That is a significant difference. Thus, for Pasqually our present condition is the direct result of Adam's sin, and as our father we inherit that sin.  We cannot avoid blame or point to a non-human entity as being responsible.  It was humanity itself that fell from a glorious state into a postion of privation locked in elemental matter. True, human beings in our present condition are more susceptible to the influence of evil than the original Man, but we are not faultless as a community. Yet, in the gnostic systems there is no sin, no Fall, no fault and no blame for our present condition, because we were entrapped by a demiurge. This alone should convince us that Pasqually's General Doctrine was not gnostic. 

Thirdly, in gnosticism attaining knowledge of our true selves is all sufficient to escape from this material prison. Their Soter or Saviour is simply a guide.  Yet, for Pasqually man has free-will, sinned, and is accountable to God, who alone can save him.  Man must act morally in order to reintegrate. It is no mere coincidence that knightly values and chivalric codes are insisted upon by Pasqually, who specifically recruited from within Freemasonry for that very reason. This is quite different from Marcionite abstentionism.  Thus, whether gnosticism was a system of excess like Simonianism, or asthetic like Marcianism, Pasqually’s philosophy was neither. For him, Man has the task of not only attaining self-knowledge to seek personal reintegration, but he must also carry with him his fellow man and all of the spiritual beings who fell with him, and over whom he has responsibility as their leader. These latter are the elemental and inferior beings that helped in the creation of the universe, those attached to the planetary agencies.

Man also still has his original task to fulfil, of guarding the universal creation from the original prevaricating evil spirits, and must fulfil his mission to restore them. He cannot deviate from God's will in that regard. Thus, scratch beneath the surface and there is little that is genuinely gnostic in Pasqually’s cosmogony. His system is, in fact, closer to the Jewish esotericism of antiquity. The key difference is his doctrine of the Incarnation. In this Pasqually’s theology is relatively orthodox, since he maintains that the physical incarnation into material matter of the Major Spirit or Son of God had to be specifically as an Elect Minor (prophet guide). This is nothing more or less than Christian Messianism  in its purest form, since the hypostatic union of Divinity with a temporal man prepared for the moment as a teacher and guide, fully restores to us the means of bridging a path of return.  

The Incarnation alone would not have been enough. The God-Man Jesus Christ had to be an Elect Minor Guide and Prophet to complete that mission. This of course also makes perfect sense of the New Testament narratives concerning Jesus. While Pasqually does not appear to concern himself with the concept of atonement in the sense of the cross as an act of sacrifice, he does argue that the Incarnation was necessary for our salvation, since it is only through Christ the Repairer that those ‘sealed’ in him can retrace their path of ascent. This is not however limited to the pneumatics or spiritual ‘types’ of gnosticism, since in Pasqually’s system all of humanity is to be restored to the collective soul of Adam.  The sealed are those adepts who must first purify themselves, master the evil intelligences beset them and set about sealing others in turn.

There is much more to be said regarding these topics, but Pasqually’s writings do not suggest anything other than acceptance of the dual nature of Christ as fully man and fully God, one indivisible person in two natures. If nothing else, perhaps Pasqually’s General Doctrine bridges the gap between gnosticism and exoteric catholic Christianity. I would aver however that it restores to Christianity a far more ancient and accurate concept of universal creation and a more plausible explanation of the world as it actually is. Pasqually’s messianic age makes more sense to us when we reflect in suffering.  

This article is the copyright (c) of M.R. Osborne, 2022