Toward the Undivided: Sacred Sex, the Hermaphrodite, and the Dual Nature of God
Oct 19, 2004
Author: Boyd Rice
The roots of sacred sex are ancient. Down through the centuries it has been practiced in many lands at many times, both openly and beneath the cloak of secrecy. Chroniclers who refer to the rites of sacred sex are often vague both as to the details involved and the rationale behind it all. Most seem in agreement that the motivation behind sacred sex is an attempt to somehow achieve union with the divine, or awaken within the participants a spark of the divine. Christians, however, were almost unanimous in their appraisal of sex practiced in conjunction with unorthodox beliefs: it was the Devil’s handiwork, plain and simple.
This notwithstanding, perhaps the most interesting and compelling rationale for the evolution of sacred sex comes from within the context of Christianity itself. Christian mystics, such as Jakob Boehme, Leo the Hebrew, Scrotus Eriugena and Franz von Baader postulated a thesis based on a unique interpretation of The Book of Genesis. According to the theory, since God created man in his own image, Adam must have originally been a hermaphrodite, a creature combining the attributes of both sexes. The original Fall occurred not when Adam and Eve exited Eden, but when God robbed Adam of his original unity by creating Eve from out of him so that he wouldn’t be alone. Therefore the sexual impulse comes from an instinctual yearning in man to try and recapture something of the essence of his primordial condition. According to Franz Von Baader, “The higher meaning of sexual love, which should not be identified with the instinct for reproduction, is nothing other than to help both man and woman to become integrated inwardly (in soul and in spirit) in the complete human or original divine image.” This notion, bizarre and eloquent at once, has recurred in varying guises, from ancient times to modern times. We see glimpses of it in ancient creeds such as the cabala and alchemy, as well as in more modern practices such as sex magic. And its wisdom was echoed in the words of Christ when he stated, “I am of the undivided”, or, “When you were one you became two. But when you are two, what will you do?”(1) What indeed! Though none of these Christian writers ever gave detailed descriptions of the techniques one might utilize to become re-integrated in “the original divine image”, there are some hints. At least one of them mapped out a series of energy centers within the human body which man could tap into to achieve this state. And although he stopped short of indicating the means one might employ to tap these sources, his map showed striking similarities to the locations of the chakras in the Hindu Yogic tradition. It is therefore safe to assume that these early Christian mystics had some fundamental understanding of the principles underlying the practice of Tantric sex.
The word “hermaphrodite” is a conjunction of Hermes and Aphrodite, a union of the masculine and feminine aspects of God. The symbolism of the Hermaphrodite and its central significance to alchemy is well-known. Its importance to occultists in the guise of Baphomet is likewise recognized. Those familiar with Plato will recall that in his Symposium, he contended that humans descended from a primordial race “whose essence is now extinct” - a race of hermaphrodites. The race was powerful, yet arrogant, and when they rebelled against the Gods, they were in turn cursed and split in two. According to Plato, “From such an ancient time love has goaded human beings, one toward another; it is inborn, and seeks to renew our ancient nature in an endeavor to unite in one single being two distinct beings, and therefore, to restore human nature to good health.” He added that, “... this was indeed our primitive nature when we constituted one unit which was still whole; it is really the burning longing for this unity which bears the name of love.” This is echoed in Genesis 2:24, which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother to be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh.” [Emphasis added.]
Whether Plato actually believed in a de facto race of hermaphrodites or merely referred to their myth metaphorically is not important. What he cites as being the mystical genesis of love echoes the secret doctrine of esotericists from time immemorial. It is the same Gnosis preserved by Hermes, said to represent the wisdom of a forgotten race of antediluvian Gods. And apparently, it may well have constituted part of the secret doctrine of Christ as well.
The Gospel of Thomass part of the Gnostic texts known as the Nag Hammadi Library, which were lost until the mid-twentieth century when they were discovered in Egypt. In The Gospel of Thomas, Christ teaches a doctrine very different in nature to that adopted by mainstream Christianity. Some Orthodox Christians deny the validity of this gospel, while others embrace it as a very beautiful text, as important (if not more so) as any found in the New Testament. Scholars argue back and forth over whether the Nag Hammadi books were essentially Christian texts aimed at a Gnostic audience, or essentially Gnostic texts aimed at a Christian audience. A third possibility exists, especially in regards to The Gospel of Thomas. What if what this book contains is in fact closer to what Christ actually taught? Could this gospel retain some fragments of Christ’s true doctrine as it existed before it was sanitized, edited and doctored to suit the political agendas of those doing the editing? It’s certainly an intriguing possibility.
The author of The Gospel of Thomas is said to be Christ’s own twin brother Thomas, and one would assume that if any of Christ’s disciples were to truly grasp his teachings, no one would be more likely a candidate than his own twin. There is much in The Gospel of Thomas that would have evoked the displeasure of the fathers of the early church, such as Christ’s admonition that he was “everywhere” and not to look for him “in a building.” Even had the rest of the gospel passed muster at the Council of Nicea, that line would surely have been deleted. A lot of the text is fairly straightforward, but certain passages are bizarre even by biblical standards, or perhaps, in the biblical context. For example:
“Jesus said to them, When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the female one and the same, so that the male be not male, nor the female female... then you will enter (the kingdom).”
This is very explicit, and not the least bit Christian. It speaks of an initiatory process of Gnosis, a process that requires no churches, no holy men, no prayers of forgiveness. It should have a familiar ring to students of the occult, for it is very similar to words contained in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes:
“True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of One Thing. And as all things were by the contemplation of one, so all things arose from this One Thing by a single act of adaptation. The father thereof is the Sun, the mother the Moon... the power thereof is perfect.”
Not only do Christ and Hermes seem to be coming from the same place, it’s amusing to note that Christ is far more explicit in his use of Hermetic symbolism than was even old Hermes himself, the putative father of the alchemical arts. Christ was clearly invoking the archetype of the primordial hermaphrodite, inferring that the state of unity it symbolized was a prerequisite for (or synonymous with) “entering the kingdom.” Elsewhere in The Gospel of Thomas, Christ tells his disciples, “When you make the two one, you will become the sons of man...” And still elsewhere he says, “I am he who exists from the undivided.” Although such esoteric teachings don’t appear elsewhere in the officially sanctioned scriptures, they are certainly in keeping with some aspects of the Judaic tradition from which Christ emerged, and seem to figure prominently in the traditions and symbolism of various groups said to have been custodians of the secret doctrine of Christ.
From the Zadok priests of ancient Israel to the Knights Templar, and from the Freemasons to the Rosicrucians, all employed symbols representing the union of opposites, and the balanced equilibrium of male and female force. A brief overview of the symbols used by these groups should reveal a striking consistency of fundamental outlook
The “X” Symbol of the Zadok Priests: The X worn on the forehead of the Zadok priests of the Temple of Solomon was symbolic of the union of the chalice and the blade. The chalice, as receptacle, was a female symbol. The blade, as phallus, was a male symbol. Even the Temple of Solomon itself was a cabalistic symbol, its pillars of Jachin and Boaz representing the equilibrium of creative force and destructive force.
The Seal of Solomon: The Seal of Solomon represented much the same thing as the Temple of Solomon: an equilibrium and intertwining of opposites, in this case light and darkness, or spirit and matter. Spirit is associated with the masculine principle, matter with the feminine.
The Templar Cross: The equilateral cross of the Knights Templar is also a representation of the intersection of masculine force with feminine force: the former represented by a vertical line, the latter a horizontal.
The Square and Compass: The well-known square and compass of Freemasonry is yet another symbol of the conjunction of masculine and feminine principles. The square is used to draw a square, a male symbol. The compass is used to draw a circle, a female symbol. The circle contained within a square thus represents, yet again, the same equilibrium of opposites. And some believe that this emblem of the Masons is patterned after, or indeed suggestive of, the Seal of Solomon. Alternate explanations of this symbol exist wherein the symbolism is precisely the opposite, yet the ultimate meaning is identical.
The Rose Cross: The rose cross, or “rosy cross” assumes many forms, but again, the symbolism inherent is identical. The cross is a male symbol, the rose female. This emblem, however, is far more specific in its iconography, the cross representing Christ, and the rose Mary Magdalene. Besides representing her, however, the five-pointed rose often employed is also associated with both Venus and Lucifer.
The Fleur-de-Lys: The fleur-de-Lys is the pre-eminent heraldic emblem of French royalty, and is said to represent a lily, symbolic of Davidic descent. While flowers in general symbolize the female reproductive organ, the lily is even more suggestive of a vulva than most. But unlike most flowers, the lily possesses a phallic rod which thrusts forth from its interior, making it uniquely hermaphroditic in its symbolism.
All of these symbols have additional layers of meaning, and many can be explained in alternate terms as well. For instance, it has been pointed out that the rose cross, or “rosa crux”, was a deliberate misrepresentation of what was originally called the “ros crux.” As it turns out, “ros” actually means “dew”, a term for the substance which the ancient alchemists supposedly used to transmute base matter into gold. Rosicrucians took advantage of the confusion between the two terms to consciously camouflage their true intentions in an ambiguous, seemingly unthreatening icon. Both interpretations, ultimately, are equally alchemical in nature. In fact, all the symbols discussed could be understood in an alchemical context. They all represent an integration and transcendence of opposites, and a conjunction of male and female principles.
Why would Christ tell his disciples to make the male like the female and the female like the male, so that the male wouldn’t be male, nor the female female? And how were his disciples to accomplish this feat, this blending and union of male and female? The answer: sacred sex. In what more direct manner could man or woman experience the essence of their counterpart and achieve (if only briefly) union with it? Modern readers are undoubtedly familiar with this concept as it applies to Tantra and Western sex magic, but believe it or not, it constituted part of many traditions that pre-dated Christ. Many examples could be cited, but the tradition closest to Christ and with which he would have been most familiar was orthodox Judaism itself. The Zohar says, “The Holy One... does not choose to dwell where the male and female are not united.” And elsewhere, even more specifically, it states:
“The King (God) seeks only that which corresponds to Him. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed he be, dwells in him who (like Him) is one. When man, in perfect holiness, realizes the One, He is in that one. And when is that man called one? When man and woman are joined together sexually...” (Zohar 111, 81a.)
The Jewish mystics of Sabbatism practiced a “messianic mystery of awakening” which for them was akin to the Great Work of alchemy. For them, woman was “a door of God, through which one enters into God.” The coming of the Messiah, they believed, happened on a purely personal rather than collective level, and could be occasioned via sexual union. Salvation was not some external condition granted by a savior, but occurred only through a direct experience of God based on personal Gnosis. Sabbatists believed that direct knowledge of God exempted them from strict adherence to Mosaic law. It was precisely such an attitude on the part of Christ which led to his eventual downfall. Personal Gnosis could be gained only through sex, the union with man’s “other half”, woman. Sabbatist Jakob Frank said that “all the Hebrews are in great ill luck because they are waiting for the coming of the Savior and not the Woman.”
The words of Christ from The Gospel of Thomas are completely resonant with those of Jakob Frank, Hermes, Plato, and that which is found in The Zohar. In fact, all these seem to constitute a single doctrine, existing on a continuum. In the West we find their echoes in alchemy; in the East, Tantra. And wherever such ideas are to be found, we find also the figure of the Hermaphrodite, often as God. The androgyne of alchemy is well-known, as is the cabalistic figure of Adam Kadmon. In India, we find the Tantric God Hari-Hara: half Vishnu and half Siva. Hari is a Hindu name for the Sun; Hara is a feminine version of Hari. This figure, in one guise or another, recurs in many cultures. But where did the archetype originate? Seemingly, it came from what is generally believed to be the dawn of monotheism.
In 1353 B.C., Amenhotep IV became Pharaoh of Egypt. Soon after ascending to the throne, he ended a 1,700 year tradition of worshipping many gods, and instituted a new era in which one universal God would replace them: the sun god Aten. He changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning “Servant of Aten”, and proclaimed himself as a living manifestation of God on Earth, the son of the Sun. He closed the temples at Egypt’s religious center of Thebes, and shifted the nation’s spiritual focus to the Temple of the Sun at Karnak. He and his Queen Nefertiti presided over outdoor sun worship at sunrise, noon, and sunset. By doing away with hundreds of gods (and the priests who presided over them), he cleared the way for a more direct experience of the one universal God whom he proclaimed. And in so doing, he also set the stage for the acceptance of his own role as the representative of that God, a living divinity on Earth.
The principle of Aten went beyond mere sun worship, such as the later manifestations of Sol Invictus and Mithras. For the Egyptians, and Akhenaten, Aten was the all-encompassing principle of creation itself, and was both masculine and feminine. As a result, this concept is reflected in statues of Akhenaten, where he is depicted as a Hermaphrodite, sporting a beard, but with breasts and wide hips. This is interesting on two counts. First, and most obviously, this would appear to be the earliest known example in which a Hermaphrodite is used to symbolize God as a union of masculine and feminine symbols. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it begs the question: How is it that such an esoteric concept and symbol could survive Akhenaten’s short reign to re-emerge repeatedly in diverse cultures across the globe? After all, Akhenaten only ruled for a mere seventeen years, some 3,350 years ago. After his reign, the Egyptians were anxious to return to the worship of their old gods, and were eager to forget about both he and Aten.
Some scholars claim that Akhenaten’s doctrine was preserved by Moses, who may have been one of his high priests. Indeed, there is circumstantial evidence in the Bible to lend credence to such a claim. Exodus states that Moses was Egyptian, and Acts states that he was “learned in the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Even Sigmund Freud suggests in his book Moses and Monotheism(2) that Moses may have been an Egyptian with high status in Akhenaten’s court. Others (Laurence Gardner among them) go further still, and insist that Moses and Akhenaten were in fact the same person. Though such a supposition may initially seem outlandish, Gardner (and others) give a surprising amount of seemingly credible evidence in support of the view (too much, in fact, to recount here). If true, this could go a long way towards explaining how groups of Christian and Jewish mystics could later adopt doctrines so bizarre as to bear seemingly no relation to orthodox Christianity and Judaism (i.e. God as hermaphrodite, sacramental sex, etc.) It could further explain the migration of identical concepts to all parts of the civilized world. And although Akhenaten is said by Egyptologists to have died in 1334 B.C., it’s interesting to note that his body has never been recovered.
In addition to the more modern notion connecting Moses to Akhenaten, there is a theory that dates back to the Middle Ages equating both men with the legendary Hermes. And there is even an inscription in the tile work of an ancient Italian cathedral that reads: “Hermes Mercury Trismegistus, contemporary Moses.” If Moses was synonymous with Akhenaten, and Akhenaten was synonymous with Hermes, this could definitely explain the similarities between the Emerald Tablet and what Christ said in The Gospel of Thomas. It has been shown that much of Moses’ exoteric doctrine (the Ten Commandments, etc.) is a recapitulation of material found in The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Could it not be possible that he also passed down the esoteric doctrine of the Egyptian mysteries - the secret knowledge of the pharaohs?
According to legend, Akhenaten was the second incarnation of Hermes, and was in possession of the Emerald Tablet containing the secret gnosis of the ages, which was passed down to him by Thoth (the original Hermes). The legend further states that Moses’ sister Miriam smuggled the Tablet out of Egypt during the Exodus. While it is impossible to determine definitely whether or not Moses and Akhenaten were one and the same, what’s most important to the scenario is that Moses would seem to have had intimate knowledge (and perhaps possession) of the Emerald Tablet. This would go a long way towards explaining the overwhelming similarities between the esoteric doctrine of Hermes and that of Christ. This doctrine, as you’ll recall, was said to have represented the secret teaching of a forgotten race of Gods, and was preserved by Hermes after the flood. This is interesting, because the ancient Egyptians thought that they were the descendants of Osiris, a god who came to Earth from the heavens to teach his secrets to mankind. A similar myth existed in Sumeria, a civilization which predated Egypt and was said to have exerted a profound influence on its culture. Ever increasingly, certain scholars are beginning to suggest that this oft-repeated tale is something more than a mere myth, that someone had to have given such cultures as these some kind of secret knowledge which allowed them to accomplish feats that cannot be replicated today, even with the aid of modern science and technology. The arguments in favor of such a premise are both numerous and well-known, and hardly bear reiterating here.
Whatever forgotten race taught the ancients the secrets of high civilization also taught them a fundamental understanding of life and of God. Glimpses of this understanding can be seen in the primary principles behind alchemy, the cabala, Eastern Tantra, and Western sex magic. It represents an ongoing thread that weaves its way through esoteric traditions in both the East and the West. We see it encoded in the dominant religious symbolism of cultures across the globe, virtually hidden in plain sight. Throughout the centuries, it has been a Royal Secret known only to the elite of any given epoch. From the rulers of ancient Egypt to the rulers of ancient Europe, and from the architects of the Renaissance to the founding fathers of the United States, this Gnosis has constituted the central axis around which their world view was ordered. It has remained a jealously guarded secret, its custodians recognizing that its wisdom was intended only for an elect few capable of inwardly grasping its full purport. For all lesser men, incapable of either fully understanding or judiciously applying the doctrine, it was destined to be at best confusing, at worst ruinous. As far as is known, this Royal Secret was only ever proclaimed publicly for a short period of time during the reign of Akhenaten (some seventeen years beginning in 1353 B.C.) It proved disastrous, and perhaps taught subsequent bearers of the secret that esoteric doctrine as exoteric public policy (or state religion) was simply untenable. Consequently, the doctrine was veiled in the esoteric language of symbol, folklore, and the mythical archetype of the primordial Hermaphrodite. In these various guises, the Royal Secret has weathered the centuries, surviving all manner of suppression, persecution, and inquisition. As library after library of ancient wisdom was consigned to the flames by various orthodoxies, the sacred Gnosis was never vanquished. And for those with the ability to peer beyond the veil of myth and symbol, it remains their unique inheritance.
Inheritance, in fact, may be the operative word in describing the transmission of this sacred wisdom, because a central theme that recurs in the sagas relating to the Royal Secret is that its guardians have been descendants of the forgotten race, and presumably genetically predisposed to comprehending it, as though its legacy lives on in their ancestral memory. It is ancestral memory that guides man in his choices, his actions, his likes and dislikes. It causes him to feel a deep resonance towards certain things, ideas and symbols, even if the reason is unknown to him, or not readily apparent. Though modern man has lost virtually all conception of ancestral memory, the ancients no doubt understood the fundamental power it exerted over the psyche of man. This could well be another reason why they distilled their esoteric teachings into archetypal symbols, for they would not only serve to preserve the doctrine, but would also serve to trigger the ancestral memories slumbering in the blood of future descendants of the forgotten race.
Further Examples of the “Two as One” in Myth and Legend
Ialdaboath: The Goddess Sophia (emblematic of wisdom) gave birth to Ialdaboath, a being with the head of a lion and the body of a serpent. In ancient Egypt the same word that signified “lion” also signified the Sun. And as the lion’s mane echoed the Sun’s blazing rays, he was king of the beasts and the Sun was the King of the Heavens and the Earth. The serpent was terrestrial rather than celestial, and identified with darkness and shadow. Consequently, Ialdaboath was a union of both, and was said to exist “part in fire, part in darkness.” Some Gnostics equated Ialdaboath with the Demiurge.
Abraxas: Abraxas was a Hermetic Gnostic deity, depicted with a rooster’s head, a human torso, and serpents for legs. The rooster obviously crows at dawn, and represents dawn, the Sun, light. The serpents represent the inverse of this. Abraxas was the one who divided into masculine and feminine aspects, giving birth to aeons, alternately good and evil. Each aeon in turn gave birth to further good or evil aeons, until such time as there were 365 of them, constituting the wholeness of the plenoma.
The Naassenes: The Naassenes were a Gnostic sect who believed that the original Adam was a Hermaphrodite. The word “Naassene” is rooted in “naas”, Hebrew for “serpent”, and the group revered the serpent of Genesis for advising Adam and Eve to take the fruit from the Tree of Life.
The Little Interrogations of Mary: In The Little Interrogations of Mary, a Gnostic text referred to by Epiphanius, Christ takes Mary to a mountaintop, produces a woman out of his side, and proceeds to have sex with her! This is said to be symbolic of Christ’s role as a “second Adam.”
Eros: When the black night was impregnated by the wind, it produced a silver egg: the Moon. From this egg was born Eros, a god with four heads and both sexes.
Arsenothelys: This was a word by coined Simon Magus to denote the Primordial Man. It is a conjunction of the Greek words for male and female.
Syzygy: This was a word for an alchemical pair made from a union of opposites.
The Ark of the Covenant: According to certain scholars, the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant represented the two anointed messiahs that stood on either side, or the throne of God (which the Ark was supposed to symbolize). On the right-hand side stood the archangel known as Michael, on the left, Lucifer. Supporters of this theory maintain that Michael represents the masculine aspect of God, Lucifer represents the feminine aspect, and together the two symbolize the dual nature of deity. The feminine nature of Lucifer, they claim, is the reason why “he” is identified as Venus, the Morning Star, and has been synonymous with characteristics traditionally deemed female, such as instinct, beauty, pride, and of course, temptation.
(1) Editor’s note: These quotes come from The Gospels of Thomas.
(2) Editor’s note: This is, in fact, where the theory in question originated.