Gnosticism & the Worship of Angels

Gnostic aeons are sometimes mistaken for angels.
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There are many parallels between Gnosticism and Christianity, including a belief in angels. One key difference between these two religious belief systems is that Gnostics recognize a divine hierarchy above the angels. This hierarchy, known as the Pleroma, is populated by beings called aeons. Angels are messengers between humankind and the aeons of the Pleroma, and ultimately between humankind and the true God. As messengers, angels are not directly worshipped, but they are called upon to take prayers to the true God on behalf of humankind -- a practice similar to Catholics praying for the intercession of saints.

1 Sophia and the Demiurge

In the Gnostic creation myth, the aeon Sophia, whose name means "wisdom," went on a journey in search of the Light or the true God. Her journey caused her great affliction and she fell from her place in the Pleroma. Through her suffering, she brought the Demiurge into being. The Demiurge is flawed and has no knowledge of his origin. He also does not know of the existence of the true God. In his ignorance, he came to believe himself the only god and brought the material world into being.

2 Aeon Worship: Sophia

When Sophia called out to the Light to save her from her affliction, she was restored to the Pleroma -- but she did not separate herself from the material world. She continues to show a responsibility to humankind because the suffering inherent in the material world was brought about by her emanation, the Demiurge. In return, Gnostics keep her in their prayers. While there are similarities between Gnostic prayers to Sophia and Catholic prayers to the Virgin Mary, Gnostics see these two female beings as distinct from one another. Sophia is a divine presence who never had physical form, while Mary was a physical being.

3 Gnostic Angels

Gnostics recognize nine choirs of angels, including seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, virtues, principalities, archangels and angels. Most important are the archangels of the original Jewish Bible and those mentioned in the Book of Enoch, a text not included in the Bible. The archangel Michael is of particular importance to Gnostics, recognized as a defender of the gnosis, or divine knowledge. Gnostics believe angels are needed to guide humankind through the spiritual journey necessary for salvation, and the archangel Michael can offer protection from the spiritual evils encountered along the way.

4 The Intercession of Angels

An example of the intercession of angels recognized by Gnostics can be seen in the Gnostic version of Noah’s Ark, which is described more thoroughly in the Book of Enoch than in the Bible. Gnostics believe the Demiurge brought about the flood because humankind was progressing toward gnosis, or knowledge. Noah’s wife, Norea, was a daughter of Eve and wiser than her husband. She burned the ark to stop Noah from scheming with the Demiurge. When dark angels were sent to punish her, she pleaded for help from the true God, who sent a golden angel, Eleleth, meaning "sagacity," to rescue her.

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.