Monday, August 20, 2012

The "Gospel of Judas" and "Yezidism" ("Yazidism")

The Gospel of Judas

What is now known as the "Gospel of Judas" is basically one of several texts, written in Coptic between AD 140-160, which is recorded on a document that has been called "Codex Tchacos," and which represents a series of alleged exchanges between "Jesus" and "Judas Iscariot."

Bart Ehrman comments that "[T]he ...gospel...portrays Judas quite differently from anything we previously knew. Here he is not the evil, corrupt, devil-inspired follower of Jesus who betrayed his master by handing him over to his enemies. He is instead Jesus' closest intimate and friend, the one who understood Jesus better than anyone else, who turned Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus wanted him to do so. In handing him over, Judas performed the greatest service imaginable. According to this gospel, Jesus wanted to escape this material world that stands opposed to God and return to his heavenly home." ("Christianity Turned on Its Head: The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas," in Rodophe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, eds., The Gospel of Judas (Washington DC: National Geographic, 2006), pp. 79-80.)

For example, in the text Jesus is represented as telling Judas: "[Y]ou will exceed all of them [presumably, the other folks we know as the Apostles]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." (Loc. Cit., p. 43.)

So in Christian Tradition and Scripture, Judas is the betrayer of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. In Gnostic Tradition and Scripture, however, he is the Enlightened enabler of the Gnostic Christ's secret mission. 

Eblis/Iblis/Tawsi Melek

There is an interesting tale told apparently circulated in Persian, Arabic, and Islamic religious tradition. Apparently: 

"Eblis (Iblis, Haris - "despair") - in Persian and Arabic lore, Eblis is the equivalent of the Christian Satan. ... 'Before his fall he [Eblis] was called Azazel. When Adam was created, God commanded all the angels to worship him [Adam], but Eblis refused.' ... Thereupon God turned Eblis into a shetan (devil) and he became the father of devils. ..." ("Eblis," Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels including the Fallen Angels (New York: Free Press, 1971), p. 101.)

We need to keep careful track of the names, here. "Shetan" is given as a variant of "Shaitan" (also spelled "Shaytan") in: Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Coulter, Dictionary of Ancient Dieties (New York: Oxford UP, 2000), "Shaitan," p. 422.

Aleister Crowley's disciple Kenneth Grant writes that "...that most ancient god whose image was worshipped in the deserts" was named "Shaitan, and, long ages earlier, ...Set, the soul or double of Horus." (The Magical Revival, Grant further identifies Shaitan with Satan (among other figures): "Shaitan, Satan, or Set, is Hoor-paar-Kraat, the concealed aspect of Horus, whose manifest side is Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Shaitan is the god of the South..." (Ibid.)

Further interesting connections with Eblis/Satan/Shaitan/Set are as follows: "Iblis Eblis (Islamic) The Prince of Darkness. Chief of the Jinn. Originally he was the angel Azazel. ..." (Turner and Coulter, op. cit., p. 231.) Additionally, "Set" or "Seth" is a name with a number of relevant occurrences. First of all, it designates the Egyptian deity that the Greeks called Typhon. Below, Set (with the head of the unknown and so-called "Set-animal") is pictured with the Waas Scepter (staff of chaos or death, or Phoenix Wand) in his right hand, and the "key of life" (ankh, or crux ansata).

Second, "Seth [Hebrew: Shet]" also refers to the third son of Adam and Eve. "After Cain killed his brother Abel and was banished, Eve bore another son to her husband, Adam. She called him Seth, saying, 'God has appointed me for another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him' (Gen. 4:25). ... The image of God that was conferred upon the human race in Genesis 1:26-27 was transmitted through the line of Seth..." (Who's Who in The Bible: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary (Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest, 1994) "Seth," p. 393.)

Third, "Seth" is "one of the 7 archons in the gnostic system" (Davidson, op. cit., p. 268.) "Archon" is "a Greek term meaning 'ruler'... [and] is the name of a class of entities who played an important role in Gnostic thought and who are roughly comparable to evil archangels" (James R. Lewis and Evelyn Dorothy Oliver, Angels A to Z (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996), "Archon," p. 51).

Fourth, "Sethian" is a name given to one of the groups of Second century Gnostics. It was the Gnostics who held that "...Seth was the founder of a special 'generation,' the chosen ones, the sparks of light" (N.T. Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), p. 34.). Ehrman remarks that "...not everyone has a spark of the divine within them: Only some of us do. The other people are the creations of the inferior god of this world." (Op. cit., p. 86.)

Incidentally, Ehrman mentions that another group of Gnostics (which may or may not have been the same as the "Sethians") were referred to by Irenaeus as the "Cainites" (Ibid., p. 90). In general, Gnostics held that the Creator-god (or demiurge) was a fool ("saklas") they identified this entity with the "god of the Old Testament" such that "...all the figures in Jewish and Christian history who stood against God - Cain, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, and eventually Judas Iscariot - were the ones who had seen the truth and understood the secrets necessary for salvation. ... Anything that God commanded, they opposed, and anything that God opposed, they supported" (Ibid., p. 90.).

This viewpoint practically expresses verbatim the (Rabelaisian) Thelemic mystical worldview of Aleister Crowley.  

Alright, now Grant further states that "[T]he oldest of all deities - Set or Shaitan - was adored in the deserts by the Yezidi." And he elsewhere informs his readers that "the Yezidi" are "the 'devil' worshippers of Lower Mesopotamia." (Op. cit.

The Yezidi (Yazidi), in turn, refer to "Shaitan" as "Tawsi Melek" - usually avoiding the name "Shaitan" so as to discourage his association with Satan. Here is what the Yezidi say about Tawsi Melek:

"The Yezidis believe that Tawsi Melek is every place in the universe at every moment. ... To those who call upon him with great devotion, Tawsi Melek may manifest in a variety forms, including a bright light, a rainbow, a boy, a young man, a snake, and, of course, a peacock. ... The Peacock Angel has been falsely accused of being Satan or the Devil for hundreds of years by censuring Moslems. ... Tawsi Melek is recognized by the Yesidis to be king of the entire universe, including Earth, but over the centuries both Moslems and Christians have ascribed Luciferian connotations to the 'King of the World.' Moreover, the Yezidis belief that Tawsi Melek was the co-creator of the universe with the Supreme God could have inspired a dualistic Islamic philosopher to misconstrue him as an eternally separate and opposite spirit from God. Since God is eternally good, according to Islamic philosophy, this would automatically make Tawsi Melek the Evil One. ... The alternate name for Tawsi Melek they refer to is not Azazel, but Aziz, a name meaning 'something precious.' ... The Yezidis honor the goat because, like the Hindus’ cow, it sacrifices itself and supplies many of their needs. It gives them milk, wool, etc." (

Of course, there is much of interest in the above collection. The attribution to Tawsi Melek of (something like) the classical theistic incommuincable divine attribute of omnipresence, hearkens to the description given in Isaiah: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (14:12-14, KJV).

The mention of manifestation as "a bright light" is suggestive both of Lucifer ("light-bearer," Phosphorus) as well as the "Dog-Star," Sirius of Canis Major, as mentioned by Kenneth Grant in connection with Set/Shaitan/Satan.

The rainbow could be thought suggestive, in a contemporary context, to the gay rights movement (another possible connection comes via Ehrman's lumping together of Cain and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah).

The "snake" is of course reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (linked by Crowley and Grant to Kundalini), cf. Revelation 12:9: "The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (NIV).

The author of the quoted passage explicitly draws the link between Tawsi Melek and the Biblical "god of the age"/"god of this world" as per 2 Corinthians 4:4: "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe" (NLT; among other passages, e.g., Matthew 4:9 and 9:34; Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; et. al.). As "co-creator," he's linked to something like the concept of the Platonic Demiurgos - which introduces a complication in the sense that the Gnostics held that the demiurge was basically a fool. However, this is not, I think, an insuperable difficulty to the present suggestions. Moreover, even the revised "Aziz" (from the overtly evil "Azazel" or "Azaziel") is still somewhat evocative of, and similarly to, "Azza," an alternative name for "Shemyaza"/"Semyaza"/Semjaza/Semiaza (etc.), "a fallen angel who is suspended between Heaven and earth (along with Azzael) as punishment for having had carnal knowledge of mortal women" (Davidson, op. cit., p. 65.).

"He was the leader of the evil angels who fell, or one of their leaders. ... It is said he now hangs, head down, and is the constellation Orion. ... Levi, Transcendental Magic, suggests that Orion 'would be identical with the angel Michael doing battle with the dragon, and the appearance of this sign in the sky would be, for the cabalist, a portent of victory and happiness'," (Ibid., p. 265.)

Jim Brandon relates the strange story, apparently told by some alleged "UFO-abductees" that there is a war of sorts going on between "friendly" aliens from Sirius and "wicked" aliens from Orion (cf. Rebirth of Pan, pp. 232-3, et. al.). Finally, the goat symbolism is patent.

Crowley connects Capricorn, the deity Pan, Baphomet, and Satan (cf. The Book of Thoth [Stamford, CT: US Games Sys. Inc., 1996, 1944], p. 105.) - all of which are represented in the Tarot's "major arcana" ("trumps"). Concerning ATU XV. The Devil, he writes: "This card ...refers to Capricornus [the goat - MJB]...[which] sign is ruled by Saturn...Baphomet, the ass-headed idol of the Knights of the Temple...Pan...Pan Pangenetor..." (Ibid.).

Finally, it is noteworthy that "Melek" ("King") is closely linked to Moloch (alt.: Molech, Molek). "A deity bearing the title Melek, but corrupted to Molek, was worshipped in the next period." (Source: W. Carleton Wood, "The Religion of Canaan: From the Earliest Times to the Hebrew Conquest," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 35, No. 1/2 [1916], p. 90, <>.)

"The Gospel of Shaitan"

Recall Davidson's description of the tradition surrounding Iblis/Shaitan. He read in the Koran: "...And when we said to the angels, 'Adore Adam,' they adored him, save only Iblis, who was of the jinn, who revolted from the bidding of his Lord." (Sura 18.48)

The Yezidi say that this is merely a false "allegation" against Tawsi Melek - "part of the Moslems’ attempt to convince the world of his Satanic nature" ( Yezidi maintain that it simply is not true that: "The Peacock Angel was in the Garden of Eden and because of his pride he refused God’s order to bow to Adam" or that: "This show of pride caused the fall of Lucifer and established an eternal enmity between God and the Peacock Angel" (Ibid.)

The truth, Yezidi claim, is that: "In the Yezidi tradition it is indeed stated that the Peacock Angel was present in the Garden of Eden. He failed to bow down to Adam because he was obeying God. The Yezidis claim that previous to the creation of Adam the Supreme God had informed all Seven Great Angels never bow down to any other entity other than Him" (Ibid., emphasis added).

"[T]he Yazidi story regarding Tawûsê Melek's rise to favor with God is almost identical to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam, except that Yazidis revere Tawûsê Melek for refusing to submit to Adam, while Muslims believe that Iblis' refusal to submit caused him to fall out of Grace with God, and to later become Satan himself." (

"Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied, "How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust." Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. (This likely furthers what some see as a connection to the Islamic Shaytan, as according to the Quran he too refused to bow to Adam at God's command, though in this case it is seen as being a sign of Shaytan's sinful pride.) Hence the Yazidis believe that Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth, and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April). Yazidis hold that God created Tawûsê Melek on this day, and celebrate it as New Year's Day. Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called "Knowledge of the Sublime" (Zanista Ciwaniyê). Şêx Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him" (

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