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Re: [Gnosticism2] The Masiqta

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    Thank you for both of your Mandean posts, Terje. i have enjoyed them very much. Peace, T Terje Dahl Bergersen wrote:Since we are on the
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 9, 2003

      Thank you for both of your Mandean posts, Terje. i have enjoyed them very much.


       Terje Dahl Bergersen <terje@...> wrote:

      Since we are on the topicality of Mandaean vz. Sethian and Gnostic
      sacramentology, I thought I�d post an essay I wrote for the
      EgliseGnostique forum in November:

      I found some notes I had made on the Mandaean practices, especially
      as they relates to the consecration of a Priest (Tarmida), the test
      of the Priest`s
      probation is the perfect ritual and liturgical execution of the
      Masiqta (Blessed Oblation):

      The successfull celebration of Masqita by the newly-crowned S�alia (Swalia)
      terminates his period of probation. To perform this extremely
      complicated ceremony correctly is not easy, but until it is achieved,
      the new king is not admitted into his Kingdom of priesthood. During
      his first celebration of this rite, the co-celebrants prompts him and
      sometimes dictates to the young priest, so as to insure that he will
      perform no error, or speak no untruth.

      Reading this, I was reminded of Melchizedek as being the archetype
      for Priesthood, Melchizedek is King of Salem, and our different
      christian and gnostic traditions stress quite strongly that a Servant
      of the Christ is autonomous and independent of the commands and
      wishes of Servants of the Prince of this World, and the Authorities.
      A Gnostic Priest enters a new jurisdiction, not only in terms of his
      role and his service, but also for the fact that he removes his
      person from these - In the "five" forms of Mystery as described by
      the Gospel according to Philip, which belongs to the Valentinian
      school of the Gnosis, we can find that Baptism, the initial mystery,
      has a direct connection to the  Apolytrosis (also called Redemption
      and Resurrection), whereas Chrismation (which is associated with the
      crowning of kings, in the anointing with fine oils of the new king by
      the high priest) has its correspondence in the Bridal chamber. At the
      center, and interconnecting these two "pairings" Baptism-Redemption,
      and Chrism-Bridal Chamber, is the Eucharist. The Gospel of Philip has
      it that "before Jesus came into the world, Man had no bread to eat";
      the bread refered to here, has to do with the mysteries which is
      involved in the manifestation, the Incarnation, of the Christ as an
      actual presence; Communion has always communicated a radical intimacy
      with Christ as both interior and exterior, both "to come", or to be
      revealed - and already present. In this sense, the celebration of
      this particular Sacrament is theology and is preaching the gospel. I
      think it is here we find a corrolary to Dhikr and Zazen, when we make
      our comparisons between the Sacramental practices of the contemporary
      Gnostic Church tradition and these others; there is no argumentation,
      there is no direct interference with the "bones" structure of these
      intimations from ancient times. Before the institution of the High
      Mass, there were other forms, and before Jesus introduced the
      breaking of bread in the particular sense he did, according to the
      Gospels, the practice were traditional - like with Jesus, Abraham and
      Melchizedek�s ritual meal is another "archetypal event" from which
      inspiration to continue the practice flows, but there are many, far
      beyond it.

      Back to the event of the first celebration of the Masiqta by the Swalia.
         Entering into such service as assistant priest (Swalia), the young
      man is directed towards a direct induction in the mechanisms of the
      spheres, the fortunes of men and women (through the legends) and the
      afterlife journeys of the spiritual man; and that of service. And
      central to the termination of his probationary period is the
      sacrament of the Masiqta. Like I argued earlier, the celebration and
      con-celebration of the Eucharist by Christians, is a ritual act and a
      mystery which increases in potency according to the constitution and
      level of acquiantance (gnosis) in the recipients, be they laity or
      priests, or bishops or patriarchs or popes; according to which type
      of "ground","Soil", fertile or not - these seeds are planted, there
      grows a corresponding plant.
      A Hyletic consciousness may only draw near, out of fear, out of
      concern, out of worry, and out of a peculiar kind of love (so it is
      not to be criticized easily)
      - concerning mainly the physical dimension and appearance of things,
      anchored to the body and whatever becomes of it, in pleasure and in
      discomfort, in life and death: drawing near to it, whatever gifts are
      received from communion seeks the highest potentional of the person.
      I believe the Valentinians thought that through performing the
      "ordinary" mass of the Catholic Church, and giving the invisible
      mysteries in the vestments of the visible (which would be the method,
      however we look at it, but for the dimension of Comprehension, which
      is very important) - each particular,both in terms of type
      (Pneumatic,Psychic or Hyletic) and in terms of what such a type is
      made up of (Spirit,Soul,Body; Intellect-Sense-Form) would gain one
      particular subset of mystery. They spake of Greater and Lesser
      Mysteries. And this particular concern we can also see with the
      Mandaeans. The Priest becomes the "Gada", Luck, of his people
      (Incientally theres a "Gad", Luck, association among the Rom (Romani,
      or in the very vernacular Gypsies) with their King, there are many
      Kings and the qualifications for kingdom appears a little obscure to
      me, but it has to do with both election and function vz. Luck)   - he
      charged with blessing buildings,livestock and relatives, regardless
      of affiliation to the people - he writes phylantries, gives advice of
      a medical or ethical nature,he oversees ritual slaughter of
      livestock, produces copies of the sacred writings, and performs the
      New Years ritual in which all the utensils of the village is purified
      and "baptized" in the Holy river and so forth.. his most important
      task, however - relates to the trans-religious; which is to say, to
      what benefits all levels and types.

      It is believed that the esoteric meaning of the ritual acts should
      never be imparted to anyone except the chosen; therefore no texts are
      read, all instructions and explanations are given orally, and never
      This is overseen by the Rba, who is the personal teacher for the
      candidate, in fact, it is he who has chosen his Swalia, and not vice
      The Qualasta is placed, as a token, in the Initiation Hut (which is
      built in the same fashion as a ritual "dwelling", manda, which is
      otherwise built out of reeds to serve as a semi-open "baldakin" for
      the Marriage ceremony), but only opened at the reading of proscribed
      hymns and prayers.

      I just feel like adding that I recently discovered that it is
      speculated by scholars that the reason the Bogomils only used one of
      the gospels, The Gospel of John, might be that they were always on
      the move, and religious writings were among the first things that
      would give a wandering preacher away to his persecutors... which is
      to say, they rehearsed and memorized the text of the Gospel and it;
      the remembered the text, became the central treasure of their secret
      initiatory practices. The Lord�s Prayer is treated this way by the
      Cathars (or rather, the Albigensian branch in Southern France), so it
      is worth noting for us contemporary Gnostics.

      The word Masiqta in the Eastern Aramaic dialect Mandaic, means
      "Raising Up" and refers to a special service, a meal for the dead,
      which is also known to be practised among the Zoroastrians. In the
      Nestorian tradition of Orthodox Christianity, the pre-consecrated
      hosts put in a special gallery behind the altar, signify the presence
      of the dead in the minds and hearts of the community; and the hosts
      are shown special reverence and care because of their symbolic link
      to the deceased.
      The Masiqta, among the Mandaeans, are celebrated for the dead, and
      the meal is received in proxy by specially prepared witnesses who
      take the place of those who have "departed from the body". The terms
      used for the constituent participants in the ritual refers directly
      to the function of the ceremony;
      the living is called "standing in the body", and the dead is called
      "those who have departed from the body", yet these are also
      considered present and "standing".
      Mandaean religion considers the moment of death, much like that of
      the Tibetan Buddhist and Bon Pa religionists, to be crucial.
      The Mandaeans believe that at physical death, or "departure from the
      body", there are no actual cessation of existence, and  no lapse of
      Graves play a very small role for the Mandaeans, because it has no
      direct connection to the memory of the deceased, and because of the
      strong belief in the departure of the immortal part, it has no
      religious purpouse. The dead are baptized (and annointed), however,
      but not in public, considering the body as such to be unclean and
      contact is fervently avoided by the laity and Priests with a
      baptismal,consecrating and ministral function, thinking that the
      impurities, especially associated with unredeemed souls, could
      interfer with the  sacred service of the priests. Priests who
      perform, out of necessity, these ceremonies, consequently, are also
      put on probation, and re-enters the domain some weeks after their
      service to the deceased, by performing the Masiqta perfectly. In this
      sense, the period measured for the successfull release of a soul from
      the Spheres of the Zodiac, out of the planetary guardhouses and the
      realms of the soul-eaters, also is measured out for the Priest
      performing the due rites of the dead.

      Mana or Nisimta (Neshamah)1, is the eternal and indestructible part
      of the human personality,has pre-existence, is incarnated into the
      person, and continues to exist after the body has died. Owing to
      pollution incurred by life on the physical plane it is unable to
      leave the material world however, until it is furnished by
      sacramental rites with a spiritual and celestial body
      A long and difficult journey lays ahead of it, it is believed.
      It must be purified, protected and provided with sustenance and guidance.
      To procure a spiritual vehicle for the disembodied soul the two great
      generating principles which to form the Heavenly Man is solemly

      Their union, Hierosgamos, is, according to priestly commentaries
      (mainly the Diwan Abathur and the Books of Greater and Lesser
      Mysteries), is enacted
      when water is poured into the wine-bowl 2.
      Just as is said of the wine in the chalice in the Christian Mass, it
      is called "blood", conception being thought to result from unions of
      male sperm with the blood of the womb.
      The wine and water is drunk by the celebrant who becomes mystically
      united with the departed soul, as a result. He is "clothed" ("putting
      on"), identified and united with - the soul of the departed.
      We can find an idiomatic simile to this in the New Testament - where
      the Christian is told to "put on", i.e., clothe himself, in Christ.
      All souls are considered "parts of the Great Body, which is greater
      than those who "puts it on"; a similar motif we find both in the
      Gospel of Thomas and in the Syriac Hymn of the Robe of Glory (also
      called the Hymn of the Pearl).
      The bodiless spirit resides in the Great Womb of Hayy�, suggesting a
      feminine symbology, although great emphasis is put on the genderless
      and non-anthropomorphic nature of the Great Life.

      Like with the early gnostics, we find here a variant of mirroring the
      Hierosgamos, involving the "pairing" of gender qualities - for
      instance, among the followers of Marcus, we hear reported that he
      called the consecrating power invoked above the Cup of Wine - Charis
      in the feminine, and even instructed that she should "bleed" her
      blessing into it, Ireneaus is very meticulous in his description of
      details, considering it an "infernal epiklesis"; we should take it as
      granted he considered this Gnostic version of the eucharist to be the
      counterpart of the infernal black masses of the renaissance...
      Pitha is masculine, and associated with the bread  - Mambuha is
      feminine and associated with the wine-bowl.


      1. Misimta is  an antagonist to the dual prinsciple of the "dross" -
      like some schools of the first centuries Gnosticism, they consider
      the body to be animated by an inferior "bios" or biological life
      force, which is associated with the ingestion of food, and the
      transformation of that food into energy; it is believed that this
      process produce refuse which interfers with, and pollutes the body
      for a period after digesting it. The refuse is so closely associated
      with the energy that feeds on the "raw material" that qualities which
      belongs to the refuse is also said to belong to the body.

      2. It should be noted that the "wine",Mambuha, is non-alchoholic, but
      in prinsciple the same as consecrated wine in other religious
      ceremonies; a similar substance is also blessed, put in a bowl, mixed
      with water and drunk communally, by the Nusairies, incidentally, in
      memory of the great Prophet, John the Baptizer, in
      Lebanon,Jordan,Syria,Iraq and Southern Turkey)


      I hope this has been of some interest to some of you,
      I think that if it is at all possible,for contemporary Gnostics, to
      witness and oversee a public Mandaean ritual, The Masiqta being open
      for the laity, whereas the Initiation of the Priest, which somewhat
      resembles the progress (in that the person is ritually declared dead,
      "raised" and clothed in new vestments and served an especial meal
      which is identical to that partaken of on behalf of the dead,
      afterwards) - The Masiqta contains quite a few pointers towards the
      ancient practices of the Gnostic schools. As we see, the dual
      presence of the Divine masculine and feminine powers in the mystic
      meal, and the close identification of a soul with its "counterpart"
      partaking of a journey towards the "Realm of truth" (Mshunia Kushta)
      - is theology practised, and of great interest to us as practising

      Pax Pleromae

      Terje D.Bergersen
      Excorcist, Ecclesia Gnostica Norvegia, Oslo Parish, Norway

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