Re: [Gnosticism2] The Masiqta
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
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
Excorcist, Ecclesia Gnostica Norvegia, Oslo Parish, Norway
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