What is Gnostic Demiurge?
The term Demiurge derives from the ancient Greek "démiourgos" (latinized demiurgus), meaning "artisan" or "craftsman". In various belief systems this is a deity responsible for the creation of the physical universe. The term occurs most notably Platonism and Gnosticism. The precise nature and character of the Demiurge however varies from a benign architect of matter in some, to the personification of evil in others.
Plato refers to the Demiurge frequently in the Timaeus as the entity who "fashioned and shaped" the material world. Plato describes the Demiurge as unreservedly good and hence desirous of a world as good as possible. The world remains allegedly imperfect because the Demiurge had to work on pre-existing chaotic matter. Christianity and Judaism claim "God" the Creator is good, but Christians claim the soul is corrupt due to the sin of Adam. Gnosticism is another matter.
In Gnosticism the Demiurge (Creator) is by no means all-good, but a bungling and incompetent fool that creates the world as a spiritual prison. Gnosticism also presents a distinction between the highest, unknowable "alien God" and the "creator" of the material - the Demiurge. However, in contrast to Plato, many systems of Gnostic thought present the Demiurge as antagonistic to the will of the Supreme Creator: this sort of Demiurge focus' solely on material reality and on the "sensuous soul". In Gnosticism, the Demiurge is an emanation from a higher, purer aeon.
In this system, the Demiurge is a way to understand the problem of evil, differing sharply from Christianity, which sees the originally good Creation corrupted by created beings (such as the Devil). In Gnosticism the Demiurge created evil as in the Apocryphon of John (in the Nag Hammadi library), the Demiurge has the name "Yaltabaoth". Through arrogance born of stupidity, he proclaims himself as God:
"Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come."
Yaldabaoth literally means "Child, come hither" in a certain Semitic language. Gnostic myth recounts that Sophia (literally "wisdom", the Demiurge's mother and aspect of the Father) desired to create something apart from the Father to which he did not consent. In this act of separation, she gave birth to the Demiurge and being ashamed of her deed, she wrapped him in a cloud and created a throne for him within it.
Saklas means "fool" and Samael literally means "Blind God" or "God of the Blind". It may equate to the Judaic Angel of Death, and corresponds to the folkloric demon of that name.
Yao is alongside Yaldabaoth, the other name most frequently encountered in Gnostic scripture. Yao is the Gnostic pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YhWh). Several Gnostic philosophers (notably Marcion of Sinope) and others (such as Maniche) identify the Demiurge as Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, as the enemy to the God of the New Testament. Still other traditions also equated YhWh with Satan. For example, Catharism apparently inherited their idea of Satan as the creator of the evil world directly or indirectly from Gnosticism. The church declared all these heresies for teaching that all Creation was the work of an evil god.
The concept of an evil or bungling Demiurge who creates the world is completely at odds with Christian theology in which the creation is originally all good and the work of one all-good Creator. It rejects the notion that the Devil or any other being resembling the Demiurge could create the beauty and order in the physical universe, and the writings of early church fathers, beginning with the Apostle Paul specifically condemn Gnosticism as high heresy. Christianity has nothing analogous to an evil Creator god. The nearest Christian equivalent to the Demiurge is Satan, which literally means the "Enemy."
Pagan philosophers in the lineage of Plato also rebuke the Gnostics. This would include Plotinus who, rebuked Gnosticism in the ninth tractate of the second Ennead: "Against Those That Affirm The Creator of The Cosmos and The Cosmos Itself to Be Evil" (generally quoted as "Against The Gnostics"). Being grounded in platonic thought, the Neoplatonists would have rejected the gnostic vilification of Platos's demiurge.
To quote, Emanation is opposed to the Judeo-Christian conception of creation, in which the eternal God makes all from nothing. To explain the relation of a totally transcendent God to a finite and imperfect world, the belief in emanation denies that God directly created the world but maintains rather that the world is the result of a chain of emergence through emanations. From God (the One, or the Absolute), the one prime principle, flows the divine substance; his own substance never lessens.
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