Sethian Mysticism

Ella S.

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Zosimos of Panopolis is an influential alchemist. He cemented the (completely legendary) tie between alchemy and Egyptian metallurgy, likely inspired the myth of the homonculus, and was one of the first Gnostic alchemists to write about his craft.

Of core importance is his "Visions of Zosimos" which has had numerous commentaries written upon it, and can be read here:

I would like to take special note of a specific segment of this text, which I believe to be all important. The excerpt is as follows:

Zosimos said:
I wondered at the boiling water and the men who were burning but remained alive.

And he answered me saying, "The spectacle which you see is at once the entrance and the exit and the process."

I questioned him further, "What is the nature of the process?"

And he answered saying, "It is the place of the practice called the embalming. Men wishing to obtain virtue enter here and, fleeing the body, become spirits."

The text several times mentions those who are undergoing an intolerable force. In other words, a force which will kill them. Specific references are made to the 4 elements, 4 phases, and 7 planets, such as another summary of the work further on which explains:

Zosimos said:
And the other said at the same time as the casting out of the lead by all the liquids, "The Work is completed."

Lead, of course, being a recurring symbol for the physical world, given its association in alchemy with Saturn (even before Zosimos) who rules over death and time.

The rest of the text can elucidate further, but these two fragments are the primary key. They highlight the importance of surrender to God and the letting go of worldly attachments, which Zosimos says in later texts is one singular, continuous process that can be divided into stages.
I should note that this is a vast departure from the Jungian interpretation of the text, which views "Visions of Zosimos" as referencing integration rather than an extension of Gnostic asceticism. I believe this to be one of many anachronisms on the part of Jung in his reinterpretation of ancient Gnostic texts. Certainly, the Gnostics were more concerned with virtue and spiritual wisdom than anything resembling individuation; their primary concern was closer to the concept of self-transcendence, and to them it was a metaphysical and religious pursuit, not a psychological one.
Is this from the channel?

No, although they are complementary. From Sethianism we have the 7 archons and the 4 luminaries associated with the 7 operations and 4 phases of alchemy, which are really just milestones of progress.

The Orthodox Church has its own stages of contemplation, divided into three parts; kenosis, theoria, and theosis. These do loosely map on to the alchemical stages.

Kenosis is very similar to Calcination, as they are both concerned with the purification one's spiritual pollution.
Theoria is very similar to Conjunction, as they are both concerned with a renewed experience of God.
Theosis is very similar to Projection, as they are both concerned with achieving union with God.

So the general practice is actually very similar. I would be willing to argue that they are different perspectives on the same practice, merely divided differently and given different imagery. They do, however, concern themselves with separate dogmas, not the least of which is the contrast between Sethian dualism and Orthodox monism.