Category Archives: religion

The Gnostic Ogdoad

ChatGPT said:

The Gnostic Ogdoad is a group of eight divine beings or emanations that were central to certain Gnostic cosmologies. The divisions of the Gnostic Ogdoad vary depending on the specific Gnostic system, but generally, they consist of four pairs of male and female aeons, or divine beings.

Here is one example of the divisions of the Gnostic Ogdoad [note: some of my Greek names at right are different. See refs. below.]:

  1. Barbelo and Bythos: Barbelo represents the divine feminine aspect of the highest deity, while Bythos represents the divine masculine aspect. Together, they represent the ultimate unity and transcendence of the divine.
  2. Nous and Aletheia: Nous represents divine mind or wisdom, while Aletheia represents truth. Together, they represent the intellectual and rational aspects of the divine.
  3. Logos and Zoe: Logos represents divine word or speech, while Zoe represents life. Together, they represent the creative and life-giving aspects of the divine.
  4. Anthropos and Ecclesia: Anthropos represents the divine human or perfect man, while Ecclesia represents the divine assembly or church. Together, they represent the human and social aspects of the divine.

It’s important to note that different Gnostic systems may have different variations or interpretations of the Ogdoad, and some may not include all eight divine beings.

Further Reading (not by ChatGPT):

Previously I wrote about a different, earlier Ogdoad:

The Ogdoad: Unity of Eight Gods



The Four Purusharthas

The Four Purusharthas of Hinduism are the goals or aims of human life. They are:

  • Artha : means
  • Kama : desire
  • Dharma : nature
  • Moksha : release

Recently, I asked ChatGPT: “Please explain to me the Four Purusharthas: Artha, Kama, Dharma, and Moksha.”

The Four Purusharthas, also known as the four goals of human life, are central concepts in Hindu philosophy and are considered to be the framework for a fulfilling and meaningful life. The Four Purusharthas are:

Artha: Artha refers to material prosperity, wealth, and security. It involves pursuing financial stability, professional success, and material comfort. This purushartha is considered necessary for the maintenance of life and for pursuing the other three goals.

Kama: Kama refers to pleasure and desire, including the enjoyment of life’s sensual pleasures and the desire for material comforts. It is considered an important goal in life, but should not be pursued at the expense of the other three goals.

Dharma: Dharma refers to duty, morality, and ethics. It involves following one’s moral and ethical obligations, living a life in accordance with divine law and one’s own sense of right and wrong, and fulfilling one’s duties to family, society, and the world.

Moksha: Moksha refers to spiritual liberation, freedom from the cycle of reincarnation, and union with the ultimate reality. It is considered the ultimate goal of human life, and is achieved through a process of self-realization, spiritual discipline, and detachment from material desires.

According to Hindu philosophy, the Four Purusharthas are not mutually exclusive, and a balanced pursuit of all four is considered the path to a fulfilling and meaningful life. The order of priority among the goals may vary depending on an individual’s personal circumstances, but it is believed that by fulfilling the first three goals, one can then attain the ultimate goal of Moksha.

Further Reading:

Images of the Four Purusharthas:





A Fourfold about Belief and Knowledge

There was a fourfold making the rounds a while back about belief and knowledge of God or of gods. The terms Agnostic and Gnostic are about (the actuality or possibility of) having or not having knowledge, whereas Theist and Atheist are about having or not having belief in a deity or deities. So the following fourfold obtains:

  • Gnostic Atheist
  • Agnostic Atheist
  • Gnostic Theist
  • Agnostic Theist

Some criticized this framework, while others seemed to like it. YMMV.

Let’s see what ChatGPT says:

Gnostic Atheist: This term refers to someone who believes that God does not exist, and that this knowledge is certain. They have a definite and confident understanding about the non-existence of God.

Agnostic Atheist: This term refers to someone who doesn’t believe in God, but does not claim to have certainty about it. They may lack knowledge or certainty about the existence of God, but they do not believe in its existence.

Gnostic Theist: This term refers to someone who believes in the existence of God and has a definite and confident understanding about it. They have a strong conviction that God exists.

Agnostic Theist: This term refers to someone who believes in God but does not claim to have certainty or absolute knowledge about it. They have a belief in God, but acknowledge that it is not possible to have certain knowledge or proof of God’s existence.

In summary, “Gnostic” refers to knowledge or certainty, while “Agnostic” refers to lack of knowledge or certainty. The “Atheist” and “Theist” refer to the belief or non-belief in the existence of a higher power or deity, respectively.

Further Reading:

Other images:

For example:

Terrible graphs of agnostic atheism

I also see the following fourfold used (all nouns now):

  • Atheist
  • Theist
  • Gnostic
  • Agnostic

and even this eight-fold (a combination of the two):

  • Gnostic Atheist
  • Atheist
  • Agnostic Atheist
  • Agnostic
  • Agnostic Theist
  • Theist
  • Gnostic Theist
  • Gnostic


The Four Paths of Yoga

According to the Vedanta, the 4 major margas (paths) are Jnana Yoga (the path of wisdom and knowledge), Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion), Karma Yoga (path of selfless action or service) and Raja Yoga (path of self-discipline):

  • Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom and knowledge
  • Bhakti Yoga: The path of devotion
  • Karma Yoga: The path of selfless action and service
  • Raja Yoga: The path of self-discipline

Further Reading:



The Eight Auspicious Symbols

Pause only for a moment to contemplate Ashtamangala, or the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism:

  • The Endless Knot
  • The Treasure Vase
  • The Lotus Flower
  • Two Golden Fish
  • The Fancy Parasol
  • The Conch Shell
  • The Victory Banner
  • The Dharma Wheel

Further Reading:

The Whitewater Rafter’s Guide to the 8 Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism



The Arcane Arts of Ramon Llull : the Dignities

Let us calculate!

— Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Oh, Ramon Llull, where have you been all my life? I’m sure he’s been there all along, death now over seven hundred years in the past, just like always. His legacy seems at first glance to be quite the essence of medieval religion and scholastic philosophy, but still significantly and obscurely different to be enticing to this one. And on further examination, much more.

My schema above has little to do with his grand elaborate figures, except for listing the sixteen attributes he called “dignities”. Llull’s diagrams are full of clock-like wheels within wheels, complicated tableau, and combinatorial patterns. He wished to create a universal model to understand reality, and who wouldn’t want to discover the same? It is said that his methods are akin to an early computer science, and I’m just now starting to understand why.

The magister based the substance of his methods on his Christian faith, although he converted in midlife from Islam. Living in Barcelona, it was probably a good place to make such a change, but felt his calling was to convert others as well, so traveling he went. The methods he developed to convince others of their errors in belief were quite remarkable, as were the volume of his writing.

Like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who lived four hundred years later and was influenced by him, Llull wished to automate reasoning. But instead of building mechanical devices, Llull built computers from paper and ink, rulers and drawing compasses, scissors and glue. And instead of numbers as the smallest tokens of his computer, he used abstractions (i.e. words) that he felt would be understood by everyone in exactly the same way.

For example, he enumerated these sixteen dignities or aspects of his Christian diety, although sometimes he used the first nine. His constructions allowed one to pose questions and then obtain answers mechanistically that would be convincing to all observers of the correctness of the result. Too bad he was ultimately stoned to death while on his missionary work, although he lived to be eighty two.

Llull’s devices remind me of some of my pitiful charts and diagrams, and make me wonder if I may either adapt some of his techniques to my own use, or be inspired to develop others. I suspect I have locked myself into limitations by my approach, or are these constraints to my advantage? It might be hard to have spinning elements, but I can envision sliding elements like Napier’s Bones, origami-style folding and pleating, and even physical constructions like linkages and abacuses.

Now a martyr within the Franciscan Order, Llull’s feast day is June 30, which I’ve now missed. I hope to remember him to repost or improve on this by next year.

Further Reading:

The memory wheel





The Four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse

In preparation for the “Good Omens” TV (specifically, Amazon Prime and BBC Two) series, I started reading the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Concurrently, and after watching too much TV news, I started to think (again) about the Four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse. In the book, personifications of these entities appear as characters working conscientiously to bring about the end of the world (but so far without their trusty steeds). They are (by one interpretation):

  • War (or Conflict) (said to ride a Red Horse)
  • Famine (said to ride a Black Horse)
  • Disease (said to ride a White Horse)
  • Death (said to ride a Pale Horse)

These four riders famously make their appearance in the biblical book of Revelation, after the Four Living Creatures (essentially, the Tetramorph) say “Come” or “Allons-Y!”, depending on your translation. And indeed the Four Horse-persons are a powerful “meme” and are referenced in many popular entertainments and real-life derivative nomenclatures. I’m looking forward to the video series as I enjoy the main actors playing the “odd couple” of angel and demon, and after viewing the various trailers and photos.

Who says Armageddon (or the struggle against it) can’t be fun? Ok, I admit it’s scary but sometimes you just have to laugh!

Further Reading:

Here Death is the end, but it’s only the beginning of the end (or is it the end of the beginning?) in the four-fold “The Four Last Things”:

[*8.118, *11.20]



Fearless Living

We can live with no fear if we remove these four pairs of opposites and have Right View.

— Thích Nhất Hạnh

  • No Birth
  • No Death
  • No Sameness
  • No Otherness
  • No Coming
  • No Going
  • No Being
  • No Non-being

Further Reading:



The Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism (八正道):

  • Right View (also Understanding) (正見)
  • Right Intention (also Thought) (正思唯)
  • Right Speech (正語)
  • Right Action (正業)
  • Right Livelyhood (正命)
  • Right Effort (正精進)
  • Right Mindfulness (正念)
  • Right Concentration (正定)

I’ve also translated the diagram into Chinese.

Further Reading:

The Noble Eightfold Path



Behold, the Tetramorph

I’ve felt a fondness for the Tetramorph for a long time. Four beings considered simultaneously: a man, an ox, a lion, an eagle.

They are the Babylonian symbols of the four fixed signs of the zodiac: ox or bull for Taurus (and earth), lion for Leo (and fire), eagle for Scorpio (and water), man for Aquarius (and air).

They can be thought of as representing the ancient four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.

They are mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Bible in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. They have also been paired with the four evangelists and their books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (although the pairing is not fixed).

They are shown on the Tarot card for the “Wheel of Fortune” in the Rider-Waite deck, and the card for the “World” in the Tarot of Marseilles.

Why these four creatures, and not others?

Further Reading:

The Tetramorph; The Sumerian Origins of a Christian Symbol

Under The Sign Of Tetramorph

[*8.38, *8.96]