Seven exhortations to the dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where East and West meet.
The Third Sermon
The dead approached like mist out of the swamps and they shouted: "Speak to us further about the highest god!"
-- Abraxas is the god whom it is difficult to know. His power is the very greatest, because man does not perceive it at all. Man sees the summum bonum (supreme good) of the sun, and also the infinum malum (endless evil) of the devil, but Abraxas, he does not see, for he is undefinable life itself, which is the mother of good and evil alike.
Life appears smaller and weaker than the summum bonum (supreme good), wherefore it is hard to think that Abraxas should supersede in his power the sun, which is the radiant fountain of all life force.
Abraxas is the sun and also the eternally gaping abyss of emptiness, of the diminisher and dissembler, the devil.
The power of Abraxas is twofold. You cannot see it, because in your eyes the opposition of this power seems to cancel it out.
That which is spoken by God-the-Sun is life; That which is spoken by the Devil is death. Abraxas, however, speaks the venerable and also accursed word, which is life and death at once.
Abraxas generates truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness with the same word and in the same deed. Therefore, Abraxas is truly the terrible one.
He is magnificent even as the lion at the very moment when he strikes his prey down. His beauty is like the beauty of a spring morn.
Indeed, he is himself the greater Pan, and also the lesser. He is Priapos.
He is the monster of the underworld, the octopus with a thousand tentacles, he is the twistings of winged serpents and of madness.
He is the hermaphrodite of the lowest beginning.
He is the lord of toads and frogs, who live in the water and come out unto the land, and who sing together at high noon and at midnight.
He is fullness, uniting itself with emptiness.
He is the sacred wedding;
He is love and the murder of love;
He is the holy one and his betrayer.
He is the brightest light of the day and the deepest night of madness.
To see him means blindness;
To know him is sickness;
To worship him is death;
To ear him is wisdom;
Not to resist him means liberation.
God lives behind the sun; the devil lives behind the night. What god brings into birth from the light, that the devil pulls into the night. Abraxas, however, is the cosmos; its genesis and its dissolution. To every gift of God-the-Sun, the devil adds his curse.
All things which you beg from God-the-Sun, generate an act of the devil. All things which you accomplish through God-the-Sun add to the effective might o the devil.
Such is the terrible Abraxas.
He is the mightiest manifest being, and in him creation becomes
frightened of itself.
He is the revealed protest of creation against the Pleroma and its nothingness.
He is the terror of the son, which he feels against his mother.
He is the love of the mother for her son.
He is the delight of earth and the cruelty of heaven.
Man becomes paralyzed before his face.
Before him there exist neither question nor answer.
He is the life of creation.
He is the activity of differentiation.
He is the love of man.
He is the speech of man.
He is both the radiance and dark shadow of man.
He is deceitful reality.
--Here the dead howled and raved greatly, for they were still incomplete ones.