Justin’s Book of Baruch affirmed Herakles as a prophet on par with the Biblical ones, a figure who was charged with bringing about the order of heaven on the earth. However, his conquest is prevented from coming to fruition by the intervention of one of the Mother’s angels, Omphale-Babel-Aphropite. According to the account of Justin that we have, this story is reported with all of the usual sexism that haunts gnosticism, but what happens if we read the story against the grain? I don’t mean simply tell it differently, but read the counter-story already entangled within the first.
To do that, I want to pan out from Herakles to the Book of Baruch’s broader frame. Justin’s Elohim finds his way to heaven, to the throne of the true God, and this true God prevents him from returning to his wife, Eden. Eden does not know they why of her husband’s departure and so turns to their children, humanity, and takes out her frustrations and despair on them. Elohim, unable to return, pleads with God to at least allow one of Elohim’s angels to return to the earth and offer his children a way to join him. That angel is Baruch and it is Baruch who speaks to such diverse figures as Moses, Herakles, and Christ.
The author of Refutation of All Heresies tells us how muddled this story is, how the very marriage of Elohim and Eden is modeled on a story of Herakles. What if this muddle is part of the message, though? What if the seeming confusion of the figures of Herakles points toward a special sympathy? What if Herakles is functioning as what Deleuze would call a dark precursor, opening lines of communication?
That starts to suggest that the Justinian gnostic mystery contains a second mystery within itself. There is the mystery of Christ through whom the children of Elohim may ascend to him in heaven, but there is also a mystery of Herakles. If there is Christ who uplifts, there is Herakles whose entanglement refreshes the earth with heaven, in which the marriage of Elohim and Eden is affirmed on the earth.
The Mother’s angel and representative in the re-enactment of her marriage to Elohim, Omphale-Apphrodite-Babel, is another creative fusion. As Aphrodite she affirms the potency of reunion and unification, as Omphale the reproduction of the divine on the earth through Herakles’s heirs, and as Babel the way in which this reproduction happens in a diversity of tongues and peoples. She is the mother of raucous chorus calling out from the earth to heaven.
Beneath the superficial gnostic story of transcendence with which we most familiar, there is a deeper mystery of freedom and entanglement, of departure and return, a dancing back and forth that sustains both heaven and earth. Then, behind that stage inspired by Zeus and Hera, the myths of Herakles, the figure of God who holds Elohim back and sets the cycle in motion, a cycle along which the angel of love runs.