[NB] Mandaean Eschatology

It is going to be quiet here for a little while yet. The narrative cosmogram that I have been working on is proceeding exactly according to its own pace, which is an interesting experience, but not one that can be easily shared before it is further along.

Here, though, is a little excerpt from a scholar’s meeting with a Mandaean sheikh in the 1970s:

“Sheikh Abdullah showed us his ring and explained that the four animals depicted on the seal—the lion, the wasp, the scorpion, and the encircling snake—were ‘the elements of life’….Cosmological and mythical topis came up. What will happen to us at the end of the world?…the Mandaeans will go to the Lightworld, the heavenly world. Paradise lies beyond the gate at the North Pole, ours is just one of 365 universes, and the earth is flat and stands still. And it will soon end. Such were the sheikh’s words.”—The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People, Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley (ix)

I share it because it exemplifies so much of the Gnostic current, one that the Mandaeans have preserved from antiquity, and here we can see the, for lack of a better word, deep weirdness of Gnosticism. The meditations on time and space (because I am sure the 365 universes relates to the days of the year), of salvation, and of the difficulty of it.

There are other charming stories that Buckley relates, including the notion found among some Mandaeans that Jesus was a lazy Mandaean, trying to water down the truth thereby (falsely) make more appealing to the masses. Stories about Jesus angling for a baptism from John because he knew it would seal his reputation because John was so much holier than him.

There are stories of emanation in which there are three Lightworld beings whose position in relationship to each other and creation very much resonates with the position of the mother letters of Sefer Yetzirah‘s sacred alphabet. And these, too, are old, carrying on dialogues that large portions of Judaism and Christianity have since forgotten or abandoned.

These aren’t quite my stories, but I recognize the dialogue.

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