Like many other Gnostic texts, the writings in the Books of IEOU were not intended for public distribution or to be simply “read”. The material here appears more likely to represent excerpts from texts used in initiatory rituals.
In the original coptic manuscript, several pages of related ritual formulae have been collected together — these having been probably taken from other separate collections. Interspaced in the text are complex symbolic diagrams listing a variety of the “names of God and the Powers”. One might suggest these names were to be used as “mantras”, vocalized in ritual recitations. The names listed in these diagrams (which are not “translated” or transliterated into the English text) consist of long strings of vowel sounds which, like the great name “IEOU”, were intended to be intoned or chanted. This incantation of the divine names occurs as a technique in other ritual traditions (e.g., the Kabbalah of Abraham Abulafia) for the alteration of consciousness in meditation. It should be remembered that the core of Gnosis is individual experience of the divine realms. The Books of IEOU probably represent notes to rituals used in intiation rituals and meditation directed towards producing altered states of spiritual consciousness.
We have reproduce here some of these diagrams to convey the nature of this book. The coptic names underlined in the illustrations are (as noted above) the “names” which have not been transliterated in the translation — only the non-underlined words (which can be translated with meaning) are rendered. This is of course highly technical material, and the interested student is refered the to the full text found in Carl Schmidt, The Books of JEU and The Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978). The illustration below is from the title page of the Coptic codex.
The First Book of IEOU
I have loved you. I have wanted life to be given you; the Living Jesus, who knows the truth.
This is the book of the gnoses of the invisible God, by means of the hidden mysteries which show the way to the chosen race, leading in refreshment to the life of the Father – in the coming of the Saviour , of the deliverer of souls who receive themselves the Word of life which is higher than all life – in the knowledge of the living Jesus, who has come forth through the Father from the aeon of light at the completion of the Pleroma – in the teaching, apart from which there is no other, which the living Jesus has thaught to his apostles, saying: “This is the teaching in which dwells the whole knowledge.” The living Jesus answered and said to his disciples: “Blessed is he who has crucified the world, and who has not the world to crucify him.” The apostles answered with one voice, saying : “O Lord, teach us the way to crucify the world, that it may not crucify us, so that we are destroyed and loose our lives” The living Jesus answerd : “He who has crucified it is he who has found my word and has fulfilled it according to the will of him who has sent me.”
The apostles answered, saying : ” Speak to us, O Lord, that we may hear thee. We have followed thee with our whole hearts. We have left behind father and mother, we have left behind vineyards and fields, we have left behind goods and the greatness of kings, and we have followed thee, so that thou shouldst teach us to know the life of thy father who has sent thee” The living Jesus answered and said : “The life of my Father is this : that you receive your soul from the race of understanding mind, and that it ceases to be earthly and becomes understanding through that which I say to you in the course of my discourse, so that you fulfil it and are saved from the archon of this aeon and his persecutions, to which there is no end. But you, my disciples, hasten to receive my word with certaintiy so that you know it, in order that the archon of this aeon may not fight with you – this one who did not find any commandment of his in me – so that you also, my apostles, fulfil my word in relation to me, and I myself make you free, and you become whole through a freedom in which there is no blemish. As the Spirit of the comforter (Parakleiton) is whole, so will you also be whole, through the freedom of the spirit of the Holy Comforter.”
All the apostles, Matthew and John, Philip and Bartholomew and James, answered with one voice, saying:
“O Lord Jesus, thou who livest, whose goodness extends over those who have found thy wisdom and thy form in which thou gavest light ; O light-giving Light that enlightened our hearts until we received the light of life; O true Word, that through gnosis teaches us the hidden knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the living one.”
The living Jesus answered and said : “Blessed is the man who has known these things. He has brought heaven down, he has lifted the earth and has sent it to heaven, and he has become the Midst for it is nothing.” The apostles answered, saying : “Jesus , thou living one, Lord , interprete for us how we may bring heaven down, for we have followed thee in order that thou shouldst teach us the true light.” The living Jesus answered and said : “The Word which existed in heaven before the earth came into existence – this which is called the world – but you, when you know my Word, you will bring heaven down, and it will dwell in you. Heaven is the invisible Word of the Father; but when you know these things you will bring heaven down. As to sending the earth up to heaven, I will show you what it is , that you may know it : to send the earth to heaven is that he who hears the word of gnosis has ceasedto have the understanding mind of man of earth, but has become a man of heaven. His understanding mind has ceased to be earthly, but it has become heavenly. Because of this you will be saved from the archon of this aeon, and he will become the Midst, because it is nothing.” The living Jesus said again : “When you become heavenly you will become the Midst because it is nothing, for the .. . .. rulers and the wicked powers (exousiai) will you and they will envy you because you have known me, because I am not from the world, and I do not resemble the rulers and the powers (exousiai) and all the wicked ones. They do not come from me. And furthermore he who (is born) in the flesh of unrighteousness has no part in the Kingdom of my Father, and also he who me according to the flesh has no hope Kingdom of God the Father.”
The Apostles answered with one voice, they said : “Jesus , , O Lord, are we born of the flesh, and known thee according to the flesh? Tell us, O Lord, for we are troubled.” The living Jesus answered and said to his apostles : ” I do not speak of the flesh in which you dwell, but the flesh of and non-understanding which exists in ignorance, which leads astray many from the of my Father.” The apostles answered the words of the living Jesus, the said: “Tell us how non-understanding happens, that we may beware of it, lest we should go . . . . . . .” The living Jesus answered and said : ” one who bears my virginity and my . . . . . and my garment, without understanding and knowing me, and blasphemes my name, I have . . . . to destruction. And furthermorse he has become an earthly son because he has not known my word with certainity – these which the Father spoke, so that I myself should teach those who will know me at the completion of the pleroma of him who sent me.” The Apostles answered and said : “O Lord Jesus, thou living one, teach us the completion, and it suffices us.” And he said : “The word which I give to you yourselves….”
He has emanated ‘ him, being of this type … This is the true God. He will set him up in this type as head’. He will be called Jeu ‘. Afterwards my Father will move him to bring forth other emanations, so that they fill these places. This is his name according to the treasuries 4 which are outside this. He will be called by this name: …, that is to say: ‘The true God’ ‘. He will set him up in this type as head over the treasuries’ which are outside this. This is the type of the treasuries over which he will set him as head, and this is the manner in which the treasuries are distributed, he being their head. This is the type in which he was before he was moved to bring forth emanations:
Jeu, the true God
….This is his type
This is his name …
This now is the form in which….
….(has emanated). This is his name.
He will be called the true God
Furthermore he will be called Jeu. He will be father of a multitude of emanations. And a multitude of emanations will come forth from him through the command of my Father, and they themselves will be fathers of the treasuries. I will place a multitude as heads over them, and they will be called Jeu, the true God. It is he who will be father of all the Jeus, because he is an emanation of my Father. And the true God will emanate through the command of my Father. He will be head over them. He will move them ‘ and a multitude of emanations will come forth from all the Jeus, through the command of my Father when he moves them, and they will fill all the treasuries. And they will be called ranks of the Treasuries of the Light. Myriads upon myriads will come into existence from them. This now is the type in which the true. God is placed when he is about to be set up as head over the treasuries, before he has brought forth emanations over the treasuries, and before he has brought forth emanations, because my Father has not yet moved him to bring forth and to set up. This is his type which I have already set forth, but this is his type when he will bring forth emanations. This is the type of the true God in the manner in which he is placed:
The three lines which are thus, they are the voices which he will give out when he is commanded to sing praises to the Father, so that he himself brings forth emanations, and he also emanates This is the type of what he is:
This is his type when he brings forth
This moreover is the manner in which the true God is placed as he is about to emanate emanations, when he is moved by m Father to bring forth emanations, and to set them up as head over the treasuries, through the command of my Father ‘. A multitude come forth from them and they fill all the treasuries through the command of my Father, in order to become god(s). The true God will be called Jeu, the father of all the Jeus; his name in the tongue of my Father is this: … But when he is set up as head over a11 the treasuries, in order to emanate them, this now is his type which I have finished setting forth.
Hear now also the type of the treasuries how they are emanated; he will become head over them in this way, before he has emanated them; this is his type, as he is placed. Now the true God was of this type.
This is his character which is on his face thus
But I have called upon the name of my Father, so that he should move the true God in order to emanate. But he himself caused This is his character ‘ an idea (thought) to come forth which is on his face thus: from his treasuries.
A power of my Father moved the true God. It radiated within him through this small idea (thought) ‘ which came forth from the treasuries of my Father. It radiated within the true God. A mystery moved him through my Father. The true God gave voice, saying thus: … And when he had given voice, there came forth this voice which is the emanation. It was of this type as it proceeded forth from one side after another of each treasury. The first voice is this, which Jeu, the true God, called, which came forth from him, the one above.
(Jeu1) …. Place …. Jeu
He will emanate
… … Jeu
… … Jeu
This is his character. He will set up a rank corresponding to the treasuries,
and will place it as watchers’ at the gate’ of the treasuries which are those
which stand at the gate as the three … ‘ This is the true God.
When the true God. had emanated, this was his type:
…Jeu the true God
When one stood in the treasuries no ranks yet existed.
I stood and called upon the name of my Father so that he
should cause other amanations to exist in the treasuries.
But he again caused a <power> from himself to move the true God.
At first he caused it to radiate within him that he might move his emeanations
in the treasuries, that they also might bring forth emanations, which are those
which he placed as heads over them. But he, the true God, emanated these
from his place. For this reason he gave voice when the power welled up
within him. This is the first voice which he uttered. He moved his emanations
until they emanated:
These are the
His Character: he caused the power to move in…..
It welled up in him. he gave voice as he emanated
This is the first emanation.
These are the ranks which he has caused to be emanated. And there are twelve ranks in each treasury, these being their type: six heads on this side and six on that, turned towards each other. There will be a multitude of ranks standing in them outside these, all of which I will say. There are twelve heads in each rank, and the name belongs to them all, according to rank; this name is that of the twelve ‘, there being twelve heads in each rank. His name is this: …
…the three watchers are these
Now the first rank of the treasury is the first which he made as emanation.
I will take for myself twelve out of those ranks and place them so that they serve me.
For these watchers do not belong to the ranks of the treasuries of the light
This is his character:
The watchers which stand
within the gates are these:
And there are twelve heads in each place of the rank of every treasury; that is,
these names which are in the places – these names except for those that will be in them.
These are the three watchers: ………
These are they which … emanated, when the power radiated within him.
He emanated twelve emanations, these being his twelve heads in each emanation,
and this name is that of the twelve according to each one of the ranks, and these are
one outside the other endlessly. These are the names of the emanations.
These are the names of the three watchers:
His Character is this:
These are also the names of the emanations: .
And there are twelve heads in the place of the treasury of his ranks; that is, these names which are in each place; and there are twelve in each rank and this name is that of the twelve, except for those which will be in them, when they sing praises to my Father, so that he gives light-power to them. These are they which … ‘ emanated when the power radiated within him. He emanated twelve emanations, there being twelve heads in each emanation, and this name is the twelve, according to each one of the ranks.
And these are one outside the other
endlessly, except for their watchers. The names of the three watchers are: ………
These are the three watchers: ….
These are the emanations: ….
And there are twelve heads in each place of the treasuries of his ranks, that is, these names which are in the places. And there are twelve in each rank, and this name is that of the twelve, except for those that will be in them, when they sing praises to my Father, so that he gives light-power to them. These are they which … emanated forth from him when the power of my Father radiated within him. He emanated twelve emanations. There are twelve heads in each emanation, and this name is that of the twelve, and there are twelve according to each one of the ranks. And they are one outside the other endlessly, except for the watchers.
The three watchers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter 11 to 34
[The following chapters proceed in very much the same fashion, with similar diagrams and textual comment on the names in the diagrams, up to the Fragment of a Gnostic Hymn. Thereafter the text resumes with fewer diagrams through Chapter 41.]