Middle Ages: Gnosticism and Homosexuality

A Depiction of the Gnostic God-Head ‘Abraxas’

Researcher’s Note: The Roman Catholic Church – once it became the State religion of Rome – attacked and destroyed all the other (competing) Christian Sects that taught different interpretations of the Gospels. Gnosticism (which probably has its roots equally in Egyptian Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism), was particularly targeted for persecution and eradication. Gnosticism advocates a strict system of meditation (very similar to that found within Buddhism), whereby a practitioner turns the conscious gaze inwards and contemplates the essence of being until reality is perceived and understood. The material world is viewed as an oscillating balance between good and evil, a polarity within which human-beings are stuck when in their natural state of ‘unknowing’. This is remedied by practicing meditation and ‘looking within’ – and explains why the term ‘Gnosticism’ is defined as referring to a ‘profound knowing’. Gnostic writings talk of two lesser gods controlling the good and evil of the mundane world with later Christian misrepresentation claiming that the Gnostics had declared the physical world to be only ‘evil’. The material must be escaped through psychological enlightenment within the Gnostic system. All the heavens and everything that comprises material existence emanates from ‘Abraxas’, and it is to ‘Abraxas’ that all Gnostic practitioners must return. For reasons that remain obscure, the Medieval Christian Church associated Gnostic practice with the practice of homosexuality. Anyone suspected of being a ‘Gnostic’ was often removed from their post through the charge of being a ‘Homosexual’, or more specifically charged with committing the crime of ‘buggary’ and/or ‘sodomy’ (as the following quoted extract explains). It could be that the Catholic Church was of the (mistaken) opinion that all pagan people participated in bisexual orgies similar to those that were common in ancient Greece and Rome (although this crime was only considered to be applicable to men for obvious reasons). ACW (3.4.2020) 

‘About Seffrid Pelochin (1120/1-1125), who came from Seez Abbey in Normandy, little information survives. He gave the monastery a pall, a chasuble, an alb and a variety of relics: part of the Lord’s sepulchre, relics of St Sebastion, St Agapitus, St Felicissimus, St Rufina, St Cyrila, St Nympha and a piece of St Barbara’s veil. Some of these relics he acquired while he was in Rome onn a diplomatic mission, as this tie he also obtained a papal privilege for the monastery from Pope Calixtus II. Seffrid’s allegiance to Glastonbury, however, does not appear to have been absolute and in 1125 he left to become bishop of Chichester, from which position he was deposed in 1145 on the grounds of sodomy. He was buried at Chichester, many centuries later his coffin was opened and it was discovered that his episcopal ring was made of jasper and was carved with the gnostic figure of the serpent god Abraxas. His ring is still on display at Chichester Cathedral. In the MiddleAges, gnosticism was often associated with homosexuality – as the derivation of “buggar” from “Bulgar” and the suppression of the Templars suggest – and Seffrid’s ring could indicate that his crimes might concern his religious beliefs rather than his sexual preferences.’ 

James P Carley: Glastonbury Abbey – The Holy House at the Road on the Moors Adventurous, Gothic Image, (1996), Page17 

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