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The Jewish menorah – a seven-lamp candelabrum used in the ancient Tabernacle in the desert, the Temple in Jerusalem, and in synagogues (Image source: wisegeek.com)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2017
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The Hebrew שְׁבוּעָה shebuʿh ‘oath’ derives from שֶׁבַע shebaʿ ‘seven’. To ‘swear’ (שָׁבַע shabaʿ) an oath (shebuʿh) is “to seven oneself” or “to bind oneself by seven”. But seven what? The late William Brede Kristensen writes:

The oath sworn by the gods of the universal cosmic order is very characteristic: the word of the man is then in harmony with the universal order, the stability and intransiency which include the stability and sureness of the word. Thus in the Avesta the oath is sworn by the seven Amesha spentas, “the immortal guardians of life.” They are the cosmic rulers, the representatives of the seven (and thus of all) powers of life: fire, living beings, metals, earth, plants, bodies of water, and also Ahura Mazda himself. They are the “unanimous ones,” the “good rulers, who live forever and are forever fresh and powerful.”

The number seven in the oath is also found in the Hebrew verb, shābaʿ “to swear.” That this really means seven can be seen from Genesis 21:28, where Abraham gives seven lambs to Abimelech as proof of the truth of Abraham’s word. Seven is totality, the number of the all-encompassing order.[1]

According to Hippolytus (Refutations IX.10), the Book of Elchasai mentioned seven witnesses to the second baptism intended for the remission of sins:

…let him adjure for himself those seven witnesses that have been described in this book—the heaven, and the water, and the holy spirits, and the angels of prayer, and the oil, and the salt, and the earth.

Epiphanius (Panarian I 19.1:6) also mentions Elxai’s seven witnesses for oaths:

…salt, water, earth, bread, heaven, ether, and wind as objects for them to swear by as worship. But again, at some time he designated seven other witnesses—I mean the sky, water, ‘holy spirits’ as he says, the angels of prayer, the olive, salt, and the earth.

Interestingly (from a typological perspective), as part of the medieval gnostic Cathar rite of the Consolamentum—intended for the remission of sins—the Book of the Gospels is held above the head of the recipient and then the Lord’s Prayer is recited seven times.

The reason I mention all of this is because the name ‘Elizabeth’ (Hebrew אֱלִישֶׁבַע Eli-shebaʿ) is translated as “God is her oath”, but the origin of the oath and perhaps the name itself is better understood in relation to the seven (-shebaʿ) principal divinities or divine cosmic principles (elohim) to which the name is onto-cosmologically aligned and perhaps originally was characteristically identified? We are not given the number of the Hebrew Elohim (pl. ‘divinities’ or divine Attributes), and they may be infinite, but presumably they too are principally seven in number and likely approximate to the:

7 Sumerian Abgallu (Akkadian Apkallu)
— Sage-advisors to the seven Sumer-Babylonian Kings

7 Vedic Rishi (Sapta Rishi)
— likely also ‘advisers’ to the Hindu Manu Kings

7 Zoroastrian Amesha Spenta (‘Holy Sparks’ = 6 + Ahura Mazda)
— linked to the seven Avestan Yazata (Holy Beings)

7 Gnostic Archons (as Sons of Sophia)
— presiding over the seven heavenly realms

The late Gerald Massey writes:

[In the Ancient Egyptian records] there is a group of primeval powers … who are said to be ‘the first company of the gods of Aaru,’ the [reed-]fields of heaven. They are addressed as the mighty ones, the beneficent ones, the divine ones, who test by their level the words of men as the lords of law, justice, and right—as the lords of Maʿat [order, truth, law, justice, right, balance]. They are saluted in these words, ‘Hail to you, ye gods, ye associate-gods, who are without body, ye who rule that which is born from the earth, and that which is produced in the house of your cradles. Ye prototypes of the image of all that exists; ye forms, ye great ones, ye mighty ones, first company of the gods of Aaru, who generated men and shaped the type of every form, ye lords of all things. Hail to you, ye lords of everlasting.’ In this text the Aaru is celestial, not the Aaru in Amenta [=Netherworld], but the Aaru of the fields above, of which the goddess Apt [in astronomical form as Reret] is said to have been the mother as the bringer-forth of the seven primeval powers in their stellar character [compare the later Gnostic Sophia and her seven Sons as Archons]. As lords of Maʿat they are identical with the seven lords of rule or divine governors who are called ‘the arms of the balance on the night when the eye is fixed.’ This first company of the gods in the fields of heaven were the Ali or Ari  [pl. iriw ‘companions, associates, friends, crewman’, a company of many iri/ari] (as in the seven Cabiri) by name, and the Ali are a group of companions who are herein set forth as co-creators of all that exists in heaven or in earth.

The primordial nature-powers are mentioned under several types and names. They are the seven uraeus-gods, born of Mother-earth as non-sentient elemental powers. They are the seven Khu or glorious ones whose place in heaven was appointed by Anup [inpw] on the day of ‘come thou to me.’ They are the seven who assist the great judge in the Maʿat at the pole on the night of the judgment day, called ‘the seven arms of the balance,’ as executioners of the guilty, who accomplish the slaughter in the tank of flame when the condemned are exterminated. They are the seven wise masters of arts and sciences who assisted Thoth in his measurements of earth and heaven. In the solar mythos they are to be seen in several characters with Horus, Ptah, and Ra. They were portrayed as the seven with Horus in the eight great stars of Orion. They are the seven souls of Ra, also the seven divine ancestors in the boat of the sun, the seven who support Osiris in Amenta. In whichever phase of phenomena, they are a group, a brotherhood, a companionship of powers originally seven in number. It is now proposed to identify this ‘first company’ of creators who passed through these several phases in the Egyptian mythos as seven elementals, seven with the ancient genetrix, seven with Anup, seven with Thoth, seven with Horus, seven with Ptah, as the group of companions called the Elohim in the Hebrew Genesis, who were known to the Gnostics and Kabbalists as seven in number, with Ialdabaoth, a form of Set, at their head.[2]

Now, John (called “the Baptizer”) is born to Elizabeth, and he is set in comparison with Jesus (called “the Anointed”) who is born of Mary. Regarding John, it is said (Matthew 11:11): Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (see also Luke 7: 28 and Thomas 46). One wonders if John (of Elizabeth) is primarily associated with the physical body and the created cosmos by extension, and hence the seven cosmic archons that may be inherent in the name of Eli-shebaʿ; whereas Christ (also supposedly born of a woman, Mary) is primarily associated with the divine pleroma that transcends the cosmic archons (as we read in the Gospel of Philip: “Blessed is he who is before he came into being. For he who is, has been and shall be”). As such, this pre-existent Christos (Christus aeternus) is synonymous with the perennial and meta-historical “True Prophet” who is “from the beginning of the world… For He is present with us at all times” (Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions II.22), as well as the atemporal, meta-historical logos alētheias “Word of Truth” that was “In the Beginning [and also is “in Principle,” in principia erat verbum]” and was/is “with God” (John 1:1).

The story of John (of Elizabeth) speaks of biography and the relative, temporal self; whereas the story of Jesus (of Mary) imparts a spiritual or noetic Mystery and speaks of the transcendent, eternal Reality as true ‘Self’. With this in mind, consider the following written about the Alexandrian women Therapeutae:

It is interesting to remember that when Philo addresses the significance of Miriam [sister of Moses] singing in the story of Exodus, he describes her as representing sense-perception that has been made ‘pure and clean’ (Agr. 80), perhaps then also virginal […] The Therapeutae may have accepted Wisdom’s promise, and—reading allegorically—may have brought this promise of future fruit forward in time, so that now those who participate in the community do not desire mortal but immortal offspring in their present experience.[3]

Consider also the following regarding the gnostic Mandaeans:

The [heavenly or divine] Body is that of Adam Qadmaia [compare the Qabalah’s Adam Qadmon], the ‘First Adam’, Adam Kasia, the Mystic or Secret Adam [compare the Shiʿa “Hidden Imam”] who preceded the human Adam called Adam pagria (physical man) by many myriads of years, for the macrocosm preceded the microcosm and the Idea of the cosmos was formed in human shape, so that through the creation of the one the creation of the other ensued. In like manner … it is through and because of Adam Kasia that a disembodied soul obtains its spiritual body. The detailed description of the construction of Adam Kasia’s Body is understood when the ritual manuscripts are read, for every act in the masiqta [the deceased’s Mass rite] is represented as part of the process by which the new and spiritual body is built up for the departed soul from plasma to perfection within the cosmic Womb […]

In the [Mandaean] masiqta, the wine-cup represents the womb of the cosmic Mother in which the body of Adam Kasia [the “Hidden Adam” or “Hidden Imam” as Supernal Man] is formed […]

The central cult of both [the Elkasaites and the Mandaeans] is the Heavenly Man, Adam. [The True Prophet] of the Elkasaites can be recognized as the Nasoraean Adam Kasia [Supernal Adam]—no ‘man’ but Man, Anthropos, the Son of Man, the Son of God; `El Kasia [the Hidden God]. In his lower aspect he is the Demiurge, creator of ‘worlds of illusion, seven to his right and seven to his left’ [compare the Vedic “Purusha”, the cosmic being whose sacrifice creates all life forms including human beings*]. In his higher and divine aspect he is Mankind anointed [Greek Christos] and crowned, priest and king [compare Melchizedek], an image of divine kingship. Above all, he is a sacramental symbol of union and resurrection: through the mystic recreation of his cosmic body [the masiqta rite], the departed soul receives its spiritual body […]

In his highest aspect, Adakas-Ziwa [a contraction of Adam Kasia Ziwa], the mystic Light-Adam, he is re-created at every masiqta, for he represents sublimated humanity, a state into which the souls of the departed who no longer ‘stand in the body’ pass after they have been provided by his re-creation with a new and spiritual body. In and by him they pass upward into ‘worlds of light’ and eventually, with him, into the final union with the Absolute which is above human imagination. Although as ‘soul’ he exists in every man, he is, as we have shown by some extracts from the secret scrolls, recognized as king and priest [compare Melchizedek]. When the celebrant, breaking off fragments from the loaves before him which represent human souls, adds these to the pihta [sacramental bread] he holds to represent the newly departed, he does this to symbolize Laufa [union, communion], that is, unity in this world and the next. When he crowns the pihta with a myrtle wreath and anoints it with miša [sacramental “oil of unction”], he indicates that the Secret Adam is a Messiah in the ancient sense of the word, a crowned and anointed king [compare the Qabalah’s first sephira Keter=Crown]. He is Humanity fulfilled, ruler and victor.[4]

[*Purushao vava yagna: “(Divine) Anthropos is the sacrifice” (Chandokya Upanishad 3.16.1)]

….And from the Sethian gnostics (Trimorphic Protennoia)…

I am the Image of the Invisible Spirit, and it is through me that the All took shape, and (I am) the Mother (as well as) the Light which she appointed as Virgin, she who is called ‘Meirothea’, the incomprehensible Womb, the unrestrainable and immeasurable Voice … I am a single one, since I am undefiled. I am the Mother of the Voice [compare the Quranic umm al-kitab “Mother of the Book”], speaking in many ways, completing the All. It is in me that knowledge dwells, the knowledge of [things] everlasting. It is I who speak within every creature, and I was known by the All. It is I who lift up the Speech of the Voice to the ears of those who have known me, that is, the Sons of the Light … I am the Womb that gives shape to the All by giving birth to the Light that shines in splendor. I am the Aeon to come. I am the fulfillment of the All, that is, Meirothea, the glory of the Mother. I cast voiced Speech into the ears of those who know me. And I am inviting you into the exalted, perfect Light.

I am the Word who dwells in the ineffable Voice. I dwell in undefiled Light and a Thought revealed itself perceptibly through the great Speech of the Mother … And it (the Speech) exists from the beginning in the foundations of the All […]

It (the Word) is a hidden Light, bearing a fruit of life, pouring forth a living water from the invisible, unpolluted, immeasurable spring, that is, the unreproducible Voice of the glory of the Mother, the glory of the offspring of God; a male virgin by virtue of a hidden Intellect, that is, the Silence hidden from the All, being unreproducible, an immeasurable Light, the source of the All, the root of the entire Aeon. It is the foundation that supports every movement of the Aeons that belong to the mighty glory. It is the foundation of every foundation.

Endnotes:

[1] William Brede Kristensen, The Meaning of Religion: Lectures in the Phenomenology of Religion, Dordrecht (Netherlands): Springer Science+Business Media, 1960, p.429.
[2] Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907, pp.421–422.
[3] Joan E. Taylor, ‘Spiritual Mothers: Philo on the Women Therapeutae’, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 23 (2002), London: The Continuum Publishing Group Ltd, pp. 54 & 58.
[4] E.S. Drower, The Secret Adam: A Study of Nasoraean Gnosis, London: Oxford University Press, 1960, pp.21-22, 86 (n.2), 97–98, 105–106.

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