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Regarding the gnostic Naassenes and their doctrine of the “Perfect Man” (seemingly equated with Christ), the Christian theologian Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235 AD) in his work Philosophumena (Book V, 3) writes:

. . . [Jacob] was astonished at the celestial Gate, exclaiming, “How terrible [full of awe] is this place! It is nought else than the house of God, and this (is) the Gate of Heaven.” On account of this, he [the Naassene] says, Jesus uses the words, “I am the true Gate.” (John 10:9; Matthew 7:13.)[1] Now he who makes these statements is, he says, the Perfect Man that is imaged from the unportrayable One from above [compare ‘the Reality of Muhammad’ al-Ḥaqīqah al-Muḥammadīyah as the first self-determination of the ineffable One al-dhāt al-aḥadiyya] . . . Jeremiah likewise utters lamentation for Jerusalem below, not the city in Phoenicia, but the corruptible generation below. For Jeremiah likewise, he says, was aware of the Perfect Man, of him that is born again—of water and the Spirit not carnal. At least Jeremiah himself remarked: “He is a man, and who shall know him?” In this manner, (the Naassene) says, the knowledge of the Perfect Man is exceedingly profound, and difficult of comprehension.

This “knowledge of the Perfect Man,” which is “exceedingly profound, and difficult of comprehension,” can be compared to the Sufi and Shīʿa ʿirfan (gnosis) of Insān al-Kāmil ‘the Perfect Man’ and ultimately ‘the Reality of Muhammad’ al-Ḥaqīqah al-Muḥammadīyah.

When Hippolytus says, “Now he who makes these statements is… the Perfect Man that is imaged from the unportrayable One from above,” is this not derived from the tradition of the Tsaddiq of whom it is said in the Zohar (1.59b): “Noah was a Righteous One [i.e. a Tsaddiq]. Assuredly so after the supernal (heavenly) Pattern. For it is written [Proverbs 10:25]: ‘The Righteous One is the Foundation of the World’, and the Earth is established thereon. For, this is the Pillar that upholds the world. So Noah was called Zaddik (Righteous) in this world . . . and acted so as to be a Perfect copy of the heavenly Ideal.” [Translation by Robert Eisenman]. The same was said of James-the-Tsaddiq in the Gospel of Thomas (Logion 12): “In the place you [the disciples] are to go, go to James the Righteous, for whose sake Heaven and Earth came into being.” [All emphasis added]

In view of the above, note also what the Shīʿa philosopher Ḥasan Lāhījī (1621-1709) writes of Insān al-Kāmil: “Absolute non-being is manifested only in and through absolute being. For any other than Perfect Man, access to this degree is difficult, for Perfect Man is the most perfect of beings and the very cause of the coming into existence of the world.”[2] [Emphasis added]


[1] Compare the Syriac Recognitions (2:22): “But the gate is the [True] Prophet and the city is the Kingdom, wherein the Father eternally sits before everyone and makes ready to be seen by those who have pure hearts. Therefore, it should not weary us to travel on the highway, for at the end of the highway there is rest. For even he, the True Prophet, from the beginning of the world hastens us to rest and runs with us to eternity.” (Joseph Glen Gebhardt, The Travels of Peter: The Syriac Clementine Recognitions and Homilies: The First Complete Translation of the Text, Nashville: Grave Distractions Publications, 2014, pp.107–108).
[2] Translated and cited in Henry Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, New Lebanon NY: Omega Publications Inc., 1994, p.118.

2 thoughts on “The Naassene “Perfect Man” and the Islamic “Insan al-Kamil”

  1. Thank you. Very interesting… 🙂 I am sure you will like the teachings of Kabir Helminski…

    “It has become an accepted spiritual idea that each part of the universe in some way reflects the whole. Contemporary spirituality has borrowed the holographic model from contemporary science. This notion has always existed within Sufism and is expressed, for instance, in the idea that the human being is not merely a drop that can merge with the Ocean, but a drop that contains the Ocean. Every divine attribute is latent within the human heart, and by the cooperation of human will with divine grace these attributes can be awakened and manifested. We human beings contain within ourselves the potential to experience completion, to know our intimate relationship to the whole of Being in such a way that we reflect this completion through ourselves. The highest spiritual attainment has been expressed by the phrase insân-i kâmil, the Completed Human Being. When I first entered on the Mevlevi Way, I was told that the aim was “completion”: “If you are a Jew, you will become a completed Jew; if you are a Christian, you will become a completed Christian; and if you are a Muslim, you will become a completed Muslim.” I was moved by the openness and generosity of this assertion, and I came to understand that “completion” is the fulfillment of the message brought by the prophets of these great religions.”
    ― Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mark for sharing the Kabir Helminski quote and video – relevant and appreciated!

      I actually have that book, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation – a favourite of mine – and over the years I’ve read a number of articles by Kabir (I also really enjoy his and Camille’s translations of Rumi’s poems). Incidentally, yes I do like and strongly relate to his teachings. I happen to regard him highly as a teacher – a true man of Heart. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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