“The Ophites (a Gnostic Fraternity in Egypt) asserted that there were several kinds of genii, from god to man; that the relative superiority of these was ruled by the degree of light that was accorded to each;
and they maintained that the serpent had to be constantly called upon and to be thanked for the signal service it had rendered humanity.
For it taught Adam that if he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would raise his being immensely by the learning and wisdom he would acquire.
Such was the exoteric reason given.
It is easy to see whence the primal idea of this dual, Janus-like character of the Serpent: the good and the bad.
This symbol is one of the most ancient, because the reptile preceded the bird, and the bird the mammal.
Thence the belief, or rather the superstition, of the savage tribes who think that the souls of their ancestors live under this form, and the general association of the Serpent with the tree.
The legends about the various things it represents are numberless; but, as most of them are allegorical, they have now passed into the class of fables based on ignorance and dark superstition.
For instance, when Philostratus narrates that the natives of India and Arabia fed on the heart and liver of serpents in order to learn the language of all the animals, the serpent being credited with that faculty, he certainly never meant his words to be accepted literally.
As will be found more than once as we proceed, the “Serpent” and “Dragon” were the names given to the “Wise Ones”, the initiated adepts of olden times.
It was their wisdom and their learning that were devoured or assimilated by their followers, whence the allegory.
Epiphanius lets out a secret of the Gnostics while trying to expose their heresies. The Gnostic Ophites, he says, had a reason for honoring the Serpent: it was because he taught the primeval men the Mysteries.
Verily so; but they did not have Adam and Eve in the garden in their minds when teaching this dogma, but simply that which is stated above.
The Nagas of the Hindu and Tibetan adepts were human Nagas (Serpents), not reptiles.
Moreover, the Serpent has ever been the type of consecutive or serial rejuvenation, of IMMORTALITY and TIME.”
H. P. Blavatsky