“Now let us see what are the greatest heresies of the Gnostics. We will select Basilides as the standard for our comparisons, for all the founders of other Gnostic sects, group round him like a cluster of stars borrowing light from their sun. Basilides maintained that he had all his doctrines from the Apostle Matthew, and from Peter through Glaucus, the disciple of the latter. According to Eusebius, he published twenty-four volumes of Interpretations upon the Gospels, all of which we burned, a fact which makes us suppose that they contained more truthful matter than the school of Irenaeus was prepared to deny.
He asserted that the unknown, eternal, and uncreated Father having first brought forth Nous, or Mind, the latter emanated from itself – the Logos. The Logos, the Word of John, emanated in its turn Phronesis, or the Intelligences, Divine-human spirits. From Phronesis sprung Sophia, or feminine wisdom, and Dynamis – strength. These were the personified attributes of the Mysterious godhead, the Gnostic quinternion, typifying the five spiritual, but intelligible substances, personal virtues or beings external to the unknown godhead. This is preeminently a kabalistic idea. It is still more Buddhistic.
The earliest systems of the Buddhistic philosophy – which preceded by far Gautama-Buddha – is based upon the uncreated substance of the “Unknown”, the A’di Buddha. This eternal, infinite Monad possesses, as a proper to his own essence, five acts of wisdom. From these it, by five separate acts of Dhyan, emitted five Dhyani Buddhas; these, like A’di Buddha, are quiescent in their system, passive. Neither A’di, nor either of the five Dhyani Buddhas, were ever incarnated, but seven of their emanations became Avatars, i.e., were incarnated on this earth.
Describing the Basilidean system, Irenaeus, quoting the Gnostics, declares as follows’
“When the uncreated, unnamed Father saw the corruption of mankind, he sent his first-born Nous, into the world, in the form of Christ, for the redemption of all who believe in him, out of the power of those who fabricated the world, (the Demiurgus, and his six sons, the planetary genii). He appeared amongst men as the man Jesus, and wrought miracles. This Christ did not die in person, but Simon the Cyrenian suffered in his stead, to whom he lent his bodily form; for the Divine Power, the Nous of the Eternal father, is not corporeal, and cannot die. Whoso, therefore, maintains that Christ has died, is still in the bondsman of ignorance; whoso denies the same, he is free, and hath understood the purpose of the Father.”
So far, and taken in its abstract sense, we do not see anything blasphemous in this system. It may be a heresy against the theology of Irenaeus and Tertullian, but there is certainly nothing sacrilegious against the religious idea itself, and it will seem to every impartial thinker far more consistent with divine reverence than the anthropomorphism, of actual Christianity.
The Gnostics were called by the orthodox Christians, Docetae, or Illusionists, for believing that Christ did not, nor could, suffer death actually – in physical body. The later Brahmanical books contain likewise, much that is repugnant to the reverential feeling and idea of the Divinity; and as well as the Gnostics, the Brahmans explain such legends as may shock the divine dignity of the Spiritual beings called gods by attributing them to Maya or illusion.”
H. P. Blavatsky