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The Bridal Chamber – Excerpts on Alchemy from The Gospel of Philip

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene by Charles de La Fosse, c. 1680-1685.1

The following passages are from an ancient Gnostic Christian text called The Gospel of Philip, which is attributed to Jesus’ disciple Phillip. It was discovered in 1945 in Egypt as part of a library of ancient texts called the Nag Hammadi Library that had been buried by nearby monks to preserve them after the Bishop of Alexandria had condemned their use. They lay beneath the sands of Egypt for nearly 2,000 years until they were discovered remarkably by chance.

This particular Gospel contains the hidden or esoteric side of Jesus’ teaching, which he gave to a select few. It contains many passages about the practice of spiritual alchemy, which was called the “bridal chamber” by the followers of Jesus’ esoteric teaching. The practice of spiritual alchemy often had to be given secretly, and veiled in symbolism, as has been done in this text – in order to protect those teaching it from persecution.

The following excerpts explain that a pure marriage between a husband and wife is a spiritual mystery. The bridal chamber, or the bedroom of the couple, is described as the “Holy of Holies,” as pure sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is said to be spiritually powerful. In the bridal chamber, which is considered the most sacred of places, through working with the symbolic water and fire (which is the sexual energies and awakened sexual fire) the soul, spirit, and “son of the bridal chamber” come into being. This is a reference to the practice of spiritual alchemy.

The mystery of marriage is great. [Without] it, the world would [not] exist. The existence of [the world depends on] people, and the existence [of people depends on] marriage. Then think of the power of [pure] intercourse, though its image is defiled.

No [one can] know when [a husband] and wife have sex except those two, for marriage in this world is a mystery for those married. If defiled marriage is hidden, how much more is undefiled marriage a true mystery! It is not fleshly but pure. It belongs not to desire but to will. It belongs not to darkness or night but to the day and the light.

~ The Gospel of Philip, translated by Marvin Meyer

 

It is from water and fire that the soul and the spirit came into being. It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber (came into being). The fire is the chrism, the light is the fire.

Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber.

If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated.

~ The Gospel of Philip, translated by Wesley W. Isenberg in James M. Robinson (Ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 148, 150, 151, 158.

Interestingly in this text, Mary Magdalene is described as Jesus’s companion, and it is said that he loved her more than the other disciples and used to kiss her often.


  1. Public domain image found here  

8 Comments

  • I believe there’s a very deep knowledge in those words.

    Each line made me pause and reflect on it a bit. This line I found interesting for example “It belongs not to desire but will.” It is very interesting to contemplate what a marriage is like without the normal programs of nature in operation, like if that’s not there what would be in its place?

  • Also wanted to say – a very nice image. I haven’t seen this one before. At a certain point in the past, I was searching for different images of this “Noli me Tangere” scene, trying to delve into its spiritual meaning a bit more. And even though many artists have depicted it throughout history, it was hard to find one that would have both Mary and Christ looking reverent enough, and yet not stiff or lifeless. Here is an icon from a monastery in Crete, which also looks nice: https://iconreader.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/venice_noli_me_tangere.jpg

  • Such a nice and symbolic excerpt given here, thank you for sharing.
    Giving rise to reflexions on the spiritual value of an unveiled teaching, though hidden for centuries, and the respect for its sacredness.

  • Thank you. Reading these extracts it makes me realize how hidden and coded alchemy has been, how easily these teachings can be taken on a more base level, and how fortunate it is that such a sacred practise is being taught, decoded, today.

  • Thank you for posting this excerpt. It has always intrigued and inspired me, especially the pure marriage that is not fleshly, and is hidden and is a great mystery.

    I have been thinking, how much pain and confusion there has been in the world in the realm of relationships, and if there was something pure and undefilable (undefilable because of the very nature of it, that is), how great that would be… Because I thought, here in the physical world, everything is defilable, even the marriages conducted on spiritual principles. One day, things may change and everything is gone, things are very fragile here, and dependant on so many factors, karma being one of them. But if something was undefilable due to the very nature of it, that nobody and no power and no force could ever defile because of the very design of it – that would be amazing. With the spiritual work, it seems this would be possible, but apparently, only for the few…

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