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Gnostic Mantras?

'Mantra' obviously refers to the ritual chants of the Dharmic religions, but the term is not entirely out of place here either. Below is a compilation of the so-called vowel chants found dispersed throughout the surviving Sethian Gnostic texts, also known as glossolalia, or voces magicae. These intonations can be found in both early and late Sethian texts meaning that they formed an integral part of the Sethian ritual or meditative traditions from beginning to end. They were a way to encode a sacred meaning in a seemingly meaningless, 'alien', set of ritual sounds. From the way they are written in the texts themselves it seems that they were intended to be spoken in a drawn out fashion and seem to have formed a part of both prayer, baptism, and meditative journeys of ascent to the Pleroma.

There are a few more than we have included here (mainly very short minor examples who's meanings are not known), which can for the most part be found in the Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit. These chants all occur at specific points in their respective texts so for more context see our Ancient Gnostic Scriptures page. Scholars who's work has been consulted for the below are Mervin Meyer, Willis Barnstone, John Turner, Birger Pearson, and F. Lamplugh.

For a vivid, if experimental, example of these chants in use see the Gnosis in Rhythm and Song project  orchestrated by Prof April Deconick with the aim of recreating some of the original format that they may have had.








Taken from the Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit. It is this chant that the Mother (Barbelo), the Son (the Triple Male Child, an upper reflection of Autogenes/Christ in the parlance of this text, or the 'Great Christ') offer in praise of the Great Invisible Spirit that came before them. The meaning of this chant is likely 'IEOU', as a reference to the highest God, E as shorthand for estin meaning 'is' in Greek, followed by A = Alpha, then O = Omega. So the chant effectively means 'The Father is the beginning and the end'. This chant occurs more than once in the text.

You are one,

You are one,

You are one,


Taken from the Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit, and chanted in honour of the primordial heavenly Adamas upon his emanation by Autogenes (Christ/the Logos) and Mirothea (an obscure female aeon who may simply be the female half of Autogenes). The first three lines are written in Coptic as with the rest of the text, but the last line represents the Greek ei a, ei a, ei a which itself again means 'You are one, you are one, you are one'.


Taken from The Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit, from the 'baptismal hymn' at the end of the text along with a few other very short examples. Its meaning comes from Greek again and simply means 'You are alpha (four times) omega (four times).


Also taken from the 'Baptismal Hymn' at the end of The Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit, this intonation seems to be a play on the Greek word for aeon (aion).


The individuals and the Four who are eightfold are alive!


Taken from Zostrianos during the protagonist's spiritual ascent, the first line seems to be an ecstatic exclamation playing on various alterations of Zoe 'life' (also the name of the daughter of Sophia) and Zao 'to live'. The second line is likely a reference to the Sethian Four Luminaries (and their female halves). In most Sethian texts the Four Luminaries are a group of high aeons which either contain or emanate other aeons, they usually come from and are beneath the Autogenes aeon (the Son) however in Zostrianos there is also a second set of Luminaries, higher still within the aeon of Barbelo. The last line may mean 'May he be' four times in which the 'O' represents the Greek masculine (for the Four Luminaries), followed by 'May he be first, may he be last'.





​ Taken from the Trimorphic Protennoia, it forms part of a hymn sung by the aeons to the Son, Autogenes, from whom they have just been emanated. The meaning is likely MA MO as abbreviations for Mirothea and Mirotheo (Mirothea is a female counterpart of Autogenes in some Sethian texts, it is from Mirothea and Autogenes that the heavenly Adamas is emanated) followed by the Greek o o o ei, 'You are three times omega/last', a ei on ei, 'You are alpha/first, you are he who is'.

Holy, Holy , Holy, AAA, HHH, EEE, III, OOO, YYY, OOO

Taken from the so-called 'Untitled Apocalypse' or the 'Gnosis of The Light', the meaning of this sequence as it was understood by the writers of this text is actually in the work itself: 'Thou art the Living One of Living Ones, Holy of Holies, Being of Beings, Father of Fathers, God of Gods, Lord of Lords, Space of Spaces'. This chant is addressed to the heavenly Seth, or 'Setheus', who has a prominent place in this text.

Sethian voces mysticae: About
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