Gnosticism associates purity with the kingdom of light (Pleroma). Since it is essential that the element of light, which comes forth from the earthly darkness, is thoroughly purified before it can make an entry into the kingdom of light. Above all, baptism serves this purpose. With baptism, the Gnostic obtains his immortal garment of light or the perfect man (= Christ). In other words, the spirit of the heavenly Christ descends upon him, just as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus Christ at his baptism. In some texts, anointing was more important than baptism: the anointing oil expelled demons and gave protection against them, and the gift of immortality was also transmitted by anointing.
Baptism or dressing oneself with the immortal garment of light, enacted by immersion in water, is a symbol for immersing oneself in the purifying waters of the ocean of light/wisdom, i.e., Pleroma. Consequently, through baptism in water, this immortal garment of light is also associated with water. The corresponding element for the ocean of light/wisdom in Mesopotamia is Apsû, the (sweet water) ocean of wisdom - the word itself containing the revealing elements of ab = sea and zu = wisdom. Correspondingly, Aššur, who grew up in Apsû, is described being covered in the garment of water (SAA 3 34.55, SAA 3 35.46), thus identifying him as the ocean of divine light, to whom all returns. Whereas the baptism in water serves as a purifying element in Gnosticism, the purgatory nature of the waters of Apsû, the sweet water, is evident, for instance, in the Namburbi texts (from the eighth-sixth centuries BCE) where it is a common practice to purify the threatened person with water before apotropaic rites can work. Purification can also be done as a concluding ritual, to ensure the preceding apotropaic action. It is also common to throw the malevolent object or its substitute into the river so that it would be lost in the watery depths, and hence balance the situation. The river itself is divinized, and, as such, can serve as a divine force to which the liturgist makes an offering or performs an incantation to remove the evil.
Sources (list of abbreviations) (source links will open in a new browser window)
SAA 3 34.55
SAA 3 35.46
|Lapinkivi 2004, 173-174||Lapinkivi, Pirjo. The Sumerian Sacred Marriage in the Light of Comparative Evidence. State Archives of Assyria Studies 15. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Coprus Project 2004.|
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