A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Basilidians

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BASILDIANS, a branch of the Egyptian Gnostics in the second century. They acknowledged the existence of one supreme God, perfect in goodness and wisdom, who produced from his own substance seven beings, or aions, of a most excellent nature. Two of these aions, called Dunamis and Sophia, (i. e. power and wisdom,) engendered the angels of the highest order. These angels formed a heaven for their habitation, and brought forth others of a nature somewhat inferiour to their own, to the amount of three hundred and sixty five, under their mighty chief Abraxas.

It may be worthy of remark, that by this sect the word aion, from expressing only the duration of beings, was by a metonymy employed to signify the beings themselves. Thus the supreme Being was called aion; and the angels were distinguished by the title of aions. All this will lead us to the true meaning of that word among the Gnostics. They had formed to themselves the notion of an invisible world, composed of entities, or virtues, proceeding from the Supreme Being, and succeeding each other at certain intervals of time, so as to form an eternal chain, of which our world was the terminating link. To the beings which formed this eternal chain, the Gnostics assigned a certain term of duration, and a certain sphere of action. Their terms of duration were at first called aions; and themselves where afterwards metonymically distinguished by that title.

These beings, advanced to the government of the world which they had created, fell by degrees from their original purity, and soon manifested the fatal marks of depravity and corruption.[1] See Gnostics.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Mosheim, vol i. p. 181—183. Lardner's Heretics, p. 76, &c.