CARPOCRATES, car-pec'ra-tţz, AND THE CARPOCRATIANS: An Alexandrian Gnostic of the first half of the second century and the sect which he founded. His teachings rested upon a Platonic basis, and were interspersed with Christian ideas. According to IrenŠus (Hťr., i. 25), supplemented here and there by Epiphanius (Hťr., xxvii.), he taught that in the beginning was the divine primitive source, "the father of all," "the one beginning " (Gk. arche). Angels, far removed from this source, have created the world. The world-builders have imprisoned in bodies the fallen souls, who originally worked with God, and now have to go through every form of life and every act to regain their freedom. To accomplish this a long series of transmigrations through the bodies is needed. The words of Jesus in Luke xii. 58 (Matt. v. 25) expressed this thought very clearly in Carpocrates's view; the "adversary" is the devil, who drags the souls to the highest of the world-builders; the latter delivers them to another angel, his messenger, to be incarcerated in bodies until they have paid the last farthing, i.e., have won freedom, and can rise to the highest God. During their transmigrations the souls have retained the power of remembering (Gk. anamnesis), though in different degree. The soul of Jesus, son of Joseph, possessed the power of remembering God in greatest purity. Therefore God bestowed upon him power to escape the world-builders and to despise the Jewish customs in which he was brought up. Whosoever thinks and acts like him obtains the same power; whosoever is still more perfect can reach higher. This is the faith and the love through which we are saved; everything else, essentially indifferent, is good or bad, godless or shameless only according to human conceptions; for by nature nothing is bad. This is the teaching which Jesus himself gave to his disciples, "privately in a mystery," ordering them to disseminate it among the faithful ("the worthy and believing"). The Carpocratians rendered divine honor to Jesus as to the other secular sages (Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle). They claimed for themselves the power of ruling the world-builders: magic arts, exorcism, philters and love-potions, dreams and cures were at their command, and like other secret societies they had a special mark of recognition, which they burned with a hot iron on the back of the lobe of the right ear.
Later writers follow IrenŠus. Clement alone adds new matter in some quotations from a Carpocratian manuscript. He says that Carpocrates had a son, Epiphanes, whose mother was Alexandria of Cephalonia; that this son became an author, died when seventeen years old, and was honored as a god at Same in Cephalonia. This story has been declared mythical (cf. Volkmar; in the Monatsschrift des wissenschaftlichen Vereins in ZŘrich, 1858, pp. 276-277; Lipsius, Zur Quellenkritik des Epiphanius, pp. 161-162, Leipsic, 1865), and it is maintained that traits of the moon-god worshiped at Same (Gk. theos epiphanes) were transferred to Epiphanes, the Gnostic. Though this suggestion is striking, there is hardly reason for making a myth of the entire statement of Clement, so much the more as he has filled out his account by a long extract from a work of Epiphanes "On Righteousness." In this work the young idealist advocated community of goods and women without the intention of preaching general immorality. Even IrenŠus had written: "I can hardly believe that all the ungodly, unlawful, and forbidden things of which we read in their books are really done among them." One needs only to reflect how inconsistently highly endowed advocates of similar views think and act nowadays, though of course it must be admitted that such conceptions in earlier times might have caused in immature minds the same troubles as they do to-day. At all events, Carpocratianism can not be called Christianity. It is a specifically ethnic phenomenon, easily explicable from the religious syncretism of the second century.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The sources are accessible in Eng. in ANF, i. 350, ii. 382-404, iii. 216, 651, v. 113; NPNF, i. 114, 179, 199. Consult also: C. W. F. Walch, Historie der Ketzereien, i. 302-335, Leipsic, 1762; A. Neander, Genetische Entwickelung der vornehmsten gnostischen Systeme, pp. 355-360, Berlin, 1818; idem, Christian Church, i. 292, 399, 449-451, 484; W. M÷ller, Geschichte der Kosmologie, pp. 335-343, Halle, 1860; A. Hilgenfeld, Ketsergeschichte des Urchristentums, pp. 397-408, Leipsic, 1884; Harnack, Litteratur, i. 161-162.
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