Here is an excerpt from Iranaeus on Basilides and Carpocrates. 
From CCEL = Christian Classics Ethereal Library, located on Wheaton 
College's web server.



    1. Arising among these men, Saturninus (who was of that Antioch which is 
near Daphne) and Basilides laid hold of some favourable opportunities, and 
promulgated different systems of doctrine--the one in Syria, the other at 
Alexandria. Saturninus, like Menander, set forth one father unknown to all, 
who made angels, archangels, powers, and potentates. The world, again, and 
all things therein, were made by a certain company of seven angels. Man, 
too, was the workmanship of angels, a shining image bursting forth below 
from the presence of the supreme power; and when they could not, he says, 
keep hold of this, because it immediately darted upwards again, they 
exhorted each other, saying, "Let us make man after our image and 
likeness."(1) He was accordingly formed, yet was unable to stand erect, 
through the inability of the angels to convey to him that power, but 
wriggled [on the ground] like a worm. Then the power above taking pity upon 
him, since he was made after his likeness, sent forth a spark of life, which 
gave man an erect posture, compacted his joints, and made him live. He 
declares, therefore, that this spark of life, after the death of a man, 
returns to those things which are of the same nature with itself, and the 
rest of the body is decomposed into its original elements.
    2. He has also laid it down as a truth, that the SAviour was without 
birth, without body, and without figure, but was, by supposition, a visible 
man; and he maintained that the God of the Jews was one of the angels; and, 
on this account, because all the powers wished to annihilate his father, 
Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews, but to save such as believe in 
him; that is, those who possess the spark of his life. This heretic was the 
first to affirm that two kinds of men were formed by the angels,--the one 
wicked, and the other good. And since the demons assist the most wicked, the 
Saviour came for the destruction of evil men and of the demons, but for the 
salvation of the good. They declare also, that marriage and generation are 
from Satan.(2) Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from 
animal food, and draw away multitudes by a reigned temperance of this kind. 
They hold, moreover, that some of the prophecies were uttered by those 
angels who made the world, and some by Satan; whom Saturninus represents as 
being himself an angel, the enemy of the creators of the world, but 
especially of the God of the Jews.
    3. Basilides again, that he may appear to have discovered something more 
sublime and plausible, gives an immense development to his doctrines. He 
sets forth that Nous was first born of the unborn father, that from him, 
again, was born Logos, from Logos Phronesis, from Phronesis Sophia and 
Dynamis, and from Dynamis and Sophia the powers, and principalities, and 
angels, whom he also calls the first; and that by them the first heaven was 
made. Then other powers, being formed by emanation from these, crated 
another heaven similar to the first; and in like manner, when others, again, 
had been formed by emanation from them, corresponding exactly to those above 
them, these, too, framed another third heaven; and then from this third, in 
downward order, there was a fourth succession of descendants; and so on, 
after the same fashion, they declare that more and more principalities and 
angels were formed, and three hundred and sixty-five heavens.(3) Wherefore 
the year contains the same number of days in conformity with the number of 
the heavens.
    4. Those angels who occupy the lowest heaven, that, namely, which is 
visible to us, formed all the things which are in the world, and made 
allotments among themselves of the earth and of those nations which are upon 
it. The chief of them is he who is thought to be the God of the Jews; and 
inasmuch as he desired to render the other nations subject to his own 
people, that is, the Jews, all the other princes resisted and opposed him. 
Wherefore all other nations were at enmity with his nation. But the father 
without birth and without name, perceiving that they would be destroyed, 
sent his own first-begotten Nous (he it is who is called Christ) to bestow 
deliverance on them that believe in him, from the power of those who made 
the world. He appeared, then, on earth as a man, to the nations of these 
powers, and wrought miracles. Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but 
Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his 
stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be 
thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus 
himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For 
since he was an incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn father, 
he transfigured himself as he pleased, and thus ascended to him who had sent 
him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be laid hold of, and was 
invisible to all. Those, then, who know these things have been freed from 
the principalities who formed the world; so that it is not incumbent on us 
to confess him who was crucified, but him who came in the form of a man, and 
was thought to be crucified, and was called Jesus, and was sent by the 
father, that by this dispensation he might destroy the works of the makers 
of the world. If any one, therefore, he declares, confesses the crucified, 
that man is still a slave, and under the power of those who formed our 
bodies; but he who denies him has been freed from these beings, and is 
acquainted with the dispensation of the unborn father.
    5. Salvation belongs to the soul alone, for the body is by nature 
subject to corruption. He declares, too, that the prophecies were derived 
from those powers who were the makers of the world, but the law was 
specially given by their chief, who led the people out of the land of Egypt. 
He attaches no importance to [the question regarding] meats offered in 
sacrifice to idols, thinks them of no consequence, and makes use of them 
without any hesitation; he holds also the use of other things, and the 
practice of every kind of lust, a matter of perfect indifference. These men, 
moreover, practise magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and 
every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were 
those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, 
and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the 
names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five 
imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the 
Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau.(1)
    6. He, then, who has learned [these things], and known all the angels 
and their causes, is rendered invisible and incomprehensible to the angels 
and all the powers, even as Caulacau also was. And as the son was unknown to 
all, so must they also be known by no one; but while they know all, and pass 
through all, they themselves remain invisible and unknown to all; for, "Do 
thou," they say, "know all, but let nobody know thee." For this reason, 
persons of such a persuasion are also ready to recant [their opinions], yea, 
rather, it is impossible that they should suffer on account of a mere name, 
since they are like to all. The multitude, however, cannot understand these 
matters, but only one out of a thousand, or two out of ten thousand. They 
declare that they are no longer Jews, and that they are not yet Christians; 
and that it is not at all fitting to speak openly of their mysteries, but 
right to keep them secret by preserving silence.
    7. They make out the local position of the three hundred and sixty-five 
heavens in the same way as do mathematicians. For, accepting the theorems of 
these latter, they have transferred them to their own type of doctrine. They 
hold that their chief is Abraxas;(2) and, on this account, that word 
contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.


    1. Carpocrates, again, and his followers maintain that the world and the 
things which are therein were created by angels greatly inferior to the 
unbegotten Father. They also hold that Jesus was the son of Joseph, and was 
just like other men, with the exception that he differed from them in this 
respect, that inasmuch as his soul was stedfast and pure, he perfectly 
remembered those things which he had witnessed(3) within the sphere of the 
unbegotten God. On this account, a power descended upon him from the Father, 
that by means of it he might escape from the creators of the world; and they 
say that it, after passing through them all, and remaining in all points 
free, ascended again to him, and to the powers,(4) which in the same way 
embraced like things to itself. They further declare, that the soul of 
Jesus, although educated in the practices of the Jews, regarded these with 
contempt, and that for this reason he was endowed with faculties, by means 
of which he destroyed those passions which dwelt in men as a punishment [for 
their sins].
    2. The soul, therefore, which is like that of Christ can despise those 
rulers who were the creators of the world, and, in like manner, receives 
power for accomplishing the same results. This idea has raised them to such 
a pitch of pride, that some of them declare themselves similar to Jesus; 
while others, still more mighty, maintain that they are superior to his 
disciples, such as Peter and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, whom they 
consider to be in no respect inferior to Jesus. For their souls, descending 
from the same sphere as his, and therefore despising in like manner the 
creators of the world, are deemed worthy of the same power, and again depart 
to the same place. But if any one shall have despised the things in this 
world more than he did, he thus proves himself superior to him.
    3. They practise also magical arts and incantations; philters, also, and 
love-potions; and have recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, 
and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over, even 
now, the princes and formers of this world; and not only them, but also all 
things that are in it. These men, even as the Gentiles, have been sent forth 
by Satan(5) to bring dishonour upon the Church, so that, in one way or 
another, men hearing the things which they speak, and imagining that we all 
are such as they, may turn away their ears from the preaching of the truth; 
or, again, seeing the things they practise, may speak evil of us all, who 
have in fact no fellowship with them, either in doctrine or in morals, or in 
our daily conduct. But they lead a licentious life,(1) and, to conceal their 
impious doctrines, they abuse the name [of Christ], as a means of hiding 
their wickedness; so that "their condemnation is just,"(2) when they receive 
from God a recompense suited to their works.
    4. So unbridled is their madness, that they declare they have in their 
power all things which are irreligious and impious, and are at liberty to 
practise them; for they maintain that things are evil or good, simply in 
virtue of human opinion.(3) They deem it necessary, therefore, that by means 
of transmigration from body to body, souls should have experience of every 
kind of life as well as every kind of action (unless, indeed, by a single 
incarnation, one may be able to prevent any need for others, by once for 
all, and with equal completeness, doing all those things which we dare not 
either speak or hear of, nay, which we must not even conceive in our 
thoughts, nor think credible, if any such thing is mooted among those 
persons who are our fellow-citizens), in order that, as their writings 
express it, their souls, having made trial of every kind of life, may, at 
their departure, not be wanting in any particular. It is necessary(4) to 
insist upon this, lest, on account of some one thing being still wanting to 
their deliverance, they should be compelled once more to become incarnate. 
They affirm that for this reason Jesus spoke the following parable:--"Whilst 
thou art with thine adversary in the way, give all diligence, that thou 
mayest be delivered from him, lest he give thee up to the judge, and the 
judge surrender thee to the officer, and he cast thee into prison. Verily, I 
say unto thee, thou shalt not go out thence until thou pay the very last 
farthing."(5) They also declare the "adversary" is one of those angels who 
are in the world, whom they call the Devil, maintaining that he was formed 
for this purpose, that he might lead those souls which have perished from 
the world to the Supreme Ruler. They describe him also as being chief among 
the makers of the world, and maintain that he delivers such souls [as have 
been mentioned] to another angel, who ministers to him, that he may shut 
them up in other bodies; for they declare that the body is "the prison." 
Again, they interpret these expressions, "Thou shalt not go out thence until 
thou pay the very last farthing," as meaning that no one can escape from the 
power of those angels who made the world, but that he must pass from body to 
body, until he has experience of every kind of action which can be practised 
in this world, and when nothing is longer wanting to him, then his liberated 
soul should soar upwards to that God who is above the angels, the makers of 
the world. In this way also all souls are saved, whether their own which, 
guarding against all delay, participate in all sorts of actions during one 
incarnation, or those, again, who, by passing from body to body, are set 
free, on fulfilling and accomplishing what is requisite in every form of 
life into which they are sent, so that at length they shall no longer be 
[shut in the body.
    5. And thus, if ungodly, unlawful, and forbidden actions are committed 
among them, I can no longer find ground for believing them to be such.(6) 
And in their writings we read as follows, the interpretation which they give 
[of their views], declaring that Jesus spoke in a mystery to His disciples 
and apostles privately, and that they requested and obtained permission to 
hand down the things thus taught them, to others who should be worthy and 
believing. We are saved, indeed, by means of faith and love; but all other 
things, while in their nature indifferent, are reckoned by the opinion of 
men--some good and some evil, there being nothing really evil by nature.
    6. Others of them employ outward marks, branding their disciples inside 
the lobe of the right ear. From among these also arose Marcellina, who came 
to Rome under [the episcopate of] Anicetus, and, holding these doctrines, 
she led multitudes astray. They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess 
images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of 
material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate 
at that time when Jesus lived among them.(7) They crown these images, and 
set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is 
to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the 
rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same 
manner of the Gentiles.

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