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Demiurge

From Academic Kids

The term Demiurge (or Yaldabaoth, Yao and several other variants, such as Ptahil used in Mandaeanism) refers in some belief systems to a deity responsible for the creation of the physical universe and the physical aspect of humanity. The word derives from the ancient Greek δημιουργός (dmiourgos), meaning "artisan" or "craftsman". (This word in turn comes from δήμιος "official" which in turn comes from δῆμος "people" and έργον meaning "creation" or "piece of work".) The term occurs in a number of different religious and philosophical systems, most notably Platonism and Gnosticism. The precise nature and character of the Demiurge however varies considerably, from being the benign architect of matter in some systems, to the personification of evil in others.

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Platonism

Plato refers to the Demiurge frequently in the Timaeus as the entity who "fashioned and shaped" the material world. Plato describes the Demiurge as unreservedly good and hence desirous of a world as good as possible. The world remains allegedly imperfect, however, because the Demiurge had to work on pre-existing chaotic matter.

Gnosticism

Gnosticism also presents a distinction between the highest, unknowable "alien God" and the "creator" of the material - the Demiurge. However, in contrast to Plato, many systems of Gnostic thought present the Demiurge as antagonistic to the will of the Supreme Creator: this sort of Demiurge focusses solely on material reality and on the "sensuous soul". In this system, the Demiurge acts as a solution to the problem of evil. In the Apocryphon of John (in the Nag Hammadi collection), the Demiurge has the name "Yaltabaoth", and proclaims himself as God:

"Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come."

Yaldabaoth literally means "Child, come hither" in a certain Semitic language. Gnostic myth recounts that Sophia (literally 'wisdom', the Demiurge's mother and aspect of the Father) desired to create something apart from the Father to which he did not consent. In this act of separation, she gave birth to the Demiurge and being ashamed of her deed, she wrapped him in a cloud and created a throne for him within it. The Demiurge did not see her, nor anyone else, and thus concluded that only he himself existed, he did not know the source of his power and did not know that there was someone above him. The myth is full of intricate nuances portraying the first separation which later turned into the entrapment of the divine spark, Sophia, within the human form. This spark is latent until awakened by a call and the knowledge of one as this divine spark is the beginning of restoration of Sophia as well as gnosis.

Samael equates to the Judaic Angel of Death, as well as to the angel that corresponds to the Christian Satan. Literally, it can mean "Blind God".

Saklas means "fool".

Some Gnostic philosophers (notably Marcion of Sinope) identify the Demiurge with Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, in opposition and contrast to the God of the New Testament. Catharism apparently inherited the idea of an evil creator-demiurge (equated with Satan) from Gnosticism.

Christianity

The concept of the Demiurge does not reconcile easily with modern Christian philosophy. The Platonic interpretation seems to presuppose the pre-existence of matter (in a chaotic form) and this conflicts with the Judeo-Christian concept of an all-powerful creator who fashioned the universe out of nothingness (ex nihilo). While Christian literature has a well-defined concept of Satan, most Christian theologians reject the notion that Satan (or an equivalent being) could create the physical universe.

Vedic tradition (Hinduism)

Brahma, a member of the trimurti, is a secondary creator of the universe. According to Puranas he is self-born (without mother) in the lotus which grows from the navel of Vishnu at the beginning of the universe. He is surrounded by darkness and tries unsuccessfully to find out about the origin of the lotus. Then he hears the syllables ta-pa and starts to perform asceticism and becomes empowered by Vishnu for creation.

Siberian Shamanism

In the shamanic religion of the ancient Turks and other Siberian nomads, Bai-Ulgan was the force behind creation. Inasmuch as Siberian shamanism may be said to parallel Gnostic cosmological beliefs, Bai-Ulgan has been compared to the demiurge.

References

See also

fr:Dmiurge ja:デミウルゴス pl:Demiurg sv:Demiurg nl:Demiurg

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