The Story of Norea
(or the Gnostic Flood Story)
Some Gnostic Christians developed alternate interpretations of some of the Old Testament stories in which the Jewish God Yahweh was seen as intent on keeping his creation in ignorance and, therefore, apart from the perfection of the Pleroma, or, loosely understood, Gnostic heaven. Early in The Secular Gospel of Sophia there is a scene in which Timaeus tells the story of the Great Flood from a Gnostic perspective, from the perspective of Norea, Noah’s wise and brave spouse. I adapted the story from several sources, but primarily from one of the Nag Hammadi books, “The Hypostasis of the Archons.”
324 A.D. – Palestine
“Do you think these rulers have any power over you? None of them can prevail against the root of truth; for on its account he appeared in the final ages; and these authorities will be restrained. And these authorities cannot defile you and that generation; for your abode is in incorruptibility, where the virgin spirit dwells, who is superior to the authorities of chaos and to their universe.”
The Hypostasis of the Archons
Timaeus’ telling of the story of Norea:
“Before the beginning was the realm of Pleroma where Sophia exists as Ennoia, or pure thought. There was no darkness. No land. No sea. No heaven. No earth. No creation. And in that realm of Pleroma we, too, were there, or at least fragments of ourselves, not creations, but emanations. Not as humans or individuals or beings of any kind to live and perish apart from the All, but as thoughts together, emanations together, all as one, in the mind of Sophia as part of Sophia. Knowing all without awareness. Needing nothing. Perfect.
“One day, in the realm of Pleroma, Sophia, or Barbelo as some name her, conceived a son in the form of a separate thought or emanation. And this emanation pulled apart from Sophia. It is unknown how and why from the perfect Sophia would emanate an existence with autonomy of thought and will, but so it was. Yaldabaoth, we call him. The Hebrew calls him Yahweh or Elohim or El. Having conceived of Yaldabaoth, she gave birth to her one imperfection. This imperfection left the Pleroma and could not reenter the perfection of Sophia’s mind, Ennoia.
“In his ignorance, Yaldabaoth thought apart from Sophia, apart from the harmony of Ennoia. He saw the Pleroma as chaos because he could not understand the perfection of the All as One. He grew angry at his expulsion and isolation. His separate and inferior mind could not grasp Ennoia, could not grasp Sophia’s perfect mind. Knowing this caused him pain. In the manner of a dullard schoolboy, his mind began to wander. He thought of another realm, a physical realm that his Mother could not enter, where he would be supreme and unquestioned.
“So it was that Yaldabaoth divided portions of the All, separated the light from the darkness and the land from the sea and the earth from the air. He created the physical existence of all living creatures and gave them form in the manner of his reckless choosing, circumscribed only by the limits of his imagination. Into this world he last made man and woman, Adam and Eve. As a cruel act of rebellion against Sophia, he gave Adam dominion over Eve.
“Once he had created this world, Yaldabaoth realized that through him, against his wishes, his creations carried something of Sophia and that there existed in them, or at least some of them, a spark from the divine and a longing for the Pleroma. Although he had made them, everything he made came originally from Sophia and, through her, from the Unknowable One. As a child born a hundred generations after the matriarch may possess the nose or eyes or hands of her ancestor, so, too, did Yaldabaoth’s creations possess within them not knowledge itself, but the vestigial memory of knowledge manifest as longing and curiosity.
“Discovering this trait of his Mother within the minds of his highest creation, Yaldabaoth sought to deprive them of knowledge, that they might forever worship him. Thus, he decreed that we would live hungry without knowing for what we craved. He made all flesh mortal so that our time for seeking knowledge would be limited. He forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge that grew from Sophia’s seed. While they lived thus suspended, Yaldabaoth loved them and played with them as a child might love and play with figures carved from wood. He mingled with them, taking physical form to fornicate with Eve to bring forth Cain and Abel.
“But Eve, possessing more of Sophia than Adam, hungered for knowledge and ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree and beckoned Adam to do likewise. With their knowledge, they learned that Yaldabaoth was not almighty, that he was but the imperfect emanation of a perfect mind. They learned that he was childlike in his anger and his jealousy. They clung to each other. They loved each other. And Eve would no longer lay with Yaldabaoth, so he cast them forth from the Garden of Eden.
“If Yaldabaoth thought that Adam and Eve would be frightened and beg to be returned to the garden of ignorance, he was mistaken. Eve gave birth to the first son of man, Seth, and the first daughter of woman, Norea, and they flourished, growing ever closer to an understanding of Sophia, Ennoia, and realm of the Pleroma.
“A thousand years passed and the children of Adam and Eve prospered in gnosis, gaining wisdom and knowledge of their great mother Sophia. They ceased to pay heed to Yaldabaoth, except as one heeds a criminal in the dark. They feared him and his intermittent wrath, but they worshiped him not. They learned to speak and write and to craft poetry from their words, in this way communing with Sophia, gaining awareness and knowledge of the Supreme Existence that makes all things possible. They learned to organize, to cultivate, to build. Their thirst for true knowledge led them to look for the truth in every direction, to see gods in the earth, the sky, the sea, the rivers, the wind and the stars. And they were not wrong, my brothers and sisters, not completely wrong, because aspects of Sophia, the essence of Sophia, can be found in all things. And so it was that they were gaining knowledge of Sophia.
“As people gained knowledge, they stopped worshiping Yaldabaoth, knowing that it was he who had separated them from Sophia in the Pleroma. So in his anger, Yaldabaoth determined to start over, to destroy mankind utterly, saving only the single most ignorant man on Earth and his family. I speak of Noah. Yaldabaoth told Noah to build an ark for his family and for all lesser creatures that dwelt upon the Earth. He told Noah to leave all other men and women behind, thinking thereby to erase the very spark of Sophia from his creation.
“So, Noah built the ark, but when it was finished his wife Norea, having gnosis and realizing the plans of Yaldabaoth, set it afire. Noah built the ark a second time and, again, Norea burnt it to the ground.
“Now Yaldabaoth was angry and, taking the form of a man, came to Norea with the object of killing her. But when he saw her beauty, he instead insisted that she lay with him, as her ancestor Eve had once done.
“Repulsed, Norea turned to Yaldabaoth and said: ‘You are the ruler only of the Darkness; you are accursed. And I am not your daughter, but the daughter of Adam, who is a man. I am not your descendant; rather it is from the World Above that I am come.’
“Yaldabaoth turned to Norea in fury. He said to her, ‘You must render service to me, as did also your mother Eve.’
“Norea cried out to the heavens for help and was rescued by Understanding, an angel of Sophia, who taught her about her origins and destiny in the world beyond time. Understanding said to Norea, ‘Do you think Yaldabaoth has any power over you? He cannot prevail against the Root of Truth. You, together with your offspring, are from Sophia, from Above. Out of the imperishable Light your souls are come. Thus Yaldabaoth cannot approach you because the Spirit of Truth is present within you. He can destroy only what he has created, but what he did not create, he cannot destroy.’”
“It is said that after the attempted rape of his wife, Noah did not build another ark. That, instead, Norea led her family and others with gnosis and as many animals as could be herded, to high ground, beyond the limited power of Yaldabaoth, to ride out the storm. And in his evil, Yaldabaoth did cause floods throughout the Earth and many people perished. But some, like Norea, could divine the Universe and see his plan so that it did not succeed altogether. And, thus, did Knowledge survive the flood.”
Timaeus’ delivery was animated and without hesitation, as if he were speaking from personal knowledge. When he finished, he smiled a beatific smile and took a long drink of water before continuing.
“What does this story mean to us,” Timaeus continued, “this story that survived the flood and the punishments of David and Solomon, yes and even the punishments of the Caesars and the Catholics? Simply this, my brothers and my sisters: That Yaldabaoth exists in the realm of perishability, the dead world, and thinks he can keep us, his creations, apart from the Imperishable. But those with knowledge understand that we come from the Imperishable and that only by resisting the power of the perishable god Yaldabaoth and his contrivances, by seeking the higher ground of understanding, can we return to the Pleroma. For, in truth, that spark within us which longs for knowledge came not from Yaldabaoth, but from the True Mother, from Sophia.”