The Foreigner

After spending some time recently with ‘Trimorphic Protennoia,’ I’ve moved on to ‘The Foreigner (Allogenes).’ I searched all over the internet, but the Layton translation is nowhere available, so I transcribed a bit from my copy of The Gnostic Scriptures. I really prefer his translation to the Turner/Wintermute translation, as much as I respect Turner; and truthfully, I don’t know what accounts for the differences. Even in academic translation, sometimes things change because discoveries or insights are made that are somewhat provable; other times, it comes down to the translator’s own ideas, based on his or her knowledge and perhaps even taste, about what shade of meaning is most important.

Widely associated with Seth, though not necessarily legitimately Sethian, ‘The Foreigner’ is unique amongst the Nag Hammadi codices in a number of respects. First, along with the Sethian ‘Apocalypse of Adam,’ it is distinctly exo-Christian, though not known to be pre-Christian as AoA is thought to be. It is also distinctly personal, psychological, and unresolved in many respects. You can see echoes of Jung in this – reverse echoes I suppose, riding in from the future-past on tachyons. I’d like to know if Jung was familiar with this particular writing, and if he wrote anything about it.

You can find the Turner translation here; it just doesn’t do it for me. I think, having read multiple translations of many of these works, that Layton has real skill in conveying the impact, the emotional resonance, with a kind of clarity that’s missing in other efforts. Again, I’m no historian – maybe that comes at the cost of accuracy, though I’d be surprised to learn that.

I really like Layton’s introduction, so I’m including some pieces of that here, along with an excerpt from his excerpt. Emphasis is mine. You can’t get sued for excerpting, right?


“The concluding half of The Foreigner (“Allogenes”), which is translated here, describes the interior mystical journey of a soul to acquaintance or gnosis with the ineffable first principle…

“The mystical ascent described in Fr is almost entirely abstract, without metaphorical “baptisms” or interpreting angels. Furthermore, the ascent is explicitly said to be “inward” to the interior self, so that the apocalyptic convention of an “upward” voyage through “heavens” is entirely suppressed. No reference is made to a return voyage downward. The voyager is not explicitly identified with any known religious hero or put in a historical setting, but simply called “the Foreigner” (Greek allogenes, “an other type,” “an alien type”; the Greek word is retained in the ancient Coptic version of the text)…

“The Foreigner’s experience comes not after a career of religious service as in Zs, but as the summation of a hundred years of “deliberation,” i.e. study and contemplation…

“Thus, in Fr, a mythic structure whose original context was cosmology (in Bjn) has been abstractly transformed into a psychology of the individual gnostic- macrocosm into microcosm, myth into philosophical mysticism…

“The abstract and theoretical character if the excerpt does not allow for reference to the history of Israel or the foundation of Christianity, nor indeed to dramatic actions of any part of the gnostic myth.”

-Bentley Layton, “The Gnostic Scriptures,” first edition (1987)


“O foreigner, behold how your blessedness resides in silence – (a blessedness) through which you understand yourself as you really are. And in seeking to understand yourself, withdraw into vitality, which you will see moving. And if you are unable to stand at rest, do not be afraid, Rather, if you want to stand at rest, withdraw into reality, and you will find it standing at rest and still, after the resemblance of what is really still and restrains all these (spiritual beings) in quietness and lack of activity.

“And if you receive a manifestation thereof through a first manifestation of the unrecognizable – of which you must be uncomprehending, if you should happen to understand it – and if you are afraid there, draw back because of the activities. And if in that place you become perfect, be still; and understand also that its manner of existing in [all these] (spiritual beings) is after the pattern that resides in you.

“And do not desire to be further dispersed, [so that] you might be able to stand at rest. And do not desire to [be active], lest you utterly perish [because of] the inactive element within [you] that belongs to the unrecognizable. Do not (attempt to) comprehend it: for this is impossible. Rather if, through a luminous thought, you should happen to understand it, be uncomprehending of it.”


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