The followers of Basilides, the
The descriptions of the Basilidian system given by our chief informants, Irenaeus (in his Adversus Haereses) and Hippolytus (in his Philosophumena), are so strongly divergent that they seem to many quite irreconcilable. According to Hippolytus, Basilides was apparently a pantheistic evolutionist[
His view of creation, according to the orthodox heresiologists, was likely similar to that of
Historians, such as Philip Shaff, have the opinion that: "Irenaeus described a form of Basilideanism which was not the original, but a later corruption of the system. On the other hand, Clement of Alexandria surely, and Hippolytus, in the fuller account of his Philosophumena, probably drew their knowledge of the system directly from Basilides' own work, the Exegetica, and hence represent the form of doctrine taught by Basilides himself".
Like other gnostics, Basilides taught that salvation comes through knowledge and not faith. This knowledge, or gnosis, was considered esoteric, a revelation to human beings by the divine
Because Basilides believed faith was a matter of nature, doubtlessly he pushed election so far as to sever a portion of mankind from the rest, as alone entitled by Divine decree to receive a higher enlightenment. In this sense it must have been that he called "the election a stranger to the world, as being by nature supermundane".
Basilides likewise brought in the notion of sin in a past stage of existence suffering its penalty here, "the elect soul" suffering "honourably through martyrdom, and the soul of another kind being cleansed by an appropriate punishment." To this doctrine of metempsychosis the Basilidians are likewise said to have referred the language of the Lord about requital to the third and fourth generations; Origen states that Basilides himself interpreted Romans 7:9 in this sense,
The Apostle said, 'I lived without a law once,' that is, before I came into this body, I lived in such a form of body as was not under a law, that of a beast namely, or a bird.
However, if there be any who suffers without previous sin, it will not be "by the design of an [adverse] power", but as suffers the babe who appears to have committed no sin. The infant is said to receive a benefit when it is subjected to suffering, "gaining" many hardships.
Origen complained that Basilides deprived men of a salutary fear by teaching that transmigrations are the only punishments after death.
Because Basilides held to a fatalistic view of metempsychosis, he believed the
The Basilideans were accustomed to call the passions Appendages, stating that these are certain spirits that append (προσηρτημένα) themselves to rational souls in a certain primitive turmoil and confusion. Then, they imitate the actions of those they are appended to, and not only acquire the impulses of the irrational animals, but even imitate the movements and beauties of plants. These Appendages can also have characteristics of habit [derived from stones], as the hardness of
It is impossible to determine the precise origin of this singular theory, but it was probably connected with the doctrine of metempsychosis, which seemed to find support in