One of the novel developments in the transition from the rather static ontologies typical of Middleplatonism to the dynamic emanationism of Neoplatonism is the doctrine of the unfolding of the world of true being and intellect from its source in a transcendent, only negatively-conceivable ultimate unitary principle which is itself beyond being. This unfolding or emanation is characteristically presented as occurring in a three-stage process: First, an initial identity of the product with its source, a sort of potential existence; second, an indefinite procession or unfolding of the product from its source, and third, a contemplative visionary reversion of the product upon its source, in which the product becomes aware of its separate existence and thereby takes on its own distinctive form and definition. The later Neoplatonists such as Proclus, perhaps Porphyry, and the author of the anonymous Parmenides Commentary named these three stages Permanence, Procession and Reversion, and characterized the three successive modes of the product's existence during this process by the terms Existence, Life and Intellect. Previously, Plotinus had applied a similar terminology, namely Being, Life and Mind, to describe the three principal aspects of the second of his three hypostases, Intellect.
Earlier still, according to Damascius (Dubitationes et Solutiones 61 & 221 = 1.131,17 & 2.101,25 Ruelle), the Chaldaean Oracles also applied the Existence, Life and Intelligence terminology to the principal transcendent entities of that system. Between the highest principle, the Paternal Monad (equated with Existence), and the divine Intellect, they interposed a median principle they called Hecate. This Hecate they equated with the processing power of the Paternal Monad, even though this resulted in a duplication of the figure of Hecate, whom at a still lower ontological level, they also identified with the World Soul.
Now more recently, this Existence, Life and Intellect triad has turned up in a group (the Platonizing Sethian treatises) of the Sethian Gnostic treatises from Nag Hammadi, at least two of which, Allogenes and Zostrianos, were known to Plotinus and his disciple Porphyry (see Porphyry, Vita Plotini 16). These two treatises, in addition to a third member of this group, The Three Steles of Seth, equate a triad Existence, Vitality and Mentality with a figure called the Triple Powered One. This figure is the link between the supreme principle called the Unknowable God or the Invisible Spirit and his First Thought or Intellect, called Barbelo, who is a higher form of Sophia, the divine wisdom. Here, the Invisible Spirit through its Triple Powered One generates the Aeon of Barbelo by a static self-extension in which the Triple Powered One, initially unbounded, proceeds from its source and then turns back upon it in an act of objectivizing self-knowledge, becoming bounded and taking on form and definition as Barbelo, the divine Intellect. Intimately related to these three treatises and especially to Zostrianos, whose author was probably the first to introduce the Existence, Vitality and Intellect triad to Sethian theology, is the Sethian Apocryphon of John, ostensibly our first witness to the complete Gnostic myth of Sophia, the fallen divine Wisdom as creator and redeemer of this world. Here one finds that the figure of Barbelo is likewise generated in an act of objectivizing self-knowledge on the part of the high deity; thereupon she immediately receives the triad of attributes Foreknowledge, Imperishibility and Eternal Life, a triad conceptually very close to the triad Existence, Vitality and Mentality of the Allogenes group and to the triad Existence, Life and Intellect of the Neoplatonists and the Chaldaean Oracles.
The purpose of this article, then, is to explore the relationships of these triadic figures to one another, in particular the Sethian triadic figures of the Triple Powered One and Barbelo, and the triadic figure of Hecate in the Chaldaean Oracles. Each of these figures is in varying degrees 1) equated with the triad Existence, Life and Intellect, 2) tends to be regarded as having doubles or cognates elsewhere in the scale of being, and 3) performs an intermediary function in the process of the generation of the transcendent world depicted in these various systems.
One may begin with Allogenes, which is representative of the metaphysical doctrine of Zostrianos and The Three Steles of Seth; its doctrine of the Triple Powered One is the crucial feature by which the treatise can be placed at a definite point in the Platonic metaphysical tradition. The terminology and the function of this triad precisely parallel that of the Existence, Life and Intellect triad in the later Neoplatonists and especially in the anonymous Neoplatonic commentary on Plato's Parmenides, which Pierre Hadot has persuasively attributed to Porphyry, the disciple and biographer of Plotinus.
In the Platonizing Sethian treatises, the members of this triad are named Existence (hyparxis) or Being (Greek ousia or Coptic pet[sinvcircumflex]oop = Greek to on or ontotÃªs), Life (Coptic pÃ´nh = Greek zÃ´Ãª) or Vitality (Coptic timntÃ´nh = Greek zÃ´otÃªs) and Mentality (Coptic timnteime or the Greek neologism noÃªtÃªs), attributes which the Unknowable deity, although it exists, lives and thinks, does not itself possess. Generally Allogenes prefers the abstract nouns Vitality and Mentality to the more concrete substantives Life and Mind, so as to avoid the implication that any of the terms of the triad are to be taken as substantial hypostases (cf. Proclus, In Parmenidem 1106,1-1108,19 Cousin). Yet at other times Allogenes employs the terms Being, Life and Mind, which Plotinus used to describe his hypostasis of Intellect. Indeed Plotinus seems to have derived his use of the triad at least in part from Plato's argument in the Sophist (248C-E) that true being must also have life and intelligence, as the following passage describing the generation of Intellect from the One shows:
- Life, not the life of the One, but a trace of it, looking toward the One was boundless, but once having looked was bounded (without bounding its source). Life looks toward the One and, determined by it, takes on boundary, limit and form.... it must then have been determined (as the life of) a Unity (i.e. Intellect) that includes Multiplicity ... Multiplicity because of Life, and Unity because of limit.... so Intellect is bounded Life. (Ennead VI.7.17,13-26)
Although Plotinus strongly separated the One from the Intellect, most Neoplatonists after him (save possibly Iamblichus) did not. Less inclined to the rigor of a self-actuated leap to mystical union, they preferred instead to emphasize the continuity rather than the discontinuity of the chain of being so as to allow for a more gradual ascent to the divine, if not even more a smooth path for the descent of the divine itself into the world. This tendency is nicely demonstrated in the contemporary exegesis of Plato's Parmenides in which the One of the first hypothesis (137D-142A) was identified with the Plotinian One, and the One-who-is of the second hypothesis (142B-143C) was identified with the intellect, as in this citation from the anonymous Parmenides commentary:
- The One beyond essence and being is neither being nor essence nor act, but rather acts and is itself pure act, such that it is itself pure being einai) before being (to on). By participating this being (the einai of the One), the One (scil. "who is," i.e. the second One) possesses another being declined from it (the einai of the One), which is to participate being (to on). Thus being is double: the first preexists being (to on); the second is derived from the transcendent One who is absolute being (einai) and as it were the idea of being (to on). (In Parm. XII, 23-33 [Hadot])
- Now it (the Unknowable One) is something insofar as it exists in that it either exists and will become or <lives> or knows, although it <acts> without Mind or Life or Existence (hyparxis) incomprehensibly.
Hadot further shows that the commentator must have conceived the Intellect as existing in two phases: a first in which Intellect is still identical with its source the One, and, after its generation from the One, a second phase in which it has become Intellect itself. In this self-generation, Existence (hyparxis) is the leading term in a three stage process. As Anon. Taurensis puts it:
- With respect to [existence (hyparxis) alone] it (the potential Intellect still identical with the One) is one and simple ... with respect to existence (hyparxis), life (zÃ´Ãª) and thought (noÃªsis) it is neither one nor simple. With respect to existence, thinking is also being thought. But when intellect [abandons] thought for thinking so as to be elevated to the rank of an intelligible in order to see itself, thinking is life. Therefore thinking is boundless with respect to life. And all are activities (energeiai) such that with respect to existence, activity would be static; with respect to thinking, activity would be directed to itself; and with respect to life, activity would be turning away from existence. (In Parm. XIV, 10-26 [Hadot])
That Allogenes calls the leading term in the emanative process both Existence (hyparxis) and Being (to on) seems to show that this treatise trades in the same terminology familiar to Plotinus on the one hand and the commentator on the other. The additional fact that Plotinus reacted against the notion of an Intellect consisting of several distinct levels and surely would be ill-disposed to the location of a triad latent within the One or between the One and the Intellect suggests that the scheme of Allogenes, and not only that of Numenius and others, was likely one of those so strongly criticized by Plotinus. The similarity between the schemes of Allogenes and of the Parmenides commentary may indicate that the commentator could have derived his scheme as much from Allogenes as from Plotinus or Numenius or especially the Chaldaean Oracles which are in fact cited in the commentary. By contrast with these professional philosophers, the rather unsystematic character of the presentation of the metaphysical scheme in Allogenes may owe not simply to garbled imitation or a desire to reconcile his metaphysics with the traditional Sethian mythologies, but may also quite likely owe to the author's originality. That is, Allogenes and/or the Commentary may have been an important catalyst and conceptual source to Plotinus, no matter how unacceptable certain other of its features may have been to him. Since the author of Allogenes is quite capable of accurate citation of his sources (e.g. his citation from the negative theology of the Apocryphon of John: BG 8502, 2:23,3-26,13 = NHC II,1:3:18-25 = Allogenes 62,28- 63,23), the unsystematic character of his metaphysics more likely owes to his originality than to confusion or misappropriation of the doctrine of Plotinus. And the fact that Allogenes was read in Plotinus' circle tends to add weight to this likelihood.
In sum, the fact that revelations under the name of "Allogenes," "Messos," "Zostrianos" and "Zoroaster" (Porphyry, Vita Plot. 16) circulated in and were refuted in Plotinus' seminars, coupled with the fact that the doctrines refuted by Plotinus in Ennead II.9 are so close to those of the Platonizing Sethian treatises, seems to suggest that the Neoplatonists are more likely dependent on the Sethian "Platonists" than the reverse. If so, treatises like Zostrianos and Allogenes would have been produced at a point prior to Plotinus' antignostic polemic of the years 263-269 (Enneads III.8, V.8, V.5 and II.9 [chronologically 30-33] as identified by R. Harder).
But what now can be said of the sources of the metaphysical doctrine of Allogenes? Recalling the strikingly close doctrinal and terminological similarity between Allogenes and the Parmenides commentary, and the fact that the commentary cites the Chaldaean Oracles, one may logically consider the Oracles as a possible source upon which the authors of Zostrianos and Allogenes drew. In addition to the Oracles, however, one must also consider the metaphysical scheme presented in the early Sethian work The Apocryphon of John, since, as mentioned above, the author of Allogenes explicitly cited a passage from that work. As possible sources for the concept the Triple Powered One of Allogenes, then, we will consider first the Oracles with their doctrine of Hecate, and then the Apocryphon of John with its doctrine of Barbelo.
The Chaldaean Oracles are roughly contemporary with Numenius, being attributed to Julian the Theurgist who was credited with a miraculous deliverance of Marcus Aurelius' troops in 173 CE. The Oracles exhibit a hierarchical system with many Neopythagorean features. The supreme god is called Father, Bythos, (frg. 18 des Places) and the Paternal Monad; he is totally transcendent, having nothing to do with creation, and can be apprehended only with the "flower of the mind," a non-knowing, mentally vacant mode of contemplation (frgg. 1 & 18 des Places, the same doctrine as is found in Allogenes). This supreme Father is presumably beyond being (as hapax epekeina), but also consists of a triad comprising himself or his existence (hyparxis, Damascius, Dub. et Sol. 61, p.131,17 Ruelle; cf. frg. 1 line 10 des Places), his power and his intellect. Below him is the demiurgic Intellect proceeding from the Father who himself remains aloof, confining himself along with his intellect and his power, but apparently not confining his "fire" or proceeding intellect (frgg. 3,4 & 5 des Places). The actual hypostatic Intellect of this system is a demiurgical Intellect and is called a Dyad, contemplating the intelligible realm of the Father's intellect and bringing sense perception to the world (much like the second God of Numenius; cf. frgg. 7 & 8 des Places). Furthermore, this Intellect, said to be "dyadically transcendent" (dis epekeina), is also triadic insofar as it contains the "measured triad" flowing from both it and the triadic Father (frgg. 23-31 des Places). But this "measured triad" also seems to be identified with Hecate, who is called a "membrane" which separates the first and second fires (frg. 6 des Places), i.e. the Father and the Intellect (frg. 50 des Places). Furthermore, from the right side of Hecate flows the primordial soul, while her left side retains the source of virtue; upon her back the emblem of the moon (the traditional symbol of Hecate) represents boundless Nature, and her serpentine hair represents the Father's winding noetic fire (frgg.50-55 des Places). Indeed, Hecate's triform nature (three heads, six arms) is well- known from antiquity. She is guardian of forks in the road and is identified with the three phases of the moon. According to Hesiod (Theogony 412-428), Hecate is awarded three cosmic spheres of influence (earth, sea, sky) first by the Titans in the old order and then by Zeus in the new, and she also exercises influence over the world of men in the Indo-European trifunctional spheres of sovereignty, force and productivity.
In the Hellenistic period, Hecate becomes goddess of heaven, earth, and especially of the underworld. In the Oracles, she may also be at times equated with the World Soul of which she is the source, suggesting that, much like the relationship between Barbelo and Sophia in Sethian theology, Hecate was understood by the Chaldaeans as being the transcendent World Soul who generates the immanent World Soul, from which in turn was derived the world of Nature. And finally, Hecate may have been identified as well with the median term of the triad existence, power and intellect which characterized the supreme Father.
Thus in effect, the Oracles depict an ennead: a first triad of the Father together with his power and potential intellect; a third triad of the dyadically oriented (above and below) demiurgic Intellect; and between these two a second "measured triad" identified with Hecate representing the multiplicity that proceeds from the Father. Indeed, there is a certain parallel between the Sethian Triple Powered One and the Chaldaean Hecate, in terms both of emanative and intermediary functions, in terms of a common triplicity, and in terms of a strong association of both with Vitality and the source of Life and multiplicity.
When one turns to the still earlier Sethian Apocryphon of John, probably datable to the first quarter of the second century and excerpted already by Irenaeus (Haer. I.29) around 179 CE, one encounters the triadic feminine intermediary goddess once again in the figure of Barbelo, the higher unfallen counterpart of Sophia, the fallen divine wisdom. Here Barbelo is the first emanation of the supreme deity, the Invisible Spirit, who reflected upon himself as light and living water, whereupon his thought manifested itself as Barbelo. Immediately the bisexual Barbelo requested and was granted a triad of attributes, Foreknowledge (prognÃ´sis), Imperishability (aphtharsia) and Eternal Life (aiÃ´nia zÃ´Ãª). Since these names are conceptually close to the terms Existence or Being, Life or Vitality and Mind or Mentality applied to the Triple Powered One in Allogenes, and since Allogenes indeed demonstrates dependence upon The Apocryphon of John, it is reasonable to conclude that there is some relationship between these two triads.
An educated guess would be that the author of Allogenes was familiar with contemporary Platonic speculation on the relationship between being, life and mind or thought already directly discussed in Plato's Sophist, and applied it to his own interpretation of the figure of Barbelo in The Apocryphon of John. He may even have been familiar with the metaphysical system of the Chaldaean Oracles and perhaps have recognized from the Oracles or elsewhere a certain similarity between the triadic nature and function of Hecate and the triadic nature and function of Barbelo in The Apocryphon of John. In this connection, one should note that Allogenes distinguishes three levels in the Aeon of Barbelo: Kalyptos (Hidden), Protophanes (First-appearing) and Autogenes (Self-begotten). One may wonder whether these terms may in part have been inspired by the three forms of Hecate symbolizing the three phases of the moon, at first hidden, then first appearing and growing to fullness as a self-begotten being. As for his metaphysical portrayal of the emanative process by which Barbelo emerges from the Invisible Spirit via the Triple Powered One, he may even have been familiar with the late first century system of Moderatus of Gades, according to which a secondary One or unitary Logos functioning as the divine Intellect emanates from a first One beyond all being in three stages: Permanence (monÃª), Progression (propodismos) and a Return (anapodismos) upon its source.
In the first and second centuries, Neopythagoreanizing Platonists like Moderatus developed speculative arithmologies which among other things attempted to derive the physical world of multiplicity from a single prior principle by supposing that a triad resided latently within the primal monad. According to Theon of Smyrna in the early second century: "First exists the Monad, called a triangular number not in full actuality, ... but rather potentially, for, since it is, as it were, the seed of all things, it contains in itself also a triform potency" (Expositio 37,15-18 Hiller). So also Theon's contemporary, Nicomachus of Gerasa wrote: "Thus the Monad appears also potentially a triangular number, although in actuality the first (triangular number) is three" (EisagogÃª II.8 p.88,9-10 Hoche). Presumably all this speculation about the first three or four numbers goes back to the early Pythagoreans and the Old Academy under Plato and Speusippus, who applied the Pythagorean Tetraktys to their own cosmological theories.
Strictly speaking, of the triadic figures so far discussed, only the Triple Powered One and Hecate actually mediate the original emanative process itself; in the Sethian scheme, Barbelo is, after all, only the product of this original emanation. But the place of Barbelo in these considerations is important, for she serves as the fundamental mediator in the Sethian soteriology, and, in Allogenes, the first stage of the visionary ascent to the Unknowable deity is the ascent through the three levels of her Aeon, which are named Autogenes, Protophanes and Kalyptos. To know them is to know the Aeon of Barbelo, and to know Barbelo is the prelude to the ascent through the Mentality, Vitality and Existence levels of the Triple Powered One, at which point one gains the mentally vacant primary revelation of the Unknowable deity.
A final point to consider is the role in all this of the prominent Sethian Father, Mother, Son triad. The Father, Mother, Son nomenclature of this triad and its transcendental status seem to derive from Plato's Timaeus 50D. The characterization of its members has been influenced by later Jewish and early Sethian speculation on the first five chapters of Genesis according to which the image in which the earthly Adam or man is made as male and female must itself be the archetypal Adam (Adamas) or Man, who must be likewise androgynous. That is, God created man as male and female in his own image, which can be taken to mean that he too is androgynous. The earthly man is later separated into distinct male and female beings, Adam and Eve, yet the archetypal man, who is none other than God himself, is not so separated, but can be spiritually conceived as male and female. In this sense, the supreme deity is Man proper, and the earthly Adam, although initially unaware of it, is the Son of Man. Once Adam is enlightened concerning his true nature by Eve, his female counterpart, the primordial couple conceive Seth, their spiritual offspring, who will be the father of the "unshakable race" of the Sethian Gnostics.
In the Sethian system, then, both Eve and Sophia are mother figures; Eve, of Seth, and Sophia of the demiurge who creates the physical world. In this sense, Sophia, the divine wisdom could, as mother, be considered as the consort of the supreme deity Man, but she is disqualified because she conceived the world creator alone, without a consort. Therefore, since Sophia is disqualified, the supreme deity is supplied with a higher, unfallen equivalent of Sophia as his consort, who in the Sethian system is Barbelo, the androgynous Mother-father of the All, the thought (ennoia) of the supreme deity. Finally, to complete the system, a distinction is made between 1) the earthly Adam, as son of the demiurge, 2) the image of God in which he was made, and 3) the supreme deity, such that the Sethian system came to comprise a highest Father, Mother, Son triad consisting of the Invisible Spirit, Barbelo, and Adamas or Autogenes, the self-begotten son of Barbelo. In turn, Adamas, the Son figure, became the image according to which the demiurge fashioned the earthly Adam. Subsequent to his enlightenment, Adam begot Seth, whom therefore the Sethians can call the Triple Male Child.
Thus in Sethianism, one ends up with a rather convoluted series of four fathers, the Invisible Spirit, Adamas (or Geradamas), Adam, and Seth, and three sons descended from the supreme deity Man, namely Adamas, Adam, and Seth. Correspondingly, this scheme also requires three mothers, Barbelo, Sophia, and Eve, all counterparts of one another. Of these, only Barbelo is represented as triadic, since, in addition to her male and female aspects, her son Autogenes is self-begotten from her and thus was potentially a part of her originally. Based on this line of development, one might further speculate that the position of the Triple Powered One in Allogenes is in part a further attempt at transcendental duplication of the Sethian Father, Mother, Son triad, since the term Being, although of neuter gender, thus transcending sexual differentiation, is in some sense logically prior to Life and Intelligence, while Life, of feminine gender, depends on Being and is requisite to the existence of the third term, Intelligence, of masculine gender. While this insight may have played a role in the development of the system of Allogenes, it is clear that in our present version of this treatise, the three, Being, Life and Intelligence, are all seen as mutually interdependent (cf. Allogenes 49,28-36 and Proclus, Elements of Theology 103 p.92,13-16 Dodds).
In one way or another, the three triadic beings whose prominent role in the emanative process we have here considered are each closely associated with the concept of Life and Vitality. The median term of the Sethian Triple Powered One is explicitly named Life or Vitality, while the third of Barbelo's principal attributes is named Eternal Life. And in the case of Hecate, we have noted that the Chaldaeans regarded her right side as the source of the primordial soul that animates the realms of light, divine fire, ether and the heavens (frg. 51 des Places). In this capacity, both Hecate and Barbelo are characterized as cosmic wombs. Of these two, only Barbelo is explicitly said to be androgynous, but it is clear that they were both conceived in predominantly feminine terms. The Triple Powered One, although its name is masculine, comprises three aspects, and depending on the terminology used, either one (in the case of the Being, Life and Intellect terminology) or all three (in the case of the Existence, Vitality and Mentality terminology) of its three aspects bear names in the feminine gender. But in all cases the median aspect of these three figures is feminine, according well with their role as the feminine mediators of theogonical generation. No doubt, much of this may also be influenced by Plato's doctrine of the receptacle of becoming in Timaeus 48E-52D.
Clearly this complicated system built on a gnostic exegesis of the Genesis presentation of the procreation of the primal beings would, in a Platonizing environment, lend itself easily to arithmological and metaphysical speculation. In this way the ancient traditions of Platonism, (Neo-)Pythagoreanism, and heterodox Judaism could all mutually confirm one another in the Sethian mind. As for the position of Hecate in the Chaldaean system, similar considerations also apply, since the figure of the three-formed Hecate is of great antiquity itself, from which time she was considered as a beneficial goddess of the moon and later on of the Underworld, whence she derived her power to make spells and other magical devices effective.
Finally, it is interesting that these three triadic figures all have something to do with the concept of dynamic emanationism in one way or another. The Triple Powered One and Hecate are vehicles or mediators of the emanative process, while Barbelo is a direct result of it. One may indeed wonder whether the concept of dynamic emanationism entered Platonism during the first and second centuries (and permanently so with Plotinus) directly as a result of the combination of gnostic theogonies with Neopythagorean arithmological speculation. Certainly the theogony of the Platonizing Sethian treatises seems to suggest this. In all events, I hope to have pointed out some interesting relationships and lines of development among the Sethian, Chaldaean and Neoplatonic theogonies that employ the concept of dynamic emanationism.
 See W. Kroll, "Ein neuplatonischer Parmenides-kommentar in einem Turiner Palimpsest," Rheinisches Museum fÃ¼r Philologie 47 (1892), 599-627; P. Hadot, "La mÃ©taphysique de Porphyre," Porphyre (Entretiens sur l'antiquitÃ© classique XII, Vandoeuvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1960), 127-157; idem, "Fragments d'un commentaire de Porphyre sur le ParmÃ©nide," Revue des Etudes Grecques 74 (1961), 410-438; and idem, Porphyre et Victorinus (2 vols., Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1968).
 See P. Hadot, "Etre, Vie PensÃ©e chez Plotin et avant Plotin," in Les sources de Plotin (Entretiens sur l'antiquitÃ© classique V, Vandoeuvres-Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1960), 107-157.
 In the works cited above in note 1.
 See the references cited in note 1.
 According to the theories of Georges DumÃ©zil as applied by D. Boedecker, "Hecate: A Transfunctional Goddess?," Transactions of the American Philological Association 113 (1983), 79-93.
 Cf. the presentation of J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 BC to AD 220 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1977), 392-396.
 Compare the remarks of J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 344-351.