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Egyptian Mysticism in Galicia (Priscillianism)

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Egyptian Mysticism in Galicia (Priscillianism)

Galicia, in the furthest region of Iberia, was the main source of tin for the Ancient Egyptians. Regular contact along the famed “Tin Route” between Cádiz and Galicia was common as early as the 4th millenium BCE [as explained previously].

The Ancient Egyptian concept of cosmology and mysticism made its way to Iberia a long time ago and left its mark in Galicia. Not only was Galicia important as the site of the famous shrine of Santiago de Compostela, named after the patron saint of Spain (St. James the Elder), but this northern part of Iberia is also well known for two Gnostic movements which are basically one concept reported as two separate events—Arianism and Priscillianism. The historical records and the traditions of Arianism, Priscillianism, and Santiago de Compostela point to Egypt as their source.

Arianism was reported and condemned by the Catholic Church as a “heresy” that was taught by Arius of Alexandria. It basically deals with the nature of God as the Supreme Being as it related to the nature of the biblical Jesus. All the “apparent” conflicting theories about these natures can be explained in the Ancient Egyptian context of the relationship between Osiris (the Father) and his Divine Son (namely, Horus). Discussing the validity of Arius’ message is beyond the scope of this book. However, the point to be made here is that the leader, Arius, was reported to have come from Egypt.

Priscillianism had been defined by the Catholic Church as a Gnostic theology that was introduced by Marcus of Egypt to Priscillian of Galicia. According to Sulpicius Severus (420 CE), a traveler named Marcus, from the Egyptian city of Memphis, brought Gnostic “heresy” to Galicia,

Priscillianism stressed how the holy books (as taught by Marcus the Egyptian) emphasized the individualism inherent in seeking the divine truth; i.e. an individual could find salvation outside the established ecclesiastical hierarchy. He stressed the role of the laity as individual, but added a strong responsibility for study on the part of each individual seeker. A follower of the mystical path could gain “knowledge” (and thus salvation) by diligent study combined with an ascetic rejection of the flesh. Likewise, the Egyptian model of mysticism (Sufism) is not a matter of creed and dogma, but rather of a personal charter. The Egyptian model of mysticism is a natural expression of personal religion in relation to the expression of religion as a communal matter. It is an assertion of a person’s right to seek contact with the source of being and reality, as opposed to institutionalized religion, which is based on authority - a one-way master-slave relationship.

The official Church was always fearful of the individualism and power of holy men and women existing on the periphery of established hierarchy; a fear exacerbated in the late 4th century CE when asceticism in all its forms was associated with Priscillianism (it was not a localized phenomenon in Galicia, but was widespread and was given a single name—Priscillianism).

Priscillianism was popular enough to cause a serious Gallegan regional schism in the Iberian Church for almost 200 years. The First Council of Brags attacked and largely forbade the “heresy” of Marcus of Egypt, but the “heresy” of the Gallegan countryside remained, despite the church’s execution of Priscillian.

The legacy and teachings of Priscillian live on, camouflaged in a Christian garment.

[Excerpts fro Egyptian Romany The essence of Hispania by Moustafa Gadalla