Carpocratians was a Gnostic sect founded by Carpocrates of Alexandria. The sect claimed that Christ derived the mysteries of his religion from the Temple of Isis in Egypt, where he had studied for six years, and he taught them to his apostles who transmitted them to the Carpocratians. The members used theological incantations, and had grips, signs and words, symbols and degrees.

Its beliefs included metempsychosis, the preexistence of the soul, but it rejected the resurrection of the body. Some of their beliefs were held in common with the Basilideans. The sect endured until the sixth century. A.G.H.

The Carpocratians were a Gnostic sect that emerged in the early Christian era, founded by Carpocrates, a philosopher from Alexandria, Egypt. This sect had some unique beliefs and practices that distinguished it from mainstream Christianity and other Gnostic groups.


Founding and Teachings


  • Carpocrates of Alexandria: Carpocrates, the founder, was believed to have established this sect based on his interpretations and teachings. He is known to have lived in the second century.
  • Influence of Egyptian Mysticism: The Carpocratians claimed that Jesus Christ had studied the mysteries of the Egyptian Temple of Isis for six years and that these teachings were passed down to his apostles, who then transmitted them to the Carpocratians. This claim reflects a syncretistic approach, blending early Christian thought with Egyptian religious concepts.


Beliefs and Practices


  • Theological Incantations and Symbols: Members of this sect were known to use theological incantations and had specific grips, signs, words, symbols, and degrees, possibly as part of their ritual practices.
  • Metempsychosis and Soul’s Preexistence: A central belief of the Carpocratians was in metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls) and the preexistence of the soul, ideas that are distinct from mainstream Christian doctrine.
  • Rejection of Bodily Resurrection: Unlike orthodox Christian belief in the resurrection of the body, the Carpocratians rejected this notion, focusing instead on the immortality of the soul.
  • Commonalities with Basilideans: Some of their beliefs overlapped with those of the Basilideans, another Gnostic group. This included aspects related to the nature of the universe, the role of divine beings, and the notion of secret knowledge (gnosis).


Historical Context and Legacy


  • Duration of the Sect: The Carpocratian sect persisted until about the sixth century, indicating its considerable influence and the resonance of its teachings during the early centuries of Christianity.
  • Gnostic Diversity: The existence of the Carpocratians highlights the diversity of beliefs and practices within the broader Gnostic movement, which was characterized by a variety of interpretations of Christian theology, often emphasizing mysticism and esoteric knowledge.

Source: 9.