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Tertullian - Against the Valentinians

Strange Account of the Origin of Matter, from the Various Affections of Achamoth. The Waters from Her Tears; Light from Her Smile.

Chapter XV.--Strange Account of the Origin of Matter, from the Various Affections of Achamoth. The Waters from Her Tears; Light from Her Smile.

Well, now, the Pythagoreans may learn, the Stoics may know, Plato himself (may discover), whence Matter, which they will have to be unborn, derived both its origin and substance for all this pile of the world--(a mystery) which not even the renowned [6776] Mercurius Trismegistus, master (as he was) of all physical philosophy, thought out. [6777] You have just heard of "Conversion," one element in the "Passion" (we have so often mentioned). Out of this the whole life of the world, [6778] and even that of the Demiurge himself, our God, is said to have had its being. Again, you have heard of "sorrow" and "fear." From these all other created things [6779] took their beginning. For from her [6780] tears flowed the entire mass of waters. From this circumstance one may form an idea of the calamity [6781] which she encountered, so vast were the kinds of the tears wherewith she overflowed. She had salt tear-drops, she had bitter, and sweet, and warm, and cold, and bituminous, and ferruginous, and sulphurous, and even [6782] poisonous, so that the Nonacris exuded therefrom which killed Alexander; and the river of the Lyncestæ [6783] flowed from the same source, which produces drunkenness; and the Salmacis [6784] was derived from the same source, which renders men effeminate. The rains of heaven Achamoth whimpered forth, [6785] and we on our part are anxiously employed in saving up in our cisterns the very wails and tears of another. In like manner, from the "consternation" and "alarm" (of which we have also heard), bodily elements were derived. And yet amidst so many circumstances of solitude, in this vast prospect of destitution, she occasionally smiled at the recollection of the sight of Christ, and from this smile of joy light flashed forth. How great was this beneficence of Providence, which induced her to smile, and all that we might not linger for ever in the dark! Nor need you feel astonished how [6786] from her joy so splendid an element [6787] could have beamed upon the world, when from her sadness even so necessary a provision [6788] flowed forth for man. O illuminating smile! O irrigating tear! And yet it might now have acted as some alleviation amidst the horror of her situation; for she might have shaken off all the obscurity thereof as often as she had a mind to smile, even not to be obliged to turn suppliant to those who had deserted her. [6789]