In the Pistis Sophia Yeshua says, “When I went out into the world, I came among the archons of the Sphere in the form of Gabriel, the Angel of the Aeons; and the archons of the aeons did not know me, but they thought that I was Gabriel.”
This reflects the nature of the Light-Body or Body of Glory, which can assume any appearance and can generate countless Light-emanations, including emanations of luminous beings, realms and worlds. It also indicates that the Savior assumes a form corresponding to the beings to which he intends to appear – a form resembling them that they are able to link with and receive.
We might say the same of the person of Yeshua, the man, for the Light-presence or Christos transcends any appearance he assumes; Yeshua representing an Manifestation or Emanation Body appearance, just as the form of Gabriel is a Body of Glory appearance.
One the one hand, assuming a corresponding appearance to those to whom the Savior comes, the Savior or Light-presence is revealed; yet, on the other hand, assuming such forms, the Savior or Light-presence is concealed – a concealing in necessary for the sake of Divine revelation. Appearing as Gabriel, however, the intention was not revelation but was the concealment of the Divine Incarnation from the archons and demonic forces until the time of the Divine revelation. Thus, according to the tradition, the Savior assumed forms corresponding to the regions and realms through which he passed in descent, only revealing himself at the time of the ascension after the event of the crucifixion and resurrection. The purpose of this, according to Gnostic teachings, was to avoid any hinderance or obstruction to his mission as the Light-bearer (Christ-bearer).
This concealment occurred even in the world, for as the gospels say he revealed himself only to the faithful and elect, and revealed himself in full only to his disciples – the elect or perfect. Indeed, this is true of all apostles of Light, for the Light-bearers who come among us look like ordinary individuals, unless through the Grace of the Spirit one is empowered to recognize them and “see” the Light-presence within and around them. Essentially, the Light-presence reveals itself by first concealing itself, and it reveals itself only to those who desire to receive it.
This passage from the Pistis Sophia speaks about a method of theurgical or magical practice in Gnosticism as well, for when an initiate engages in magical workings and inner plane workings, he or she generates a Body of Light and assumes the form of a corresponding Partzuf or Angel to the spiritual work he or she intends to accomplish. For example, if an initiate sought to perform a magical work of healing he or she might assume the Image of Yeshua the Healer, or the Image of the Archangel Raphael – the Healing Power of God. This also reflects the fruition of practices of mystical prayer and meditation in the tradition. At the outset a Divine Image is envisioned appearing before oneself, but at the conclusion one envisions oneself merging completely with the Divine Image. Thus this passage directly teaches a key of Gnostic spiritual practice quite openly.
Here we are told Gabriel is the Archangel of the Aeons, both the lower and upper aeons, including the Aeons of Light. From the Kabbalah we know that Gabriel is the Archangel of Yesod (Foundation) on the Tree of Life. In the Zohar the Sefirah Yesod is often called the “sun” and said to bear the influnce of Mercy and Hokmah (Wisdom which is the supernal root of the aeons), and Malkut is often called the “moon” and said to bear the influence of Judgment and Binah (Understanding which is the supernal root of the powers of the aeons, Elohim). Yet, Yesod is associated with the moon proper and the astral planes, which is the principle realm of the operation of the demiurgos and archons, and all spiritual forces that influence and enter into the material plane and material worlds.
Gabriel literally means the “strength of God,” and also the “giver of the vision of God,” and is said to deal with vision and dream – hence Gabriel is a common angel that appears to the lesser prophets. Lesser prophecy or prophecy through the Hazy Mirror comes from within the Sphere of the Aeons, whereas greater prophecy or prophecy through the Clear Mirror comes from the spiritual dimensions and Supernal Abode. According to the Pistis Sophia the Savior assumes this form while drawing the power of Little IAO into the soul of Elijah and facilitating the reincarnation of the soul of the prophet as John the Baptist. (Here we might note that the name Gabriel is also associtates with the elemental power of water; hence the baptism of water.) The purpose of the Savior in the form of Archangel Gabriel is, thus, distinctly theurgical or magical in nature.
The contemplation of the Savior appearing as Gabriel is a perfect example of how a Gnostic initiate must learn to read sacred texts, such as the Pistis Sophia, to draw out inner and secret teachings, as well as their practical application. This contemplation can certainly be taken much further. For example, one might consider it in connection with the myth of Gabriel appearing to Mother Mary, or Gabriel serving as the angelic herald of the birth of Christ, and one could certainly explore the correspondences of Gabriel as the manifestation of Yesod at the level of Beriyah, along with the correspondence of the Order of the Kerubim as Yesod at the level of Yetzirah. Indeed, this contemplation can lead one into many mysteries, and perhaps into some essential spiritual or mystical experience of the mysteries.
Blessings & shalom!