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The Exegesis on the Soul: Translating the Ancient Text into the Modern Context. P. 62–69

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Section: Philosophy, Sociology, Politology




Vadim A. Lapatin
Mozhaisky Military Space Academy 13 Zhdanovskaya St., St. Petersburg, 197082, Russian Federation; e-mail:


This article deals with the question of introducing an ancient philosophical text into the current context. The author proceeds from the assumption that the philosophical thought of the past has a symbolic content that can be expressed in modern terms. This hermeneutic procedure is performed on The Exegesis on the Soul, a gnostic treatise from the Nag Hammadi Library. This ancient text is based on a gnostic myth about Sophia, who in different variants of the myth is represented as a divine Wisdom and symbolizes the soul. The Exegesis likens the soul to a woman who “fell from her father” into “the hands of many robbers” thus becoming a prostitute. Having found herself in misery, she repented deeply, begged for salvation and returned to her original perfect state. The author of this article demonstrates how this philosophical and mythological motif can be applied in order to understand current sociocultural trends. Present-day pleasure practices are taken as an example. Their “cultural imperative” of immediate and endless pleasure correlates with the soul’s falling from its original state. The gnostic myth is, in its turn, understood here as a reminder that happiness and liberation can be achieved. Thus, translation of the symbolic content of this treatise into the existing context solves two tasks. Firstly, it allows the modern human to see his/her frustration and dissatisfaction in a new way. Secondly, it prevents ancient philosophical knowledge from turning into a museum exhibit. To conclude, the author cautions the reader against thoughtless use of the described hermeneutic procedure and provides proper guidelines.


Gnosticism, hermeneutics, affectivity, present-day pleasure practices, gnostic myth, primordial state, Nag Hammadi Library
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