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CARPOCRATES, a Gnostic of the 2nd century, about whose life and opinions comparatively little is known. He is said to have been a native of Alexandria and by birth a Jew. His family, however, seem to have been converted to Christianity. With Epiphanes, his son, he was the leader of a philosophic school basing its theories mainly upon Platonism, and striving to amalgamate Plato's Republic with the Christian ideal of human brotherhood. The image of Jesus was crowned along with those of Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle. Carpocrates made especial use of the doctrines of reminiscence and pre-existence of souls. He regarded the world as formed by inferior spirits who are out of harmony with the supreme unity, knowledge of which is the true Gnosis. The souls which remember their pre-existing state can attain to this contemplation of unity, and thereby rise superior to all the ordinary doctrines of religion or life. Jesus is but a man in whom this reminiscence is unusually strong, and who has consequently attained to unusual spiritual excellence and power. To the Gnostic the things of the world are worthless; they are to him matters of indifference. From this position it easily followed that actions, being merely external, were morally indifferent, and that the true Gnostic should abandon himself to every lust with perfect indifference. The express declaration of these antinomian principles is said to have been given by Epiphanes. The notorious licentiousness of the sect was the carrying out of their theory into practice.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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