CarpocratesCarpocrates was an early Gnostic sometime the first hundred years A.D. His followers were called Carpocratians.
The most vivid account of Carpocrates and his followers comes from Irenaeus Against Heresies, where his followers were said to believe in transmigration of the soul, i.e. reincarnation. In order to leave this world, the soul has to pass through every possible condition of earthly life, or it cannot free itself from the material powers (what other Gnostics call Archons, the Demiurge etc.). This view is similar to that of Buddhism.
The followers of Carpocrates believed that you could actually experience all these aspects of earthly life in one incarnation. Because of this belief, Irenaeus says, they practice all things condemned by the Mosaic law, on the assumption that in order for the spirit to achieve gnosis, the soul (psyche) had to experience all aspects of earthly life, and thus all kinds of vile and horrible things. (Mostly acts of libertinism, probably.) Epiphanius of Salamis writes:
- Carpocratians, derived from a native of Asia, Carpocrates, who taught his followers to perform every obscenity and every sinful act. And unless one proceeds through all of them, he said, and fulfils the will of all demons and angels, he cannot mount to the highest heaven or get by the principalities and authorities.
They also claimed to posess the only existing portrait of Jesus, a painting they claimed had been made by Pilate during his lifetime. They also had portraits of Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle and other hellenistic philosophers.