aka The Hymn of the Soul aka The Robe of Glory
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
The Hymn of the Pearl
The author of "The Acts of Judas Thomas" was a non-christian who attempted to both preserve ancient allegorical advice, and to parody the competency, merit and authority of the christian apostles and their (fourth century) ministry. Embedded in this anti-christian parody, the fourth century author preserved a far more ancient text. It is called "The Hymn of the Pearl".
It represents, in my opinion, an ancient ode to Indian ascetic practice. In a number of fragments, a text containing instruction in Hatha Yoga is preserved within the text of the hymn. There are adequate sources in antiquity which deal with the Gymnosophists of Egypt, and the Therapeutae of Egypt -- from the time of Alexander the Great. In the first century, the Alexandrian Philo describes the ascetic practices of various groups, including these Therapeutae. These people had always been related to the temples of the Healing God Ascelpius, perhaps the most popular of a large pantheon of gods in the world, and clearly identifiable with the "temple of the snake".
Here follows various translations of the "Hymn of the Pearl":
The Hymn of the Pearl - Translation of William Wright (1871)
When I was a little child, and dwelling in my kingdom, in my father's house, and was content with the wealth and the luxuries of my nourishers, from the East, our home, my parents equipped me (and) sent me forth; and of the wealth of our treasury they took abundantly, (and) tied up for me a load large and (yet) light, which I myself could carry, gold of Beth-Ellaya, and silver of Gazak the great, and rubies of India, and agates from Beth-Kashan, and they furnished me with the adamant, which can crush iron. And they took off from me the glittering robe, which in their affection they made for me, and the purple toga, which was measured (and) woven to my stature. And they made a compact with me, and wrote it in my heart, that it might not be forgotten: "If thou goest down into Egypt, and bringest the one pearl, which is in the midst of the sea around the loud-breathing serpent, thou shalt put on thy glittering robe and thy toga, with which (thou art) contented, and with thy brother, who is next to us in authority, thou shalt be heir in our kingdom." I quitted the East (and) went down, there being two guardians, for the way was dangerous and difficult, and I was very young to travel it. I passed through the borders of Maishan, the meeting-place of the merchants of the East, and I reached the land of Babel, and I entered the walls of Sarbug. I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from me. I went straight to the serpent, I dwelt in his abode, (waiting) till he should lumber and sleep, and I could take my pearl from him. And when I was single and alone (and) became strange to my family, one of my race, a free-born man, and Oriental, I saw there, a youth fair and loveable, the son of oil-sellers; and he came and attached himself to me, and I made him my intimate friend, and associate with whom I shared my merchandise. I warned him against the Egyptians, and against consorting with the unclean; And I dressed in their dress, that they might not hold me in abhorrence, because I was come from abroad in order to take the pearl, and arouse the serpent against me. But in some way other or another they found out that I was not their countryman, and they dealt with me treacherously, and gave their food to eat. I forget that I was a son of kings, and I served their king; and I forgot the pearl, for which my parents had sent me, and because of the burden of their oppressions I lay in a deep sleep. But all this things that befell me my parents perceived, and were grieved for me; and proclamation was made in our kingdom, that every one should come to our gate [kingdom], kings and princes of Parthia, and all the nobles of the East. And they wove a plan on my behalf, that I might not be left in Egypt; and they wrote to me a letter, and every noble signed his name to it: "From thy father, the king of kings, and thy mother, the mistress of the East, and from thy brother, our second (in authority), to thee our son, who art in Egypt, greeting! Call to mind that thou art a son of kings! See the slavery,--whom thou servest! Remember the pearl, for which thou was sent to Egypt! Think of thy robe, and remember thy splendid toga, which thou shalt wear and (with which) thou shalt be adorned, when thy name hath been read out in the list of the valiant, and thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be in our kingdom." My letter is a letter, which the king sealed with his own right hand, (to keep it) from the wicked ones, the children of Babel, and from the savage demons of Sarbug. It flew in the likeness of an eagle, the king of all birds; it flew and alight beside me, and became all speech. At its voice and the sound of its rustling, I started and arose from my sleep. I took it up and kissed it, and I began (and) read it; and according to what was traced on my heart were the words of my letter. I remembered that I was a son of royal parents, and my noble birth asserted itself. I remembered the pearl, for which I had been sent to Egypt, and I began to charm him, the terrible loud breathing serpent. I hushed him asleep and lulled him into slumber, for my father's name I named over him, and the name of our second (in power), and the of my mother, the queen of the East. And I snatched away the pearl, and turned to go back to my father's house. And their filthy and unclean dress I stripped off, and left it in their country; and I took my way straight to come to the light of our home in the East. And my letter, my awakener, I found before me on the road; and as with its voice it had awakened me, (so) too with its light it was leading me. It, that dwelt in the palace, gave light before me with its form, and with its voice and its guidance it also encouraged me to speed, and with its love it drew me on. I went forth (and) passed by Sarbug; I left Babel on my left hand; and I came to the great Maisan, to the haven of merchants, which sitteth on the shore of the sea. And my bright robe, which I had stripped off, and the toga that was wrapped with it, from Rantha and Reken[?] my parents had sent thither by the hand of their treasures, who in their truth could be trusted therewith. And because I remembered not its fashion,— for in my childhood I had left it in my father's house,— on a sudden, when I received it, the garment seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself. I saw it all in all, and I to received all in it, for we were two in distinction and yet gain one in one likeness. And the treasurers too, who brought it to me, I saw in like manner to be two (and yet) one likeness, for one sign of the king was written on them (both), of the hands of him who restored to me through them my trust and my wealth, my decorated robe, which was adorned with glorious colors, with gold and beryls and rubies and agates and sardonyxes, varied in color. And it was skillfully worked in its home on high, and with diamond clasps were all its seams fastened; and the image of the king of kings was embroidered and depicted in full all over it, and like the stone of the sapphire too its hues were varied. And I saw also that all over it the instincts of knowledge were working, and I saw too that it was preparing to speak. I heard the sound of its tones, which it uttered with its (illegible word), (saying): "I am the active in deeds, whom they reared for him before my father; and I perceived myself, that my stature grew according to his labors." And in its kingly movements it poured itself entirely over me, and on the hand of its givers it hastened that I might take it. And love urged me too run to meet it and receive it; and I stretched forth and took it. With the beauty of its colors I adorned myself, and I wrapped myself wholly in my toga of brilliant hues. I clothed myself with it, and went up to the gate of salutation and prostration; I bowed my head and worshipped the majesty of my father who sent me,— for I had done his commandments, and he too had done what he promised,— and the gate of his (illegible word), I mingled with his princes, for he rejoiced in me and received me, and I was with him in his kingdom, and with the voice of (illegible word) all his servants praised him. And he promised that to the gate too of the king of kings with him I should go, and with my offering and my pearl with him should present myself to our king.
The Hymn of the Pearl - Translation of G.R.S. Mead (1900)
When, a quite little child, I was dwelling In the House of my Father’s Kingdom, And in the wealth and the glories Of my Up-bringers I was delighting, From the East, our Home, my Parents Forth-sent me with journey-provision. Indeed from the wealth of our Treasure, They bound up for me a load. Large was it, yet was it so light That all alone I could bear it. Gold from the Land of Beth-Ellaya, Silver from Gazak the Great, Chalcedonies of India, Iris-hued [Opals?] from Kăshan. They girt me with Adamant [also] That hath power to cut even iron. My Glorious Robe they took off me Which in their love they had wrought me, And my Purple Mantle [also] Which was woven to match with my stature. And with me They [then] made a compact; In my heart wrote it, not to forget it: "If thou goest down into Egypt, And thence thou bring’st the one Pearl -- "[The Pearl] that lies in the Sea, Hard by the loud-breathing Serpent -- "[Then] shalt Thou put on thy Robe And thy Mantle that goeth upon it, "And with thy Brother, Our Second, Shalt thou be Heir in our Kingdom." I left the East and went down With two Couriers [with me]; For the way was hard and dangerous, For I was young to tread it. I traversed the borders of Maish~ n, The mart of the Eastern merchants, And I reached the Land of Babel, And entered the walls of Sarbăg. Down further I went into Egypt; And from me parted my escorts. Straightway I went to the Serpent; Near to his lodging I settled, To take away my Pearl While he should sleep and should slumber. Lone was I there, yea, all lonely; To my fellow-lodgers a stranger. However I saw there a noble, From out of the Dawn-land my kinsman, A young man fair and well favoured, Son of Grandees; he came and he joined me. I made him my chosen companion, A comrade, for sharing my wares with. He warned me against the Egyptians, ’Gainst mixing with the unclean ones. For I had clothed me as they were, That they might not guess I had come From afar to take off the Pearl, And so rouse the Serpent against me. But from some occasion or other They learned I was not of their country. With their wiles they made my acquaintance; Yea, they gave me their victuals to eat. I forgot that I was a King’s son, And became a slave to their king. I forgot all concerning the Pearl For which my Parents had sent me; And from the weight of their victuals I sank down into a deep sleep. All this that now was befalling, My Parents perceived and were anxious. It was then proclaimed in our Kingdom, That all should speed to our Gate -- Kings and Chieftains of Parthia, And of the East all the Princes. And this is the counsel they came to: I should not be left down in Egypt. And for me they wrote out a Letter; And to it each Noble his Name set: "From Us -- King of Kings, thy Father, And thy Mother, Queen of the Dawn-land, "And from Our Second, thy Brother -- To thee, Son, down in Egypt, Our Greeting! "Up an arise from thy sleep, Give ear to the words of Our Letter! "Remember that thou art a King’s son; See whom thou hast served in thy slavedom. Bethink thyself of the Pearl For which thou didst journey to Egypt. "Remember thy Glorious Robe, Thy Splendid Mantle remember, "To put on and wear as adornment, When thy Name may be read in the Book of the Heroes, "And with Our Successor, thy Brother, Thou mayest be Heir in Our Kingdom." My Letter was [surely] a Letter The King had sealed up with His Right Hand, ’Gainst the Children of Babel, the wicked, The tyrannical Daimons of Sarbăg. It flew in the form of the Eagle, Of all the winged tribes the king-bird; It flew and alighted beside me, And turned into speech altogether. At its voice and the sound of its winging, I waked and arose from my deep sleep. Unto me I took it and kissed it; I loosed its seal and I read it. E’en as it stood in my heart writ, The words of my Letter were written. I remembered that I was a King’s son, And my rank did long for its nature. I bethought me again of the Pearl, For which I was sent down to Egypt. And I began [then] to charm him, The terrible loud-breathing Serpent. I lulled him to sleep and to slumber, Chanting o’er him the Name of my Father, The Name of our Second, [my Brother], And [Name] of my Mother, the East-Queen. And [thereon] I snatched up the Pearl, And turned to the House of my Father. Their filthy and unclean garments I stripped off and left in their country. To the way that I came I betook me, To the Light of our Home, to the Dawn-land. On the road I found [there] before me, My Letter that had aroused me -- As with its voice it had roused me, So now with its light it did lead me -- On fabric of silk, in letter of red [?], With shining appearance before me [?], Encouraging me with its guidance, With its love it was drawing me onward. I went forth; through Sarbăg I passed; I left B~ bel-land on my left hand; And I reached unto Maishan the Great, The meeting-place of the merchants, That lieth hard by the Sea-shore. My Glorious Robe that I’d stripped off, And my Mantle with which it was covered, Down from the Heights of Hyrcania, Thither my Parents did send me, By the hands of their Treasure-dispensers Who trustworthy were with it trusted. Without my recalling its fashion, -- In the House of my Father my childhood had left it,-- At once, as soon as I saw it, The Glory looked like my own self. I saw it in all of me, And saw me all in [all of] it, -- That we were twain in distinction, And yet again one in one likeness. I saw, too, the Treasurers also, Who unto me had down-brought it, Were twain [and yet] of one likeness; For one Sign of the King was upon them -- Who through them restored me the Glory, The Pledge of my Kingship [?]. The Glorious Robe all-bespangled With sparkling splendour of colours: With Gold and also with Beryls, Chalcedonies, iris-hued [Opals?], With Sards of varying colours. To match its grandeur [?], moreover, it had been completed: With adamantine jewels All of its seams were off-fastened. [Moreover] the King of Kings’ Image Was depicted entirely all o’er it; And as with Sapphires above Was it wrought in a motley of colour. I saw that moreover all o’er it The motions of Gnosis abounding; I saw it further was making Ready as though for to speak. I heard the sound of its Music Which it whispered as it descended [?]: "Behold him the active in deeds! For whom I was reared with my Father; "I too have felt in myself How that with his works waxed my stature." And [now] with its Kingly motions Was it pouring itself out towards me, And made haste in the hands of its Givers, That I might [take and] receive it. And me, too, my love urged forward To run for to meet it, to take it. And I stretched myself forth to receive it; With its beauty of colour I decked me, And my Mantle of sparkling colours I wrapped entirely all o’er me. I clothed me therewith, and ascended To the Gate of Greeting and Homage. I bowed my head and did homage To the Glory of Him who had sent it, Whose commands I [now] had accomplished, And who had, too, done what He’d promised. [And there] at the Gate of His House-sons I mingled myself with His Princes; For He had received me with gladness, And I was with Him in His Kingdom; To whom the whole of His Servants With sweet-sounding voices sing praises. He had promised that with him to the Court Of the King of Kings I should speed, And taking with me my Pearl Should with him be seen by our King.
The Hymn of the Pearl - Narrative translation of Hans Jonas (1958)
I left the East and took my way downwards, accompanied by two royal envoys, since the way was dangerous and hard and I was young for such a journey. I passed over the borders of Maishan, the gathering-place of the merchants of the East, and came into the land of Babel and entered within the walls of Sarbug. I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from me. I went straightway to the serpent and settled down close by his inn until he should slumber and sleep so that I might take the Pearl from him. Since I was one and kept to myself, I was a stranger to my fellow-dwellers in the inn. Yet saw I there one of my race, a fair and well-favored youth, the son of kings (anointed ones). He came and attached himself to me, and I made him my trusted familiar to whom I imparted my mission. I warned him against the Egyptians and the contact with the unclean ones. Yet I clothed myself in their garments, lest they suspect me as one coming from without to take the Pearl and arouse the serpent against me. But through some cause they marked that I was not their countryman, and they ingratiated themselves with me, and mixed me drink with their cunning, and gave me to taste of their meat, and I forgot that I was a king’s son and served their king. I forgot the Pearl for which my parents had sent me. Through the heaviness of their nourishment I sank into deep slumber.
All this that befell me, my parents marked, and they were grieved for me. It was proclaimed in our kingdom that all should come to our gates. And the kings and grandees of Parthia and all the nobles of the East wove a plan that I must not be left in Egypt. And they wrote a letter to me, and each of the great ones signed it with his name. “From your father the King of Kings, and from your mother, mistress of the East, and from your brother our next in rank, to you our son in Egypt, greeting. Awake and rise up out of your sleep, and perceive the words of our letter. Remember that you are a king’s son: behold whom you have served in bondage. Be mindful of the Pearl, for whose sake you have departed into Egypt. Remember your robe of glory, recall your splendid mantle, that you may put them on and deck yourself with them and your name be read in the book of heroes and you become with your brother, our deputy, heir in our kingdom.”
[The letter flew through the air and alighted beside him. He read it and remembered who he was and why he had come there.]
I remembered that I was a son of kings, and that my freeborn soul desired its own kind. I remembered the Pearl for which I had been sent down to Egypt, and I began to enchant the terrible and snorting serpent. I charmed it to sleep by naming over it my Father’s name, the name of our next in rank, and that of my mother, the queen of the East. I seized the Pearl, and turned to repair home to my Father. Their filthy and impure garment I put off, and left it behind in their land, and directed my way that I might come to the light of our homeland, the East. My letter which had awakened me I found before me on my way; and as it had awakened me with its voice, so it guided me with its light that shone before me, and with its voice it encouraged my fear, and with its love it drew me on.
[His return journey corresponded to the stages of his descent.]
My robe of glory which I had put off and my mantle which went over it, my parents sent to meet me by their treasurers who were entrusted with it. Its splendor I had forgotten, having left it as a child in my Father’s house. As I now beheld the robe, it seemed to me suddenly to become a mirror-image of myself: myself entire I saw in it, and it entire I saw in myself, that we were two in separateness, and yet again one in the sameness of our forms…And the image of the King of kings was depicted all over it….
[The robe is described in human terms, singing.]
And with its regal movements it pours itself wholly out to me, and from the hands of its bringers hastens that I may take it; and me too my love urged on to run towards it and to receive it. And I stretched towards it and took it and decked myself with the beauty of its colors. And I cast the royal mantle about my entire self. Clothed in it, I ascended to the gate of salutation and adoration. I bowed my head and adored the splendor of my Father who had sent it to me, whose commands I had fulfilled as he too had done what he promised… He received me joyfully, and I was with him in his kingdom, and all his servants praised him with organ voice, that he had promised that I should journey to the court of the King of kings and having brought my Pearl should appear together with him.
The Hymn of the Pearl - Arabic translation by Salahi
I was in the olden country, which was the dwelling of my parents and grandparents. The master of the country summoned me and said, “It is not proper to dwell in this land of mine except after journeying to the City of Life, which is the farthest extreme of my country. “So do not forget my covenant, “For you will find me in that City. “Ask its description of my minister, who is seated at my gate. None enters without his knowledge and none leaves without his permission.” When I reached the gate, I found him and greeted him, and he returned my greeting and welcomed me. I said, “My lord has ordered me to journey to the City of Life, so describe it for me.” He said to me, “There are hardships and difficulties before you reach him, “And in your return to us are others even greater than those. I fear that you will forget the covenants, because of the distance and the hardships, and that you will remain forever suffering from separation and far from returning.” I said, “I must travel there, so describe for me its qualities and the path to it.” Then he said, “Listen and pay attention to what I say, “and do not forget my covenant, “for you will find me and my master in this country. “The first of the hardships that you will encounter is the two great seas, and then there are seven mountains and four passes. Then after that, there are three stations filled with calamities and evils. “Then from there you will reach a path narrower than the eye of an ant, so that you will not be able to go upon it on foot; rather, you will go upon it annihilated, upside down, on your head. “And if you pass these difficulties, you will lift up your head in the City of Life.” “You will observe these signs and all these descriptions, and at that time you will forget all the covenants and not remember anything about them. So when you enter into it, beware of heedlessness, lest you remain suffering for ever and ever.” He said, so I traveled and traversed the two oceans, the mountains, the passes, and the stations, and I reached that path which he had mentioned. I remained in it for a long time, until I descended and reached the goal, But I remembered nothing of it. While I was roaming about its grossnesses and subtleties, I reached a master seated on the throne of the king, and he was the master of [the City]. I greeted him and he also greeted me, and I spoke to him and he also spoke to me. Everything I did and said, he did and said. Then I looked closely, and [saw that] he was I, and the master was my reflection. This situation awakened me and reminded me of the covenants. While I was in this astonishment, I suddenly faced the minister of my master, who had advised me and made the covenant with me. He took me by the hand and said, “Dive into this water,” and it was the Water of Life. When I dived into it, I understood all its mysteries and found my master, after gaining gnosis of the signs, but abandoning their use. He said to me, “Welcome. You are one of us.” And he gave me the joyous news of attaining him and returning to my original country, safe and sound. All these were allusions and symbols for the attainment of salvation and eternal happiness, which cannot be attained except by gnosis of the cognizing and distinguishing rational soul for the managing of states. In this way man is superior to animals. [Hatha Yoga text comes here *] He said, And when I lifted up my head in this web, I found the minister of my master; he was I, and the minister was my reflection. I remained astonished, and in this astonishment, I beheld my master. He made an allusion by taking a spider’s thread; first he split it into halves, then he made them one. Then he said, “One times one is one.” So I understood his allusion and found that my self was he, and I was his reflection. Farewell. *NOTE: Known as the Amrtakunda or The Pool of Nectar, this Hatha Yoga text has preserved parts of the "Hymn of the Pearl" in a number of fragments. SOURCE: “Fragmentary Versions of the Apocryphal ‘Hymn of the Pearl’ in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu” --- Carl W. Ernst University of North Carolina