In the Greek world, the nuptial thalamus signaled the moment when the union of man and woman became legitimate. We find references to it in Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey“; in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”; in Virgil’s “Aeneid” or, to give a last example, in Euripides’ Andromache (in this case alluding to the confrontation for the thalamus, between the legitimate wife and the concubine).
Now, what was meant by “bridal thalamus” in ancient Greece? The term alludes to the “hymenaeum”, lyrical poetry in honor of the god Hymenaeus or Hymen, which was sung during the marriage ceremony, in which the bride was led in procession to the groom’s house.
“(…) weddings and feasts were celebrated: the brides came out of their rooms and were accompanied through the city by the light of lighted torches, repeated hymn songs were heard, young dancers formed rings, inside which flutes and zithers sounded, and the matrons admired the spectacle from the vestibules of the houses”.
The term also referred to the place or room where the valuables of the house were kept and, in particular, to the marriage bed. It is significant that in the Homeric text (“Odyssey“), the nuptial thalamus is presented to us as the central axis of the home, that is, as the very basis of marriage and, therefore, as the ultimate representation of love and marital fidelity (Penelope recognizes Ulysses when he reveals to her that he had built his nuptial thalamus with the root of an olive tree).
In the Nag Hammadi Manuscripts, related to early Gnostic Christianity, we find continuous references to the “nuptial thalamus”. Specifically, at least 36 mentions can be traced, distributed in 7 documents: “Tripartite Treatise“, “Gospel of Thomas“, “Gospel of Philip”, “Exegesis of the Soul“, “Authoritative Teaching“, “Asclepius“, “Second Treatise of the Great Seth“.
Also in the New Testament, we find a mention of the bridal thalamus. One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and Jesus and his disciples were sitting at table with “many tax collectors and sinners,” they went to tell Jesus:
“Why do not your disciples fast, as do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees?
Jesus answered them, “Can the children of the bridal chamber (usually translated “the wedding guests”) fast while the bridegroom is with them? While the bridegroom is present, they cannot fast. But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away; then, when that day comes, they will fast” (Mk 2:19-20).
Both the question and the answer given by Jesus are intriguing, considering that the Nazarene refers to a wedding, while indirectly presenting himself as the bridegroom. In other words, Jesus announces that his disciples do not fast because he himself, the bridegroom, is present.
We can therefore assume that the answer has an esoteric meaning.
The later comparison that no one pours new wine into old wineskins, nor puts a new patch on an old cloth, clarifies, in part, the meaning of such words. Both the wineskin (skin prepared to store liquids, especially wine or oil) and the cloth are symbolic allusions to the psychic-material structure of the human being. And it is evident that the old psychic-material structure cannot support the direct union with the spirit.
To better understand the meaning of Jesus’ words, we will first focus on the text “Exegesis of the Soul” (or “Exposition on the Soul“) from Codex II of the Nag Hammadi Library, which deals with the descent of the soul to the nether world, the abuse of the soul and the loss of its virginity.
“While (the soul) was alone with the Father, she was a virgin and had an androgynous figure, but when she rushed into a body and acceded to this worldly life, she fell into the power of many violent bandits who passed her from one to the other (…). Some abused her (…) And she prostituted herself in her own body and gave it to all, thinking that the one to whom she adhered was her husband (…) And (the offspring) she bore from adulterers were dumb, blind and sickly” (“Exposition on the Soul“).
The text goes on to point out that the soul laments its state and when it “turns inward, it receives a baptism” and is purified. Such purification of the soul “consists in recovering (the youthfulness) of its first nature and returning again” to the celestial world. At this point, the soul becomes irritated against itself because it is not capable of “begetting a son on its own“. Then, the Father sends her from heaven “her bridegroom, who is her brother, the firstborn (…) Then the bridegroom descended to the bride (…) He purified himself in the bridal chamber, filled it with perfumes and sat in it awaiting the true bridegroom“.
It may come as a surprise that after the Father sends the bridegroom/brother and he unites with the bride, the soul awaits the true bridegroom. To understand this we must understand that the soul (androgynous), when descending to the material world is represented by a woman. In the same way, the brother/spouse (androgynous) descending to matter is symbolized by the material figure of the bridegroom, although the true bridegroom is the Spirit, the inner god, who, evidently, lacks any form.
“Then the bridegroom, according to the will of the Father, descended to her and entered the bridal chamber already prepared. The bridegroom was the adornment of the bridal chamber.“
With the union, since it is not a carnal marriage, the soul and the spouse (“the true lover“) “become one life”.
What the text shows, in an allegorical way, is the “Alchemical Wedding” of the soul with the Spirit.
Seen from this perspective, we can intuit that “the bridal chamber already prepared“, alludes to the pineal gland, the door through which the Spirit descends into the prepared human personality, in order to celebrate the “wedding” with the purified and renewed (transmuted) soul.
The very act of entering the bridal chamber with the bridegroom is presented as a sacrament by which the soul regenerates itself, receives the gift of rejuvenation (regains the divine nature) and ascends to the heavenly world from which it had descended:
“And he received from the Father the divine gift of rejuvenation in order to return to the place where he was at the beginning.
(…) This is the resurrection from the dead, this is the ransom from captivity, this is the ascension, the way to heaven, this is the way that ascends to the Father” (Exposition on the Soul).
In the bridal chamber, the soul “received from him the seed which is the life-giving Spirit, to beget good children from him and to nourish them. For this is the magnificent and perfect and marvel of generation”.
Thus, by the alchemical wedding with the spouse, with the Spirit, the soul not only recovers its immortal nature, but can beget and nurture “good children”. Who are the good children of the soul? The answer seems clear and evident: the new capacities of the soul, the new works and, in its highest expression, the new immortal body. Thus, in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, we see that Jesus says:
“When you beget that which is in you, that which you have will save you, but if you do not have it in you, that which you do not have in you will put you to death.”
The Gospel of Thomas also includes the quotation on fasting and clearly relates it to the bridal chamber: “Only when the bridegroom comes out of the bridal chamber, then let him fast and pray! ». He implies that, if the Spirit is not present, the human being is obliged to fast and pray, because he has no spiritual food, but that those who have already celebrated the wedding with the Spirit do not fast, because they receive continually the holy food, the radiations that nourish the soul and the new body.