This article explores the ways the story of the soul's present plight and its return to the divine realm is narrated in different Nag Hammadi treatises, and to what effect. The soul's condition is a central concern in two types of stories: there are (1) demiurgical myths, in which the soul's origin is ascribed to an inferior creator-god, and (2) plainer stories of the soul, which are solely focused on the soul, without a creation narrative. The main sources for the latter type are the Exegesis on the Soul (NHC II, 6) and Authoritative Teaching (Authentikos Logos, NHC VI, 3). In addition to these texts, three demiurgical myths from Nag Hammadi Codex II, are drawn into the discussion: The Secret Book of John, The Nature of the Rulers, and On the Origin of the World.
The soul pestered by emotions is one of the themes that connects these stories with the long-standing philosophical tradition, starting from Plato's dialogues. The portrayals of this theme become increasingly ‘demonic’, but even the soul's battle against demons is first and foremost a battle against emotions. A new element in these stories is the emphasis placed upon repentance as bringing about transformation in the soul. Although strong sexual imagery is used in these texts to describe both the mythic past and the soul's present plight, the analysis suggests that sexual lust is not the only moral concern in them. Some texts discussed in this article show far greater concern with wine, luxury, good looks, pride, and arrogance than with illicit sex.