Since the Roman Catholic Church invented the martyrs Valentine and Valentine (sic!), unrelated, who wrote pious little declarations of charitable intentions – the name Valentine has been a definition of the passionate lover, who anonymously bestows a gift of words, of flowers, of jewelry.. or indeed, chocolate – to his dearest.
The international icon for Christmas has become the Christmas tree, only challenged by a fat cartoon character in a red suit and a long white beard. The international icon for Valentines is a heart.
Since Valentinus, the actual origin for the traditional celebration of St.Valentines – declared boldly that beyond all other characterizations God, the divine, is Love: and all beings owe their existence to the situation that Love needs an object (or rather, a Subject) – and because the Bridal Chamber (also called Nymphon) is the central mystery (sacrament) of the Valentinian school; the heart comes closer to describe this “Holy Day”.
“Valentinus was born in Phrebonis in upper Egypt about 100 AD and educated in nearby Alexandria. There he became a disciple of the Christian teacher Theudas who had been a disciple of Saint Paul. He claimed that Theudas taught him secret wisdom that Paul had taught privately to his inner circle.” – source D.Brons, Valentinus and the Valentinian School.
One event is certain as determining for his further mission as a Gnostic visionary, the vision of the infant that declared to him that he was the Logos. In the infant Valentinus recognized the entire contextuality of the universe as he saw it – Reality is ever freshly born, ever renewed, ever penetrated by light; but like with the Word in the Prologue in the Gospel according to John, it is not received by the universe, that is to say, the universal – but in the individual, specific person; the vessel which receives a glimpse of light to perceive what is really exists, beyond all fictions and appearances – the heart which can appreciate the enormous power of love, rests within Man. It needs to be awakened, and this awakening represents a new creation process. A process which is informed by Gnosis, and by absolute consent from the Origin itself – not as the illicit affair which Sophia formerly had with creating something on her own; wherein all her doubts, all her fears, all her worries overshaddow the brilliant light, and stifles the enormous power of such an action.
Ideally in romantic love, the lover looses himself or herself completely at first – an ecstasy turns everything on its head, challenges all conventions and authorities – but in the end,
he or she finds himself\herself again – renewed, in a new light, to which is added the potency of the other which has become completely now a part of his\her reality – his passion, his strenght, his dream, his vision .. and his sorrow or joy. In the mysticism of the Valentinian Gnostics asceticism could only assist any man or woman to the half distance of the path they has to go; whether the richness is corporal, sensual or domestic where a secondary concern so far as all divine light,love,compassion,righteousness,understanding and wisdom participated in such a life as we have. In renouncing the authorities, which every loving pair will have to do, and understanding them correctly for what they are – in leaving behind the world and seeking the sanctuary of Love (capital letter “Love” – if you are confused, inspect Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, for an example – or Socrates speech on Agape in Plato’s Symposion)
they may well understand what the mysteries of the Apolytrosis (redemption, rest, resurrection etc.) and the Hieros Gamos (Bridal Chamber, Nymphon, Union) consists in… The hunger of the archons is that for intelligence – not an intelligence of facts and the relationships between external things – but an intelligence of the relationship between the inner and the outer, male and female (as considered from the vantagepoint of the internal and interpersonal world), right and left, true light and true darkness, true good and true evil; an intelligence which draws the shape of the wolf out of the appearance of the sheep, so the eye may see it and the mind might take appropriate action.
In many ways Valentinus was the most dangerous of foes for the proto-orthodox Catholics, because he intended to present his perspective and vision within a universal, Churchly, context. He did not shy away from making mythical intuitions and initiatory axioms accesible in plain language, one of the reasons Jacob Boehme, Louis Claude de Saint Martin and later mystics often are compared superficially with Valentinus, no matter how intimate they were with the mythical and philosophical foundation he represented.
It took only a few generations before the Valentinians who actually resisted the stereotyping into some kind of sect – by embracing dual membership as legitimate and in accord with Apostolic tradition (the dual affiliation of Valentinus with the Episcopal authority in Alexandria alongside his “secret” initiation at the hands of Theudas; who, mind you, belonged to a minority group in the Egyptian Church for the simple reason that the majority was judaizing Jewish Christians who held to the programmes of Mark,Peter and Matthew, somewhat enstranged from the Gentile Church of the Paulines, is an example). The further scholars look into the conundrum of Valentinus, especially as represented by verified sources from the tradition itself, the more assured they become in that Valentinus was actually a participant in the foundation of what later became known as the Catholic Tradition.
A very good source for information about Valentinus is David Brown’s website Valentinus and the Valentinian School, which is mirrored at the Gnostic Archive.
Stephan Hoeller, the Bishop for Ecclesia Gnostica and director of studies at the Gnostic Society, wrote many years ago an article for Gnosis Magazine about Valentinus, entitled Valentinus – a Gnostic for all seasons. I recommend it.