The Thunder, Perfect Mind

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For the Current 93 album, see Thunder Perfect Mind (Current 93 album). For the Nurse with Wound album, see Thunder Perfect Mind (Nurse with Wound album).

"The Thunder, Perfect Mind" is an exhortatory poem discovered among the Gnostic manuscripts at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.

The Thunder, Perfect Mind [1]

For it is I who am acquaintance: and lack of acquaintance.
It is I who am reticence: and frankness.
I am shameless: I am ashamed.
I am strong: and I am afraid.
It is I who am war: and peace.

The Thunder – Perfect Intellect, Lines 26-31 from another translation.[2]


The Thunder, Perfect Mind (the title may alternately be translated The Thunder - Perfect Intellect) takes the form of an extended, riddling monologue, in which an immanent divine saviour speaks a series of paradoxical statements alternating between first-person assertions of identity and direct address to her audience. These paradoxical utterances echo Greek identity riddles, a common poetic form in the Mediterranean. Moreover it is an non-epistolic, non-narrative unmediated divine speech.[3] There are some translations to the right from the same section of the poem. Line numbering is different in different translations.


As to dating, Anne McGuire writes: "Thunder, Perfect Mind exists only in the Coptic version found at Nag Hammadi (NHC VI,2:13,1-21,32). The author, date, and place of composition are unknown, but a cultural milieu like that of second- or third-century Alexandria is plausible. In any case, it is clear that the text was originally composed in Greek well before 350 C.E., the approximate date of the Coptic manuscript."[4]

Structure and language[edit]

The work as a whole takes the form of a poem in parallel strophes, and the author, it may be surmised, has drawn on a tradition of such poems in both Egyptian and Jewish communities, in which a similarly female divinity (Isis or aspect of the divine Sophia respectively) expounds her virtues unto an attentive audience, and exhorts them to strive to attain her. Examples of the genre abound in Old Testament literature.

The riddles of the poem may presuppose a classical Gnostic myth, such as the one found in the Reality of the Rulers, or in the Secret Book of John.

The original language of the poem was Greek, though only a Coptic version survives in the Nag Hammadi library; the manuscript resides in the Cairo Coptic museum.

In contemporary culture[edit]

Excerpts from the poem were used by Toni Morrison as epigraphs to her novels Jazz and Paradise.[citation needed]

Umberto Eco includes a portion of it in the introduction to chapter 50 of Foucault's Pendulum;[citation needed] and Larry Larson and Levi Lee use about a dozen lines in their play Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends (A Final Evening with the Illuminati).[citation needed] The poem has, in contemporary culture, been adopted as an inspiration 'mantra' by modern feminists, practitioners of WICCA and writers, for e.g.: Kelly Sebastina inserts an abridged version of Perfect Mind on page 241 in her book The Almond and The Rose [5] which is really clever and goes like this:-

For I am the First and The Last;

I am the Venerated and the Despised;

I am the Saint and the Prostitute;

I am the Virgin and the Wife;

I am the Solace for the Pain;

And He is my rejected Son;

Always respect me;

For I am the Shameful and the Magnificent One . . .

Lines from the poem are printed in the borders of the Major Arcana cards of The Elemental Tarot deck by Caroline Smith and John Astrop (1988).

A 2005 film by Jordan Scott (the daughter of Ridley Scott) depicts Canadian model Daria Werbowy moving through various urban scenes (such as a nightclub, the back of a taxi, and around Potsdamer Platz in Berlin), while a recitation from the poem is read in as a form of narrative commentary. A shortened version of the film was used in a Prada advertisement, to promote the launch of the fashion house's first perfume.[6][7]

The poem has been cited as inspiration for an album by the apocalyptic folk band Current 93 and industrial music band Nurse With Wound, as a work for cello by composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens, and as a work for Celtic harp and voice by composer/performer Julia Haines. It has been recited by Jarboe with music by Cedric Victor on the album 'The End'.


  1. ^ 'The Thunder, Perfect Mind'. Full text online. Translated by George W. MacRae. From The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, editor. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990.
  2. ^ 'The Thunder – Perfect Intellect' in The Gnostic Scriptures, Bentley Layton, editor. SCM Press, London, 1987.
  3. ^ Trans. Anne McGuire Notes and text Diotima 2000
  4. ^ The Thunder: Perfect Mind. Full text online. Translation and notes by Anne McGuire. Diotima. 2000.
  5. ^ SEBASTINA, Kelly, The Almond and The Rose, IISBN 978-1492742579
  6. ^ May 1, 2005 Boards magazine article "Thunder Perfect Prada" about the Jordan Scott film and the Prada ads made from it.
  7. ^ Online video from 2005 Prada ad by Ridley Scott and daughter Jordan Scott using some text from Thunder Perfect Mind.

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