Handbook of Gnostic Sacramental Rites?
The Gospel of Philip contains many disparate pieces arranged in an illogical, even eccentric manner. The gospel perhaps makes the most sense if thought of as a kind of handbook containing oral religious instruction before baptism — in other words, a book of sacramental catechesis. The word “catechism” derives from the Greek verb katexein, which means to teach. Catechism has been used from the fourth century (perhaps even earlier) to teach candidates for church membership about church doctrine, history, beliefs, practices, sacraments, and rites.
The Valentinians most likely instructed their initiates into their Gnostic doctrine before they could particpate in the sacraments. The five Gnostic sacraments, as discussed earlier in this book, included baptism, chrism or rituals of anointing with oil, redemption, bridal chamber, and the Eucharist, which possibly involved readings of scripture or sacred texts (some Valentinian liturgical readings can be found in The Gnostic Bible by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer). The Gospel of Philip in saying number 69:11–13 expounds upon the Valentinian belief that followers have to be baptized in the water and the light, and that the light is the chrism. The Gnostic sacrament of the chrism was a sacrament through which they received the Holy Spirit. Its counterpart would be confirmation in the Roman Catholic church.
A final word about Gnostic salvation — it includes individual and also a cosmic redemption. In other words, all things must be returned to what they were before they came into being in the realm of matter. All sparks of light must be set free to return to the divine light. Only then will the flawed and evil material realm that the Gnostics called Hyle be destroyed. The Valentinians developed a doctrine that espoused an extremely complicated and elaborate salvation process that involved Aeons who must restore order in the Pleroma after Sophia's fall. An Aeon called Jesus-Soter (also called Jesus Logos and Christ) comes into the material world as a second Savior and unites with Jesus (at Jesus' baptism). This savior comes to show humans the way to return their spirit (pneuma) “home” to the Pleroma.