The Gnostic term BarbÄ“lÅ (Greek Î’Î±ÏÎ²Î·Î»ÏŽ Iren., Epiph., Philast., Pist. Soph., Hier.; -ÏÏŽ Epiph. as an alternative, 92 A, and similarly the Epitome, p. 354 Dind.; -Î», Epit. l. c. bis; -Î»ÏŽÎ¸ Theodoret) refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Sethian Gnostic cosmogony. BarbÄ“lÅ is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'. So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, BarbÄ“lÅ worshippers or BarbÄ“lÅgnostics.
In the Apocryphon of John, a tractate in the Nag Hammadi Library containing the most extensive recounting of the Sethian creation myth, the BarbÄ“lÅ is described as "The first power, the glory, BarbÄ“lÅ, the perfect glory in the aeons, the glory of the revelation." All subsequent acts of creation within the divine sphere (save, crucially, that of the lowest aeon Sophia) occurs through her co-action with God. The text describes her thus:
"This is the first thought, his image; she became the womb of everything, for it is she who is prior to them all, the Mother-Father, the first man (Anthropos), the Holy Spirit, the thrice-male, the thrice-powerful, the thrice-named androgynous one, and the eternal aeon among the invisible ones, and the first to come forth."
In Gnostic accounts of God, the notions of impenetrability, stasis and ineffability are of central importance. The emanation of BarbÄ“lÅ may be said to function as an intermediary generative aspect of the Divine, or as an abstraction of the generative aspect of the Divine through its Fullness. The most transcendent hidden invisible Spirit is not depicted as actively participating in creation. This significance is reflected both in her apparent androgyny (reinforced by several of her given epithets), and in the name BarbÄ“lÅ itself. (Wikipedia)