What is Gnosticism?
Gnosticism (based on the Greek gnosis, "knowledge") is a philosophy that was in practice before Christ, but became a religion of sorts at the outset of Christianity in the second century, which combined elements of Greek philosophy, Oriental mysticism, and Judeo-Christianity. The primary texts of the Gnostic beliefs are found in the library of Coptic Gnostic writings (Egyptian Christian) discovered in 1945 near Nag-hamm� in Egypt, known primarily as the Nag-hamm� texts. Gnostics believe that redemption from the evil, material world comes through divinely revealed knowledge from within about the true nature of man. It is only through an acquaintance of the intellect with the first principle, who is the primary deity and original source of all creation, that men may be saved. It is likely that the early apostles encountered this form of pseudo-Christian teaching, since they warned of such perversions of the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 11:13-15, Galations 1:6-9, 1 Timothy 1:3-4, 4:1-3, 6:3-5, 6:20-21, 2 Peter 2, 1 John 2:22-26, Jude, Revelation 2:2). Gnosticism can be very dangerous to the believing Christian who desires to know "God's secret wisdom" (1 Corinthians 2:7), since many of the gnostic gospels are collections of sayings supposedly revealed by Jesus in secret to individual disciples.
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith."
(1 Timothy 6:20-21)
A distinction shared between most gnostic literature is the myth of origins, a complicated genealogy of the succession of physical, spiritual, and intellectual realms, which the Apostle Paul warned against in 1 Timothy 1:3-4. In a crude attempt at summarizing basic gnostic belief, the overall history of all creation, according to gnostic theology, is that everything started with a divine power that was perfect and complete. For indescribable reasons, it eminated from itself a second, less perfect being or principle called Barbelo, which in turn began a long series of successive eminations on down to mankind. Somewhere during the succession of eminations, or "aeons," between the spiritual and material realms, was the creation of a being known as Ialdabaoth (or Yaldabaoth), who created the physical universe and everything in it patterned after the spiritual universe of the supreme deity. In order to do this, Ialdabaoth had to steel powers from the divine being. The only way for humans to return to the original, divine being is to discover an intimate knowledge of it through contemplation and asceticism, obtained by the transfer of power from Ialdabaoth through mortal deception, by which the divine being also progressively recovers those powers that it had lost. Much of this lost and hidden knowledge is dispersed throughout the historical lineage of Seth, Adam and Eve's third son, who has spiritual ties with Barbelo and whose ancestral line became the gnostics. Jesus was simply the embodiment of an aeon from the spiritual realm sent down to impart gnosis to the world. The details of this entire story expand in various tangents of fantasy within each codex and are interspersed with references to scriptural sources of the Old and New Testaments. Although early Christian church fathers wrote against the gnostic teachings, it was able to flourish until the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. Once the Christian Church became orthodox and united, it began to deem gnostic teaching as heretical and destroyed much of the writings that existed. With government backing by decress from the emperor, the Church was able to forbid the meeting of Christian sects not in alliance with itself. From various edicts and canons passed by the Church, it may be seen that gnosticism continued through the seventh century.
"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work -- which is by faith."
(1 Timothy 1:3-4)
Following are just a sampling of traditional Gnostic teachings which are highly speculative, anti-biblical, and heretical to the true doctrines of Christianity:
- The books of the Old Testament are based on myth.
- The Holy Spirit is a divine female emanation called Sophia, who has fallen from grace by willingly giving birth to the evil god of the Old Testament. As the embodiment of wisdom, she forever seeks to know the original, divine presence.
- The failings of this world are the fault of an imperfect, arrogant, and false creator who erroneously and arrogantly believed himself to be the only true god. In earlier gnostic teaching, the God of Israel and Satan are one and the same. In later gnostic teaching, Satan is an offspring of God who has a corrupting influence on him. (Ialdabaoth and his son, Sabaoth, are often used interchangeably as the god of this world.)
- There are 365 levels of heaven, each ruled by successions of authorities, rulers, and angels. It is the authorities, rulers, and angels of the lowest realm, the offspring of the god of Israel, who collaboratively made Adam based on the pattern of a human form previously created at a higher realm.
- When god breathed life into man, Sophia (wisdom) intervened and caused god's power to leave him and enter man as intellect. Sin is a consequence of ignorance, redemption of which comes not through Christ's death but through spiritual enlightenment.
- Although Adam and Eve sinned against the god of this world, it was for the higher purpose of escaping his evil clutches. The snake in the garden of Eden was not Satan, but Sophia (wisdom), god's mother. Cain and Abel were offspring of Eve and the devil. Seth was the offspring of Eve and Adam, who received spiritual endowment from the supreme god of the highest realm.
- God brought the great flood upon the world in an attempt to completely destroy mankind. It was not he who chose Noah and his family to restart the human race, but god's mother, Sophia, in an attempt to preserve the human race. It may have even been Sophia who brought the flood in an attempt to destroy those who the angels of the god of this world were continually trying to mate with and form alliances. It was through Ham, the father of Canaan and one of Noah's three sons (the one who was cursed), that corruption again entered the world.
- The God of the Bible and his angels are intent on keeping mankind ignorant of his own spiritually divine essence. God's commandments are a system of rules that only serve his purposes to control mankind, whereas true morality is a subjective ideal of individual intuition.
- Through the lineage of Abraham, the god of this world was able to bring back into subjection to his will a remnant of mankind. The prophets of the Israelites were persecuted because they attempted to reveal the incorruptable realm beyond the god of this world, from which the Christ would come.
- The one true god of the universe is unknowable to man on a personal level.
- Those who fail to transcend their earthly ignorance will be reincarnated, whether in the body of an animal or a human, where they will continue to undergo punishment for past sins.
- Christ is the brother of Sophia (wisdom), who helped to give her form through his higher intellect (Achamoth), and who are together bridegroom and bride. He is even considered her first offspring, who escaped her captivity and returned to the first principle (the entirety), taking with him her spiritual substance. As a result, in fear, grief, and uncertainty she emitted Ialdabaoth, the god and craftsman (demiurge) of this world.
- The spirit of Christ was a being who inhabited the body of Jesus long enough to share the truth of the secret knowledge of god. He didn't really die on the cross, but was taken back up to heaven before the physical body was crucified. The body of Simon of Cyrene was most likely substituted. Christ was not the son of the god of Israel, but of a higher god. Only by denying the crucified Christ can man escape the authority of the god of this world. Most of Jesus' disciples were misunderstood about who he was and wrongly promoted salvation through his sacrificial death on the cross. Those who truly understood and who received his secret teachings, such as Judas Iscariot, knew that he was only a spiritual puppet for the purpose of leading a few back to the higher realms from which were their true origins.
- Jesus had sexual relations with Mary Magdalene, not because he was secretly in love with her, but because Eve was originally created to steal man's intellect and only by the exchange of semen and menses between men and women can the saving wisdom (known as "vulgar wisdom") be transferred. Only male spirits are allowed into the highest heavenly realm, so female spirits are converted through the physical act of intercourse or the ingesting of male sexual fluids by the woman.
- Gnosticism is true Christianity, reserved only for the intellectually gifted and spiritually elect.
"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."
The more prominent gnostic teachers of the early Christian centuries include Valentinus, Marcion, and Basilides. Not much is known about the authorship of most of the existing gnostic writings, nor the exact dates, although based on the philosophical styles and the anti-gnostic writings of early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and Irenaeus, it can be determined that many were composed in the second and third centuries A.D. Even pagan scholars, such as Porphyry (circa A.D. 232-305), a student of Plotinus, wrote against gnostic literature in defense of Platonist philosophy, from which the gnostics had borrowed many of their myths. The gnostics were known for their literary activity and most of the fictional romances of the early centuries about Christ and his disciples came from gnostic circles. The Nag-hamm� collection consisted of over fifty texts. Few of the gnostic texts that exist today are complete, many being only fragments. Following is a list of many of the primary gnostic texts, thought to have originally been composed in Greek, of which only the Egyptian Coptic copies are available. The brackets surrounding implied text have been removed for easier reading. The term "acquaintance" refers to gnosis, or an intimate knowledge of the supreme principle, often referred to as the "entirety" or the "unengendered parent" in gnostic literature. Texts deemed as Christian Apocrypha were not included.
Allogenes or The Foreigner, is a spiritual autobiography of the mystical ascent and angelic revelation of an unnamed person known as the "Foreigner." In a vision, the writer experiences the first principle, which is unrecognizable to all. In an attempt to describe it, he writes, "It is neither divinity nor blessedness nor perfection. Rather, is an unrecognizable nonessential property of it, and not its essential property. Rather, it is some other, superior to blessedness, divinity, and perfection. Indeed, it is not perfect: rather, it is some other, superior thing. It is not infinite, nor is limit bestowed upon it by some other; rather, it is some other, superior thing. It is not corporeal; it is not incorporeal; It is not large; it is not small. It is not quantifiable; it is not a creature, nor is it something that exists, i.e. which one could understand; but rather it is something else, which is superior, i.e. which one could not understand. It is a first manifestation and acquaintance therewith, although it is understood only by itself, inasmuch as it is not anything among the existents, but something superior, among the superiors. Yet, like its essential property and any given nonessential property of it, it neither shares in eternity nor shares in spans of time... Yet these are nonessential properties that are unrecognizable to all. And in beauty it is far superior to all those which are good. Thus it is utterly unrecognizable to all and by all, although it is in all - and not just in urecognizable acquaintance that exists according as it really is. And it is reconciled through the nonrecognition that looks toward it. How is it unrecognizable? Or does any behold it as it utterly exists? If one should say that it exists as something, such as acquaintance, one has acted impiously toward it, and has been sentenced to not being acquainted with god: not sentenced by that, which neither cares about anything nor possesses any will, but rather self-sentenced because of not having discovered the really existent first principle." According to the closing paragraphs, this vision was explained by an angel to the author, who revealed it to someone named Messos, the book of which was deposited upon a mountain.
Apocalypse of Adam or The Revelation of Adam, a testament of Adam on his deathbed which begins, "The revelation of Adam taught to his son Seth in the seven hundreth year, saying: Listen to my utterances, my son Seth!" It reports to contain the true history of mankind as revealed by an angel and ends with, "For the extant utterances of the god of the aeons have not been inscribed in the book nor are they in writing: rather, it is angelic beings - about whom none of the races of humankind knows anything - who will deliver them. For, they will be situated atop a high mountain upon a rocky outcrop of truth. They will be called oracles of incorruptibility and truth unto those who, by wisdom of acquaintance and by teaching of angelic beings, are eternally acquainted with the eternal god: because he is acquainted with all things. These are the revelations that Adam disclosed to his son Seth. And his son taught them to his seed. This is the secret acquaintance of Adam that he delivered unto Seth and which, for those who are acquainted with eternal acquaintance through the agency of the reason-born beings and the incorruptable luminaries who emanated from the holy seed, is holy baptism, Iesseus-Mazareus-Iessedekeus, the living water."
Apocryphon of John or The Secret Book According to John, is supposedly a collection of secret mysteries revealed to the Apostle John (brother of James and son of Zebedee) by the Savior after the resurrection. John is told by a Pharisee that Jesus had misled his followers, to which he retreats to a barren mountain to question the nature of Christ and the heavenly realms. He is visited by a multiform image from heaven that claims to have the answers he seeks, including the true history of mankind, the creation of the Barbelo and its subsequent aeons, and a detailed description of the structure of the universe. The creation of the god of this world is described as such: "Now, the wisdom belonging to afterthought, which is an aeon, thought a thought derived from herself, the thinking of the invisible spirit, and prior acquaintance. She wanted to show forth within herself an image, without the spirit's will; and her consort did not consent. And without his pondering: for the person of her maleness did not join in the consent; for she had not discovered that being which was in harmony with her. Rather, she pondered without the will of the spirit and without acquaintance with that being which was in harmony with her. And she brought forth. And because of the invincible power within her, her thinking did not remain unrealized. And out of her was shown forth an imperfect product, that was different from her manner of appearance, for she had made it without her consort. And compared to the image of its mother it was misshapen, having a different form. Now, when she saw that her desired artifact was stamped differently - serpentine, with a lion's face, and with eyes gleaming like flashes of lightning - she cast it outside of her, outside that place, so that none of the immortals might see it: for she had made it without acquaintance. And she surrounded it with a luminous cloud. And she put a throne in the midst of the cloud, so that no being might see it except for the holy spirit called 'mother of the living.' And she called its name Ialtabaoth."
The Book of Thomas the Contender or The Book of Thomas: The Contender Writing to the Perfect, was written by someone named Mathaias who claimed to have recorded "the obscure sayings that the savior uttered to Jude Thomas" while traveling with them. This is believed to have been Thomas, also called Didymus, one of the original twelve apostles (John 20:24-28), and the author of the gnostic Gospel According to Thomas. This is primarily a sermon on wisdom and the results of those who have it and those who don't. Intelligence is perfection, as Jesus explains to Thomas, "This is why we must speak to you. For this is the teaching of those who are perfect. So if you want to become perfect you will keep these; if not, the term for you is ignorant: inasmuch as an intelligent person cannot live with a fool. For the intelligent person is perfect in every wisdom." As with many other gnostic teachings, the body is considered an evil illusion to be overcome. "For the body is a domestic animal. Indeed, just as the bodies of domestic animals perish, so too these modeled forms will perish. Does it not result from sexual intercourse like that of the domestic animals? If it, too, is from that, how can it produce anything different than they do? For this reason, then, you are children until you become mature." Those who receive the secret teachings of Jesus are of the light, while those who don't are no better than meat. "Truly, do not consider those people to be human beings; rather, count them as domestic animals - for just as animals devour one another, so also human beings of this kind devour one another."
Epistle to Rheginus or Treatise on Resurrection, is a philosophical letter from an unknown author (presumably of the Valentinian school) to someone named Rheginus in response to his inquiries about the resurrection of the dead. According to the author, there are three parts to the human body: the material body made of dust, the soul that animates it, and the spirit which is its intellect. The material part dies, the soul is preserved and goes where it will, and the spirit is eventually united with god. Thus, it is the spirit, or intellect, that is resurrected, the process of which has begun as soon as the intellect began to contemplate greater intellectual objects than itself. "So then, as the apostle said of him, we have suffered with him, and arisen with him, and ascended with him... This is recurrection of the spirit, which 'swallows' resurrection of the soul along with resurrection of the flesh." Resurrection, therefore, has already taken place. This is a similar topic which the Apostle Paul addressed in 2 Timothy 2:16-18, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Pliletus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." The letter also espouses other gnostic tenets, including the illusory apparition of the material world and salvation of the intellect through acquanitance with the truth.
The Gospel According to Phillip is a collection of 107 excerpts from other gnostic sources and is considered to be an anthology of Valentinian philosophy, a gnostic school that prospered during the second and third centuries. Gospel means "good news" and the use of Phillip in the title may be simply that he is the only apostle mentioned by name (once). Here are a few excerpts: (14) "Some said that Mary conceived by the holy spirit: they are mistaken, they do not realize what they say. When did a female ever conceive by a female?" (15) And the lord would not say, "My father who is in the heavens," if he did not have a second father: rather, he would just have said, "My father." (19) "Those who say that the lord first died and then arose are mistaken, for he first arose and then he died. If one does not first get resurrection, one will not die." (30) "The holy are ministered to by evil forces: for the latter have been blinded by the holy spirit so that while they help the holy they think that the ones they help are human beings who belong to them. Thus a disciple once asked the lord about a matter concerning the world. He said to him, 'Ask your mother, and she will give to you from out of the alien realm.' " (33) "It is the ones who have gone astray that the spirit gave birth to. Moreover, they go astray because of the spirit. Thus from one and the same spirit the fire is kindled and is quenched." (43) "God is a cannible. Therefore, human beings are sacrificed to him. Before human beings were sacrificed, animals used to be sacrificed, because those to whom they were sacrificed were not gods." (60) "The lord did all things by means of a mystery: baptism, chrism, eucharist, ransom, and bridal chamber." (79) "People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing. Just so it is said of baptism: 'Great is baptism!' For if one receives it, one will live." (80) Phillip the Apostle said: "Joseph the carpenter planted a paradise, for he needed wood for his trade. It is he who made the cross from the trees that he had planted, and its seed hung from what he had planted: the seed was Jesus, and the plant was the cross. But the tree of life is in the midst of paradise, and from the olive tree comes chrism (anointing by oil); and from the latter comes resurrection." (83) Chrism has more authority than baptism. For because of chrism we are called Christians, not because of baptism. And the anointed was named for chrism, for the father anointed the son; and the son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us." (85) "The world came into being through transgression. For the agent that made it wanted to make it incorruptible and immortal. That agent fell, and did not attain what was expected. For the world's incorruptability was not; furthermore, the incorruptibility of the agent that made the world was not. For there is no such thing as the incorruptibility of things - only of offspring. And no thing can receive incorruptibility unless it is an offspring: that which cannot receive certainly cannot bestow."
The Gospel According to Thomas contains 114 proverbs ascribed to Jesus reportedly by Didymus Jude Thomas, thought to be a brother of James (Jude 1) and the author of Jude in the New Testament. While some of the sayings are similar to those found in the gospels of the New Testament, many are seemingly abstract, as the prologue attests: "These are the obscure sayings that the living Jesus uttered and which Didymus Jude Thomas wrote down. And he said, 'Whoever finds the meaning of these sayings will not taste death.' " Other obscure utterances include the following: (2) Jesus said, "Let one who seeks not stop seeking until that person finds; and upon finding, the person will be disturbed; and being disturbed, will be astounded; and will reign over the entirety." (7) Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion that the human being will devour so that the lion becomes human. And cursed is the human being that the lion devours; and the lion will become human." (12) The disciples said to Jesus, "We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "No matter where you come it is to James the Just that you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist." (13) Now, when Thomas came to his companions they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I say to you one of the sayings that he said to me, you will take stones and stone me, and fire will come out of the stones and burn you up." (14) Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will acquire a sin, and if you pray you will be condemned, and if you give alms, it is evil that you will do unto your spirits..." (30) Jesus said, "Where there are three divine beings they are divine. Where there are two or one, I myself dwell with that person." (37) The disciples said, "When will you be shown forth to us and when shall we behold you?" Jesus said, "When you strip naked without being ashamed, and take your garmants and put them under your feet like little children and tread upon them, then you will see the child of the living . And you will not be afraid." (67) Jesus said, "If anyone should become acquainted with the entirety and should fall short at all, that person falls short utterly." (70) Jesus said, "If you produce what is in you, what you have will save you. If you do not have what is in you, what you do not have will kill you." (75) Jesus said, There are many standing at the door, but it is the solitaries who will enter the bridal chamber." (77) Jesus said, It is I who am the light over all. It is I who am the entirety: it is from me that the entirety has come, and to me that the entirety goes. Split a piece of wood: I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there." (98) Jesus said, "What the kingdom of the father resembles is a man who wanted to assassinate a member of court. At home, he drew the dagger and stabbed it into the wall in order to know whether his hand would be firm. Next, he murdered the member of court." (107) Jesus said, "What the kingdom resembles is a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, strayed away. He left the ninety-nine and sought the one until he found it. After having toiled, he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety-nine.' " (108) Jesus said, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I, too, will become that person, and to that peson the obscure things will be shown forth." (114) Simon Peter said to them, "Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "See, I am going to attract her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit that resembles you males. For every female that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
The Gospel of the Egyptians or The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit, is a baptismal service book supposedly transcribed from the teachings of the spiritual Seth. It ends with, "This is the book that the great Seth composed and which he placed in high mountains upon which the sun has never risen - nor can it. And from the beginning of their days, the name has never risen upon the hearts of the prophets, the apostles, or the heralds - nor could it; and their ears have not heard it. The great Seth composed this book in writing in 130 years and placed it in the mountain called Kharaksio, so that, by emanating at the end of times and ages through the will of the self-originate god and all the fullness, because of the gift of the unsearchable, inconceivable, parental, will, he might appear unto this holy, incorruptible race of the great savior and unto those who sojourn with them in love - along with the great, invisible, eternal spirit and its only-begotten offspring, and the eternal light and its great incorruptible consort and incorruptible wisdom (Sophia) and the Barbelo and utter fullness in eternity. Amen!"
The Gospel of the Lord is authored by Marcion, once a bishop in the Christian church of Rome during the mid-second century, who broke from the orthodox church and started his own sect. His primary break from traditional Christianity was a belief that the vengeful God of the Old Testament could not have been the good God of the New Testament, of whom Jesus preached. Instead, he taught that there were two gods, the God of the Law and a higher, Good God above him, of whom Jesus represented on earth to show the lower God that he had transgressed by thinking himself to be the only god. Marcion disregarded all but the epistles of Paul as spiritual truth, rejecting the four gospels that would later be included in Tew Testament canon, although much of his own gospel resembles the Gospel of Luke (who was a traveling companion of Paul). Of the early anti-gnostic writers, Tertullian was the most critical of Marcion, composing the five part treatise in A.D. 207 entitled Against Marcion, in which he begins by referring to him as "a monster more credible to philosophers than to Christians." No quotes will be provided here from Marcion's gospel, since it reflects almost verse by verse the Gospel of Luke (minus the first three chapters). It is also considered an apocryphal gospel, not necessarily gnostic.
The Gospel of Truth is a sermon on salvation written in the style of early Christian mysticism and is generally attributed to Valentinus, a Christian teacher in second century Rome who claimed to have been taught the Christian religion by Theudas, a disciple of the Apostle Paul, and who believed that salvation came through an intimate knowledge with the Word that emanated from the fullness of the Father's intellect. From this text, it may be seen that there was a gnostic influence on the writer: "It is to the perfection that this, the proclamation of the one they search for, has made itself known, through the mercies of the father. By this the hidden mystery Jesus Christ shed light upon those who were, because of forgetfullness, in darkness. He enlightened them and gave them a way, and the way is the truth, about which he instructed them. For this reason error became angry at him and persecuted him. She was constrained by him, and became inactive. He was nailed to a tree and became fruit of the father's acquaintance. Yet it did not cause ruin because it was eaten. Rather, to those who ate of it, it gave the possibility that whoever he discovered within himself might be joyful in them - the inconceivable uncontained, the father, who is perfect, who created the entirety." The philosophical and theological teachings of Valentinus formed many schools in the second and third centuries, which promoted creativity, diversity, allegorical interpretation, and speculation on scriptural and spiritual matters. Sometime in the second century (about A.D. 180), Irenaeus of Lyons, the bishop of Gaul, wrote a treatise against the Valentinians entitled "The Detection and Overthrow of "Gnosis" Falsely So Called" (simply known as Against Heresies), in which he stated the beliefs of the ordinary Christian in contrast to what the gnostics were teaching, which he traced back to the Samaritan sorcerer Simon Magus in Acts 8:9-24.
The Hymn of the Pearl or The Hymn of Jude Thomas the Apostle in the Country of the Indians, originates from the Mesopotamian region of the School of Thomas. It is a part of a larger work titled The Acts of Thomas, generally attributed to Didymus Jude Thomas (although some attribute the Pearl as an ad-on by Bardaisan, a Syrian gnostic), who claimed to be the spiritual twin brother of Jesus, and is about an allegorical journey to acquire a pearl of great price. The author leaves his home of great wealth in the East to acquire a great pearl and along the way is subdued by the powers of the earth into forgetting his purpose. Various reminders are sent by his parents, which awaken him from his spiritual slumber and help him to accomplish his goal and return to his home much richer and wiser. After donning his royal robe of splendor, he is finally ushered into the presence of the king. "Once I had put it on I arose into the realm of peace belonging to reverential awe. And I bowed my head and prostrated myself before the splendor of the father who had sent it to me. For, it was I who had done his commands, and likewise it was he who had kept the promise. And I mingled at the doors of his archaic royal building. He took delight in me, and received me with him in the palace. And all his subjects were singing hymns with reverent voices. He suffered me also to be ushered in to the King's Court in his company: so that with my gifts and the pearl I might make an appearance before the king himself."
Hypostasis of the Archons or The Reality of the Rulers, is a treatise on the gnostic myth of the creation of the physical world with many parallels to the biblical book of Genesis. According to it, Ialdabaoth, the illegitimate offspring of Sophia (wisdom), upon opening its eyes for the first time beheld a vast quantity of matter without limit and declared with arrogance that it was god. A more detailed description goes like this: "Their chief is blind; because of its power and its lack of acquaintance and its arrogance it said, with its power, 'It is I who am god; there is none apart from me.' When it said this, it sinned against the entirety. And this utterance got up to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came forth from incorruptibility, saying, 'You are mistaken, Samael' - which is, 'god of the blind.' Its thoughts became blind. And, having expelled its power - that is, the blasphemy it had spoken - it pursued it down to chaos and the abyss, its mother, at the instigation of faith wisdom. And she appointed each of its offspring according to its respective power - after the pattern of the eternal realms that are above, for by starting from the invisible domain the visible domain was invented. As incorruptibility gazed down into the region of the waters, its image was shown forth in the waters; and the authorities of the darkness became enamored of it. But they could not lay hold of that image, which had been shown forth to them in the waters, because of their weakness - since merely animate beings cannot lay hold of those which are spirit-endowed; for they were from below, while it was from above. This is the reason why 'incorruptibility gazed down into the region': so that, by the parent's will, it might join the entirety unto the light. The rulers laid plans and said, 'Come, let us create a human being that will be soil from the earth.' They modeled their creature as one wholly of the earth."
Pistis Sophia ("Faith Wisdom") or The Books of the Savior, are the collected revelations of higher mysteries of Jesus to his disciples. Of unknown origin, these five books were obtained by the British Museum in 1795. According to the text, after remaining on the earth for eleven years proceeding the so-called resurrection and then finally ascending to heaven, Jesus then descended shortly thereafter to his disciples in order to impart the full knowledge of his mysteries. From the ninth chapter of the first book comes the following sample text: "It happened now when Jesus finished saying these words to his disciples, he continued again with the discourse, and he said to them : 'Behold, I have put on my garment and all authority is given to me through the First Mystery. Yet a little time, and I will tell you the mystery of the All and the pleroma of the All, and I will not hide anything from you from this hour, but in completion I will complete you in every pleroma and in every completion and in every mystery ; these are the completion of all completions and the Pleroma of all Pleromas and the gnosis of all gnoses, these which are in my garment. I will tell you all the mysteries from the outermost of the outer to the innermost of the inner. Hear, nevertheless, and I will tell you everything which has happened to me.' "
Poimandres or Cosmogony of Poim, is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice great"), considered a divine patron of literature and learning by early Greeks and Egyptians. It is one of 18 tracts in a collection known as the Corpus Hermeticum and is a description of the creation of the world and mankind, based on Plato's mythic Timaeus and Genesis of the Old Testament. In it, Poimandres, who identifies itself as "the intellect of the realm of absolute power," reveals to the author in a series of visions the origins of the intellect. Some samples of these revelations include the following: "The element within you that sees and hears is reason, belonging to the lord; and your intellect is its parent, i.e. god. Indeed, they are not separate from one another, for their union constitutes life." ... "So," I said, "where have the elements of the natural order come from?" Then it continued, "from god's purpose, which received reason, saw the beautiful world, and imitated it, creating a world with its own elements and its own generated products, namely souls. Now, the divine intellect, being androgynous since it existed as life and light, engendered rationally a second intellect as craftsman; and the latter, being god of fire and spirit, crafted seven controllers, which encompass the perceptible world in orbits. And their control is called destiny." ... "Those who lack acquaintance -" said I, "what enormous sin can they be committing to merit being deprived of immortality?" "Fellow, it seems that you have not reflected upon the things you have heard. Didn't I tell you to think?" "I am thinking and remembering, and of course I am grateful." "If you have thought about it, then tell me, why are those in death worthy of death?" "Because the prior source of each individual body is the gloomy darkness, out of which came the moist nature, out of which within the perceptible world has been put together the body, by which is fostered death." "Fellow, you have thought correctly. But why is it that 'those who think about themselves advance into themselves,' as the saying of god has it?" "Because," said I, "it is of light and life that the parent of the entirety is composed, and the human being comes from that parent." "You speak well! God the parent, from whom comes the human being, is light and life. Now, if you learn that god is of life and light, and that you are too, then you will advance again into life." That is what the Poimandres said.
Ptolemy's Epistle to Flora was written by the Valentinian teacher Ptolemy in the second century as a philosophical letter about the Mosaic Law to one of his students, which was later quoted word-for-word in the fourth century by Epiphanius of Salamis in his treatise Against Heresies. It begins, "The law established by Moses, my dear sister Flora, has in the past been misunderstood by many people, for they were not closely acquainted with the one who established it or with its commandments. I think you will see this at once if you study their discordant opinions on this topic." He goes on to explain that the law couldn't have been given by a perfect god because it was of a lesser character, nor by the devil because it was a law meant to abolish injustice. It then stood to reason through further explanation that it was given by an entity somewhere inbetween the two, identified as the creator of this world. "For since this division of the law was established neither by the perfect god, as we have taught, nor surely by the devil - which it would be wrong to say - then the establisher of this division in the law is distinct from them. And he is the craftsman and maker of the universe or world and of the things within it. Since he is different than the essences of the other two and is in a state intermediate between them, he would rightfully be described by the term intermediateness... For the essence of the adversary is both corruption and darkness, for the adversary is material and divided into many parts; while the essence of the unengendered father of the entirety is both incorruptibility and self-existent light, being simple and unique. And the essence of this intermediate produced a twofold capacity, for he is an image of the better god."
Three Steles of Seth or The Three Tablets of Seth, are a collection of hymnals supposedly recorded by the eternally spiritual Seth (Emmakha Seth) on three stone tablets which were discovered by a certain Dositheus. The hymnals recount the expressions of Emmakha Seth and his father Geradamas (or Adamas, the eternally spiritual Adam) about desiring to have an acquaintance with the second principle Barbelo, who is at the top of their own aeon. From the second tablet, hymn four, Barbelo is petitioned for salvation: "O god the parent! O divine child! O producer of multplicity! In respect of division of all those which are really existent you have shown forth a verbal expression unto all. And you possess all these ingenerately and eternally, without perishing. Because of you salvation has come to us. From you comes salvation! You are wisdom! You are acquaintance! It is you who are truth! Because of you is life; from you comes life. Because of you is intellect: from you comes intellect. You are intellect: you are a world of truth. You are a threefold power: you are a threefold replication. Truly, you are thrice replicated, O aeon of aeons! It is you alone who without contamination behold those which are first eternal and those which are unengendered: but also the first divisions, according as you have been divided. Unify us according as you have been unified. Tell us of the things that you behold. Bestow power upon us, so that we might become saved up into eternal life. For, as for us, we are a shadow of you. And according as you are a shadow of that which is first preexistent, hear us first. We are eternal: hear us - we who are perfect and particular. It is you who are the aeon of aeons, O you who are collectively wholly perfect."
Thunder, Perfect Mind or The Thunder - Perfect Intellect, is the teachings of a female aeon who is self-described as "afterthought" and written in the poetic form of a monologue on wisdom, with riddles about its identity. An example would be, "It is I who am descent: And it is to me that people ascend. It is I who am condemnation: and pardon. As for me, I am free of sin: And the root of sin derives from me. It is I who am desire for what is seen: And it is in me that continence of the heart resides. It is I who am the listening that is acceptable to everyone: And the speaking that cannot be restrained. I am mute and cannot speak: And great is the multitude of my speaking."
Trimorphic Protennoia or First thought in Three Forms, teaches that the invisible spirit is made up of three forms, including the second aeon of the divine power (Barbelo), life (Zoe), and the divine Word (Logos), which is the anointed (Christ). Of the creation of the anointed and its relation to the god of this world, it says, "Next, a verbal expression emanated from the great luminary Eleleth, and it said, 'It is I who am the ruler. Who is the one of chaos? And who is the one of Hades?' And at that moment its light appeared, shining bright because it possessed afterthought. The powers of the powers did not supplicate it. And immediately there was shown forth also the great demon that rules over the bottom of Hades and chaos, and which is misshapen and imperfect, yet has the form of the glory of those beings that were engendered within the darkness, and so is called Sakla ("fool"), i.e. Samael-Ialtabaoth. This is the being that got power - caught it up from the innocent, whom it had first overcome, i.e. the afterthought of the light that had descended and from which it had originally eminated." The anointed says this of itself, "For in that place I clothed myself as though I were the offspring of the first begetter, and I brought it to the end of its judicial authority, which is the ignorance that belongs to chaos. And while among the angels, I showed myself forth in their likeness; While among the powers, as though I were one of them; And while among the children of humankind, as though I were a child of the human being, although I am the parent of everyone. I hid myself in all these until such a time as I might show myself forth out of my own members. And I taught them about the ineffable ordinances and about the siblings. They are uninvoked by all realms and powers - only by the offspring of the light alone. They are the oridances of the parent; they are the glories superior to all glories; they are the five seals that are perfect through intellect. Whoever possesses the five seals of these very names has taken off robes of ignorance and put on shining light."
Zostrianos contains the apocalyptic visions of a religious seer on a heavenly voyage and is recorded as an autobiography. After being visited by an angel, he records, "Now, after it said these words, in its company with eagerness and great gladness I went on board a large luminous cloud, leaving my modeled form on earth guarded by glories. And we escaped from the whole world and the thirteen realms residing it, along with their hosts of angels, without our being seen. And their ruler was troubled by our journey. For, the cloud... was far superior to any worldly thing. It had ineffable beauty; glowed; was powerful; led the way for holy spirits; and existed as a life-giving spirit and an intellectual utterance - not like things that reside in the world of mutable material and aggressive utterance. And next, I recognized that the power residing within me presided over the darkness, for it possessed total light. There I was baptized; and I received the image of the glories that are in that place, becoming like one of them."
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
(1 John 4:1-3)
Here are some links to Gnostic websites on the Internet to help bring more insight to this form of "spiritual" belief. Be forewarned that it is a very dangerous system to the believing Christian, whether new or old in the faith, and should require a truly scriptural foundation if studied further. Remember, Jesus said that the God of the Jews is his Father who glorifies him (John 8:54), which Gnostics believe to be a misguided demigod.
BELIEVE - Gnosticism
"BELIEVE is a collection of over 2,000 articles by respected scholars on around 1,000 religious subjects. Protestant Christian Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox Church, all follow Faiths which involve hundreds of individual subjects, which are each thoroughly presented in BELIEVE... Gnosticism was a religious philosophical dualism that professed salvation through secret knowledge, or gnosis. The movement reached a high point of development during the 2d century AD in the Roman and Alexandrian schools founded by Valentius. Scholars have attributed the origins of gnosticism to a number of sources: the Greek mystery cults; Zoroastrianism; the Kabbalah of Judaism; and Egyptian religion. The early Christians considered Simon Magus (Acts 8:9 - 24) the founder of gnosticism. His doctrine, like that of other gnostic teachers, had nothing in common with the knowledge of the mysteries of God that Saint Paul called wisdom (1 Cor. 2:7). Christian leaders looked upon gnosticism as a subtle, dangerous threat to Christianity during the 2d century, a time marked by religious aspirations and philosophical preoccupations about the origins of life, the source of evil in the world, and the nature of a transcendent deity. Gnosticism was perceived as an attempt to transform Christianity into a religious philosophy and to replace faith in the mysteries of revelation by philosophical explanations."
Christian Research Journal - Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus
"Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus, by Douglas Groothuis, from the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1990, page 8. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller. Popular opinion often comes from obscure sources. Many conceptions about Jesus now current and credible in New Age circles are rooted in a movement of spiritual protest which, until recently, was the concern only of the specialized scholar or the occultist. This ancient movement -- Gnosticism -- provides much of the form and color for the New Age portrait of Jesus as the illumined Illuminator: one who serves as a cosmic catalyst for others' awakening. Many essentially Gnostic notions received wide attention through the sagacious persona of the recently deceased Joseph Campbell in the television series and best-selling book, The Power of Myth. For example, in discussing the idea that "God was in Christ," Campbell affirmed that "the basic Gnostic and Buddhist idea is that that is true of you and me as well." Jesus is an enlightened example who "realized in himself that he and what he called the Father were one, and he lived out of that knowledge of the Christhood of his nature." According to Campbell, anyone can likewise live out his or her Christ nature. Gnosticism has come to mean just about anything. Calling someone a Gnostic can make the person either blush, beam, or fume. Whether used as an epithet for heresy or spiritual snobbery, or as a compliment for spiritual knowledge and esotericism, Gnosticism remains a cornucopia of controversy."
Early Christian Writings - Gnostics, Gnostic Gospels, & Gnosticism
"A one-sentence description of Gnosticism: a religion that differentiates the evil god of this world (who is identified with the god of the Old Testament) from a higher more abstract God revealed by Jesus Christ, a religion that regards this world as the creation of a series of evil archons/powers who wish to keep the human soul trapped in an evil physical body, a religion that preaches a hidden wisdom or knowledge only to a select group as necessary for salvation or escape from this world. The term "gnostic" derives from "gnosis," which means "knowledge" in Greek. The Gnostics believed that they were privy to a secret knowledge about the divine, hence the name. (Huxley coined "agnosticism" on the basis that all knowledge must be based on reason. We cannot rationally claim to have access to knowledge that is beyond the powers of the intellect.) There are numerous references to the Gnostics in second century proto-orthodox literature. Most of what we know about them is from the polemic thrown at them by the early Church Fathers. They are alluded to in the Bible in the pastorals (spurious Paulines of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), for example 1 Tm 1:4 and 1 Tm 6:20, and possibly the entirety of Jude. Ignatius of Antioch writes against them as well as Docetism, a doctrine closely related to Gnosticism that stated that Christ was pure spirit and had only a phantom body. Second Clement is a document aimed at refuting early second century Gnosticism. Marcion was the most famous of the Gnostics, and he established a "canon" of the Pauline epistles (minus the pastorals) and a "mutilated" Luke (presumably considered so because it lacked proof-texts such as Lk 22:43-44). Justin Martyr mentioned him c. 150 CE, and Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote against him extensively in the late second century (in Against Heresy and Against Marcion, respectively). Besides Marcion, other important Gnostics were Basilides and Valentinus. Some Gnostic documents are the Gospel of Truth, the Letter to Rheginus, Treatise on the Three Natures, Apocalypse of Adam, the Gospel of Matthias, Gospel of Philip, Acts of Peter, and Acts of Thomas. Although the Gnostics were prolific writers, most of their works have been burnt or lost in favor of proto-orthodox writings (and known only through patristic references). Some scholars have theorized that Gnosticism has its roots in pre-Christian religions, instead of being merely an offshoot of Christianity. The following are writings by Gnostics of the second century according to some scholars, although some others dispute this classification for writings such as the Gospel of Thomas."
"The last few years have brought to the fore a considerable number of organizations bearing the name "Gnostic". The principal reason for this was the discovery in 1945 and the publication in fully translated form in 1977 of the Nag Hammadi Library of Coptic Gnostic scriptures -- the largest collection of Gnostic writings ever discovered. The Nag Hammadi Library has not only brought the name "Gnostic" into prominence but has also convinced many persons in our culture that Gnosticism is more than a peculiar ancient heresy of mainly antiquarian interest. On the contrary, Gnosticism now stands revealed as a fascinating and creative early variant of Christianity that possesses many features of contemporary relevance.To those of us who are committed to the Gnostic Tradition, these developments have brought both satisfaction and concern. Understandably, we are encouraged by the increase of interest in our tradition. It is also gratifying for us to note that today, unlike some years ago, the use of the name "Gnostic" is considered advantageous by many. At the same time we are compelled to recognize that many avail themselves of the name "Gnostic" without adequate justification. Just as not all is gold that glitters, so not all who call themselves "Gnostic" have a just claim to this name... The Ecclesia Gnostica exists for the purpose of upholding the Gnostic tradition and to administer the holy sacraments to those of God's people who are attracted to the altars of the Gnosis... The Gnostic Society has existed in Los Angeles since 1928. It was founded by noted author James Morgan Pryse and his brother John Pryse for the purpose of studying Gnosticism and the Western Esoteric Tradition generally. After the establishment of the Ecclesia Gnostica in the United States, the Gnostic Society has united with the Ecclesia and is now functioning as its affiliated lay organization... In upholding the Gnostic tradition, the Ecclesia Gnostica avails itself chiefly of the primary sources of Gnostic teachings. Among these are, first the Nag Hammadi Library, and second, the codices and treatises whose discovery precedes the Nag Hammadi find (such as the Askew, Bruce and Berlin Codices, the Acts of Thomas, Acts of John, and others). Somewhat less reliable, but still quite informative are the references and quotations of Gnostic content in the writings of the heresiologist Church Fathers.Of the later Gnostic sources, we are particularly devoted to the writings of the Prophet Mani and to the teachings of such Medieval Gnostic movements as the Cathars and the Bogomils. Another valuable primary source is the literature of the Mandaeans, a still practicing Gnostic religion in Iraq. Primary sources such as the ones noted above are of the greatest value to contemporary Gnostics."
The Gnosis Archive
"Gnosticism is the teaching based on Gnosis, the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means. Although Gnosticism thus rests on personal religious experience, it is a mistake to assume all such experience results in Gnostic recognitions. It is nearer the truth to say that Gnosticism expresses a specific religious experience, an experience that does not lend itself to the language of theology or philosophy, but which is instead closely affinitized to, and expresses itself through, the medium of myth. Indeed, one finds that most Gnostic scriptures take the forms of myths. The term �myth� should not here be taken to mean �stories that are not true�, but rather, that the truths embodied in these myths are of a different order from the dogmas of theology or the statements of philosophy."
"The "Outlawed" Logic/Logos Teachings of Jesus - We stand on the edge of a new age of consciousness. Is Gnostic Christianity the missing link to that age? You be the judge. "True" Gnostic Christianity is an objective body of knowledge that Jesus taught. It is not a mystery religion or heretical cult. Gnostic Christianity teaches a non-judgemental "process" of reasoning. This new process, is justified by a natural principle that Jesus revealed and contemporary physics demonstrates is a scientific fact. Combining non- judgemental reasoning with the current judgemental process, expands our consciousness of reality. In this enlightened consciousness we are personally empowered to resolve all problems and as Paul said "live the good life as from the beginning He [God] had meant us to live it." (Eph 2:10) Evidence that Jesus taught a process of reasoning that could expand consciousness surfaces in Jn 8:31-32 jbv, where he says, "If you make my word your home� you will learn the truth and the truth will set you free [word or will of God is the English translation of the Greek term logos, which refers to the logic or reasoning of God]." And in Rm 12:2 (rsv) Paul said "do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." The Gnosis, or reasoning process, that Gnostic Christianity introduces, does not contradict Jesus' spiritually-centered public teachings. It documents what scholars refer to as Jesus' oral or logos/logic tradition, which he taught in private (Mk 4:33-34). These teachings elevate our reasoning mind to that of the will/reasoning of God. In this renewed mind, our reasoning supports spiritual values. This is the truth that can set us free. For when mind and spirit seek the same ends (syzygy) doing "on earth as it is in heaven" will no longer be an idealistic goal, it will be a practical reality. (Matt 6:10)"
The Gnostic Friends Network
"Gnosticism is an ancient form of alternative Christianity which competed with the Catholic Church for the first 350 years of Christian history. You've probably never heard of it, because the Church wiped it out as soon as Roman persecution ended, and the gnostic scriptures were not included in the "Bible." They were instead buried in a jar in the Egyptian desert, where they remained hidden until 1945. Ironically, many scholars now believe that Jesus himself was probably gnostic!"
Gnostic Renaissance Information Project
"Ever since Jesus first revealed His radical new gospel of knowledge and love, gnostic Christians have been heavily persecuted, first by the Roman Empire and for centuries afterwards by orthodox Christian authorities. This site was created to commemorate our fallen brothers and sisters in the gnosis and to ensure that persecution never returns."
The Gnostic Society Library
"The Gnostic Society Library contains a vast collection of primary documents relating to the Gnostic tradition as well as a selection of in-depth audio lectures and brief archive notes designed to orient study of the documents, their sources, and the religious tradition they represent... The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary Gnostic scriptures -- texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define "orthodoxy" -- scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth. The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library has provided impetus to a major re-evaluation of early Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism... The Nag Hammadi materials in the Gnostic Society Library were completely corrected and re-edited in 1997. Multiple authoritative translations of several texts are now included. While the Nag Hammadi Library represents our richest source of classical Gnostic texts, many other primary Gnostic documents were discovered in the century prior to the Nag Hammadi find. These are cataloged in the Classical Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments section. Of associated interest is Christian Apocrypha and Early Christian Literature, a section containing other important Christian texts surviving outside canonical tradition, some of which manifest Gnostic influence. We have also recently incorporated an extensive resource specifically on Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition. Until students began uncovering original documents and re-examining Gnosticism, opinion about the tradition was primarily based on the very negatively biased Polemical Works Against the Gnostics by the Church Fathers. In this section we present all the major documents by the patristic heresiologist. Beyond the bounds of classical Christian Gnosticism -- represented by the above materials -- there are several other traditions of clearly Gnostic character. The Hermetic tradition represents a non-Christian form of Gnosticism; included in the library are the principal Hermetic writings of The Corpus Hermeticum. With an interest in Gnosticism awakened by the Nag Hammadi materials, scholars are now re-examining Manichaeism and beginning a more serious consideration of the many Manichaean writings discovered just in the last century. A large sample of these is presented in the Manichaean Writings collection. Also included in the library is a section devoted to Mandaean Texts and this still living Gnostic tradition. The Cathars represented a medieval resurgence of Gnosticism, and we have a small collection of Cathar Texts. Alchemy was recognized by C. G. Jung as another strand of Gnosticism; the library here provides links to a comprehensive collection of Alchemical Writings. And, finally, we have on file a small but growing collection of Texts from Modern Gnosticism."
"Between 1985 and 1999, GNOSIS Magazine was the only widely available, serious journal devoted to Western esoteric and spiritual traditions. It was highly acclaimed by numerous authors and scholars in the field and was fondly regarded by its many readers. At the time of the publication of its final issue (#51, Spring 1999), it had just won the 1999 Utne Reader Alternative Press Award for "best spiritual coverage." GNOSIS conducted interviews with numerous significant thinkers and teachers, including Huston Smith, Karen Armstrong, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Colin Wilson, Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, Kathleen Raine, David Steindl-Rast, Claudio Naranjo, and June Singer. Its writers and reviewers included many of the leading authors in the field, such as Peter Lamborn Wilson, Stephan Hoeller, Christopher Bamford, Kabir Helminski, Roger Walsh, Jacob Needleman, Carl Ernst, David Fideler, Chas Clifton, and John & Caitlin Matthews. Each issue commonly included thoughtful reviews of a dozen current books on the Western traditions of spiritual inquiry. GNOSIS was a project of the Lumen Foundation, a California nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation."
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Gnosticism
"Gnosticism (after gn�, the Greek word for "knowledge" or "insight") is the name given to a loosely organized religious and philosophical movement that flourished in the first and second centuries CE. The exact origin(s) of this school of thought cannot be traced, although it is possible to locate influences or sources as far back as the second and first centuries BCE, such as the early treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum, the Jewish Apocalyptic writings, and especially Platonic philosophy and the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. In spite of the diverse nature of the various Gnostic sects and teachers, certain fundamental elements serve to bind these groups together under the loose heading of "Gnosticism" or "Gnosis." Chief among these elements is a certain manner of "anti-cosmic world rejection" that has often been mistaken for mere dualism. According to the Gnostics, this world, the material cosmos, is the result of a primordial error on the part of a supra-cosmic, supremely divine being, usually called Sophia (Wisdom) or simply the Logos. This being is described as the final emanation of a divine hierarchy, called the Pl�ma or "Fullness," at the head of which resides the supreme God, the One beyond Being. The error of Sophia, which is usually identified as a reckless desire to know the transcendent God, leads to the hypostatization of her desire in the form of a semi-divine and essentially ignorant creature known as the Demiurge (Greek: d�ourgos, "craftsman"), or Ialdabaoth, who is responsible for the formation of the material cosmos. This act of craftsmanship is actually an imitation of the realm of the Pleroma, but the Demiurge is ignorant of this, and hubristically declares himself the only existing God. At this point, the Gnostic revisionary critique of the Hebrew Scriptures begins, as well as the general rejection of this world as a product of error and ignorance, and the positing of a higher world, to which the human soul will eventually return. However, when all is said and done, one finds that the error of Sophia and the begetting of the inferior cosmos are occurrences that follow a certain law of necessity, and that the so-called dualism of the divine and the earthly is really a reflection and expression of the defining tension that constitutes the being of humanity -- the human being."
KHEPER - Gnosticism
"Welcome to the Kheper website, over a thousand pages, dedicated to evolution and transformation, whether individual, planetary or cosmic... Gnosticism is commonly described or dismissed as a "Christian heresy". This is a misconception, which seems to spring from the fact that until recently (with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codexes) our knowledge of Gnosticism was derived solely from the polemical and sarcastic accounts of the early Christian heresologists and polemicists such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Epiphanius. These men, coming as they did from the narrow framework of conventional Christianity, were unable to understand any other form of spirituality except as a departure - a heresy (the word, incidentally, means "free thinking") - from their own One True Faith. Granted, there were Christian Gnostics (as well as non-Gnostic Christian mystics). But there were also non-Christian Gnostics, some of whom incorporated Christianity as just one more idea that was current at the time, while others totally ignored it."
Metareligion - Gnosticism
"Gnosticism has changed over time and through different leaders, however it flourished during the first several centuries (Edwards). There were two major parts of Gnosticism: the Syrian Cult and the Alexandrian Cult. The Syrian Cult was led by Simon Magus, while the other was led by Basilides. Basilides impressed "Egyptian Hermetizism, Oriental occultism, Chaldean astrology, and Persian philosophy in his followers."(Davies) Also, his doctrines intertwined early Christianity and pagan mysteries (Davies). Aside from his Gnostic leadership Basilides remained a member of the church in Alexandria until he died (Eliade: 571). When Basilides died, Valentinus took over leadership of Gnostics, incorporating some of his own ideas (Davies). He was born in Egypt, familiar with Greek culture, and was nearly a bishop (being passed up for a martyr). He then separated from the church (Foerster: 121). Valentinus incorporated the pleroma, or heavenly world, into Gnosticism. The pleroma consists of at least thirty aeons (worlds). He also believed that ignorance is the root of the world and if it no longer existed, the world would cease to exist (Foerster: 122)."
NationMaster Encyclopedia: Gnosticism
"Gnosticism is a blanket term for various religions and sects most prominent in the first few centuries A.D. Many elements of second-century gnosticsm are pre-Christian. The name of gnosticism comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis, referring to the idea that there is special, hidden knowledge (esoteric knowledge) that only a few may possess. The occult nature of Gnostic teaching and the fact that much of the evidence for that teaching comes from attacks by orthodox Christians makes it difficult to be precise about the differences between different Gnostic systems. Recently, the word Gnosticism has been used to describe more modern sects which have formed out of the New Age movement and who really do not share the main core idea of Theological dualism."
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: Gnosticism
"A more complete and historical definition of Gnosticism would be:
A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour."
Occult Research Association -- Gnosticism
"Gnostics seem to have looked upon Christ as a revealer or liberator, rather than a savior or judge. His purpose was to spread knowledge which would free individuals from the Demiurge's control and allow them to return to their spiritual home with the Supreme God at death. Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died. These beliefs were considered heresy by mainline Christians. Some Gnostics believed that Christ's resurrection occurred at or before Jesus' death on the cross. They defined his resurrection as occurring when his spirit was liberated from his body."
ReligiousTolerance.org - Gnosticism: Ancient and Modern
"Gnosticism is a philosophical and religious movement which started in pre-Christian times. The term is derived from the Greek word gnosis which means "knowledge". It is pronounced with a silent "G" (NO-sis). Gnostics claimed to have secret knowledge about God, humanity and the rest of the universe of which the general population was unaware. It became one of the three main belief systems within 1st century Christianity, and was noted for three factors which differed from the two other branches of Christianity: Novel beliefs about Gods, the Bible and the world which differed from those of other Christian groups; Tolerance of different religious beliefs within and outside of Gnosticism; Lack of discrimination against women; A belief that salvation is achieved through knowledge. In the words of The Gnostic Apostolic Church humanity needs to be awakened and brought "to a realisation of his true nature. Mankind is moving towards the Omega Point, the Great day when all must graduate or fall. This day is also the Day of Judgement in that only those who have entered the Path of Transfiguration and are being reborn can return to the Treasury of Light." The movement and its literature were essentially wiped out by the end of the 5th century CE by heresy hunters from mainline Christianity. Its beliefs are currently experiencing a rebirth throughout the world."
The Fathers of the Church: Hyppolytus - The Refutation of All Heresies
"BOOK I - We propose to furnish an account of the tenets of natural philosophers, and who these are, as well as the tenets of moral philosophers, and who these are; and thirdly, the tenets of logicians, and who these logicians are. (Books II and III are missing.) BOOK IV - System of the Astrologers; Doctrines Concerning Aeons; The Horoscope The Foundation of Astrology; etc. BOOK V - What the assertions are of the Naasseni, who style themselves Gnostics, and that they advance those opinions which the Philosophers of the Greeks previously propounded, as well as those who have handed down mystical (rites), from (both of) whom the Naasseni taking occasion, have constructed their heresies. And what are the tenets of the Perstae, and that their system is not framed by them out of the holy Scriptures, but from astrological art. What is the doctrine of the Sethians, and that, purloining their theories from the wise men among the Greeks, they have patched together their own system out of shreds of opinion taken from Musaeus, and Linus, and Orpheus. What are the tenets of Justinus, and that his system is framed by him, not out of the holy Scriptures, but from the detail of marvels furnished by Herodotus the historian. BOOK VI - What the opinions are that are attempted (to be established) by Simon, and that his doctrine derives its force from the (lucubrations) of magicians and poets. What are the opinions propounded by Valentinus, and that his system is not constructed out of the Scriptures, but out of the Platonic and Pythagorean tenets. And what are the opinions of Secundus, and Ptolemaeus, and Heracleon, as persons also who themselves advanced the same doctrines as the philosophers among the Greeks, but enunciated them in different phraseology. And what are the suppositions put forward by Marcus and Colarbasus, and that some of them devoted their attention to magical arts and the Pythagorean numbers. BOOK VII - What the opinion of Basilides is, and that, being struck with the doctrines of Aristotle, he out of these framed his heresy. And what are the statements of Saturnilus, who flourished much about the time of Basilides. And how Menander advanced the assertion that the world was made by angels. What is the folly of Marcion, and that his tenet is not new, nor (taken) out of the Holy Scriptures, but that he obtains it from Empedocles. (etc.) BOOK VIII - What are the opinions of the Docetae, and that they have formed the doctrines which they assert from natural philosophy. How Monoimus trifles, devoting his attention to poets, and geometricians, and arithmeticians. How (the system of) Tatian has arisen from the opinions of Valentinus and Marcion, and how this heretic (from this source) has formed his own doctrines. Hermogenes, however, availed himself of the tenets of Socrates, not those of Christ. (etc.) BOOK IX - What the blasphemous folly is of Noetus, and that he devoted himself to the tenets of Heraclitus the Obscure, not to those of Christ. And how Callistus, intermingling the heresy of Cleomenes, the disciple of Noetus, with that of Theodotus, constructed another more novel heresy, and what sort the life of this (heretic) was. What was the recent arrival (at Rome) of the strange spirit Elchasai, and that there served as a concealment of his peculiar errors his apparent adhesion to the law, when in point of fact he devotes himself to the tenets of the Gnostics, or even of the astrologists, and to the arts of sorcery. What the customs of the Jews are, and how many diversities of opinion there are (amongst them). BOOK X - An Epitome of all Philosophers. An Epitome of all Heresies. And, in conclusion to all, what the Doctrine of the Truth is."
The Fathers of the Church: Irenaeus - Against the Heresies
"Adversus Haereses - Detection and Overthrow of the Gnosis Falsely So-Called"
The Fathers of the Church: Tertullian - Against Marcion
"BOOK I - Wherein is described the god of Marcion. He is shown to be utterly wanting in all the attributes of the True God. BOOK II - Wherein Tertullian shows that the Creator, or Demiurge, Whom Marcion calumniated, is the true and good God. BOOK III - Wherein Christ is shown to be the Son of God, who created the world; to have been predicted by the prophets; to have taken human flesh like our own, by a real Incarnation. BOOK IV - Which Tertullian pursues his argument. Jesus is the Christ of the Creator. He derives his proofs from St. Luke's Gospel; that being the only historical portion of the New Testament partially accepted by Marcion. This book may also be regarded as a commentary on St. Luke. It gives remarkable proof of Tertullian's grasp of Scripture, and proves that "the Old Testament is not contrary to the New." It also abounds in striking expositions of scriptural passages, embracing profound views of revelation, in connection with the nature of man. BOOK V - Wherein Tertullian proves, with respect to St. Paul's epistles, what he had proved in the preceding book with respect to St. Luke's Gospel. Far from being at variance, they were in perfect unison with the writings of the Old Testament, and therefore testified that the Creator was the only God, and that the Lord Jesus was his Christ. As in the preceding books, Tertullian supports his argument with profound reasoning, and many happy illustrations of Holy Scripture."
The Fathers of the Church: Tertullian - Against the Valentinians
"In which the author gives a concise account of, together with sundry caustic animadversions on, the very fantastic theology of the sect. This treatise is professedly taken from the writings of Justin, Miltiades, Irenaeus, and Proculus."
The Uncomplicated Gnostic
"That which is termed Gnostic, or Gnosticism, has no specific canon, or spiritual texts. Regarding the Bible, most Gnostics caution between accepting that which is authentic and that which is artificial. Various interpretations were offered and accepted: allegorical, symbolic, literal, and esoteric. Due to the multiplicity of interpretive expositions, teachings display outer fragmentation or inner cohesiveness according to sect. Gnosticism, from the Greek for 'knowledge', is an umbrella word for a set of beliefs and practices extending from before the Christian Era through the early centuries of that period, with threads extending into the present time. From the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi papers, through Neoplatonism and Catharism, and on into the modern day sects, fragments and ties have foreshadowed influences in philosophical and religious thought yet to be fully discovered and brought to light. This composition will briefly, very briefly, define ten of the most number sects lumped together as Gnostic. There are many more sects though of an increasingly minor and usually more libertine influence upon the world scene."
Wikipedia - Gnosticism
"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Gnosticism is a blanket term for various religions and sects most prominent in the first few centuries A.D. Many elements of second-century gnosticsm are pre-Christian. The name of gnosticism comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis (???s??), referring to the idea that there is special, hidden knowledge (esoteric knowledge) that only a few may possess. The occult nature of Gnostic teaching and the fact that much of the evidence for that teaching comes from attacks by orthodox Christians makes it difficult to be precise about the differences between different Gnostic systems. Recently, the word Gnosticism has been used to describe more modern sects which have formed out of the New Age movement and who really do not share the main core idea of Theological dualism."
"Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."
(1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
Reference sources: "The Gnostic Scriptures - Ancient Wisdom for the New Age" ©1987 by Bentley Layton, published by Doubleday; The Gnostic Society Library (http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/library.html); New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia - Gnosticism (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06592a.htm).