Gnosticism, derived from the Greek word gnosis meaning 'knowledge', is applied to a philosophical and religious movement that influenced the Mediterranean world from the first century BC to the third century AD.
Gnosticism expressed itself in a variety of pagan, Jewish, and Christian forms. Its name is derived from the fact that it promised salvation through a secret knowledge or understanding of reality possessed by its devotees.
Previously known mostly from the writings of its Christian opponents, gnosticism can now be studied in a collection of original documents found near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. Despite the complex diversity of Gnostic groups and their teachings, the basic doctrines of gnosticism formed an identifiable pattern of belief and practice.
A pervasive dualism underlay much of Gnostic thought. Good and evil, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, spirit and matter were opposed to one another in human experience as being and nonbeing. The created universe and human experience were characterized by a radical disjunction between the spiritual, which was real, and the physical, which was illusory.
This disjunction resulted from a cosmic tragedy, described in a variety of ways by Gnostic mythology, as a consequence of which sparks of deity became entrapped in the physical world. These could be freed only by saving knowledge that was revealed to a spiritual elite by a transcendent messenger from the spirit world, variously identified as Seth (one of the sons of Adam), Jesus, or some other figure. Renunciation of physical desires and strict asceticism, combined with mystical rites of initiation and purification were thought to liberate the immortal souls of believers from the prison of physical existence. Reunion with divine reality was accomplished after a journey of the soul through intricate systems of hostile powers.
Associated in legend with Simon Magus, a Samaritan sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8:9-24, Gnosticism probably originated in the Near East as a synthesis of Eastern and Greek ideas before the advent of Christianity. It reached the height of its influence as a Christian sect in the middle of the second century AD, when it was represented by the Egyptian teachers Basilides and Valentinus. As Christian orthodoxy was defined in the period that followed, gnosticism began to decline and gradually was pushed to the periphery of the Christian world or driven underground by the persecution of church leaders. Some Gnostic tendencies found their way into later Christian monasticism, while others survived among the Mandaeans and adherents of Manichaeism.
Interest in the Gnostics was revived in the twentieth century with the discovery of Gnostic manuscripts, previously thought to be lost, in Turkestan between 1902 and 1914 and near Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt in 1945 and 1946 and in 1948. The latter are usually called the Dead Sea Scrolls and have provided the basis for new interpretations of Gnostic beliefs and influence. Another major factor in the reexamination of Gnosticism is the work of psychiatrist Carl G. Jung. Between 1912 and 1926, Jung delved into a study of Gnosticism and early Christianity. He found in Gnosticism an early, prototypical depth psychology. He believed that Christianity, and as a result Western culture, had suffered because of the repression of Gnostic concepts. In looking for ways to reintroduce Gnostic ideas to modern culture, Jung found them in Alchemy. The first codex of the Nag Hammadi library found in 1945 was purchased and given to Jung on his eightieth birthday. It is called the Codex Jung.
See Divination, Acutomancy, Agalmatomancy, Coscinomancy, Cleidomancy, Augur, Stoichomancy, Dowsing, Tarot, Heptameron, Demonology, Sortilege, Idolomancy, Demonomancy, Tephramancy, Anemoscopy, Eromancy, Austromancy, Chaomancy, Roadomancy, Capnomancy, Pyromancy, Meteormancy, Ceraunoscopy, Zoomancy, Felidomancy, Mystic Gifts and Charms - New Age Gift Shop & Wicca and Pagan Supplies, Love Spells -- Use these powerful love spells to help you find and keep your true love, The Chakra Store, The Tarot Store, Divination & Scrying Tools and Supplies, Unique Amulets, Talismans, Good Luck Charms, and Love Tokens, Powerful Witch Doctor Spell Kits, Powerful Spells - Cast by Andreika the Witch, Webmasters Make $$$, AzureGreen - Celebrating All Paths to the Divine, ISIS - Tools for Your Soul's Journey, and The Pyramid Collection - Myth, Magick, Fantasy and Romance.
Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Cohen, Abraham, Everyman's Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, Schocken; (3) Randi, James, An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, St. Martin's Griffin; (4) Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913); (5) Walker, Charles, The Encyclopedia of the Occult, Random House Value.
| || |