The philosophy of Gnosticism existed before Christianity, dating back to the last centuries before Christ. As a philosophy it incorporated the Greek philosophy of Plato along with the Persian philosophy of Zoroaster. It did not take long after the Hellenistic world was exposed to Christianity for many groups of Gnostics to begin to incorporate Christ into their philosophy and began to turn the result into a domination of Christianity. The Christians and Gnostics synthesized the two movements together by considering Jesus an Aeon (Divine Being) who would deliver the Gnosis that would redeem humanity from the evil of the material realm and allow his soul to rise into the Divine Realm.
The Gnostics saw the Spiritual Universe as made of light. They saw the Material Universe as made of Matter, which could capture and hold light, or release it to return to it's source, or higher. They saw God as a distant incomprehensible, incapable of knowing or understanding thing that creates nothing. Only lower emanations from God can create.
Gnosticism is made up of a diverse set of beliefs. Among the religions of late antiquity, perhaps only paganism displayed greater diversity than Gnosticism. It is a teaching based on the idea of gnosis (a Greek word meaning "secret knowledge"), or knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of internal, intuitive means. While Gnosticism relies on personal religious experience as its primary authority, early "Christian" Gnostics did adopt their own versions of authoritative Scriptures, such as those found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, as well as those found in the Coptic Christian Bible the “Pistis Sophia”.
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 its:
-- novel beliefs about God, 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 and respect of women.
As the messenger from the Divine Realm of God, Jesus was a spark of the Divine Realm that could appear to inhabit the material flesh of man, while remaining purely divine. Jesus was considered the Avatar of Christ in the same way that Krishna is the Avatar of Vishnu. This view (Docetism) held that Jesus put on act of seeming to hunger, to eat, to thirst, to bleed, to die, as he taught his disciples the saving Gnosis. This insight of Christ was purely divine and only for the elect who carried the divine spark. Jesus actually feigned his humanity-as Paul said, “Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3)-to conceal the revelation from the non-Gnostics. The Catholic Church later declared “Docetism” a heresy at the Council of Chalcedon in 423 AD, declaring that Christ was both fully human and fully divine at the same time in the same person.
For the same reason of keeping the Gnosis hidden from the non-believers, Jesus taught in parables, such as: “Let he who has ears to hear, hear”, referring to the hidden truth that the elect could find in the parable while the non-elect only heard the words. Later Jesus would explain the meaning of the parables to his disciples in private. The parables themselves often depicted the Kingdom of Heaven as something, such as a treasure (esoteric knowledge), which one hides.
The Gnostics understood the World in radically dualistic terms. For them, matter and spirit constituted the two separate, fundamental and opposing components of reality. Spirit was good and matter was not just imperfect and transitory as Plato had described it, but inherently evil and therefore not the creation of God, but the Creation of his creation of His intermediary, the “Demiurge”.
After the death of Jesus his Apostils spread throughout the known World Teaching his Doctrine. Like today, if you were to tell a group of a dozen or so people a story and they would tell it to more people, the stories would be slightly different and would differ more on each subsequent re-telling and that is exactly what happened with Christianity. Many Christian communities were formed all over the known World.
When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Second Temple in 70 A.D. after the Jewish revolt, they left one-third of the population dead, and the Christian mysteries fractured into pieces. Members joined the mass exodus out of the country. Those who hadn’t been exposed to the inner mysteries started up literalist churches. The remaining Gnostics called these rigid sects “imitation churches” as they did not teach the gnosis of “Christ within.”
Some of these Christian communities were started by the Apostil Paul. Paul never knew, nor did he ever meet Jesus. His only knowledge of Jesus came from dreams where Jesus appeared to him as a vision, or in pure spirit form. It was the Christian communities that were started by Paul that would eventually grow and develop into "mainline" Christianity by the end of the 3rd century AD.
By the 2nd century AD, many very different Christian-Gnostic sects had formed within the Roman Empire at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Some Gnostics worked within Jewish/Christian and mainline Christian groups, and greatly influenced their beliefs from within. Others formed separate communities. Still others were solitary practitioners.
As the number of Christians multiplied in Roman lands, power-hungry Roman Emperor Constantine switched the Roman Pagan State religions to this growing Christian movement, thus uniting the Roman Empire under one God, one religion and one Emperor. Then in 325 AD he oversaw the Council of Nicaea, where church fathers reduced the vast Christian library from many to only a few Books that we call “The New Testament” today. Together with the Books of the Jewish Tanaka (Old Testament) they form what today we call the Christian “Bible”.
In 391 AD Emperor Theodosius passed an edict to close all “pagan” temples within the Roman Empire and burn their books. Christian hordes set out on murderous rampages across the Empire smashing all traces of the mystery traditions from which their religion had blossomed. They killed off the Gnostic circles, including their scrolls and the knowledge of the gnosis that had been passed down throughout the ages. By 410 A.D., the Roman Empire had nearly torn itself apart and the Visigoths strolled in to finish the job. Only about 85 years after the Council of Nicaea, the Dark Ages had begun in about 500 AD and were to last until almost to 1000 AD.
There does not seem to have been much formal organization among the Gnostics during the early centuries of the Christian movement. As mainline Christianity grew in strength and organization, Gnostic sects came under increasing pressure, oppression and persecution. They almost disappeared by the 6th century. The only group to have survived continuously from the 1st century CE into modern times is the Mandaean sect of Iraq and Iran. This group has about 15,000 members (one source says 1,500), and can trace their history continuously back to the original Gnostic movement.
According to some Gnostic myths, in the beginning there existed one true and omnipotent God composed only of spirit. This God continues to exist but is so superior to humanity as to be incomprehensible. This divine spirit reproduced, forming other divine but lesser spirits in the form of couples sometimes called “Aeons”. Some of these couples then mated and so created a divine realm with each generation increasingly separated from the true god and thus less perfect.
According to Gnostic documents at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, an Aeon, whom the Gnostics called Sophia wished to create a work alone without her consort (Christ, the other half of a couple created by God). Her work became an image of heaven, (so that) a curtain exists between the heavenly region of God and the lower regions of Aeons. A shadow came into being and this shadow became matter. Sophia exceeded her bounds by attempting to comprehend the entire divine realm. As a result, she fell from the divine place and therefore became terrified, angry, and upset and these emotions personified themselves. These illegitimate offspring of Sophia brought about the creation of the world through her emanation , the Demiurge.
These malformed beings, partly divine but by their illegitimacy severed from the divine family tree, wished to capture Sophia and rob of her of divine power. Fearing that she would first recover her strength and return to the divine realm, they divided her into innumerable pieces and imprisoned her in matter, where she remains as the divine spark within the human bodies of Gnostics, yearning to return to her heavenly home. Humans without this divine spark are, like animals, just another part of creation and thus destined for ultimate destruction. But within the Gnostics dwell the sparks of divine that can be liberated from the material world-if one acquires the gnosis necessary for salvation.
Those who carry the divine spark within them also have certain esoteric knowledge in the form of passwords needed to pass through ascending realms to the highest heaven after death would ensure the Gnostics of salvation. By having an Aeon communicate the Divine will to humanity, Gnostic systems permit the true God to connect with creation through an intermediary, such as Plato’s Demiurge.
The term “Demiurge” derives from the Latinized form of the Greek term dēmiourgos ; literally "public or skilled worker". This figure is sometimes ignorant of the superior God, and sometimes opposed to Him; thus in the latter case he is correspondingly malevolent. Other names of the Demiurge are Ahriman, El, Yahweh ,Elohim and more.
The Demiurge is a Reptillian Aeon who was very intelligent ,but had no emotion. He thought of himself as GOD and had 360 other Aeons always around him.
Moral judgements of the Demiurge vary from group to group within the Gnosticism, viewing materiality as being inherently evil, or as merely flawed and as good as its passive constituent matter allows. The angel of the creation of the world of matter, the Demiurge, was evil not only because he was the Creator but also because he tried to keep spiritual men from knowing their true origin, nature, and destiny.
---Aeon-- One of the orders of spirits, or spheres of being, that emanated from the Godhead. The first Aeon was said to emanate directly from the unmanifested divinity and to be charged with a divine force. Successive emanations of Aeons were charged with successively diminished force. Aeons are synonymous with Angles.
---Archeon- . The Demiurge creates a group of co-actors named Archons who preside over the material realm and, in some cases, present obstacles to the soul seeking ascend from the material realm. They are Lower Dark entities that are mostly evil. As Aeons increased in number in proportion to their remoteness from the divinity and that lower Aeons shared proportionately less in divine energy. At a certain level of remoteness, the possibility of error was said to invade the activity of Aeons; in most systems, such error was responsible for the creation of the material Universe. For many, Christ was the most perfect Aeon, whose specific function was to redeem the error embodied in the material Universe; the Holy Spirit was usually a subordinate Aeon. All human souls must painfully pass through the lower regions of Archons to reach their divine origin.
---Christ - is a Greek word and it is usually only associated with the Master Jesus of Nazareth. However, the Gnostics claimed that they understand the true meaning of Jesus and Christ. Christ was the Son of God, seated at his right and his Cohort , Sophia, was the Devine Feminine seated at his left (traditionally the place of the Holy Spirit, which is Sophia). They believed that the mysterious Christ of Seity from the Pleroma talked through the words of the Master Jesus—not only through his words, but also through the words of Moses, Krishna and Buddha. Of course that would mean that Jesus and Krishna were the Avatars of the same High Aeon, Christ (a/k/a Krishna).
Gnostics claim that Christ is “the Light”. When he was incarnated in the Master Jesus of Nazareth, he said:
"I am the light, the life, the path."
In John 8:12 it is stated:
"I am the light of the Kosmos: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
In many parts of the Gospels there are found quotations where Jesus directly states that he is the light. Above the cross of the crucified Jesus is written INRI, which is am acronym in Latin which Christians believed it stood for the phrase: “Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm.” or in English- Jesus Christ King of the Jews. However, the Gnostics believed that it had a hidden or esoteric meaning that it stood for the Latin phrase: “Igneous Natura Renovatur Integra” , which literally translates into English as : to “the fire renews nature incessantly”. Reflecting what Jesus said that he is the ”… fire, light, life”.
In the book of Matthew 17:2 it is stated that Christ appeared before three of his disciples and was transformed before them.
"His face did shine as the sun." "...and his raiment was white as the light."
In the fourth and fifth chapters of Pistis Sophia—which is the Gnostic Bible—is found the following quotation:
"Then, on the ninth hour of the morrow, the heavens opened, and they saw Jesus descend, shining most exceedingly and there was no measure for his light in which he was."
"For he shone more (radiantly) than at the hour when he had ascended to the heavens, so that men in the world cannot describe the light which was on him; and it shot forth light-rays in great abundance, and there was no measure for its rays, and its light was not alike together, but it was of diverse kind and of diverse type, some (rays) being more excellent than others....; and the whole light consisted together."
"It was of threefold kind, and the one (kind) was more excellent than the other .... The second, that in the midst was more excellent than the first which was below, and the third, which was above them all, was more excellent than the two which were below."
"And the first glory, which was placed below them all, was like to the light which had come over Jesus before he had ascended into the heavens, and was like only itself in its light.”
"And the three light-modes were of diverse light-kinds, and they were of diverse type, one being more excellent than the other....
"And it came to pass then, when the disciples saw this that they feared exceedingly, and were in agitation. Then Jesus, the compassionate and tender hearted, when he saw his disciples, that they were in great agitation, spake with them, saying: "Take courage. It is I, be not afraid." - Pistis Sophia 4, 5.
It is important to restate that Jesus taught in Parables which were not understood by everyone such as:
“Let he who has ears to hear, hear”,
referring to the hidden truth that the elect could find in the parable while the non-elect only heard the words. Later Jesus would explain the meaning of the parables to his disciples in private.
In the words of "The Gospel of Philip":
“The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism, and a Eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.… he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like the things inside. I came to unite them in the place.”
Gnostics believed that Jesus put on act of seeming to hunger, to eat, to thirst, to bleed, to die, as he taught his disciples the saving Gnosis. This insight of Christ was purely divine and only for the elect who carried the divine spark. Jesus actually feigned his humanity-as Paul said, “Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3)-to conceal the revelation from the non-Gnostics.
The essential goal of All Religions is to have their devotees become Enlightened. Jesus was an Enlightened man. The Greek word for Light means light as seen by the eye, or expressly to shine or make manifest by rays. Jesus was a man who came into this world to give Light. To understand Jesus and his teachings it is necessary to understand Light and its' source. The Mystery which Jesus taught his disciples is that the Light He was One with was not a metaphor, but was real Light.
In the Gospel of St. John Jesus stated,
"I am the Light of the World; the one following me by no means will walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of Life."
To Gnostics this is the essence of the Mystery which Jesus taught. Not only did Jesus receive and then become the Light, but he taught those who follow him will also receive and become the Light. To experience the Light means to see it. The experience of Seeing the Light is called the Illumination. To have this experience it is necessary to take the journey within.
---Angels- The term angel, which is derived from the Greek word "angelos", is the equivalent of the Hebrew word mal’akh, meaning “messenger” it is not a Gnostic term , but is rather from Jewish teaching and the Christian Bible. Angels have their significance primarily in what they do rather than in what they are. Some angelic figures, such as Mithra (a Persian god who in Zoroastrianism became an angelic mediator between heaven and earth and judge and preserver of the created world), have achieved semi-divine or divine status with their own cults.
Highest in the celestial hierarchy are the 12 Light Diadems of the Father of Greatness and the Twelve Aeons, the “firstborn”—angelic figures that are divided into groups of threes, surrounding the Supreme Being in the four quarters of the heavens.
The angel Gabriel (Man of God) revealed to the Arabian prophet Muḥammad (5th–6th century AD) the Qurʾān (the Islāmic scriptures) and the true God (Allāh), his oneness, and the ethical and cultic requirements of Islam. Angels function mainly as revealers of the truth.
The Cherubim and Seraphim, two superior orders of angels, are described as winged creatures that guard the throne of God.
This latter function is performed by other beings, such as avatāras (incarnations of the gods) in Hinduism or bodhisattvas (Buddhas-to-be) in Buddhism. Because such personages generally are viewed more in terms of exemplifiers of the holy life than as conduits of a revelation.
Benevolent beings, usually Angels but sometimes ghosts of ancestors or other spiritual beings that have been placated by sacrifices or other rituals, assist man in achieving a proper rapport with God, other spiritual beings, or man’s life situations. Angels, for example, not only act as revealers of divine truths, but they also are believed to be efficacious in helping man to attain salvation or special graces or favors. Their primary function is to praise and serve God and do his will.
Angels are also regarded as the conductors of the souls of the dead to the supra-terrestrial world. In the procreation of men, angels are believed to perform various services. This is especially noticeable in the instances of angels announcing the births of divine figures or special religious personages, such as Jesus and John the Baptist in the New Testament.
---Demons- The term demon is derived from the Greek word daimōn, which means a “supernatural being” or “spirit.” Though it has commonly been associated with an evil or malevolent spirit, the term originally meant a spiritual being that influenced a person’s character. An agathos daimōn (“good spirit”), for example, was benevolent in its relationship to men. The Greek philosopher Socrates, for example, spoke of his daimōn as a spirit that inspired him to seek and speak the truth. The term gradually was applied to the lesser spirits of the supernatural realm who exerted pressures on men to perform actions that were not conducive to their well-being. The dominant interpretation has been weighted in favor of malevolence and that which forebodes evil, misfortune, and mischief.
They may be semi-human, nonhuman, or ghostly human beings who, for various reasons, generally attempt to coerce man into not attaining his higher spiritual aspirations or not performing activities necessary for his well-being in the normal course of living.
---Malevolent beings- Malevolent beings—demons, fallen angels, ghosts, goblins, evil spirits in nature, hybrid creatures, the daevas of Zoroastrianism, the nārakas (creatures of hell) of Jainism, the oni (attendants of the gods of the underworld) in Japanese religions, and other such beings—hinder man in achieving a proper relation with God, the spiritual realm, or man’s life situations.
Some angels are believed to have fallen from a position of proximity to God—such as Lucifer (after his fall called Satan by early Church Fathers) in Judaism, Christianity, and Islām—because of pride or for attempts to usurp the position of the Supreme Being. In their fallen condition they then attempt to keep man from gaining a right relationship with God by provoking men to sin.
---Monad-In many Gnostic systems, God is known as the Monad, the One. God is the high source of the Pleroma, the region of light. The various emanations of God are called Aeons.
The Sethian cosmogony as most famously contained in the Apocryphon ("Secret book") of John describes an unknown God, very similar to the orthodox apophatic theology, but different from the orthodox teachings that this God is the creator of Heaven and Earth. Orthodox theologians often attempt to define God through a series of explicit positive statements: he is omniscient, omnipotent, and truly benevolent. The Sethian hidden transcendent God is, by contrast, defined through negative theology: he is immovable, invisible, intangible, and ineffable; commonly, "he" is seen as being hermaphroditic, a potent symbol for being, as it were, "all-containing". In the Apocryphon of John, this god is good in that it bestows goodness. After the apophatic statements, the process of the Divine in action are used to describe the effect of such a god.
---Pleroma- Pleroma refers to the totality of God's powers. The heavenly Pleroma is the center of divine life, a region of light "above" (the term is not to be understood spatially) our world, occupied by spiritual beings such as Aeons and sometimes Archons. Jesus is interpreted as an intermediary Aeon who was sent from the Pleroma, with whose aid humanity can recover the lost knowledge of the divine origins of humanity. The term is thus a central element of Gnostic cosmology.
Pleroma is also used in the general Greek language, and is used by the Greek Orthodox Church in this general form, since the word appears in the book of Colossians. Proponents of the view that Paul was actually a gnostic view the reference in Colossians as a term that has to be interpreted in a gnostic sense.
---Kenoma- the lower dimension where humans live in a microcosm.
---Emanation-The Supreme Light or Consciousness descends through a series of stages, gradations, worlds, or hypostases, becoming progressively more material and embodied. In time it will turn around to return to the One, retracing its steps through spiritual knowledge and contemplation.
---Sophia- In Gnostic tradition, the term Sophia (Greek for "wisdom") refers to the final and lowest emanation of God. In most if not all versions of the gnostic myth, Sophia births the Demiurge, who in turn brings about the creation of materiality. The positive or negative depiction of materiality thus resides a great deal on mythic depictions of Sophia's actions. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of Achamoth (this is a feature of Ptolemy's version of the Valentinian gnostic myth). Jewish Gnosticism with a focus on Sophia was active by around 90 AD.
Sophia, emanating without her partner, resulted in the production of the Demiurge who is also referred to as Yaldabaoth and variations thereof in some Gnostic texts. This creature is concealed outside the Pleroma; in isolation, and thinking itself alone, it creates materiality and a host of co-actors, referred to as Archons. The Demiurge is responsible for the creation of mankind; trapping elements of the Pleroma stolen from Sophia inside human bodies. In response, the Godhead emanates two savior Aeons, Christ and the Holy Spirit; Christ then embodies itself in the form of Jesus, in order to be able to teach man how to achieve gnosis, by which they may return to the Pleroma.
We are the fractals of Sophia as we carry her light (which is blue or Argon) within us. The remaining portion of Sophia is trapped in the 9th Sphere. She seeks to return to her home in the 13th Sphere .AS humans die they can release their trapped light of Sophia which tries to return to help Sophia , however, they are prevented by Archons and Evil Aeons. In Theosophy HPB said that each of us after death have to pass through the Valley of Thornes, before emerging into the Plains of Devine Light and Rest.
The Gnostic Celtic Church (GCC) is an independent sacramental church of nature spirituality affiliated with the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), a contemporary Druid Order. Like many other alternative spiritual groups in American society, AODA—which was originally founded in 1912—developed connections with a variety of other compatible traditions over the course of its history. One of these connections was with the Universal Gnostic Church (UGC).
Ancient Gnostic denominations were spread out all over the ancient Roman Empire, and elsewhere. However, all knowledge of them has been lost.
Until recently, only a few pieces of Gnostic literature were known to exist. These included Shepherd of Men, Asclepius, Codex Askewianus, Codex Brucianus, Gospel of Mary, Secret Gospel of John, Odes of Solomon and the Hymn of the Pearl. Knowledge about this movement had been inferred mainly from extensive attacks that were made on Gnosticism by Christian heresiologists (writers against heresy) of the second and early third century..
The Pistis Sophia (meaning: “Faith [or holy] wisdom”) is a translation and commentary of a special collection of 2,000 year old Coptic manuscripts in a Gnostic text possibly written before 325 C.E. and discovered in 1773 hidden in an underground void under the floor of a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt that was undergoing renovation. The manuscript consists of 346 pages, written on both sides of vellum in two columns, and is bound much like a modern book. The pages are numbered in Coptic characters, establishing the fact that only four leaves—eight pages—are missing since the manuscript was bound. It contains parts of five “books,” none of which are complete. The original text is believed to have been written in Greek around 150-300 C.E. However, it has been lost.
The earliest version we have is the translation of that ancient Greek text into the aforesaid Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language. It was the most extensive Gnostic scripture available until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, a collection of Christian and Gnostic texts discovered in that Upper Egyptian town of in 1945. There were many Greeks in Egypt at the time the Pistis Sophia is believed to have been written, as General Ptolemy of Alexander the Great of Mesopotamia’s Army, and his descendants , had become the Rulers and Pharaohs of Egypt.
The Pistis Sophia is a mesmerizing blend of primitive Christianity and Hellenic Paganism mixed with other elements such as reincarnation, Astrology, ancient Egyptian mystery religions and Hermetic magic. The Devine Feminine of God (the Goddess) makes an appearance in the guise of Sophia, a fallen angel of the Enoch story. This teaching was given to the Disciples of Christ (including Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Martha) by Jesus during the 11 years after his resurrection, but before his final Ascension.
---The Nag Hummadi Library
In 1945 a Muslim camel driver from El Qasr in Egypt, went with his brother to a cliff near Nag Hummadi, a village in Northern Egypt. They were digging for nitrate-rich earth that they could use for fertilizer. They came across a large clay jar buried in the ground. They were undecided whether to open it. They feared that it might contain an evil spirit; but they also suspected that it might contain gold or other material of great value. It turns out that their second guess was closer to the truth: the jar contained a library of Gnostic material of immeasurable value. 13 volumes survive, comprising 51 different works on 1153 pages. 6 were copies of works that were already known; 6 others were duplicated within the library, and 41 were new, previously unknown works. Included were The Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Treatise on the Resurrection, Gospel of Philip, Wisdom of Jesus Christ, Revelation of James, Letter of Peter to Philip, On the Origin of the World and other writings. Of these, the Gospel of Thomas is considered the most important. It was a collection of the sayings of Jesus which were recorded very early in the Christian era. A later Gnostic author edited the Gospel. Some liberal theologians rank it equal in importance to the four Gospels of the Christian Scriptures.
The works had originally been written in Greek during the second and third centuries CE. The Nag Hummadi copies had been translated into the Coptic language during the early 4th century CE, and apparently buried circa 365 CE. Some Gnostic texts were non-Christian; others were originally non-Christian but had Christian elements added; others were entirely Christian documents. Some recycled paper was used to reinforce the leather bindings of the books. They were found to contain dated letters and business documents from the middle of the 4th century. The books appear to have been hidden for safe-keeping during a religious purge by the mainline Christian church.
The texts passed through the hands of a number of mysterious middlemen, and finally were consolidated and stored in the Coptic Museum of Cairo. Publication was delayed by the Suez Crisis, the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and petty debates among scholars. The most important book, the Gospel of Thomas, was finally translated into English during the late 1960's; the remaining books were translated during the following ten years. In many ways, this find reveals much more about the early history of Christianity than do the Dead Sea Scrolls.
---Dead Sea Scrolls- The Dead Sea Scrolls are not Gnostic texts, however, as early biblical texts, they are worthy of mention here.
A shepherd of the Ta'amireh tribe left his flock of sheep and goats to search for a stray. Amid the crumbling limestone cliffs that line the northwestern rim of the Dead Sea, around the site of Qumran, he found a cave in the crevice of a steep rocky hillside. Intrigued, he cast a stone into the dark interior, only to be startled by the sound of breaking pots. This sound echoed around the world. For he had stumbled on the greatest find of the century, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Upon entering the cave, the young Bedouin found a mysterious a collection of large clay jars. The majority were empty and upon examining the remaining few, he found that the jars were intact, with lids still in place. However, a closer look revealed nothing but old scrolls, some wrapped in linen and blackened with age.
He and several companions brought the scrolls to Kando, a Bethlehem antiquities dealer, for appraisal. Intrigued by the findings, Kando sent the Bedouin back to the caves in search of more treasures. To his delight, they returned with a total of seven scrolls. Blind to their real value, the Bedouin sold three of the scrolls to antiquities dealers who then then resold the four scrolls to Archbishop Samuel, head of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem.
When word spread that these seven Scrolls contained biblical texts and other ancient religious writings, it opened the way for a series of similar finds in ten other nearby caves over the next nine years. This vast manuscript treasury, known as the "Dead Sea Scrolls", includes a small number of near-complete Scrolls and tens of thousands of Scroll fragments, representing over 900 different texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. News of the discovery sent archaeologists, as well as Bedouin treasure hunters, racing to excavate the area where the first Scrolls were found. Overall, they discovered thousands of Scroll fragments within 10 additional caves—in total the remains of over 900 manuscripts.
The Scrolls can be divided into two categories—biblical and non-biblical. Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered except for the book of Esther.
The scrolls contain previously unknown stories about biblical figures such as Enoch, Abraham, and Noah. The story of Abraham includes an explanation why God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. The last words of Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, and Amram (the father of Moses) are written down in the Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were most likely written by the Essenes during the period from about 200 B.C. to 68 C.E./A.D. The Essenes are mentioned by Josephus and in a few other sources, but not in the New testament. The Essenes were a strict Torah observant, Messianic, apocalyptic, Baptist, wilderness, new covenant Jewish sect. They were led by a priest they called the "Teacher of Righteousness," who was opposed and possibly killed by the establishment priesthood in Jerusalem.
Gnosticism divided the world into two spheres—Goodness (Light) and Evil (Darkness). These two principles are mixed in the world of matter, and the object of salvation is to separate the material and the spiritual so that one may achieve a state of absolute goodness.
They believed, in part ,as follows:
---Souls came down from Heaven in the sky through the seven spheres of the Seven Planets, Mercury, Venus, Sun, moon, Jupiter and Saturn which rotated around the Earth , each in its own spear. Each had its own ruler. The Souls came down from heaven as light and were contaminated with the evil and bad light present in each spear. As the Demurrage passed through it threw off light which merged with the light present in the various spheres to create Archons, beings of light not directly created by God , but created by his Aeons .
---Gnostics believed that they alone truly understood Christ's message, and that other streams of thought within Christianity had misinterpreted Jesus' mission and sayings.
---Gnostics believed that all matter was inherently evil ,as it was created by an imperfect being, the Demiurge, and that everything spiritual was essentially good.
---They believe that knowledge has a redeeming and liberating function that helps the individual break free of bondage to the world.
---They believe the Supreme Father god or Supreme god of Truth is remote from human affairs; he is unknowable and undetectable by human senses. She/he created a series of supernatural but finite beings called Aeons. One of these was Sophia, a virgin, who in turn gave birth to an defective, inferior creator-god, also known as the Demiurge (public craftsman). This lower god created the earth and its life forms. This is the God of the Old Testament, a deity who was viewed as fundamentally evil, jealous, rigid, lacking in compassion and prone to genocide. The Demiurge "thinks that he is supreme. His pride and incompetence have resulted in the sorry state of the world as we know it, and in the blind and ignorant condition of most of mankind."
---They believe in the duality of spirit and body: Spirit is of divine origin and good; the body is inherently earthly and evil. Gnostics were hostile to the physical world, to matter and the human body. But they believed that trapped within some people's bodies were the sparks of divinity or seeds of light that were supplied to humanity by Sophia.
---The believe a person attains salvation by learning secret knowledge of their spiritual essence: a divine spark of light or spirit. They then have the opportunity to escape from the prison of their bodies at death. Their soul can ascend to be reunited with the Supreme God at the time of their death. Gnostics divided humanity into three groups:
the spiritual, who would be saved irrespective of their behavior while on earth
the soulish, who could be saved if they followed the Gnostic path
the carnal who are hopelessly lost
--They did not look upon the world as having been created perfectly and then having degenerated as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Rather the world was seen as being evil at the time of its origin, having been created by an inferior God.
---Some Gnostic sects honored the snake. They did not view the snake as a seducer who led the Adam and Eve into sinful behavior. Rather, they saw the snake as a liberator who brought knowledge to Adam and Eve by convincing them to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and thus to become fully human.
The role of the redeemer in Gnostic belief has been heavily debated . 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. 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.
Other Gnostic beliefs were:
Gnostics believed that human beings were "sparks" or "droplets" of the very same spiritual substance (or essence) that God is. Somehow we we became trapped in our physical bodies from which we are to escape.
All Gnostics agreed that The Fall was identical to the fall into matter. In other words, creation and The Fall coincide. "As long as spirits are trapped in physical bodies and materiality, they will be subject to sin, which is caused by ignorance of their true nature and home."
Gnosticism commonly held that "salvation is to escape from the bondage of the material existence and travel back to the home from which souls/spirits have fallen." God initiates salvation because he wants to draw back the stray bits and pieces of himself, and so he sends forth an emanation of himself - "a spiritual redeemer" - who comes down from heaven and gives an attempt to teach some of the "divine sparks of Spirit" what their true identity is and where their real home lies. Once they are awakened by this redeemer they can then begin their journey back home. "Salvation is by knowledge - self-knowledge."
Little is known about the rituals, organizational structure and practices of the ancient Gnostics. Almost all Gnostic texts were destroyed during various campaigns to suppress the movement and commit genocide against its members. Although some of their religious writings survive, there is little information about how the groups actually functioned. Religious historians believe that many Gnostics were probably solitary practitioners. Others were members of mainline Christian congregations, probably forming a clique within each church.
There was no consensus on a "canon of Gnostic scripture." Many books were circulated in different versions; various schools within the movement had their own preferred rendition.
Many Gnostic texts were written by (or attributed to) women. Mary Magdalene played an important role in many Gnostic writings, often being second only to Jesus in status. They used both female and male images for the Supreme God. Theologians speculate that they probably treated women members as equal (or having almost equal status) to men in their communities.
Some groups poured a substance over the head of a member when they were dead or dying, and recited certain ritual phrases. This was intended to help the individual's soul ascend through the dangerous heavens of the Archons towards the Supreme God.
Some Gnostic groups had a ritual in which new members were baptized saying: "In the name of the Father unknown to all, in the Truth, Mother of All, in the One who came down upon Jesus, in the union, redemption and communion of powers."
Christian writers who attacked Gnosticism sometimes reported conflicting accounts of sexual behavior among Gnostics. Some wrote that some Gnostic groups appeared to have suppressed all sexual expression; their membership were expected to remain celibate. Other Christian writers criticized other Gnostic groups for allegedly practicing ritual sex magic. Where the truth lies is anyone's guess.
Little is known of Ancient Gnostic Holidays. We can assume that since the Gnostics were basically a Christian sect that their Holidays were basically the same as in Christianity.
HEAVEN AND HELL
The Apocalypse of Peter (or Revelation of Peter), c. 100-125 B.C., is an early Christian text of the 2nd century and an example of apocalyptic literature with Hellenistic overtones. The Apocalypse of Peter should not be confused with the Gnostic Gospel of Peter, a completely different work. It is not in the Bible, but is mentioned in the Muratorian fragment, the oldest surviving list of New Testament books, which also states it was not allowed to be read in church by others. The text is extant in two incomplete versions of a lost Greek original, one in Koine Greek and an Ethiopic version, which diverge considerably.
According to the Apocalypse of Peter, literalist church fathers were “waterless canals” who arrogantly claimed to be the sole gatekeepers of heaven: “Some who do not understand mystery speak of things which they do not understand, but they will boast that the mystery of truth is theirs alone.” These “empty” churches sprouted up across the Roman Empire. In a sad touch of historical irony, their leaders, like the infamous Bishop Irenaeus, became heretic hunters attacking those who still carried the inner teachings of their religion. “We were hated and persecuted, not only by those who are ignorant, but also by those who think they are advancing the name of Christ, since they were unknowingly empty, not knowing who they are” (The Second Treatise of the Great Seth).
The Apocalypse of Peter is framed as a discourse of the Risen Christ to his faithful, offering a vision first of Heaven, and then of Hell, granted to Peter. It goes into elaborate detail about the punishment in Hell for each type of crime and the pleasures given in heaven for each virtue.
The Apocalypse of Peter is the earliest Christian reference to the afterlife, describing in vivid detail the paradise of Heaven and the torments of Hell. The work is quite early, for it was referenced by Clement and likely used by the author of the Apocalypse of Paul. It may even predate the canonical Apocalypse (Revelation) of John.
In heaven people have pure milky white skin, curly hair, and are generally beautiful. The earth blooms with everlasting flowers and spices. People wear shiny clothes made of light, like the angels. Everyone sings in choral prayer.
Little is known about the rituals, organizational structure and practices of the ancient Gnostics. Almost all Gnostic texts were destroyed during various campaigns to suppress the movement and commit genocide against its members.
Initiation is a ceremony, usually a group action, in which secret knowledge is transmitted to an aspirant which will produce great changes in him. Once initiated, the aspirant will never be the same again. When an initiation is real, is true, it is a turning point in the aspirant's life. There is a before and after as regards the initiation, because something has occurred in this ceremony which has changed his life in a spectacular way, something he will never be able to forget.
PURPOSE OF LIFE
A gnostic is a person who believes that salvation is gained through the acquisition of divine knowledge or gnosis. Gnostic Christians believe that the knowledge necessary for salvation has been revealed through Jesus Christ. Gnostics recognize that this world is subject to powers of darkness that distort our concept of reality.
When Gnostics speak of salvation, they mean being freed from these illusions of darkness so that they can perceive Reality. As Jesus said, "I tell you the truth when I say that only when you perceive shadows as shadows, and search the Light, will you perceive the Reality which is God." He also said, "If you continue to acquire gnosis through me and live by the principles I teach, you will be my true disciples. Then you will learn of Truth, and Truth will set you free." (Testimony of St. John 8:31-32).
Gnosis is the source of the knowledge in every major religion. Gnosis is not limited to one specific culture, place, or time. The Gnostic wisdom is found in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Tantra, Zoroastrianism, Paganism, and many others. And as that universal wisdom or knowledge, it is the essential science required in order to achieve the ultimate aim of all real religions, which is the religare (Latin), or in other words, "union" with the divine.
Gnosis is a method for training the Consciousness (what Buddhists call the mind, and Christians call the soul). It is a universal method, which means that it is compatible with all religions and all mystical traditions, because in truth they are all founded upon the science of Gnosis anyway! So the student discovers that those who learn and apply this Gnostic Wisdom come from every culture, religion, tradition and mystical background, and they find common ground in this science.
Just as so many wise beings have told us, we create our own reality. We reap what we sow. Therefore, if we plant good seeds through proper action, we can create a better life for ourselves and for everyone around us. This comes naturally as we realize and transform our mistaken views about life and about ourselves.
The purpose of Gnosis is nothing less than the complete transformation of the individual, which in turn changes our society and our world. The achievement of this transformation is dependent only upon the effort of the individual to work on their own mind.
In the 20th and 21st Centuries Christianity is losing many followers. The Churches have made Christian Scripture very simple so that anyone can understand it. In so doing Christianity lost favor with the more intellectually developed humans who seek the TRUTH. By studying Gnosticism we can once again find that more complicated TRUTH hidden in the Esoteric knowledge of the Divine Wisdom. This is truly what Christ wanted of us. His TRUTH is hidden in his Parables.
The Gnostic Universe is divided into three kingdoms:
The "Earthly Cosmos": The earth is the center of the universe, and is composed of the world that we know of and an underworld. It is surrounded by air and by 7 concentric heavenly spheres: one for each of the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. (Although the planet Uranus is visible to the naked eye, it had not been detected as a planet in ancient times.) Within these spheres live demonic, tyrannical entities called Archons. Beyond them lies Paradise which contains the "Tree of Life", the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil", and the flaming, turning sword of Genesis 3:24. Beyond Paradise was the sphere of the fixed stars, divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The "Intermediate Kingdom” is composed of an inner blue circle of darkness and an outer yellow ring of light. Within these rings is a sphere which is the realm of Sophia.
The "Kingdom of God" consists of two spheres: an outer one of the unknowable Supreme God, and inner ring of the Son.
In the Gnostic view, there is a true, ultimate and transcendent God, who is beyond all created universes and who never created anything in the sense in which the word “create” is ordinarily understood. While this True God did not fashion or create anything, He (or, It) “emanated” or brought forth from within Himself the substance of all there is in all the worlds, visible and invisible.
Highest in the celestial hierarchy are the 12 Light Diadems of the Father of Greatness and the Twelve Aeons, the “firstborn”--angelic figures that are divided into groups of threes, surrounding the Supreme Being in the four quarters of the heavens. The Cherubim and Seraphim, two superior orders of angels, are described as winged creatures that guard the throne of God.
God emanated the Aeons, intermediate deific beings who exist between the ultimate, True God and ourselves. They, together with the True God, comprise the Realm of Fullness (Pleroma or Highest Heaven) wherein the potency of divinity operates fully. The Fullness stands in contrast to our existential state, which in comparison may be called emptiness.
One of the Aeons who bears the name “Sophia” (“Wisdom”) is of great importance to the Gnostic world view. In the course of her journeys, Sophia came to emanate from her own being a flawed consciousness, a being who became the creator of the material and psychic cosmos, all of which he created in the image of his own flaw. This being, unaware of his origins, imagined himself to be the ultimate and absolute God. Since he took the already existing divine essence and fashioned it into various forms, he is also called the “Demiurge” or “half-maker” There is an authentic half, a true deific component within creation, but it is not recognized by the half-maker and by his cosmic minions, the Archons or “rulers”.
Because Sophia gave rise to a rift in the Pleroma, a virtual doppelganger of Sophia was created in the Kenoma, and there was a barrier that Sophia was trapped by. This entrapment needed to be remedied, so out of the Aeons in the Pleroma came Jesus the Soter to rescue Sophia.
After several incidents with the entities of the lower planes, Jesus finds Pistis Sophia below the Thirteenth Aeon, her original home She was alone, without her consort (Chriast) or her brothers, sorrowful and grieving on account of the torments that an entity known as the Authades, the Self-Centered One, had inflicted on her with the help of his emanations and the Twelve Aeons.
It happened that while in the Thirteenth Aeon, Pistis Sophia saw the Light of the Height on the veil of the Treasury of the Light, and started singing praises to that Light. From then on the Self-Centered One started to hate her, as did the Twelve Aeons below him. The Self-Centered One conceived a ruse to trick her. Pistis Sophia was led to look below and there she saw the light of another entity called the Lion-Faced Power.
Not knowing that it was an emanation of the Self-Centered One, Sophia decided to go after it, without her consort, to take its light, thinking that it would enable her to go to the Light of the Height. Once she descended from her place of origin, she was dragged further and further down into chaos, with the emanations of the Self-Centered One and the Twelve Aeons constantly chasing after her, trying to take her light away. When she finally saw Jesus surrounded by light, she cried to the Light of Lights and uttered a series of metanoias, often translated as "repentances."
The lower Archons wished to capture Sophia and rob of her of divine power. Fearing that she would first recover her strength and return to the divine realm, they divided her into innumerable pieces and imprisoned her in matter, where she remains as the divine spark within the human bodies of Gnostics, yearning to return to her heavenly home. Humans without this divine spark are, like animals, just another part of creation and thus destined for ultimate destruction. But within the Gnostics dwell the sparks of divine that can be liberated from the material world-if one acquires the gnosis necessary for salvation.
Gnosticism (like Buddhism) begins with the fundamental recognition that Earthly life is filled with suffering. In order to nourish themselves, all forms of life consume each other, thereby visiting pain, fear, and death upon one another. In addition, so-called natural catastrophes -- earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, and volcanic eruptions -- bring further suffering and death in their wake. Human beings, with their complex physiology and psychology, are aware not only of these painful features of earthly existence. They also suffer from the frequent recognition that they are strangers living in a world that is flawed and absurd (Existentialism).
In the Divine Realm of God (Pleroma), Jesus was a spark of the Divine Realm that could appear to inhabit the material flesh of man, while remaining purely divine. The blame for the world’s failings lies not with humans, but with the creator. In the words of The Gospel of Philip, “The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism, and a Eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.… he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like the things inside. I came to unite them in the place.”
Gnostics hold that the potential for Gnosis, and thus, of salvation is present in every man and woman, and that salvation is not vicarious but individual. At the same time, they also acknowledge that Gnosis and salvation can be, indeed must be, stimulated and facilitated in order to effectively arise within consciousness. This stimulation is supplied by Messengers of Light who, in addition to their teachings, establish salvific mysteries (sacraments) which can be administered by apostles of the Messengers and their successors.
They believed that they, alone, truly understood Christ's message, and that the other faith groups within early Christianity had misinterpreted Jesus' mission and teachings.
Spirit is of divine origin and good; the body is inherently earthly and evil. Gnostics were hostile to the physical world, to matter, and to the human body. But they believed that trapped within some people's bodies were the sparks of divinity or seeds of light that were supplied to humanity by Sophia.
A person attains salvation by learning secret knowledge of their spiritual essence: their divine spark of light or spirit. They then have the opportunity to escape from the prison of their bodies at death. Their soul can ascend to be reunited with the Supreme God at the time of their death.
Gnostics divided humanity into three groups:
-The spiritual, who would be saved irrespective of their behavior while on earth.
-The Soulish, who could be saved if they followed the Gnostic path.
-The carnal who are hopelessly lost.
Blavatsky expresses the idea of the lower and the higher creators (emanations) in her concept of creative hierarchies, classes of beings or entities which are responsible for producing the various kingdoms and forms of manifested life. She says that there are seven hierarchies which fashion our present world. The four lower are responsible for purely physical creation, the world of forms visible to the eye. The three higher groups, though, cannot work on the physical plane. They create in subtle matter, producing thought, intuition and spiritual faculties that the human kingdom is just beginning to sense.
October 8 , 2018
See: For more information -The Gnostic Society website- http://www.gnosis.org/welcome.html