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The question of what Gnosticism has been vague over the years.
I believe the vagueness of it lies in its historical context.
Gnosticism is not really a term that can be defined by one individual
and include all that have practiced it. In 1966 an assembly of
Scholars met in Messina Italy to try and define Gnosticism. They
were not very successful. They tried putting the term in a box
giving Gnosticism a definition of so-called "heretical" movements of Christianity in the first and second centuries. (Which
when studied is very debatable).
The term Gnosis was defined as ‘Knowledge of the divine
mysteries for an elite’, separating Gnosis from Gnosticism.
This did not help much.
I guess the most problematic issue with Gnosticism is its controversy
about when it all started. Its origins are vague and controversial
with many debates that have raged over the years. Some say it
was an offshoot of Christianity, while others say it has been
a much older hidden tradition or philosophy that existed before
the advent of Christianity.
No One has been able to answer these questions with any kind of
convincing finality. Gnosticism is not something that can be neatly
tucked in a box and wrapped up for all to experience in the same
It is a journey, a journey within you. Everyone is different so
everyone will have a different journey, a different experience
with Gnosis. There do seem to be some basic points that have been
written by a professor at the University of Miami that could apply
to characteristics of the Gnostic Mythos.
This however concerns those that indulge themselves in classic
Gnosticism. (Those that have studied the scripture of the lost
gospels) I could go into great detail with this, but this is not
the place to go into such a lengthy dissertation.
So I present to you twelve points that Professor Clark Emery summarized
in which most Gnostics tended to agree with.
1. The Gnostics posited (proposed) an original spiritual
unity that came to be split into a plurality.
2. As a result of the pre-cosmic division the universe was created.
This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and
who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah
3. A female emanation of God was involved in the cosmic creation
(though in a much more positive role than the leader)
4. In the cosmos, space and time have a malevolent character and
may be personified as demonic beings separating mankind from God.
5. For humans the Universe is a vast prison. They are enslaved both
by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic
6. Humankind can be personified by Adam, who lies in the deep sleep
of ignorance, his powers of spiritual self-awareness stupefied by
7. Within each natural human is an "inner human" a fallen
spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each human,
we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction.
8. What affects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works,
9. Before the awakening, humans undergo troubled dreams.
10. Humans do not attain the knowledge that awakens them from these
dreams by cognition but through revelatory experience, and this
knowledge is not information but a modification of the sensate being.
11. The awakening or Salvation of any individual is a cosmic event.
12. Since the effort is to restore the wholeness and unity of
the Godhead, active rebellion against the moral law of the Old
Testament is enjoined upon every human.