Gnosticism and Christianity

(Scott koshland) #1

What are the Gnostic beliefs what is the derivation of Gnosticism and what are Gnostic influence on our society


(George Brooks) #3


There will be many kinds of answers to this question. But generally speaking, whatever the answers are, they should touch on the following points:

  1. The term “Gnostic” is more conventionally applied to denominations or forms of faith that were more common in the centuries from 200 BCE to 1400 BCE. There are many groups that call themselves Gnostic in today’s marketplace of ideas, but some deviate quite a bit from what the older groups believed were core beliefs.

  2. Virtually all the old “Gnostic” groups didn’t refer to themselves by this term “Gnostic”, much in the same way that no member of Eastern Rome, or its successor states, ever called themselves “Byzantines”. The terms “Gnostic” and “Byzantine” are historical conventions, intended to simplify one’s references to a distinct historical period.

  3. Gnostic groups came to promote a “suite” of ideas:
    a. there is a demi-urge (or subordinate divine entity) that created the material universe.
    b. there are other subordinate entities likened to Angels, that could be called “principalities”, aeons,
    “powers”, or other such terms - - very often numbering in the hundreds. For example, there might be 365
    special powers, with each one devoted to a specific day (or month or other calendar cycle).
    c. The most fundamental idea is that the true “soul” is a “splinter” or “spark” of the one true God, with
    the physical body being made of “corrupt” and “worthless” matter.
    d. and that the body is a “prison” that one hopes to escape at the soonest reasonable opportunity,
    with great variability as to what constitutes “reasonable” (e.g., an enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom,
    a philosophical embrace of impending death, a disdain for all things of the mortal world… and any other
    way point on the spectrum of accepting or rejecting a mortal existence).

Good luck sorting all these things out. Gnosticism is quite a grab-bag of human ambitions and speculations.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

The more fun way to do that is with lmgtfy :smiley:

(George Brooks) #5

Most “gnostic-inclined” folks I’ve talked to hold the Cathar and related groups in the middle ages to be authentic gnostic groups as well.