“Gnosis” is a term that is most often translated as knowledge, but sometimes also as wisdom. The term derives from a Greek word, and is most commonly used in esoteric literature to describe knowledge of the spiritual, of that which is beyond the perception of our five senses. Throughout history, there were always groups of people who searched for this secret knowledge, naming it in their own way, based on their culture and time. For example, another ancient term for knowledge that endured until today is Jhana, coming from Sanskrit language.
This type of knowledge was available to people who dedicated themselves to purification of their defects, who made sacrifices in their life and efforts to reach profound inner heights through such purification, in order that their true self (the Being) could fully integrate within them and give them gnosis (knowledge). But reaching gnosis is a gradual thing, and comes in stages, even before the incarnation of the Being. People who practiced this form of spirituality were known by many names, including the Gnostics.
Strictly historically, the term “Gnostics” is largely attributed to people who established early branches of Christianity in the area of the Middle East, somewhere around the 1st or the 2nd century AD. Those were Gnostic branches of Christianity, and had some major differences in mythology than the already present Christian doctrine, one of them being that they looked at the creator God of the Old Testament as a lower God, also known as the Demiurge, who created this illusionary physical universe with all of its imperfections. Some of the Gnostic branches believed that Diemurge was “evil”, whereas other believed that his actions were in accordance with the plan of the true, uncreated, God.
These people have elaborated and expanded upon a lot of Christian concepts, and have added some other things that were previously not part of it. They went to a great extent to explain about Creation, the Absolute, and the emanations of the Absolute, as well as many other things. Most of the texts of the ancient Gnostics are compiled into a book known as the Nag Hamadi Library, because a lot of the texts from this book were discovered in a cave in Egypt, outside a town called Nag Hamadi.
The ancient Gnostics were a continuation of a long history of seekers of divine wisdom, and have drawn from knowledge of other societies in order to form their own doctrine. It is believed that they also had access to direct knowledge of divinity through different exercises and rituals, which is one of the reasons why they had many enemies and were ultimately judged as heretics – it was simply not acceptable that a human could reach such an inner transformation and access divine wisdom.
However, even though the term “Gnostic” is mostly attributed to those early Christian Gnostics, it is not uncommon to have this term also attributed to other groups throughout history, who also searched for knowledge in ancients texts, extracting the essence of it in order to find a practical information for reaching divinity and thus escaping the suffering of this dualistic universe. Some of such groups who could also be called Gnostics, among many others, were the tribe of the Essenes who lived on the shores of the Dead Sea, and the Cathars of the medieval times.
But the vehicle of Gnosis was just one of the many forms through which the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. Before that, there were many other forms and many other vehicles, in many countries around the world, tracing it all the way back to the Survivors of the Atlantis, and from there further back in time to other root races as well.
“…there is every reason to believe that all so-called secret schools of the ancient world were branches from one philosophic tree which, with its root in heaven and its branches on the earth, is–like the spirit of man–an invisible but ever-present cause of the objectified vehicles that give it expression. The Mysteries were the channels through which this one philosophic light was disseminated, and their initiates, resplendent with intellectual and spiritual understanding, were the perfect fruitage of the divine tree, bearing witness before the material world of the recondite source of all Light and Truth.”
~ Manly P. Hall, from The Secret Teachings of All Ages
Today we have a lot of ancient Gnostic texts, but sadly a lot of symbolic language from them have been interpreted literally, strengthening the belief about the Gnostics as people who dreaded this material world and who despised its false Creator and his archons. But if we go deeper into esoteric teachings, beyond its intellectual form, we may discover a reality that is much more harmonious and inspiring than what many of the so-called “experts” of the ancient sacred texts have been telling us.
“All religious forms are manifestations of the great Cosmic Universal Infinite Religion latent in every atom of the cosmos. There is Gnosis in the Buddhist doctrine, in the Tantric Buddhism from Tibet, in the Zen Buddhism from Japan, in the Ch’an Buddhism of China, in Sufism, in the Whirling Dervishes, in the Egyptian, Persian, Chaldean, Pythagorean, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Inca, etc., wisdom.
We teach the synthesis of all religions, schools, orders, lodges and beliefs. Our doctrine is the Doctrine of the Synthesis.”
~ Samael Aun Weor
In the teachings of modern Gnosis, that was put together by Samael Aun Weor, we have a wealth of wisdom that derives from many of the ancient cultures, but instead of having that wisdom only in intellectual form, a lot of it has been interpreted from esoteric point of view, coming from direct experience of master Samael, but also other spiritual masters who contributed to making the ancient wisdom clear and understandable for aspirants that are ready to study such teachings.
And in reality this is what the true Gnostic teachings are – a collection of objective knowledge from cultures and societies of various eras, not only limited to this planet, but also of other planets, solar systems, galaxies, and even of other universes…A lot of this type of knowledge has been written down or passed down in the form of legends, and even though much more has probably been lost to the physical world, it is still accessible in the higher worlds, provided that we fulfil the requirements to reach it. And so the Gnostic teachings lead to inner Gnosis, and the latter is a gateway through which we become not only aware and in the know of the deepest of realities about ourselves and the Absolute, but we comprehend it deeply too. In such a way, the knowledge becomes a part of us and is used for the benefit of all.