Friday, May 8, 2015

Gnosticism: An Overview And Considerations (Part 3)

AP: We started this series a few of days ago. I was once asked, "If gnosis is knowledge, then why is it considered a religion?" I'd like to take a moment to share with you how I answered that question, which is basically just a duplication of what I wrote in my book Los Cristanismos derrotados (Madrid: EDAF, 2009). For Part 1, click here, and Part 2, here. In those posts. we got a general overview of gnosticism and started to look at its introduction to Judaism. Today we are just going to wrap it all up.

If the Jewish "Gnostic," by accepting the ideas of Plato, was convinced that all of the realities of the world today are but mere reflections of other higher realities, not material in nature, he could make an analysis of his own world and certainly think that the concepts of this world corresponded to concepts found in the world to come. For this reason, when the Jewish Gnostic speculated about divine realities, he could describe them in comparison to natural realities, since they are reflections. He could have thought, based on what he saw in the world, that this was an orderly system that explained both the divine and his surroundings as the intermediate universe, which was believed to lie between God and man, and finally the visible world, in which man lived. This basically created a conceptual world.

In fact, making this conceptual world that clarifies what happens "up there" (divine) with what happens "down here" (the world) is a intricate feature in Gnosticism. By using this grid for thinking about what is and what exists, the Gnostic produced a very articulate, speculative system, which is universal in scope:
1. On divinity and first things (theology/theodicy)
2. On the origin of the world (cosmology and astrology)
3. On intermediate beings (pneumatology and angelology)
4. On man (anthropology)
5. On salvation (soteriology)
And they got their answers all from this special divine revelation.

In conclusion, it is quite possible that Western Gnosticism took root in Jewish soil because the traditional faith was not able to satisfactorily answer vital questions about life and existence. They turned then to the influence of Platonic philosophy, other dualistic ways of thinking about the perennial fight between Good and Evil,  and other esoteric beliefs floating around the Greco-Roman world.

It is very possible that the seed of Gnosticism was planted in Judaism before the Christian era and that it grew from there, influencing directly both Judaism and more esoteric types of paganism, especially the Christianity of the second and third centuries.

When the atmosphere of Gnostic ideas ("gnosis") is transformed into a robust system of religious beliefs in Christianity, it then becomes what we call "Gnosticism." And it is this system, with its innovative and unorthodox ideas, that hit and violently shook Christian theology, especially from the mid-second century forward.


  1. Benedict XVI said in the book-interview Light of the World that the struggle against Gnosticism somehow shaped Christian view of so sensible topics such as sexuality and human body.

    To think about.

  2. Sorry, a false friend!

    I mean "sensitive".