When I was a little girl I asked my dad what religion our family was. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old when I first became curious about that stuff. We had never gone to church as a family, and while I had read bible stories I had never really been preached too about God. So, naturally, as a curious child, I asked my father to explain it all to me.
Now mind you, I already had sifted through two bibles; my mom’s old Catholic bible and my dad’s old Methodist one. Not to mention the children’s bibles that had been given to me by family friends as gifts, but those were mostly just stories that were edited to make them a bit more child friendly. So when I asked my dad what religion we were, he looked at my little 6 year old self and told me “I am Gnostic, and you can be whatever you want to be.”
My father was raised by his Methodist father, but they did not regularly attend church. My mother was raised for a period of her childhood as a Catholic, but again, they never regularly attended church. As a kid I took my dad’s words to heart and set out to discover where my own beliefs lie. I attended several different churches with childhood friends and their families. If I spent the night on a Friday or a Saturday then I was either getting dropped off at home early the next morning or I was attending church with them. I often opted to attend just so that I could hang out with my friends longer, but there was also a measure of curiosity and seeking on my part.
Despite my best efforts, none of the Christian churches I attended as a kid were enough to impress me with the “Holy Spirit”. I moved on to more Pagan beliefs for a while, but soon grew out of those as well. Then, recently, I remembered that long ago conversation with my dad and my 6 year old self.
What is Gnosticism?
It is the teachings of Gnosis which is defined as “the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means”. You could almost say it is simply a religion of knowledge that may pre-date Christianity. Like all other religions in the world, Gnosticism acknowledges that the world is imperfect, but while other religions focus their efforts on finding ways to fix the imperfection, Gnostics bring forth the idea that the word is flawed because it was created in a flawed manner.
Like Buddhism, Gnosticism 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 (even herbivorous animals live by destroying the life of plants). In addition, so-called natural catastrophes — earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, 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.
In the Christian bible, for example, the story of Genesis illustrates how man is responsible for the “fall” of creation through a series of transgressions against our Creator. Gnostics’ response to this story is that it is false and that the fault lies with the Creator, not us lowly creations. It is for this reason that Gnostics throughout history were viewed as blasphemous heretics.
Greek Platonists advised people to look at the harmony of the universe to help them ignore the human afflictions, but Gnostics were unimpressed by that view. Even with the harmonious universe there still exists the imperfections and the alienation of existence. Contrarily, the Karmic views of the Far East were also unimpressive to Gnostics. Karma can only explain how the imperfections and flaws of the universe work, it is the “how” but not the “why”.
The Gnostic idea of God is also far more complex but still more practical than other religions. The mythology of Gnosticism has many different variations but they all include “middle man” deities that are between us and the ultimate All Father, True God. To a Gnostic, the True God did not actually create the universe, but rather emanated it from his/it’s mind. One of these beings, named Sophia, is very important to linking Gnosticism with its Judeo-Christian cousin belief systems.
…They, together with the True God, comprise the realm of Fullness (Pleroma) 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 Aeonial beings who bears the name Sophia (“Wisdom”) is of great importance to the Gnostic world view. In the course of her journeyings, 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.
Did you catch that? Sophia created a flawed consciousness which fashioned himself as the creator of all things and the absolute one true God. This being is called the Demiurge, or “half-maker”, in the teachings of Gnosis. So I am sure you can begin to see how these people were viewed as heretics historically and, many times, burned at the stake or hung or whatever method they used at the time to kill off blasphemers.
Just like there is duality found in the world, that same duality is mirrored by humankind, according to Gnosticism. Where does that duality originate? From the fact that “creation” was made in part by the True God and in part by the Demiurge. Humanity has dual sides; a perishable side that is manifested by our physical and psychic mortality, and an eternal spiritual side that is the last remnants of the “divine spark”.
Humans are generally ignorant of the divine spark resident within them. This ignorance is fostered in human nature by the influence of the false creator and his Archons, who together are intent upon keeping men and women ignorant of their true nature and destiny. Anything that causes us to remain attached to earthly things serves to keep us in enslavement to these lower cosmic rulers. Death releases the divine spark from its lowly prison, but if there has not been a substantial work of Gnosis undertaken by the soul prior to death, it becomes likely that the divine spark will be hurled back into, and then re-embodied within, the pangs and slavery of the physical world.
This indicates that these lower beings have kept us enslaved and trapped in this cycle of physical existence by causing this attachment to the material world that we see in so many people throughout history and even today.
I did not write this blog post in order to convert anyone to Gnostic beliefs, however, if you are interested in researching more into this belief system then check out these videos and websites. Some of these “mythologies” will really blow your mind wide open.