The Basic Gnostic View
Gnosticism is the mystical arm of Christianity. Mysticism is the search for the Divine within one's self. It is a search within. Gnosis is a Greek word for "knowledge." However, this is not mere book learning; not a garnering of facts. The Gnostic path is a path of direct enlightenment or direct experience - inner subjective knowledge. Once gained, this experience cannot really be communicated to others with words. Gnostics believed that the point of the teachings of Jesus was to pursue this inner path. In Luke 17:21 Jesus advises us that the Kingdom of God is within us. He is asked where the kingdom could be found. He recounts that others will say "look here" or "look their" but the Kingdom of God is not something that can be seen - it does not come with observation. Thus he is truly telling us that the Kingdom of God is within us.
In the early formative years of Christianity, the Gnostics had antagonists. These were the camp that believed they alone held the torch of Jesus by right of apostolic succession. In other words, if we common folk wanted God, or Jesus, we had to get it from them. They alone had the right to absolve our sins. We could only get the Divine from them. This was quite a position of power and prestige and it was challenged by the Gnostic view that anyone could get at the Divine by going within themselves. A great verbal war arose from this.
The Roman Emperor Constantine was the first to embrace Christianity but he did not do so because he was a convert. This is evidenced by the fact that he did not receive baptism until he was on his deathbed. At the time he embraced Christianity as part of the Roman landscape he did so as a matter of political expediency. It was a means of controlling the masses. For this reason he sided with the hierarchy of priests, deacons and bishops as they were also declaring the right to control the flock. The Gnostics did not fit in to Constantine's plans. Gnosticism was self-empowering. This is not conducive to control by others.
As we might imagine, Constantine banned the Gnostics and ordered a book burning. Fortunately, a Gnostic or group of Gnostics buried a large stash of Gnostic scrolls in a cave near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These were discovered in 1945 and were thereafter called the Nag Hammadi library. These are a compendium of 13 ancient works called codices containing more than 50 texts. This discovery was truly astonishing. We knew about many of these heretofore missing texts because they are referred to in other works. For example, the Bible refers to the Book of Jasher in two places. The Nag Hammadi library contains a significant number of primary Gnostic texts. These had been thought destroyed in the purge of Constantine. Three of the most important texts are the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Truth and, perhaps the most famous, the Gospel of Thomas.
The translation of the Nag Hammadi library was finished in the 1970s and has provided the fuel for a revolution in how we view early Christianity and the nature of Gnosticism. A great introduction to this fascinating turn of fate and its profound implications may wish to read The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels.
Within the pages of this site is a complete history of the Gnostics and their sects as well as a translation of the Gnostic Gospels.Until the discovery of the codices at Nag Hammadi, the only known literature about Gnosticism was derived from heresiologists. In 1945, the world of Gnosticism was forever changed. Here, the Nag Hammadi Library is unlocked and its story is told. From its discovery, to its translation to a guide to its codices, this section of the site is your one-stop place for truly uncovering the texts of the Nag Hammadi Library.
Before beginning any of the reading on this page, it is strongly suggested that the novice reader starts by reviewing this list of Gnostic terms and concepts. By being familiar with these terms, the study of this beautiful Gnostic religion will be a much easier feat!
To help our readers to fully comprehend Gnosticism, we have taken the time to break Gnosticism down into easy to read articles. These articles provide a wonderful starting point before delving into the Gnostic Bookstore. Here, you can find articles explaining a General Overview of Gnosticism, The Gnostic Creation Myth, The Importance of Sophia to Gnosticism, Gnostic Rituals, Gnostic Morals and Ethics, and Gnosticism’s Relation to Dualism and Monism. Contemporary Gnosticism is extremely interesting, as it is prevalent in nearly every aspect of our society. While it is important to stay abreast of current Gnostic Studies, it is also essential that any self-proclaimed Gnostic is aware of the current and past Gnostic Scholars, the prominence of Gnosticism in Popular Culture (including Gnostic Books, Gnostic Movies, Gnostic Music and Art, and Gnostic Games). There are also many modern Gnostic Revivals occurring all over the world. Also included here is a links page to find Gnostic Churches and Organizations in your area.
Early Gnostic Groups
The development of Gnosticism has been broken down here so that you can explore for yourself the diversely fascinating groups of Gnosticism. While each sect here varies in beliefs and texts, it is important to understand these early Gnostic groups in an effort to fully comprehend the history of Gnosticism and how it has affected present-day Gnosticism. Also included in this section of the site are essays explaining the plight of the Medieval Gnostics, the Persian Gnostics and the Syrian-Egyptian Gnostics.