The Carpocratians were an early Gnostic sect founded by Carpocrates in the first half of the second century. Information derived from heresiologists is all scholars have today about this Gnostic sect.
These Gnostics venerated Jesus, but they believed that philosophers such as Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle were also gods. The Carpocratians believed that Jesus was merely an ordinary man with extraordinary recollection. These Gnostics also did not believe in the Immaculate Conception or the virgin birth as taught by the Orthodox Church. Instead, the Carpocratians insisted that Jesus was actually the son of Joseph.
Furthermore, the Carpocratians believed that salvation did not come by following Jesus; it was only possible by becoming Jesus. This was possible, as they also believed that the wisdom of Jesus is what elevated him to godliness, and this became a possibility for anyone who emulated Him.
Jesus emanated from the unmentionable being (God), and this recollection is within everyone. Thus, the Carpocratians believed that everyone was once part of Jesus and God. The Carpocratians also taught that humans struggle in daily life and this is how the peaks and valley in life are lived – through the suffering.
The only way to get through such suffering is through the knowledge of origin – God. The only humans that will attain happiness and salvation are those that assume their own Godliness and identify themselves with Jesus.
Because the world is what causes such suffering, the Carpocratians believed that the world was God’s shadow. Within each human is the light and fire of God, but it is the individual’s responsibility to take hold of it. Reincarnation will happen if the individual does not do this. The Carpocratians also believed that reincarnation is of the Devil – this is the cruelest form of punishment.
However, through the self-deification process, the individual is freed from the inner turmoil and maliciousness of the world. Through such freedom comes loss and total destruction of a previous life. The only way to live with this understanding is through enlightenment and understanding of one who has experienced all (Jesus), and the effort to become less and less ignorant.
The wisdom is to break free of reincarnation through gnosis.