The Gnostics – The First Christian Heretics

Many people today might call themselves light workers. They are people who have experience and knowledge, gnosis. What knowledge – gnosis – do they have? Is it of the astral worlds, the higher dimensions, the meaning of life? We are not talking about ’42’ here, we are talking about material that eventually got a lot of people burned at the stake, or ejected from communities of their faith. So this little book of The Gnostics comes along. Is it relevant? That is a question for you to answer, and we will give some excerpts and some thoughts that may resonate.


What is Gnosis?

Many Gnostic groups had a habit of disagreeing with one another over doctrine — the whole concept of a rigid hierarchy of belief being something of an anathema to them — but they did all agree on one fundamental point, that of the importance of gnosis. As we have already noted, the kind of knowledge gnosis refers to is a direct, experiential knowing — a knowing in the heart as opposed to the head. It is non-intellectual and non-rational; it can only be experienced, not explained. Rather than making the world a more complicated place — as intellectual and theological arguments tend all too often to do — gnosis has the effect of liberating the soul.

As the Gospel of Truth puts it:

If one has knowledge (gnosis) he is from above. If he is called, he hears, he answers, and he turns to him who is calling him and ascends to him. And he knows in what manner he is called. Having knowledge, he does the will of the one who called him, he wishes to be pleasing to him… He who is to have knowledge in this manner knows where he comes from and where he is going. He knows as one who having become drunk has turned away from his drunkenness and having returned to himself, has set right what are his own. (p.29)

Hinduism speaks of something called “unknowing knowing”, fruit of inner discipline of the mind and the inner instruments of action, antarkaranas. These comprise mind, intellect, awareness or consciousness. Ego, that which is associated with ‘sense of mine’ is managed and controlled. There is no selfishness. So there are other references to a higher knowing, a higher knowledge. It is beyond reason, for reason is circular in nature and arrives at the place it started therefrom.


The Spark of the Divine

The individual, the particular, the temporary form of man (and woman) in the body is the Jiva, the individual embodiment of the Universal Spirit; jivatma is a spark of the divine paramatma, which fills all the worlds. The human identifies with the body and the breath. Hence, he or she is particular. The true reality of the human is spirit; you are a spiritual being having an earthly experience. Atma is a spark of the Paramatma.

The Gnostics were frequently accused of being pessimists —

“We should remind ourselves that being in the world, while it might be compared to a prison, or to poverty, is ultimately hopeful in that everyone is said to possess a spark of the divine within them. One of the results of gaining gnosis is that one also gains knowledge of this spark, and with it the realisation that part of the true God is within us, that we are part of the true God. Once we come to realise our true nature, we long to go home, or, at the very least, willingly endure the exile of this world, mowing that there is a better one to come. However, Dark One and minions lie in wait everywhere to keep people ignorant of their true nature and to keep them in thrall_to the passions, the pleasures of the flesh and the pursuit of worldly wealth and power.” (p. 39)

Just as the rivers wend their way to the ocean, so also, the individual spark of the divine – jivi+atma = jivatma is on a journey of eternal return to its true nature. Again and again through different wombs we take birth until we realise our true nature (one with the paramatma) and live this.


Role of Women

Gnostic communities seem to have operated along similar lines to Christianity and conferred its own sacraments regardless of which denomination of Gnosticism they practised or belonged to. Women had leadership roles.

Despite being charged with elitism by the Church Fathers, the Gnostics were surprisingly egalitarian in most other respects, drawing devotees from all levels of society. Perhaps the most defining feature of Gnostic groups was their disregard for authority and any sort of hierarchy. As we have noted, the Valentinians even went so far as to take it in turns to be minister during their services, including allowing women to offer the sacraments; this seems to have been typical of many other groups as well. Tertullian complains that ‘one does not know who is a catechumen, who is a believer, they meet with one another (in the house of assembly), listen to one another and pray with one another’. Given the reverence for the divine feminine, usually personified as Sophia (sacred wisdom of a feminine nature), it is not surprising that women played an active role in Gnosticism, often becoming teachers, missionaries or prophetesses in addition to the priestly roles they enjoyed. (p.58)

Well may the Church complain about the role of women and deny the place of the sacred feminine in the sacred domain. The males even wear feminine dress, the soutane, the surplice, the alb. That which is beyond man of a spiritual nature is frequently found within man as the sacred feminine within. Wisdom emerges from the soul principle within. Jung identified the anima as usually taking the binary gender opposite that of the body.


The Work of the Lightworker: Heremeticism explained

It is said frequently by those who transmit messages from their guides and the Angelic Realms that all on Earth – all forms of life, will ascend to the 5th and 6th Dimensions. Those who do the work, eliminating inner toxicity, filling themselves with light and love, and spreading light and love are in fact helping all the earthlings, all minerals, plants and animals to ascend. When enough are doing this, there is a chain reaction which moves with Mother Earth and raises all upon her up to the higher dimensions: Hermeticism seems to be the second century reckoner for this …

Of the other main non-Christian forms of Gnosticism, Hermeticism is the most important. Its origins are obscure, being traditionally described as coming from the great sage Hermes Trismegistus. In reality, the writings said to have been written by Hermes, known as the Corpus Hermeticum, were probably composed in the early centuries of our era, most likely in Alexandria. Hermeticism shares with Gnosticism a belief in two Gods, the creator and the transcendent, real God. There is no redeemer figure, however, and the Hermetic initiate can only be saved through his or her own effort and by attaining the salvific gnosis. Although nature is seen as fallen, it has the potential to become restored to a divine state through the intervention of the Hermeticists, who regarded themselves as the stewards of nature. Indeed, the divine is present in nature and careful work with natural substances — alchemy — was thought to bring out the divinity in both nature and the adept. Rather like the Valentinians, the Hermeticists regarded each person who gained gnosis as helping not just themselves but the whole of material creation. (p69)

In those days, the light-workers had alchemy and were called alchemists!


The Resurrection and Gnosis

There are a kaleidoscope of spiritual practices in this time. Confusion exists about whom they are worshipping, how they are worshipping, with some regarding the service as an opportunity for good food and wine, and better company!

We can see an example in the letters of Paul to the Church of Corinth:

What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollo,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

Confusion existed, and the Church in 140CE, nearly had a gnostic Pope. The sayings and teachings of Jesus had to be settled. The most important belief or doctrine was about the Resurrection – of Jesus, and of the dead.

The Gnostic view of the resurrection, as we might expect, differs markedly from the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed states that Jesus ‘suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again’. This resurrection is bodily, which will one day be experienced by all, as the Creed states ‘we look for the resurrection of the dead’. The Gnostic text known as the Treatise on the Resurrection, however, regards the Resurrection as something that is not physical at all, something ‘which is better than the flesh’.

As with Paul’s interpretation of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, which was written to offer the only true understanding of it, so the Nag Hammadi Treatise was likewise written to a Gnostic who did not know what to believe. The anonymous author tells his recipient, a man named Rheginos, that the resurrection is a necessary experience for the Gnostic believer to undergo, but it is a raising from the death of ordinary consciousness to the life of gnosis:

What, then, is the resurrection? … … It is the truth which stands firm. It is the revelation of what is, and the transformation of things, and a transition into newness. (p86)

The gnostics are practising – following a form of worship – living a particular lifestyle – in order that they achieve a higher form of knowledge, a higher consciousness. The resurrection is an experience beyond time and space; it is also an experience beyond the ordinary confines of the mind in this limited 3-dimensional reality. It is an experience of spirit – where the spirit in the body recognises and reaches the spirit it is part of and has emerged from. This is the higher experience, the higher consciousness which exists within one and all in this day, this age. The Gnostics are saying there is a higher experience to be had.


Prostitution of the Soul

There are many of lightworkers who visit the Spiritual Cafeterias of the world and take courses, books, gems and beads at the advice of their friends. Or perhaps, they are seduced with the glamour of a product in a print magazine which promises push-button elevation of the mind-body-spirit to realms of pink clouds with diamond glitter shining, celestial music and pretty little angels with their wee feathers a-flutter.

We can be seduced from our good judgement. When The Source – call it Spirit, Being, Divine, takes form and shape, one of the things encouraged is steadiness on the path. God doesn’t really care what you do or what you spend your money on, for money is God, anyway. It has to be sent around, and it has to be sent around with good vibration and positive thoughts. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (your mind-body-spirit complex) there should be steadiness. The Gnostics recognised the same, 19 centuries ago:

What does the Exegesis tell us about ‘prostitution of the soul’? Like many Gnostic texts, it employs allegory, poetry and myth to convey its message. The prostituted soul could be likened to a person who has been led astray by various promises, or a spiritual seeker who latches onto the latest fads, desperate for liberation and happiness. A person, therefore, who ignores the latent gnosis within them. ‘(p 95).



Title: The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics (Pocket Essential series)
Author: Sean Martin
Series: Pocket Essential series
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Oldcastle Books (August 1, 2015, reprint)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1842433393
ISBN-13: 978-1842433393
Available on Amazon

This is a good reference book. It confirms much that has been learned, and while Gnosticism has been pretty much the devilled opponent of the Early Church, it has survived in many ways – in thought, in literature and in the depth psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. HP Blavatsky wrote several books about Gnosticism, and the great artist and poet William Blake could recite the teachings of various gnostic books. He was well-read. And this is where we finish, this is a good book and can go on the shelf as a reference we can refer to from time to time. Lightworkers may take heart that their journey was somewhat documented so many centuries ago.