Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Salvation through "esoteric spiritual knowledge"

Source:  Patrick J, Hamell, Handbook of Patrology 
(Staten Island: Alba House, 1968), page 46.

    "Gnosticism was the most influential of the early heresies. The term is generic and embraces a great variety of teachings.  Based on the theory of a dual principle, it rejected creation, made great headway in the East and West, and produced a rich and varied literature.  With the exception of a few works in Coptic, this literature has perished, and is known to us only in fragments quoted by the ecclesiastical writers.

    "... At the time of the appearance of Christianity, in the Roman Empire, moral and religious feelings were in a state of ferment.  Religious aspirations, dissatisfied with official religion, turned anxiously to the exotic Eastern religions and to Greek philosophy, both of which the Roman conquests had made known.  Every charlatan from the East was welcomed, and in spite of State laws, the cults of Isis and Osirus, Mithra, etc. spread between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D., pandering to the craving for novelty.  Into this general ferment were thrown Jewish monotheism and Christianity, and by some they were eagerly welcomed, if only temporarily.  But (leaving aside the question of Judaism) Christianity was a radical condemnation of all the other religions and its appeal was limited.  People sough to transform it into a religious philosophy, or tried to give the religious mysteries a philosophical explanation.  Gnosis (knowledge) takes the place of faith, and is a form of knowledge not vouchsafed to the ordinary mortal.  In the third century an orthodox gnosis sought to expound the mysteries philosophically in conformity with faith, but in the second century it is an heretical gnosis supplanting revelation."


The Wikipedia, s.v. "Gnosticism":

    Gnosticism (from Greek gnosis, knowledge) refers to a diverse, syncretistic religious movement consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect spirit, the demiurge, who is frequently identified with the Abrahamic God. The demiurge, who is often depicted as an embodiment of evil, at other times as simply imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy allows, exists alongside another remote and unknowable supreme being that embodies good. In order to free oneself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or esoteric spiritual knowledge available only to a learned elite. Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some (though not all) Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnosis to the Earth.

    Gnosticism was popular in the Mediterranean and middle eastern regions in the first centuries CE, but it was suppressed as a dualistic heresy in areas controlled by the Roman Empire when Christianity became its official religion in the fourth century. Conversion to Islam greatly reduced the remaining number of Gnostics throughout the middle ages, though a few isolated communities continue to exist to the present. Gnostic ideas became influential in the philosophies of various esoteric mystical movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and North America, including some that explicitly identify themselves as revivals or even continuations of earlier gnostic groups.

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The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. "Gnostic"

The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Gnosticism



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