A Brief History of Gnosticism

How the root of apostasy came into being.

Readership: All; Christians;
Author’s Note: This series received some input from Ed Hurst at Radix Fidem.
Reader’s Note: This post is the first in a series on Gnosticism.
Length: 1,000 words
Reading Time: 3.5 minutes

The theme for the month of October is Gothicism and Gnosticism. I went off schedule with the news about Taiwan and China and a couple other hot topics that came up, but other than this, I’ve already written a few posts this month that offered some examples of Gnosticism. However, I doubt that any readers have identified it as such, even though I announced this as the theme.

Gnosticism has had a vast influence in our modern culture which Christians are hardly aware of. In this post, I’ll highlight the basic history of Gnosticism in order to illustrate its foundations. In upcoming posts, I’ll build on this history to describe Gnosticism in simple layman’s terms. I’m sure I’ll offend any experts on the subject with blanket assumptions and crude logical associations, but it’s my intention to cover what is important for us to know about Gnosticism and hopefully bring our understanding up to speed.

I’ll start off with some common information about Gnosticism on Infogalactic that captured my attention. I’ve copied some excerpts here for the reader’s convenience, followed by some explanations that should fill in the blanks.

“Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, “having knowledge”, from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish milieus in the first and second century AD. Based on their readings of the Torah and other Biblical writings, these systems induced that the material world is created by an ignorant emanation of the highest God, trapping the Divine spark within the human body. This Divine spark could be liberated by gnosis of this Divine spark.”

Ed clued me in to some of the history that appears to be selectively omitted from abridged online sources. Gnosticism is rooted in the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

During the diaspora in the centuries leading up to Christ, Judaism made a sharp departure from the religion of the Old Testament, and incorporated elements of Persian Zoroastrianism* and Greek philosophy (Hellenism), resulting in a body of rational and legalist speculation that deduced rules from Old Testament documents (the Talmud), and thereby dismissed the mystical nature of faith. This was the religious Judaism of Jesus’ day.

The introduction of Hellenistic rationalism was not the only pagan tendency to influence Judaism as it was still forming up through the time of Christ. There was already a Western brand of “mysticism” that claimed to be esoteric (see Western Esotericism), but upon examination, appears to be little more than a way to incorporate intuition as a source of insight, and pretend that it is something higher than mere intuition.**

Jesus’ testimony aroused the awareness of the mystical within the Pharisees of that time. In order for the Jews to justify rejecting the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah, they had to redefine what the Hebrew mystical approach said about Him. They also needed for Judaism to silence valid Christian criticism, and the raw guilt of having killed their Messiah. A revised form of “Jewish Mysticism” grew out of these motivations.

Here, the story gets more complicated. The Judaizers whom Paul warned Peter and the early Christians against (See Galatians 2:14) were running around the Mediterranean Basin trying to undermine the growth of Christianity and drag the churches back under the Talmud. The Judaizers would have been content, as a second option, to simply disrupt church teaching and get them lost chasing mythology. Any kind of mythology would do. Thus, there arose a number of false teachers who incorporated elements of the western version of pagan Gentile mysticism (which was mostly interpretive beliefs based on intuition**) into the revised concept of “Jewish Mysticism” in an effort to undermine the early church with heresies. It even confused many of the early witnesses of the Christian gospel, including St. Peter! (The Apostle Paul was respected as one of the few men who could sort it all out due to the fact that he was once a highly esteemed Pharisee.) As a result, a great many churches had serious problems with pagan religious philosophies, and this confusion endured for the next few centuries. Remnants of these philosophies have had enduring popularity up to the present day. For example, Valentinianism is still celebrated as Valentine’s Day.

“The Gnostic ideas and systems flourished in Mediterranean in the second century AD, in conjunction with and influenced by the early Christian movements and Middle Platonism.”

From all this mixing and mingling, there arose several schools of thought that eventually coalesced into Gnosticism. During the Dark Ages, Gnosticism developed further along these lines and eventually became an entirely different beast of its own, contributing to the later appearance of Kabbalism in the 12th century.

“After the second century a decline set in, but Gnosticism persisted throughout the centuries as an undercurrent of western culture, remanifesting with the Renaissance as Western Esotericism, taking prominence with modern spirituality. In the Persian Empire Gnosticism spread as far as China with Manicheism, while Mandeism is still alive in Iraq.”

The Western Esotericism of the early modern age also gave birth to Rosicrucianism (based on Kabbalism), and Freemasonry.

* Also of note, the concepts of demiurges, aeons, syzygies, and positive/negative and male/female pairs (e.g. Yin-Yang, which is associated with Buddhism) also developed from the eastern esotericism of antiquity.
** Intuition is a valid human talent for pattern recognition and extrapolation. It enables shortcutting, leaping across logical steps to a solution that is typically a valid extrapolation without having to actually examine every step in detail. However, Western mysticism esteems intuition as something that is supposed to approximate classical mysticism. However, these two faculties of awareness are not the same.

Related

For more reading on Classical Gnosticism, please refer to the following lengthy articles.

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Asia, Collective Strength, Convergence, Culture Wars, Discerning Lies and Deception, Discernment, Wisdom, Elite Cultural Influences, Generational Curses, Influence, Legalism, Near East, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to A Brief History of Gnosticism

  1. Lexet Blog says:

    Augustine was a gnostic who turned to his roots in later years. Most calvinists build off his works

    Liked by 1 person

    • Red Pill Apostle says:

      What is it about the idea that God chooses to do with His creation what He wants to that causes such a stir amongst believers?

      Liked by 1 person

      • caterpillar345 says:

        What do you mean?

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        Determinism. The belief that not only does God choose your salvation for you (no free will exists to come to faith), but all choices are determined as well. It is simulation theory + Jesus. Under determinism, you also have to believe that God determines evil. (People who deny that have internal logic problems.)

        Hyper Calvinists are determinists. Calvinists who limit determinism have problems with internal consistency.

        Look at what scripture says.

        God is not the author of evil nor can he be. To say that He is is to slight His character.

        Those who hear the gospel and place their faith in Christ are saved.

        The mindset that determinists develop is toxic: Do nothing, and just pray about it. Never take action. Wait until you “feel” like doing something because that is the Holy Spirit giving you programming prompts to act.”

        Like

      • Red Pill Apostle says:

        Caterpillar – Proponents of free will have to deal with having a hand in their own salvation because they have to turn from sin and choose God. Proponents of predestination have to deal with why God chooses to hold people accountable for sin if He is in control of their actions. Both are hard questions and for me I choose to deal with the latter. The Gospel comes alive for me in God’s sovereignty.

        Lexet’s toxic mindset from determinism is a fault of man, just like the toxic arrogance of man who feels superior because he choose God’s salvation when others do not. We see all sorts of evil done to Job, without God intervening for a larger purpose and for God’s glory. He was not responsible for the evil, but He did give permission for it happen It is quite possible that is true of evil today. I can say that obeying God, that is acting, is done because God tells us what to do for our own good and out of gratefulness for a gift that I don’t deserve and did not earn, yet was bestowed upon me anyway.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        I have never met a person associated with “free will” or partial free will/provisionist beliefs who was arrogant.

        I spent a long long time in reformed churches. They are led by the most arrogant, condescending people with god tier egos on this planet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Red Pill Apostle says:

        I would also add that free will or predestination viewpoints don’t really matter in daily life. Whether God directs our actions for us, or we choose them ourselves, we all are to follow God’s commands because that is what is best for us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oscar says:

        The Bible teaches both free will and God’s sovereignty, oftentimes in the same passage. Nobody knows exactly how to resolve that paradox, and I doubt anyone will figure it out this side of eternity.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lexet Blog says:

        It is a mystery of faith.

        The divide is mostly over how you define “the elect” and a little bit about order salutis.

        There aren’t many people who are 100% free will. (It’s a term used in bad faith.)

        Like

      • Jack says:

        There is Biblical support for both viewpoints. This is a great example of one of those things that cannot be apprehended by the rational mind. For the time being, you have to figure out which one is more useful and more meaningful for you, by faith. No matter which one you espouse, I believe that at some point in your faith journey, you’ll come to terms with the other viewpoint and then you’ll understand how both can be true.

        Like

      • Oscar says:

        It used to bother me that I can’t resolve the paradox of free will and God’s sovereignty, but not anymore. Mostly, that has to do with the number pi.

        No one comprehends the number π. We think it’s an irrational number with an infinite number of digits, and it’s been calculated out to 62.8 trillion digits, but really, if it’s infinite, how would we know?

        But, guess what? I don’t need to know. All I need to know is 3.14159. In fact, most of the time, I can get by with 3.

        If we can’t fully comprehend something as relatively simple as π, how can we hope to fully comprehend God? Obviously, we can’t. But it doesn’t matter, because we don’t need to. Just as I can get by with 3 for π when doing mental calculations, I can get by with the little my hairless ape brain can apprehend about God.

        Like

      • Jack says:

        “All I need to know is 3.14159. In fact, most of the time, I can get by with 3.”

        Alright class, speaking as an mathematician/engineer, the number of decimal places that is necessary depends on the scale of precision and the unit of measurement that is chosen. The number of decimal places that can possibly be used as transferrable information depends on the level of precision that the measurement instruments are capable of. The latter must exceed the former by at least one degree of magnitude in order for production to meet tolerances for quality control. Writing out more decimal places than is necessary is a waste of time because it is meaningless in the practical application. What matters is producing products that are both useful and commercially viable.

        For example, let’s construct a steel tire for a Conestoga wagon wheel (which we’ll need when the price of a tank of gas exceeds our daily wage), and we’ll choose the English inch as the unit. The iron tire for this wheel is deliberately made smaller so that it can be heated and then shrunk in place to be a tight fit.

        — If the diameter of the wooden wheel is 60 inches, then the inside diameter of the tire should be 60 x 3.14 = 188.4 inches.
        — If we add another decimal place to π, then the answer is 60 x 3.141 = 188.46.
        — If we add another decimal place to π, then the answer is 60 x 3.1415 = 188.49.
        — If we add another decimal place to π, then the answer is 60 x 3.14159 = 188.4954.

        The difference in adding three more decimal places to π is 0.0954 inches, which is 0.0005061 of the inside diameter.

        To put that into perspective, the width of a pencil mark is about 0.02 inches — so that’s the width of 5 pencil marks compared to a length (in circumference) of 15 feet, 8 and 13/32 inches.

        The accuracy of the measuring tape is 1/32 inch = 0.03125 inches, which is on the same order of magnitude, so we could use π = 3.141 and still be in the clear, because the difference from adding any further decimals would be smaller than what we could measure.

        Besides, the coefficient of linear thermal expansion for steel is 1.2 × 10-5/°C, which means that if the temperature is raised 42.2°C, the difference in length will be roughly equivalent to adding 3 decimal places to π. The engineer’s solution is to raise it to 300°C (a difference of about 280°C from ambient temperature) and this will allow a clearance of 280°C x (1.2 x 10-5/°C) x 188.4 inches = 0.633 inches, which is an order of magnitude larger than either the measuring tape or the precision of π.

        This expert says he sizes tires 2/10 of 1% under the circumference of the wooden wheel. That would be 0.002 x 188.5 inches= 0.377 inches.

        So you see, adding an extra 3 decimal places is spurious.

        Class dismissed!

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        It’s what scripture (God’s Word) says about His nature. Prophets are special for a reason. Gods intervention in a person’s life or their family was an exceptional occurrence.

        Like

  2. Oscar says:

    Off topic:

    New York Post (Video): Working Mothers Produce Mentally Ill Children (2018-02-27)

    “I was actually seeing an epidemic level of mental disorders in very young children…”

    Obviously, she’s a NY Leftie, so her solution is “more government!” But, at least her diagnosis is correct.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jack says:

      In Taiwan, I have met a few mothers who worked 8-10+ hours a day well past their first trimester, resulting in mentally and/or developmentally handicapped children.

      Like

      • feeriker says:

        So Taiwanese women are pursuers of “feminist merit badges,” too?

        Like

      • Jack says:

        Feeriker,
        Yes, there is definitely an American influence here of the progressive variety, but I wouldn’t say it’s a cultural norm. It’s more like a long running philosophical trend. Most women just want to marry a wealthy man and lead a leisurely life. Some families push their daughters to pursue a career, but it’s more about self-development and to make more money while they’re young, not because of “equality” or “independence”.

        Like

    • Red Pill Apostle says:

      I find it amazing that the therapist is so clueless as to state that mentally healthy kids are the most important thing for society and then avoid the easiest solution. Momma’s should stay home with their kids and give up enough of the material stuff in life to make life work on one income. Oh, and that means you need to get knocked up after you’re married, because it just might be, call me crazy here (therapist pun), that husbands are important for a healthy society to exist.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oscar says:

        When I left for work this morning, my 2-month-old baby girl was peacefully snoozing with her face smooshed against her mother’s bare breast. I thought, “she’s more content now than she’ll ever be for the rest of her life”.

        How modern mothers can deny that to their babies, and drop them off to be raised by paid strangers, is beyond me.

        Liked by 4 people

      • cameron232 says:

        God bless you both – excellent comments and so true.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. feeriker says:

    “How modern mothers can deny that to their babies, and drop them off to be raised by paid strangers, is beyond me.”

    It really has to spring from a dislike of children, which itself is a symptom of a lack of maternal instinct. Both are, IMNSHO, symptoms of a serious spiritual, if not mental illness.

    I also wonder if something beyond cultural and psychological conditioning by institutions has robbed American parents in general, and American mothers in particular, of the parental instinct. The bond between mother and child is almost genetically instinctual, but over the last three or four decades American women have been treating their children in an almost feral manner. One wonders how much Big Pharma’s poison has to do with this, if a combination of hormonal birth control and head meds have destroyed the maternal instinct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oscar says:

      I don’t get it, man. I also don’t get fathers who want their wives to work full time when they have babies at home.

      Like

      • feeriker says:

        So many men over the last few generations have been immersed in feminism, and thus brainwashed by it every bit as much as women have been, that they no longer believe women have any right to fulfill their God-assigned role as keeper of the home (needless to say, this includes many self-described “Christian” men). They don’t realize how much they’re endangering their marriages by exposing their wives to the authority of other men in the workplace, or how they’re endangering their children’s health and development by putting them in the care of paid, non-familial strangers. It’s tragic – and a victory for the social engineers whose goal has always been the destruction of the family.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. redpillboomer says:

    “There was already a Western brand of “mysticism” that claimed to be esoteric (see Western Esotericism), but upon examination, appears to be little more than a way to incorporate intuition as a source of insight, and pretend that it is something higher than mere intuition.”

    It seems like our current, post-modern culture is overrun with what’s stated above. A lot of the New Age thinkers, or whatever label they go by nowadays, seem to operate just this way, and some of them have made millions of dollars doing so.

    I was listening to a psychologist discussing this on a podcast. He was referencing Deepak Chopra, who’s purportedly worth 80 million dollars since he appeared on Oprah years ago to discuss one of his books; same thing happened to Eckhart Tolle, the author of the Power of Now. According to the podcast, very few copies had sold, but once he appeared on Oprah and she endorsed his book, it became a New York Times bestseller and garnered him millions of followers.

    Here’s what I found most interesting. After the psychologist de-constructed what Chopra and Tolle were saying, he mentioned a scientific study on Chopra’s works. The researchers took a large sample of his sayings and fed them into a random word generator. The random word generator maintained grammatical structuring, but added his phrases and created sentence after sentence. The net result: tons of ‘new sayings’ by Chopra. A sampling of his followers ‘ate them up,’ e.g. as though they were Deepak Chopra’s. When informed that they came from the random word generator, they basically didn’t care. They considered them spiritual and insightful.

    It is an example of this…

    “There was already a Western brand of “mysticism” that claimed to be esoteric (see Western Esotericism), but upon examination, appears to be little more than a way to incorporate intuition as a source of insight, and pretend that it is something higher than mere intuition.”

    What do you guys think?

    (Reference: Google YouTube Dr. Todd Grande, “Deepak Chopra: Quantum Healing Guru”.)

    Like

  5. catacombresident says:

    Genuine Hebrew mysticism isn’t about knowledge, but moral imperatives. It’s all about getting closer to the person of God, while the Western version is more about ideas, logical or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. info says:

    Manichean influence continues up to this day courtesy of Augustine:

    Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research: St. Augustine on sexuality

    Only with the recognition of Healthy Holy Eros in the context of Marriage from Lust was this problem resolved finally.

    Liked by 1 person

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