Gnosticism ~ A Discussion (Series)

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant discovered a collection of early Christian scriptures – the Nag Hammadi Codices, which revealed the existence of a Gnostic version of Christianity. Gnostics (derived from the Greek word gnosis – meaning `knowledge’) felt that they could get to know God, and their own soul, going a step beyond faith. Their message, and the words of the `Gnostic Gospels’ were buried in the sand of the Egyptian desert. Some scholars now believe these scriptures to be just as authentic, if not more so, than the books we collectively know as the New Testament.

In the late 12th century `Cathars’ started preaching an alternative form of Christianity to that of Roman Catholicism, in the French region of Languedoc. Empowering abstinence and poverty, they called themselves Good Men, and believed that the world was an alien environment for man’s soul. The Roman Catholic Church tried unsuccessfully to persuade them they were wrong. Then came the Inquisition, followed by the Albigensian Crusade which crushed the rebels with a military campaign. The `heretics’ were burned at the stake by the hundreds, and again Gnosticism was supressed. Brian Blessed plays a Cathar Bishop, and Ian Brooker plays a Spanish Monk, in an attempt to recreate a theological dispute in France, 1206.

Egyptian Gnostics texts came to Florence in 1492. The Gnostic idea, that man has the capacity to rise above his worldly fate to become a spiritual being, even to be `as God’ was the heretical centrepiece of Renaissance philiosophy. This spiritual notion was forced underground by by the Catholic Church’s opposition, and into the world of magic and alchemy. However a modern millionaire, Joost Ritman, is an example of how Gnoticism continues to defy the passage of time, to re-emerge in every spiritual era.

The Gnostic Gospels said that the world was no place for the divine soul of man, that the world was tragic and that it wasn’t created by God, but by a lower life divinity. To the question “Did a good God create a world of pain” they replied that there was a crack in the universe. The first 20th century scholar to read the Gnostics was C.G.Jung – their `Gnosis’, or knowledge, was to him spiritual self-knowledge. In this programme, scholars debate the relevence of the Gnostic `pulse’ for modern man.


4 thoughts on “Gnosticism ~ A Discussion (Series)

  1. When I first came across the philosophies of Gnosticism it was an exciting entry point for me into Christian thinking, which accorded more with the Buddhist teachings of which I had become so fond. It became a form of happy reunion with the bedrock of my Western spiritual awareness. Thank you for sharing. Warmest regards!

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