What is Gnosis?
The word gnosis is a Greek word meaning 'knowledge' or 'science' in a general sense, but in a deeper sense it has always represented a universal science that deals, in a comprehensive way, with the deep aspects of life, the universe and the human being.
Gnosis is normally defined as a transcendental philosophy that contains the whole of the metaphysical knowledge, the secret of which was in the possession of the ancient sages.
The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines Gnosis as: 'A special knowledge of spiritual mysteries.'
This 'special knowledge', far from being a theoretical or merely intellectual one, is experimental and involves a series of realizations and experiences that lead the individual from the relativity and multiple mirages of existence to a world of ever-increasing realization and certainty — certainty about literally everything.
In the words of Serge Hutin, contemporary expert in Gnosticism: 'In revealing the mystery that cloaks his origin and his destiny, Gnosis allows man to understand the significance of all things.'
Ancient and modern experts all agree that the origin of Gnosis cannot be established at a particular time and place. There is no possible origin of Gnosis in the normal frame of human history.
A thorough study of the great civilizations of the past allows us to reach the conclusion that all of them shared a common essence, a set of similar characteristics, and because of this they are sometimes known as Solar Civilizations or Serpentine Cultures.
The common denominator in all of them — and one that gave them cohesion — can be summarized in the four 'pillars' or branches of knowledge, which are:
-Mysticism or Religion
In the solar civilizations of the past, these four branches were integrated in a single and harmonious whole, forming an inseparable unity.
From this common knowledge appear the clearly visible similarities in the theological, philosophical, artistic and symbolic fields that are present in the Aztec, Mayan, Inca, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, etc. civilizations, as if all of them had acquired their cultural contents from one and the same original source.
To be more precise we can say that Gnosis is a universal and timeless knowledge, inherent in the human being and in the original cultural contents of the great civilizations that preceded us in the course of history, and whose achievements and accomplishments we can still observe with astonishment.
Consequently, we can say that Gnosis is:
-A Science with a Heart
-A Hermetic Philosophy
-A Singular Art and
-A Transcendental Mysticism
The ability of Gnosis to get to the bottom of all things, to the noumenon (the thing-in-itself) behind the phenomenon (forms, appearances), is evident.
Therefore, it is a mistake to believe that Gnosis is a simple metaphysical set of doctrines introduced in the bosom of Christianity, as many still believe today. Quite the opposite, Gnosis constitutes an existential attitude with characteristics of its own, which is rooted in the most refined, oldest and highest esoteric aspiration of all peoples, whose history, regrettably, is not well known to modern anthropologists. It is interesting to observe that this existential attitude tends to appear spontaneously, beyond any direct transmission, and specially in critical moments for humanity.
Gnosis is a 'synthesis-doctrine', humanity's early one, its origin being therefore as old as the world.
As the contemporary French writer Henry Puech wrote in his book, 'Gnosis', and we quote: 'Gnosis thus appears, from the beginning, as an attitude, but not simply a psychological or purely intellectual one, but a total, existential attitude, capable of embracing the life, the behaviour, the destiny, the very being of the entire person.'
To put it in another way: Gnosis is that eternal and cosmic principle that is hidden in the very depths of the human consciousness, adopting different forms in every time and place in order to transmit an impersonal and timeless truth - this truth having nevertheless a perfect correspondence with our life on Earth.
These forms of Gnosis are multiple and diverse. Let us point out some of them, quoting this time from Samael Aun Weor, contemporary codifier of Gnosis: 'The Fourth Way is Gnosis, the Gnosis of Hermes Trismegistus, the Gnosis of the Essenes, of the Peratae or Peraticennes; the Gnosis of the Greeks, of Iamblichus, Pythagoras, etc.; the Gnosis of the great medieval alchemists, such as Raymond Lulle, Nicholas Flamel, Bernard Le Trevisan, etc.; the Gnosis of Jesus of Nazareth, of Paul of Tarsus...; the Gnosis of the Mysteries of Mithra, of Troy, of Rome, of Carthage, of Egypt, of the Mayans, of the Druids, of the Aztecs...'
Therefore, the Gnostic knowledge, the Gnostic throb, is not alien to the individual. It arises from the innermost of the very individual, when they encounter or know themselves (know their own Being).
We can say that Gnosis is inherent in life as humidity is inherent in water.
Again, in the words of Samael Aun Weor:
'Gnosis is a very natural functioning of the awakened consciousness, a perennial and universal philosophy.'
The deeply anthropological character of Universal Gnosticism is evident.
The Gnostic Science is essentially anthropological. The study of man is central in Gnosis, since the human being represents one of the greatest enigmas, which needs to be urgently solved.
In practical terms Gnosis is Self-Gnosis, in other words: Self-Knowledge... following the Greek maxim engraved on the threshold of the temple at Delphi:
'O man, know thyself.'
This profound philosophical Anthropology has as its starting point in the questions that Theodotus, a disciple of Valentinus, posed in his Excerpta almost two thousand years ago, when he said that
'to possess the Gnosis is to know who we were and what we have become; where we were and into what we have been thrown; where we go and whence liberation comes to us; what the birth is and what the rising is.'
Or, in the words of Samael Aun Weor:
'Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we living for? Why are we living?'
The Science of Self-Knowledge rests on perennial laws and principles, based on a profound analytical Psychology.
Unlike official Psychology, Gnostic Psychology is dynamic and transformative... it seeks the psychological emancipation of the human being, and can be defined as:
The study of the principles, laws and facts intimately related to the radical and permanent transformation of the individual.
In this respect, Gnosis invites us to understand that every human being - it does not matter how old he or she is - is unfinished or uncompleted, but has infinite possibilities of inner development (known in the genuine Gnostic schools as Intimate Self-Realization of the Being).
These possibilities are normally lost and left unrealized, due to a series of factors which Gnosis invites us to understand, the chief of them being one of the greatest evils of humanity: Ignorance - against which every human being should fight with all their strength in order to start a process of genuine self-dignity and psychological liberation.