I don't have enough knowledge about gnosticism to be gnostic.
That is the thing...there are only a handful of beliefs that link gnostics together.
There is a true god, but there is also a false god, known in most religeon as the creator god.
Persuit of knowlege is the way to god, not faith or worship. The true god doesn't care.
Each man has a divine spark, because we are the stuff of the true god. It can be unlocked by our persuit of knowlege.
This knowlege is the knowlege of the self, and it is not aquired by book learning, but by revelatory experience.
I like many of those gnostic ideas.
So do I. Plus, I get to tell the Jehovah's Witnesses that they worship a demon.
I would just like to point out that early gnostics were not persecuted by the church because they wanted to "think for themselves" but because they distorted the gospels, trying to portray Jesus as some kind of mystic guru or wizard rather than a messianic spiritual leader. This forms the basis and motive of many of the epistles found in the new testament.
I think it's important to delineate what gnostics believe and what churches have labelled gnostic as a way to automatically dismiss it. They are often very different things.
I'm not the biggest advocate of the true god/false god or any god thing, but it sounds so good when people knock on my door.
Just about everything you could want to know about Gnosticism is here:
"Although Gnosticism may at first sight appear a mere thoughtless syncretism of well nigh all religious systems in antiquity, it has in reality one deep root-principle, which assimilated in every soil what is needed for its life and growth; this principle is philosophical and religious pessimism. The Gnostics, it is true, borrowed their terminology almost entirely from existing religions, but they only used it to illustrate their great idea of the essential evil of this present existence and the duty to escape it by the help of magic spells and a superhuman Saviour."
BTW, Bludhall, I've always wondered about physical persecution of Gnostics. Can you point me to some historical evidence of Gnostics being put to the sword or rack?
Yeah, I don't get into the Sophia stuff either.
All that said, what impresses me about them though is their emphasis on personal development and placing the relationship between the human and the divine in your hands.
Bludhall, your first link, the PBS link, actually supports what I'm saying. It doesn't say the Gnostics were persecuted by orthodox Christianity, it says all Christians were peresecuted and killed for being Christians and that the difference between orthodoxy and gnostic or other Christian sects was one of ideas. Then, Elane H. Pagels concludes:
"So it would be ridiculous to tell the story of the early Christian movement as though the orthodox were, you know, power mad, and trying to destroy all diversity in the church. It's much more complicated than that. The sociologist Max Weber has shown that a religious movement, if it doesn't develop a certain institutional structure within a generation of its founder's death, will not survive. So it's likely, I think, that we owe the survival of the Christian movement to those forms that Irenaeus and others developed. You know, the list of acceptable books, the list of acceptable teachings, the rituals."
Okay, this isn't funny-funny, but I actually LOL'd. From the mystae link in Blud's last post:
At at the siege of Be'ziers, 1209, when the military commander asked the pope's representative how he might distinguish heretics from true believers, the reply was:
"Kill them all. God will recognize His own."
- Papal legate Arnaud-Amalric