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Essay example - What is Gnosticism? What current expressions do you see today?

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Pages 6 (1506 words)
The literal definition of Gnosticism can be stated as "the doctrine of salvation by knowledge." This definition is based on the word's etymology. The drawback to this literal definition is that it gives a single vision of Gnostic thought systems. …

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"The demiurge may be depicted as an embodiment of evil, or in other instances as merely imperfect and benevolent as its inadequacy permits". Along with the demiurge exists a good supreme being, however remote and distant. In order to free oneself from the material world, one must find gnosis or "spiritual knowledge available to all through direct experience or knowledge".

Some sects of Gnostics believe Jesus of Nazareth was sent to earth to bring gnosis, some believe he was sent to teach gnosis, and still others believe that he was just a man. In the first centuries before Christ, Gnosticism was popular in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean areas. It was, however, suppressed in the fourth century by the Roman Empire. In the middle ages, many converted to Islam. "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".

Unlike Judaism, Christianity, and a lot of Pagan systems, the soul is not held by a Supreme Power. Gnosticism places, "the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. ...
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