Gnosis & Gnostics
One example of ancient sacred tradition is 'Gnosis' (an archaic Greek word meaning 'knowledge'). The Gnostics, as they are called, were like many other olden-day spiritual seekers around the globe. They were also searching for the truth of existence, for 'liberation', 'salvation' or 'enlightenment'.
In ancient times, the knowledge was not generally given directly to the masses of people but was contained within those symbols and stories, there were secret Esoteric schools where the knowledge was given, to those who were willing or capable of understanding it, but who were few in number. Christianity for example, worked on two levels, the Gnostic and the Orthodox, one Esoteric and one public. The disciples of Jesus had access to the hidden inner meaning of symbols and teachings, they were Gnostics, true Esotericists, rather than believers, they were the group from which orthodox Christianity was formed, they took symbols literally and were given teachings in parables.
This was illustrated by Jesus in Matthew 13 verses 10 - 14 "The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" he replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand."
The Gnostics sought and had a personal connection or experience with divinity. The public branch of Christianity which would later become the orthodoxy eventually rejected them. This doctrinal branch accused the Gnostics of blasphemy for numerous reasons, including their claims to have more than a simple belief in the divine - but rather, an experience of it. The Gnostics eventually vanished as a movement as orthodox Christianity persecuted and murdered them. As with most ancient holy texts, the Gnostics wrote in symbolic form. The texts include many gospels not included in the conventional bible.
As recently as 1945, new texts have been discovered which were created by the Gnostics, such as the collection of works known as 'The Nag Hammadi Library', named after the Egyptian origin of its discovery. These particular writings have become a source of wonder for many historians, theologians and even psychologists. The numerous esoteric texts indicate a very intimate and direct connection with the Divine. In reading them, one is struck by a prevailing purpose to human life, an intense reality that is behind the film of existence. There is much importance placed on the knowledge (gnosis) of oneself, as a way to understand the immortal truth behind fleeting human life. It is stated strongly in the texts that humans 'do not know themselves', and that if they wish to know the mysteries of the universe, of life and of death, they must endeavour to 'know themselves'.
In one of the texts found at Nag Hammadi 'The Gospel of Thomas the Contender' Jesus says to Thomas, "Now since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself that you may understand who you are, in what way you exist, and how you will come to be. Since you are called my brother, it is not fitting that you be ignorant of yourself..... For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all." Ancient teachings often concentrate on similar issues, one of the most important of which is the improvement of oneself, as a means of spiritual development.
For example, the Christians talk of the removal of sin from within us, the Buddhists speak of the same thing, the Muslims and Hindus also hold these ideas in their own texts. In fact, we can easily find references to the improvement of an individual, as a means to spiritual growth, in almost all the olden traditions. The Gnostics held this practical purification as the ultimate motivation in a person's life. Ridding themselves of 'sin', or whatever we may call it. They talk of a path and of a heavenly reward for walking it, of the bliss one may attain in freeing themselves of sin. In short, they illustrate the trials and triumphs of the elusive Path.
Modern Gnosticism emerged as a result of the same principle; the active search for liberation. Expressing the same values, yet in a language appropriate for modern times. It offers practical techniques to experience within us this same divinity. Modern Gnosis was founded by Victor Manuel Gomez in the 1950's in Latin America, he walked a good way along the Spiritual path incarnating his 'Being' or 'Master' and by the time of his death in 1977, he had left a student who was also walking along the path and reached 'Mastery', a Colombian called Joaquin Amortequi Valbuena. He died in 2000 and also left a student on the path, Mark Pritchard, who was born the UK; he also incarnated his 'Master' and now coordinates The Gnostic Movement.
http://www.mysticweb.org/awake/topics/9_gnosis/ - full article
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