Gnostics

Gnostics

The general name of Gnostics has been employed to designate several sects that sprang up in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire about the time of the advent of Christianity; although it is supposed that their principle doctrines had been taught centuries before in many of the cities of Asia Minor.

The word Gnosticism is derived from the Greek Gnosis or knowledge, and was a term used in the earliest days of philosophy to signify the science of Divine things, or as Matter says, "superior or celestial knowledge." He thinks the word was first used by the Jewish philosophers of the famous school of Alexandria. The favorite opinion of the scholars is that the sect of Gnostics arose among the philosophers who were the converts of Paul and the other Apostles and who sought to mingle the notions of the Jewish Egyptian school, the speculations of the Cabalists and the Grecian and Asiatic doctrines with the simpler teachings of the new religion which they had embraced. They believed that the writings of the Apostles enunciated only the articles of the vulgar faith; but that there were esoteric traditions which had been transmitted from generation to generation in mysteries, to which they gave the name of Gnosticism or Gnosis. King says (Gnostics page 7) that they drew the materials out of which they constructed their system from two religions, namely, the Zend-Avesta and its modifications in the Cabala, and the reformed Brahmanical religion, as taught by the Buddhist missionaries.

The architects and stone-masons of the Middle Ages borrowed many of the principles of ornamentation, by which they decorated the ecclesiastical edifices which they constructed, from the abstruse symbols of the Gnostics. So too, we find Gnostic symbols in the Hermetic Philosophy and in the systems of Rosicrucianism; and lastly, many of the symbols still used by Freemasonry — such, for instance, as the triangle within a circle, the letter G and the pentacle of Solomon — have been traced to a Gnostic source.


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