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jgeertz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gnosticism is the name given to the philosophical and religious ideology that grew long ago in the first and second centuries just after the inception of the early Christian church, although some scholars place its roots even earlier. Gnosticism included a wide base of sects but specific elements glued them together including a belief that salvation could be achieved through special knowledge (Greek word "gnosis"). This special knowledge about God, the universe, and humanity was obscured from the general public. Gnostics viewed the universe as dualistic in nature with matter seen as fabrication and spirit as the true reality. Gnostics emphasized spiritual knowledge in place of blind faith and sacraments. As such, Gnosticism was considered heresy by the early Christian church. The history of Gnosticism is littered with extensive works and references that scholars continue to try to link together. Interestingly, many philosophical beliefs of Gnosticism are alive in the New Age movement today.

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