Gnosticism

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Gnosticism (Greek: γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) refers to diverse, syncretistic religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that the material cosmos was created by an imperfect god,[citation needed] the demiurge with some of the supreme God's pneuma; this being is frequently identified with Yahweh, (as opposed to the Gospel according to the Hebrews) and is contrasted with a superior entity, referred to by several terms including Pleroma and Godhead.[1] Depictions of the demiurge—the term originates with Plato's Timaeus[2]—vary from being as an embodiment of evil, to being merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. Gnosticism was a dualistic religion, influenced by and influencing Hellenic philosophy, Judaism (see Notzrim), and Christianity;[3] however, by contrast, later strands of the movement, such as the Valentinians, held a monistic world-view.[4] This, along with the varying treatments of the demiurge, may be seen as indicative of the variety of positions held within the category.

The gnōsis referred to in the term is a form of mystic, revealed, esoteric knowledge through which the spiritual elements of humanity are reminded of their true origins within the superior Godhead, being thus permitted to escape materiality.[5] Consequently, within the sects of gnosticism only the pneumatics or psychics obtain gnōsis; the hylic or Somatics, though human, being incapable of perceiving the higher reality, are unlikely to attain the gnōsis deemed by gnostic movements as necessary for salvation.[6][7] Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnōsis to the earth.[8] In others (e.g. the Notzrim and Mandaeans) he is considered a mšiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist.[9] Still other traditions identify Mani and Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, as salvific figures.[10]

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