Philosophical Foundation of Gnosticism
the Institute for Gnostic Studies
of the major problems with comprehending the truth of the Gnosis is that it can
be presented to the seeker in many different ways. On one level we may read the
high-browed philosophical approach of the Greek Mysteries, and on the other we
may see the bloody battle between ‘the forces of light and darkness’ or the
literal expulsion of Satan from Heaven. At first these traditions may seem
disparate and it may seem necessary to jettison one or the other depending on
your own level of comprehension. However, if we examine these various traditions
in more detail we may discern a common foundation and come to the realisation
that the problem is one of religious or symbolism and language - not truth.
we are teaching children about mathematics we may discuss apples and orange,
trees and coins, however, as adults we enter into the world of algebra and
equations. Nobody really considers these two different approaches to be in
conflict, we simply realise that a different set of metaphors are being used to
explain the same truth. In the Gnostic tradition the same is undoubtedly true,
whether, for example, we speak of an error arising in the divine mind, an
opposite appearing as a reflection of the Logos or of Satan being expelled from
heaven, we are simply using different metaphors for the same cosmic event. It
seems that within the twentieth-century, religious movements have become locked
in semantics and argue about things which are in truth only different views of
the one reality.
we examine the gospels we find ample evidence for different appreciations of the
divine mysteries, Jesus spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the
importance of parables and seems to delight in using stories with multiple
meanings. Even the structure of his teaching hierarchy has such
an application...there are 12 disciples, 70 outer disciples and then the
multitudes. Here we have an obvious hierarchical structure...the twelve
disciples - symbolic of 12 signs of the Zodiac, tribes of Israel etc. - the
innermost teachings, the esoteric
mysteries. The seventy disciples - the seven rays, days of creation etc. - the
Mesoteric or intermediate teachings. The multitudes - the Exoteric or outer
teachings. In practise this simply means that a parable has a general symbolic
or moral truth and then deeper meanings.
danger with modern religious forms is that they have become locked in semantics,
they have become bogged down with the symbols and forgotten the spirit. In
Biblical terms they have accepted the body of the law, not the spirit.
When we discuss these levels of truth, we also need to appreciate that
they relate to different levels of evolution and manifestation, in the gnostic
tradition there are three basic levels of being and these can be related quite
clearly to the various levels of truth. Every level is "right" in
relation to the plane, world or level of consciousness it may be related to.
Each also has a "core reality" which is then reflected in each plane
in the imagery or symbolism related to that level. Hence we can see how a myth
can use extremely anthropomorphic imagery on one level (exoteriuc)and at the
same time also reveal a philosophical truth in another (esoteric)
these levels as classifications, on the lower level we have the symbolism of
Gods as tribal forms and totems. In the intermediate we have the spiritual
concepts but these are still rooted in a strong use of religious forms,
mysticism would be placed at his level. While on the highest level (Pneumatic)
we have the Pleroma as the source of all things, the philosophical causeless
cause. By utilising this spectrum of perspectives, we can reconcile the various
Gnostic traditions as representing various stages of perception. We can clearly
see the literalist traditions as representing the lower manifestation, mysticism
and devotionalism as a further stage of perception and Gnosticism highest
manifestation. By using such a system of attribution we can clearly see how
divinity can be, and is, all things on all levels.
Only by achieving a complete view of each level in its rightful place as
part of the cosmic scheme, can we appreciate the real totality of the Gnostic
If we accept that there are multiple levels of Truth, is Truth “ more “ true on a higher level than a lower ?
answer to this is clearly no. Truth is Truth. However, to appreciate the
totality of that truth all levels of ‘that truth’ much be comprehended. If
we allow ourselves to be locked into one level then we only see the facet
the tradition of that level. It is clear, for example, that Zoroastrianism,
Essene Gnosticism, the Veda’s and the Runic tradition are all facets of our
heritage, are all aspects of one universal Mystery Tradition. To neglect one in
favour of the other means ignoring pieces of the puzzle and ending up with a
incomplete picture. Christianity, in isolation from the rest of the tradition is
powerless, as are the other traditions, only with a complete picture can
liberation be achieved.
Path of the Gnosis is the path of the Whole and offers the Mystery traditions in
their totality, Gnosticism is the experience of our heritage within the context
of the continuum of the tradition as it has been handed down through history.
All things must be seen in the context of the greater picture and that picture
holds an image of the destiny of man.
Institute for Gnostic Studies. PO Box 492 Armidale NSW 2350 Australia. (Web:
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