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What is Gnosis?

There is a root from which all knowledge has emerged. Humanity has many names for it; we call it Gnosis.

gnosis (-g·no·sis): From Greek γνῶσις. Knowledge.

  1. The higher meaning of Gnosis is knowledge from experience, especially experience of divinity or that which is beyond the five senses. The word Gnosis does not refer to knowledge that we are told or believe in. Gnosis is conscious, experiential knowledge, not merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief, or theory. This term is synonymous with the Hebrew דעת "da'ath," the Arabic ma'rifah, the Tibetan rigpa (knowing), and the Sanskrit "jna."

  2. Gnosis can also refer to the tradition that embodies the core wisdom or knowledge of humanity, although in the physical world it has not been known by that name, but instead has adopted varying appearances according to culture, time, and place.

The Greek word Gnosis (γνῶσις) implies a type of knowledge that is derived from experience, and encompasses the whole of a person. That is, it is genuine knowledge of the truth. Reality, truth, does not fit neatly into a concept, dogma, or theory, thus genuine Gnosis must also be something that one must experience. Personal experience is not transmissible in conceptual terms; a concept is merely an idea, and experience is far more than an idea. In other words, real Gnosis is an experience that defies conceptualization, belief, or any attempt to convey it. To understand it, one must experience it. This is why real spirituality is based on one's own effort to experience the truth, and the method to reach that experience is primarily practical.

Nonetheless, in order to understand what we experience, we must study the experiences of others. For this, we prefer to rely on those who have proven the qualities we wish to embody ourselves: profound love for all beings, brilliant intelligence, and radiant joy. As such, we rely on the greatest human beings and their legacies, in every field of understanding: philosophy, science, art, and religion. [Look here for examples of real Gnostics].



Gnosis is Universal

Any study of world philosophies, religions, and spiritual traditions demonstrates the same principles, themes, and symbols. While some have argued that this is mere happenstance or unconscious impulse, the truth is far more powerful: there is ubiquitous symbolism and intent in world traditions because there is one ubiquitous source of all knowledge, but whose true form and meaning is only hazily perceived by the sleeping consciousness of mankind. Due to this, messengers arrive from time to time to clarify the One True Source: messengers such as Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Quetzalcoatl, Krishna, Moses, Fu Ji, and many more: all of them taught Gnosis, but according to the needs of the time and place.

What is Gnosis?

Whenever the Law declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to re-establish the Law. —Hinduism. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. —Christianity. Jesus in the Bible, Matthew 5.17-18

Lo! We inspired you [O Muhammad] as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto David the Psalms; and messengers We have mentioned to you before and messengers We have not mentioned to you... messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against God after the messengers. God was ever Mighty, Wise. —Islam. Qur'an 4.163-65

Naught is said unto you [Muhammad] save what was said unto the messengers before you. —Islam. Qur'an 41.43

I have seen an ancient Path, an ancient road traversed by the rightly enlightened ones of former times. —Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya ii.106

The Master said, "I have transmitted what was taught to me without making up anything of my own. I have been faithful to and loved the Ancients." —Confucianism. Analects 7.1

"All religions have the same principles. Under the sun, every religion is born, grows, develops, multiplies into many sects, and dies. This is how it has always been and will always be. Religious principles never die. The religious forms can die, but the religious principles, in other words, the eternal values, can never die. They continue; they are re-dressed with new forms." - Samael Aun Weor

The eternal values embodied in the world's religions express the essential requirements for the consciousness to enter into that light and fully realize the purpose of living. In other words, the heart message of every religion seeks to awaken the consciousness and eliminate suffering, so that the eternal light may be known through our own direct experience. 

"Truth is one; sages call it by various names—Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti." —Rig Veda

The Greek word Gnosis refers to the knowledge acquired through the experience of the awakened consciousness, as opposed to knowledge that we are told or might believe. Genuine Gnosis is the knowledge universal to all humanity that frees the consciousness from suffering. Gnosis - by whatever name in history or culture - is conscious, experiential knowledge, not merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief or theory. The Gnostic student seeks to acquire their own direct experience of the light (the Truth) by means of awakening the consciousness and eliminating obscurations to perception. The method to accomplish this task has been called:

  • Gnosis (Greek) knowledge
  • Jnana (Sanskrit): knowledge
  • Daath (Hebrew): knowledge
  • Dharma (Sanskrit): righteousness, law, truth, teaching
  • Torah (Hebrew): teaching, instruction, law

...and many other names. By comparing all of these ancient teachings, we can see that all religious forms have in their heart a science of Gnosis: a method to arrive at personal knowledge of the Truth.

“Howsoever men approach Me, even so do I welcome them, for the path men take from every side is Mine.” —Krishna (Christ), from the Bhagavad-gita

Many in these times associate the word Gnosis with a collection of texts found in the deserts of the Middle East, such as the Nag Hammdhi texts or Dead Sea Scrolls. Famous examples include The Book of Thomas, The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, The Hypostasis of the Archons, and Thunder, Perfect Mind. Some believe that Gnosis is exclusively the belief system of long-lost groups of spiritual seekers like the Essenes or Nazarenes. Yet the truth is that those writings and groups were but one fraction of a much older, more widespread movement, but one that cannot be tracked by physical evidence alone: it can only be truly known through awakened, conscious experience - not only here in the physical world, but also in the Internal Worlds, by means of techniques such as meditation, dream yoga, and more.

"We are not against any religion, school, sect, order or lodge because we know that all religious forms are manifestations of the great Cosmic Universal Infinite Religion latent in every atom of the Cosmos. We teach the synthesis of all religions, schools, orders, lodges and beliefs. Our doctrine is the Doctrine of the Synthesis." —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony

The venerable science of Gnosis is the universal to all humankind and is the essential "knowing" that arises from the experience of objective reality, universally experienced by all those who fully awaken and develop their consciousness. The science or path to arrive at knowing that reality for oneself, in ones own experience, is also called Gnosis, because it leads to the acquisition of one’s own Gnosis of fundamental truth.

"Gnosis is a very natural function of the consciousness, a perennis et universalis philosophy.

"Unquestionably, Gnosis is the enlightened knowledge of the divine mysteries, which are reserved for a certain elite.

"The word Gnosticism encloses within its grammatical structure the idea of systems or methods dedicated to the study of Gnosis.

  • Gnosticism implies a coherent, clear, and precise series of fundamental elements that can be verified through direct mystical experience:
  • Damnation, from a scientific and philosophic point of view
  • The Adam and Eve of the Hebraic Genesis
  • The Original Sin and the fall from Paradise
  • The mystery of Nahua Lucifer
  • The death of the myself
  • The creative powers
  • The essence of the Salvator Salvandus
  • The sexual mysteries
  • The intimate Christ
  • The igneous serpent of our magical powers
  • The descent into hell
  • The return to Eden
  • The gift of Mephistopheles

"Only the Gnostic doctrines that entail the above mentioned ontological, theological, and anthropological bases are part of genuine Gnosticism." —Samael Aun Weor, The Secret Doctrone of Anahuac

Gnosis is, in its essence, the method to escape suffering, because to experience fundamental reality, one must abandon the deluded mind, within which we all suffer intensely. Our delusions cause suffering, and prevent us from seeing the truth.

The method to experience the fundamental reality is exact and has existed for millennia. True Gnosis - conscious knowledge of this experience - is free of separatism, dogma, politics, fanaticism, and sectarianism. Gnosis comes from the divine, and cannot be bottled into the limited concepts of the intellect or mere belief.

The hallmarks of true Gnosis are seen in the world's greatest human beings: profound compassion, penetrating wisdom, and sparkling intelligence.

...there is every reason to believe that all so-called secret schools of the ancient world were branches from one philosophic tree which, with its root in heaven and its branches on the earth, is--like the spirit of man--an invisible but ever-present cause of the objectified vehicles that give it expression. The Mysteries were the channels through which this one philosophic light was disseminated, and their initiates, resplendent with intellectual and spiritual understanding, were the perfect fruitage of the divine tree, bearing witness before the material world of the recondite source of all Light and Truth. - Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928)

Gnosis has been expressed by all the world’s great saints and enlightened souls, each with their own words and voice.

All religions are precious pearls strung on the golden thread of divinity. - Samael Aun Weor

True Gnosis is universal to all mankind and can be found in all genuine religions and mystical traditions. Thus, within all of them is The Doctrine of the Synthesis: the universal teaching from which all religions have been born. This root knowledge is the essential science that every human being needs in order to know the mysteries of life and death directly, personally, through their own experience.

All religious forms are manifestations of the great Cosmic Universal Infinite Religion latent in every atom of the cosmos.

There is Gnosis in the Buddhist doctrine, in the Tantric Buddhism from Tibet, in the Zen Buddhism from Japan, in the Ch’an Buddhism of China, in Sufism, in the Whirling Dervishes, in the Egyptian, Persian, Chaldean, Pythagorean, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Inca, etc., wisdom.

We teach the synthesis of all religions, schools, orders, lodges and beliefs. Our doctrine is the Doctrine of the Synthesis. - Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony

The Heart of Gnosis

daath, the tree of knowledge (gnosis)The heart of Gnosis is the Great Arcanum, Daath (or Da'ath, which is Hebrew for "knowledge"), the vital wisdom symbolized in the story of the Garden of Eden as the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve abused that tree, and were cast out of Eden; this story is symbolic.

The ancient cultures who built the great pyramids, who developed tremendous civilizations, who possessed knowledge and technologies that even today we are unable to understand, all possessed and venerated the mystical sciences above all else. And the greatest secret, the greatest science of all, the Great Arcanum, or the great Occult Science of Alchemy, was the most important one of all. The Egyptians, the Aztecs, Mayans, Chaldeans, Hindus, Tibetans, etc. all had as their most precious treasure the Great Arcanum.

In all these civilizations, the esoteric knowledge was always reserved for an elite group. Whether in India or in Egypt or in the Mayan or Aztec civilization, the mystical knowledge was transmitted, practiced and maintained by a priesthood of carefully cultivated individuals. And these individuals were subject to the most rigorous, demanding discipline and guidelines. In order to enter into the knowledge of the Great Arcanum, they had to pass test after test, proving their sincerity and trustworthiness. Many times, they would be watched for years, even without their knowledge. Many times, they would be rejected only to see how they would react, if they would still respect the vows they had taken.

In ages previous to ours, the specific meaning of the Tree of Knowledge - or to be more exact, the Tree of the Knowledge of Purity and Pollution - was hidden until the seeker was proven worthy. Unfortunately, desire corrupts the mind; desire for power and envy for knowledge led many to threaten and even kill the holders of the hidden wisdom, thereby forcing the real Initiates to go into hiding in most places on the planet. The knowledge had to be hidden to protect it.

gnostics burned For the crime of having accompanied Jesus Christ in the holy land, and because of having celebrated our rituals within Rome’s catacombs, we, the Gnostics, faced the lions in the circus of Rome. Then later, in time, we were burnt alive in the flames of the Roman Catholic inquisition. Previously, we were the mystical Essenes of Palestine. So, we are not improvising opportunist doctrines. We were hidden for twenty centuries, but now we are returning once again to the street in order to carry on our shoulders the old, rough, and heavy cross.

Paul of Tarsus took our doctrine to Rome. Yes, he was a Gnostic Nazarene.

Jesus-Christ taught our doctrine in secrecy to his seventy disciples.

The Sethians, Peratae, Carpocratians, Nazarenes and Essenes were Gnostics. The Egyptian and Aztec mysteries, the mysteries of Rome, Troy, Carthage, of Eleusis, India, of the Druids, Pythagoreans, Kambirs, of Mithra and Persia, etc., are in their depth that which we call Gnosis or Gnosticism.

We are now once again opening the ancient Gnostic Sanctuaries, which were closed with the arrival of the Dark Age. Thus, we are now opening the authentic Initiatic Colleges.- Samael Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries

One thing anyone who seriously studies esotericism will discover is that the underlying science, though never explained openly, is unalterable; all true initiates agree on the essential nature of the science and art, regardless of their tradition or even what century they lived in. Jesus of Nazareth, Hermes Trismegistus, Moses, St. Augustine, Homer, King Solomon, the Buddha Shakyamuni, the Indian Tantric master Padmasambhava, Mohammed, Eliphas Levi, H.P. Blavatsky, the Buddha Maitreya, Rudolf Steiner, Swami Shivananda, Nicolas Flamel, Basil Valentine, Master Moira, Max Heindel, Paracelsus, Arnold Krumm Heller, Dion Fortune, and Samael Aun Weor, writers and mystics that span the last three thousand years, all agree, all describe the exact same science, though they use different symbols and dialects. Adam and Eve Expelled from EdenAnd this science is exactly the same in the mysteries of Eleusis, the Aztecs, the Maya, the Chaldeans, the Essenes, etc. This inner knowledge is the One Path spoken of by Jesus of Nazareth:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7:13

The narrow gate is the gate back to Eden; it is the gate we left through so long ago. This gate is the knowledge of the Great Arcanum. To practice the teachings contained in this most precious treasure is to step onto the true Path. This path, and the steps that make it, is defined in Hebrew by the word Daath. Daath is the hidden sphere of the Kabbalah, and the word means "knowledge" (Gnosis). It is the Tree of Knowledge (Gnosis) from the Garden of Eden, which bore the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve. The Greek word for Daath (Knowledge) is Gnosis.

There is one core teaching. This teaching has had many names and many faces, because the science and art of awakening the consciousness in a positive manner are universal and eternal, but have been hidden from the eyes of the common man. What the common man has seen is the wide gate that leads to destruction.

Many do not seem to realize that there is a vast expanse of schools, traditions and religions who have taken the core spiritual knowledge, the Great Arcanum, and corrupted it, either intentionally or ignorantly. In most cases, these are the most respected, most famous and most "popular" teachings; respected, famous and popular precisely because they do not conflict with the core psychological problems that degenerate the mind.

"Woe unto you, you knowers of the Law (Torah)! for ye have taken away the key of γνῶσις [gnosis]: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." - Jesus, from Luke 11

Black Magic appeals to the mass mind. It appeals to the principles of our civilization. It offers something for nothing. As long as there is cupidity in the human heart, it will remain as a menace to the honesty and integrity of our race. - Manly P. Hall from Magic: a Treatise on Esoteric Ethics

The hidden, inner meanings of all the great religions have always been fiercely protected and restricted, precisely because they contain tremendous power; power all too easily misunderstood and misused by the selfish, vulgar common thread of humanity. The transmission of the knowledge (gnosis) required a student to be "pious, gentle, and fearing God," or, in other words, the opposite type of person from the one who merely wants to make gold from lead, to feed his desires.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw an acceleration of the process of bringing all the streams of wisdom together once more. In her remarkable Secret Doctrine (1888), H.P. Blavatsky stated explicitly:

Helena Blavastky, author of The Secret DoctrineThese truths are in no sense put forward as a revelation; nor does the author claim the position of a revealer of mystic lore, now made public for the first time in the world's history. For what is contained in this work is to be found scattered throughout thousands of volumes embodying the scriptures of the great Asiatic and early European religions, hidden under glyph and symbol, and hitherto left unnoticed because of this veil. What is now attempted is to gather the oldest tenets together and to make of them one harmonious and unbroken whole. The sole advantage which the writer has over her predecessors, is that she need not resort to personal speculations and theories. For this work is a partial statement of what she herself has been taught by more advanced students, supplemented, in a few details only, by the results of her own study and observation. The publication of many of the facts herein stated has been rendered necessary by the wild and fanciful speculations in which many Theosophists and students of mysticism have indulged, during the last few years, in their endeavour to, as they imagined, work out a complete system of thought from the few facts previously communicated to them.

It is needless to explain that this book is not the Secret Doctrine in its entirety, but a select number of fragments of its fundamental tenets, special attention being paid to some facts which have been seized upon by various writers, and distorted out of all resemblance to the truth.

But it is perhaps desirable to state unequivocally that the teachings, however fragmentary and incomplete, contained in these volumes, belong neither to the Hindu, the Zoroastrian, the Chaldean, nor the Egyptian religion, neither to Buddhism, Islam, Judaism nor Christianity exclusively. The Secret Doctrine is the essence of all these. Sprung from it in their origins, the various religious schemes are now made to merge back into their original element (gnosis), out of which every mystery and dogma has grown, developed, and become materialised. - H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (1888)

Yet, she herself stated that the full revelation of the mysteries of Gnosis would come at a later date:

In Century the Twentieth some disciple more informed, and far better fitted, may be sent by the Masters of Wisdom to give final and irrefutable proofs that there exists a Science called Gupta-Vidya (gnosis); and that, like the once- mysterious sources of the Nile, the source of all religions and philosophies now known to the world has been for many ages forgotten and lost to men, but is at last found. - H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (1888)

The New Age

On February 4, 1962, when the Age of Aquarius arrived, humanity entered into a very new situation. With the new celestial influence we saw the arrival of a huge shift in society: mass rebellion against the old ways, sexual experimentation, giant social earthquakes shaking up all the old traditions. We also saw the arrival in the West of a strong spiritual longing, and deep thirst for true, authentic spiritual experience. These two elements:

  • 1) rebellion to tradition, and
  • 2) thirst for spiritual knowledge

are a direct effect of the influence of Aquarius, the most revolutionary sign of the zodiac. Aquarius is the water carrier, the significance of which you will see if you study the works of the aforementioned teachers. Its occult significance is knowledge, the bringer of knowledge.

"Unquestionably, at the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century, many respectable, knowledgeable, occultist intelligences transmitted unto humanity a simple, elementary teaching. It is clear that such persons only proposed to publicly teach the first letters of the secret doctrine. At that time, they did not linger too much in the analysis of the evolving and devolving laws. Rudolf Steiner already affirmed, in 1912, that they, the initiates of that epoch, had only delivered an incipient, elementary knowledge, but that much later, a superior esoteric doctrine of transcendental nature would be given unto humanity. Now, we are delivering this type of superior esoteric doctrine." - Samael Aun Weor, Hell, the Devil, and Karma (1973)


The Perfect Matrimony: The Door to Enter into Initiation by Samael Aun Weor (1950) With the new age came a sudden revealing of all the hidden knowledge. The doors to the mysteries were thrown open so that humanity can save itself from itself. This revelation was initiated by the first public exposure of the ancient esoteric knowledge: the publication of Samael Aun Weor's The Perfect Matrimony in the year 1950. The appearance of this book sparked a wildfire in the spiritual communities of that time; -many were shocked, many were outraged, and many were deeply inspired. The Roman Catholic Church sought to have Samael arrested; and he was. Many people threatened to kill him; several attempts were made against his life. And yet, in the end, the release of this book sprouted the International Gnostic Movement, a widespread and diversified collection of schools, teachers, and students whose message has now spread to every continent on the planet.

When the true esoteric knowledge, the genuine path to the Self-realization of the Being, was revealed, there came a blinding blizzard of false knowledge, the "wolves in sheep skin" who purposely or unconsciously sought to subvert the thirst of humanity in order to feed their own lust, pride, greed, vanity, etc. So now we can easily find a thousand books about "esoteric teachings" but very, very few are genuine. We can find several hundred books about "esoteric Tantra" but any educated student can easily see that they are all 100% Black Magic. Nowadays we can find many teachers who supposedly teach the "hidden knowledge," but how do we know what is true and real, and what is a deception of the ego in men?

With the keys revealed in the works of Samael Aun Weor, anyone can begin to determine what is true and what is not in any teaching, from any time or place. As he says in The Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology,

The golden door of wisdom can transform itself into the wide door and broad path which leads to destruction, the door of magical arts practiced with egotistical ends. We are in the Age of Kali-Yuga, the Iron Age, the Black Age, and all the students of occultism are predisposed to becoming lost in the black path. It is astonishing to see the mistaken concept held by the "little brothers" regarding occultism and the ease with which they believe they can reach the door and cross the threshold of mystery without great sacrifice.

The true and deep gnosis of Alchemy, Kabbalah, Esoteric Psychology, and Meditation is the knowledge that transforms the common human being into a Master, an Angel, a Buddha. To achieve such a tremendous transformation is not a matter of belief or concept: it is a complete psychological revolution, a revolution of the whole person, on every level. It is an exact science, and it is filled with dangers from within and without. Each step holds the potential for falling from the path, so it takes great care and great attention. The path is One Path, the same gnosis taught by every Christified Master, the same path that illuminated all the angels and buddhas of every tradition, no matter what culture or religion or age they blossomed from.

"It is impossible to bring souls into the Light without the Mysteries [gnosis] of the Light-kingdom." -Jesus, from The Pistis Sophia (ch 103)

Samael Aun Weor wrote over seventy books illuminating gnosis, the path to the Self-realization of the Being. His books are filled with practical exercises and detailed instructions regarding the many requirements to entering into true and genuine Initiation. He founded the International Gnostic Movement and instituted many levels of instruction and assistance for humanity. His entire life was dedicated to offering to humanity the essential keys we need in order to awaken the consciousness. He was known to be very rigorous in his teaching method and demanding in his guidance, as he fully understood the dangers of the path and the many pitfalls that exist within our own minds. Yet, he did not want followers or admirers: he wanted only to help us become free of suffering.

"...we advise our disciples not to follow anyone. Let our disciples follow their own Self. Each of our disciples has to follow their resplendent and luminous Inner Being. Each one has to adore their own “I Am.” We beg, beseech, our disciples not to follow us. We do not want henchmen or followers. We have written this book so that you, our friends, listen to your own internal Master, your resplendent “I AM.” The Innermost is your Master: follow Him. [...] We humans are more or less imperfect, thus I, the one who writes this book, am not anyone’s master, and I beg people to not follow me; I am an imperfect human just like anyone else, and it is an error to follow someone who is imperfect. Let every one follow their “I Am.”" - Samael Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries

Real Gnosis is personal, intimate, and has nothing to do with groups, schools, movements, or following anyone other than the divinity within each of us.

"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless... grow in grace, and in the Gnosis of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." - 2 Peter 3