The term Gnosticism covers a broad spectrum of spiritual beliefs and practices, as well as the mystery schools that taught them. The teachings and practice of Gnosticism range from pre-Christian pagan forms of Gnostic thought to those that may rightly be called Gnostic Christianity, which represent the deeper spiritual and mystical currents of the original Christian movement. Within Gnosticism we find diverse spiritual influences, from those of the ancient mystery traditions of Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia, to those of Jewish mysticism and the Essences, and some would even include influences of Hinduism and Buddhism from the East. Yet, there is one principle that weaves all of these influences together and that unites the many traditions of Gnosticism—the idea of gnosis, from which the terms Gnosticism and Gnostic are derived.
Gnosis literally means "knowledge," but not in the modern context of the word, which implies rational knowledge or an accumulation of information about a subject. Rather, gnosis signifies an opening of consciousness to new dimensions, the knowledge of ultimate realities and the play of metaphysical forces that comes through states of higher consciousness. It implies spiritual intuition or insight, knowledge acquired through direct spiritual or mystical experience and something more—a state of self-realization, divine illumination or enlightenment. Essentially, a Gnostic is a person who has acquired gnosis. Gnosticism represents spiritual teachings and practices founded upon gnosis that can help a person enter into the Gnostic experience.
Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, and especially in the past several decades, many Western peoples have turned to Eastern religions, disappointed by exoteric forms of Christianity and the dogmatic creeds and doctrines they have engendered. Eastern religions have attracted them due to the emphasis on direct spiritual or mystical experience of the Divine, knowledge of the more subtle and sublime metaphysical dimensions of reality and the promise of union with the Divine or enlightenment. However, typically speaking, in the midst of their sacred quest they have had no idea that such an alternative exists much closer to home, or that within their own Western tradition they could find deeper spiritual and mystical teachings of enlightenment—hence Mystical or Gnostic Christianity.
It is ironic, actually, that most books on Gnosticism talk about Gnosticism and gnosis, but do not actually impart Gnostic teachings and practices, or provide the reader with anything practical to use in his or her spiritual life. While speaking about a spirituality founded on direct spiritual or mystical experience, nothing is given to the reader to help them enter the Gnostic experience. Living Gnosis: A Practical Guide to Gnostic Christianity is written to give the reader insight into Gnostic wisdom and to provide essential teachings and practices that can lead to the Gnostic experience.
Living Gnosis gives insight into the origins of Gnosticism, but rather than attempt any detailed historical analysis of Gnosticism or of the diverse ancient Gnostic traditions, Living Gnosis focuses upon a modern living tradition of Gnostic Christianity—Sophian Gnosticism.
The Sophian Tradition of Gnostic Christianity is said to have emerged in the seventeenth century, during what has been called the "Rosicrucian enlightenment period," and represents a weave of Rosicrucian philosophy, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Kabbalah. Its essence is a Christian Kabbalah. Until recently it has been an exclusively oral tradition, preserved by a relatively small lineage of Gnostic initiates (a "secret society"), and according to legend traces its roots to an apostolic succession said to have begun with St. Mary Magdalene. In truth, the conception of Sophian Gnosticism is enshrouded in mystery and no one actually knows its origin. Yet it represents an integral, beautiful, and powerful body of Western enlightenment—a living Path to Gnosis (Divine Illumination).
Essentially, the path to gnosis is an adventure in consciousness—a mystical journey of self-realization and union with God. Perhaps an actual self-realization and unification with God may not be the aim of all truth-seekers in this lifetime; all individuals may not feel called to actually take up the spiritual life and practice of Christian Gnosticism. Nevertheless, Gnostic wisdom can benefit any spiritual seeker. Living Gnosis was written to provide basic Sophian teachings on the Gnostic Gospel and its spiritual implications, including the Gnostic idea of Christ and the sacred relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Even more, it shares essential principles of the spiritual life and practice that are useful to anyone. It is written as an introduction to Gnostic Christianity, one that is practical and focuses on teachings that can empower the spiritual life of any truth-seeker.
In Living Gnosis the reader will find Gnostic teachings on the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, but the reader will also find essential spiritual practices, including detailed teachings on the use of spiritual affirmations, creative visualization, and how to succeed in both mundane and spiritual endeavors. What is Living Gnosis? It is the knowledge of truth that will empower you and set you free!