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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K028-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Gnosticism comprises a loosely associated group of teachers, teachings and sects which professed to offer ‘gnosis’, saving knowledge or enlightenment, conveyed in various myths which sought to explain the origin of the world and of the human soul and the destiny of the latter. Everything originated from a transcendent spiritual power; but corruption set in and inferior powers emerged, resulting in the creation of the material world in which the human spirit is now imprisoned. Salvation is sought by cultivating the inner life while neglecting the body and social duties unconnected with the cult. The Gnostic movement emerged in the first and second centuries ad and was seen as a rival to orthodox Christianity, though in fact some Gnostic sects were more closely linked with Judaism or with Iranian religion. By the fourth century its influence was waning, but it persisted with sporadic revivals into the Middle Ages.

Citing this article:
Stead, Christopher. Gnosticism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K028-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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