Mysticism in the Gnostic GospelsQUESTION: Is there mysticism in the Gnostic gospels?ANSWER:
The apparent mysticism in the Gnostic gospels is part of the attraction. The appeal to self-centeredness, individualism, and the willingness to be told what is most gratifying draws in those who are in search of meaning.
The Gnostic gospels, a set of 52 texts differ from Christianity and speak of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance.
When speaking of Jesus, Gnostics believe He comes as a guide who opens spiritual understanding.
Christians believe Jesus is Lord, the Son of God and yet the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognized Him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source, stating, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out...He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him."
One of the main things which separated the Gnostics from orthodox Christians was the mysticism of their beliefs. It began with their views of God and creation. They viewed the One which they called the true God as having a feminine part which was the Spirit. In accord, they also held that Jesus came from God and the Spirit to form the Trinity.
In the Gnostic version of creation of the world the Spirit of God is referred to as the Wisdom of God or Sophia who is also a feminine creative force.
The Gnostic's differ with the orthodox Christians regarding the salvation of man and the person of Jesus. They disagreed with the theory that man was sinful by nature, but believed man erred through ignorance; by knowledge, man could correct his ways and gain salvation. The special knowledge which the Gnostics subscribed to was known as "gnois."
Gnois was not a logical type of knowledge as one might gain in the study of mathematics or chemistry, but it was an intuitive or reflexive type of knowledge which comes from the study of man's inner self or soul. Any other knowledge did not concern the Gnostics. They called this gnois illuminated Logos because they believed it led to man's salvation.
The Gnostics claimed Jesus taught them secret knowledge which he did not share with the general congregation of the Church and many Gnostics scoffed at the idea of a virgin birth which other Christians held.
Gnosticism is more of an introspective teaching or philosophy to live by. It is quite different to say Jesus talked of the mind as being a light which serves as a personal guide than to quote Him as saying, "Do not hide your light under a basket."
Thus one can say that mysticism plays a role in the belief of the Gnostic.