Gnosticism is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish milieus in the first and second century CE. This Divine spark could be liberated by gnosis of this Divine spark, the Gnostic ideas and systems flourished in Mediterranean in the second century CE, in conjunction with and influenced by the early Christian movements and Middle Platonism. In the Persian Empire Gnosticism spread as far as China with Manicheism, a major question in scholarly research is the qualification of Gnosticism, based on the study of its texts, as either an interreligious phenomenon or as an independent religion. The word Gnosticism is a construction, from the Greek word gnosis. Gnosis refers to knowledge based on experience or perception. In a religious context, gnosis is mystical or esoteric knowledge based on direct participation with the divine, in most Gnostic systems the sufficient cause of salvation is this knowledge of the divine. It is a knowing, comparable to that encouraged by Plotinus. With gnosis comes a fuller insight, and gives an understanding of the deeper meanings of doctrines, scriptures. The usual meaning of gnostikos in Classical Greek texts is learned or intellectual, platos use of learned is fairly typical of Classical texts. By the Hellenistic period, it began to also be associated with Greco-Roman mysteries, the adjective is not used in the New Testament, but Clement of Alexandria speaks of the learned Christian in complimentary terms. The use of gnostikos in relation to heresy originates with interpreters of Irenaeus, some scholars consider that Irenaeus sometimes uses gnostikos to simply mean intellectual, whereas his mention of the intellectual sect is a specific designation. The term Gnosticism was derived from the use of the Greek adjective gnostikos by St. Irenaeus to describe the school of Valentinus as he legomene gnostike haeresis the heresy called Learned, the Syrian-Egyptian traditions postulate a remote, supreme Godhead, the Monad. From this highest divinity emanate lower divine beings, known as Aeons, the Demiurg, one of those Aeons, creates the physical world. Divine elements fall into the realm, and are locked within human beings. This divine element returns to the realm when Gnosis, esoteric or intuitive knowledge of the divine element within is obtained. Gnostic systems postulate a dualism between God and the world, varying from the radical dualist systems of Manicheanism to the dualism of classic gnostic movements. Radical dualism, or absolute dualism, posits two co-equal divine forces, while in mitigated dualism one of the two principles is in some way inferior to the other, in qualified monism the second entity may be divine or semi-divine. Valentinian Gnosticism is a form of monism, expressed in terms previously used in a dualistic manner, Gnostics tended toward asceticism, especially in their sexual and dietary practice
Image: Lion faced deity
Manicheanism priests writing at their desks, with panel inscription in Sogdian. Manuscript from Khocho, Tarim Basin.