Gnosis signifies knowledge from experience. Gnosticism, as a field of study, pertains to all the ancient schools of mysteries from both East and West, whose scriptures encompass the practical science of awakening consciousness. Gnosis is not isolated to the first Christians, but permeates all times, cultures, and spaces, for while consciousness is universal, the means of expressing such experiential wisdom of the divine is temporal and idiosyncratic to the language, mentality, and needs of a particular society.
Gnosis is what we have verified through experience and experimentation, predicated upon practical methods and personal effort. It is never the product of a belief system, of adopting a religious or mystical attitude, demeanor, or behavior. It is never achieved through attendance, adherence to, or acceptance from a group, by believing in doctrine or creed. It is the flowering and natural unfolding of the soul, which is created and developed when the proper causes and conditions have been met.
Just as there are laws that govern the physical universe, so too are there spiritual laws, causes, and methods to originate the soul: the awakening of the consciousness.
Therefore, the term gnosis is synonymous with genuine faith. Faith has nothing to do with belief, with accepting or rejecting a concept in the mind or upholding a sentiment in the heart. Faith is what we know from facts, from witnessing and understanding reality. Belief takes no effort to foster or develop, whereas the awakening of consciousness and divine experience requires tremendous discipline and the application of spiritual works.
Many religious traditions today fail to recognize this distinction, yet it constitutes an essential dynamic for genuine spirituality as taught within the ancient mystery schools:
"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17).
"Here we think a note on faith should be of interest. Initiates say its meaning has been misunderstood. Faith, as the world uses it, possesses no spiritual nature; though in the secondary system it means power and energy applied to action. All success in Yoga comes from this application; for the true quality of faith is a Solar force that illumines the mind and attracts to it atoms of power and energy. More human wrecks have resulted from the misconception of this quality than man realises." -M., The Dayspring of Youth
Esoteric schools have always represented the highest divinity by the sun, the Platonic or Solar Logos, the Absolute Good or creative Verb that initiates and sustains any cosmos. Therefore, the realization of divine knowledge is a solar quality, distinguished by the luminosity of character, the brilliance of conduct, and the limitless power of any master who has fully developed divinity within themselves. The solar quality of faith can only be actualized through practical spirituality, since it indicates the complete application of one's energies and efforts to the awakening of consciousness.
The opposite of solar faith is lunar belief. The moon represents all that is mechanical, repetitious, and destitute of life. Just as divinity originates all life, the moon is the culmination of the process of death; it is a dead planet. Any lunar satellite operates like a parasite of any planet or sun. Individuals who only cultivate theories are like the moon, empty, cold, and cadaverous, borrowing the light of insight from others in the same manner that a vampire gains its vitality from stealing and sucking blood. They have no real individuality or spiritual understanding born from experience; they have to borrow or merely repeat what others have learned, what the prophets said, what certain teachers have written, or what groups have discussed, but have no real cognizance of the truths contained within religion. Such persons are completely mechanical and conditioned by their own negative habits, obscuring the light of consciousness in the same manner as a solar eclipse.
While the sun of knowledge gives life, the beliefs and theories of humanity have thrust it into limbo, a mechanical, psychological slumber wherein the consciousness is hypnotized and incapable of acting on its own. Theories fascinate, debilitate, and intoxicate. High on theories, humanity has precipitated itself towards complete degeneration, with all of its wars, prostitution, and modern-day slavery. Since the reality of suffering is too intense for most people to confront, belief has been used to opiate the masses and to fundamentally ignore its tragic and terrible trajectory.
Therefore, the great initiates have always used the moon to symbolize all the complicated, contradictory, and convoluted theories of the masses that perpetuate mistaken views and sorrow. When an individual bases him or herself upon the assumption that one already knows truth, such a person will never strive in the implementation of solar values and the elimination of the causes of suffering. Therefore with just reason did Jesus of Nazareth state, "With patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19), for it is only through patiently working with effective spiritual methods that one can develop one's solar consciousness.
When individuals are not willing to experiment, test, and verify spiritual truths, they ensure the repetition of their sorrows, dramas, comedies, and tragedies of life, the perils of fortune sung so painfully in Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.
No real spiritual knowledge can be realized without efforts and change, for as Christ taught in the Gospel of Thomas, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find."
Practice, therefore, and not theories, produce radical changes and the experience of the real. If you wish to experience divinity, you must enact the proper causes for its fruition. This is why we offer so many spiritual practices in this tradition. While numerous spiritual schools exclusively focus on memorization, recitation, and labyrinthine discussions of esoteric philosophy, the Chicagoland Gnostic Academy and other Gnostic institutions integrate profound study with conscious action. It is through precise methods that one can see concrete results and achieve the complete development of the human being. We invite you towards the realization of your intimate potential and the full expression of your innermost divinity, here and now.
For further study, please see the following resources on practical spirituality:
Students who approach gnosticism are often overwhelmed by the vastness and profundity of its knowledge. Presented with a plethora of teachings, techniques, and exercises, beginning practitioners normally experience a great sense of intimidation, disorientation, and longing. While recognizing the need to change and overcome the internal causes of affliction, newcomers usually do not know how or where to begin their process of transforming suffering and acquiring practical, personal knowledge of divinity.
The answer to such confusion, bewilderment, and aspiration is to reflect within:
“In the beginning, the esotericist does not know where to start. He feels the necessity of working on himself but is completely disoriented. Yet, if we take advantage of the critical moments, of the more unpleasant situations, the most adverse instances, we shall then discover, if we are alert, our outstanding defects, the “I’s” that we must urgently disintegrate.” —Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
All suffering and happiness come from within. To find liberation, we must perceive the obscurations that prevent the light of divinity from reflecting within our inner nature. By studying ourselves, our identity, our sense of self in the most difficult circumstances, we acquire knowledge of that which imprisons the mind, the soul, the consciousness. By comprehending and removing the psychological conditions that afflict us, we in turn live life with greater serenity, understanding, and contentment.
By seeing ourselves as we are, exploring the reasons for why we suffer, and by transforming our most hidden reactions to adverse circumstances, we open the doorway to genuine knowledge of the mysteries of life and death. Through learning to give birth to spiritual perception and compassionately serving others, we establish the foundations by which to receive divine favor.
To aid in such a process, gnosticism offers extensive instruction on spiritual psychology, Hebraic kabbalah, medieval alchemy, ceremonial magic, tantrism, prayers, astrology, tarot, kundalini, meditation, astral projection, dream yoga, and more. All of these teachings form one unique whole, the synthesis of the “straight and narrow gate that leads to life” that “few find” (Matthew 7:14). None of these instructions are isolated or unrelated, but constitute an integral method for achieving the full awakening, development, and birth of the consciousness. Therefore, all aspects of the teaching are important.
However, the gnostic teachings should be approached in accordance with the disposition and needs of the student. There is no set, perfect curriculum by which to approach gnosis, since a “one-size-fits-all” for developing the soul does not exist. This is why, in this tradition, so many books have been written on diverse topics, to address a wide variety of spiritual subjects, interests, and needs. While gnosis encompasses many forms of esoteric wisdom, it is a unique, indivisible, and inclusive system, devoid of the speculations, theories, and exclusivity of spiritual schools that study one form of knowledge at the expense and rejection of the others. What matters is that the student is interested in a particular subject, seeks to move beyond the limitations of scholasticism, theory, dogmatism, and debate, and practices with the longing and aspiration for change.
Gnosis is an introduction to an infinite science, and should be approached with patience, close attention, and application to one's daily life. It is impossible to fully comprehend the entire teaching in a short span of time, but must be integrated within one's routines and life gradually. Study should be accompanied with strong application and practice of the methods. We recommend that you approach these studies with the purpose of learning how to change yourself, how to comprehend the psychological causes of suffering. Meditation is the best means for accomplishing deep, lasting, internal change.
Below are recommendations for where to start if you are new to gnosticism, as well as a general sequence of instruction that you can follow on our courses page. These lectures and courses help prepare students to comprehend and apply the practice of meditation in their own lives.
This is by no means an exhaustive or mandatory list, since students are always welcome to study whatever subjects resonate most with their level of understanding, interests, and needs.
"Our Gnostic Church is the Transcended Church. This church is found in the Superior Worlds." -Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
The Gnostic Church was established by Jesus of Nazareth in accordance with the rites of Melchizedek. The Apostle Peter, Patar, or Cephas, whose name means "stone," became the foundation for the Gnostic Church in the physical world, and symbolically represents the foundation for any spiritual practitioner entering into the Christic mysteries. Peter, Patar, with its three radical letters: P-T-R, represents a profound and hidden teaching. "Pater" is the Father or divinity within man; "T" is the mystical crossing of the apostle's gold and silver keys, granting access to the divine kingdom and demonstrating the marriage of masculine (solar) and feminine (lunar) principles in the ancient metallurgic science of holy alchemy. The cross also symbolizes the purification and crucifixion of lower, animal passions in obedience to divine will. Lastly, "R" signifies the Egyptian Ra, the solar deity, creator Logos or Word of the Gnostics, personified and incarnated within the Master Jesus, the Son or Sun of God, "the light of the world" (John 8:12).
While the Gnostic Church has existed in the physical world, the physical church is merely a material expression of the universal Christian Gnostic Church upheld by the great masters, priests, bishops, and patriarchs within the superior dimensions of nature. These supra-sensible regions are accessible through awakened consciousness within the dream state, which can only become realized within us through practical works and the application of a highly technical, mystical, and scientific methodology.
The Roman sect is a derivation of or deviation from the Gnostic Church, resulting from the dogmatism, fanaticism, and ignorance of mistaken individuals whose adherence to belief without evidence has obscured the experiential dimension of the nature of religion (Latin: religare, reunion with divinity). The Gnostic Church, on the other hand, has been secretly maintained by purified souls who, through rigorous esoteric discipline, have obtained personal knowledge of the divine mysteries as well as the specific means of acquiring that direct knowledge for oneself.
The Greek word gnosis signifies conscious experience devoid of theory, concept, belief, or ideation, a state of awakened, objective perception of the realities of life and death on the physical and spiritual planes. The Greek word myein, the root of the word mystery, means "to close the eyes" of external, sensory perception in order to develop inner, spiritual sight through the science of meditation. A person of any race, culture, or creed may realize their divine nature by closing their eyes to belief, theory, materialism and illusions, and through meditation, awaken their complete human potential, thereby becoming a mystikos or "initiate": one initiated into a new way of life and being.
Just as Jesus of Nazareth fasted for forty days and forty nights within the wilderness by engaging himself in contemplation, so we too, through learning to fast to our egotistical desires and inferior psychological qualities, may arrive at the threshold and amphitheater of cosmic wisdom. Likewise by following the example of Christ through his life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection, we too, by divine will and grace, may conquer temptation within ourselves and thereby overcome the inherent causes of suffering. This is "the straight and narrow gate that leadeth unto life" (Matthew 7:14) and the complete development of the human being.
The mysteries of the Gnostic Church teach the difficult path of selfless service leading to complete liberation, a road traversed by very few. However, this road was taken by the greatest and most venerated human beings our humanity has ever known: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, the Prophets, and the great masters whose example and teachings have crystallized into the major religions of the world today. Thus have all the great messengers, saints, and disciples of this universal mystery school defined themselves by their higher moral, ethical, and spiritual caliber in contrast to the common, unconscious, and suffering masses, whom they seek to serve out of mercy, compassion, and love.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. -Corinthians 2:7-8
The founding of Christianity was marked by the divergence of two different types of individuals: one initiated into the wisdom of God from direct experience, and the other merely accepting the testimonies of others based on dogma and hear-say, religious fanatics who would eventually use belief and superstition to manipulate others in order to gain power. The esoteric or secret teachings of Christianity were forced underground as those within the public or exoteric doctrine gained prominence and influence for political and personal means. Dion Fortune, famous author of The Mystical Qabalah, wrote the following regarding the split between the Gnostic and the orthodox traditions:
There naturally sprang up a keen rivalry between the two types of Christians; those who had accepted the teaching of Our Lord without any previous Mystery-training depended entirely upon spiritual intuition and good works; those who were already accustomed to the methods of the Mysteries sought to express the Christian truths in the language of the esoteric philosophy of their day. The first chapter of the Gospel according to John is an excellent example of the process whereby men already highly trained in mystical knowledge correlated the new teaching with that which was already familiar to them. In this Gospel we see the influence of the Greek Schools of initiation, but in the Apocalypse we see the influence of Qabalistic thought.
The Gnostic Schools were the Christian Mysteries, made by initiates of other Mystery Schools who had become converted to Christianity and sought to establish within the Christian dispensation the methods to which they were accustomed.
In the struggle between the two types of Christians, the initiates and the non-initiates, the latter eventually gained the day, and forthwith the order for persecution and abolition went forth against the Mysteries of Jesus. The orthodox element then gradually developed, as was inevitable, something of a Mystery System of their own in the sacraments, which are ritual magic pure and simple, as is agreed even by such an authority as Evelyn Underhill.
But with the development of the sacramental system did not, unfortunately, go the metaphysical interpretation thereof. Superstition has been defined as the use of a form whose significance has been forgotten. The sacraments, instead of being the symbol-systems of the Mysteries of Jesus, approach perilously near to vain observance in the hands of those who regard them with superstitious awe rather than an understanding of their psychological and esoteric significance.
Consequently there is an unbridged gulf in our modern Christianity between the mysticism of its deep spiritual truths and the symbolic and magical ceremonial of its ritual. This gulf it is the task of the modern Mystery Schools to bridge. These, however, have in many cases re-illumined their fires at an Eastern altar, so that the bridge they build does not lead to the Christian contacts of the West. Those of their followers who seek initiation, instead of having revealed to them the deeper issues of their own faith, have to change their religion and follow other Masters.
How are we of the West, therefore, to bridge this gulf? We must do what the original gnostics did: seek to express in the metaphysical language of the Mysteries the teachings of Our Lord, and thereby establish an esoteric Christian School—the Initiation of the West. The Gnostics drew their inspiration from two main sources: the Mysteries of Greece and the Mysticism of Israel, the Qabalah, with which Our Lord was obviously very familiar. These are the sources wherein we shall find the mental and magical interpretation of our religion which shall supply the missing keys.
The elements which were discarded from Christianity must be replaced if it is to become a true Wisdom Religion, and unless it can answer to the needs of the intellect as well as of the heart, those who need the food of the intellect rather than the heart will seek it elsewhere, and we cannot blame them. —Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago maintains the esoteric Christian tradition of the Gnostic Church as established by Jesus of Nazareth (Master Aberamentho) through his patriarchs, bishops, deacons, and priests. This tradition has been maintained by the gnostic institutions founded by Samael Aun Weor, as well as the awakened masters within the superior dimensions of nature. As Samael Aun Weor stated:
The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is not of this world; he himself said it, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In the mountain of the living God, there is a church, invisible to the eyes of the flesh, but visible to the eyes of the soul and the spirit. That is the primeval Gnostic Church, to which Christ and the prophets belong.
That church has its bishops, archbishops, deacons, subdeacons, and priests who officiate at the altar of the living God. The patriarch of that invisible church is Jesus Christ.
All Christians can go in soul and spirit (through astral projection) to that church.
In chapters four and five of this book we teach the secret to consciously exit the body and thus visit any distant land on the Earth.
All humans can also visit the Gnostic Church during sleep (in the astral plane, the fifth dimension). There in that holy church, we see the Virgin of Carmel together with her holy angels.
All the great saints of the church of God visit the Gnostic Church. Fridays and Sundays in the aurora there are masses and communions. By following the teachings given in chapters four and five of this book, all Christians can attend these masses and receive the communion of bread and wine.
In that church, all the devotees will be taught to prophesize.
In the Gnostic Church, we see Christ seated on his throne, and all the Gnostics can converse with him personally.
All the sufferings of Mary occurred when she married Joseph, the priest.
Mary was initiated in the mysteries of Egypt.
In the Gnostic Church, Christians learn how to prophesize.
What is important is to follow the path of perfect sanctity and chastity.
In our books entitled “The Perfect Matrimony” and “The Revolution of Beelzebub,” we thoroughly study the great mysteries of sex. In those books, we teach the greatest secrets of the universe.
May peace be to all human beings. (This chapter is from The Virgin of Carmel (1952) by Samael Aun Weor).
If you are interested in becoming a member of our Gnostic Church, you can first participate in a series of preparatory courses and introductory classes on the foundations, practices, and principles of this tradition.
For more information about the Gnostic Church, particularly its foundation within the Hebraic Kabbalah, Egyptian ceremonial magic, and the Greek mysteries, see the following resources:
The Greek word "gnosis" refers to the direct experiential knowledge of fundamental truths. Gnosis is not limited to conceptual theory, dogma or belief. In its universality of application, gnosticism consists of a vast body of esoteric writings across numerous cultures and has been expressed throughout all of the world's great religions and mystical traditions. Although each tradition has been taught differently according to the language, customs and needs of each culture, they in truth point to one science, whose sole objective is to free the consciousness from suffering.
As a tradition, gnosticism seeks to impart unto aspirants key scientific methods for attaining genuine spiritual growth. All religions have taught such techniques, albeit in veiled and often cryptic forms throughout the religious scriptures. While the great teachers and spiritual guides of humanity offered many rituals, prayers and mystical practices to the public masses, much of their essential teachings have only been delivered from mouth to ear throughout an unbroken chain of secretive transmission between master and disciple. As a result, the very methods to procure profound spiritual change and enlightenment were only taught in a rudimentary form in public religion, whereas practitioners dedicated to the most rigorous esoteric disciplines secretly conserved and developed such techniques unbeknownst to a public blindly enamored by fanaticism, institutionalization, and dogmas.
Despite scholastic endeavors, such enigmatic methodologies have remained hidden within both eastern and western religious writings in allegorical form, unacknowledged and unexplained except through the daring of a few esoteric authors in the most recent centuries. The first revelations of this teaching are related with the emergence of the Western Esoteric Tradition, the writings of Manly P. Hall, the Anthroposophical works of Rudolf Steiner, and the esoteric teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky. However, this knowledge was also expressed by numerous accomplished yogis and authors of the eastern traditions, including the eminent Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Swami Sivananda, Yogananda, Vivekananda, and other great spiritual practitioners of eastern mysticism.
Yet despite their tremendous contributions to humanity, these initiates have only served to precede a much greater and revolutionary spiritual knowledge encompassing both western and eastern esoteric philosophies, and which has only been unveiled within the past few decades. Such knowledge embodies the most ancient and radical techniques for attaining spiritual transformation, and is now being disseminated worldwide in part of a humanitarian effort to alleviate the suffering of humanity.
This rare and unprecedented symbiosis of both eastern and western doctrines is found precisely in the writings of Samael Aun Weor, who, as an expositor of practical spirituality, expressed a highly synthetic teaching about the basis of religion that has served as the culmination of the rich and highly diverse tradition of esoteric thought. At the Gnostic Academy of Chicago, we study his writings precisely for their clarity, profundity, and pragmatism, in contrast with the literature of many philosophical, mystical, and spiritual systems that deliver complicated theories while lacking the practical dimension for acquiring deep personal change.
In conjunction with the works of Samael Aun Weor, we also study and teach from some of the most well-known literary monuments within esotericism, including Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's Theosophical writings, the Anthroposophical works of Rudolf Steiner, the Fourth Way teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky, the Kabbalistic and Initiatic literary canon of Dion Fortune and Manly P. Hall, the sacred Buddhist manuals of Padmasambhava, Tsong Khapa, Shantideva, and Nagarjuna, the occult middle eastern wisdom of the Holy Qur'an and mystical Sufi writings, the Eastern and Western Esoteric Traditions, etc.
We welcome you, from whatever denomination, faith or creed, to the study of this liberating mystical knowledge and the intimate realization of your divine potential.
If you would like to know more about this tradition, listen to an introductory lecture: The Spiritual Seed (with accompanying notes and slides).
Or have a look at our introductory course: Fundamentals of Gnosticism.
Learn about the principles of our movement and how to become a member of our Gnostic Church.
For help navigating our resources, see Where to Start?
To familiarize yourself with the breadth and depth of subjects we study within universal gnosticism, you may specifically refer to the Introductory Information section of gnosticteachings.org.
May the light and peace of divinity reign within your heart!
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
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