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 Greek term γνῶσις 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 Gnostic Academy of Chicago 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:
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Gnostic articles on practical spirituality: the science, mysticism, art, and philosophy of conscious living.