Gnosticism adapted Christian symbols and terminology to suit itself. There were many different strains of Gnosticism, with some sects having beliefs that contradicted other sects. For instance, some sects taught sexual abstinence, while some taught indulgence of any sex act, while some only allowed homosexuality. Most taught women were evil, while some allowed women ordination in their priesthood. But nevertheless, they all shared some core beliefs. In all Gnostic literature there is the recurring them of light battling darkness, and trying to obtain "light". Gnostics believed in attaining enlightenment (the gnosis, lit. "Knowledge") as a means for salvation and reject the idea of salvation by the grace of Christ. They believe all matter is evil, created by an evil god. They usually believe in reincarnation, and that the soul is reincarnated until it achieves perfection through the "gnosis". In these respects, they are much closer to being Hindus or Buddhists than Christians. Their main deity was a serpent god called "Abraxas" (ah-BRA-ha) or "Ophite". Abraxas is where the ancient magic word "abracadabra" comes from.

Another trait was a strange sort of character inversion. The villains of the Old Testament became the heroes, and vice versa. For instance Simon Magus, who was a rival of St. Paul in Acts, was an important figure in the Gnostic religion. Rather than seeing him as a false teacher, the Gnostics thought he was a prophet, and some sects even worshiped Simon Magus as god. Magic played a big part in Gnosticism. The book Ancient Christian Magic is a catalog of Gnostic spells and sorcery. Anyone who wants a real look into what Gnosticism was really like should read this book. In it are spells for love money and revenge. In one surviving papyrus containing a Gnostic love spell, the sorcerer commands the victim to become completely obsessed with the him and leave her husband and children. Another spell calls for revenge on an enemy. Another uses a waxen image of an ape. Clearly, these are things no Christian would be part of! No one in their right mind can believe Jesus would want people to cast spells for revenge or to make women leave their husbands. Gnosticism is an attempt to try to have both Christianity and Paganism, and failing. The spells of the Gnostics are things of the superstitious, not the enlightened. In areas where only Gnostic Christians were known, the word "Christian" became synonymous with sorcerer to the Pagans. One thing Gnosticism clearly is not is an early or "true" form of Christianity. The symbol of the Gnostics was a serpent biting it’s own tail to form a circle. This was because in ancient times Pagans believed a serpent could hold it’s own tail and roll along like a wheel. So even the symbol of Gnosticism is not a symbol of enlightenment...but superstition!

Some Gnostic groups were/are:

The Marcionites The founder was Marcion (100-160 A.D.), a ship owner who lived on the Black Sea. He is considered the first Gnostic Church father. Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament (Jehovah), the Demiurge, was a false god. Jesus was sent by the real god to rescue mankind from false teaching and destroy the Demiurge. Marcion was excommunicated from the Christian church by his own father (a Bishop) for adultery. Marcion later started his own Gnostic church which completely rejected the Old Testament (because Marcion was an anti-Semite) and only accepted Marcion’s re-written Luke and 10 epistles of Paul as scripture. The sect was later absorbed into the Manicheans. The Yezidis Originated in Persia, probably around the 6th century A.D. Originally they were not classified as a Gnostic sect by scholars, but the two are so similar that many modern authorities are reclassifying the Yezidis as Gnostic.

The Yezidis are a sect of Kurds that worship Satan in the form of a Peacock, called "Melek Taus" who they believe created the universe, and is a "god of good". They believe Jesus to be only a human prophet, whom they think carries their souls to heaven on a silver tray to be with Satan after they die. There are currently 30,000 Yezidi living in Germany. They number about 800,000 worldwide and live thorough out Turkey, Armenia, Iraq and Iran. The Yezidi believe they are not the "children of Adam" as the rest of humanity is, but believe they are descendants of the demon Azazel. Some ancient sources describe the founder of the Yezidis to have been a Christian (probably a Gnostic Christian) in charge of a library.

The Mandeans Originating in the 2nd century A.D., along with the Yezidis, it is one of two ancient Gnostic sects that made it into the 21st century. The Mandeans live in Southern Iraq and South Western Iran. The Mandeans reject Jesus as the Christ and are hostile towards him. Clearly, this indicates they were created as a rebellion against Orthodox Christianity as the other Gnostic sects. They believe that god is a hermaphrodite, that John the Baptist was the true messiah and practice frequent baptisms in their rituals.

The Manicheans This sect revered a Persian named Mani, who claimed he was the incarnation of the Holy Ghost. Started in 230 A.D. in Persia (Iran), it spread throughout the Roman Empire. It survived in Tajikistan until the 13th century. Mani, the founder of the sect was killed by Zoroastrians in 276 A.D. Unlike Jesus, he did not rise from the dead, proving his claim to be the Holy Ghost false¼except apparently to the Manichans. Manicheans practiced abstinence, and believed that all matter was evil but inside each person was imprisoned a soul, a spark of the "divine light". Only after many incarnations could a person achieve salvation. Manicheanism influenced many later dualistic heresies. The sect was divided into a priestly level, and a layman’s level that took care of the needs of the priestly level.

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