GNOSTICISM—
Gnosis as Self-Salvation


However the phases of salvation are represented in the different sects and systems—and they vary from magic practices to mystic ecstasies, from libertinism through indifferentism to the world to the strictest asceticism—the aim always is destruction of the old world and passage to the new. The instrument of salvation is Gnosis itself—knowledge. Since according to the gnostic ontology entanglement with the world is brought about by agnoia, ignorance,the soul will be able to disentangle itself through knowledge of its true life and its condition of alienness in this world. As the knowledge of falling captive to the world, Gnosis is at the same time the means of escaping it. Thus, Irenaeus recounts this meaning that Gnosis had for the Valentinians:

Perfect salvation consists in the cognition, as such, of the Ineffable Greatness. For since sin and affliction resulted from ignorance ( agnoia ), this whole system originating in ignorance is dissolved through knowledge ( gnosis) . Hence, gnosis is the salvation of the inner man. . . .Gnosis redeems the inner, pneumatic man; he finds his satisfaction in the knowledge of the Whole. And this is the true salvation.

This will have to suffice by way of clarification, save for one word of caution. Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless. The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it. The attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society. The Gnostic's flight from a truly dreadful, confusing, and oppressive state of the world is understandable. But the order of the ancient world was renewed by that movement that strove through loving action to revive the practice of the "serious play" (to use Plato's expression)—that is, by Christianity.

CW VOL 5,
Science, Politics and Gnosticism
Ch 1 Introduction,
p 256.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOEGELIN MAIN PAGE

NEXT QUOTATION