Gnosis – what kind of knowing is it?

Knowledge (gnosis) is a somewhat more complex concept. Here is the definition of gnosis given by Elaine Pagels in her book The Gnostic Gospels: “…gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (‘He knows mathematics’) and knowing through observation or experience (‘He knows me’).

As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as ‘insight’, for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself… Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.”(The Gnostic Gospels, p xviii-xix) Bentley Layton provides a similar definition in The Gnostic Scriptures: “The ancient Greek language could easily differentiate between two kinds of knowledge…

One kind is propositional knowing – the knowledge that something is the case (‘I know Athens is in Greece’). Greek has several words for this kind of knowing-for example, eidenai. The other kind of knowing is personal aquaintance with an object, often a person. (‘I know Athens well’; ‘I have known Susan for many years’). In Greek the word for this is gignoskein…The corresponding Greek noun is gnosis.

If for example two people have been introduced to one another, each can claim to have gnosis or aquaintance of one another. If one is introduced to God, one has gnosis of God. The ancient gnostics described salvation as a kind of gnosis or aquaintance, and the ultimate object of that aquaintance was nothing less than God” (The Gnostic Scriptures, p 9).

Faith corresponds to the intellectual/emotional aspect of religion while gnosis corresponds to the spiritual/experiential aspect.



This is an excellent Christian resource for ‘What…

This is an excellent Christian resource for ‘What God Is Like’ (The Essence and Nature of God)

What we need is an inter-spiritual version! – assuming God identified her self with only one religion. Gandhi thought that God has no religion!

My current focus is inter spirituality as the…

My current focus is inter-spirituality – as the current challenge to interfaith and as ‘the changeless faith’. Earlier in my life the focus was Holistic Education. Of course the interesting question arises, “What does inter-spiritual living and knowing have to contribute to Holistic Education?”

The model developed, SunWALK, is a model of what it is to be human – Caring, Creative and Critical (Critical in the sense of being able to analyse and be reasoning and scientific) these three inner dimensions of the human spirit all being formed dialectically in the social context of Culture. In that context we find three corresponding forms namely Humanities, Arts and Sciences. See here –

Laura Ellen Shulman wrote some very interesting advice to her students – here –

She ends the section by saying;
‘Learning comes from within, deep within. ………………….
A successful learning outcome is the generation of transformative knowledge. Transformative learning is that which creates a change (transformation) in the learner. As you work your way through any course, you should consider how you are growing and changing as a learner and as a person through your involvement in the course. Explore the material being studied not just from an academic standpoint but through the personal meaning you derive from it.’

To such analyses I want to know where and how we involve gnostic knowing (I understand there is an Arabic counterpart ‘irfan’. My model doesn’t present ‘spirituality’ as separate except for the black dot at the centre which represents the well-spring of the life-force that through each of us flows. All dimensions are potentially spiritual – and gateways to the spiritual, in several ways and levels.

I don’t yet know what other faith traditions have to contribute on this topic of ‘inter-spiritual in Holistic Education’- although Abraham Joshua Heschel’s ‘Who is Man’ is a masterpiece, as is Eckhart Tolle’s three books.

I was interested to know that Baha’i teachings include a relevant range of principles and actions including these;

1 the use of workshops

2 meditation – ‘Through meditation doors of deeper knowledge and inspiration may be opened.’

3 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talks about the value of speech and questioning.

‘Most ideas must be taught through speech, not by book-learning. One child must question the other concerning those things and the other child must give the answer. In this way – they will make great progress. For example, mathematics must also be taught in the form of questions and answers.’ (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1918)

These can all be found here –

TAGS: inter-spirituality, Holistic Education, Laura Ellen Shulman, transformative learning, meditation in learning, dialogic learning, dialectical learning, Baha’i pedagogy, Abdu’l-Baha,

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