Gnostisicm means "to know". It is a spiritual practice based on: all there is is love.
Gnosticism wasn't successful in the past for many reasons. The accepted wisdom is that it wasn't and cannot be easily organized. It is too experiential. Still, there is more to it not being successful than that single reason. The well known Gnostic groups such as the Valentinians, Manichaeans, and Sethians were in fact organized along the same lines as other structured religions, losing the gnosis because it was no longer experiential; rather it was, well, it became controlled and regimented. Another reason has a great deal to do with the fact that those involved in gnosis are willing to live and let live. Those practicing its principles are not seeking followers; they are busy teaching others to be fully conscious themselves.
For centuries those who actually did practice Gnosticism went well underground to protect themselves from those who didn't chose to be in personal close contact with God and certainly did not desire others to do so either. Gnosis under-minded their ability to take charge and be in control of what everyone believed and especially what everyone did. That is what all the past and, shall I say it, current religious wars are really about. Those who practice Gnosticism must meditate and become consciously aware of their personal relationship with God and the Universe in absolute love. There is nothing about war that remotely relates to love. No, all that business about honor is related to egotism not love.
So, for hundreds of years the Gnostic practitioners have heeded the words of Jesus and turned the other cheek. The Gnostics of the world, and those who actually practice the teachings of Christ, have often been like so many women who were taught to be the peacemakers but ended up being the doormats for those who are afraid and willingly use their bullying skills to prevent having to face their fears. It is only recently that the concept of boundaries has come into practice, marking it possible to stop being a victim to those who demand their version of God's law be accepted without question. It is finally noted that is possible to live and let live and still make sure personal preferences are protected. Speaking up and making beliefs known is not the same as making overtures of war.
One of the best facets of Gnosticism is that it is okay to interpret the underlying spiritual truth of all religions within the realities of our current life experiences. The past is only to be used as a means of guidance, not as a fixed system. Gnosis does not require rejection of the world and its glories. The whole point is to use our ability to be truly conscious of the world. Things don't get ignored. Paying conscious attention makes it possible to not only see the ugly bits but to actually change them.
Gnostics do not have a set belief system. Each person who practices gnosis has the ability to connect with others who may or may not have the same spiritual experiences. It simply does not matter how gnosis is experienced. What matters is the conscious contact with God and the Universal Energy that is absolute love, making it obvious that there is no separation between any persons other than by their passive choice. Practicing gnosis causes people to awaken their "inner-self"—not their body, not their persona—their conscious awareness of their essential nature. Reality becomes more pronounced and much clearer.
Therefore, it is possible to compare dream work to awakening within gnosis. When people know how to alter their dreams because they are dreaming lucidly (know they are dreaming) their waking lives are changed at the same time. When people learn to change their lives in an awakened conscious-lucid state they alter the world at the same time, too. Energy is re-connected and causes transformation.
Just as lucid dreaming teaches dreamers about their fears and how they cope with reality, Gnostic practices establishes lucid living (living in a conscious state) where fears and coping skills are noted from a different conscious perspective. Is consciousness separate from a person? No. The person who dreams of her- or him-self is not composed of two different bodies, yet a dream can only be appreciated when a dreamer has a dream. Nor can a person who has a waking experience be separate from her- or him-self in the experience. However, conscious awareness of that experience automatically changes the perspective of the experience. A transformation of perspective also automatically changes the experience itself. The same experience occurs, but it is seen and understood differently.
In accepting the practices of gnosis our egos are not meant to be destroyed, rather all of our characteristics are looked at and ultimately integrated to form a healthier, happier, and less fearful personality. Abject fearfulness is exchanged for courage. Being courageous is not being fearless; it is being fearful and taking action anyway.
Gnosis does not demand a person become reabsorbed into the Universal Cosmic Consciousness. On the contrary, becoming more conscious is the work of gnosis: establishing and forwarding the evolution of consciousness. A conscious person does not ignore the state of our world that is filled with magnificent beauty and horrendous ugliness. A conscious person looks at it all and realizes there is a great deal work ahead to remove the ugly as we align the beauty.
May Sinclair, a self-acknowledged Gnostic, 4/20/09