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  • Gnosticism (from Greek gnosis, knowledge) is a term to describe a diverse religious movement often associated with Christianity. Gnosis refers to a very specialised form of knowledge. In a religious context, to be 'Gnostic' should be understood as being reliant not on knowledge in a general sense, but as being specially receptive to mystical or esoteric experiences of direct participation with the divine. Indeed, in most Gnostic systems the sufficient cause of salvation is this 'knowledge of' ('acquaintance with') the divine. This is commonly identified with a process of inward 'knowing' or self-exploration.
  • Gnosticism in modern times includes a variety of religious movements, mostly Christian in nature, stemming from the ancient Hellenistic society around the Mediterranean. Although the origins of Gnostic movements are disputed, the period of activity for most of these movements flourished from approximately the time of the founding of Christianity until the 4th century when the writings and activities of groups deemed heretical or pagan were actively suppressed. The only information available on these movements for many centuries was the characterizations of those writing against them, and the few quotations preserved in such works. The late 19th century saw the publication of popular sympathetic studies making use of recently rediscovered source materials. In this period there was also the revival of a Gnostic religious movement in France. The emergence of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 greatly increased the amount of source material available. Its translation into English and other modern languages in 1977 resulted in a wide dissemination, and has as a result had observable influence on several modern figures, and upon modern Western culture in general.

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