Gnosis is a word that derives from the Greek language which means knowledge, self-knowledge or better put, a knowledge of an intuitive comprehension of spiritual truths.
Normally, we understand knowledge as an accumulation in the intellect of facts, figures, concepts and information that has been deposited in the memory and can be easily retrieved and used in some way. Therefore, someone who is considered knowledgeable has amassed a vast reservoir of intellectual information they can use to argue their perspective on a particular subject. Generally, this knowledge has not have been directly experienced and thus can lead to error. For example, a student writing their thesis on the French Revolution is using knowledge that has been gained from secondary sources such as books, texts and other writers. In this case, there is no possibility that the student has directly experienced any of the knowledge and theories they may assert because the events took place before they were born. Thus, any conclusions that are drawn may or may not be in accordance with what truly happened.
Another bigger problem with this type of knowledge is its limitations in answering the big questions of life that we so desperately seek to answer: what is the meaning of life, where do we come from, what is the truth, what happens after death and is there a God are just some of the very basic questions that have been elusive to humanity over time but which are so fundamental to the core of who we truly are. And no matter how much data we accumulate on the subject, now matter how rigorous our logic and analysis is, no matter what new technology is invented and no matter how many theories we produce, we find we are still no closer to the solution and if anything, we have made what should be easy more complicated and unrefined. We have never been successful in answering these questions and they continue to plague us like a splinter in our mind’s eye.
Gnosis is a different type of knowledge from how we perceive knowledge in an intellectual, logical or rational manner. Gnosis is gained through and only through direct experience. Gnosis cannot be arrived at by reading books, acquiring more information or searching on google although in the beginning, these may point us in the right direction. Indeed, more and more accumulation of facts and figures can be a hindrance to the self-revelation that we seek. A beautiful Zen proverb says: knowledge is learning something new everyday, wisdom is letting go of something every day. The direct experience of the truth has a power of certainty that cannot be denied. For example, only a mother can talk intimately about the trials and tribulations, the pains and ecstasies of giving birth because she has directly experienced the whole process of it. And no matter how much a man researches child birth and interviews mothers on the event, he cannot communicate the intimate depths of the experience of child birth the way a mother can. Through direct experience, we surpass the ignorance of belief and non-belief, concepts and theories and intimately comprehend reality and come to know the truth as it is. Gnosis seeks to experience all the great Mysteries of the Cosmos and when the sincere student arrives at Gnosis, they are comforted like the happy mother who holds her babe warmly in her arms.
Gnosis is an expansive knowledge that uses the latent powers within to allow the channels of wisdom to flow back to us. Gnosis is a practical knowledge, a direct knowledge, a knowledge of truth and reality and because it is a a knowledge of an intuitive comprehension of spiritual truths, it can answer any question.
In this way, Gnosis helps us in the practical living of our daily life, it opens the doorways to higher knowledge and frees us from suffering, allowing us to lead a more dignified and edifying life.
This is the same path taught by the awakened masters of all great traditions. There is Gnosis throughout the Christian Gospels and also in the Buddhist doctrine, in the Tantric Buddhism from Tibet, in the Zen Buddhism from Japan, in the Chan Buddhism of China, and in the Taoist teachings. Hinduism is rich with Gnostic stories, symbols and guidance. The wisdom of Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, is absolutely Gnostic. Gnosis is found within the mysteries of Islam, in Sufism and the Whirling Dervishes, in the Egyptian, Persian, Chaldean, Pythagorean, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Inca, etc.