The Gnostics existed from the 1st to 4th Century AD. They lived in Palestine and Ancient Egypt.
They were ordinary people; they were not Monks or Nuns and lived ordinary lives.
They believed in dualism and that there are 2 opposing forces: good and evil.
They believed the good God, the creator, created the pleroma (the spiritual world) and the self. While the evil god (the Demiurge) created the physical world.
They called the self a divine spark which had become entrapped in the material body. This divine spark could be experienced through Gnosis.
The Gnostics emphasised spiritual knowledge and experience rather than the faith of the church.
They believed that Jesus was a spiritual teacher who imparted knowledge of the self as a means of salvation (from suffering).
The difference between Christianity and Gnosticism is that the church teaches salvation through faith whereas Gnostics achieve salvation through the experience of the self (Gnosis).
The ultimate goal for the Gnostic was to achieve the state of Nirvana (Buddhism) or Samadhi (Hinduism).
The Gnostics were responsible for writing the Gnostic Gospels which consisted of 13 leather bound books or codices. Another name for this library has been called the Hag Hammadi library.
In the 4th century AD Emperor Constantine denounced Gnosticism as heresy.
Fearing persecution and the destruction of their library, the Gnostics buried the Gnostic gospels in a cave in Hag Hammadi with the belief they would be found in the future when the time was right.
The Gnostic gospels were discovered in December 1945 by an arab farmer called Muhammed Al-Samman who was digging for fertiliser.
Some of the gospels were lost sayings of Jesus. The most important of which was the Gospel of Thomas.
Thomas was a disciple of Jesus. It is believed that Thomas travelled to India where he was influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism in writing the Gospel of Thomas.