What is Gnosis?

by Michael Colantoni

There is a root from which all knowledge has emerged. Humanity has many names for it; we call it Gnosis.

gnosis (-g·no·sis): From Greek γνῶσις. Knowledge.

The higher meaning of Gnosis is knowledge from experience, especially experience of divinity or that which is beyond the five senses. The word Gnosis does not refer to knowledge that we are told or believe in. Gnosis is conscious, experiential knowledge, not merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief, or theory. This term is synonymous with the Hebrew דעת “da’ath” and the Sanskrit “jna.”

Gnosis can also refer to the tradition that embodies the core wisdom or knowledge of humanity, although in the physical world it has not been known by that name, but instead has adopted varying appearances according to culture, time, and place.

The Greek word Gnosis (γνῶσις) implies a type of knowledge that is derived from experience, and encompasses the whole of a person. That is, it is genuine knowledge of the truth. Reality, truth, does not fit neatly into a concept, dogma, or theory, thus genuine Gnosis must also be something that one must experience. Personal experience is not transmissible in conceptual terms; a concept is merely an idea, and experience is far more than an idea. In other words, real Gnosis is an experience that defies conceptualization, belief, or any attempt to convey it. To understand it, one must experience it. This is why real spirituality is based on one’s own effort to experience the truth, and the method to reach that experience is primarily practical.