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Spiritual Gnosis

by Bishop Jody Bédard, GSJ, DNP, Ph.D. (cand)

Secretary and General Curia of the Gnostic Society of Jesus

"Spiritual Gnosis thus rectifies the ignorance that creates the false system (of internal thoughts). There is no need whatsoever for guilt, for repentance from so-called sin; neither is there need for the blind belief in vicarious salvation by the way of the death of Jesus. We don't need to be saved; we need to be transformed (awoken) by Gnosis. The wrong-headedness and malignancy of the existential condition (that we suffer) of humanity can be changed (given patience and mastery) into a glorious image of the fullness of being." ~ Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller (2002).

The passage emphasizes that spiritual Gnosis, or personal and direct knowledge of the divine, is essential for personal transformation. It suggests that recognizing and integrating the shadow aspect of the psyche, an unconscious aspect containing repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, all notions of sin, thoughtless acts of illogical passion (acts of anger), and instincts, is crucial for personal development. Rather than seeking external salvation or feeling guilt, true transformation comes from understanding all parts of oneself, including those hidden in the shadows.

Carl Jung's analytical psychology resonates with Gnostic ideas and emphasizes exploring the unconscious and acknowledging the shadow as a path toward psychological wholeness and self-understanding. Jung viewed this integration as a form of self-knowledge that leads to transformation rather than a process of repentance or salvation in the traditional religious sense.

The ancient Gnostic idea of "know thyself" aligns with the emphasis on inner knowledge and enlightenment as the path to spiritual and psychological liberation. The denial of the Demiurge, Shadow (Jung), Appetite (Plato), or Desire (Jesus) is crucial in this process, as their thoughts to sin and manipulate intermingle with our own, and we are entirely unaware while it's happening. The pathway to true Gnosis is acknowledging these influences and carrying the heavy mental burden that comes with it. This is supported by Jesus' words in Matthew 16:24, where he encourages his disciples to deny themselves (those leading thoughts in their minds) and take up their cross (their newly found heavy mental burden to resist all such thoughts) to follow him (both in his experience and also in his salvation). This is further supported by Isiah 40:31 - But they that wait upon the Lord (God) shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles (the glorious image of being noted by Hoeller, and is the moment of the resurrection of witnessing the Holy twin); they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. This details the difficulties of attaining true Gnosis, but at the same time, the newly discovered and now understood capabilities of God's interaction with one's freshly understood gnostic mind.

To further reinforce the notion that in Gnosis, the person's self-discovery is about something hiding within themselves that plays a part of their thoughts, but is not necessarily them is in Matthew 15:11, it's not what goes into someone's mouth that defiles them; it's what comes out of it that defiles them (suggesting a sinister aspect of our minds that we never quite identify as not being "us"). These defilements include lies, swearing, insults, egocentric statements, manipulation of others, lustful or sexually explicit ideas, and any other elicitation that would demean the integrity (morally or ethically) of that person. These defiling thoughts that are part of what is spoken in those moments are what one must counter. This is what you are supposed to know and identify in "to know thyself" from the ancient Greek teachings of Plato and from the Oracle of Delphi. You have to know how to resist thoughts and then also resist any urges to speak those thoughts. A most difficult thing to master, but it is the pathway of alchemy and turning your mind to a more Christ-like state of being, especially when you can resist all internal dialogue.

In an experiential moment of understanding, when you were in a heated discussion with someone, and you blurted out some venomous statement that you did not necessarily agree with, but it was meant to be scathing, and you were not necessarily trying to scathe, it just came out of your mouth, and you may have had some remorse about this later wondering why you would say such a thing. Or, perhaps when you were told not to do something but you did it anyway (your thoughts played out that you wouldn't get caught and it's the thoughts in one's mind that detail the illusionary background of the lie before it is spoken, creating the web of sin that you don't know to ignore those thoughts while they are brewing).

To know thyself in Gnosis would naturally lead to denying thyself, to no longer live under the influences of the Demiurge, the Shadow, the Appetite, or under the control of Desire. As Dr. Hoeller also stated, "Even as Buddha is said to have refused the offers of Mara, the deceiver, prior to his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, so the Gnostic severs every connection with unconsciousness (those nudges of sin in your thoughts) and compulsion (as I stated above) and lives and dies as a sovereign being of light and power (Hoeller, 2002).


Hoeller, S. A. (2002). Gnosticism: New light on the ancient tradition of inner knowing (1st ed.) Wheaton, Illinois, United States: Quest Books.

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