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Gnosticism (noun) – The doctrines of various religious sects flourishing especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries ad in the Near East, teaching that the material world is the imperfect creation of a subordinate power or powers rather than of the perfect and unknowable Divine Being, and that the soul can transcend material existence by means of esoteric knowledge. The Mandaean religion preserves one system of Gnostic belief.

Source : The Free Dictionary

Etymology : 1660s, from Gnostic + -ism.Gnostic (noun) 1580s, “believer in a mystical religious doctrine of spiritual knowledge,” from Late Latin Gnosticus “a Gnostic,” from Late Greek Gnostikos, noun use of adjective gnostikos “knowing, able to discern, good at knowing,” from gnostos “known, to be known,” from gignoskein “to learn, to come to know,” from PIE root *gno- “to know.” Applied to various early Christian sects that claimed direct personal knowledge beyond the Gospel or the Church hierarchy; they appeared in the first century A.D., flourished in the second, and were stamped out by the 6th.

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