Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge. The word harmonizes with the Gnostic movement found in Christianity’s formative years. Gnostics accept Jesus as a wisdom guru, not a Messiah who died for sin forgiveness. In Gnostic view, sacred knowledge, not sacrificial blood offering, represents the path to salvation. Jesus laid the path.
From all indications, Gnosticism was a strong competitor in the 1st and 2nd century battle for souls, a conclusion drawn mainly because of the many negative things the proto-orthodox had to say about it. Proto-orthodoxy was the form of Christianity that survived the battle and which is celebrated today. Scholarly understanding of Gnosticism was advanced in 1945 when a cache of Gnostic scriptural texts was discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Written in Coptic, scholars believe the texts were buried by a desert monk to save them from destruction as proto-orthodoxy gained favor in the Roman Empire.
The Gospel of Thomas is, perhaps, the most important of the Nag Hammadi discovery. A sayings gospel, Jesus said this, Jesus said that, it contains 114 sayings. Thomas (non-canonical) appears to have been written contemporary with the canonical Gospels, perhaps a little later. Study Thomas if you wish to incorporate Buddhist thought into your Christian faith. It is interesting to note that a gospel with Eastern overtures is named after the disciple who evangelized India.
Thomas addresses the rainbow body phenomenon, something the four canonical Gospels don’t. It lays out the principles of Dzogchen, the practice Buddhists use to realize rainbow body. In saying Number 3 He tells disciple Thomas that the Kingdom is not a physical location. It is inside and outside the person. That is, it is a mental state. In saying Number 22 He tells the disciples that to enter the Kingdom they must learn to look beyond form and see the oneness of everything. Finally, in saying Number 37 He tells the disciples they must become selfless. Mental state, oneness and selflessness. That’s Dzogchen in a nutshell.
How ironic that a gospel declared heretical by the church fathers because it denied orthodox resurrection doctrine explains the true meaning of resurrection as now understood by Shroud of Turin research, rainbow body, and the science of the atom. Jesus did not resurrect as the fathers claimed. His body dematerialized and it was knowledge of who He was that defeated death.
It makes one wonder. What would our world look like today if first century Gnosticism had come out on top? It remains a viable, world-wide religion tradition but on a much smaller scale but seems to be growing as the many continue to abandon orthodoxy to find God on their own.