Were the Christian Gnostics universalists?


I’ve seen it stated that the early Christian Gnostics were universalists, but I have yet to read a primary source (i. e., an ancient Christian Gnostic document) that asserts universalism.

Can anyone cast any light on this?

Free Willism or God's Soeveignty in Salvation of All


I don’t know anything about the Gnostics, and haven’t read any of their works, except the one I’m reading right now because of your question. I’m reading here:gnosis.org/naghamm/got.html

I started reading and then got to some stuff that sounds universalistic maybe, so I’ll post some quotes:

Now, this quote, at first glance, looked like it was saying that God–the householder–would not mind loosing some, for there would be perfect ones to take their place… but another look, and I think the “dishes” are the “works” spoken of in the previous paragraph, and the “householder” is the man.

I shouldn’t really say I know ‘nothing’ about the Gnostics–but the little I know is all hearsay, which I don’t consider reliable till I’ve looked for myself. Just from the above, it seems to me that they have some kind of universalistic attitude, but I don’t know that I understand them well enough to be certain of that… this was very interesting to read, there’s some intriguing imagery that I’m interested in looking at more, sometime.



In one sense, the Gnostics (a very broad group) might have had universalists of a sort, in the sense that Buddhists are universalists of a sort.

In another sense, though, Gnostics were spiritual elitists only interested in the salvation of the (very very) few: only the elect (we might say) would be given the passwords to rise through the levels of existence and perfection and return to their inherent godhood.


So, would you say the “All” in the work I was quoting from was not really meant to be “All”? Or, perhaps a ‘mystical’ sort of all?



Crap, I had a bit of an answer written up, but then my mouse fell over, and the one here at the house has side-clicker things which HANDILY RAN ME BACK A PAGE WITHOUT MY CONSENT OR INTENTION!!! :smiling_imp: Meaning, I lost the reply. Argh. Sigh.

Short answer is, yes and no: there are indications in the text that the author is only talking about all the Pleromas; but that since these are the only real souls, it doesn’t matter if other persons made only of transient material trash are ultimately destroyed–they aren’t real anyway. In that sense, it’s as universalistic as the type of hyper-Calvinism which sees the non-elect as being only “cigarette people” (as a sweet recent convert to Calv Christianity once tried to put it to me, bless her heart. :wink: :frowning: )

I’ll try to reconstruct a bit longer reply tomorrow. Sorry.


LOL – I hate computers … not really … only when they act up… :wink:

Hmm… that throws it into a different light. With those things in mind, I started picking up on other things from the text, such as this one:

So, they’re saying that each one returns to the place of his origin. Those who are “emanations from the Father” will return to Him… and the rest to wherever their ‘root’ is, I assume. It’s interesting, but brain-twisting stuff to try to read. I think I’ve had about enough.

Your friend’s “cigarette people”–is a rather chilling notion.



Ooh I’m tempted to change my sig to read - Jeff the Agnostic Universalist Cigarette Person :laughing:


And excessively painful to hear her trying to appeal to it for 45 minutes one night. :cry:

She herself knew she shouldn’t believe it, and kept saying she really didn’t, but then she would promptly plead in appeal to the idea as a way of feeling better about the non-elect.

In hindsight, had I just sat down in the middle of the floor and wailed and torn my shirt at hearing this, instead of trying to talk about it rationally with her, it might have gotten through to her better. :neutral_face:

Meanwhile: check the context of those dishes again in GosTru, Sonia. Note…

1.) purification is contrasted to breaking them. (So breaking dishes isn’t purifying anything other than the house they’re in.)

2.) relatedly, the house isn’t the soul of the person, but rather the house belongs to Christ (Who the GosTru author agrees is sinless.)

3.) the preceding paragraph contrasts those humans who shall never have a name with those who have a name (even if they don’t know they do yet). This is most likely the context we’re supposed to be reading the next paragraph in, where Christ arrives to smash some dishes with His double-edged sword while sparing, cleaning and filling others.

4.) Relatedly, toward the end, the author distinguishes between those who are not real yet and those who will never be real.


Maybe–or maybe not. The way I was taught was that we’re supposed to set our feelings aside–after all, being merely human, we can’t understand the righteousness of the system God set up. A display of emotion just goes to prove that you want to believe something that ‘makes you feel good’ without regard for the real truth… :unamused:

When I read it first, I interpreted it like what you’re saying–but it didn’t fit in my mind with the “All” statements, so I took another look and changed my mind–and I think when I did that I lost the flow of the context. Now, reading your post, and looking at the text again, I’d agree with you.

I confess, also, I’m not always very ‘quick’ when it comes to grasping thoughts that are foreign to me–and I haven’t had motivation enough to really delve into this the way I would need to in order to feel like I was sure what the author meant. Is it just me, or is it difficult to determine who the pronouns are refering to?

I’ll comment briefly on your points.

I was seeing the ‘dishes’ as things within the individual–error to be destroyed by the coming of truth. But I think you’re right. When he speaks of knowledge eliminating ignorance, and that ‘this happened to each of us,’ the ‘us’ he’s speaking of are the ones who have* realized* that they are of the Father.

I see that now–at the beginning of this paragraph he wants to consider the ‘All’–which I mistakenly took to mean ‘each one’ :unamused: --but it appears that ‘the All’ is some kind of mystical body.

Ahh… If I understand him right, by the word ‘exist’ and ‘having a name’ he means the emanations who are of the Father, and realize it. The emanations who don’t yet realize it, don’t exist yet but will. I was taking these to mean literally coming into existance like we think of it. So, then if you’re not of the Father–you are nothing? an illusion? an ‘error’ that vanishes? Calvinists could learn something… :sunglasses:



I don’t know that all Gnostic groups would go for that, but it does fit into their general disdain for material creation. The GosTru author is relatively ‘orthodox’ compared to some of them! (For example, he acknowledges that Christ was actually slain on a cross, though he doesn’t like to talk about it much.) Other texts can get very freaky in trying to explain how the evil material world came into existence at all from a good Originator. GosTru may see the material world as a transitory illusion allowed to exist by God so that parts of Himself can gain some experience He wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. Once that purpose is served, annihilation is the fate of the transitory. (And re-assimilation is the fate of the true pleromas. Which could be considered ‘good news’ for them, I guess, if for no one and nothing else. The GosTru author must have had a devil of a time trying to figure out what to make of Rom 10… :laughing: )


Gnosticism seems very escapist.


The gnostics were the heretical false prophets that the Apostle John was warning us about in 1 John 4:1-3. :wink:


My impression of the Gnostics is that they were basically mystical (in the secret knowledge sense) proto-calvinists in their exclusivism. If they were universalist, it was ideologically only, and inconsistent with the rest of their theology.


No they were not universalists, they were Gnostics. :smiley:

Gnostics: Members certain sects among the early Christians who claimed to have superior knowledge of spiritual matters and that only those who have obtained this superior knowledge were saved.

I hope that helps.


What is funny, is Christianity didn’t flourish, Gnosticism did and they rebranded themselves as Christian.