Gnosticism, derived gnosis, meaning “knowledge” is a set of philosophical and religious streams that reached a status of mimic syncretism with Christianity in the first centuries of our common era. It was declared as a heretical line of thought after it gained in popularity among early Christian intellectuals. In fact, we can discuss both pagan Gnosticism and Christian Gnosticism, although the original Gnostic philosophy met its greater significance as a strand of heterodox primitive Christianity.
Some authors make a clear distinction between "Gnosis" and "Gnosticism." Gnosis is undoubtedly an experience not based on concepts and precepts, but the sensitivity of the heart. Gnosticism, on the other hand, would be a worldview based on the experience of Gnosis, or the state of consciousness after being immersed into a Gnostic environment: one of “knowledge”.
Knowledge in this philosophical construct is not a rational knowledge; scientific, philosophical, theoretical or empirical, known as the “episteme” of the Greeks, but an intuitive Knowledge, transcendental in character; a Divine Wisdom.
Gnosis is a special type of deep awareness and stage of consciousness that is utilized to label an in-depth knowledge, one that gives meaning to human life, because it allows the encounter between man, his Eternal Essence, the Divine Spark and Christ-consciousness, through the realms of the heart.
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” ~ John 4:14
Gnosticism is a living reality that is always on and which is only understood when it can be truly experienced and lived. It can therefore never be assimilated in an abstract, intellectual or discursive manner.
The Gnosticism movement probably originated in Asia Minor, spreading in the region from Iran to Gaul, and exerting its greatest influence on Christianity between the years 135 and 200. It was initially based on elements of pagan philosophies that flourished in Babylon, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Syria and Greece, combining hermetic elements of esoteric astrology and various Greek religions and schools of mystery like those of Eleusis, Zoroastrianism, Hermeticism, Sufism, Judaism and primitive Christianity.