THE LAST FEW YEARS have brought to the fore a considerable
number of organizations bearing the name "Gnostic". The principal reason for
this was the discovery in 1945 and the publication in fully translated form in 1977 of the
Nag Hammadi Library of Coptic Gnostic scriptures -- the largest collection of Gnostic
writings ever discovered. The Nag Hammadi Library has not only brought the name
"Gnostic" into prominence but has also convinced many persons in our culture
that Gnosticism is more than a peculiar ancient heresy of mainly antiquarian interest. On
the contrary, Gnosticism now stands revealed as a fascinating and creative early variant
of Christianity that possesses many features of contemporary relevance.
To those of us who are committed to the Gnostic Tradition, these developments have
brought both satisfaction and concern. Understandably, we are encouraged by the increase
of interest in our tradition. It is also gratifying for us to note that today, unlike some
years ago, the use of the name "Gnostic" is considered advantageous by many. At
the same time we are compelled to recognize that many avail themselves of the name
"Gnostic" without adequate justification. Just as not all is gold that glitters,
so not all who call themselves "Gnostic" have a just claim to this name.
In order to promote authenticity and clarity in regard to matters Gnostic, the Ecclesia
Gnostica and its affiliated lay organization, The Gnostic Society, have decided to issue
The Ecclesia Gnostica
The church bearing this name is the oldest public Gnostic sacramental body in the
United States. It was organized as the Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church at first in
England and since 1959 in the United States by the late Bishop Richard, Duc de Palatine.
After the demise of the Duc de Palatine in the 1970's, the Church he established in
America continued its work under the name Ecclesia Gnostica.
The Regionary Bishop of the church is Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, who was consecrated to
that office by the Duc de Palatine in 1967. Dr. Hoeller is thus the senior holder of what
is sometimes called the English Gnostic Transmission in America. (There are no other
bishops living in the USA who were consecrated by the Duc de Palatine.)
The Ecclesia Gnostica exists for the purpose of upholding the Gnostic tradition and to
administer the holy sacraments to those of God's people who are attracted to the altars of
the Gnosis. An active ministry of parish work is thus an essential feature of this church.
The Los Angeles parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica holds eleven regularly scheduled church
services and four catechetical lectures each month in order to serve the spiritual needs
of its congregation. The Regionary Bishop presides over the majority of these activities.
Ordination to the minor and major orders of the Ecclesia Gnostica is open to both men
and women. Candidates for holy orders must possess a sincere commitment to the Gnostic
tradition and must be determined to exercise a pastoral ministry. (The Ecclesia does not
recognize a non-pastoral clergy. All persons in holy orders are expected to participate in
administering the sacraments on a regular basis.)
Training for the various holy orders is both theoretical and practical. The Ecclesia
offers no mail-order instruction for holy orders, but requires candidates to receive
resident training at one of its established parishes or missions. We ordain clergy for our
own jurisdiction and not for "independent" activities on their own. The Ecclesia
has no interest in expansion for its own sake, rather it prefers to have a few parishes
led by properly trained priests of true Gnostic commitment. At the time that this document
is issued, the Ecclesia Gnostica possesses a parishes in Los Angeles, California, in
Portland, Oregon, and a in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has a small seminary in Arizona and a
missionary extension and parish in the Kingdom of Norway.
The Gnostic Society
The Gnostic Society has existed in Los Angeles since 1928. It was founded by noted
author James Morgan Pryse and his brother John Pryse for the purpose of studying
Gnosticism and the Western Esoteric Tradition generally.
After the establishment of the Ecclesia Gnostica in the United States, the Gnostic
Society has united with the Ecclesia and is now functioning as its affiliated lay
organization. Neither the Ecclesia Gnostica nor The Gnostic Society have a formal,
dues-paying membership. The activities of both are open to all. Free will offerings are
Relation to other Churches and Organizations
The Ecclesia Gnostica is in a state of fraternal alliance (concordat) with the Eglise Gnostique Catholique Apostolique
of France, through the Diocese of the Midwest, (U.S.A.) of that Church and the Bishop of
said Diocese, the Most Rev. Robert Michael Cokinis. The Ecclesia Gnostica and the E.G.C.A.
fully recognize each other's holy orders and respect the territorial jurisdiction
exercised by each. This implies that neither of these churches by way of their bishops
will ordain or commission clergy to function in territories administered by the other.
The Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum of Palo Alto, California was initially a duly
constituted parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica and is now an independent body. Its head,
Bishop Rosamonde Miller, was ordained to the priesthood and subsequently consecrated to
the episcopate of the Ecclesia Gnostica by Bishop Hoeller.
The aforementioned ecclesiastical bodies are the only ones with which the Ecclesia
Gnostica has or has had any association. Concerning all other organizations styling
themselves "Gnostic" we advise all inquirers to subject them to thorough
scrutiny before accepting their claims to being Gnostic.
Scriptures and Literature
In upholding the Gnostic tradition, the Ecclesia Gnostica avails itself chiefly of the
primary sources of Gnostic teachings. Among these are, first the Nag Hammadi Library, and
second, the codices and treatises whose discovery precedes the Nag Hammadi find (such as
the Askew, Bruce and Berlin Codices, the Acts of Thomas, Acts of John, and others).
Somewhat less reliable, but still quite informative are the references and quotations of
Gnostic content in the writings of the heresiologist Church Fathers.
Of the later Gnostic sources, we are particularly devoted to the writings of the
Prophet Mani and to the teachings of such Medieval Gnostic movements as the Cathars and
the Bogomils. Another valuable primary source is the literature of the Mandaeans, a still
practicing Gnostic religion in Iraq. Primary sources such as the ones noted above are of
the greatest value to contemporary Gnostics.
Items of Gnostic interest may be found in much other literature. The Hermetic writings,
the writings of the Christian mystics, the Jewish Gnosticism of the Kabbalah are some of
these. Some of the great poets of the culture, such as Dante, Blake and Goethe
incorporated valuable Gnostic themes in their works, which are of interest. In modern
times, the Nineteenth Century Occult Revival, pioneered by H. P. Blavatsky, bore a
decidedly Gnostic character and thus produced some writings that are useful to present
Gnostic concerns. The late Nineteenth Century also gave rise to the re-constituted Gnostic
Church of France, whose leaders wrote some books worthy of serious consideration.
The Twentieth Century has been blessed with the figure of C. G. Jung, who contributed
most significantly to the revival of interest in matters Gnostic. Jung and some of his
scholarly associates (Quispel, Pulver, Joseph Campbell) have built powerful bridges
between ancient Gnosticism and such modern disciplines as psychology, mythology and the
arts. Their writings are most useful to modern Gnostics.
Teachings and Doctrinal Orientation
While the ancient Gnostic teachers were very pluralistic and creative regarding the
details of their teachings and practices, at the same time they embraced a set of common
assumptions which form the core of the Gnostic tradition. The model of reality shown forth
in the Gnostic scriptures and in the Gnostic tradition may be very briefly (and therefore
somewhat inadequately) outlined by way of the following points:
- There is an original and transcendental spiritual unity which came to emanate a vast
manifestation of pluralities.
- The manifest universe of matter and mind (psyche) was not created by the original
spiritual unity but by spiritual beings possessing inferior powers.
- These creators possessing inferior powers have as one of their objectives the perpetual
separation of humans from the unity (God).
- The human being is a composite, the outer aspect being the handiwork of the inferior
creators, while the "inner man" has the character of a fallen spark of the
ultimate divine unity.
- The fallen sparks of transcendental holiness slumber in their material and mental
prison, their self-awareness stupefied by forces of materiality and mind.
- The slumbering sparks have not been abandoned by the ultimate unity, rather there is a
constant effort forthcoming from this unity that is directed toward their awakening and
- The awakening of the inmost divine essence in humans is effected by salvific knowledge,
- Salvific knowledge, or Gnosis, is not brought about by belief, or the performance of
virtuous deeds, or by obedience to commandments, for these can at best but serve as
preparatory circumstances leading toward liberating knowledge.
- Among the helpers of the slumbering sparks a particular position of honor and importance
belongs to a feminine emanation of the unity. The name of this emanation is Sophia
(Wisdom). She was involved in the creation of the world and ever since remained the guide
of her orphaned human children.
- From the earliest times of history, messengers of light have been sent forth from the
ultimate unity. The task of these messengers has ever been the advancement of Gnosis in
the souls of humans.
- The greatest of these messengers in our historical and geographical matrix was the
descended Logos of God, manifesting in Jesus Christ.
- Jesus exercised a twofold ministry: He was a teacher, imparting instruction concerning
the way of Gnosis, and he was a hierophant, imparting mysteries.
- The mysteries imparted y Jesus (which are also known as sacraments) are mighty aids
toward Gnosis and have been entrusted by him to his apostles and to their successors.
- By way of the spiritual practice of the mysteries (sacraments) and by a relentless and
uncompromising striving for Gnosis, humans can steadily advance toward liberation from all
confinement, material and otherwise. The ultimate objective of this process of liberation
is the achievement of salvific knowledge and with it freedom from embodied existence and
return to the ultimate unity.
The interpretation of teachings such as are contained in the above fourteen points
appertains to the individual. Some of these teachings may lend themselves to a primarily
metaphorical and mythic understanding, while others may be understood metaphysically. The
Ecclesia Gnostica does not require its communicants to accept these teachings as a matter
of belief. At the same time, it is obvious that these teachings represent the distinctive
contribution of the Gnostic tradition to religious thought and persons functioning within
the tradition would find themselves in general agreement with them.
Further information regarding the Church, especially its religious services and
educational activities is available from the following parishes and church centers:
Ecclesia Gnostica Diocesan Center:
Most Rev. Stephan A. Hoeller, bishop.
3363 Glendlae Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
Ecclesia Gnostica in Oregon:
Most Rev. Steven Marshall
Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church
5815 N.E. Everett, Portland, OR 97213
Ecclesia Gnostica in Washington:
Rev. Sam Osborne
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