Here are a few interesting posts from a scholarly pro-Gnostic blog:
The study of Gnosis and Gnosticism is a fascinating one. As the above links point out there was no such thing as "Gnosticism". We use the term "Gnosticism" to label a general set of similar beliefs that developed a radical dualism (recall Plato, but with a unique, anti-cosmic twist!), and focussed on the personal connection and participation in the divine through gnosis (knowledge, secret knowledge) available to only the elect few, typically the elite. However, there was no tangible "Gnostic" religious group, per se. At least, no major religious movement that defined themselves as such. It was primarily a diverse set of groups that were involved with various segments of Judaism and Christianity.
Gnosticism seems to have had mixed reactions from the church fathers. Irenaeus condemned it to hell, while others like Clement of Alexandria and Justin Martyr seem more sympathetic to Gnostic theology due perhaps to Clement/Justin's Platonic sympathies. Ultimately, though, it was thoroughly rejected by the church and their writings were largely lost - lost, that is, until they were found by two Egyptian brothers in the deserts of Nag Hammadi. Their mother burned a few of the documents in her stove, but an extensive number of manuscripts survived giving us some fascinating looks into the various forms of Gnostic philosophy.
Gnostic theology raises many interesting questions relevant to contemporary discussion:
- How do we interpret texts? Do we go for the strictly literal meaning, or is there "deeper" meaning hidden in the symbols and metaphors that give us insight into the "deeper" things of the divine?
- What is the role of religious experience? And what if our religious experience is at odds with established religious circles? Does my experience trump the community?
- Was Gnosticism heresy? And for that matter, what is heresy? Is it simply those who do not agree with me and my church, thank you very much, or can we establish criteria to evaluate the legitimacy of the religious experience of others?
- And what about canonicity? How do we decide whose religious writings are the "right" ones and whose are the wrong ones?