Sometimes Clement discusses chronology, sometimes philosophy, sometimes poetry, entering into the most minute critical and chronological details; but one object runs through all, and this is to show what the true Christian Gnostic is, and what is his relation to philosophy.
A Gnostic sect of the 2nd century was known by the name of Cainites.
It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the ' gnostic ' of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant.
But names, symbols and formulas are not efficacious by themselves: the Gnostic must lead a life having no part in the lower world ruled by these spirits, and by his knowledge he must raise himself above them to the God of the world of light.
It seems to have arisen in Gnostic circles, and its tendency is wholly in favour of asceticism and celibacy.
Not only was he master of the contents of the Bible: he also read carefully the works of Hermas, Justin, Tatian, Miltiades, Melito, Irenaeus, Proculus, Clement, as well as many Gnostic treatises, the writings of Marcion in particular.
The objects of religious knowledge are beyond the plane of history, or rather - in a thoroughly Gnostic and Neo-Platonic spirit - they are regarded as belonging to a supra-mundane history.
This freely-growing Gnostic religiosity aroused in the Church an increasingly strong movement towards unity and a firm and inelastic organization, towards authority and tradition.
Written sources from the 1st and 2nd centuries are relatively few, comprising, in addition to some scattered allusions by outsiders, the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, the Greek Apologists, Clement of Alexandria, the old Catholic Fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian and Hippolytus) and a few Gnostic fragments.
Their existence was believed in, and they did actually exist, not only in the catholic congregations - if the expression may be used - but also in the Marcionite Church and the Gnostic societies.