In the Gnostic basis itself it is not difficult to recognize the general features of the religion of ancient Babylonia, and thus we are brought nearer a solution of the problem as to the origin of Gnosticism in general.
Together with the impossibility of placing the epistles later than the first ten or twenty years of the 2nd century, render it impracticable to detect anything except incipient phases of syncretistic gnosticism behind the polemical allusions.
In Gnosticism as in the other mystic religions we find the same contrast of the initiated and the uninitiated, the same loose organization, the same kind of petty sectarianism and mystery-mongering.
It is a mistake to regard the Gnostics as pre-eminently the representatives of intellect amongChristians, and Gnosticism as an intellectual tendency chiefly concerned with philosophical speculation, the reconciliation of religion with philosophy and theology.
They also exhibit a variation from the characteristic dualism of Gnosticism into monism, in their conception of the fall of Sophia and their derivation of matter from the passions of the fallen Sophia.
These lectures, which dealt with such special subjects as Gnosticism and the Apocalypse, attracted considerable attention, and in 1876 he was appointed professor extraordinarius.
The main question with which we have now to deal is that of whether the dominant figure of the Saviour (l w-rlip) in Gnosticism is of specifically Christian derivation, or whether this can also be explained apart from the assumption of Christian influence.
It is far more probable that the combination which we meet with in Gnosticism is older than Christianity, and was found already in existence by Christianity and its sects.
In spite of the fact that in a few of its later representatives Gnosticism assumed a more refined and spiritual aspect, and even produced blossoms of a true and beautiful piety, it is fundamentally and essentially an unstable religious syncretism, a religion in which the determining forces were a fantastic oriental imagination and a sacramentalism which degenerated into the wildest superstitions, a weak dualism fluctuating unsteadily between asceticism and libertinism.
Even the characteristic dualism of Gnosticism has already proved to be in part of Iranian origin; and now it becomes clear how from that mingling of late Greek and Persian dualism the idea could arise that these seven halfdaemonic powers are the creators or rulers of this material world, which is separated infinitely from the light-world of the good God.