The most ancient Gnostic text that is available to us today was unearthed in the excavation of the ancient cities of Sumeria in what is now Iraq. The clay tablats of cuneiform writing containing the Epic of Gilgamesh and other literature form some of the earliest evidence of Gnostic discipline predating the founding of Babylon.
The texts are written in a style that is typical of wisdom literature. They have a surface meaning for literal interpretation and a deeper meaning that is understood by the initiated scholar. There are pointers to the deeper meaning embedded within the story itself pointing the way to a higher level of understanding.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a wisdom cycle that contains a fuller picture of the story of Adam and Eve contained in Genesis. The symbolic meaning of Adam and Eve become quite clear when that story is compared to the Gilgamesh cycle.
One of the differences between the orthodox Jesus and the Gnostic Christ is the hidden knowledge of cultural icons. In the orthodox tradition, Jesus didn't have any understanding of the deeper meaning of the symbols in Genesis. In the Gospels and in the Gnostic literature, Jesus taught his disciples the secrets that are hidden within the texts.
One of the roles of gnostic practice is to cultivate trees of knowledge and trees of life. Although orthodox critics of Gnosticism regularly chide gnostic practitioners for tempting people into eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they do not recognize that the tree would not have existed without gnostic practice.
Other literature that bears the signature of Gnosticism includes the writings of Plato and other Pythagorean philosophers. For example, the allegory of the cave in Plato's "Republic" correlates to the image of Jacob's...