GNOSIS is ‘knowledge’. This specific noun (other ancient Greek words do mean ‘knowledge’ but with different nuances) is present in various Hellenistic philosophies. In fact, <gnosis> has an extensive use in relation to Gnosticism. In the context of that philosophical movement, it signifies ‘knowledge’ like an insight into humanity’s real nature as universal (or divine). We are referring to the release (from the constraints of earthly existence) of the divine spark within humanity. Therefore, we could say that <gnosis> is ‘knowledge’ in the specific sense of ‘awareness’ in a context of holism.
However, in the writings of Platon (Plato), the term does not appear to indicate any supernatural, magic or occult illumination. Instead it expresses a kind of higher intelligence and ability similar to talent. Here is a passage from The Statesman (258e). “Stranger: in this way, then, split all science into two arts, calling one ‘practical’ (<praktikos>) and the second ‘purely intellectual’ (<gnostikos>). Sokrates: let us say that all science is one and that these are its two forms“.
A word in strict connection with <gnosis> is the adjective <gnostikos>, meaning ‘cognitive’, a quite widespread adjective in classical Greek. Platon uses the plural adjective <gnostikoi> and the singular feminine adjective <gnostike episteme> in his Politikos. In the same work he also uses it to mean one’s inclination.
In our philosophy <gnosis> is the awareness obtainable by following the rules of an austere, vigilant and righteous lifestyle. In this sense, the juxtaposition between knowledge and gnosis marks the difference between the simple apprehension of information and an understanding which transforms the person.