Gnosticism is a historical term for various mystical initiatory religions, sects and knowledge and knowledge schools that were most active in the first few centuries A.D. around the Meditarranean and extending into central Asia.
These systems typically recommend the pursuit of mysticism "special knowledge" (gnosis) as the central goal of life. They also commonly depict creation as a mythological struggle between competing forces of light and dark, and posit a marked division between the material realm, typically depicted as under the governance of malevolent forces (such as the demiurge, and the higher spiritual realm from which it is divided, governed by Gnosticism thus rests on personal religious experience and expresses a specific religious experience, an experience that does not lend itself to the language of theology or philosophy. Like Buddhism, Gnosticism begins with the fundamental recognition that earthly life is filled with suffering. In order to nourish themselves, all forms of life consume each other, thereby visiting pain, fear, and death upon one another (even herbivorous animals live by destroying the life of plants).
The Gnostic God concept is more subtle than that of most religions. In its way, it unites and reconciles the recognitions of Monotheism and Polytheism, as well as of Theism, Deism and Pantheism.