Sacraments and rituals are what separate Gnosticism from philosophy. In the Gnostic tradition, these sacraments are extremely sacred. While the sacraments discussed below are traditionally regarded as Valentinian sacraments, Gnostic sects all practiced some form of some or all of these sacraments. To the Gnostic, all worship is purely spiritual; the external forms of sacraments are symbolic. There are five mysteries or sacraments described in Gnostic scripture, each one closely related to its Catholic counterpart.
In Gnostic baptism, there is a triple immersion while the names of the trinity are invoked. This sacrament is closely associated with the concept of resurrection from the dead. The person symbolically participates in the death and resurrection of Christ. Symbolically, the old, sinful person dies and a new, spiritual person is raised up and cleansed of sin. He is now restored to the perfect realm.
In this sacrament, the oil is symbolic of the light and the sweet odor. In Gnostic scripture, this is closely associated with the concept of restoration, as the individual has symbolically restored their connection with the divine. This act is performed in the name of Christ through whom the individual’s angel was also redeemed. Gnostics regard this sacrament as more important than baptism, as now they are not considered a Christian, but also as a “Christ”. The Valentinians believed that after receiving this sacrament, they were invisible to any lower power, just like Christ.
Gnostic texts reveal to us that this sacrament is considered a symbolic ascent through the Heavens, similar to that of Sophia. After the anointing, prayers follow for the ascent of the soul. In these prayers, the individual was to declare “I trace my origins to the Pre-Existent One and I am returning to my own from whence I came” (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:21:5). Through their redemption, the person transcends the authority of the demiurge and is no longer subject to the law. Individuals are remain physically in the world, but they are no longer of it. As this is similar to the Christian sacrament, the Gnostic sacrament includes one additional step: as they both renounce the Devil, the Gnostics deny the creator of the physical world as the True God.
The Eucharist is considered to be the wedding feast of the saved. Along with the bridal chamber, the Eucharist is included in weekly meetings. The idea for communion also occurs in early Christian sources. The bread was regarded as true life-giving food, and the Gnostics closely identify it with Jesus. The wine is also considered to be full of grace and the Holy Spirit. By partaking in the sacrament, Gnostics are also partaking in the perfect human being; he is their angelic counterpart. This is how the Gnostics received the spiritual flesh and blood of the resurrected body of Christ.
Followed by the Eucharist, the bridal chamber is the most mysterious of all the sacraments. This sacrament was also included in weekly meetings, and Irenaeus believed that the individual received or became possessed by the light. Gnostic scholars believe this to by the individual’s heavenly counterpart or bridegroom angel. Texts have cited spirit manifestations and speaking in tongues associated with this sacrament. These manifestations were regarded as a result of angelic possession. The candidate for this sacrament was determined by drawing lots, the Gnostics believed that the providence of God guided their random selection.