From a religious point of view, people are generally classified by their religion: Pagans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, … But this does not clarify their level of spiritual understanding. All religions have members that can be classified as “Gnostics” and other as “Literalists”. It is strange but Gnostics from all religions seem to have more in common that they have with their own Literalists. On the other hand, Literalists of different religions have conflicting beliefs. Obviously Gnostics of all religions have their differences but they are generally minor compared with shared views. It is true that people becoming Gnostics tend to remain in their initial religion; they become Jewish Gnostics, Muslim Gnostics, Christian Gnostics, …but they are also part of the same evolving tradition. Their common goal is to reach Gnosis, the Knowledge of Truth it is why Gnostics are also described as “Knowers”.
Gnostics see the stories and teachings of their spiritual tradition as signposts pointing to the mystical experience of the ineffable Mystery. On the other hand, Literalists believe their scriptures are the words of God, factual history. Gnostics are concerned with the inner essence of their tradition while Literalists are interested in their faith’s outwards manifestations such as sacred symbols, scriptures, rituals, religious leaders, etc. Gnostics believe that they are on a spiritual journey of personal transformation while Literalists see themselves as fulfilling divinely ordained obligations, to practice god-imposed religious customs. Literalists believe that their religion is different from all others and is the only true one. Gnostics are free spirits who always question their own culture; they follow their hearts, not the crowd.
Some experts say that all religions were founded, developed and grew in agricultural societies. Hunters are following the animals they hunt, others are moving where there is good grass for their cows and horses, still others move to where they can find berries, roots and naturally growing eatable herbs. On the contrary, agricultural people are bound to their land, at least in the short term, and so they must have somebody, and it cannot be a living human being, to whom they can ask for good weather, fertile land and water when needed. As a result they create their divinities and soon enough they are embodied in a religious system.