Great post on the first page of this thread pointing out the distortion and attempted ownership of the term "gnosis" by the Samael Aun Weor Gnostic cult and related splinter groups. Here's the relevant extract from that post, then I'll add the actual history and meaning of the word, which wasn't included with the original.
When a person called Victor Gomez changes his name to Samael Aun Weor because he claims that he is in touch with an entity which has that name and creates a Cult in which people are forced to accept the words of this "entity" as a sacred doctrine... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When a person creates a Cult and forces his followers not to ever release sperm during sex and there are hundreds of testimonials of people who claim that after having joined the Cult they become Celibate because they were told that celibacy was better than releasing sperm... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When people are coerced to donate their own houses to a Cult in order to have a better knowledge of God and demonstrate that way that they are not attached to the material world... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When you find a stupid guru that says some stupid things like "the first master was Buddha, then Krishna, then Christ... and then I arrived, and I am like those other guys, so praise me"... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When people follow a "Master" (and every "Master" needs servants or slaves in order to be a "Master", right?)... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When a person like Samael Aun Weor claims that he has channeled ancient rituals which are practiced in his order and those rituals are full of literal quotes which come from a cheap Spanish translation of Wallis Budge's English translation of the Egyptian "Book of the Dead", a few rituals written by Krum-Heller and even a few quotes from Aleister Crowley's "Book of the Law" (who would probably have felt amused to know that a person that promotes a VERY DISTORTED and CHEAP version of Tantra is quoting his Book of the Law)... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When an organization is known as "Gnosis" and yet it promotes that his students MUST have visions that match the "revelations" that a loon like Samael Aun Weor claimed to have... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When the outcome of an organization is that several of its students end up getting absolutely alienated from society, in several cases living in mental hospitals, unable to have any social life beyond the organization... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When an organization asks his students to promote it by leaving brief posts in forums that mention its founder or links to the webpage of the Cult... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
When Religious Fanaticism is the main teaching of a Group... and when the stupid "revelations" of a stupid man like Samael Aun Weor become the core of a group... that's NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL.
Samael Aun Weor was NOT GNOSTIC AT ALL... and that the organization he has founded and its branches are not GNOSTIC, but a dangerous brainwashing cult.
This term originally comes from ancient Greek Platonic philosophy and referred to knowledge that empowers a person. It was then later used throughout Greek philosophy more generically as knowledge derived from experience. The term later became associated with some early Christian and Jewish sects that stressed the idea of striving to gain spiritual knowledge first-hand as opposed to simply having faith.
This is of course all well and good. Problem is, we have a cult taking the word and twisting it towards themself as referring to their ideology. If we use the term correctly, gnosis in this context would be to become aware of the trickery and distortions presented to us by cults, and to then by that very knowledge, become self-empowered against similar future victimization. The term is actually self-empowering in a positive way as its original meaning implied. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Samael Aun Weor's bizarre tantric cult, or any cult or group for that matter.
This type of attempted ownership of a broad term (and twisting of its meaning) is not exclusive to Samael Aun Weor's Gnostic cult. Many groups do this, so be careful not to judge books by their covers. Judge them by what's actually going on underneath the sleek facade.