Oh, those gnostic Unitarians!
Folks who were surprised at the popularity of Elaine Pagels at the recent GA shouldn't have been. Unitarians apparently had discernable Gnostic leanings even before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi scrolls in 1945.
For example, there's an out-of-print book first published by Beacon Press in 1935 for use in children's services called The Beacon Song and Service Book for Children and Young People. It used to be common in Unitarian children's chapels; my church's library still has a bunch of copies, and on a recent visit to First Parish in Plymouth I noticed that they still had theirs in the pews of their Brewster Chapel. My church's copies are the Fourth Printing of November 1943, and include some additions that presumably were appended at the time they were first acquired. Pasted to the frontpapers of our copies is an order of service with "We Gather Together", the Lord's Prayer, and "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come", which places my church two generations ago squarely in the Yankee Congregational Christian tradition, and is interesting but not particularly unusual. However, the really eyebrow-raising bit is what is pasted to the endpapers of every copy:
[To those who insist we have always been creedless: neener, neener.]
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
And in Jesus Christ, His Son,
Who was born of Mary and Joseph,
Who lived in a Carpenter's Shop in Nazareth,
Who taught the Sermon on the Mount,
Who died in Jerusalem upon a Cross,
To make me good.
[No particular surprises here. It's more Christocentric than most UU congregations today would accept, but there's no overt supernaturalism, no deity of Christ, no overt confession of the Resurrection -- it's classic Unitarianism.)
I believe that I, too, am a Child of God
And a Citizen of Heaven.
[Again, classic Unitarianism -- with the emphasis on human worth and "likeness to God" rather than sin and separation.]
I believe that I must never, by thought, word or deed, be a traitor to my Heavenly Country; for by so being I should open the gates to those enemies of the Soul -- falsehood, ugliness and fear.
[So, we didn't speak of "sin" per se, but we did speak openly back then in a far more muscular moral and spiritual vocabulary than many UUs today would choose. This is, or at least once was, standard "salvation by character" talk. I presume the omission of the "Harvard commas" is inadvertent.]
I believe that I must live my life in my Earthly Country by the secret knowledge I have in my heart of my Heavenly Country where Truth and Beauty and Love abide.
[Emphasis added. Egad! Zounds! Defeat that demiurge!]
Now unto the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the only Wise God, be honor and glory, forever. Amen.
[From I Timothy 1:17, this was a standard liturgical closing for many years in both Unitarian and Congregational churches.]
The Christocentrism and most of the theology may seem somewhat foreign to many contemporary UUs, but they aren't really out of place in historical Unitarian practice. However, this "secret knowledge" reference sounds strongly Gnostic, and is something I had never heard before in a Unitarian context! Can anybody out there with a firmer grounding in denominational history than I have shed any light on this creed and/or its "secret knowledge" doctrine that we evidently were teaching young Unitarians two generations ago, and where they came from?