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Restoring Paradise

Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis

Publication Year: 2004

Focusing on how spiritual initiation takes place in Western esoteric religious, literary, and artistic traditions from antiquity to the present, Restoring Paradise provides an introduction to Western esotericism, including early modern esoteric movements like alchemy, Christian theosophy, and Rosicrucianism. The author argues that European and American literature and art often entail a written transmission of spiritual knowledge in which writing itself works to transmute consciousness, to generate, provoke, or convey spiritual awakening. He focuses on several important figures whose work has not received the attention it deserves, including American writer and Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and British painter Cecil Collins, among others. While Arthur Versluis presents a new way of understanding Western esotericism in a contemporary light, above all he has crafted a book about knowing, and about how we come to know, and what “knowing” by way of literature and language actually means.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

Restoring Paradise began as an introduction to the literary and religious history of Western esotericism and was meant for a general audience, but as the book took shape, so did an unexpected thesis about initiation, literature, art, and consciousness itself. ...


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pp. xi

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Introduction: Initiatory Transmission and the Imagination

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pp. 1-15

We find ourselves today at the edge of new vistas in scholarship, and one of the most promising of these is what we may broadly term esoteric literature and art. A wide range of new approaches to and reënvisionments of Western history, religious, artistic, and otherwise,...

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1. Origins

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pp. 17-33

To understand the origins of Western esotericism in all its various guises, we must begin in antiquity, specifically at the beginning of Christianity. Although many aspects of what actually happened during this time may always be shrouded or lost, still we can trace through this era the origin of the primary elements or currents in Western esotericism. ...

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2. Historical Currents [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 35-86

It is, of course, a leap to go from the first centuries of the Christian era to the Middle Ages, but we must do so in order to trace the Western esoteric traditions. It is true that there were important intervening figures like John Scotus Eriugena, but here we are sketching the broad outlines of historical currents drawing on individual works,...

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3. Modern Implications

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pp. 87-157

In the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest, something remarkable happens at the play’s end. The main character, the magician Prospero, has brought the play’s action to an end, and the comedic drama is brought to its resolution, so that we are left viewing the magician himself. ...


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pp. 159-167


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pp. 169-172

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Suggestions for Further Study

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pp. 173-174

A standard reference for scholars and a general introduction to Western esotericism as a field of study is Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), along with its companion book, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000). ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484852
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791461396
Print-ISBN-10: 0791461394

Page Count: 174
Illustrations: 10 illustrations
Publication Year: 2004