Lure of the Arcane
The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication
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This book can be seen in part, I suppose, as an attempt to rationalize and justify my longtime practice at bedtime of reading mysteries or thrillers— books that some of my academic colleagues have uncharitably called “trash” but that I pre-fer to regard more tolerantly, along with such fans as W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Umberto Eco as literary sociology, ...
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In September 2009 the publishing world heralded another major novel by Dan Brown, author of the international best sellers Angels and Demons (2000) and The Da Vinci Code (2003). Over one million copies were sold on the fi rst day of publication and two million more during the fi rst week. The Lost Symbol follows essentially the same formula as its two pre de ces sors. Like them, it features Rob-...
1 The Mystery Cults of Antiquity
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Classical antiquity was familiar with po liti cal conspiracies. The successful plot in 411 BCE to overthrow democracy in Athens and to establish the oligarchy of the so- called Four Hundred is one of the more notorious incidents of ancient Greek history. The Catalinarian conspiracy of 63 BCE in Rome resulted not only in the defeat and death of Cataline but also in four of Cicero’s most eloquent orations. But ...
2 The Order of Knights Templar in the Middle Ages
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The lure of the arcane appears to be magnetic. Just as mythic or historical fi gures such as Gilgamesh, Heracles, or Parzival are oft en surrounded by tales and ad-ventures borrowed from altogether diff erent sources, one mystery oft en attracts another. Thus, for instance, in the twelft h century the mythic unicorn became associated with the equally mythic carbuncle stone that glows in the dark. The ...
3 The Rosicrucians of the Post-Reformation
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The second half of the sixteenth century witnessed an intensifying crisis in Ger-man history. While much of Eu rope suff ered from wars and revolutions, during the sixty years from the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618 Germany enjoyed an extended peace. But the accord was de-ceptive, concealing as it did a period of escalating tensions in religion, politics, ...
4 The Lodges of the Enlightenment
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In his infl uential study of structural transformations of the public sphere during the Enlightenment, Jürgen Habermas argues that secret societies belonged— along with dining clubs, salons, academies, and coff eehouses— to the important new institutions of the emerging bourgeois élite comprising merchants, bankers, businessmen, and intellectuals. More elaborately, in his brilliant inquiry into “the ...
5 Secret Societies of Romantic Socialism
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The two de cades from the July revolution of 1830 in France to the years preceding and following the more general Eu ro pe an revolutions of 1848 witnessed enor-mous intellectual ferment and social turmoil. Although society and culture in France and Germany displayed on the surface the bourgeois tranquility known respectively as the July Monarchy and the Biedermeier Period, the stability was ...
6 Modern Variations
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...“What a bizarre epoch,” marvels Durtal, the hero of J.- K. Huysmans’s novel Là- bas (1891: translated variously as The Damned, Lower Depths, and Journey into the Self). “Just at the moment when positivism is at its height, mysticism awakens and all the madness of occultism commences.” Durtal, who is writing a biogra-phy of the sadistic pedophile and heretic Gilles de Rais, believes that he needs to ...
7 Interlude: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
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It is ironic that the most widely ballyhooed conspiracy between the two world wars found virtually no contemporary literary resonance. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, fi rst published in 1903 in a St. Petersburg newspaper, had no im-pact outside Rus sia until the tract was brought to Western Eu rope aft er the Revo-lution by White Rus sian émigrés and then immediately (1920) translated— fi rst ...
8 The Playfulness of Postmodernism
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The fear of conspiracy, whether justifi ed or not, has been a factor in politics at least since Pentheus worried that Dionysus and his maenads were undermining his au-thority in ancient Thebes. In the Middle Ages kings and popes were anxious lest the Knights Templar with their vast resources usurp their power. Papists of the early seventeenth century were convinced that the Rosicrucians had instigated the ...
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Our literary quest has led us from Greek antiquity to the postmodern present and, with the heroines and heroes of the various works, through the most cultur-ally varied mysteries. Has the journey brought us to a goal? Initiated us into the secret? “A secret that, if we only knew it, would dispel our frustration, lead us to salvation; or else the knowing of it in itself would be salvation. Does such a lumi-...
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013