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Religion > Mystical and Esoteric Traditions

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Alchemist of the Avant-Garde Cover

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Alchemist of the Avant-Garde

The Case of Marcel Duchamp

Acknowledged as the “Artist of the Century,” Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) left a legacy that dominates the art world to this day. Inventing the ironically dégagé attitude of “ready-made” art-making, Duchamp heralded the postmodern era and replaced Pablo Picasso as the role model for avant-garde artists. John F. Moffitt challenges commonly accepted interpretations of Duchamp’s art and persona by showing that his mature art, after 1910, is largely drawn from the influence of the occult traditions. Moffitt demonstrates that the key to understanding the cryptic meaning of Duchamp’s diverse artworks and writings is alchemy, the most pictorial of all the occult philosophies and sciences.

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Apocalypse of the Alien God

Platonism and the Exile of Sethian Gnosticism

By Dylan M. Burns

In the second century, Platonist and Judeo-Christian thought were sufficiently friendly that a Greek philosopher could declare, "What is Plato but Moses speaking Greek?" Four hundred years later, a Christian emperor had ended the public teaching of subversive Platonic thought. When and how did this philosophical rupture occur? Dylan M. Burns argues that the fundamental break occurred in Rome, ca. 263, in the circle of the great mystic Plotinus, author of the Enneads. Groups of controversial Christian metaphysicians called Gnostics ("knowers") frequented his seminars, disputed his views, and then disappeared from the history of philosophy—until the 1945 discovery, at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, of codices containing Gnostic literature, including versions of the books circulated by Plotinus's Christian opponents. Blending state-of-the-art Greek metaphysics and ecstatic Jewish mysticism, these texts describe techniques for entering celestial realms, participating in the angelic liturgy, confronting the transcendent God, and even becoming a divine being oneself. They also describe the revelation of an alien God to his elect, a race of "foreigners" under the protection of the patriarch Seth, whose interventions will ultimately culminate in the end of the world.

Apocalypse of the Alien God proposes a radical interpretation of these long-lost apocalypses, placing them firmly in the context of Judeo-Christian authorship rather than ascribing them to a pagan offshoot of Gnosticism. According to Burns, this Sethian literature emerged along the fault lines between Judaism and Christianity, drew on traditions known to scholars from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Enochic texts, and ultimately catalyzed the rivalry of Platonism with Christianity. Plunging the reader into the culture wars and classrooms of the high Empire, Apocalypse of the Alien God offers the most concrete social and historical description available of any group of Gnostic Christians as it explores the intersections of ancient Judaism, Christianity, Hellenism, myth, and philosophy.

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Beholders of Divine Secrets

Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature

A wide-ranging exploration of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, a mystical Jewish tradition from late antiquity, including a discussion of the possible cultural context of this material's creators. Beholders of Divine Secrets provides a fascinating exploration of the enigmatic Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, the Jewish mystical writings of late antiquity. Vita Daphna Arbel delves into the unique nature of the mystical teachings, experiences, revelations, and spiritual exegesis presented in this literature. While previous scholarship has demonstrated the connection between Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism and parallel traditions in Rabbinical writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocalyptic, early Christian, and Gnostic sources, this work points out additional mythological traditions that resonate in this literature. Arbel suggests that mythological patterns of expression, as well as themes and models rooted in Near Eastern mythological traditions are employed, in a spiritualized fashion, to communicate mystical content. The possible cultural and social context of the Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism and its composers is discussed.

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Claiming Sacred Ground

Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona

Adrian J. Ivakhiv

Claiming Sacred Ground
Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona

Adrian J. Ivakhiv

A study of people and politics at two New Age spiritual sites.

In this richly textured account, Adrian Ivakhiv focuses on the activities of pilgrim-migrants to Glastonbury, England and Sedona, Arizona. He discusses their efforts to encounter and experience the spirit or energy of the land and to mark out its significance by investing it with sacred meanings. Their endeavors are presented against a broad canvas of cultural and environmental struggles associated with the incorporation of such geographically marginal places into an expanding global cultural economy.

Ivakhiv sees these contested and "heterotopic" landscapes as the nexus of a complex web of interestes and longings: from millennial anxieties and nostalgic re-imaginings of history and prehistory; to real-estate power grabs; contending religious visions; and the free play of ideas from science, pseudo-science, and popular culture. Looming over all this is the nonhuman life of these landscapes, an"otherness" that alternately reveals and conceals itself behind a pagenant of beliefs, images, and place-myths.

A significant contribution to scholarship on alternative spirituality, sacred space, and the politics of natural landscapes, Claiming Sacred Ground will interest scholars and students of environmental and cultural studies, and the sociology of religious movements and pilgrimage. Non-specialist readers will be stimulated by the cultural, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of extraordinary natural landscapes.

Adrian Ivakhiv teaches in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, and is President of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada.


April 2001
384 pages, 24 b&w photos, 2 figs., 9 maps, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, index, append.
cloth 0-253-33899-9 $37.40 s /

Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival Cover

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Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival

A searching study of Eliphas Lévi and the French occult revival. This classic study of the French magician Eliphas Lévi and the occult revival in France is at last available again after being out of print and highly sought after for many years. Its central focus is Lévi himself (1810-1875), would-be priest, revolutionary socialist, utopian visionary, artist, poet and, above all, author of a number of seminal books on magic and occultism. It is largely thanks to Lévi, for example, that the Tarot is so widely used today as a divinatory method and a system of esoteric symbolism. The magicians of the Golden Dawn were strongly influenced by him, and Aleister Crowley even believed himself to be Lévi's reincarnation. The book is not only about Lévi, however, but also covers the era of which he was a part and the remarkable figures who preceded and followed him – the esoteric Freemasons and Illuminati of the late 18th century, and later figures such as the Rosicrucian magus Joséphin Péladan, the occultist Papus (Gérard Encausse), the Counter-Pope Eugène Vintras, and the writer J.-K. Huysmans, whose work drew strongly on occult themes. These people were avatars of a set of traditions which are now seen as an important part of the western heritage and which are gaining increasing attention in the academy. Christopher McIntosh's vivid account of this richly fascinating era in the history of occultism remains as fresh and compelling as ever.

Fantasies of Gender and the Witch in Feminist Theory and Literature  Cover

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Fantasies of Gender and the Witch in Feminist Theory and Literature

by Justyna Sempruch

In her book Fantasies of Gender and the Witch in Feminist Theory and Literature, Justyna Sempruch analyses contemporary representations of the "witch" as a locus for the cultural negotiation of genders. Sempruch revisits some of the most prominent traits in past and current perceptions in feminist scholarship of exclusion and difference.

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Francis of Assisi

The Message in His Writings

by Thaddee Matura, OFM

Although Francis had no formal training in theology, he has left us a profound yet warmly human vision of the Christian life. In this study, the author breaks with custom and focuses not on the personality of Francis but on his message as we find it in his writings: a rich, balanced message that teaches a vibrant spirituality centered on God and humanity.

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Ghosts across Kentucky

William Montell

"Lynwood Montell has collected ghost tales all over the state of Kentucky, from coal mining settlements to river landings, from highways to battlefields. He presents these suspense-filled stories just as he first heard or read them: as bona fide personal experiences or as events witnessed by family members or friends. There are over 250 stories in Ghosts across Kentucky that are set in specific places and times. They include tales of graveyards, haunted dormitories, animal ghosts, and vanishing hitchhikers. Montell describes weird lights, unexplained sounds, felt presences, and disappearing apparitions. Phantom workmen, fallen soldiers, young lovers, and executed criminals appear in these pages, along with the living who chance upon them. Though the focus is on the stories themselves, Montell also includes a chapter explaining our fascination with the supernatural and the deep truths these storytelling traditions reveal about our lives and our pasts.William Lynwood Montell, emeritus professor of folk studies at Western Kentucky University, is the author of several books, including Killings."

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Ghosts along the Mississippi River

Alan Brown

Some of the nation's most compelling ghost stories owe their origin to "The Father of Waters." Ghosts along the Mississippi River is the first book-length collection of ghost tales from the small towns and bustling cities that have grown up along its banks. The states represented in this book include Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Unlike most collections of "true" ghost stories, Ghosts along the Mississippi River draws from the folk traditions of the northern and the southern United States. These tales are populated with Federal and Confederate soldiers, Native Indians, wealthy entrepreneurs, actors, college students, hotel owners, preachers, slaves, and planters. According to some paranormal investigators, the large number of ghost stories from the Mississippi's river towns, and from watery sites all over the world, are proof that large bodies of water are conductors of psychic energy. Granted, no concrete proof exists that there is a definite connection between the river and any actual ghosts or spiritual phenomena. What is indisputable, though, is the fact that the ghost stories included in Ghosts along the Mississippi River are an invaluable record of the values, dreams, fears, and lives of the people who have called the river home.

Ghost-Watching American Modernity:Haunting, Landscape, and the Hemispheric Imagination Cover

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Ghost-Watching American Modernity:Haunting, Landscape, and the Hemispheric Imagination

Haunting, Landscape, and the Hemispheric Imagination

Maria del Pilar Blanco

In Ghost-Watching American Modernity, Maria del Pilar Blanco revisits nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts from Spanish America and the United States to ask how different landscapes are represented as haunted sites. Moving from foundational fictions to Westerns, Blanco explores the diverse ways in which ghosts and haunting emerge across the American hemisphere for authors who are preoccupied with evoking the experience of geographical transformations during a period of unprecedented development. The book offers an innovative approach that seeks to understand ghosts in their local specificity, rather than as products of generic conventions or as allegories of hidden desires. Its chapters pursue formally attentive readings of texts by Domingo Sarmiento, Henry James, Jose Marti, W. E. B. Du Bois, Juan Rulfo, Felisberto Hernandez, and Clint Eastwood. In an intervention that will reconfigure the critical uses of spectrality for scholars in U.S./Latin American Studies, narrative theory, and comparative literature, Blanco advances ghost-watching as a method for rediscovering haunting on its own terms.

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