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Religion > Mystical and Esoteric Traditions

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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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Ambrose Bierce is Missing

And Other Historical Mysteries

Joe Nickell

What constitutes historical truth is often subject to change. Through ingenious detection, the accepted wisdom of one generation may become the discredited legend of another -- or vice versa. In this wide- ranging study of historical investigation, former detective Joe Nickell allows the reader to look over his shoulder as he demonstrates the use of varied techniques in solving some of the world's most perplexing mysteries.

All the major categories of historical mystery are here -- ancient riddles, biographical enigmas, hidden identity, "fakelore," questioned artifacts, suspect documents, lost texts, obscured sources, and scientific challenges. Each is then illustrated by a complete case from the author's own files.

Nickell's investigation of the giant Nazca drawings in Peru, for example -- thought by some to provide proof of ancient extraterrestrial visitations -- uses innovative techniques to reveal a very different origin. Other cases concern the 1913 disappearance of writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the truth about the identity of John Demjanjuk ("Ivan the Terrible" to Polish death camp victims), the fate of a lost colonial American text, the authenticity of Abraham Lincoln's celebrated Bixby letter, and the apparent real-life model for a mysterious character in a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In reaching his solutions, Nickell demonstrates a wide variety of investigative techniques -- chemical and instrumental analyses, physical experimentation, a "psychological autopsy," forensic identification, archival research, linguistic analysis, folklore study, and many others. His highly readable book will intrigue the scholar and the history buff no less than the mystery lover.

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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 /

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Contemplative Psychology

by Han F. de Wit

This provocative and highly original work by one of the Netherlands’ leading psychologists provides an introduction to what is perhaps the oldest and most interesting psychology ever developed: the psychology of the contemplative life. As de Wit points out, contemplative psychology has not been developed by practitioners of academic disciplines, but rather by intelligent and sensitive practitioners of the contemplative and spiritual traditions themselves. As such, it has developed its own psychological understanding of contemplative and religious growth, and it has created its own methods of acquiring knowledge and insight into the nature of the human mind and experience. Contemplative psychology therefore addresses the fundamental issue of how our profane mode of experience comes about, what its nature is, why we hold onto it as real, and how it carries over into our words and deeds. Moreover, this psychology examines why and how the profane mode of experience can be transformed into the spiritual or religious experience of reality through the practice of contemplative disciplines. By contrasting it with conventional and scientific psychology and theology, de Wit outlines contemplative psychology as an auxiliary discipline within the contemplative traditions. His very readable overview has been written from an interreligious point of view. De Wit investigates the most important themes and contours that psychologies of different religions have in common. His presentation offers many directions for the development of a genuine contemplative psychology, something that is basically lacking in our present western culture This book will be of great value not only to psychologists of religion and theologians, but also to contemplatives, pastoral caregivers, counselors, and psychotherapists.

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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.

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Enkindling Love

The Legacy of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross

by Gillian T. W. Ahlgren

Enkindling Love chronicles the journey toward a living partnership with God, as articulated by two of Christianity's great mystical teachers. Excerpts from the seven moradas (dwelling places) of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle are held together with selections from John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love, in order to show stages of growth and transformation as this partnership moves from its nascent potential through deepening friendship and intimacy to the full fruition of the mystical life. Moving through the process via textual passages and commentary, readers are invited to consider God’s desire for partnership with us and how the love of God actively invites us into deeper relationship not only with God but also with self and other. Because Teresa and John experienced God’s love as a transforming power, they teach that it is a participatory reality that shapes and remakes us, even as if invites us to collaborate with God in the remaking of our world.

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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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