“In The Serpent’s Gift, Jeffrey Kripal provocatively advances a practice he names ‘academic gnosticism.’ Through such a method, he seeks to move beyond some of the obstinate binaries that have preoccupied, and sometimes thwarted, scholars of religion. This lively, accessible, and delightfully transgressive book also explores how the academic study of religion itself is implicated in, indeed emerges out of, some of the heretical subject matters it tries objectively to understand. In making conscious a culturally repressed, religious unconscious by means of his ‘mystical humanism,’ Kripal has once again succeeded in getting students of religion to think about (and with) old things in new and daring ways.”--Jeremy Zwelling, Wesleyan University
(Jeremy Zwelling 2006-07-18)
“A trickster-guide, Jeffrey Kripal lures his readers through mirrored doors and ironic tunnels into the inner chambers of the study of religion. There he conducts a disconcerting initiation. The mysteries of his religious studies are an antidote to the imperial certainty, the bombastic piety, of too much religion. This shimmering serpent gives with its fangs.”--Mark D. Jordan, Asa Griggs Candler Professor, Emory University
(Mark D. Jordan 2006-07-18)
"Kripal's writing glows with insight and enriches our understanding of humanity's gnostic dignity. Highly recommended."
"A fascinating meditation on gnosticism, sexuality, religious studies, and life in general. It will intrigue, challenge, provoke, and (possibly) alarm or offend the reader, but all for the sake of an important quest for a new way of thinking through and drawing together, our currently disparate studies of religion, mysticism, theology, and human and divine realities. . . . Each essay is well written and inviting, and most useful reading; cumulatively, they make the case that excluded, silenced, lost perspectives need to be heard in twenty-first century academe and also in our spiritual quests."
(Francis X. Clooney Harvard Divinity Bulletin
"[Kripal's] trademark mix of autobiography and rigorous scholarship gives his writings a style all their own. His irenic style matches his approach: he reaches out to all sides rather than setting one side against another. . . . In any future course on the study of religions, I would assign The Serpent's Gift."
(Robert A. Segal History of Religions
--This text refers to the Hardcover
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As recent domestic and geopolitical events have become increasingly dominated by intolerant forms of religious thought and action, the critical study of religion continues to find itself largely ignored in the public square. Caught between those who assert that its principal purpose is to reflect the perspectives of those who believe and those who assert that its only proper place is to expose these same worldviews as deceptive social and economic mechanisms of power, the discipline has generally failed to find a truly audible voice. Rejecting both of these conservative and liberal modes of knowing as insufficient to the radical subject that is religion, Jeffrey J. Kripal offers in this book another possibility, that of the serpent’s gift.
Such a gift hisses a form of gnosis, that is, a deeply critical approach to religion that is at the same time profoundly engaged with the altered states of consciousness and energy that are naively literalized by the proponents of faith and too quickly dismissed by the proponents of pure reason. Kripal does not simply describe such a gnosis. He performs and transmits it through four meditations on the sexualities of Jesus, the mystical humanism of Ludwig Feuerbach, the gnostic potentials of the comparative method, and the American mythologies of the comic book. From the erotics of the gospels to the mutant powers of the superhero, The Serpent’s Gift promises its readers both an intellectual exile from our present religious and sexual ignorance and a transfigured hope in the spiritual potentials of the human species.