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.