- Paperback: 327 pages
- Publisher: Michigan State University Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0870138197
- ISBN-13: 978-0870138195
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,407,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Esotericism, Art and Imagination 1st Edition
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About the Author
Arthur Versluis is Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities at Michigan State University. He is author of numerous books, including Magic and Mysticism, The New Inquisitions, Restoring Paradise, The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance, Wisdom’s Children, and American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions. He has published articles on topics ranging from comparative federalism to Christian esotericism. Editor of the journal Esoterica, he is also co-editor of JSR: Journal for the Study of Radicalism.
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The earliest work of art is the play Bacchae by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides. Though esotericism in Western culture preceded the play in the Greek mystery religions. The essays do not treat general themes though. They bring out the esotericism in individual works of art or esoteric beliefs in particular artists. Among the diverse artists are Blake, H. P. Lovecraft, Homer, and Dan Brown; and the psychologists Freud and Jung. Philip Pullman is a contemporary novelist of popular fiction based on the esoteric notion that "[b]efore our present world was created, some of the [already existing] angels, followers of wisdom, rebelled against the [duplicitous] Authority and were cast down...[but] continued to work for his downfall and for the opening of the minds he sought to close." This is not simply an idea for antagonistic, epic fiction, but a version of the belief held by some esoterics of an anthropomorphic reality exerting its will or nature on the cosmos, including individual lives; with the corresponding belief that the movement to know this reality as much as this is possible is the substance of individual lives.
The modernist arts of photography and film are covered too. These are tied in with older esoteric beliefs as appropriate. Some saw these art forms as modern-day means of expressing esoteric ideas which believers of previous eras would have expressed by incantation or ritual. "From its inception the medium of photography was quickly associated with the genesis of the extension of self, a fragment of the soul, captured in the silver [which developed the negative]." The Matrix, The Truman Show, Dark City, and Pleasantville are seen as movies revealing "a recent obsession with gnosis," the view that the experienced, lived, world is a "corrupt copy of a spiritual plenitude of which the ignorant maker is not aware." Robocop and Blade Runner are two "cabalistic" films. The Harry Potter series, with American Beauty and Agnes of God, have alchemical aspects.
One surprising subject is certain gardens; which are related as scenes, or contexts, of initiation into esoteric beliefs.
This is the first volume in the publisher's planned Studies in Esotericism Series. Its articles "indicate the range and depth of this emerging field, and show how it is intimately linked to the humanities tradition that is itself also distinctively Western."