Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"American Gnosis"

New from Oxford University Press: American Gnosis: Political Religion and Transcendence by Arthur Versluis.

About the book, from the publisher:

The Greek word "gnosis," defined as direct spiritual knowledge or insight, has its origins in historical offshoots of Christianity in late antiquity. But the terms “Gnosticism” and “gnosis” have become widespread in many other contexts. They are common in contemporary scholarship on religion and in popular usage among magical, religious, and spiritual practitioners. And they have entered popular usage in contemporary society, with applications in numerous political, religious, and cultural contexts. Gnosis and Gnosticism have become leitmotifs in popular culture, in films such as The Matrix and Dark City, as well as in anime and other popular art forms.

In American Gnosis, Arthur Versluis explores the fascinating connection between the Gnostic tradition and contemporary American spirituality, politics, and popular media. Versluis surveys themes of Gnosticism and gnosis in American culture, both within the United States and in global contexts. Versluis shows that gnosis is key to understanding a wide spectrum of global syncretic religious and intellectual movements-some sensational, even wild, but all fascinating. American gnosis, he argues, is a defining feature of hybrid new religious forms in the twenty-first century.

Versluis provides case studies of major contemporary figures and texts that are emblematic of neo-gnosticism, offering a comprehensive framework of gnosis and an understanding of gnostic trends in modernity. He explores how neo-gnostic memes recur in social media and shows how American gnosis has manifested as spiritual independence, reflecting the ever-growing demographic category “spiritual but not religious.” In delving into the intersection of contemporary American spirituality, politics, and literature, American Gnosis uncovers the remarkable prevalence of neo-gnostic elements today.
Visit Arthur Versluis's website.

The Page 99 Test: American Gurus.

--Marshal Zeringue