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Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy from the Gospels to the Da Vinci Code
Synopses & Reviews
Who were the Gnostics? Were they heretics, or were they ancient visionaries who possessed the keys to the deepest secrets of Christianity? Where did they come from? Did they leave any descendants? Why were they suppressed by the early Church? And why do their ideas keep reappearing throughout history? Forbidden Faith is the first comprehensive popular history of Gnosticism, a secretive tradition that has survived for centuries in many forms and under many names.
Richard Smoley, an expert in esoteric Christianity, traces the Gnostic legacy from its ancient roots in the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in Egypt; early second-century Gnostic communities of the Roman Empire; and the Manichaeans of Central Asia. He tracks how the Gnostic impulse was publicly repressed but survived underground in various forms of Christianity, surfacing again in the Middle Ages with the Cathars, a mysterious group of heretics who inspired the medieval tradition of courtly love but were then wiped out by the Inquisition. Since then, Smoley reveals, the Gnostic legacy has survived into the modern era with the help of Jewish Kabbalists, the Freemasonry of our founding fathers, the poetry of William Blake, the intuitive insights of nineteenth-century American Theosophists, and the psychological works of Carl Jung. Finally, we learn how some of the key teachings of the Gnostics are being revived today in serious nonfiction such as the criticism of Harold Bloom, in the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, as well as in popular Hollywood films like The Matrix and The Da Vinci Code.
Why should Gnosticism exercise such a peculiar and lasting fascination? Throughout most of Christian history, Gnosticism was the "forbidden faith," and such condemnation by the official Church might actually have served to endow the movement with glamour. But that explanation goes only so far. For the Gnostics to have such lasting appeal, it seems logical that they must offer solutions to some problems, solutions overlooked by mainstream religion. Forbidden Faith provides the enduring story and continuing legacy of those errant faithful who have had direct experiences of the divine that can't be explained by the official beliefs of the Church.
"Tackling the perplexing, if not esoteric, topic of Gnosticism has proved a daunting challenge for most who have tried to introduce it to the general reading public. Not so for Smoley, former editor of the journal Gnosis. This clear, concise (albeit cursory in spots) primer traces the Gnostic threads of philosophy, religion, science and popular culture from their biblical references through to their 21st-century appearances in novels and film. Moving easily from one century to the next while at the same time connecting them to each other, Smoley is at once thoughtful and thought-provoking, suggesting that if the history of the Gnostic legacy were a drama, he'd script it in two acts, divided between the 'rise and fall of the great dualist heresy... [and]... the entrance of Kabbalah' into Western heritage. Beside the usual examples of the Gospel of Thomas, the Cathars, Rosicrucians and Masons, he resuscitates Manichaeism and Hesychasm. He highlights not only William Blake and Carl Jung, but Theosophy maven Helena Blavatsky, German philosopher Eric Voegelin and, surprisingly, literary critic Harold Bloom. Throughout, Smoley reinforces that Gnosticism is, and always has been, here to stay. He paves a wide, clear path to understanding it, accessible even to the weekend seeker." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Gnosis, the experience of direct "inner knowing," has been marginalized in Western religions as a traditional counter-culture. The editor of Gnosis, a journal of Western spiritual traditions, argues that the Gnostic legacy may yet bridge the chasm between faith and science. Smoley presents and explains a family tree of Gnosticism from ancient civilizations to its many branches that include Kabbalah, alchemy, Freemasonry, and Hinduism/ Buddhism. The Da Vinci Code, the bestselling book, introduced many to the secret nature of such teachings and the central (and suppressed by the Church) role of the sacred feminine.
Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Book News Annotation:
Gnosis, the experience of direct "inner knowing," has been marginalized in Western religions as a traditional counter-culture. The editor of Gnosis, a journal of Western spiritual traditions, argues that the Gnostic legacy may yet bridge the chasm between faith and science. Smoley presents and explains a family tree of Gnosticism from ancient civilizations to its many branches that include Kabbalah, alchemy, Freemasonry, and Hinduism/ Buddhism. The Da Vinci Code, the bestselling book, introduced many to the secret nature of such teachings and the central (and suppressed by the Church) role of the sacred feminine. Annotation Â©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This gem-like, concise anthology provides thoughtful people with both an introduction to the paranormal and a reason to take a fresh look at it.
and#160;Nostradamus...channeling...Atlantis...divination. Most serious people consider such topics nonsense. But look again. Writing with intellectual verve and a deeply critical mind, religious thinker Richard Smoley explores and reconsiders the supernatural in history and today.
We are often conditioned to think of the Judeo-Christian tradition as the only valid, historically accurate, and rational spiritual philosophy. Occultism, magic, and the esoteric are, by contrast, considered illegitimate, delusional, and lacking in intrinsic worth. Supernatural challenges this prejudice, revealing that Western occult traditions are richer and more historically impactful than most of us imagine. The book reveals hidden diamonds and neglected ideas that characterize the magical tradition in the West.
For any reader, at any level of experience, who has ever been curious about an arcane subject andndash; from psychical powers to secret societies andndash; here is a book that gives a complete yet precise, critical, yet serious, and always respectful account of topics from the unseen world. Supernatural is a brilliant primer to the occult and magical traditions of the West.
Praise for RICHARD SMOLEY
andldquo;I have a standing rule: I read anything Richard Smoley writes.andrdquo; andmdash;Larry Dossey, M.D.
andldquo;Smoley . . . is adept at unknotting the paradoxes of spiritual traditions and making new connections across centuries and languages.andrdquo; andmdash;Library Journal
andldquo;He is one of the liveliest, most intrepid, and most gifted explorers of the spiritual landscape writing today.andrdquo;
andmdash;Ptolemy Tompkins, author of Paradise Fever
About the Author
Richard Smoley was educated at Harvard and Oxford universities and was the editor of Gnosis, the award-winning journal of Western spiritual traditions. He is the co-author (with Jay Kinney) of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, and is the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition and The Essential Nostradamus.
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