The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion

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“Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field.” With those words in Genesis, God condemns the serpent for tempting Adam and Eve, and the serpent has shouldered the blame ever since. But how would the study of religion change if we looked at the Fall from the snake’s point of view? Would he appear as a bringer of wisdom, more generous than the God who wishes to keep his creation ignorant? 

Inspired by the early Gnostics who took that startling view, Jeffrey J. Kripal uses the serpent as a starting point for a groundbreaking reconsideration of religious studies and its methods. In a series of related essays, he moves beyond both rational and faith-based approaches to religion, exploring the erotics of the gospels and the sexualities of Jesus, John, and Mary Magdalene. He considers Feuerbach’s Gnosticism, the untapped mystical potential of comparative religion, and even the modern mythology of the X-Men. 

Ultimately, The Serpent’s Gift is a provocative call for a complete reorientation of religious studies, aimed at a larger understanding of the world, the self, and the divine.

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ISBN-13: 9780226453811
ISBN-10: 0226453812
Pagini: 232
Dimensiuni: 152 x 229 x 18 mm
Greutate: 0.33 kg
Ediția: New.
Editura: University of Chicago Press
Colecția University of Chicago Press


Preface: Digging Up My Library


Introduction: The Serpent’s Gift

Faith, Reason, and Gnosis

The Premodern, the Modern, and the Postmodern

Toward a Gnostic (Post)Modernity


Writing as Hissing

Autobiographical and Pedagogical Contexts

The Essays

1 The Apocryphon of the Beloved
The Quest for the Heretical Jesus
“One Will Know Them by Their Roots”
From the Womb . . .
Sexual Healings: Dispelling the Demons of Abuse
Sexual Teachings
The Man Jesus Loved
The Woman Jesus Loved
The Secret
2 Restoring the Adam of Light
The Adam of Light Awakened by Her
The Fiery Brook
The Sacrilegious Secret of Christian Theology
Implications of the Method
The Historical and Intellectual Contexts
“Man Is God to Man”: The Virtues of Pluralism and Polytheism
Completing the Incarnation of Love (and Sex): Embodiment in Feedback’s Thought
The Sexuality of Numbers
The Cancer and the Cure
Toward a Mystical Humanism: A Gnostic Rereading
3 Comparative Mystics
The Rebuke of the Gnostic and the Oriental Renaissance
Comparative Mystics
Ramakrishna: Colonialism, Universalism, Mysticism
Doctrinal and Historical-Critical Analysis
Ramakrishna and the Comparativist
The Critical Study of Religion as a Modern Mystical Tradition
The Scandal of Comparison
Professional Heresy: The Gnostic Study of Religion
Interlude: Logoi Mystikoi; or, How to Think like a Gnostic
4 Mutant Marvels
Educational and Sexual Allegory
On Puberty and Powers
Denying the Demiurge
Toward a More Radical Empiricism
Dissociation and the Release of Nonordinary Energies
On Death as Dissociation
Real X-Men
On X-clusions and X-ceptions
Political Allegory; or, How (Not) to Be an X-Man
Conclusion: Return to the Garden
The Other Tree
The Forbidden Fruit
“When He Becomes Troubled, He Will Be Astonished”
The Flaming Sword and the Bridal Chamber
The Fruit of the Tree; or, My Gnostic Library before I Have to Bury It (Again)

Notă biografică

Jeffrey J. Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor in and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the author of Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna and Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom: Eroticism and Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism, both published by the University of Chicago Press.


“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

“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

"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."

"[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."