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Esotericism, Art, and Imagination [Paperback]

Arthur Versluis , Lee Irwin , John Richards , Melinda Weinstein

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Book Description

15 July 2008
Esotericism, Art, and Imagination is a uniquely wide-ranging collection of articles by scholars in the field of Western esotericism, focusing on themes of poetry, drama, film, literature, and art. Included here are articles illuminating such diverse topics as the Gnostic fiction of Philip Pullman, alchemical images, the Tarot, surrealism, esoteric films, and much more. This collection reveals the richness and complexity of the intersections between esotericism, artistic creators, and their works. Authors include Joscelyn Godwin, Cathy Gutierrez, M. E. Warlick, Eric Wilson, and many others.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press (15 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870138197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870138195
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,715,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars varied ways Western art reflects eroticism through the ages 30 July 2008
By Henry Berry - Published on Amazon.com
Sixteen essays disclose esotericism in the range of Western art, from theater to fiction to the visual arts and others. The four editors are from the fields of arts and letters, religious studies, sociology and philosophy, and humanities. The fields of the essays' authors are not given, and one assumes they are from the same or similar interdisciplinary fields.

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."
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