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

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Religion - 232 pages
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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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The serpent's gift: gnostic reflections on the study of religion

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Faith- and reason-based knowledge dominate American culture, while gnostic knowledge, i.e., knowledge derived from alternate states of consciousness, is overlooked and undervalued. Kripal (mysticism ... Read full review


The Serpents Gift
1 The Apocryphon of the Beloved
2 Restoring the Adam of Light
3 Comparative Mystics
Logoi Mystikoi or How to Think Like a Gnostic
4 Mutant Marvels
Return to the Garden

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Page vi - What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if in your dream you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah! What then?

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About the author (2008)

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.

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