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

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

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

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

Synopsis

"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.

Excerpt

In moments of temporary exhaustion or writing block, I often ponder my personal library, tucked carefully and consciously behind the glass doors of some Amish-crafted cherry bookcases (an odd irony bespeaking my thesis already, since Amish discipline would object to or even ban almost all of the books these beautiful bookcases contain). I marvel at the sheer volume of information, the numerous generations of learning, the millions of hours of hard intellectual labor, and the deep wisdom that this small but significant library contains hidden in its pages. Nor am I unmoved by the art that is displayed on its many covers and spines. Modern libraries can be stunningly, eerily beautiful.

I also often wonder what a future archaeologist or historian might make of my collection, or those of any number of other scholars of religion presently working in the field. and then I remember something one of my seminary professors and spiritual directors, who also happens to be a Benedictine monk, once shared with me in a moment of quiet private conversation. He noted calmly that any contemporary scholar with a Ph.D. in religious studies knows immeasurably more about religion than any revered . . .

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