Winner of the Figure Foundation Award for best book in philosophy and religion published by a university press 2016
The Gnostic New Age
How A Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today
Published by Columbia University Press 2016
Professor April D. DeConick of Rice University draws our attention to a paradigm shift in our understanding of religion and its purpose, when she explores the emergence of Gnostic spirituality with its subversive view of a transcendent God, the divine human being and illusionary worlds.
Religion is not about obeying the gods, but transcending them in order to find spiritual union with the supreme source of all existence.
The Gnostics, she says, were the first to view traditional religion as the opiate of the masses, the drug that keeps people satisfied to serve the gods and their kings as obedient slaves and vassals.Obedience and submission, the traditional postures of worship, are turned upside down by the Gnostics, as the individual person is no longer viewed as a mere mortal created by a powerful god to do his bidding.
Who were these radical Gnostics? Professor DeConick shows that, contrary to popular sentiment, Gnosticism is not a heretical religion with a particular set of myths, rituals, and beliefs that were transmitted from one Gnostic church to the next until it was successfully suppressed and defeated by the Catholic Church. Nor is it a figment of the imaginations of Catholic leaders who conjured the Gnostic heresy in order to suppress alternative forms of Christianity in the second century. She argues that Gnosticism was very real and remains with us even today.
In this book, she offers us Gnosticism as a radical form of spirituality that emerges around the turn of the first century ce, when it shook the foundations of the ancient religious landscape.