So my sabbatical project is to write as much of my book
The Ancient New Age: The Birth of Christianity and the Triumph of Gnostic Spirituality
as possible. At the moment, I have been working on honing my abstract and table of contents. So I want to share the abstract with you in this first post on the sabbatical.
Since I am going to be making my old subject contemporary with the analogy to the New Age, I have been thinking deeply about Gnostic(ism) and about its re-insurgence in the modern period. I keep going back to Irenaeus' description of the Gnostics as mushrooms popping up from the terrain. I rather like this metaphor and am thinking about structuring the book around it. Besides there is great mushroom art from the medieval Christians. Take a look at this Eden with the mushroom as the tree of knowledge (Plaincourault Fresco).
Abstract: Early Christianity was very radical in its approach to perennial questions about God and humanity because, DeConick explains, the Christian tradition was seeded with a Gnostic spirituality from the start. DeConick argues that Gnostic spirituality itself was a brand new concept in the ancient world, a new way of being religious that emerged in 1st c. Alexandria, and quickly was dispersed across the Mediterranean. It reflected a subversive metaphysical outlook and included an understanding of humanity as divine. Unlike early catholic Christianity which developed traditional Jewish teachings about the mortality of the human being created in God's image and subject to sin, the Gnostics framed their teaching along Platonic lines, understanding the essential human being to be an uncreated piece of God living in exile and suffering on account of this separation. These 2 metaphysical outlooks were diametrically opposed to each other, competing for dominance from the start of Christian history to today. While the catholic churches were able to sustain mass conversion and the western Gnostic churches ultimately perished, Gnostic spirituality did not die. It survived as an underground religious current. It remains today at the root of New Age and Self-help movements, and at odds with traditional forms of Christianity just as it was in the ancient world. The Ancient New Age focuses on the way in which Gnostic spirituality has triumphed. Not only did it foster countercultural metaphysical or “New Age” movements in past, but it continues to do so in the present, where its message of the divine human thrives.