I am excited - really excited - to be working on my book, The Ancient New Age. Now that my summer break is almost here, I am revving up to write full time. I have made good progress so far this semester, having drafted a chapter on initiatory practices among Gnostic groups, and half a chapter on the Valentinians trying to finally make sense of their dual mission to the soulish or psychic Christians and the spiritual or pneumatic Christians. I should be able to wrap up that chapter in a couple of weeks.
This book has been truly a phenomenal experience as an author. It has given me the time to think through the complex problems we face as historians of gnosticism. I started my thought process with my goal - to make sense of the multiple contexts and contents we find in Gnostic writings. The result is that I have come to understand Gnosticism and the Gnostic not as references to a religion like Judaism or Christianity. While there are Gnostic movements and even Gnostic religions, there is not a Gnostic religion.
What these words refer to is a new way of being religious, a new spirituality that arose around the time Jesus was born. When I track back through all the materials, the convergence of its first emergence appears to be in Egypt among wealthy Greeks who were visiting Egyptian temples seeking initiation into the mysteries that the priests offered them for a fee. Whatever they experienced, it completely reoriented them spiritually so that religion became about seeking a transcendent god-beyond-and-before-all-gods, a god whose unfolding resulted in a humanity infused with divinity. This new insight meant that the religions they were already practicing or familiar with had to be revised or reformed.
Just a little preview of what is to come in my book...