This authoritative introduction reveals Gnosticism as the indigenous mystical tradition of the West and considers its message to Judeo-Christianity in the twenty-first century.
According to the author, Gnosticism straddles the divide between psychology and religion - the place where soul and spirit meet, where dream and vision are transformed into an experience of liberation. Gnostic myths, metaphors and symbols partake of both psychological and metaphysical meaning. It this sense they are like endless loops in which psychological meaning points to metaphysical meaning that leads one back to the individual psyche again. It is the place where cosmology and psychology fuse, where archetypes and deities merge and separate in an endless dance. In both the intrapsychic and external sense, Gnostic myths belong in depth psychology and religion at the same time.
The author discusses the Gnostic view of the soul and of the divine and manifest worlds, considers the Gnostic Christ as a guide to the sacred mysteries and as Liberator more than Saviour and looks at the concept of Sophia (wisdom) in the Gnostic tradition. Various groups like the Mandaeans, Manicheans and Cathars are investigated.
One of the most interesting sections deals with three great Gnostic thinkers: Valentinus (famous for the poetic beauty of his words), Basilides (renowned for his mystical profundity) and Marcion (noted for his informed criticism of the Bible.) Finally Hoeller considers the influence of Gnostic ideas on writers and artists like Blake, Jung, Hesse, Melville and others.
Another very gripping section looks at Gnosticism in the light of Chaos Theory, Modernism, Post-Modernism and Nihilism. Here, Hoeller very convincingly refutes the claims of certain critics that Gnosticism is similar to nihilism and proves that it is, on the contrary, a very positive and life-affirming worldview that offers hope to the individual in the 21st century.
The text is enhanced by black and white illustrations of ancient and modern Gnostic art, and the book includes a glossary of terms, a general reading list, a bibliography of modern books and an index. I also recommend this same author's earlier masterpiece, The Gnostic Jung And The Seven Sermons To The Dead.
Anyone familiar with Dr. Hoeller's lectures on the Gnosis.org website knows that he has charming turns of phrase and an amazing fund of knowledge on Gnosticism. This book reflects that. It is an indispensable introduction to the subject of Gnosticism--its history, and principles. For those more familiar with Gnosticism it is just as useful, if for no other reason than it is so approachable and well written.
One reviewer mentioned Dr. Hoeller's bias in interpretation. True enough, but everyone is biased after all, and we can afford Holler some tolerance in his own because he communicates it so delightfully. Beyond this, the very premise of Gnosticism is one of deep subjective 'knowing,' so for a Gnostic to play the objective historian would be nonsensical.
If you're interested in the subject, buy the book. For fun, I'd listen to a couple of his lectures first so when you read it you hear him talking in his rich Hungarian(?) accent (he sounds like Dracula!)