Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism

Overview

The success of books such as Elaine Pagels's Gnostic Gospels and Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code proves beyond a doubt that there is a tremendous thirst today for finding the hidden truths of Christianity – truths that may have been lost or buried by institutional religion over the last two millennia.

In Forbidden Faith, Richard Smoley narrates a popular history of one such truth, the ancient esoteric religion of gnosticism, which flourished between the first and fourth centuries ...

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Forbidden Faith

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Overview

The success of books such as Elaine Pagels's Gnostic Gospels and Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code proves beyond a doubt that there is a tremendous thirst today for finding the hidden truths of Christianity – truths that may have been lost or buried by institutional religion over the last two millennia.

In Forbidden Faith, Richard Smoley narrates a popular history of one such truth, the ancient esoteric religion of gnosticism, which flourished between the first and fourth centuries A.D., but whose legacy remains even today, having survived secretly throughout the ages.

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Editorial Reviews

Spirituality and Health magazine
“If you are interested in the appeal of these popular manifestations of Gnosticism, Smoley is certainly your best guide.”
Spirituality & Health magazine
“If you are interested in the appeal of these popular manifestations of Gnosticism, Smoley is certainly your best guide.”
Spirituality and Health Magazine
"If you are interested in the appeal of these popular manifestations of Gnosticism, Smoley is certainly your best guide."
Spirituality and Health magazine
“If you are interested in the appeal of these popular manifestations of Gnosticism, Smoley is certainly your best guide.”
Publishers Weekly
Tackling the perplexing, if not esoteric, topic of Gnosticism has proved a daunting challenge for most who have tried to introduce it to the general reading public. Not so for Smoley, former editor of the journal Gnosis. This clear, concise (albeit cursory in spots) primer traces the Gnostic threads of philosophy, religion, science and popular culture from their biblical references through to their 21st-century appearances in novels and film. Moving easily from one century to the next while at the same time connecting them to each other, Smoley is at once thoughtful and thought-provoking, suggesting that if the history of the Gnostic legacy were a drama, he'd script it in two acts, divided between the "rise and fall of the great dualist heresy... [and]... the entrance of Kabbalah" into Western heritage. Beside the usual examples of the Gospel of Thomas, the Cathars, Rosicrucians and Masons, he resuscitates Manichaeism and Hesychasm. He highlights not only William Blake and Carl Jung, but Theosophy maven Helena Blavatsky, German philosopher Eric Voegelin and, surprisingly, literary critic Harold Bloom. Throughout, Smoley reinforces that Gnosticism is, and always has been, here to stay. He paves a wide, clear path to understanding it, accessible even to the weekend seeker. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his latest work, Smoley (former editor, Gnosis; Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions) provides a popularized history of the ancient, esoteric religion known as Gnosticism. Drawing on an impressive mastery of the subject matter, he traces Gnosticism from the first century C.E. to the present. High points include a discussion of the lost religion of Manichaeism (a precursor to Gnosticism) and of how Gnosticism may have influenced Judaism and early Christianity. Smoley concludes by arguing that Gnosticism should be placed on the same level as institutionalized religion and science. Though orthodox theists and scientists may disagree, he presents a compelling and accessible argument. A thoroughly enjoyable read; highly recommended for all libraries with strong religious collections. [The publication of Forbidden Faith is timed in conjunction with the May 19 theatrical release of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks.-Ed.]-Brad S. Matthies, Butler Univ. Lib., Indianapolis Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Forbidden faith . . . in what? A look at the elusive legacy of Gnosticism and its mystical counterparts. In his sometimes disjointed narrative, Smoley (Inner Christianity, 2002, etc.) launches from the Da Vinci Code platform to introduce Gnosticism to the general public. His first chapter does a capable job of depicting Gnosticism as it's known from Christianity's early history. The author describes it as a belief aimed at gnosis (spiritual enlightenment) rather than at salvation. Heavily influenced by Plato and Eastern philosophies, Gnostics painted a far different picture of the creation and of Jesus than that taught by what Smoley calls "proto-Catholics." Hence, the creed was slowly but viciously beaten out of existence by the official church. Much of the rest of the book discusses people and systems of thought only tangentially connected to Gnosticism, including Manichaeism, Catharism and Rosicrucianism. The Kabbalah often seems to be more of a unifying thread in these pages than Gnosticism; indeed, Smoley admits that some of the connections he forms are "oblique." Though much of it is interesting, the reader often tends to wonder what this actually has to do with the Gnostics. He returns more fully to his topic in the concluding paragraphs, which explore the historical and social implications of renewed interest in Gnosticism over the past several decades. Though it influenced a wide range of intellectuals, from William Blake to Karl Jung, Gnosticism did not enter modern popular consciousness until the 1970s. The archaeological recovery and publication of the Nag Hammadi texts, coincident with the emergence of New Age thought, feminism and similar movements, prepared the groundworkfor a Gnostic resurgence. This has led, directly or indirectly, to such cultural expressions as The Matrix and The Da Vinci Code. More an exploration of gnosis itself than of Gnosticism the religion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060858308
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/8/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 990,340
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Smoley was educated at Harvard and Oxford universities and was the editor of Gnosis, the award-winning journal of Western spiritual traditions. He is the co-author (with Jay Kinney) of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions, and is the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition and The Essential Nostradamus.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2012

    Excellent book on Gnostic views, which were deemed heretical by

    Excellent book on Gnostic views, which were deemed heretical by the early Church.

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