Omens of the Millennium


In this impassioned, erudite, and provocative work, Harold Bloom, bestselling author and America's foremost literary and cultural critic, examines society's "New Age" obsessions: angels, prophetic dreams, and near-death experiences. Omens of Millennium traces these cultural phenomena from their ancient and traditional origins to their present-day, millennial manifestations. In addition, it is a personal account of Bloom's Gnosticism. Certain to educate, challenge, and entertain, Omens of Millennium is as ...

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In this impassioned, erudite, and provocative work, Harold Bloom, bestselling author and America's foremost literary and cultural critic, examines society's "New Age" obsessions: angels, prophetic dreams, and near-death experiences. Omens of Millennium traces these cultural phenomena from their ancient and traditional origins to their present-day, millennial manifestations. In addition, it is a personal account of Bloom's Gnosticism. Certain to educate, challenge, and entertain, Omens of Millennium is as fascinating as it is timely.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this commanding and impassioned inquiry, Bloom draws on a lifelong study of religion and, in particular, of Gnosticism, the knowing that God is not an external force but resides within each one of us. Through the ancient literatures of Jewish Kabbalah, Christian Gnosticism, and Muslim Shi'ite Sufism, he reveals to us angels not as the kitschy cherubs we know today but as magnificent, terrifying, sublime beings who have always played a central role in Western culture. He allows us to feel their splendor and to experience the powerful role that dreams and near-death experiences have held throughout the centuries.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A fascination with near-death experiences, alien abductions, angels and prophetic dreams has reached a "particular intensity" in the U.S. as the millennium approaches. Or so says Bloom (The Western Canon) in this dazzling, maverick study in literature and comparative religion. Pausing often to unpack his own religious convictions, which are rooted in Gnosticism, a mystical belief system whose elusive history he traces to early Christianity, Kabbalistic Judaism and Islamic Sufism, Bloom contends that such "omens of the Millennium" are in fact debased forms of Gnosticism. Gnosis, he writes, is a spiritual orientation at odds with orthodox religion. It eschews faith in an outward God for knowledge of the divinity of the deepest self and retells the story of creation as a fall away from a Godhead and a Fullness that, Bloom says, is more humane than the God of institutional religion. Contrasting the "inspired vacuity" of New Age writers like Arianna Huffington and Raymond A. Moody to authentic Gnostic authors (who, according to Bloom, include ancient sages like Valentinus, medieval Kabbalists like Isaac Luria and more modern writers like Blake, Emerson and Shakespeare), Bloom explores how images of angels, prophecies and resurrection have always mirrored anxieties about the end of time, and how these images have been domesticated by popular culture. Bloom frequently injects himself into his study, discussing with rueful irony his own experiments with the outer limits of consciousness, including his own "near-death experience" (in a hospital while convalescing from a bleeding ulcer). The final chapter is a Gnostic sermon on self-transcendence. This book's brevity and eccentricities (Huffington and Moody are easy targets who don't exemplify the range and complexity of New Age thought) diminish its force as polemic. As a critical performance, however, it's a tour de force, highlighting a secret history of mystical thought whose visionaries and poets call out to each other over the centuries. (Sept.)
Library Journal
With the approach of the year 2000, people are turning to spiritual phenomena such as angels, dream interpretation, and near-death experiences. Bloom (The Western Canon, LJ 9/1/94), a self-proclaimed Gnostic, seeks to show that the connection between these concerns and the coming millennium can best be understood by tracing their development from ancient Zoroastrian spirituality through Christian Gnosticism, Muslim Shi'ite Sufism, and Jewish Kabbalism, into contemporary American religious culture. Within this "context that can serve as a spiritual standard of measurement," he portrays much of the current popular fascination as insipid, debased, and commercialized, especially in the United States. He synthesizes insights from a broad array of sourcesincluding the Bible, the Kabbalah, the Koran, Jewish and Christian Gnostic texts, Shakespeare, and Freudas he develops his thesis. If not always convincing, his work is enlightening, engaging, and often personal. For general and informed readers.Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Birmingham
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573226295
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
One of our most popular, respected, and controversial literary critics, Yale University professor Harold Bloom’s books – about, variously, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the classic literature – are as erudite as they are accessible.


"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Prelude: Self-Reliance or Mere Gnosticism

I. Angels
Visions of Angels
Their Current Debasement
Metatron, Who Was Enoch
The Catholic Angels Hierarchy
The Fallen Angels
Angels, Miracles, and America

II. Dreams
The Answering Angel
The Nature of Dreams
Sigmund Freud's Dream Book
Prophecy and Dreams

III. Not Dying
The "Near-Death Experience"
Shamanism: Otherworldly Journeys
The Astral Body: The Zelem
Immortality and Resurrection
The Resurrection Body

IV. Gnosis
The Hermetic Corpus: Divine Man
Christian Gnosticism: Valentinus and Resurrection
Sufism: Angel of Earth and Garment of Light
The Kabbalah: Metatron, the Lesser Yahweh
The Kabbalah: Luria's Transmigration of Souls

V. Millennium
American Centuries
Gnosis of the World to Come

Coda: Not by Faith, Nor by the Angels: A Gnostic Sermon


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