Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos

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By the end of World War II, religion appeared to be on the decline throughout the United States and Europe. Recent world events had cast doubt on the relevance of religious belief, and modernizing trends made religious rituals look out of place. It was in this atmosphere that the careers of Scholem, Eliade, and Corbin—the twentieth century's legendary scholars in the respective fields of Judaism, History of Religions, and Islam—converged and ultimately revolutionized how people thought about religion. Between 1949 and 1978, all three lectured to Carl Jung's famous Eranos circle in Ascona, Switzerland, where each in his own way came to identify the symbolism of mystical experience as a central element of his monotheistic tradition. In this, the first book ever to compare the paths taken by these thinkers, Steven Wasserstrom explores how they overturned traditional approaches to studying religion by de-emphasizing law, ritual, and social history and by extolling the role of myth and mysticism. The most controversial aspect of their theory of religion, Wasserstrom argues, is that it minimized the binding character of moral law associated with monotheism.

The author focuses on the lectures delivered by Scholem, Eliade, and Corbin to the Eranos participants, but also shows how these scholars generated broader interest in their ideas through radio talks, poetry, novels, short stories, autobiographies, and interviews. He analyzes their conception of religion from a broadly integrated, comparative perspective, sets their distinctive thinking into historical and intellectual context, and interprets the striking success of their approaches.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Religion
Religion after Religion is rich with quotes from—as well as observations about—Eliade, Henry Corbin, and Gershom Scholem. . . . it recombines them in a masterful, insightful performance that evokes in the sympathetic reader . . . wondering admiration. . . . Virtually anyone could learn a great deal by reading this book.
From the Publisher
"A powerful and evocative work for mature and informed readers. . . ."—Library Journal

"Religion after Religion is rich with quotes from—as well as observations about—Eliade, Henry Corbin, and Gershom Scholem. . . . it recombines them in a masterful, insightful performance that evokes in the sympathetic reader . . . wondering admiration. . . . Virtually anyone could learn a great deal by reading this book."—Journal of Religion

Journal of Religion
Religion after Religion is rich with quotes from—as well as observations about—Eliade, Henry Corbin, and Gershom Scholem. . . . it recombines them in a masterful, insightful performance that evokes in the sympathetic reader . . . wondering admiration. . . . Virtually anyone could learn a great deal by reading this book.
Library Journal
In the nihilistic aftermath of World War II, the efforts of emerging phenomenologist Mircea Eliade, Judaist Gershom Scholem, and Islamicist Henry Corbin formed the discipline of the History of Religions (in Ascona, Switzerland). Their annual meetings, reprinted in the distinguished journal Eranos-Jahrbuch, crystallized a numinous approach to religion that has yet to be overthrown in the academy. Wasserstrom (Judaic studies, Reed Coll.) presents here an account of their theories, arguing that they saw "religion after religion" as a mystical meta-rationalism. Neither a biographical study nor an academic introduction to their work, this thematically driven intellectual history covers their academic output in areas such as poetics, mysticism, and ethics. A powerful and evocative work for mature and informed readers only, this is highly recommended for upper-level religion and religious history collections.--Sandra Collins, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Lib. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691005409
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix
Author's Note xi
Introduction 3
PART 1: Religion after Religion 21
Chapter 1. Eranos and the "History of Religions" 23
Chapter 2. Toward the Origins of History of Religions: Christian Kabbalah as Inspiration and as Initiation 37
Chapter 3. Tautegorical Sublime: Gershom Scholem and Henry Corbin in Conversation 52
Chapter 4. Coincidentia Oppositorum: An Essay 67
PART II: Poetics 83
Chapter 5. On Symbols and Symbolizing 85
Chapter 6. Aesthetic Solutions 100
Chapter 7. A Rustling in the Woods: The Turn to Myth in Weimar Jewish Thought 112
PART III: Politics 125
Chapter 8. Collective Renovatio 127
Chapter 9. The Idea of Incognito: Authority and Its Occultation According to Henry Corbin 145
PART IV.- History 157
Chapter 10. Mystic Historicities 159
Chapter 11. The Chiliastic Practice of Islamic Studies According to Henry Corbin 172
Chapter 12. Psychoanalysis in Reverse 183
PART V: Ethics 201
Chapter 13. Uses of the Androgyne in the History of Religions 203
Chapter 14. Defeating Evil from Within: Comparative Perspectives on "Redemption through Sin" 215
Chapter 15. On the Suspension of the Ethical 225
Conclusion 237
Abbreviations Used in the Notes 251
Notes 255
Index 355

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2000

    Exoteric Book Judges, But Without A Clue

    This is an academically competent book which takes a profoundly inadequate stance towards its material and never seriously presents for examination the biases of its own author. The book first of all assumes that only exotericism is valid; the esoteric is treated here as mere creation of idiosyncratic personalities. Religion is regarded as a social construct, not seriously-enough tied to isues of truth to have the matter even intrude into the text. This is a common academic failing, of course, but it is fatal in dealing with scholars whose mode was to dance around what they thought were issues of ultimate truth. The book furthermore assumes that religion has no genuine transcendent oneness, nor does it have any independent power to break through the categories of historical casuality. Without discussion of the openness which in fact surrounds such issues--without a single bow even to the possibilities--it proceeds to whack away at its subjects in the blissfully unstated assumption that these notions (on which at least two of the books' scholars based much of their thought) cannot possibly be more than anything but strange and airy ideas. In short, the book never seriously confronts its underlying material, which is tied inextricably to its subjects lives and their points of view. Instead it silently denies many of their major assumptions and then carps around the edges.

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