Up for review: Discernment of Spirits, Soviet New Age, and Magic

I’ve received three books for review over the last few weeks, making for a hectic book review phase (I’m not gonna mention the ones I’m already late with). They are three fascinating collections, dealing with very diverse material. Here’s a quick preview.

Angels of Light? (Brill, 2012)

Angels of Light? (2012)

Clare Copeland and Jan Machielsen’s Angels of Light? (Brill, 2012) is a collection of essays dealing with that delicious problem of Christian theology and practice: how to discern real sanctity from demonic trickery? If an angel appears in all its splendour – whether in a dream, a vision, or in front of  your bare eyes – how do you know that it is not the devil masquerading to lure the devout to the dark side? This, in a nutshell, is the problem of discernment. It has had consequences not only on the abstract level of theological philosophizing, but also on the social level. Above all during the tumultuous reformation era, when new reformers led to the emergence of new sects with new creeds, new leaders, and new lines of authority. The devout had to fear not only false angels, but false prophets as well. From the blurb:

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Platonic orientalism – new webinar lecture

One of the most central concepts in Wouter Hanegraaff’s book of last year, Esotericism and the Academy (Cambridge UP), is “Platonic Orientalism”. The revival of this specific understanding of platonism during the renaissance has had enormous influence on the formation of “Western esotericism”, according to Hanegraaff, and in particular by supplying a characteristic trait: the “ancient wisdom” narrative. If you want to learn more about this fascinating topic, do check out the new BPH webinar with Hanegraaff, where he explains the revival of Platonic orientalism, its place in the theological debates of the early apologetic church fathers, and the wider polemical context of late-classical paganism. Some more background about the main characters involved (Plethon, Ficino, Pico) is also provided on the BPH’s own blog.

Plato the Pythagorean – a possible revolution in Plato research?

I must admit to feeling a sceptical gut reaction when I first read about J. B. Kennedy’s brand new article on Pythagorean number theories being embedded in the structure of Plato’s dialogues – a possible key to his unwritten doctrine. I first read about it in The Guardian‘s rather popularizing account. After doing some more searches, and finally checking  the original paper published in Apeiron, I am happy to say it looks much more solid than one first expects when hearing something along the lines of “lone scholar x cracking codes in the works of legendary intellectual hero y“.

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Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm  Comments (5)  
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