Charles Sturt University
PACT - Public and Contextual Theology

The Gnostic World

Since the famous discoveries in Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, followed by the important colloquium of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) held in Messina in 1966, the topic of “Gnosticism” as a recurrent complex of ideas in the history of religions has been a topic of much academic, and indeed popular, interest.

Combining themes ranging from lost gospels like the Gospel of Thomas through to the secret societies of the nineteenth century French Occult Revival, “Gnosticism” has proved itself a topic of perennial fascination to scholars and the general public alike, perhaps demonstrated no better than the attention it attracted from luminaries like Carl Jung and Hans Jonas, but also by novels like Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code or films like The Matrix trilogy.

Despite this wide interest no diachronic reference work has been available which has spanned the “Gnostic current” from its ancient roots to its modern expressions until now. Edited by a trio of Australian-based scholars and published by Routledge, The Gnostic World, fills a significant gap in scholarship on "Gnosticism"  and brings together a team of experts from ancient history, theology, religious studies, sociology, and the study of Western Esotericism to present a ground-breaking anthology of essays covering various aspects of the “Gnostic current” from its pre-Christian roots through to contemporary popular culture and for the first time provide an encompassing diachronic survey from Sethian Gnosticism right through to Scientology and beyond.

Of the international and multidisciplinary cast of contributors are two of our PaCT researchers: Prof Wayne Hudson, whose chapter "Rudolf Steiner: Multiple Bodies" introduces the important Austrian polymath and founder of the Anthroposophical movement and the Waldorf educational philosophy Rudolf Steiner; and Dr Bernard Doherty, whose contribution "The Neo-Gnostic Synthesis of Samael Aun Weor" examines some of the key writings of the neglected twentieth century Columbian esotericist Samael Aun Weor whose teachings lie at the root of a series of  contemporary "Gnostic" groups across the globe.