Just as we speak of “dead” languages, we say that religions “die out.” Yet sometimes, people try to revive them, today more than ever. New Antiquities addresses this phenomenon through critical examination of how individuals and groups appeal to, reconceptualize, and reinvent the religious world of the ancient Mediterranean as they attempt to legitimize developments in contemporary religious culture and associated activity.
Drawing from the disciplines of religious studies, archaeology, history, philology, and anthropology, New Antiquities explores a diversity of cultic and geographic milieus, ranging from Goddess Spirituality to Neo-Gnosticism, from rural Oregon to the former Yugoslavia. As a survey of the reception of ancient religious works, figures, and ideas in later twentieth-century and contemporary alternative religious practice, New Antiquities will interest classicists, Egyptologists, and historians of religion of many stripes, particularly those focused on modern Theosophy, Gnosticism, Neopaganism, New Religious Movements, Magick, and Occulture. The book is written in a lively and engaging style that will appeal to professional scholars and advanced undergraduates as well as lay scholars.
Published: Mar 1, 2019
A set of successful and engaging contributions.
There are two main approaches visible to the appropriation and use of antiquities: while some scholars feel the need to expose “archaeological fantasies” as “inaccurate” … others explicitly abstain from such historical evaluation since “all religions change over time”. Having both approaches included in one volume is a major strength, not least because it raises important questions regarding the status of historical research and academic historical knowledge in the discipline called history of religions.
This book should be recommended to scholars of Western esotericism and new religious movements who are interested in traditional historiography. It will open a new discussion within classical reception studies, which up to this moment have not explored religion or esotericism in a comprehensive way.
Aries – Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism
This lively and informative collection of essays offers readers instructive examples to explain the continuing appeal of ancient religious traditions, but only when transformed to align with modern sensibilities. The collection does more than this, however: it presents a compelling case for understanding all modern forms of spirituality as “new antiquities,” and this includes the many varieties of contemporary Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on. However authentic, original, and traditional they claim to be, all are forms of modern bricolage constructed to deal with the intellectual, spiritual, and metaphysical conundrums accompanying cultural change.
As Steven Engler points out, “all tradition is genuine and all tradition is invented” (2005). A statement like this, together with this book and others like it, makes the rise of modern fundamentalisms with their insistence on the literal interpretation of religious texts and their divine authorship all the more interesting as psychological defenses against the indeterminacy of modern life.