Beginning with the ancient Greek Mystery traditions, Gnosticism, and the practices in early Christianity, Arthur Versluis uncovers the secret line of Western sexual mysticism that, like the Tantra of the East, seeks transcendence or union with God through sexual practices. Throughout antiquity, and right into the present day, sexuality has played an important, if largely hidden, role in religious traditions and practices. This includes not only Christian but also kabbalistic and hermetic alchemical currents of sexual mysticism, many discussed together here for the first time.
In the Mystery tradition of hieros gamos (sacred marriage) and the Gnostic tradition of spiritual marriage, we see the possibility of divine union in which sexual union is the principal sign or symbol. Key to these practices is the inner or archetypal union of above and below, the intermingling of the revelatory divine world with the mundane earthly one. Versluis shows that these secret currents of sexual mysticism helped fuel the rise of the troubadours and their erotic doctrine, the esoteric teachings of Jacob Böhme in the late 16th century, the 19th-century utopian communities of John Humphrey Noyes and Thomas Lake Harris, the free love movement of the 20th century, and the modern writings of Denis de Rougemont and Alan Watts.
About the Author(s) of The Secret History of Western Sexual Mysticism
Arthur Versluis, Professor in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University, holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has published numerous books and articles. Among his books are Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esotericism (Rowman Littlefield, 2007), The New Inquisitions: Heretic-hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism (Oxford UP, 2006), Restoring Paradise: Esoteric Transmission through Literature and Art (SUNY: 2004); The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (Oxford UP: 2001); Wisdom’s Book: The Sophia Anthology, (Paragon House, 2000); Island Farm (MSU Press, 2000); Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (SUNY: 1999); and American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions-(Oxford UP, 1993). His family has owned a commercial farm in West Michigan for several generations, and so he also published a book called Island Farm about the family farm, and about family farming in the modern era. Versluis was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Germany, and is the founding editor of Esoterica, and co-editor of JSR: Journal for the Study of Radicalism. He is the founding president of the Association for the Study of Esotericism.