Restoring Paradise

Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

By Arthur Versluis

Subjects: Theosophy, Literary History, Esotericism And Gnosticism, Art
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Hardcover : 9780791461396, 196 pages, May 2004

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Table of contents



Introduction: Initiatory Transmission and the Imagination


What is Esoteric?
Initiatory Transmission and Western Esotericism
The Esoteric Imagination


1. Origins


Alchemy of the Word
The Field of the Imagination
The Red Thread of Gnosis


2. Historical Currents


Divine Service: Chivalry and the Troubadours
Books within Books: Jewish Kabbalism
The Transfiguration of Earth: Alchemical Literature
The Divine Science: Theosophic, Pansophic, Rosicrucian, and Masonic Literature


3. Modern Implications


Prospero's Wand: Modern Esoteric Literature
The Western Esoteric Traditions and Consciousness
Literature, Art, and Consciousness




Explores European and American esoteric traditions as reflected in literature and in art.


Focusing on how spiritual initiation takes place in Western esoteric religious, literary, and artistic traditions from antiquity to the present, Restoring Paradise provides an introduction to Western esotericism, including early modern esoteric movements like alchemy, Christian theosophy, and Rosicrucianism. The author argues that European and American literature and art often entail a written transmission of spiritual knowledge in which writing itself works to transmute consciousness, to generate, provoke, or convey spiritual awakening. He focuses on several important figures whose work has not received the attention it deserves, including American writer and Imagist poet H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and British painter Cecil Collins, among others. While Arthur Versluis presents a new way of understanding Western esotericism in a contemporary light, above all he has crafted a book about knowing, and about how we come to know, and what "knowing" by way of literature and language actually means.

Arthur Versluis is Professor of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University and the author of many books, including Wisdom's Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition, also published by SUNY Press. He is also the editor of the journal Esoterica.