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The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism (New)

by Versluis, Arthur

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket

Book ID: 9780195306378, 0195306376

$40.00

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Description

The only book of its kind, The New Inquisitions is an exhilarating investigation into the intellectual origins of totalitarianism. Arthur Versluis unveils the connections between heretic hunting in early and medieval Christianity, and the emergence of totalitarianism in the twentieth century. He shows how secular political thinkers in the nineteenth century inaugurated a tradition of defending the Inquisition, and how Inquisition-style heretic-hunting later manifested across the spectrum of twentieth-century totalitarianism. An exceptionally wide-ranging work, The New Inquisitions begins with early Christianity, and traces heretic-hunting as a phenomenon through the middle ages and right into the twentieth century, showing how the same inquisitional modes of thought recur both on the political Left and on the political Right. A tour de force of intellectual history, The New Inquisitions demonstrates how the drive for heretic-hunting manifests in a great array of authors and figures from Joseph de Maistre to Vladimir Lenin, from Carl Schmitt and Theodor Adorno to the lurid works of the late twentieth-century American evangelical satanic panic and finally, to controversial American policies that led to the torture and even murder of accused terrorist prisoners in places like Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and through policies called extreme rendition. Versluis shows that inquisitional attitudes and actions did not disappear with the advent of modernity, but instead continued to recur in new forms, across the political spectrum and right up to the present day.

Reviews

"The New Inquisitions is a fascinating and highly original book that traces the intellectual, religious and political genealogy of modern totalitarianism. Versluis has drawn together a remarkable variety of historical threads and uncovered surprising but extremely persuasive connections between a wide range of figures, from Joseph de Maistre to Theodore Adorno to Pat Robertson, moving fluidly from early Christianity down to the contemporary United States. Despite its ambitious breadth, Versluis's book presents a coherent narrative of the origins of totalitarianism that is of central relevance to our own historical moment."-- Hugh Urban, author of Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religions

"Arthur Versluis's The New Inquisitions addresses urgent questions. It proposes intriguing links between today's inquisitions and those of the past, and in so doing casts new light on fascinating but often neglected thinkers. Agree or disagree with its conclusions, but enjoy the territory this provocative book will take you through." -- Mark Sedgwick, author of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century

"In The New Inquisitions, Arthur Versluis takes a generation of work describing Western Esotericism and launches a new exploration of key issues in Western intellectual history, among others the origins of totalitarianism, the willingness of 'good' people to countenance genocide, and the shared roots of fascism and communism. Using our current knowledge of the despised esoteric thinkers, found under a number of labels -- Gnostic, occult, mystic, theosophic -- he offers a fresh analysis of the emergence of the ideological state and how mystical transhistorical thought/experience might provide a way to avoid its need to squelch all dissent even to the point of employing torture and death. Versluis is adding an important new direction in discussing key contemporary global problems." -- J. Gordon Melton, Institute for the Study of American Religion

"This is a timely and important book in which a major historian of western esotericism takes up the mantle of the public intellectual and demonstrates how the West's modern political pathologies stem back to the dualistic logic of the late medieval Inquisition and almost two millennia of heretic-hunting. Versluis shows how this same irrational fear of religious dissent is disturbingly prevalent among intellectuals on both the right and the left. The result is a call for a return to that 'first America' of Jeffersonian pluralism, and a plea for a more mature religious view that can help us find our way out of that Cave of religious terror and political insanity in which we now all live." --Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion

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