The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress and the Office of Scholarly Programs sponsored the lecture, which Bloom based largely on his new book, "Hamlet: Poem Unlimited" (Riverhead, 2003). Bloom said he wrote this book to fill a gap he left in "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human" (1998), in which he argued that "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" is "a secular scripture from which we derive much of our language, our psychology and our mythology."
His overview of the Sufi "subtle body," which he equates with the "resurrection body," is much more original and central to his concerns. Every soul has an inner image, often personified as a "being of light, " which acts to epitomize his or her highest spiritual potential (the angelic self). Often mistaken as a "guardian angel," this visionary image is a reflection of the "inner essence" sought by the gnostic. The task is to empty the everyday self in order to absorb that angelic self; this celestial prototype is the basis of gnostic revelation and the -104- gnostic or angelic Christ (or feminine Shekhinah) appears variously, according to the merits of the seeker. What matters is the resurrected (not crucified) Christ, who "appears as a man to men and an angel to angels" (p. 163). Like a grain of wheat sown in the body, the visionary image is a source of spiritual knowledge and resurrection, a knowing that can grow into a presence of divinity within. The imaginal world is where we create the means for the fruition of this seed as a "rose among thorns" (Adin Steinsaltz, The Thirteen Petalled Rose , 1980). Bloom also calls this the "body of love" found occasionally in great poetry or other visionary literature of the secular west. The "astral" body remains a lower vehicle, a New Age media, as distinct from the "angelic " image which is the primal source of gnostic revelation as found in various mystic, esoteric schools. This section (and the next) is the heart of the book and summarizes many of Bloom's best ideas and primary gnostic concerns. Bloom then reviews Gnosticism as articulated in the Hermetic-gnostic texts, ranging from the Egyptian Hermes (using Garth Fowden's The Egyptian Hermes , 1986) through the Corpus Hermeticum (Brian Copenhaven, 1992) and the Valentinian paradigm as articulated by Hans Jonas, Peter Brown, and Bentley Layton, including later Christian and Sufi analogues. From Bloom's perspective, the failed Jewish apocalyptic writers influenced or perhaps "became Gnostics," making gnosticism a possible "Jewish heresy rather than a Christian one" (p. 186). He reads the core of Christian gnosticism as knowing how to release the inner spark, to recover knowledge of the divine Fullness, and to leave behind the fallen material world. The body goes to dust, the soul survives, and the spark returns to primal divine origin; the true self is this spark, the sought after source of all gnostic illumination. Such an illumination, produced by dying to the world, leads likewise to the Sufi "world of light" over which Sophia-Fatima (or Shekhinah) is the presiding archangel, yet another image of inward divinity. The Kabbalah offers a similar image in Metatron, analogue of the Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth, who shows Moses the way to the divine throne and who is nothing less than God in angelic form, imaging the divine self. Passing through the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria, Bloom demonstrates this same analogy: the withdrawing of divinity leaving only divine sparks which provide a means for a return to the most primordial source of all gnostic revelations.
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