About Philip Jenkins

The Last Religion Standing

Last year, I wrote several posts about the pagan mythology that was so rife in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, and which found expression in so many fine films and television programs, the “films of Old, Weird, Britain.” Together these items have come to be known as “Folk Horror”, which is now the subject [Read More…]

Ancient Pagan Ways, Continued

I did quite a few blogposts last year about the possible survival of ancient pagan ways into the Christian Middle Ages and beyond, with a special focus on British conditions. The general consensus these days is to minimize or deny such connections and continuities, and in general I sympathize with that view. But I am [Read More…]

The World Set Free

Sometimes you see phrases and passages that are so provocative that they cry out to be placed in exams with “Discuss” after them. Here is a great example from H. G. Wells, whom we often regard as a patron saint of secular materialism. I am just reading his stunning novel from 1913, The World Set [Read More…]

Counting Baptists and Naming Baptists

Unlike virtually all Christian churches and denominations, Baptists are not witnessing a fundamental shift of numbers to the Global South. [Read more…]

Theosophy and the Rise of the Modern

Last time, I described the enormous attraction of the Theosophical movement in the early twentieth century, when it played such a central role in Western culture. But what were the core themes that so appealed to highly educated thinkers and the avant-garde – in short, to Modernism and modernity? What made the Theosophical package so [Read More…]

No Religion Higher Than Truth; or, Why Theosophy Matters

Theosophy is (a) a fringe esoteric/religious movement founded in the 1870s, one of many such marginal sects; or (b) the indispensable key to understanding Western culture in the early twentieth century. I can make a case for either of these extreme statements, but the arguments for (b) are much stronger than you might think. I [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Theosophy and the Esoteric Tradition

I have been posting about the widespread knowledge of alternative gospels and scriptures that existed in Western culture over a century ago, roughly between 1870 and 1930. Whether we are looking at Gnostic and esoteric views of early Christianity, feminist interpretations of the role of Mary Magdalene, or the influence of Essene doctrine, very few [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem”

In 1891, Herman Melville published his final book, a collection of poems entitled Timoleon. I want to focus on one of these poems, which initially seems quite mysterious. But it can be understood, if we appreciate the prevailing historical views of the time about heresy and sectarian religion. I also want to touch on a [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus

I have been posting about the quite widespread knowledge of alternative and apocryphal scriptural texts in the early twentieth century, long before most non-specialists would assume that this would have been possible. Today’s post concerns an extraordinary example of this phenomenon. The First World War years witnessed a wonderful flowering of music in Great Britain, [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Finding the First Scrolls

I began this “Alternative Scriptures” series by noting the discovery of a “Dead Sea Scroll” type manuscript in the Genizah of a Cairo synagogue, in the 1890s. Tracing the probable history of that document tells a fascinating story. This “Zadokite Fragment” originated either at Qumran or another site belonging to the same sect, presumably around [Read More…]