University of Michigan
Ph.D. dissertation: American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (Oxford University Press, 1993)
University of Michigan
Grand Valley State University, English, Political Science
PRINCIPAL SCHOLARLY INTERESTS
The intersection of religion and literature. Intellectual history, focusing on marginalized groups and individuals. American Transcendentalism, Asian religions. Radicalism across the political spectrum. Western esotericism: topics relating to magic and mysticism. Mythologies. Agrarianism.
I have diverse intellectual interests, but they have some commonalities. Chiefly, I am interested in investigating and writing about subjects that for various historical reasons have been neglected or ignored. My doctoral work was on American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions, subsequently published under that title by Oxford University Press. Soon thereafter, I began investigating Western esotericism, and in particular, Christian theosophy (the tradition of esoteric Christianity that begins with Jacob Böhme (1575-1624), and that I discuss in my trilogy of books on that theme, Theosophia, (Lindisfarne, 1994), Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (SUNY, 1999), and Wisdom’s Book: The Sophia Anthology, (Paragon House, 2000). Other books on Western esotericism include The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 2001), Restoring Paradise, (SUNY, 2004), and my survey of the field, Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esotericism (Rowman Littlefield, 2006). This book derived from a popular course that I created here at MSU with the same title, Magic and Mysticism (REL 275). I am editor of JSR: Journal for the Study of Radicalism, and was founding editor of the journal Esoterica, which now is a biannual print book series, Studies in Esotericism. My most recent book is American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion (Oxford University Press, 2014).
I enjoy teaching; my courses are dynamic, and we often cover material that you will not encounter anywhere else.
I have long been active in scholarly organizations devoted to the study of
religion: I am the founding president of the Association for the Study of Esotericism (aseweb.org), and longstanding member of the American Academy of Religion, for which I serve on the steering committee of the panels devoted to Western esotericism. I also have presented at the International Association for the History of Religion since 1995. Groups like these offer the opportunity for scholars with like interests to meet and share ideas and discoveries, which, when you think about it, is what we also do in the classroom.