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Title: Spells of our inhabiting : transitioning from the spectre of Gnostic estrangement to a philosophy of entangled overflowing
Author: Soudan, Clara
ISNI:       0000 0004 9349 2648
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2020
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This doctoral thesis explores the cardinal importance of cosmological and theological narratives in our engagement with the contemporary ecological transition. Drawing upon the analyses of political philosophers Hans Jonas and Eric Voegelin, I argue that the category of Gnosticism provides a fruitful angle from which to approach the present environmental issue as well as the challenge of an ecological inhabiting of the earth. Originally referring to a variety of religious systems which bloomed in early Christianity, the concept of Gnosticism gravitates around the cardinal theme of a cultural estrangement from the world. While Hans Jonas’ study of Gnosticism elucidates the nihilistic dimension of the structural dualism pervading modern cosmology by relating the latter to a deep-ingrained tendency to escape from the world – which his environmental ethics of responsibility famously attempted to remedy –, Eric Voegelin focuses on the political manifestations of this spiritual inclination. Voegelin’s insights and his developments around the platonic concept of metaxy contribute to unravel what modern gnostic movements struggle to contain: the irreducible in-betweenness of being in the world. This enduring and ubiquitous in-betweenness of worldly processes, I submit, is what simultaneously moves and resists the dualistic structure of modern cosmology: it also lies at the core of what is being unveiled along the ecological mutation, what remains unthought and yet must be thought. The perspective of Gnosticism thus enables both Jonas and Voegelin to reach a greater analytical depth as well as a critical distance from within the system of thought they intend to approach. Focusing on the notion of inhabiting, the “hermeneutics of Gnosticism” developed in this research aims to further illuminate some of the cosmological tropes framing our understanding of and involvement in the present ecological mutation. It uncovers for instance such pervasive ideas as that of an abyssal alienation from the world, a perpetual yearning to overcome the conditions of our inhabiting, or a radical dualism between God and the world as compelling cultural spells cast upon our inhabiting of the world. As I draw attention to some of these spells and how they bewitch the way we inhabit the world, I hope for the tropes of our inhabiting to be reclaimed on the path to a resilient and peaceful inhabiting of the earth. My analysis of the spectre of Gnosticism in our cosmologies brings into relief the relevance of alternate ways of dwelling and of engaging with the present ecological transition. These are mobilized by alternate narratives which, from process philosophy to ecofeminist thought through the poetics of créolité, recount a hopeful entanglement with the world, the resilient openness of our inhabiting, and a joyful, vernacular overflowing of our Gaian becomings.
Supervisor: Phemister, Pauline ; Scaltsas, Theodore Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Gnosticism ; ecocriticism ; ecofeminism ; Gaia ; environmental transition ; dualism ; philosophy and theology ; entangled overflowing