Charles M. Stang
Professor of Early Christian Thought and Director of Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard Divinity School
Charles M. Stang is professor of Early Christian Thought and the director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. He leads an initiative at the CSWR called “Transcendence and Transformation,” which includes a series on “Psychedelics and the Future of Religion.” His research and teaching focus on philosophical and religious movements of the ancient Mediterranean world, especially Eastern varieties of Christianity. More specifically, his interests include the development of asceticism, monasticism and mysticism in early Christianity; ancient philosophy, especially Neoplatonism; the Syriac Christian tradition, especially the spread of the East Syrian tradition along the Silk Road; other philosophical and religious movements of the ancient Mediterranean, including Gnosticism, Alchemy, Hermeticism and Manichaeism; and modern continental philosophy and theology, especially as they intersect with the study of religion.
His current projects include an edition and translation of Evagrius of Pontus’s “Great Letter,” a translation of Henry Corbin’s The Paradox of Monotheism, and a book on the imagination of fire in the ancient Mediterranean world.
The Call of the Ancient: Psychedelic Pasts and Futures
What is at stake in our knowing whether and how psychedelics were used in the ancient world? Why do we feel compelled to call up, and call upon, “The Ancient,” an imaginal reality I wish to distinguish from “the ancients” or indeed from “antiquity”? Or is it rather that “The Ancient” is calling on us, and if so, why? This lecture will explore some recent scholarship on psychedelics in the ancient world, in the spirit of appreciation and critique, all with the aim of proposing how the contemporary interest for psychedelics should heed the call of “The Ancient,” of discerning a way forward.