Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review of Stang, Our Divine Double

Charles M. Stang, Our Divine Double. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2016. Pp. 309. ISBN 9780674287198. $49.95.

Reviewed by Gregory Shaw, Stonehill College (

Eloquently written and accessible, this book traces in successive chapters the spiritual current of doubling that underlies Platonism, early Christianity, Manichaeism, and Neoplatonism. To read Our Divine Double is to fall under the spell that enthralled the author, who tells us that “the task of this book is to retrieve this tradition of the divine double from the obscurity into which it has fallen” (12). There is a prescriptive edge to Stang’s explorations. He has something at stake and his passion for retrieving the divine element in our human condition is infectious. Not only does this book invite us into the originating impulse of Christianity and other ancient traditions, it allows us to recognize that the divine double still lives among us, in intuitions, dreams and reveries, which belong to a language that has long been forgotten in our contemporary culture. Stang has discovered the syntax that allows us to reflect on such moments and recover a place for them in Western traditions.
I noted the book here when it came out last year. Further to my comments there, you can find some discussion of the divine double (heavenly counterpart) tradition in ancient Judaism in some of the essays by Andrei Orlov collected in From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticisim (JSJSup 114; Leiden: Brill, 2007).