What happens to religion if the future belongs to the cyborgs? I’ve just written a weird essay addressing this topic, and am currently finishing up a lecture on the same topic for the Transhuman Visions conference in Piedmont on Saturday. The published piece is a response essay that I was asked to write for The Religious Studies Project, answering to an interview with the influential cognitive neuroscientist / evolutionary psychologist Merlin Donald. It’s a strange concoction of evolutionary theory, cultural history, futurist forecasting, transhumanism, distributed cognition, extended mind hypothesis, and cognitive science of religion. Pretty speculative all over, in fact, but fun to write. Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing. The talk to the transhumanists is going to be even more speculative, so you’re warned!
Eastern and Central Europe has been an area of growth for ESSWE in recent years. Now a new regional network is joining the fold and representing ESSWE more firmly on the ground in the region: the Central and Eastern European Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism (CEENASWE) will be launched officially this summer. A Facebook page carries an invitation and call for papers for this event. For non-Facebook users (I hear they still exist), I attach the information below:
The deadline for submitting papers to this year’s American Academy of Religion (AAR), in sunny San Diego, is fast approaching. That means time is running out if you want to present a paper on Western esotericism, too. The Western Esotericism Group of the AAR has a pretty diverse call for papers out, and entertains possibilities of several panels including collaborative ones (with e.g. the Afro-American Religious History Group and the Queer Studies group). The ESSWE, now as an associated organisation of the AAR, is also opening up for separate panels. So if you want to take part in what is going to be one of the biggest conference events for esotericism scholarship this year (besides the ASE’s biannual conference), it’s time to finish up that paper proposal! I should also add that the Esotericism Group is up for review this year, so ensuring high quality and good turnout really does matter to the future of esotericism panels at the AAR. Worth keeping in mind.
Below is the full CfP:
For a few years now, and following the arrival of Kocku von Stuckrad at their religious studies department, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has offered an MA track on esotericism and related topics, called “Concealed Knowledge”. This has made Groningen one of the few places in the world where proper academic instruction in this field is available to MA and PhD-level students, alongside Amsterdam, Exeter, Rice in Houston, and the Sorbonne in Paris (by the way, the Amsterdam HHP website has a great list of these programs and related networks).
Now Groningen is making a new move, by launching a summer school program on “Mysticism and Esotericism in Pluralistic Perspective”. It is intended primarily for MA and PhD students, and will take place during an intensive week from June 29 to July 5 2014. It’s co-organized by the Universities of Groningen, Erfurt (Germany), Aarhus (Denmark), and Rice University (USA), and promises to “address fundamental questions of concepts and approaches” in the study of esotericism. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for. If you’re working on a dissertation in the field of esotericism or planning to get started on one, this seems like an important place to be.
As a couple hundred people apparently discovered already, I uploaded a pdf of the full review article on Defining Magic to my Academia page a few days ago. There are a few minor edits in it too. If you are looking for something citeable, I’d advise using the pdf instead of the three original blog posts.
End of communication.
Patterns of Magicity: A review of Defining Magic: A Reader (eds. Otto & Stausberg; Equinox, 2013) – part 1
[This blog post is a little milestone: it is the first official review of a book sent to me by the publisher for being reviewed directly at Heterodoxology. (Yes, publishers, I am open to suggestions like that!) Since the book was of great interest to me, and touches on issues that occupy me at the moment - and since the blog format allows me to say whatever I want and as much of it as I'd like - it has ended up more like a review article than a book review. Hence I will publish it here in three parts. The full pdf version (only slightly modified) is available from my Academia page. For convenience and ease of sharing. So on we go!]
Review: Bernd-Christian Otto and Michael Stausberg (eds.) Defining Magic: A Reader. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2013. 281 pages.
[Part 1 of 3]
Last autumn, Andreas Sommer defended his PhD at UCL, moved on to Cambridge and started a blog. His PhD thesis was on the relationship between psychical research and the origins of modern psychology, a topic on which Sommer has published some very interesting articles over the last few years (recommended). The blog Forbidden Histories continues and expands these interests: if you haven’t seen it yet, it is a highly recommended history of science blog focusing on, well: “Everything you always wanted to know about science and ‘the miraculous’ (but were afraid to ask)”.
Here is how it’s introduced: