Satan in the academy (again)

I ended 2013 with a retrospective on some personal favourites from the wealth of publications on esotericism last year. Of course there were many omissions, some of which I’ve payed tribute to on Twitter. Julian Strube’s (German) book on Vril is notable, and has attracted some attention in the German press lately. Also from Germany, Monika Neugebauer-Wölk’s massive collected volume on Aufklärung und Esoterik: Wege in die Moderne is a milestone that will take time to digest and assess (I admit that I forgot about this one because the prohibitive price has made it inaccessible to me until now). Then in the antiquities section, there’s the English edition of Roelof van den Broek’s book on Gnosticism, Gnostic Religion in Antiquity. And still there’s much more that could’ve been mentioned (such as this milestone of a source work: Andrew Weeks’ new translation of Böhme’s Aurora).

2013 HistEso books on twitter

Twitter gave me a second chance at inclusiveness.

A similar review at the end of 2014 is no doubt going to be just as difficult. The race has already begun, with a thematic issue of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions focusing on Satanism. (Well, technically it’s the last issue of 2013, but it’s only appearing now). It’s guest edited by the Danish Satanism expert (and until recently, a colleague at NTNU) Jesper Aagaard Petersen – who, among much else, released The Devil’s Party back in 2012, co-edited with Per Faxneld. “Satanism studies” has established itself as a small subfield is religious studies, intersecting with the study of esotericism, new religious movements, contemporary spirituality, and other fields such as religion and art, religion and the internet, religion and literature, etc.

In this issue we appear to get a taste of this diversity (I say “appear to”, because it seems we don’t have institutional access at UCSB, so this is hidden behind pay wall for me. Academic affiliation does not guarantee access to esoteric knowledge!) The first article is one of Jesper’s own, a theoretical and methodological piece on how to construct the field of satanism studies, and how it interacts in complex ways with the satanic milieu itself.

Happy SatanI know this because an earlier draft of the article was presented at the Contemporary Esotericism conference in Stockholm, and was published in our open-access cyberproceedings at the ContERN website. Check it out for a teaser to this interesting new contribution, which demonstrates that Satan is still alive and well in the academy.

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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Speaking of Gnosis, what about the new one from Dylan Burns?

  2. Reblogged this on Wolf and Raven.

  3. Interesting! I’m very much interested in the field of Satanism studies – but can you tell me whether it deals with Satanism as a new religious movement (or something like that) or also with the perception of Satanism by the (Christian) outside world? I’m doing research on confessions of Satanism in Zambia (which is a Christian discourse) and always on the lookout for authors writing about similar topics.

    • It mostly deals with Satanism as a new religious movement in its own right, but many of the scholars involved in it have been active also in “satanic panic” debates. There’s overlapping interests there, of course, and the history of Satan in the western imagination is very much relevant for the field.


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