Problem of Disenchantment in paperback

Cover Asprem PoD

Soon with a new cover – and nicer price tag.

Today I have signed a contract for the paperback version of my second book, The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900–1939. With a list price of $240, the hardback (Brill, 2014) hasn’t exactly been a coffee table book. (Content-wise it probably still isn’t.) The paperback will appear with SUNY Press (who also published my first book, Arguing with Angels), and hopefully we can cut the price close to 1/10th of the existing edition. Publication date still to follow.

Why should one eagerly await this book? If you don’t trust the blurb, there have been a few reviews that tell you why. There has also been a roundtable discussion, and even some controversy. That can’t hurt, right?

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Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Esotericism and Cognitive Science: Aries special issue published (vol. 17:1)

Aries

Aries 17:1 (2017)

The latest issue of Aries has just been published: A special issue on Esotericism and the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR), edited by Markus Altena Davidsen and myself. As we explain in our editorial, “What Cognitive Scienece Offers the Study of Esotericism”, Western esotericism and CSR have developed in parallel over the past couple of decades, each, in their own ways, pushing the academic study of religion into new territory. Given that esotericism is full of psychologically rich sources (from visions and trances to hidden correspondences and esoteric hermeneutic techniques), it seems that much could be gained from bringing these two fields together. My Occult Minds project has already been taking steps in this direction. The intention behind the Aries special issue, however, is to push this agenda in a collaborative way, by publishing articles on esoteric subject matter informed by a range recent theories of cognition, together with a response article by someone in the field of CSR. We were happy to get Jesper Sørensen in this role, a central figure in the “Aarhus school” who has worked on problems that are  directly relevant to esotericism.

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Published in: on February 11, 2017 at 12:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Heterodoxologicus Stockholmensis

logo-neg-engelsk_stor_150dpiAfter a peripatetic existence that’s involved four international moves over the past eight months, and eight countries visited over the summer, I have now landed in Stockholm, Sweden. (Big thanks to everyone who offered their hospitality along the way – from the Holy Land to the Pacific coast, and the French riviera to the Scottish highlands!) Having been on six temporary contracts over the past three years (with a few short stints of unemployment in between), I am happy to announce that I am taking up a position as assistant professor in the history of religions at Stockholm University. As their in-house heterodoxologist, I will be teaching a course this autumn on “New religions and spiritualities” with a heavy focus on the alternative and esoteric, and contribute to courses on stuff like “Mysticism and meditation” and “Theory and method” in the study of religion. Next year, I’ll also reboot an introductory course on Western esotericism that has existed as a summer course at the department since 2007 (although not always taught). I also look forward to start collaborating with the growing community of colleagues here in Sweden who share these interests, on all levels, and both within and outside of academia.

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Published in: on August 26, 2016 at 8:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Reform among the (people who study) Pagans

Journal of "Pagan Studies" In need of a new name?

Journal of “Pagan Studies” In need of a new name?

For some time now, a debate has been rolling about the status of “pagan studies” as a field of academic research. It’s not that there’s been any doubt about the importance of studying contemporary paganisms; on the contrary, academic as well as mainstream interest in reconstructionist pagan groups as well as magical groups along the lines of Wicca and Thelema, still appears (anecdotally) on the increase. The problem has rather been with the aims and goals of pagan studies as a prospective discipline, as well as the approaches advocated for studying it. In an article just published in The Pomegranate – the foremost (or, rather, the only) peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to this field – the up-and-coming (and highly productive) scholar, Ethan Doyle White (known from the Albion Calling blog), argues that the time has come for reform.

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New review of The Problem of Disenchantment (Nova Religio)

Nova Religio coverI was pleased to see this new review of The Problem of Disenchantment in the latest issue of Nova Religio. Christopher Plaisance generously concludes that

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Two PhD openings in Amsterdam: History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

TrismegistusA rare opportunity for those considering a PhD in the study of esotericism: The two regular PhD positions at the University of Amsterdam’s Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy (HHP) are both open at the moment. Applications can be submitted until July 15. Read more about the requirements here.

These are four-year PhD tracks, fully paid. The expectation is that one of the positions will be reserved for research on late-medieval to early modern currents (c. 1400-1800), while the other would be reserved for modern esotericism (c. 1800 to present). It’s a unique chance, as new candidates are only admitted every 4-5 years or so.

The Socialist Roots of Occultism

Marx satan

Caution: This illustration is highly misleading. (Image by Ross Wolfe, The Charnel-House blog)

We’ve grown accustomed to exciting titles that announce “the occult roots” of anything from Nazism to electronic music. While there’s certainly a lot of attention-grabbing hyperbole in such claims, it is true that much of the vaguely deviant, oppositional, and radical segments of Western culture has a touch of the occult – for reasons we are starting to understand quite well (tag: cultic milieu, occulture, rejected/stigmatized knowledge).

But what about the roots of modern occultism itself? In the (educated) popular imagination, occultism is generally considered an atavistic phenomenon, an anomalous and anachronistic flowering of irrationalism belonging to a bygone age. Some scholarship has continued in this vein, whether we think of the brand of intellectual historians that get embarrassed by its rational and scientific deficiency, or left-leaning, progressive academics who, like Adorno, see only a reactionary tendency that must eventually lead to a mysticized political irrationalism of the kind erupting in Germany in the 1930s.

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ESSWE Thesis Workshop at the Warburg Institute (July 7, 2016)

Thesis Workshop Program 2016This summer, ESSWE organizes its fourth biannual Thesis Workshop – a one-day event where MA and PhD candidates get together with established scholars to discuss papers on a given topic as well as research strategies and career advice. (For a basic idea, check out what I’ve said about the 2010, 2012, and 2014 workshops) This year’s topic is “Magical Traditions and Medieval Religions of the Book”. Unlike earlier years, when this event took place in Amsterdam, this year’s workshop will be hosted by the Warburg Institute in London, on July 7.

As in previous years, the day has two main sessions: an “oratory” (lectures by specialists), and a “laboratory” (group-based discussions of MA/PhD research related issues, divided by period and/or thematic focus based on what people are working on). In addition, this year there will be a round table discussion following the oratory, and an “early career advice” session (which will be lead by Liana Saif and myself).

The oratory will feature papers by Siam Bhayro, Liana Saif, and Adelina Angusheva-Tihanov, with a keynote by Jean-Patrice Boudet. These scholars will be available to participants in the laboratory session, as will the chairs Yuri Stoyanov, Charles Burnett, organizer Sophie Page, and most of the board members of ESSWE.

Check out all the details in the programme. And, please note that this is a free event with a limited number of places. Questions and reservations should be addressed to the organizer Sophie Page (see the programme).

Conversation with Erik Davis at Expanding Mind

Another quick post in the category “me rambling in online interview”: Last week I appeared on Erik Davis‘ “Expanding Mind” podcast, speaking about esotericism and cognitive science, the problem of disenchantment, parapsychology, role-playing games, and AI. The whole conversation is now audible at TechGnosis.com – for those not faint of heart.

Replacing the Dictionary: Brill launches new Esotericism Reference Library

The Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism. Due for replacement?

It has been more than a decade since the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (2005) was released, the flagship volume of what was then a fledgling field with few reliable introductions and  reference works. At the time this was a milestone achievement, pulled off by a dedicated editorial team, 147 authors, and taking the better half of a decade to complete.

That is not to say that the result was perfect. Although the Dictionary was selected a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2006, a number of criticisms of selection policy, range, and terminology were put forward and discussed in the academic community from the beginning.

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