One of the reasons for not writing here very often this spring is that I am co-editing a major volume in my “spare time”. Last week I visited my good friend, colleague and co-editor Kennet Granholm at Stockholm University, to discuss some final issues. This weekend, we ship the manuscript off to Equinox Publishing – a full 689 pages – ending a period with much editorial work. To celebrate this, I’ll kick off some pre-production advertising of the volume, which bears the title Contemporary Esotericism.
As the title should indicate pretty clearly, this is a book which places itself within the field of Western esotericism, and focuses on contemporary issues. The project in fact came about ca. two years ago, after Kennet and I had several discussions on the neglect of contemporary developments in the field of esotericism, where we also spent a good deal of time discussing the kinds of theoretical and methodological issues that were at stake for successfully incorporating something like “contemporary esotericism” in the field. It seemed increasingly clear to us that the strong historical bias within the field had largely precluded the late-modern and contemporary. At the same time, some of the cultural, religious, intellectual, and social phenomena which could be analysed under this heading have been wrestled with by sociologists and researchers in religious studies. That’s all good and well. But these, then, often seemed to be lacking something in terms of historical awareness, not to say from the many and increasingly complex theoretical discussions which have unfolded around the concept of “esotericism” during the last decade.
What we wanted to do was synthesise. Integrate. Combine. And explore. So we invited a number of scholars, about half of them well-established, the other half on a graduate/post-graduate/PhD level. We asked them if they would write about some specific area which we knew they were great at, and which we knew could have potential in terms of furthering the study of contemporary esotericism. We were not disappointed.
Contemporary Esotericism deals both with theoretical and methodological issues, and with specific case studies. Thematically the articles range from modern Satanism and Chaos Magic, to Indigo Children, alternative health centres, and entheogenic neoshamanism. There is work on popular culture, conspiracy theories, and the Church of Scientology. And quite a bit more.
A description has already been available at Equinox Publishing’s website for quite a while, but this information is already slightly dated. In this pre-production commercial I offer you the Complete, Updated, Table of Contents:
Table of Contents
1. Contemporary Esotericism: Introduction
Egil Asprem & Kennet Granholm
Section one: TRADITION
2. Constructing Esotericisms: Sociological, Historical, and Critical Approaches to the Invention of Tradition
Egil Asprem & Kennet Granholm
3. Inventing Africa: Esotericism and the Creation of an Afrocentric Tradition in America
4. Secret Lineages and De Facto Satanists: Anton LaVey’s Use of Esoteric Tradition
5. Perennialism and Iconoclasm: Chaos Magick and the Legitimacy of Innovation
Section Two: POPULAR CULTURE AND NEW MEDIA
6. Occulture is Ordinary
7. From Book to Bit: Enacting Satanism Online
Jesper Aagaard Petersen
8. Accessing the Astral with a Monitor and Mouse: Esoteric Religion and the Astral located in Three Dimensional Virtual Realms
John L. Crow
9. The Secrets of Scientology: Concealment, Information Control, and Esoteric Knowledge in the World’s Most Controversial New Religion
Hugh B. Urban
10. Hidden Knowledge, Hidden Powers: Esotericism and Conspiracy Culture
Section Three: ESOTERIC TRANSFERS
11. Discursive Transfers and Reconfigurations: Tracing the Religious and the Esoteric in Secular Culture
Kocku von Stuckrad
12. Radical Politics and Political Esotericism: The Adaptation of Esoteric Discourse within the Radical Right
Jacob Christiansen Senholt
13. New Age Spirituality and Islamic Jihad: Paulo Coelho’s Manual of the Warrior of Light and Shamil Basayev’s Manual of the Mujahid
Eduard ten Houten
14. Deep Ecology and the Study of Western Esotericism
Joseph Christian Greer
Section Four: LEAVING THE MARGINS
15. The Secular, the Post-Secular, and the Esoteric in the Public Sphere
16. Psychic Enchantments of the Educated Classes: The Paranormal and the Ambiguities of Disenchantment
17. The New Kids: Indigo Children and New Age Discourse
18. A Small Town Health Centre in Sweden: Perspectives on the Western Esotericism Debate
19. Entheogenic Esotericism
Wouter J. Hanegraaff
Just to give you a little teaser (hopefully). Publication date has been sat as late as December 2012 by the publisher, but as deadlines have been met exceptionally on the spot (for academic standards, it’s quite remarkable to not ask for an extension), we have some hopes of getting it out a bit earlier. As time lapses towards production and publication, I will be back with more. Hopefully also some tastes from the chapters.