Contemporary Esotericism – a pre-production advertisement

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

Fredrik Gregorius

4. Secret Lineages and De Facto Satanists: Anton LaVey’s Use of Esoteric Tradition

Per Faxneld

5. Perennialism and Iconoclasm: Chaos Magick and the Legitimacy of Innovation

Colin Duggan


6. Occulture is Ordinary

Christopher Partridge

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

Asbjørn Dyrendal


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


15. The Secular, the Post-Secular, and the Esoteric in the Public Sphere

Kennet Granholm

16. Psychic Enchantments of the Educated Classes: The Paranormal and the Ambiguities of Disenchantment

Egil Asprem

17. The New Kids: Indigo Children and New Age Discourse

Daniel Kline

18. A Small Town Health Centre in Sweden: Perspectives on the Western Esotericism Debate

Liselotte Frisk

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.


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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “Psychic Enchantments of the Educated Classes”… *g*

    Looking forward to seeing that one as well as many of the others. This looks likely to become a very interesting book indeed.

  2. Bravo Egil [you too Kennet]! Very much looking forward to this publication and I will watch for updates.

  3. […] There’s a new book out, not very soon, but in 2012, namely Contemporary Esotericism, edited by Egil Asprem and Kennet Granholm. Asprem mentions it in his blog: […]

  4. Asbjörn: A fitting allusion, no? 🙂

    And yes, it seems to have come out very nicely in the end. The entire manuscript has been sent today, and now we only have to hope that Equinox will be able to speed up the process a bit from what was originally estimated.

  5. A very good allusion to an article more people should read. Including those of my students who have it on their curriculum. (Which reminds me that we should talk about next term soon.)

    I suppose the allusion means that you also engage with Campbell?

    • Not explicitly or in detail. But linking it should be easy, as I realized when the title came up only after the article was written. I’ll be in touch about this and other things.

  6. This sounds absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait to see it.

  7. […] at least up to a point. A version of this argument is advanced by Jacob C. Senholt, in his article for the forthcoming volume on Contemporary […]

  8. […] advertised before, there will be a book out next year on Contemporary Esotericism, edited by Kennet Granholm and myself. The volume brings together well-established and […]

  9. This looks like a really great volume and I am pleased to see this redress in the field. It seems as though very few women scholars are represented here. What do you make of this?

    • Well spotted and to the point. That is a problem which we are a little embarrassed about. For the final version, it seems at present that we will have one more chapter, written by a female scholar. As for the imbalance, which nevertheless remains, it is unfortunately the case that esotericism research has so far been very male dominated. We can only hope that this will change in the future, and I think there are signs promising that it will.

      • Well, there are certainly some of us out there working in the trenches! With any luck perhaps we will meet in Davis and Stockholm next year.

      • Indeed, and there will be more opportunities!

  10. Hello from INFN or The Infinity Network.

    I was reading your blog and wondering if you would be interested in submitting to a Occult related E-Zine?

    Here is a link to the download

    I can be reached by email or there is also a chat.

    Looking forward


    • Hello there, i’m afraid i’m already so booked with writing obligations that i hardly have time to update my own blog at the moment! Thanks for the invitation though.

  11. […] is also news about the large forthcoming volume on Contemporary Esotericism, that I have been editing together with Kennet Granholm. After minor […]

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