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.
Here’s the full description at present – and you can find more on the website:
“It is often assumed that mysticism and esotericism are rather isolated strands in the history of religion, in particular in the history of religion in Europe. One reason for this assumption is the fact that scholars use to prioritize large ‘traditions,’ framed in container terms such as ‘Christianity,’ ‘Islam,’ or ‘Buddhism’; in such a perspective, mysticism and esotericism appeared as second-order phenomena, attesting to internal religious pluralism or deviance only. As a consequence, the impact of traditions that are associated with mysticism and esotericism have also been underestimated in recent discussions regarding ‘spiritualities’ or ‘the religion of Nones.’ It is time to reframe the analytical perspective. A focus on individual agency and knowledge (two different yet supplementary rather than mutually exclusive concepts) can help to provide a better understanding of the important role that mysticism and esotericism have played in the pluralistic history of religion, philosophy, science, and culture. It turns out that esoteric and mystical discourses frequently cross the borders of the usual container concepts of ‘religions,’ as well as the line between religion and non-religion.”
Another piece of information: Even besides this summer course, it seems that graduate students working on esoteric topics might want to spend the summer months of 2014 in the Netherlands. 2014 is a non-conference year for the ESSWE – which means there will be an ESSWE Thesis Workshop in Amsterdam. These workshops (read about the 2010 alchemy workshop and the 2012 magic workshop for details) are usually aligned with the ESSWE board meetings – those rare occasions when a bus load of esotericism scholars will be gathered in the same place for a day or two. While there is no official news on the 2014 workshop yet, I can leak to you that plans are underway. Also, that the board meeting is scheduled for May, just prior to the big EASR conference in Groningen.
So you might as well start thinking about arrangements, while awaiting more definite information. I’ll no doubt return to the matter here when the word is out.