After the untimely death of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke back in 2012 (see obituary in The Times, and by Christopher McIntosh in Aries [pay-wall]) , there has been much speculation about what would happen with the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO) that he ran at the University of Exeter. Since 2005, EXESESO has offered one of the three official university programs for the academic study of esotericism in Europe (the others being in Amsterdam and Paris), and produced a steady stream of MAs through its distance learning program. After an internal evaluation process at Exeter University, in dialogue with the Theosophically oriented Blavatsky Trust who funded the centre, a final decision has now been made to shut EXESESO down. Mark Sedgwick reports on the decision in the Spring 2014 ESSWE newsletter, which was released today:
“Goodrick-Clarkeʼs early death in 2012 marked the beginning of the end. According to Exeterʼs press office, the decision to close the center and program followed “an internal review and discussions with the [Blavatsky] Trust,” and Goodrick-Clarkeʼs death “sat alongside consideration for the programme as a whole.” Exeterʼs press office was unable to comment on the conclusions of the internal review, but there were suggestions that it was not entirely positive. Exeter has made arrangements for the centreʼs remaining PhD students to complete their projects in the history department […] . But Europe now once more has only two MA programs in Western esotericism, not three, which is an unfortunate setback for the development of the study of Western Esotericism in Europe.”
It is sad to see that no solution could be found to continue the centre in some form. Meanwhile, I hope the PhD students find enough support elsewhere to finish their projects, and that other institutions will step up to take Exeter’s place. The University of Groningen’s MA track on “Concealed Knowledge” certainly is a contender in Europe, and there are interesting developments at the University of Gothenburg. In the US, Rice University is running a programme on “Gnosticism, Esotericism, Mysticism”. We can only hope that what we are currently seeing is just one step back, but two steps forward for the field as a whole.