As a member of what’s been called the “brat pack” of esotericism scholars I am proud to note that a considerable number of us are appearing on the scene this year with monographs based on PhD dissertations. The brat pack presumably consists of a group of (then) students and emerging scholars who were around at the time of ESSWE 1 in 2007, and who have frequently been seen together at conferences since. While some of us have teamed up for joint gigs in the past (think The Devil’s Party or Contemporary Esotericism, and the conferences that went with both of these), it looks like 2014 is the big year for solo work. I know of at least four titles either published or forthcoming in 2014 by (for the most part) recent PhDs working in the field of Western esotericism. There may be other publication plans I am not aware of (please leave a note!). Here’s a chronological list of the knowns.
First out is Dylan M. Burn’s wonderfully titled and illustrated book, The Apocalypse of the Alien God, which appeared on University of Pennsylvania Press earlier this year. A revised version of Dylan’s doctoral dissertation from Yale, this book offers a fresh new take on the enigmatic Sethian gnostics. Through an impressive display of linguistic skill that goes into his new translations of key texts, and aided by a great knowledge of cultural contexts and interpretive skills, Burns delivers a powerful and novel argument about the Sethians. Teaser: We’ve got a book review of Dylan’s book coming up in the next Correspondences, written by someone far better qualified than I for reviewing this rich and highly specialist book, so if you’re an antiquities, Gnostic, early-Christianity type you should look forward to that.
More recently, one of the movers and shakers in the academic study of modern Satanism, Per Faxneld of Stockholm University, published his dissertation on the occasion of his doctoral defence. Brilliantly titled Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as Liberator of Women in Nineteenth Century Culture, Faxneld has produced a monumental 700+ page study documenting the ambiguous but often positive role of Lucifer across a broad range of 19th century cultural fields, from literature to politics to new religious movements. While the book demonstrates through painstaking historical research how useful the Christian mythological antagonist was for the purpose of challenging ingrained and often oppressive cultural and political values regarding gender and sexuality, it ultimately contributes to a much broader discussion of evaluating the role of presumably heterodox, transgressive, and “forbidden” cultural goods in the shaping of modern attitudes and social structures. Besides the academic merits of this book, Per could be commended on his choice of publishing the study with a smaller, non-academic publishing house that values quality binding as well as relatively reader-friendly prices. Oh, and let’s not forget: The book comes with a (free) soundtrack!
Moving on to forthcoming titles – and more conventional academic publishing – my good friend and colleague Kennet Granholm will soon see the release of his book Dark Enlightenment: The Historical, Sociological, and Discursive Contexts of Contemporary Esoteric Magic (Brill, 2014). Based on his extensive fieldwork with the international, but Sweden based left-hand path magical group Dragon Rouge, this is a path-breaking study of modern ritual magic. It is one of extremely few cases of ethnographic methods being employed to this field – which has been dominated by historians rather than anthropologists – and this gives a privileged point of access to contemporary esoteric magic which is not really found in any other existing monograph. On the basis of this material, and an engagement with existing literature on similar groups, Granholm elaborates on an etic characterization of the so-called “Left-Hand Path” that draws on his discourse analytical approach to esoteric currents. Not only the analysis of this particular group and its broader LHP milieu, but also the broader theoretical and methodological issues Granholm discusses will be of great interest to scholars of modern ritual magic, neopaganism, Satanism and contemporary esotericism in general.
Finally, some shameless self-promotion. My own book, The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939 is scheduled to appear with Brill next month. Based on my PhD dissertation with the same name, which has been awarded three prizes in the meantime, the book has been supplied with a new introduction, a new conclusion, and some revised chapters that I hope bring more focus to my new thesis on Weber’s disenchantment model and the methodology of problem-history (Problemgeschichte) that I am recommending for developing it. Apart from that, it’s got all the juicy bits from the original dissertation on quantum mysticism, ether metaphysics, parapsychological experiments, vitalism, theologies of emergence, occult chemistry, and readings of the akashic records and other weird things in the borderlands of the scientific, the occult, and the religious. I’ve also got a new cover, and flattering blurbs by three eminent scholars that I am particularly happy with. Coming soon to a library near you – if they can afford it.
Edited on July 14, 2014.
This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.