Most of my research concerns the interrelations between science, religion, philosophy, and culture in “Western” history (e.g. European, North-American, and the colonial histories of related nations and empires). The history of Western esotericism is particularly central, and most of my published work has one connection or other to this historiographical category.
My first book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture was published by SUNY Press in 2012. It was the first academic monograph to look at the reception history of the infamous angel conversations of Elizabethan mathematicus and magus John Dee, and the creation of new systems of ritual magic in modern occultism partially based on Dee’s work. Together with Kennet Granholm I have edited the volume Contemporary Esotericism (Equinox, 2013), which is the first collection of academic articles to focus on a wide spectrum of contemporary esoteric discourse – spanning from its presence in popular culture, to relations with science, alternative healthcare, gender, conspiracy theory, and radical identity politics. My PhD dissertation, completed in the autumn of 2012, was entitled The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939. It proposes a new way of theorizing and employing Max Weber’s concept of “disenchantment”, yielding new applications in intellectual history, particularly in the intersecting fields of history of science and the history of religion. The project was funded by a Top Talent grant of the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and was carried out in the institutional setting of the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, a “chair group” (leerstoelgroep) of Religious Studies at the University of Amsterdam.
My current research interests include theoretical and methodological approaches in the study of religion and esotericism, the connection between esotericism and politics, and conspiracy theories and conspiracy culture. I am also interested in the intersections of popular science and religious innovation. From a theoretical point of view, I am particularly interested in bringing about a tighter integration of theoretical work in the cognitive sciences, sociology, anthropology, history, and discourse analysis, which I hold to be necessary to advance the study of the fields mentioned above. The key to such an integration lies in taking philosophy of science more seriously than has typically been done in religious studies and the academic study of esotericism.