New blog at Occult Minds

When I launched the website of my current postdoctoral research project (“Occult Minds: Esotericism as Cognition and Culture”) last August, it was with the intention of keeping a research blog that would be updated fairly regularly. Not much has happened on the blog front the past six months (let’s just say that I needed to prioritize my writing tasks), but now I have updated it with a post that looks at some precursors for the aim of the project: which is to bring together the study of esotericism and the cognitive science of religion. Spoiler: There really isn’t much to find – but esotericism scholars can learn from some of their colleagues studying Gnosticism.

I hope to update the Occult Minds blog more frequently in the coming months, so stay tuned for further updates.

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Forbidden Histories – a blog worth following

Last autumn, Andreas Sommer defended his PhD at UCL, moved on to Cambridge  and started a blog. His PhD thesis was on the relationship between psychical research and the origins of modern psychology, a topic on which Sommer has published some very interesting articles over the last few years (recommended). The blog Forbidden Histories continues and expands these interests: if you haven’t seen it yet, it is a highly recommended history of science blog focusing on, well: “Everything you always wanted to know about science and ‘the miraculous’ (but were afraid to ask)”.

Here is how it’s introduced:

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Jakob Böhme Crash Course – BPH/HHP Webinar

There is another webinar out from the collaboration between the BPH and the HHP in Amsterdam. This time, Wouter Hanegraaff gives a one-hour crash course on the wonderfully obscure and fascinating German Silesian Christian theosophist/mystic/pietist (or however one wants to label him) Jakob Böhme (1575-1624). This cobbler from Görlitz was the author of some fairly heterodox theological texts, written in unsystematic, poetic, highly symbolic and mythologizing style. In this webinar, Hanegraaff focuses mostly on Böhme’s cosmogony – or rather, his theogony. In stark contrast to Christian orthodoxy, Böhme held that God was not eternal nor really transcendent, and certainly not immaterial or purely “spiritual”. To the contrary, he was obsessed with “the birth of God” from an original, primeval, unknowable chaos, the Ungrund (“un-ground”). Materiality and corporeality are always highlighted.

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Meet the editors of Correspondences

Editors in chief

Editors in chief

Chances are you have seen the new open access journal Correspondences, which publishes peer-reviewed research on  esotericism (if you haven’t, check out the first issue here). In case you were wondering who’s behind this initiative and what compelled them to start this journal, Ethan Doyle White of Albion Calling has published an interview with the two editors, Jimmy Elwing and Aren Roukema. The accompanying rock star image leaves little doubt that the editors and the journal are part of the emerging “next generation”, defining “Esotericism 3.0”. Read about how they got involved with the academic study of esotericism, what kind of research they’re into, and their views on open access publishing and the way forward.

The interviewer also had an article published in the first issue of Correspondences, focusing on witchcraft and Luciferianism. Oh, and while the deadline for the second issue has just passed, I’m sure Aren and Jimmy  would appreciate new submissions!

Webportal for the academic study of esotericism

The Amsterdam Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy has a new website.

The Amsterdam Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy has a new website.

Last month, the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (HHP) in Amsterdam released their new website. Regular readers of Heterodoxology are likely to have seen this already, but in case you missed it in the middle of the summer, here is a reminder.

The reason why this is newsworthy is that the new website aims to be a lot more than simply the web-presence of one particular institution for higher education. It has a number of other functions, that are useful for the broader academic community that the HHP is part of. It gives relatively elaborate information on the HHP study programs (the MA and the BA), and lists the current research projects undertaken by HHP staff. The agenda on the website is still rather slim, but the intention is that it will fill up with not only activities in Amsterdam (courses, lectures, openings), but other events of relevance to the broader community of esotericism researchers as well.

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ESSWE4 round-up – reviews and impressions from across the esosphere

Attendees are starting to get some distance from the ESSWE4 conference in Gothenburg now, and a number of reviews and impressions have appeared on blogs during the last week. Below you’ll find a round-up of pieces written from different perspectives. My own two cents you’ll find here.

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A fresh take on “magic” on the Societas Magica blog

merleau-ponty

Bodies, brains, magic, culture.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s new uses.

Some time ago I mentioned that Societas Magica were going to launch a blog. Well, that happened soon after, and I did not pay attention. So, quite overdue, here is the link to this new and valuable addition to the esoteric-et-cetera blog community.

So far there is only one post, but it is also a very good one that sets a high standard: “Ritual Magic and Conjured Bodies: A Philosophy and Methodology” by Damon Lycourinos. I was impressed with Damon’s paper at ESSWE4, on the use of Merleau-Ponty and embodiment theory in the analysis of contemporary ritual magical practice. In his first blog post at Societas Magica, Damon continues this exploration and offers, I think, some very valuable and stimulating reflections on how to theorise magical practice.

In particular, I couldn’t agree more with his complaint that talk about the body and embodiment in “postmodern” theorising has in fact not taken the body seriously at all – and that this could be remedied by returning to the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty:

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Praeludia Microcosmica – there’s a new blog on the block

There’s a new blog out in the esotericisim/hist-sci neighbourhood. Praeludia Microcosmica brings microcosmic preludes from the PhD research of Mike Zuber (University of Amsterdam). In particular, we should look forward to “occasional notes on chymistry, theosophy and religious dissent in the early modern period”. The blog is named after a curious book, the  Microcosmische Vorspiele Des Neuen Himmels und der Neuen Erde – the contested authorship of which you can read a bit about in the blog’s opening post.

Johann Konrad Dippel

Johann Conrad Dippel

It starts good, with a follow up post on Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734) – who has not only been falsely held as the author of the Microcosmische Vorspiele, but also possesses a questionable reputation as an alchemical counterfeit gravedigger snake-oil & horoscope salesman with a connection to the castle Frankenstein near Darmstad, which have made him a  candidate for the “real” Victor Frankenstein, the model of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s  hubristic doctor.

But Dippel’s “Real Frankenstein Potential” is not so obvious when exposed to historical methods. For starters, the most questionable thing about reputations like that of Dippel is, usually, their provenance. Mike (who is trained as a historian of science and now doing the PhD at the History of Hermetic Philosophy centre in Amsterdam) shows that most of the rumours surrounding Dippel – and especially those involving grave-digging – are highly dubious. What’s left is a radical pietist convert doing work in chymistry and medicine, who may been born near to the Frankenstein castle.

Personally I look much forward to the promising second installment on Dippel:

“I hope to explore more of it in the near future—including Dippel’s shifting fortunes as an alchemist, a reading list he partially shared with Victor Frankenstein, his reputedly all-curing animal oil, his attempt to gain possession of Castle Frankenstein in exchange for an alchemical arcanum late in life, and his mistaken prophecy that he would live until 1806. So stay tuned and watch this space!”

Do it!

Blogging in the Societas Magica newsletter

Societas Magica headerThe Societas Magica (a scholarly society you should know about if you’re into the academic study of magic, esotericism, and related stuff) has been running a great and informative newsletter for many years. In fact, since the society was founded by Richard Kieckhefer and others back in 1995 (check out the back-issues here). In addition to informing about conferences and publications, it usually comes with a slightly longer essay. The 2013 Spring issue that has just been released runs a nice article by Laura Mitchell on academic blogging in the field of esotericism and magic. I was of course  pleased to see the nice discussion of Heterodoxology there, but more importantly it is excellent that a scholarly society brings the question of blogs to the full attention of its membership. Mitchell discusses some of the advantages and possibilities of research blogging, and classifies different types based on how they are run and what sort of material they include (individual, group-blogs; research, personal experiences, academic life etc.). The blogs mentioned in the essay should all be familiar to readers of Heterodoxology: Invocatio, the Religious Studies Project, Whewell’s Ghost, the Hermetic Library, and the Ritman Library Blog are all old friends and virtual neighbours.

Somehow it is also a bit amusing that the virtues and potentials of these blogs are being discussed in the old medium of a newsletter – one that is digitized and distributed by hyperlink in addition to paper. One gets the feeling of standing somewhat hesitantly in between different forms of media. Thus another great piece of news in this issue is Claire Fanger’s announcement that  the Societas Magica is about to launch a new blog of its own. Damon Lycourinos at the University of Edinburgh is going to take the first shift at running it. It’s something to look forward to (I previously commented on an esoterica blogpost of his here). It promises to be a valuable addition to the slowly growing number of academic blogs in this area.

Thanks to Sarah for bringing this to my attention.

Sarah Veale has done an exquisite job on the recently released website of NSEA (Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity). The network itself, as you can read more about in Sarah’s post at Invocatio and at the website itself, is organised on the initiative of Dr. Dylan Burns, and is another thematic network of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism. Now that NSEA is up and running, with an excellent online resource database, the ESSWE suddenly has a special-interest network for both of the two historical periods that have most often been neglected by historians of esotericism: antiquity and the present day.

Published in: on January 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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