The esoteric in modern art

Bauduin occultation of surrealismOver the last few years, there appears to have been an increased interest, at least from academics and curators, in the relationship between esotericism and art. A couple of my colleagues have spent considerable research time investigating this relation, and I want to use this post to recommend their work. This seems particularly relevant given certain recent publications, which I will get to in a second.

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Correspondences journal – deadline fast approaching!

As previously mentioned, a new online journal for the academic study of esotericism was launched recently, with the very fitting name Correspondences. If you are a scholar working on esoteric topics, whether you are already established, aspiring, a student, or new to this particular field, and if you happen to have a manuscript that is more or less ready, don’t forget to finish it and have it submitted to the Correspondences editors before February 28! The deadline for the first issue is fast approaching. Please find the call for papers here.

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 7:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Kabbalah and Modernity – more than red strings and pop queens

Kabbalah and ModernityI have made a habit out of making the pre-print versions of some of my book reviews available here at Heterodoxology. I was recently reminded of one that I had completely forgotten about: a review of the excellent volume Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations (Brill, 2010). It is edited by three good colleagues of mine (Marco Pasi, Boaz Huss, and Kocku von Stuckrad), and features contributions by many other friends and acquaintances, but hopefully my review is not too biased. Moreover, symptomatic of the extreme delay in academic publishing, I should say that this review was written in 2010, and only appeared in print last year. The review was published in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft (summer 2012).

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“Correspondences” – Launching a new journal for esotericism research

The rumour already broke yesterday on Twitter and Facebook (a bit earlier than planned, I think), that a new journal is being launched: Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism.

This is an innovative initiative in several respects. By being all online and open access, it aims to provide “a wider forum of debate regarding issues and currents in Western esotericism than has previously been possible”. Furthermore, however, it also aims to mobilize a currently unused demographic potential in the study of esotericism:

Correspondences is committed to publishing work of a high academic standard as determined by a peer-review process, but does not require academic credentials as prerequisite for publication. Students and non-affiliated academics are encouraged to join established scholars in submitting insightful, well-researched articles that offer new ideas, positions, or information to the field.

In other words, it is a refreshing initiative that aims to be true to some of the most basic ideals of academic/scientific scholarship: that knowledge is available to everyone (thus must also be free), and that it is produced by a rigid application of “organized scepticism”, a communal, critical practice that is embodied by the peer-review process and otherwise blind to social, institutional, geographic, or political background. (Yes, I am echoing old Merton’s CUDOS here). In the the field of esotericism, I think these are very good norms to hold on to, and I am hopeful that this journal may establish itself as a nice and fresh competitor to already existing journals (e.g. Aries), catering to a somewhat different, expanded demographic, and allowing for a much more flexible and up-to-date exchange by being web-based, open, and free.

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W. J. Hanegraaff on Arguing with Angels

Wouter Hanegraaff has typed up a nice little review of my book, Arguing with Angels, over at his Creative Reading blog. He has many kind words, but I am first of all pleased that there are some very good observations about what I attempted to achieve in it: first to expel some common myths in the historiography of Dee reception, and secondly to highlight the “authenticity problem” struggled with in modern and contemporary ritual magic in general, and Enochian magic in particular. Wouter’s observations even point out wider connections that I did not explore explicitly in the book – namely that the authenticity dilemma finds similar responses in Western religious history more broadly, as prototypically expressed in the camps variously emphasising  scripture, tradition, or personal experience during and following the Christian Reformation. (Incidentally, I recently explored these themes in an article on (neo)shamanism that is still to appear in a Norwegian journal – that one, in turn, influenced by Wouter’s own work. The non-vicious, beneficent spirals  of academia.)

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More books for modern heterodoxologists

Inspired by my colleague Asbjørn Dyrendal’s recent spur of book blogging (i.e. this, this and this), I will further bring to the attention three recent collective volumes on themes that should be relevant to many readers of this blog. While some are more groundbreaking than others, they are all important contributions to their fields, namely: NRM studies, Satanism studies, and the academic study of Aleister Crowley.

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Towards Esotericism 3.0 – W. J. Hanegraaff reviews seven esotericism textbooks

If you’re new to the field of Western esotericism, planning to set up an introductory course somewhere, or wondering what to  read as a crash-course to the field, here is something you have to read first. The upcoming issue of the journal Religion (“iFirst” version available online now for subscribers) publishes a lengthy review article by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, a leading expert in the field, going through as many as seven introductory level textbooks that have been published over the last eight years (since 2004). More than just a review of introductions, the article engages critically with the theoretical and methodological challenges of the field, and takes a clear stand on where one should go from here. The result is an article that analyses the present situation of esotericism research, provides an overview of strengths and weaknesses in the basic literature that newcomers are likely to encounter, and offers a pronounced and programmatic statement for future researchers and teachers.

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Arguing with Angels in paperback

Arguing with Angels book cover

Arguing with Angels – now in paperback

My first book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture, is about to be released in paperback. This means that one can finally get it at a more reasonable price: $24,95.  The paperback is officially released by the publisher on January 1, so just a little too late for a Christmas present, but it can already be pre-ordered from the SUNY website.

For more information about the book, with links to  reviews and discussions online, go here.

Buy a book on werewolves and help Malört Förlag

The Werewolf in Swedish Folklore published by Malört Förlag (photo: Per Faxneld)

Malört Förlag (“Wormwood Publishing”) is a unique and delightful little Swedish publishing house “specializing in texts about the fantastic, the numinous and the aberrant”. Being in the trade of craft books, their editions are made to last for generations – and as if that does not already mark their releases from most books published these days, each new release also come with its own soundtrack. Thus you can read the first Swedish translation of Jacques Cazotte’s 1772 occult novel Le Diable Amoureux (The Devil in Love) while listening to tracks such as “I’m in Love With the Devil” (Tiger Lillies), “Mistress of Deceit” (Jarboe), and  “Love in the Devil’s Tongue” (Stone Breath). While Malört has so far been focusing on publications in Swedish, they do plan to expand to the English speaking market soon.

That is, if they are able to continue.

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Digitized sources for the history of German parapsychology

Sphinx journal

German occult, spiritualist and parapsychological journals now digitized and available online.

The history of parapsychology has been one of my research interests in recent years. It is not so long ago that I  reviewed Heather Wolffram’s recent book on German parapsychologyStepchildren of Science,  and noted that it breaks new ground in providing access to little-explored German sources – in English. Much of the source material for German parapsychology is indeed very hard to access outside of Germany. In my own research, I have been able to draw on a good collection of psychical research literature at the Amsterdam University Library, much of which was collected by a students society for psychical research active in Amsterdam in the early 20th century. Even this collection is weak on German sources, however. The same is true for the digital collections available through Archive.org – a great resource for anglophone sources, but less so for other languages. In my case, I had to spend a couple of days at the IGPP’s collections in Freiburg to finish the parts of my research that dealt with German parapsychology.

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