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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Esotericism in Antiquity: An Aries special issue

TauroctonyThere is much exciting work going on in the area of esotericism and the religions of antiquity at the moment. One of the people who have been instrumental in lifting the focus on antiquity within the study of esotericism (and bringing esotericism to a sometimes unwilling crowd of Gnosticism and ancient Christianities specialists – kudos for that!) is Dylan Burns, currently of the University of Leipzig. I’ve written about Dylan’s work previously, and of course, there’s been mention of the ESSWE Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) which he co-founded with Sarah Veale.

Now, fresh off those unobtanium-coated Brill printers (more…)

Correspondences third issue and statement on publishing strategy

Game of Thrones addict? No new series yet, but you can read about its representation of paganism in the latest Correspondences.

Game of Thrones addict? No new series yet, but you can read about its representation of paganism in the latest Correspondences.

Those who follow esotericism scholarship online will already know that Correspondences Vol. 2.2 has now been published, and is available for download at the journal’s website. It’s a healthy third issue from the young journal, with three research articles on topics ranging from representations of European paganism in the popular TV shows Game of Thrones and Vikings (Robert A. Saunders), to the question of how modern “modern ritual magic” really is (Christopher Plaisance), to a look at esoteric ideas forged in the context of Fascist Italy (Roberto Bacci). This selection makes it the most distinctly “modern and contemporary” issue to date – although there is certainly stuff in there for those interested in the broad historical lines as well, especially in Plaisance’s article on the continuities in European magical ritual practice.

Besides, there are five substantial book reviews this time, on some important recent volumes that span topics from Gnosticism and Theurgy to Aleister Crowley, Anthroposophy, and modern Satanism.  For a couple of these books, this may even be their first published review.

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New Antiquities – conference review at Albion Calling

New AntiquitiesThere was a conference in Berlin last month that I would have loved to visit: New Antiquities: Transformations of the Past in the New Age and Beyond. This event conceived by Dr. Dylan Burns and Dr. Almut-Barbara Renger is on a topic that I think deserves a lot more attention than it’s being awarded: the diverse uses of the historical past to construct new forms of practice, tradition, aesthetic and worldviews.

Well, we know a great deal already about the invention of tradition, of course. What would be really cool is to get archaeologists, classicists, historians, philologists and other experts of “what really happened” (or the best current approximations, anyway) to talk with those who study the imagined past (what’s sometimes called “mnemohistory” – the history of how the past is remembered). Something along those lines is what this conference aimed to do. One of the reasons why the task is crucial is that, unavoidably, the access that those who construct the past have to the past, goes eventually through scholarship – often, to be sure, outdated scholarship, and often, too, scholarship that has been filtered through other channels such as popular culture – or the less than reliable akashic records. Getting experts of the contemporary and the ancient to talk together thus seems a mutually enriching opportunity, especially for theorizing the role of scholars in the discursive production of the past and of invented traditions.

For those of us who missed that opportunity this time, there is a nice little review of the conference over at Albion Calling. Ethan Doyle White gives a good summary of the speakers and the topics they treated, with a specific focus on issues relating to contemporary paganism. Go read it.

Books from the Esoteric Brat Pack

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.

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Gnosis & Alterations of Consciousness: ESSWE Thesis Workshop

Flammarion woodcut altered

Time for Thesis Workshop in Amsterdam: “Gnosis & Alterations of Consciousness”

It’s an odd-numbered year, and it’s spring (sort of, some places). And it’s soon time for a new ESSWE Thesis Workshop in Amsterdam, the third one in the line (after this and this). In years when there is no ESSWE conference, these open workshops designed for MA and PhD candidates who are involved with some independent research and thesis writing in the field of esotericism, are organised in conjunction with the annual ESSWE board meeting. We’ve had one on alchemy in 2010, and one on magic in 2012. This year’s workshop has just been announced: the topic is “Gnosis and Alterations of Consciousness”, the date is May 10 (a Saturday), and the place, as previous years, is Amsterdam. It is also completely free (although you should contact the HHP secretary to book a place – see the official call for details). A great excuse for spending a May weekend in Amsterdam!

 

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New Antiquities (extended deadline for CfP)

Akhenaten futuristicBack in September the call for papers for a very interesting workshop was released at the Ancient Esotericism blog (and elsewhere). “New Antiquities: Transformations of the Past in the New Age and Beyond”, put together by Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universität Berlin) and my good colleague Dylan Burns (Universität Leipzig), calls attention to the myriad uses and imaginings of antiquity in contemporary religious discourses.  A fascinating field that has received quite some attention from religious studies scholars interested in such things as the construction of tradition or mnemohistory. What’s particularly interesting about this workshop is that it aims to mobilize the antiquity specialists as well, who, a bit too often perhaps, have tended to avoid dealing with questions related to such modern “reception history”. It’s also an excellent platform for bridging the studies of ancient and contemporary esotericism.

The deadline for submitting paper proposals has now been extended to January 31. Below follows the description of the workshop, pasted from the extension notice:

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The sources of gnosis – an evening of gnosticism scholarship in Amsterdam

van den Broek Gnostic Religion cover

A new book on the primary sources of “gnosticism” by Roelof van den Broek

On the 29th of May there will be an evening of gnosis at the Spui25 venue in Amsterdam. A group of scholars, some known as world-leading specialists of gnosticism and ancient Christianity will meet to discuss the latest book by Roelof van den Broek, Gnostic Religion in Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2013 – essentially an English version of his 2010 book in Dutch, mentioned previously at Heterodoxology). At the centre of discussion is the primary sources of “gnostic” religion: what’s really in there? How does the content of these sources relate to recent understandings of gnosticism, whether by scholars, educated laypersons or among contemporary spiritual practitioners?

Roelof van den Broek himself is joined by the Nag Hammadi scholar Matthew Dillon (Rice University), the specialist of religions in antiquity Albert De Jong (Leiden University), and Wouter Hanegraaff and Jacqueline Borsje from the Religious Dynamics and Cultural Diversity research group at the University of Amsterdam.

The event is free, but requires registration (see website).

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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Coptic scholars are in a strange position compared to most other researchers of arcane and obscure corners of history: their field occasionally makes world-wide news headlines, especially when there is some text claiming something about a certain carpenter from Nazareth. Last week newspapers across the world announced that someone writing in  coptic on a piece of papyrus some time possibly in the 4th century had insinuated that the carpenter might have had a wife. Sensational, but well: it turns out the papyrus fragment is most likely not authentic. Read more about the arguments in this excellent post by Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu. (For the record – this is the first time I reblog anything, so bear with me).

Alin Suciu

First of all, it should be clearly stated that, although in the following lines we shall express our doubts concerning the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, our suggestions remain hypothetical until the ink of the document has been properly tested. Secondly, our analysis does not refer either to the figure of the historical Jesus, or to his marital status, which are beyond our field of expertise, but only to a literary fragment written in Coptic, whose identity is suspicious.

During the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies, which took place September 17-22, 2012 in Rome, the Harvard Professor Karen L. King introduced to us a previously unknown Coptic papyrus fragment.

(SOURCE OF THE PHOTOGRAPH)

Her paper was delivered on Tuesday, September 18, from 7.00 o’clock P.M., in one of the rooms of the Patristic Institute ‘Augustinianum.’  We estimate that about…

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