A violent turn in 2012 apocalypticism

2012: Doomsday (2008) – another forgettable film in a cultural imaginary that is closing in on its final doom.

Finally it has happened: the first report of a 2012-apocalypse movement turning violent. The so-called “2012 phenomenon”, an occultural apocalyptic mythology with roots in the psychedelic gnosis of Terrence McKenna, the New Age prophesies of José Argüelles, and creative fringe-archaeological interpretations of the Maya “Long Count” calendar, has for the most part been oriented towards peaceful prophecies of a “global change in consciousness” or a “massive awakening”. But with countless improvisations on the theme by UFO-logists, conspiracy theorists, survivalists, and other denizens of the  darker segments of occulture, grimmer visions are hardly difficult to come by. Often enough, the boundaries between “positive”  expectations of global consciousness change (or the messianic arrival of friendly ETs) and the “negative” expectation of polar shifts, massive geological destruction, or the final enslavement of humanity by evil aliens, is not that easy to draw. What happens if the promised change for the better does not occur? What are the strategies of rationalizing such an (after all, realistically anticipated) theodicy? Could it be that the evil aliens are already here, and always were, working  in secret with the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Bilderbergers and the world’s shadow governments to thwart the promised salvation?

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Contemporary Esotericism conference drawing close – full programme ready

The 1st International Conference on Contemporary Esotericism is drawing close. Kennet and I have been working hard the past two weeks on putting together a program schedule, editing the book of abstracts and collating other  useful information. Those who are already registered for the conference will already have received the schedule by email. Now it is also available online at the conference website. Better yet, the complete book of abstracts can be found as a pdf here. I add a copy of the schedule below as well. If you want to find more about a particular paper, you can go to the book of abstract. And of course: If this looks tempting, you are still welcome to join the conference! Registration is open continuously online.

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International Conference on Contemporary Esotericism: Call for Papers

monas hieroglyphica contemporary lipstick on bathroom tilesAs advertised before, there will be a book out next year on Contemporary Esotericism, edited by Kennet Granholm and myself. The volume brings together well-established and up-and-coming scholars in the field of esotericism, with brand-new research articles on contemporary esoteric topics. In connection with the book, we are organising an international conference on the same topic, to be held at Stockholm University next August. Below you will find the full call for papers. You can also check out the conference website. It’s early, but we will accept proposals as soon as they start coming in, so no need to postpone thinking about it.

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Arguing with Angels – another book you should get next year

A bit of shameless self-promotion: A  pre-production description has recently been released by State University of New York Press, announcing the publication of my first book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture. It is due in May 2012. As  SUNY’s summary states, the book is an exploration of the Elizabethan philosopher John Dee’s system of angel magic, but in particular its reception history and various reinterpretations in modern times. It follows the creation of what is usually known as “Enochian magic”. Since 19th century occultism, and continuing in 20th century and contemporary occulture, this system has been understood in a variety of ways as it has become embedded in a number of different occult currents and practices.

The book pays special attention to the discussions and quarrels among occultist groups and practitioners over the “right” interpretation, and discusses the various claims that are made to legitimise such positions – vis-a-vis competing occultist interpretations on the one hand, and  a generally perceived “disenchanted” modern society on the other. Among the main protagonists we find the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Paul Foster Case, Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan, Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set, the obscure Order of the Cubic Stone, the Aurum Solis, and scores of cyber-age ritual magicians, debating the nature of angels and magical ritual online.

The book will appear in the SUNY series on Western Esoteric Traditions, which has previously published such classics in the field as Antoine Faivre’s Access to Western Esotericism, Joscelyn Godwin’s Theosophical Enlightenment, and Wouter Hanegraaff’s New Age Religion and Western Culture. There is no cover art up yet (this should be in place soon, my editors say), but below is the full publisher’s description:

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Blind Spots of Disenchantment (3/3)

The third and last part of my paper on the “Blind Spots of Disenchantment” focuses on the somewhat neglected concept of Weber’s 1918 “Wissenschaft als Beruf” paper: “the intellectual sacrifice”. It looks particularly at the Scottish Gifford Lectures’ attempt to promote a new “natural theology”, and suggests that this whole attempt defies Weber’s emphasis that science and religion are being/ought to be kept apart in a disenchanted modern world. It also includes the complete bibliography for all three parts.

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Giants’ Shoulders #29: Esoteric Science Special

Athanasius Kircher's museum

Heterodoxology is proud to present the twenty-ninth installment of your favourite History of Science Blog Carnival: The Giant’s Shoulders. This time featuring an Esoteric Science Special, dedicated to all those esoteric pursuits of superior knowledge; a celebration of all strange, alien, and counterintuitive methods that have been attempted to dissect, read, or tame nature’s secrets, from renaissance natural philosophy to present-day Grand Unified Theories – from the cleverly inventive, through the hopelessly megalomaniac, to the simply misguided.

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“Emic historiography of science” – a possibly useful term

It’s been silent here for a while. My excuse is a lot of traveling and lecturing over the past month. In trying to get back to blogging, I’ll give some thoughts on a concept I’ve been thinking about in connection with one of the lectures in Trondheim a few weeks ago: “emic historiography of science”.

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Esotericism, Religion and Science in Toronto – report on the IAHR (part 1)

As shamelessly advertised on this blog before, there were several esotericism-and-science-related things happening at this years quinquennial world congress of the International Association of the History of Religion (IAHR) in Toronto. There was a three-session panel on esotericism, organized by my colleague Marco Pasi, and a two-session panel on science, religion and the arts in the early 20th century (under the title Seduced by Science), organised by my colleague Tessel Bauduin and myself. Having had more than a week now to overcome what was only a minor jet lag after all, it is time for a short report on events.

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Physics, Psychology, and a 20th Century Esoteric Concept

Carl Gustav Jung

Last week in the MA course we are currently running on “Esotericism and modern science” (I’ve written about previous classes here, here, here, here and here) we talked about the encounter between two influential thinkers of very different impact: psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958). Two men who led at the surface very different careers; one a disciple of Freud and crown-prince of psychoanalysis, the other a student of Bohr and a co-creator of quantum mechanics. While Pauli gave name to the exclusion principle, Jung developed concepts of psychological archetypes and the collective unconscious, established his own school of “analytic psychology”, and arguably founded a charismatic cult of personality which still greatly influences new age religion, pagan spirituality and other occultural belief systems.

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