The latest issue of Aries has just been published: A special issue on Esotericism and the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR), edited by Markus Altena Davidsen and myself. As we explain in our editorial, “What Cognitive Scienece Offers the Study of Esotericism”, Western esotericism and CSR have developed in parallel over the past couple of decades, each, in their own ways, pushing the academic study of religion into new territory. Given that esotericism is full of psychologically rich sources (from visions and trances to hidden correspondences and esoteric hermeneutic techniques), it seems that much could be gained from bringing these two fields together. My Occult Minds project has already been taking steps in this direction. The intention behind the Aries special issue, however, is to push this agenda in a collaborative way, by publishing articles on esoteric subject matter informed by a range recent theories of cognition, together with a response article by someone in the field of CSR. We were happy to get Jesper Sørensen in this role, a central figure in the “Aarhus school” who has worked on problems that are directly relevant to esotericism.
The ESSWE conference is coming up again, this time in Riga, Latvia. Here is a post on the ContERN meeting that will take place during the conference, and news about a planned special issue of Correspondences on contemporary esotericism. Do also check out the schedule for the Riga conference (link in post).
The fifth international ESSWE congress is coming up very soon in Riga, Latvia (April 16-18). ContERN will not be hosting any special sessions this year, but we do have a reserved slot for a brief business meeting. The ContERN meeting is scheduled for Saturday morning (April 18), at 08.30. More details about locations will be available as the congress organizer publicize the full program.
We encourage everyone who is going to the ESSWE conference and is working on any aspect of contemporary esotericism to show up for this meeting. It’s a good opportunity to meet up, brain storm about future projects, and strategize together. Getting your views on possible initiatives and collaborative projects will be the main priority of the meeting.
The ContERN organizers do, however, also bring a new project to the table that we want your input on. We are planning a ContERN special issue in Correspondences
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Academics and other people interested in peer-reviewed research are often frustrated about paywalls and publication delays, and confused about what’s allowed in terms of sharing drafts and published articles online. I was recently made aware of a great resource for dealing with the latter of those issues: The SHERPA/RoMEO database for publisher copyright policies and self-archiving rights. While published articles are often hidden behind paywalls, many journals allow authors to self-archive pre-prints (drafts prior to peer review) and/or post-prints (accepted drafts after peer-review, but prior to typesetting and final edits by the journal) on their own website, or in online repositories. Some even allow authors to distribute the final, typeset articles this way. What the RoMEO database does is to provide a search tool for finding the policies of individual journals. This can be very helpful for academics who are wondering which of their articles can be distributed in what form and fashion, and may perhaps be useful even for choosing where to submit a paper in the first place.
In my own case, I was pleased to find that the home of one of my long “in press” articles – which passed peer-review and was accepted for publication already a year and a half ago, but is still frustratingly clogged up in a publication queue – allows self-archiving of post-prints. So in order to make sure that this article does not become even more outdated than it already is by now, I have made “Dis/Unity of Knowledge: Models for the Study of Modern Esotericism and Science” available from the publication list here on Heterodoxology (and over at Occult Minds). The final article will hopefully appear in Numen some time later this year.
I received exciting news this morning that my second book The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939 is now officially published and available from Brill. Based on my PhD research it’s been a long time in the making (about 6 years), so it will be very satisfying to see the final hardbound result (waiting for my author copies). Time to request review copies and tell your local university library to stock it! Of course, you should do that with the other publications from the esoterica “brat pack” as well.
For a teaser of my book, here are three flattering blurbs from three exceptional scholars:
This is a path-breaking book! It not only opens up an interdisciplinary space in which to analyze a range of responses to disenchantment within and between the history of religion, the history of science, and the history of esotericism, but it articulates a method – Problemgeschichte – for doing so. The method allows Asprem to surface many contending views on the place of mysterious incalculable powers in the modern world, which cut across disciplines in surprising ways, and to demonstrate the value of a critical constructivism build on naturalistic grounds for scholarly work.
– Ann Taves, University of California at Santa Barbara.
The complex interface between the sciences, religion, and esoteric forms of thought and experience is one of those “elephants in the living room” that many know about but almost no one knows how to talk about. Egil Asprem knows how to talk about it, and very well indeed: through a historical genealogy of the interface, through a careful tracing of the debates around the limits of reason and science, and through an astute rethinking of Weber’s seminal notion of disenchantment. The result is extremely satisfying and rich beyond measure.
– Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.
Egil Asprem’s study has the potential of causing a Copernican revolution in our understanding of the “disenchantment of the world”. Grounded in meticulous textual analysis of a large sample of representative sources – from the “hard” natural sciences via psychical research to the “soft” domain of religion and esotericism – it combines sensitive historical research with sharp theoretical reflection and should lead us to question some of our most deeply ingrained assumptions about the nature of modernity.
– Wouter J. Hanegraaff, University of Amsterdam.
Their words, not mine.
As a couple hundred people apparently discovered already, I uploaded a pdf of the full review article on Defining Magic to my Academia page a few days ago. There are a few minor edits in it too. If you are looking for something citeable, I’d advise using the pdf instead of the three original blog posts.
End of communication.
Ethan Doyle White has been running a nice interview series at his blog Albion Calling for a while. Among others he ran interviews with both of the two scholar-practitioners of western ritual magic who suddenly passed away earlier this year, Dave Evans and Nevill Drury. I’ve been meaning to add this blog on pagan studies, esotericism, archaeology etc. to the blog roll for a while (it needs serious update). Now that Ethan has published this interview with yours truly I should probably hurry up. Check it out.
The first full keynote lecture from ContERN 2012: Christopher Partridge on why occulture is ordinary. I’ll especially recommend the interesting discussion at the end. Some brilliant and sharp questions to the occulture theory, which perhaps should be explored further.
Continuing our series of posts from last year’s conference on Contemporary Esotericism, today we have released the video of Christopher Partridge’s keynote lecture, “Occulture is Ordinary”. Please do check it out (on site and the YouTube channel) – and don’t miss the discussion with the audience towards the end!
(For clarification: the respondents we hear at the end are Christian Greer (University of Amsterdam), Per Faxneld (Stockholm University) and Bernd-Christian Otto (Universität Erfuhrt).
Looking through the Occult: Conference on Instrumentation, Esotericism and Epistemology in the 19th Century (Humboldt U, Berlin)
I’m excited to participate in a wonderful conference at Berlin’s Humboldt University on November 14-15: “Looking through the Occult: Instrumentation, Esotericism and Epistemology in the 19th Century”. The conference is free and open to the public, so if you are in Berlin and have an above average interest in topics such as spiritualism and mediums, ether physics, spirit photography, early radio technology and x-rays, this should be a good treat. Check out the nice website for more information on the programme, how to get there, and what to read up on in advance.