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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The Problem of Disenchantment – invitation to a PhD defence

Problem of DIsenchantment cover

Last autumn I completed my PhD dissertation, and now it’s time to defend it. The defence is public, and will take place on February 5, 2013, at 12:00 in the Agnietenkapel of the University of Amsterdam. The event is open to anyone (with a max. capacity of 90 people), and I will give a short public lecture on the topic of my research prior to defending it in front of the committee.

While I have given hints about my research in a number of posts here at Heterodoxology, I am now happy to present an official abstract of the final product – the dissertation itself:

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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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Cyberproceedings from the Contemporary Esotericism conference

The ContERN website is slowly becoming active. Today we have published the first papers of the cyberproceedings from the Contemporary Esotericism conference in Stockholm this August. The first four papers to appear include two on Freemasonry and initiatic societies (J. Scott Kenney and Aslak Rostad), one on methodological issues in the study of contemporary Satanism (Jesper Aa. Petersen), and one on occulture in Brazilian pop music (Francisco Santos Silva). All of them should offer a lot of food for thought, so I suggest you go check them out: Is fraternalism a form of “moral elitism”? How do Masons experience the influence of joining the craft on the direction of their  lives? How are we to draw boundaries between different types of “Satanism“? And what does Aleister Crowley have to do with Brazilian pop music of the 1970s? Read and find out.

“Varieties of Magical Experience” – a new article on Crowley, magic, and psychologisation

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft (Penn Press)

The November issue of Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft ran an article by my colleague Marco Pasi, titled ”Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Occult Practice”. It may safely be characterised as the most complete academic treatment of Crowley’s magical thought and practice that has so far been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It also ties in neatly with a discussion here at Heterodoxology and a couple of other blogs earlier this year (Tyromanteia and Invocatio), namely the question of the “psychologisation of magic”. A review is definitely in order.

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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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Review: Mark Morrisson’s “Modern Alchemy”

(The following is my review of Mark Morrisson’s Modern Alchemy. The final version was published in Aries 11.1).

In 1901 physicist Ernest Rutherford and chemist Frederick Soddy, tucked away in a laboratory at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, were struck with amazement as they watched the element thorium transform into an inert gas. Soddy, exclaiming that they had witnessed nothing less than transmutation, was warned by his more temperate colleague: “For Mike’s sake, Soddy, don’t call it transmutation. They’ll have our heads off as alchemists”.

Alchemy would, however, be invoked frequently during the decades to come; not with reference to obscure occultists in the secret vaults of hermetic societies, but in connection to new discoveries concerning radioactive decay. Indeed, in its the early decades, what would become nuclear physics was commonly labelled “modern alchemy”. The crucible and athanor had been replaced by cloud chambers, spectroscopes, and ionization chambers,  but there was a nagging feeling that the ancient and modern alchemists ultimately shared the same goal: the transmutation of elements.

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Esotericism, Religion and Science in Toronto – report on the IAHR (part 2)

Following up the last post, here comes a report on the esotericism panels at the IAHR in Toronto, organized by Marco Pasi. As you can read about below, they go straight into a central debate in the field of esotericism studies at the moment.

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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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British magic after Crowley: review

Although Aleister Crowley has become the icon of modern ritual magic and occultism, magic did not end with his death in 1947. While approximately a dozen books have been devoted to Crowley, surprisingly little has been written about his legacy in contemporary occultism. His impact on later currents such as contemporary witchcraft, Satanism, and various pagan groups has often been mentioned, but vast areas still remain uncharted, from Chaos Magic and cyber paganism to the recent history of the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Golden Dawn, and Crowley’s A\A\. The result is that a relatively broad range of contemporary western esotericism remains essentially unstudied. Below follows my review of Dave Evans’ contribution to this field of study, recently published in Aries 10.2. Hyperlinked for the occasion.

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