With only a few hours left of 2013, I feel relatively safe that no new earth-shattering breakthroughs in the field of esotericism will be published this year. With that certainty in mind, I want to share with you a list of my favourite esotericism related publications that have appeared this year. The list is obviously biased in many ways, and I am even going to be obnoxious enough to put some personal darlings on the list. Judge this as you may; in any case I think you will agree that 2013 has been a good year for the academic study of esotericism. So here goes, my personal highlights of 2013 – ordered by subjective level of excitement:
The latest addition to the cyberproceedings of August’s conference on contemporary esotericism is slightly different from previous installations in the series. It is not too contemporary, but it adds a discussion that should be quite interesting to anyone involved in the definition debate and the broader history of the academic study of esotericism. Francesco Baroni’s paper focuses on what one might call the discovery of esotericism in Italy during the early-to-mid 20th century, by a generation of idealistically (in the philosophical sense) oriented scholars. Baroni shows how Benedetto Croce, Adolfo Omodeo and Piero Martinetti were all involved with uncovering esoteric aspects of e.g. Renaissance natural philosophy, early Christianity, and Western idealist philosophy, even while despising the “irrationalism” of modern and contemporary esoteric currents such as spiritualism and Theosophy.
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.
The tragic and grave circumstances surrounding the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica hit the news at the end of the week. The Dutch newspaper Trouw had a two-page report Thursday, while the news site Nu.nl published a shorter article on the situation. Follow the Money, a Dutch platform for financial-economic journalism currently has the most thorough information, over three articles (here, here and here – the latter mentions our petition). The Epoch Times has a piece on the Rochefoucauld Grail, the extremely valuable medieval manuscript on king Arthur which sparked the controversy between Mr. Ritman and Friesland Bank. Meanwhile, several blogs have picked up on the news as well, and kindly helped spread the petition. The Wild Hunt has a thorough account, as does Grenswetenschap (Dutch), while Cosmogono’s Weblog has kindly translated the petition text into Spanish.
Through blogs, facebook, twitter, emails, and forums, the petition has thus been distributed widely over the last few days, passing 2.500 signatories Saturday afternoon.
Summer time has been upon me and Heterodoxology has been dead silent for a while. Unfortunately, when I look at the pile of things to do these coming months I fear it may stay that way. This is nevertheless an honest attempt at getting things rolling again. I’ll just kick off with some whimsically chosen (perhaps relevant) news: