Last installment of my lecture on “Religion and Scientific Change” closed by introducing three levels on which claims about relationships between religion and science should be analysed: the institutional, the socio-cultural, and the individual. I was going to wait a couple of days with releasing the rest, but since news headlines today have been all about the discovery of the “God particle” in the bowels of the Large Hydron Collider at Cern, it seemed highly appropriate to continue. Why is it that such a (truth be told, rather ridiculous) religious pet-name has been put on the elusive boson? Read on, and you might find out. (And: happy Higgs boson day!)
The European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) is expanding. The society was established in 2005. Since then it has encouraged the establishment of regional subgroups, to promote research and teaching about esotericism on the local level and on independent initiatives. In 2007 the first such local initiative was established in the Scandinavian countries (SNASWE). Since last year scholars at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, largely on the initiative of Professor Boaz Huss, have worked to establish an Israeli Network for the Study of Western Esotericism (INASWE).
Utrecht has apparently become the place for me to see visiting historians of science. A couple months back Peter Galison gave lectures and a workshop on secrecy and science, and now last week, the alchemy specialist Lawrence Principe gave the third Descartes-Huygens lecture on “Uncovering the Secrets of Alchemy and its Role in the History of Science”. It was quite a ceremonial occasion, as Principe, who is ordinarily based at John Hopkins University, was officially given an honorary fellowship at Utrecht Unversity. As the man himself opened by saying, this was probably the first time since the 17th century that the oration of a new fellow would be devoted to the art of alchemy.
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.