New ESSWE website – and conference program available

New website, new look and feel.

New website, new look and feel. Breathing new fire into the field.

The European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism has just launched its new website. The old one dated from the foundation of the society ten years ago, and a new, cleaner, more functional website was certainly long overdue. Hopefully this does the trick!

We are also now only a few days away from the biannual ESSWE conference, which this year takes place in Riga, Latvia. The program has now been available, and can be downloaded from the website. The topic is “Western Esotericism and the East”, which should be an excellent opportunity for continuing the discussion on the “Western” in esotericism, and issues of comparison. In addition to keynotes by Wouter Hanegraaff, Charles Burnett, and Alison Caudert, it is a program packed full with a lot of interesting talks and topics, which should make for a stimulating (if exhausting) few days in the Baltic.

Finally, I’ll put on my membership secretary hat and take the opportunity to bring a message to members: you will need to reset your passwords to be able to use it. Luckily, this is a very easy automatic process now (before, I had to do this manually for every single person, so at least there is one person who is quite happy with this new arrangement!): simply follow this link, enter your email address, and take it from there.

 

Comparison and the Study of Esotericism

Gordan Djurdjevic, India and the Occult (Palgrave, 2014)

Gordan Djurdjevic, India and the Occult (Palgrave, 2014)

A few weeks ago, Correspondences 2.1 appeared, featuring my article  “Beyond the West: Towards a New Comparativism in the Study of Esotericism”. I focus on the role of comparative methods in the field of esotericism, a subject that has been fraught with controversy due to excessive misuses of such methods in the past. The core of my argument is that we need to lift the more general ban on comparativism that has largely been in effect, and start developing new and responsible ways of opening up the field to both cross-cultural and other sorts of comparative research. I analyse the scholarly background, the current situation, and offer concrete suggestions – including a typology of different sorts of comparative research that might be undertaken, and for what reasons.

The reason for writing this post is not just to pique your interest in this article, however, but rather to point out that there is a broader discussion mounting at the moment. In religious studies generally, the debate is opened up again now with Jeffrey Kripal’s recent text  book, Comparing Religions (Wiley, 2013), and in my article I cite a growing literature in esotericism studies that move in this direction. It was however nice to receive another addition in the mail last week, Gordan Djurdjevic’s India and the Occult: The Influence of South Asian Spirituality on Modern Western Occultism (Palgrave, 2014). Leafing through it this afternoon inspired this post, because I realize that Djurdjevic makes a sort of contribution that should have been included in my discussion had it been available half a year ago. So here are some quick thoughts, relating our comparativist projects.

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