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.

 

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Esotericism in Antiquity: An Aries special issue

TauroctonyThere is much exciting work going on in the area of esotericism and the religions of antiquity at the moment. One of the people who have been instrumental in lifting the focus on antiquity within the study of esotericism (and bringing esotericism to a sometimes unwilling crowd of Gnosticism and ancient Christianities specialists – kudos for that!) is Dylan Burns, currently of the University of Leipzig. I’ve written about Dylan’s work previously, and of course, there’s been mention of the ESSWE Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) which he co-founded with Sarah Veale.

Now, fresh off those unobtanium-coated Brill printers (more…)

The end of EXESESO

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University of Exeter, former home to the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO)

After the untimely death of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke back in 2012 (see obituary in The Times, and by Christopher McIntosh in Aries [pay-wall]) , there has been much speculation about what would happen with the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO) that he ran at the University of Exeter. Since 2005, EXESESO has offered one of the three official university programs for the academic study of esotericism in Europe (the others being in Amsterdam and Paris), and produced a steady stream of MAs through its distance learning program. After an internal evaluation process at Exeter University, in dialogue with the Theosophically oriented Blavatsky Trust who funded the centre, a final decision has now been made to shut EXESESO down. Mark Sedgwick reports on the decision in the Spring 2014 ESSWE newsletter, which was released today:

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ASE in progress, next stop Budapest – Esotericism conference update

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism (ASE – the American older sister of ESSWE) is happening at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY) these days, with an interesting lineup and topic. It’s not the only esotericism event to take place this summer, however: As previously noted here there is a new regional network of ESSWE around – CEENASWE, focusing on central and eastern Europe – and they are holding their launching event in Budapest on July 4-5. The program is quite impressive for such a young network, including speakers from Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Israel, the Netherlands, the US, etc., giving papers on topics ranging from neopaganism in Serbia to Hungarian Freemasonry, from early-modern Christian Kabbalah to modern occultism, from literary expressions and visual art to neo-Gnosticism in modern Orthodox contexts. Much to look forward to.

And all the papers are in English, which gives a unique opportunity for international exchanges on these topics and sets a new precedence for work in this area in the years to come. It is really encouraging to see that solid scholarship on esotericism is not only expanding geographically, but that we’re also seeing new opportunities for integrating this work with the broader international community. It promises a healthy counterweight to a predominantly anglophone, French- and German-dominated field.

 

 

ESSWE PhD Thesis Prize 2015 – Submissions welcome!

A call has just gone out for nominating PhD dissertations for next year’s biannual ESSWE Thesis Prize. So if you are finishing a dissertation on an esotericism related topic, it’s time to slip this call to your supervisor and subtly suggest a nomination. The reward? Honour and glory and  € 500 prize money, awarded at next year’s ESSWE Conference in Riga, Latvia. There will be some money available for reimbursing travel expenses to Latvia. The awarded dissertation will be recommended for publication in the Aries Book Series. More information on who can apply, when, to whom, and so forth, see the call – which I also paste below.

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Theosophical Appropriations – videos from a workshop

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INASWE workshop on Theosophy, kabbalah, Western esotericism, and appropriations of traditions

The INASWE [Israeli Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism] has done it again. Videos from a workshop held last December on the theme of “Theosophical Appropriations: Kabbalah, Western Esotericism, and the Transformation of Traditions” are now online, and they show an impressive number of great scholars talking about intriguing aspects of modern esotericism, angled through the Theosophical current one way or another. The conveners Julie Chajes and Boaz Huss have done a great job putting together this group. One of the nice aspects of this collection is the global scope, giving a panoramic view of Theosophical groups across a number of different countries.

As in previous years, it is wonderful that all of this is made available online. So go and watch Karl Baier talk about how the chakras were introduced into Theosophy, John Patrick Deveney lecture on Theosophy as Lesenmysterium, Moshe Idel pontificate on Theosophy and Kabbalah in Romania, Massimo Introvigne entertain on the topic of Canadian Theosophy, and let Marco Pasi enlighten you on the role of the Theosophical movement in Italian esoteric milieus. And much, much more.

Gerardus van der Leeuw Award to The Problem of Disenchantment

"The Problem of Disenchantment" wins the first Gerardus van der Leeuw Award.

“The Problem of Disenchantment” wins the first Gerardus van der Leeuw Award.

My PhD dissertation, The Problem of Disenchantment, has just won its second award. The Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG – Nederlands Genootschap voor Godsdienstwetenschap), one of the oldest such national organisations in the world, recently publicised the winner of the Gerardus van der Leeuw Award. It’s the first time this prize, named after the famous Dutch phenomenologist of religion (and founder of the NGG), is awarded, which makes it a great honour.

The prize will formally be awarded at next year’s NGG meeting, which in 2014 will coincide with the big conference of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR) at the University of Groningen. (That conference is by the way promising to be a very exciting, as well as busy, event. Among the keynote lecturers are Bruno Latour and Carlo Ginzburg. In the shadow of such celebrity names, I’ve now been asked to put together a panel on some central concepts of my dissertation – which comes in addition to a panel session I’m already arranging together with Markus Davidsen and Carole Cusack. So lots to do.)

Last summer, The Problem of Disenchantment won ESSWE’s PhD Thesis Prize, making this the second award.

Conference on “Esoteric Practices” – ASE call for papers

This call for papers for the next ASE conference (Association for the Study of Esotericism) has already circulated for a while, but since the deadline is still two months away (January 15 to be exact) it can still be circulated some more. The ASE is the American sister organization of the ESSWE, and the idea has been that these two societies will offer their biannual conferences in alternating years. Thus, we had ESSWE4 in Gothenburg in 2013, and will get ASE5 at Colgate University, Hamilton NY in 2014.

The topic that ASE has chosen for next year’s conference is I think an excellent one: “Esoteric Practices: Theories, Representations and Methods”. It’s an excellent idea because, quite surprisingly, there has been very little research on practice in this field. This is largely due to a bias towards “ideas” and “systems of thought” and historical genealogies, and a lacking engagement with social scientific research communities (anthropologists and ethnographers above all). That does not mean that no such research exists – it does, and especially outside of the context of “esotericism scholarship” as institutionalised in the family of journals, book series and scholarly societies that identify as such. But conceptualisations of “esotericism”  (whether as a theoretical object or a historical phenomenon) have not sufficiently looked at the practical dimension or engaged the research that already exists. There are notable exceptions, of course, but not many.

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The biggest esotericism conference yet – ESSWE4 and the schizophrenic life of academics

A few days ago I returned from Gothenburg, Sweden, after the fourth international conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (or #ESSWE4 for those following the tagboard). It was slightly larger than the three previous conferences (in Tübingen, Strasbourg, and Szeged); more than 90 papers were presented, there were discussion panels, keynotes, and night-time events. The conference was spread out over four days, and it needed every minute of the daily 9-hour schedule.

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Getting ready for ESSWE4: interdisciplinary panels, international networking, magickal musick – and the transhuman apocalypse

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ESSWE4: Gothenburg, Sweden, June 26-29, 2013.

I’m only doing one conference this summer season, but that is already turning out to be a massively busy and exciting event. Now that the final program is available, and the book of abstracts can be downloaded, the ESSWE4 conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, stands out as everything that an international conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism should be: strongly interdisciplinary (the inclusion of historians of science and medicine is particularly noticeable, and a greater number of sociologists and anthropologists is also a highly welcome development), with a rich and varied program that includes panel sessions, discussion groups, roundtables, and keynotes. There is also a dinner in the Masonic Hall and a final esoteric concert event: Genesis P-Orridge and Carl Abrahamsson (known in the esoteric world as editor of The Fenris Wolf) perform live with their act, White Stains. P-Orridge and Abrahamsson will even appear in a half-hour discussion group at the conference itself on the final day, entitled “Music and Esotericism from the Inside Out”.

Browse the program on the website to find out more.

In addition to that, you should check what people are saying about the event in social media on this Tagboard (join the conversation with the tag #ESSWE4). This promises to be the first ESSWE conference with live twitter feeds to follow, so do check that out and contribute if you are going! (I hear there will be free wifi available, so no need to worry about insane roaming charges) .

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