Another quick post in the category “me rambling in online interview”: Last week I appeared on Erik Davis‘ “Expanding Mind” podcast, speaking about esotericism and cognitive science, the problem of disenchantment, parapsychology, role-playing games, and AI. The whole conversation is now audible at TechGnosis.com – for those not faint of heart.
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:
A couple of weeks ago I promised to take a closer look at one of the articles from the present issue of Aries. Now I finally found an occasion to look at James Justin Sledge’s contribution, “Between Loagaeth and Cosening: Towards an Etiology of John Dee’s Spirit Diaries”. As the title suggests, it’s about the Elizabethan philosopher, mathematician and magus John Dee’s famous conversations with angels, and his favourite skryer, Edward Kelly.
Spiritualism was a symptomatic cultural trend of the Victorian period. For decades mediums captivated the worker, the bourgeois, the nobleman, the socialist utopian, the Christian apostate, and people from virtually any and all professions, with their table rappings, levitating furniture, full-form materializations, and messages from beyond the grave. When a message was coming through, whether from the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, the archangel Gabriel, or the sitter’s aunt Nelly, the spirit medium provided the goods. But despite this caricature, which no doubt does full justice to much of the movement, spiritualism also became a heated battleground for deeply natural-philosophic questions: what is Nature, how does she operate, and what can we know about her? Where are the boundaries of the natural to be drawn?