As a member of what’s been called the “brat pack” of esotericism scholars I am proud to note that a considerable number of us are appearing on the scene this year with monographs based on PhD dissertations. The brat pack presumably consists of a group of (then) students and emerging scholars who were around at the time of ESSWE 1 in 2007, and who have frequently been seen together at conferences since. While some of us have teamed up for joint gigs in the past (think The Devil’s Party or Contemporary Esotericism, and the conferences that went with both of these), it looks like 2014 is the big year for solo work. I know of at least four titles either published or forthcoming in 2014 by (for the most part) recent PhDs working in the field of Western esotericism. There may be other publication plans I am not aware of (please leave a note!). Here’s a chronological list of the knowns.
I ended 2013 with a retrospective on some personal favourites from the wealth of publications on esotericism last year. Of course there were many omissions, some of which I’ve payed tribute to on Twitter. Julian Strube’s (German) book on Vril is notable, and has attracted some attention in the German press lately. Also from Germany, Monika Neugebauer-Wölk’s massive collected volume on Aufklärung und Esoterik: Wege in die Moderne is a milestone that will take time to digest and assess (I admit that I forgot about this one because the prohibitive price has made it inaccessible to me until now). Then in the antiquities section, there’s the English edition of Roelof van den Broek’s book on Gnosticism, Gnostic Religion in Antiquity. And still there’s much more that could’ve been mentioned (such as this milestone of a source work: Andrew Weeks’ new translation of Böhme’s Aurora).
Inspired by my colleague Asbjørn Dyrendal’s recent spur of book blogging (i.e. this, this and this), I will further bring to the attention three recent collective volumes on themes that should be relevant to many readers of this blog. While some are more groundbreaking than others, they are all important contributions to their fields, namely: NRM studies, Satanism studies, and the academic study of Aleister Crowley.
The ContERN website is slowly becoming active. Today we have published the first papers of the cyberproceedings from the Contemporary Esotericism conference in Stockholm this August. The first four papers to appear include two on Freemasonry and initiatic societies (J. Scott Kenney and Aslak Rostad), one on methodological issues in the study of contemporary Satanism (Jesper Aa. Petersen), and one on occulture in Brazilian pop music (Francisco Santos Silva). All of them should offer a lot of food for thought, so I suggest you go check them out: Is fraternalism a form of “moral elitism”? How do Masons experience the influence of joining the craft on the direction of their lives? How are we to draw boundaries between different types of “Satanism“? And what does Aleister Crowley have to do with Brazilian pop music of the 1970s? Read and find out.
One of the reasons for not writing here very often this spring is that I am co-editing a major volume in my “spare time”. Last week I visited my good friend, colleague and co-editor Kennet Granholm at Stockholm University, to discuss some final issues. This weekend, we ship the manuscript off to Equinox Publishing – a full 689 pages – ending a period with much editorial work. To celebrate this, I’ll kick off some pre-production advertising of the volume, which bears the title Contemporary Esotericism.
Following up the last post, here comes a report on the esotericism panels at the IAHR in Toronto, organized by Marco Pasi. As you can read about below, they go straight into a central debate in the field of esotericism studies at the moment.
In a previous post, now a couple of months ago, I wrote about the distinction between goetia and theurgy in ceremonial magic. I tried to trace the development of the distinction, in very broad strokes, from neo-platonic discussions in late antiquity through the renaissance rehabilitation of magic, through to 19th century occultism. This was part of developing my thoughts for an article on «Goetia in Modern Western Magic», the deadline for which has now (as it usually goes with academic anthologies) been postponed. This gives me opportunity to try out some more ideas here.