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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Galison in Utrecht

I just got home from Peter Galison’s first talk as Visiting Professor at Utrecht University. As advertised in a previous post, the lecture focused on the role of secrecy in modern science. Actually, the focus was a lot broader than that. Galison’s interest was to trace what he saw as some significant historical changes in the legitimization and enforcement of secrecy in western societies, roughly from the early 20th century until today. A significant part of his argument was that scientific discourse became subjected to secretive forms of political regulation from WWII onwards.

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Science and Secrecy in Utrecht

Next week one of the stars in the history of modern science visits Utrecht. Harvard Professor Peter Galison has written a number of highly acclaimed and original books, including How Experiments End (1987), Image and Logic (1997), and Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps (2003). Between March 8-12 he will be delivering a series of lectures and workshops at the University of Utrecht. I will certainly be there.

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Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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