Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Welcome! Please leave feedback

I was glad to see that three members had signed up for the blog before I'd even finished sending out the invitations.

When you've had a look at the blog, please leave any feedback as a comment to this post.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Caucasian Esotericism

As someone currently researching esotericism in the Caucasus I often wonder where Western esotericism is supposed to 'end.' That esotericism in the Caucasus exists needs little proof. Just take the Armenian Hermetic texts or the Georgian neo-Platonic school founded at the Gelati monastery in the 11th/12th century by Ioan Petritsi.

Contemporary examples of Caucasian esotericists are Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Orthodox-Christian Anthroposophist who was also Georgia's first post-Communist president, and Khozh-Akhmed Noukhaev,the Chechen nationalist who turned to Traditionalism and the neo-Eurasianism of Aleksandr Dugin. These two examples especially arefairly unproblematic, since both men openly adopted and adapted esoteric currents with clear Western-European backgrounds. They are simply examples of Western esotericism imported to the Caucasus.

Petritsi's neo-Platonism is already much more difficult to judge -- if only because of the language barrier. Petritsi was a student at Psellus' academy before returning to Georgia. His translation of Proclus was a landmark in Georgian literary culture and gave rise towhat is called the Georgian Renaissance.

How should the Georgian neo-Platonic school be treated? As a priori part of Western esotericism? And why? Because it is Christian? Because it is neo-Platonic? Or perhaps for some other reason? (NB: Interestingly, Zviad Gamsakhurdia drew his inspiration not only from Steiner, but also from Petritsi.)

Ward ten Houten
[Posted by Kocku von Stuckrad for Ward ten Houten]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Sentimental thoughts on Tuebingen

I remember very well how in the first half of the 1990s, Antoine Faivre and I were talking about the necessity of getting Western esotericism recognized as a field of research, and of the absence at the time of all those things that belong to an established field, such as academic chairs, teaching programs, peer-reviewed journals, monograph series, scholarly organizations on a national and international level, interdisciplinary exchange with other disciplines, and so on and so forth. At the time, there was nothing, or almost nothing.

That was no more than 15 years ago. And now I suddenly found myself standing on a podium in Tuebingen looking at a crowded lecture room full of scholars, including many students and ph.d. students, from many countries, who all shared a real, serious and enthusiastic commitment to Western esotericism as a field of research, and for all or whom (at least, so I imagine) the question of its academic legitimacy is no longer an issue on which to waste one's time.

This is how far we have come in so short a period of time.

The presence of so many young people - students who had taken the trouble to travel all the way to an academic conference like this - was particularly inspiring: it means that Western esotericism is no longer a pursuit dominated by a relatively small circle of "usual suspects" belonging to the older and middle generations (although it was obviously fantastic that almost of them were there as well), but that it has taken root among those who will take the field into the future.

In short, it was a historical event indeed: the moment, as far as I'm concerned, when Western esotericism has definitively "come of age".

Wouter Hanegraaff

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sufis, Kabbalists and Christian Philosophers in Medieval Spain

The New York Open Center announces a conference entitled "An Esoteric Quest for The Golden Age of Andalusia: Sufis, Kabbalists and Christian Philosophers in Medieval Spain," to be held in Granada, Spain, September 15th to 20th, 2007.

Call for articles

The ESSWE Newsletter calls for short articles (500-2,000 words) on any topic relating to Western Esotericism.

All topics to Western Esotericism will be considered. Articles may, for example, discuss individuals, groups or practices, or address theoretical issues. They may also present work in progress, or summarize conclusions that will later be published in full elsewhere.

Authors are advised to look at the excellent articles published in the ISIM Review, a review of contemporary Islamic studies which pioneered this format. Articles from the ISIM Review are available on the ISIM website.

Review and comments
Editorial changes for style and clarity may be suggested before publication, but no formal peer-review will be carried out. Instead, other members of ESSWE will be invited to comment on articles published on this blog, so long as comments are constructive, relevant, and courteous.

Authors may either contact the editor in advance, or send unsolicited work. Authors must be full or student members of ESSWE, and should provide information concerning their institutional affiliation when submitting articles or enquiries.

  • Articles should include abstracts of no more than 80 words.
  • Titles should be short. Subtitles are not used.
  • Paragraphs should also be short. There should be several subheadings, usually one every three or four paragraphs.
  • Articles should be submitted either in Microsoft Word or as HTML text, with as little formatting as possible, save for italics for foreign words.
  • Bullet points may be used, sparingly.

Scandinavian network

A new network has come into being within ESSWE: SNASWE, the Scandinavian Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism.

SNASWE was launched at a recent conference held in Turku, Finland. Its purpose is to bring together Scandinavian scholars interested in Western Esotericism and non-Scandinavian scholars interested in esotericism in Scandinavia, to share relevant information, and to assist applications for funding within Scanadinavia. It will soon launch either a ListServ or a blog similar to this one.

All members of ESSWE are invited to join SNASWE if they wish: please contact the co-ordinator of SNASWE, Henrik Bogdan of Goteborg.

All those who wish to join SNASWE and are not members of ESSWE will be requested to join ESSWE first.

The board of ESSWE is enthusiastic about SNASWE, which might be the first of a number of other such networks--for Central and Eastern Europe, for example, or for PhD students.

Using this blog

Reading the blog
The blog is open to all to read.

Commenting on posts
All members of the ESSWE can comment on posts.

Making new posts
All members of the board of ESSWE may make posts to this blog for announcements of events, books, etc. Members of the ESSWE should submit announcements and articles to the editor, Mark Sedgwick.

Appropriate and inappropriate posts and comments
  • Announcements of conferences and books are normally made on the main ESSWE website. They may also be made on this blog if desired.
  • Short articles are especially encouraged, usually of about 1,000 words in length. Members might, for example, describe the nature and preliminary results of a current research project.
  • Discussions on any topic related to the objectives of the ESSWE are encouraged, so long as the tone is polite. Comments that are off-topic or impolite will be removed by the editor.
  • Questions concerning sources, information and so on are generally encouraged.


Postings and comments may be made in any language known to at least one member of the board. The use of English is encouraged in order to maximize the number of readers. The use of a spellchecker is also encouraged!