Friday, October 26, 2007

Esotericism in Jewish Thought

New book:

Moshe Halbertal, Concealment and Revelation: Esotericism in Jewish Thought and its Philosophical Implications. Trans. Jackie Feldman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

The Introduction may be downloaded from the publisher's website.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Announcing a forthcoming offline edition of the ESSWE Newsletter

For archival purposes and for the sake of those members of the ESSWE who have not registered for this blog, an offline PDF Newsletter will be published in 2008, containing an edited selection of the most noteworthy articles that have been published here, on the online version of the Newsletter.

Change to submission procedures

For reasons of efficiency, submission procedures have been changed. In future, members of the ESSWE should submit announcements and articles directly to the editor, Mark Sedgwick. Members of the board of ESSWE may still make posts to this blog directly for announcements of events, books, etc.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Grail legends

I am moving here a discussion which started under a request for Feedback on this blog (not the right place--please, everyone, comments should relate to the original post. If you want to start a new topic, email the text to someone on the board so they can start a new post).

Nil wrote on September 28, 2007:

I should like to ask for views on whether we can regard the grail legends as esoteric? They seems to me to fall within Faivre's definitions. I'm thinking chiefly of the Mabinogien collection of Welsh stories and the many attendant mythic histories of Arthur of Britain. The grail procession itself may indicate practical magic and certainly the whole corpus comes under the order of signs...

IFAstudent responded on October 7, 2007:

With reference to Nil’s question, I am also interested in how the Grail legends could be classified. It would be useful to keep in mind not only their classic formulations, but also their development by modern writers, some of who are particularly sensitive to their dialectic of concealment and revelation, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon series, Deepak Chopra in The Return of Merlin, Stephen Lawhead in the Warlords of Nin, and thinkers in the modern esoteric tradition who have appropriated them, such as Katherine Maltwood’s work on Glastonbury and Dion Fortune's Society of the Inner Light.

The legends embody the notion of the coexistence of concealment and revelation, central to much esoteric thought[by the way Moshe Halbertal has just brought out what promises to be a fascinating book with that title in relation to esotericism in Jewish thought]The physical vessel becomes a hierophany for something beyond itself. The vessel also enables an initiation into possibilities of existence in the person who beholds or holds it which would otherwise have remained concealed. Again, the opening into something present but concealed. The Grail quest also operates at two levels-the basic level of a physical journey and the deeper level of an initiatory quest, where the events on the journey become symbolic doors that prepare one for perceiving the ultimate mystery. Perhaps this effort at characterising their esoteric character is rather general but could serve as a starting point. I am developing a blog at which compares the use of Arthurian lore by Maltwood with a similar cosmographic effort in Africa which uses a different inspirational source.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Student networks

As well as this blog, two discussion groups or ‘virtual hangouts’ have been created this year that are relevant to our field, on the website
  • One is a group for students and former students of the MA Mysticism and Western Esotericism in Amsterdam (Western Esotericism MA).
  • The other, playfully called The Grand Lodge, is for scholars of Western Esotericism more generally, excluding university teachers and professors (for reasons of social ease and liberty of speech).

Both groups are accessible through facebook friends.

Those interested in joining one of the groups must have or create a facebook account. Then they can send a friend request to someone who is already a member, such as Ward (Eduard) ten Houten or myself, including a brief message stating they would like to join the particular group. You can find us in the facebook search engine under our full names.

Joyce Pijnenburg

Monday, October 1, 2007


Giovanna Costantini posted a comment to an earlier post which included the sentence

As an Art Historian, I would be interested in identifying others within my discipline working internationally on subjects related to esotericism and in a sub-affiliation/listserv of such scholars.
Would any others be interested? In Art history or in any other discipline/sub-field of the study of Western esotericism? Please reply by comment to this post.