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  • 2021-03-21 20:31 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The ESSWE8 conference has been postponed until the same dates next year, 5-7 July 2022.

  • 2021-03-11 12:17 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Islam and Esotericism: Societies, Politics, and Practices

    Call for Papers

    2021 Meeting of the European Network for the Study of Islam and Esotericism (ENSIE): 29 September-1 October 2021 on Zoom

    The European Network for the Study of Islam and Esotericism (ENSIE) invites proposals for its 2021 meeting, to be held on Zoom 29 September-1 October 2021. The theme for the meeting is “Islam and Esotericism: Societies, Politics, and Practices.”

    Religious studies, and especially the study of esotericism, tend to focus on text production and ideas. Societies, politics, practices—and also economics, social forms, and the material—are often neglected in the study of esotericism, partly due to methodological challenges. We would therefore like to invite scholars to submit proposals focusing on these dimensions of Islam and esotericism, of esotericism and Islam, and of Islamic esotericism.

    We especially invite proposals from sociologists and anthropologists, as well as other scholars. The chronological scope stretches from medieval to contemporary times.

    We invite papers that engage with these aims, but—as usual—proposals relating to Islam and Esotericism that do not relate to the meeting theme are also welcome.

    The meeting will be held over successive afternoons to make it possible for both European scholars and scholars in American time zones to participate.

    There is no fee for attending the meeting.


    The meeting is being held in 2021 rather than 2022 (when it would normally be held, following ENSIE’s standard practice) because the 2021 meeting of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), of which ENSIE is a thematic network, has moved its 2021 conference to 2022 because of Covid, and ENSIE’s 2022 meeting will therefore be part of ESSWE’s 2022 conference.


    By 15 May 2021, please send to

    • The title and abstract (250 words maximum) of your proposed paper.
    • Your name, institution, academic position, a brief bio
    • A short CV.

    Scientific committee

    The meeting is organised by

    • Mark Sedgwick, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies, Aarhus University, and Convener of ENSIE
    • Liana Saif, assistant professor in the History of Western Esotericism in The Middle Ages, University of Amsterdam
    • Francesco Piraino, Postdoc, Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, and Fondazione Giorgio Cini
    • Michele Petrone, Adjunct professor, Università di Milano

    Updates at

  • 2021-02-15 13:29 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    A. State of Research and Conception of the Conference

    The relationship between hermeticism and esotericism (or what has received these labels since the last quarter of the 20th century) and Catholic traditions is largely unexplored. This is partly due to a deficit in the research on this topic: The relationship between “religion”/denomination and esotericism has been systematically reflected upon mainly with regard to Protestantism. In the fundamental and most important publication on the genesis of the hermetic-esoteric field in Europe, Wouter Hanegraaff’s Esotericism and the Academy (2012), he focussed strongly on a debate in protestantism (Jacob Thomasius, Ehregott Daniel Colberg), in which theologians began to label a “hermetic” tradition as a “heretical” one. I still consider Hanegraaff’s perspective to be valid. But there was no systematic reflection on the relationship between esotericism and the Catholic Church, even Hanegraaff includes some of its representatives. To be fair, one cannot explore everything at once; Hanegraaff’s important book remains the central reference for questions on the genesis of (occidental) esotericism.

    This deficit is furthermore and probably due to three reasons, among others: (1.) The conflicts between the hegemonic Catholic theology and hermetic/esoteric positions were far less sharp than in the Protestant churches; this depends partly on different theological concepts, which are to be discussed in the conference. (2.) The Catholic Church had a different social structure, in which plurality was established more through internal differentiation than, like Protestantism, through external segmentation (formation of separate congregations or “sects”). (3.) Finally, a last reason for research lies in the high barriers that the extensive research in the filed of church history has created. Expertise on Christian Denominations at eye level can be found in the sociology of religion, but hardly in religious studies.

    Two minory remarks: Esotericism is to be defined in a working definition within the framework of a polythetic model (Zander: What is Esotericism?, 2021, forthcoming). – In terms of disciplines at the university, the background of this conference is the conviction that the relatively isolated research on esotericism in a discipline of its own and the resulting separation from research in literary studies, philosophy or theology, for example, follows a discipline-political tradition and should be abolished.

    In view of the unmanageable lack of knowledge, the conference can only be a door opener into this field of research. It is intended, and this is decisive, to discuss systematic questions on the basis of exemplary objects (see B below). It is not primarily a matter of collecting objects from a possible history of Catholic esotericism; this is probably an unmanageable undertaking, not only in view of the weak current state of research. Rather, each object should contribute to answering a systematic question. The assignment of the following examples to specific systematic topics is not obligatory; evidently, many examples fit into several categories. – Interdisciplinary cooperation is particularly desirable in order to release esoteric research from its disciplinary restriction.

    B. Systematic Fields: Options

    I. Catholic conditions of possibility for the interpretation of hermeticism and esotericism

    1. Setting of the Catholic course: Melchior Cano

    2. Theology: sacrament, magic and the "objectivity" of religious perception

    3. Gender issues: women, revelations, mediums, and esotericism

    4. Sociology of Catholicism: internal differentiation

    II. Non-hegemonic perceptions and practices and their integration

    Early Modern Period

    5. Catholic Hermeticism: Agostino Steuco’s Philosophia perennis, 1542

    6. Criticism in Giovanni Baptista Crispo: De ethnicis philosophis caute legendis, 1594

    7. Athanasius Kircher

    8. (Religious) experience in the time of enlightenment: Prospero Lambertini’s De servorum Dei beatificatione et de beatorum canonizatione, 1734-1738

    9. Freemasons, Martinists, Fourierists

    The 19th and 20th centuries: experience, visions, new revelations

    10. Catholic mesmerism

    11. Catholic Romanticism in Germany and France in the early 19th century (in France circles around: Guénon, Massignon, Université Saint Jean de Jérusalem, Huysmans)

    12. Maria von Mörl, Catharina Emmerick, Therese von Konnersreuth

    13. “Deutschlatholiken”

    14. Josef Görres, Die christliche Mystik, 1836-1842

    15. Catholic spiritualism, Marian apparitions

    16. The reactions of the Sanctum Officium

    17. Occultism around 1900: Vienna, Johannes Maria Verweyen, Anglo-Saxon / French Catholicism

    18. Gerda Walther

    19. Hans Urs von Balthasar/Adrienne von Speyr

    20. Joseph Ratzinger

    The limits of hegemonic theology

    21. Popular piety

    22. Arts


    Esotericism and politics

    C. Keywords

    Subjects not covered should be listed in an appendix of lexical keywords containing basic (biographical) data, reference to esotericism and basic literature (on the relationship between esotericism and Catholicism, in the case of people also basic writings). Short keywords should not exceed one printed page (max. 3000 characters including spaces), longer keywords should not exceed 9000 characters (including spaces).

    D. Practical matters

    Conference date: 28-30 October 2021, in Fribourg. Should this time slot not be possible due to Corona, the replacement date would be 5-7 May 2022. The conference will be a face-to-face event; hotel costs will be covered for the speakers. – Please propose topics by 15 March 2021.

    Contributions in German, English and French are welcome; passive knowledge at least of German and English is necessary. – The contributions will be published.

    Please send proposals by March, 31st, to Helmut Zander ( and Moritz Bauer (

  • 2020-12-08 15:59 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Resilient esotericism

    Call for Papers for a special panel at the 18th Annual Conference of the EASR at the University of Pisa, August 30 – September 3, 2021.

    Organised by Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam) and Henrik Bogdan (University of Gothenburg)

    Western esotericism has often been described as a religious and philosophical phenomenon that has had a difficult relationship with mainstream culture and institutions for large parts of its history. Perceived as being based on forms of “rejected knowledge”, it is not difficult to find historical examples of marginalisation or even persecution of esoteric ideas and practices. With the Enlightenment, esotericism was often equated with superstition, quackery and misguided enthusiasm, and it was given for granted that eventually the progress of reason and science would have dispelled the dreams of spiritual visionaries and the secrets of self-styled initiates. However, esotericism has been able to survive marginalisation and has proven the predictions of Enlightenment thinkers wrong. It is very much alive in our societies today and it has travelled far and wide. Its pervasive presence in popular culture has been described with the term of occulture, and its participation in the entangled history of globalisation has led some scholars to reject the idea that esotericism is a “Western” phenomenon at all. Esotericism has therefore proven resilient in many ways and in different periods of its history. It has endured all sorts of challenges and difficulties and has reacted to them by adapting to new situations and taking on ever-changing forms. In this panel, we welcome paper proposals that focus on any aspect of esotericism’s resilience, both from a historical and a sociological perspective. Papers may be proposed on any current, author or group in the long history of Western esotericism, from Late Antiquity up to our contemporary globalised societies.

    Submission guidelines:

    Please send your paper abstract (150 words max.) and a short bio to the following email addresses: and

    Deadline for submission is January 10, 2020. We will not be able to accommodate papers in our panel whose abstract has been sent after that date.

  • 2020-11-01 16:32 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    This is to let you know that the deadline for submitting paper proposals to ESSWE8 (5-7 July, 2021, University College Cork, Ireland), has been extended to 15 December, 2020.

    All questions and inquiries should be directed to

  • 2020-10-26 10:07 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)


    Nominations are invited for the seventh biennial ESSWE PhD Thesis prize, awarded by the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism.


    The prize will be given for an outstanding PhD. thesis defended in 2019-2020 on any aspect of Western Esotericism. Candidates for the prize must be members of the ESSWE. The thesis must have been approved formally by the nominee’s thesis committee, but the degree need not have been formally awarded. The prize will not be awarded if no submissions are deemed qualified.

    Notification & Certification

    The prize-winner will be notified in April 2021 and will receive an award of €500 and a certificate, to be presented at the ESSWE conference in Cork, Ireland 5-7 July 2021. The ESSWE will also make a substantial contribution to travel expenses and lodging costs, and the conference fee will be waived.


    The thesis will also be recommended for publication in the ARIES Book Series, though the final decision on publication will be taken by the ARIES Book Series editorial board.


    Nominations must be made by email to the Chair of the Prize Committee, Boaz Huss (University of Southern Denmark, by 1 January 2021. The nominator must be a faculty member at the institution that awards the nominee’s PhD degree, or a member of the nominee’s thesis committee. Each nominator may make only one nomination.

    The applications should consist of pdf files of the following material:

    1. A one-page description of the thesis and motivation why it is nominated for the prize
    2. The nominee’s thesis
    3. Documentation to show that the thesis has been approved

    Item 1 needs to be in English, whereas items 2 and 3 can be in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

    The Prize Committee consists of: Boaz Huss (Chair), Ben Gurion University of the Negev; Bernd-Christian Otto, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg; Helmut Zander, Université de Fribourg

  • 2020-09-21 22:51 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University

    Association for the Study of Esotericism and Mysticism

    11th International Conference



    Images, symbols, and signs

    in mysticism and esotericism

    December 3–5, 2020

    First Call for Papers

    Mystical experience is connected to deep internal states of mind. However, this experience also has an external manifestation; it manifests in external world by certain means of expression. One of the important characteristics of languages of mysticism and esotericism through which subjective experience is communicated to the external world is utilization of images, symbols, visual metaphors and ciphers. Functions of these symbolical languages are manifold – from hiding esoteric knowledge to transmitting experience that is outside of the limits of rationality through artistic means. Rich visual symbolism of mystical and esoteric traditions connected to an atmosphere of mystery was a source of inspiration for many scientists, philosophers, writers, architects, and painters. Elements of esoteric symbolism are present both in classical and in contemporary art, including literature, paintings, architecture, sculpture, design, theater, cinema, and folklore.

    The goal of the conference is to study the plurality of forms of construction, functioning, and interpretation of images, symbols, and signs in mystical and esoteric doctrines, functions of visual symbolic language of mysticism and esotericism, continuity and historical transformations of this language, and semiotic mechanisms that allowed a transmission of these images, symbols, and signs in other spheres of culture.

    Sample topics include but are not limited to the following:

    • methodological problems of academic study of images, symbols, signs in the context of mysticism and esotericism;
    • theological connotations of mystical and esoteric symbols and images;
    • semiotic interpretation of mysticism and esotericism;
    • symbolical language of description of mystical and esoteric teachings;
    • symbolical and imaginary dimension of Eastern and Western mystical and esoteric traditions;
    • mystical and esoteric symbols and images in world artistic culture;
    • visual vocabulary of esoteric art;
    • historical transformations of esoteric symbolism;
    • mystical and esoteric images in contemporary design.

    Working languages: Russian, English

    Applications for the conference are to be sent to the address of the organizing committee by October 24, 2020. Due to possible visa concerns, we request that applications are sent by September 30, 2020. We kindly request participants to provide the following information:

    1. Full name:

    2. Date of birth:

    3. Academic degree (if applicable):

    4. Home address:

    5. Place of work/study (if applicable):

    6. Position:

    7. Telephone number:

    8. E-mail:

    9. Need of an official invitation to receive an entry visa to the Russian Federation (yes/no):

    10. Necessary equipment for your presentation (yes (specify)/no):

    11. Title of paper:

    12. Abstract:

    13. Language of paper:

    The applicants are also required to attach a photo of themselves, no more than 1Mb in size.

    Applications for panels are accepted until October 24, 2020. Panel applications need to follow the general application form outlined above. Additionally, the panel organizer needs to provide the approximate number of panel participants and a preliminary program.

    A completed application does not guarantee acceptance to the conference. The organizing committee reserves the right to ask for additional information from applicants to specify unclear applications. Decisions on applications are made by the organizing committee within a week after the application deadline. Applicants will be informed of the committee’s decision by e-mail.

    Remote participation in the conference is not provided for.

    A conference program including information about participants and their abstracts will be published and provided to the participants before the start of the conference. It will also be available on the ASEM website.

    The conference fee is differentiated according to ASEM membership and geographical location of the participant (see table below):

    Conference participants

    ASEM members

    ASEM non-members

    Post-Soviet countries (excepting the Baltic countries)

    500 roubles

    1000 roubles

    Residents of non-Post-Soviet countries

    10 Euros

    30 Euros

    The conference fee will be used to cover the costs of organizing the conference as well as the publication of conference papers, which is planned after the conference takes place.

    The conference fee does not include transportation, lodging, food or possible additional services (tours, museums, and so on). The organizing committee does not provide lodging for conference participants; however, it will provide information on local options at the request of an accepted participant.

    The organizing committee is open to propositions of material and informational support from interested physical and legal persons.

    Conference address: ul. Bolshaya Sankt-Petersburgskaya, 41, Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University (NovSU), Novgorod the Great.

    All inquiries about the conference are to be directed to:

    Organizing committee:

    Organizing committee chairs: Sergey S. Avanesov, Sergey V. Pakhomov

    Organizing committee members: Daniil E. Krapchunov, Birgit Menzel,

    Evsey G. Berdichevsky, Stanislav Panin

  • 2020-09-07 19:30 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Aleister Crowley, the Thelemic Tradition, and the Creative Arts

    Call for Papers for a special panel at
    8th International ESSWE Conference:
    Esotericism, Art and Creativity

    5-7 July, 2021, University College Cork, Ireland

    Recent years have witnessed an increase of scholarly interest in the British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), his religion Thelema, and its relationship with various genres of the creative arts. In addition to Crowley’s vast production of magical and mystical texts, he made contributions to several genres of the arts, including fiction, poetry, painting, and drama. Previous research has highlighted, among other areas, the influence of Decadence and weird fiction on Crowley’s literary and lyrical production; his indebtedness to the compositions of Richard Wagner and the art of Paul Gauguin; and his collaboration with the artist Frieda Harris in the production of his Thoth Tarot. Moreover, existing scholarship has indicated Crowley’s influence on a number of prominent writers and artists, such as Fernando Pessoa, Xul Solar, and Kenneth Anger, as well as the reception of Crowley and Thelema in later popular culture. This panel takes as its starting point the multifaceted relationship between Crowley and the arts, seeking to further the discussion around two main areas. Firstly, the panel will consider Crowley himself not simply as an occultist who happened to dabble in fiction, poetry, painting, or theatre, but instead take seriously the reciprocal relationship between Crowley’s occultism and artistic pursuits, examining how these mutually informed and furthered each other. Secondly, the panel will consider Crowley’s broader influence on various genres of the arts before and after his death, seeking to deepen the understanding of his lasting significance in popular (oc)culture.

    Submission Guidelines:

    Paper proposals must include basic information about the author (title, institutional affiliation/independent scholar), a paper title and an abstract of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords about the proposed presentation.

    Deadline for submission is October 1, 2020.

    Proposals should be sent to or

  • 2020-08-31 16:10 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Dear members of ESSWE, the Summer 2020 issue of the Newsletter is available for download from the following link: ESSWE Newsletter Summer 2020 Volume 11 Number 1

  • 2020-08-07 11:41 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    8th Biannual Conference of the European Society for the
    Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE)

    Western Esotericism and Creativity:
    Art, Performance and Innovation

    University College Cork, 5-7 July 2021


    This conference brings together scholars who seek to examine the intersections of Western Esotericism and artforms, creative performance and production. The theme is open to broad interpretation, as well as geographical scope and historical and cultural context from antiquity to the present day. The relationship between diverse genres of the arts and Western Esotericism are close and multivalent; many artists, historical and contemporary, are practising occultists or influenced by esoteric philosophies or practices. The theme encourages explorations of manifestations of spiritual creativity and the relationship between esoteric symbols, principles and religious frameworks, and the production of artwork. A multitude of examples of esoteric-inspired art can be identified, from literature and music to painting and photography. Examinations can also be made of the interconnection between innovation and esotericism, and attention paid to historical and philosophical developments in alchemy and other so-called ‘occult sciences’, or this aspect can be explored in terms of scholarly theoretical and methodological innovations in the field of Western Esotericism. Specific sub-themes could include:

    • Esoteric themes in art
    • Otherworldly encounters and creativity
    • Ritual, performance and esotericism
    • Esotericism and literature
    • Art and music as techniques in esoteric practice
    • Aesthetic dimensions of Western Esotericism
    • Occultism, artistic expression and popular culture

    The broad conference theme encourages cross-disciplinary engagement, from scholars of religion, philosophers, historians, art historians, musicologists, literary scholars, psychologists and anthropologists as well as allowing the integration of perspectives and dialogue in relation to examinations of different dimensions of Western esotericism, whether in historical contexts or contemporary social and popular manifestations, in its experiential aspects or its philosophical strands.

    The year 2021 is a commemorative year in Ireland as in 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, bringing an end to the War of Independence. Artists of the ‘Anglo-Irish Literary Revival’ or ‘Celtic Twilight’ artistic movement, such as William Butler Yeats, Ella Young, and George Russell, were involved in political movements and nationalist endeavours as well as folklore collection, and were practicing occultists, and the conference aims to explore such intersections of esotericism, art, politics and nationalism in Ireland and far beyond.

    ESSWE8 is a Special Conference of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR).

    Keynote lectures:

    Dr Marco Pasi, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam, Department of Humanities, “The Occulture of Contemporary Art”

    Dr Claire Nally, Associate Professor, Northumbria University, Department of Humanities, “Ireland’s Funerary Culture and Ancestral Memory: W. B. Yeats’s Early Poetry and Prose”

    Dr Christopher Webster, Senior Lecturer, Aberystwyth University, “Stone, Symbol and Face: Photography and Ethnos in the Third Reich”

    Call for Papers / Panels

    While the aim is for ESSWE8 to be a large, cross-disciplinary and inclusive conference, paper and panel proposals will go through a careful selection process so as to ensure that the final programme will be of high academic quality as well as focused on the conference theme. We encourage scholars across disciplines to creatively consider the theme and to come up with innovative analytical perspectives and frameworks that examine specific historical and cultural contexts, source materials, unique cases and topics.

    As always, the ESSWE wants to provide a platform for intensive exchange and collaborative networking between scholars from diverse perspectives, regions and on all levels of the academy. In this regard, postgraduate students as well as more experienced and established scholars are all encouraged to participate and submit proposals for papers or panels. In the many intersections that this conference theme shines a light on, we are confident that ESSWE8 will be a foundational event for developing collaborations in the field and establishing new research avenues for the future.

    Individual paper presentations should have a length of 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for discussion.

    The conference language is English.

    Please send your paper or panel proposal to esswe8[at]

    Submission Guidelines:

    Individual paper proposals must include basic information about the author (title, institutional affiliation/independent scholar), a paper title and an abstract of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords about the proposed presentation.

    Panel Proposals must include the following information:

    • Title of panel
    • Panel Description of approximately 300 words
    • Purpose, goals, expected outcomes and contribution to the conference theme (approximately 300-350 words)
    • Panel Convenor(s) (Organizer(s))’ names, email addresses and affiliations
    • Chosen Length: Panels can be 90 minutes or 120 minutes in length
    • Special requests/equipment needs

    Please Note: panels are expected to generate discussion and active exchange of ideas rather than simply presenting a series of papers. The convenor(s) thus have the option to choose a different format (for example, roundtable discussion or a series of short position papers with audience/discussant response). The format choice should be included in the Panel description.

    Important dates

    Deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals: 1 November 2020

    Notification of acceptance by: 15 January 2021

    Beginning of Registration: 15 February 2021

    Early bird conference fee until: 1 April 2021

    Normal conference fee: 1 April to 25 June 2021

    Please Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reserve the option to postpone the conference to the following year should travel restrictions or university safety guidelines require it. If this is the case, delegates will be informed no later than 15 February 2021 (and in this eventuality, registration will not open).

    Conference bursaries

    The ESSWE provides a limited number of travel bursaries for participants from economically disadvantaged countries. For further information, see

    ESSWE8 will feature a special symposium event for students of the ESSWE Student Network, facilitated by Mriganka Mukhopadhyay.

    As part of its support of ESSWE8, the IAHR will provide two individual bursaries (of EUR 500 each) specifically for postgraduate students from weak currency countries in Europe. To apply, please email esswe8[at] with your name, thesis title, any links (website/social media) and notification of paper acceptance at ESSWE8.

    Conference Organizer:

    Dr Jenny Butler (Link:

    Scientific Committee:

    Jenny Butler, Henrik Bogdan, Egil Asprem, Christian Giudice, Crystal Addey


    ESSWE8 will take place in University College Cork in Cork city, Ireland.


    It will be possible to stay in the UCC campus accommodation, with rooms reserved for

    delegates at a special price. A list of suggestions concerning hotels, hostels, and B&Bs will be

    provided on the ESSWE8 website and the ESSWE Facebook page.


    All questions and inquiries should be directed to esswe8[at]

    For further information, please see the conference website:

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