ESSWE home

  • 2021-12-14 12:42 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    New esotericism-related Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Kollegforschungsgruppe) at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany): call for applications

    The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) has recently approved the foundation of a Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Kollegforschungsgruppe) on the topic ‘Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective’ at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. The Centre’s main goal is to compare the interpretation, rationalisation and legimitisation strategies of esoteric practices from a global perspective, and to carve out why they are successful in different cultural and regional contexts. A mid-term goal is the development of a cultural theory of esoteric practices, which seeks to explain their resilience, their typological similarities across a large number of cases, and their different, culture-bound evaluations. The research group adopts a heuristic working definition of ‘esoteric practices’, which includes a variety of aspects such as contingency management, specialisation, opaque efficacy as well as social dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.

    DFG-funded Centres for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences are interdisciplinary research groups with an excellent international reputation. They have a funding period of four years, with the possibility of prolongation for a second funding period, and combine an international fellowship programme with local high-profile research, whereby a large number of leading experts have the possibility to convene and explore an innovative research topic over a long period of time. With a local staff of at least eight employees, and available funding for up to seven fellowships per year, the Centre will be one of the biggest esotericism-focused research projects in the world in the years to come.

    Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) is seeking to appoint a postdoctoral researcher for the scientific coordination of this research group. The salary is based on the German collective agreement for public servants (TVL), level E14 (100 %). The duration of the position is bound to the approved funding period of four years. The preferred starting date is 1 April 2022. One of the main requirements for the position is fieldwork experience with a focus on esoteric practices in African contexts.

    More details on this call for applications can be found here:

    For further details about the position, please contact Dr. Bernd-Christian Otto:

  • 2021-10-13 19:02 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The 2021 Summer Newsletter (Vol.12/Summer) is out. Please download it from here:

  • 2021-10-12 21:10 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Deadline October 31, 2021

    Place: Tagungszentrum Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland

    Organisation: Andreas Kilcher, Jonas Stähelin, Chloe Sugden; (ETH Zürich)

    We invite applications for a PhD Workshop from January 20 – 23, 2022 in Ascona, Switzerland. Since the early twentieth century, Ascona has inspired and fostered a variety of alternative cultures of knowledge, art, and living, such as Monte Verità and the Eranos Circle.

    This workshop is an interdisciplinary event that brings together graduate students from the fields of history of science and technology, anthropology, history of religions, and art history. The workshop seeks to explore scientific and aesthetic approaches to the occult through manifold lenses, working against familiar disenchantment narratives that scientific reasoning and Enlightenment worldviews alienated modernity from occult practices, the natural world and the divine. For this workshop, the terms "occultism" or "the occult" are viewed in an expanded manner, as an effort to produce and interrogate knowledge of “invisible” realities. Analyses of occultism are thus not restricted to religious traditions, practices and phenomena; they also concern the wider aesthetic and scientific formation and transformation of modernity.

    Proposals by PhD students are encouraged to investigate the epistemic tensions and uncertainties arising from scientific and aesthetic explorations of such invisible realities. We also welcome extra- European, global perspectives, and approaches that consider occultism in relation to the gendered nature of scientific and artistic practices in previous centuries.

    During the workshop, participants will have the chance to discuss these questions with renowned senior scholars. Excursions to Monte Verità and the Eranos Foundation will also be included in the workshop.

    The following keynote speakers will be present:

    Professor Christine Ferguson, Chair in English Studies, University of Stirling

    Professor Beate Fricke, Chair of Pre- Modern Art History, Institute of Art History, University of Bern

    Professor Yossef Schwartz, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Intellectual History, Tel Aviv University; currently Visiting Professor, LMU München


    Proposals (approx. 300 words) and CV must be submitted by October 31, 2021 to: We will accept up to 20 proposals. Accommodation, including breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks will be financed. Participants must fund their own travel expenses to Ascona and dinners (resp. their universities). Please note that there is an option to apply for travel bursaries provided by ESSWE.

    Please visit our website for further information.

    Organized by:

    ESSWE – The European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism
    ZGW – Zentrum für Geschichte des Wissens (ETH / UZH)
    Chair for Literature and Cultural Studies of ETH Zurich as
    part of the SNSF project “Scientification and Aestheticization
    of ‘Esotericism’ in the long 19th century”.

  • 2021-08-13 20:50 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    According to a long‐standing belief, exceptional life‐changing experiences are beyond the individual’s control—they ‘simply happen.’ However, individuals actively search for transformative experiences, inducing consciousness‐alterations through practices and reflecting critically on the long process as ‘experientialist philosophers.’ The conference will devote itself primarily to theoretical questions involving these intentional practices that result in actively induced experiential states. As such, the aim is to add to our understanding of intentional transformative experiences.

    For a detailed schedule, please download the below PDF: 


  • 2021-08-04 19:32 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The East Asian cultural sphere has figured prominently in recent collections of research on new religious movements (e.g. Pokorny and Winter 2018, Clart, Ownby and Wang 2020), Theosophy (e.g. Rudbog and Sand 2020, Krämer and Strube 2020) and global therapeutic cultures (e.g. Nehring et al. 2020, Harrington 2008), while it continues to attract the attention of scholars working on civil society (e.g. Read and Pekkanen 2009) and self-help movements (e.g. Cliff et al. 2017, Palmer 2007).

    But, although we are often aware of the complex entanglements between these seemingly separate areas of interest, we seldom have the opportunity to discuss such entanglements in and beyond East Asia.

    At the same time, in the last twenty years, significant scholarship has been published in East Asia on this topic (recent books include Yoshinaga et al. 2019, Ichiyanagi 2020, Imura and Hamano 2021 in Japan, Zheng 2018, Zhang 2020 in China and Cheon Myeong-soo 2009, Park Seung-gil et al. 2019 in South Korea).

    This conference aims to offer such a chance by inviting academic contributions to reflect on the intertwined relationship between spirituality, healthcare and social movements in East Asia from a trans-national/local/cultural perspective. As a time of unprecedented changes and accelerated global interactions, our focus lies on the period between the nineteenth to the twentieth-first centuries.

    For more information please click here:

  • 2021-07-06 12:11 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)




    12th international conference

    Mystical and Esoteric Teachings in Theory and Practice:

    Esotericism in Philosophy, Literature, and Art

    February 3 – 5, 2022


    First Call for Papers

    Esoteric doctrines existed throughout history, but they were especially prominent during the collapse of established and creation of new systems of spiritual values reflecting a desire to reform daily life, social structure, and paradigms of knowledge. Historical periods that were full of creativity were also marked by a turn to mysticism and esotericism.

    Art is not limited by logic. It receives inspiration from many sources, including mysticism, magic, sacred rituals. European theater begins with a cult of Dionysus and Eleusinian Mysteries. Poetry is close to ancient hymns and spells. Music, dance, singing were parts of esoteric practices. Drawing developed in part because of a belief that images can affect animals. History of architecture is also full of unsolved mysteries. Literature incorporated sacred knowledge of Gnosticism, hermeticism, and other esoteric currents. Esotericism is present in esthetics of Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. In the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries cinema, TV, and the Internet became new mediums for esoteric ideas. Intersections between philosophy and esotericism are also deep and worth of exploration.

    The goal of the conference is to explicate mystical and esoteric elements in literature and art, to reflect on previously neglected new aspects in the history of the “secret knowledge,” to discuss possible implications of the study of esotericism to art history and literary history, to analyze social and psychological reasons for the popularity of movies, TV-shows, and literature about witches, vampires, magicians, and so on.

    We invite art historians, scholars interested in the history of literature, philosophers, historians, culturologists, specialists in religious studies, psychologists, sociologists, and scholars of esotericism.

    Conference will take place in dual format (online and offline).

    Suggested topics:

    • intersections between languages of poetry and magic;
    • alchemical and philosophical reflections in literature and art;
    • Freemasonry in literature and art;
    • esoteric metalanguage and traditions in literature and art;
    • mysteries and the origins of theatre arts;
    • magical codes of musical harmony;
    • Theosophic and Anthroposophical influence in literature and art;
    • historical transformations of esoteric art;
    • mystical and esoteric images in contemporary art;
    • philosophical analysis of esoteric tendencies in literature and art;
    • postmodernism and occultism;
    • esotericism in cinema and television.

    Languages of the conference: Russian and English.

    Applications should be sent to Deadline for participants from Russia is December 25, 2021. Deadline for international participants is November 30, 2021. An application should be filled in Russian and English for participants presenting in Russian and in English for participants presenting in English.

    1. Full name
    2. Degree
    3. City and country
    4. Affiliation
    5. Position
    6. E-mail
    7. Do you need an official invitation?
    8. Do you need a certificate of participation?
    9. Do you need a projector?
    10. Title
    11. Summary
    12. Language
    13. A photo up to 2 Mb in size

    An organizing committee will make a decision concerning an application in a week after its submission. The decision will be communicated to an applicant via e-mail. The organizing committee reserves a right to reject an application. Unfortunately, we cannot provide written reviews for applicants whose applications were rejected.

    A program of the conference will be prepared and distributed by the beginning of the conference.

    We are planning to publish a collection of conference papers. Participants can submit papers up to 25.000 characters before March 5, 2022. Author guidelines will be distributed after the conference among the speakers.

    The organizing committee does not provide funding for conference participants.

    If you have any questions, please, e-mail to

    The conference will take place at Russian Institute of Theatre Arts – GITIS. Address: Moscow, Maly Kislovsky Lane, 6 (map:

    Organizing committee:

    Dr. V. I. Krasikov (Russia, Moscow)

    Dr. E. V. Shakhmatova (Russia, Moscow)

    Dr. A. L. Yastrebov (Russia, Moscow)

    Dr. S. V. Pakhomov (Russia, Saint Petersburg)

    Dr. D. D. Galtsin (Russia, Saint Petersburg)

    Dr. S. Panin (USA, Houston)

    Dr. Prof. B. Menzel (Germany, Karlsruhe – Meinz)

  • 2021-06-21 19:52 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Internationale Tagung des Forschungszentrums Gotha in Kooperation mit der Erhard-Weigel-Gesellschaft e.V.,organisiert von Martin Mulsow und Stefan Kratochwil

    Der Jenaer Naturwissenschaftler und Universalgelehrte Erhard Weigel (1625-1699) ist als Metaphysiker und Lehrer von Leibniz bekannt, auch als Erfinder und Mathematiker. Bisher kaum erforscht ist hingegen seine Beschäftigung mit hermetischen und esoterischen Wissenschaften wie der Astrologie, der Alchemie oder der Iatromathematik. Welche Quellen benutzte Weigel dabei und welche Rolle spielte das intellektuelle Umfeld der Universität Jena? Wie ist Weigels „Pythagoreische Gesellschaft“ im Licht der esoterischen Wissenschaften zu verstehen? Die Tagung möchte solche Fragen beantworten und die Weigel-Forschung mit der Forschung zum „Western Esotericism“ zusammenführen.

    Vorschläge für Referate werden mit Kurzexposé und CV bis zum 1.7. erbeten an

  • 2021-06-03 12:05 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)
    Edited by: Yves Mühlematter and Helmut Zander

    The historiographers of religious studies have written the history of this discipline primarily as a rationalization of ideological, most prominently theological and phenomenological ideas: first through the establishment of comparative, philological and sociological methods and secondly through the demand for intentional neutrality. This interpretation caused important roots in occult-esoteric traditions to be repressed.

    This process of “purification” (Latour) is not to be equated with the origin of the academic studies. De facto, the elimination of idealistic theories took time and only happened later. One example concerning the early entanglement is Tibetology, where many researchers and respected chair holders were influenced by theosophical ideas or were even members of the Theosophical Society. Similarly, the emergence of comparatistics cannot be understood without taking into account perennialist ideas of esoteric provenance, which hold that all religions have a common origin.

    In this perspective, it is not only the history of religious studies which must be revisited, but also the partial shaping of religious studies by these traditions, insofar as it saw itself as a counter-model to occult ideas.

    To download please visit the publisher's website:

  • 2021-04-29 15:33 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Aesthetic and Scientific Epistemologies of the Occult in the XIX Century

    ETH Online Lecture Series, Spring 2021

    We invite you to the Spring 2021 edition of our ongoing lecture series, as we continue our enquiry into aesthetic and scientific epistemologies of the occult during the long nineteenth century. On Tuesday evenings in May, through our second online series, we present approaches to the subject that combine methodologies drawn from art history, religious studies, media theory, anthropology and science studies. In our first lecture, anthropologist, Ehler Voss will take a look at the opposing views of two Californian magicians by relating them to nineteenth-century debates surrounding the credibility of magical practices. In the second lecture, with an approach similarly grounded in religious anthropology, Erin Yerby will investigate the role of the body as medium in the American Spiritualist tradition, which she contextualizes within broader Protestant-inflected iconoclastic tradition. In our third lecture, art historian, Victoria Ferentinou will explore the influence of esoteric discourses on artistic theory and practice of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her focus will be on the painting and theory of the Greek symbolist, Frixos Aristeus (1879-1951). Finally, in the fourth lecture, historian of religion, Marco Pasi will consider the presence of occult-related themes in the oeuvre of the late contemporary artist, Chiara Fumai (1978-2017).

    Please register by mail at

    Registration is mandatory for participants.

    Event website:


    Tuesday, May 4, 2021

    Prof. Dr. Ehler Voss, University of Bremen

    “Magic Tipping Points. On Deceptions and Detections.”

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

    Dr. Erin Yerby, Rice University

    “The Body as Spectral Shape: Spiritualist Mediumship and Anglo-American Iconoclasm.”

    Tuesday, May 18, 2021

    Prof. Dr. Victoria Ferentinou, University of Ioannina

    “‘Colours are Things’: The Visionary Art of Frixos Aristeus.”

    Tuesday, May 25, 2021

    Prof. Dr. Marco Pasi, University of Amsterdam

    “‘Witchcraft with Capital W’: The Magical Art of Chiara Fumai.”

    The lecture series is organized by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Andreas Kilcher as part of the SNSF project "Scientification and Aestheticization of 'Esotericism' in the long 19th century".

  • 2021-04-28 12:29 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in cooperation with
    Czech Association for Social Anthropology - Anthropology of Religion, Magic and Supernatural Network
    European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism - The Central and Eastern European Network



    for the 4th CEENASWE conference


    27 – 29 September 2021, Prague

    Since the nineteenth century, East-Central Europe has experienced rapid social, political, and economic changes, which caused transformation and transformations in local societies. Rising nationalism culminating in the Revolutionary year 1848, echoes of the Romantic movement, ongoing industrialisation, First World War, the emergence of national states and disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later followed by the World War Two and establishment of the socialist regimes represent some of the key milestones the region went through. New sciences emerged, and local intellectuals also tried to cope with the impetuses from the discoveries in the Orient. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the rise of occultism and its further spread throughout Europe represented a peculiar reaction to some mentioned milestones. Local states dealt with these occult and esoteric movements differently, from suppression to silent support, and the movements themselves had various ideas about the meaning and aims of nations. We wish to investigate the links between the state, power, and occult and esoteric ideas, movements, and key figures more closely in this conference.

    Focusing on the occultism and esotericism in East-Central Europe since the mid-nineteenth-century till now, we invite scholars to share their research which addresses the following topics:

    • Tensions between or calls for nationalism and/or transnationalism in the occult and esoteric movements;

    • Attitudes of various state bodies (republics, empires or totalitarian regimes) to occultism and esotericism, from suppression to support;

    • Practising occultism or esotericism under socialist regimes;

    • Case studies of influential movements, persons, or ideas either originating or being adopted in East-Central Europe;

    • Critical reflection of the scholarship concerning occultism and esotericism in East-Central Europe.

    Submission Guidelines

    We accept both individual papers (20min presentation + 10 mins for discussion) and panels of three scholars maximum (90mins altogether, open panel’s format: from standard closely-related papers presentation to a discussion table – negotiable with organisers).


    250 words abstract, together with institutional affiliation and contact details.



    250 words for the panel description and 150 words for each paper


    250 words description of the panel and 250–400 words detailed description of the proposed questions, topics, and course of

    Please, kindly submit your papers or panel via this


    There is no registration fee; however, the limiting number of participants is between

    20–25, hence, please, make sure your presentation is related to the CEE region and fits the general theme well.

    Preliminary Programme

    • Keynote lecture by Associate Prof Dr Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam)

    • Conference dinner

    • CEENASWE board meeting

    • Magical Prague trip (after the conference on 30 September)


    The conference will take place at the representative residence of the Czech Academy of Sciences – Vila Lanna in the centre of Prague.

    Pandemic Considerations

    We do hope that the pandemic situation will get better during the summer, and together with ongoing vaccination and covid passes, we will be able to meet in person in Prague. In case it will not be possible, the organizers would reserve their right to turn the conference into an online form. Let us keep our fingers crossed!

    Important Dates




    Organizing Team

    Dr Pavel Horák, Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences

    Dr Karolina Maria Hess, Institute of Sociology, University of Silesia in Katowice


    For general queries, please email us at

    The conference is kindly sponsored by the Czech Academy of Sciences by Strategy AV21 Programme “Europe and the State between civilisation and barbarism”

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software