Western Esotericism and the Net
“Western Esotericism” as a field of study continues to develop within the halls of Academia. Last year, I attended the second International Conference on Esotericism at the University of California, Davis. This was organized by the Association for the Study of Esotericism (ASE), of which I am a member as well. The ASE has the official mission “to promote excellence in scholarship and teaching in the study of esotericism and mysticism. This is to be accomplished through conferences and meetings, publications, programs, and membership services” and is an academic organization primarily filled with the few professors teaching in this area, at least part of the time, and graduate students working on degrees focusing on some aspect of Western Esotericism.
There is a sister organization (in a way), the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). I’ve been aware of the existence of it but did not find its web site until this evening. Strangely, roughly half of the membership of the European Society are Americans and I expect that I will probably join as well as it seems complimentary to the membership in the ASE.
It turns out that the ESSWE maintains a blog for their newsletter as well. This blog actually seems to receive posts on a regular basis. Among other items of interest are a report from the very recently held meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which is the primary academic body for people working in the field of religion or religious studies in the United States. Within the AAR, there is a group focused on Western Esotericism, as well as one focusing on on Pagan Studies (the Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies). The report on the blog gives some details of the events at the AAR meeting and is worth a read for those interested in such things.
Another item of interest is a post, “The Demarcation of Western Esotericism in Theory and Practice,” by Sara M. Thejls.
The Scandinavian members of ESSWE have also started up their own blog for the Scandinavian Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism (SNASWE). (You have to love all these acronyms…) This is edited by Henrik Bogdan whose recent work on comparing and contrasting Masonic, Golden Dawn, and Wiccan initiation ceremonies has finally been produced by an academic press. I read a copy of the dissertation that this is based on for my own thesis relating to the Golden Dawn and I like his work there and elsewhere.
There is also another blog run by the independent “Cambridge Centre for Western Esotericism” in the UK.
All of this is a relatively new development. A few years ago, there were very few people actively blogging or publicly discussing Western Esotericism on the Net. Those that had been were independent bloggers like myself, Grant Potts, or a few other parties. Most of the activity has been behind the relatively closed doors of small or private e-mail lists run by the few of us working actively in these areas (though there currently is no good list for discussing Western Esotericism). The move towards more public academic activity through the use of blogs is a nice change.