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Western Esotericism


By engaging with topics like magic, alchemy, astrology, theosophy and kabbalah you will develop your ability to critically reflect on the entangled historical trajectories of science, religion and esotericism.

Western esoteric currents and traditions tend to place a strong emphasis on personal religious experiences as an avenue towards true knowledge about the nature of human beings, the world, and the divine or spiritual reality that is believed to exist behind the screen of appearances. Because such 'mystical' knowledge is assumed to go beyond rational understanding and common language, esoteric currents often express themselves through symbols and myths. This combination has often been seen as problematic by the representatives of mainstream Christian theology, rational philosophy, and modern science. Nevertheless, esoteric spiritualities have been highly influential throughout Western culture – not just in the domains of religion and philosophy, but also in the visual arts, literature, music, and even the natural sciences.

This minor is offered by the Faculty of Humanities. The faculty’s minors consist of 30 ECTS credits and earn you a second qualification that will be listed on the transcript accompanying your degree certificate. 

Study schedule

  • Secrets of the West 1: Culture and Counterculture before Modernity
    Period 1
  • Secrets of the West 2: Culture and Counterculture in the Modern Period
    Period 2
  • Secrets of the West 3: Culture and Counterculture Research Project
    Period 3
  • Western Esotericism in the Early Modern Period
    Period 4
  • Western Esotericism from the 18th Century
    Period 5
UvA Course Catalogue: Minor Western Esotericism

Related Master's programmes

This minor may serve as a good preparation for academic Bachelor’s students who want to apply for admission to a Master's programme in Religious Studies, e.g.: Spirituality and Religion or Religious Studies (Research Master's). Always check the entry requirements on the Application and Admission page of the Master’s programme you are interested in.

Entry requirements

This minor is open for application to students who have obtained an academic first-year diploma or a positive Binding Study Advice from an academic Bachelor's programme. 

The minor is also open for application to students from a Dutch University of Applied Sciences (HBO) who have completed their propaedeutic year. If you are an HBO student and if you are looking to do a Master's programme at the UvA, please check out our pre-Master's programmes, as completing a minor is not enough to grant you access to Master’s programmes. 


It is no longer possible to register for this minor in the academic year 2023-2024.

Facts & Figures
30 ECTS,
Language of instruction
Starts in
University Quarter