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Visions of The Occult: Introduction to Western Esotericism

Western esotericism has long been neglected by academic research as a subject unworthy of serious consideration. However, it has been and still is one of the most significant components of Western culture. The fact that it has been often marginalized, or even persecuted at times, does not mean that it has been historically irrelevant, quite the contrary. Many major authors and movements in literature, the arts, philosophy, and science have been influenced or inspired by it.

How to Apply

Programme at a glance

Academic dates: 5 July - 23 July 2020
Housing dates: 4 July - 25 July 2020
Academic fee: € 1600 read more about what’s included
Housing fee:

€ 600 for a private room with shared facilities and a € 75 refundable deposit.For more information, see Housing and practical matters.

Credits: 6 European Credits
Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                                                           For current university students (advanced Bachelors, Masters, Postgraduate) and professionals from any discipline. A general interest in the humanities and social sciences and an open mind are necessary. 
Academic director: Dr. Marco Pasi & Dr. J Christian Greer
Early application deadline: 1 February 2020
Regular application deadline: 1 April 2020


Programme Description

The goal of Visions of the Occult is to offer an introductory overview of the study of Western esotericism. In this three-week summer course, we will investigate the key thematic aspects of Western esotericism, as they have manifested themselves historically within currents such as gnosticism, astrology, alchemy, magic, kabbalah, witchcraft,  Rosicrucianism,  Theosophy,  Freemasonry,  spiritualism,  occultism, conspiracy theories, meditation, yoga, the New Age, and psychedelic culture.

During classes, students will make use of primary sources, as well as secondary literature that clarify the way in which esoteric ideas have circulated and continue to circulate in both mainstream culture and more marginal contexts. Having completed this summer programme, students will have acquired a solid overview of  the main themes related to the study of Western esotericism, both thematically and historically.

Each class will consist of three elements. In the morning, there will be a daily lecture (2.5 hours) and seminar discussion, after which there will be lunch (1 hour). We will pick back up with the afternoon session (2.5 – 4 hours), which includes student presentations, lectures, debates, and mini-conferences. This will also be the time in which individual research appointments can be made.

There will also be excursions to local landmarks that play a special role in the on-going development of Western esotericism. Our aim is to pair readings with localities, such as the world famous Embassy of the Free Mind (also known as Ritman Library), which hosts a vast collection of books, artworks, and material culture related to Western esotericism. Likewise, our investigation into representations of the esoteric and the occult will go beyond the written word to include film, music, and graphic novels.

Visions of The Occult: Introduction to Western Esotericism
Mode Short-term
Credits 6 ECTS, 3 weeks
Language of instruction English
Starts in July