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The Master's in Western Esotericism is a one-year programme in which you explore the influence of modernisation and secularisation processes on the development of esoteric movements and Western culture and society as a whole. The programme comprises four core courses and a Master's Thesis project.

Programme structure

The Master's programme Western Esotericism comprises 60 ECTS credits:

  • 42 credits for core courses
  • 18 credits for a Master's thesis.

Core courses

The Master's programme comprises four core courses that explore various aspects of the study of Western Esotericism.

Contested Knowledge

In the course, Contested Knowledge, you will investigate the historical origins and intellectual backgrounds of esotericism research since the period of the Enlightenment, while concentrating on the theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches that have been advocated by its chief representatives since the Second World War.

Religionism and Historicism

In the course, Religionism and Historicism, you explore the notion of historicity and its relation to religious universalism, analysing specific examples of how scholars have tried to handle the conflict between the two.

Renaissance Esotericism

The course will provide you with an overview of Medieval and Early Modern Alchemy and focus particularly on the problem of interpretation: is alchemy essentially a scientific pursuit or, rather, a religious or spiritual one?

Occult Trajectories

In this course you will learn about the historical development of western esotericism in the modern period, from the eighteenth century up to the present days. The aim is to understand both the inside dynamics of esotericism and its relation to social and cultural context.


Subject to approval by the Examinations Board, you may also select electives from other Religious Studies Master’s programmes at the UvA or at other universities in the Netherlands.


A central component of the programme, the Master’s thesis enables you to write an original work of research under the supervision of one of the staff members. The subject of the thesis must be mutually agreed upon by the student and their academic supervisor.


For more information about available internships and the experiences of other student interns, please follow the link.

Internships (Current students website)

Detailed course information

For detailed course information, please see the UvA Course Catalogue.

UvA Course catalogue: Western Esotericism

Credit transfer

Students who show exceptional promise during a regular or professional programme are encouraged to continue their studies in the two-year Research Master's programme Religious Studies. Once students are admitted to the research programme, they can transfer credits earned during their previous course of study towards their Research Master's degree. The Examinations Board determines which courses qualify for transfer.