"As academics we are expected to write and publish, but we are not supposed to waste our time reading". This remark by a colleague - as absurd as it is true - inspired me to start a new blog (see link below). Yes: as an academic in the field of the Humanities I spend much of my time reading, and on this blog you can see how that works. If scholarly writing has any value at all, then the reading that precedes it deserves respect as an integral part of the creative process that leads to knowledge and understanding.
Wouter J. Hanegraaff (1961) studied classical guitar at the Municipal Conservatory at Zwolle (1982-1987) and Cultural History at the University of Utrecht (1986-1990), with a specialization in alternative religious movements in the 20th century. From 1992-1996 he was a research assistant at the department for Study of Religions of the University of Utrecht, where he defendedhis dissertation New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought on 30 november 1995 (cum laude). From 1996 to 2000 he held a postdoctoral fellowship from the Dutch Assocation for Scientific Research (NWO), and spent a period working in Paris. On 1 september 1999 he was appointed full professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. From 2002-2006 he was president of the Dutch Society for the Study of Religion (NGG). From 2005-2013 he was President of the EuropeanSociety for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). In 2006 he was elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen, KNAW); since 2013 he is an honorary member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism.
From 2001-2010 Hanegraaff was editor (with Antoine Faivre and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke) of
Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism (Brill publ.) and from 2006-2010 editor of the "
Aries Book Series: Texts and Studies in Western Esotericism" (Brill publ.). He is member of the editorial board of the journals
Religion Compass and
Esoterica , and of the advisory board of
Journal of Contemporary Religion (Carfax) and
Nova Religio (University of California Press).
Western Esotericism has been a pervasive presence in Western culture from late antiquity to the present day, but util recently it was largely ignored by scholars and surrounded by misconceptions and prejudice. This accessible guide provides readers with the basic knowledge and tools that will allow them to find their way in this bewilderng but fascinating field.
What is it that unites phenomena as diverse as ancient gnosticism and hermetism, the "occult sciences" of astrology, alchemy, and magic, rosicrucianism as well as Christian theosophy, occultism, spiritualism, and contemporary New Age spiritualities? What can the study of them teach us about our common cultural and intellectual heritage, and what is it that makes them relevant to contemporary concerns? How do we distinguish reliable historical knowledge from legends and fictions about esoteric traditions? These and many other questions are answered clearly and succinctly, so that the reader can find his way into the labyrinth of Western esotericism and out of it again.
vii + 211 pp.
Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture
Academics tend to look on "esoteric," "occult," or "magical" beliefs with
contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical
traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual
history. Wouter J. Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals
since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of "pagan"
ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion
and Greek rationality. Expelled from the academy on the basis of Protestant and
Enlightenment polemics, these traditions have come to be perceived as the Other
by which academics define their identity to the present day.Hanegraaff grounds
his discussion in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, taking
the reader on an exciting intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the
present day, and asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has
for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy, and science.
x + 468 pp.
Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of
Western Esotericism (ed. by Wouter J. Hanegraaff &
Jeffrey J. Kripal)
From rumours about gnostic orgies in antiquity to the explicit erotic symbolism of alchemical texts, from the subtly coded eroticism of medieval kabbalah to the sexual magic practiced by contemporary occultists and countercultural translations of Asian Tantra, the history of Western esotericism is rich in references to the domains of eros and sexuality. This volume, which brings together an impressive array of top-level specialists, is the first to analyze the eroticism of the esoteric withoutsensationalism or cheap generalizations, but on the basis of expert scholarship and attention to textual and historical detail. While there are few other domains where the imagination may so easily run wild, the various contributions seek to distinguishfact from fiction - only to find that historical realities are sometimes even stranger than the fantasies. In doing so, they reveal the outlines of a largely unknown history spanning more than twenty centuries.
xxii + 544 pp.
Hermes in the Academy: Ten Years' Study of Western
Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam (ed. by Wouter
J. Hanegraaff & Joyce Pijnenburg)
In the past ten years, the chair for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents has succeeded in establishing itself as the most important center for study and teaching in this domain, and has strongly contributed to the establishment of Western esotericism as a recognized academic field of research. This volume is published at the occasion of the 10th anniversary.
It contains a history of the creation and development of the chair, followed by articles onaspects of Western esotericism by the previous and current staff members, contributions by students and Ph.D. students about the study program, and reflections by international top specialists about the field ofresearch and itsacademic development.
Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of
Western Esotericism (ed. by Wouter J. Hanegraaff &
Jeffrey J. Kripal)
From rumours about gnostic orgies in antiquity to the explicit erotic symbolism of alchemical texts, from the subtly coded eroticism of medieval kabbalah to the sexual magic practiced by contemporary occultists and countercultural translations of Asian Tantra, the history of Western esotericism is rich in references to the domains of eros and sexuality. This volume, which brings together an impressive array of top-level specialists, is the first to analyze the eroticism of the esoteric without sensationalism or cheap generalizations, but on the basis of expert scholarship and attention to textual and historical detail. While there are few other domains where the imagination may so easily run wild, the various contributions seek to distinguishfact from fiction - only to find that historical realities are sometimes even stranger than the fantasies. In doing so, they reveal the outlines of a largely unknown history spanning more than twenty centuries.
ISBN 978 90 04 16873 2
xxii + 544 pp.
Swedenborg, Oetinger, Kant: Three Perspectives on the
Secrets of Heaven, West Chester 2007.
Emanuel Swedenborg's multivolume Arcana Coelestia (published between 1749 and 1756), nowadays known as Secrets of Heaven , consists of a detailed line-by-line exegesis of Genesis and Exodus, extended doctrinal tracts, and vivid descriptions of Swedenborg's visionary travels through heaven and hell. This book provides a critical analysis of Swedenborg's magnum opus , and discusses the history of its early reception in the German context. The central authors in that regard are the Christian theosopher/kabbalist and Lutheran theologian Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702-1782)and the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). They both had their own distinctive perspective on the "Secrets of Heaven", and took critical position with respect to Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia . As demonstrated in this book, Oetinger was more critical of Swedenborg than is often assumed, whereasKant's satirical treatment of the "Spirit Seer" in fact contains a serious discussion of his metaphysics and its philosophical implications, with significant implications for Kant's own philosophical project. Bystudying therelation betweenthese three important thinkers andtheir perspectiveson the "Secrets of Heaven", we gain new insights into what was at stake in the battle between religion, science and esotericism in the Age of Reason.
xxiii + 171pp.
Wouter J. Hanegraaff & Ruud M. Bouthoorn, Lodovico
Lazzarelli (1447-1500): The Hermetic Writings and Related
This is the first complete edition and translation in any modern language of the Hermetic writings of Lodovico Lazzarelli, an Italian poet and mystical philosopher of the late 15th century. While recognized as a seminal figure by Italian scholars such as Kristeller and Garin, Lazzarelli's life and work have nevertheless been neglected byhistorians. This book's extensive Introduction challenges existinginterpretations and presents a fresh perspective on Lazzarelli's work and significance. It also argues that the evidence about him and his spiritual master, the prophet Giovanni "Mercurio" da Correggio, forces scholars to rethink Frances Yates' concept of RenaissanceHermeticism.
x + 356 pp.
The DGWE, edited by Wouter J. Hanegraaff (in collaboration
with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek and Jean-Pierre
Brach), is the first comprehensive reference work to cover the
entire domain of "Gnosis and Western Esotericism" from the
period of Late Antiquity to the present. Containing around 400
articles by over 180 international specialists, it provides
critical overviews discussing the nature and historical
development of all its important currents and manifestations,
from Gnosticism and Hermetism to Astrology, Alchemy and Magic,
from the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance to
Rosicrucianism and Christian Theosophy, andfrom Freemasonry and
Illuminism to19th-century Occultism and the contemporary New
Age movement. Furthermore it contains articles about the life
and work of all the major personalities in the history of
Gnosis and Western Esotericism, discussing their ideas,
significance, and historical influence.
ISBN-13: 978 90 04 15231 1
xxix + 1228 pp.
Esotérisme, gnoses & imaginaire symbolique: Mélanges
offerts à Antoine Faivre (ed. by Richard Caron, Joscelyn
Godwin, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, and Jean-Louis
Part I: Alchemy/Hermetism/Kabbalah: contributions by Roelof van den Broek, Richard Caron, Allison P. Coudert, Allen G. Debus, Claude Gagnon, Moshe Idel, Didier Kahn, Wallace Kirsop, Sylvain Matton, Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, Mirko Sladek, Joachim Telle, Thomas Willard. Part II: German Romanticism, Naturphilosophie, Christian Theosophy: contributions by Reinhard Breymayer, Pierre Deghaye, Dietrich von Engelhardt, Jacques Fabry, Maurice de Gandillac, Helmut Gebelein, Nicole Jacques-Lefèvre, Jean-François Marquet, Heinrich Schipperges, Gerhard Wehr, Jane Williams-Hogan. Part III: Freemasonry, Perennialism/Traditionalism, Sects and Secret Societies: contributions by Roger Dachez, Roland Edighoffer, R.A. Gilbert, Joscelyn Godwin, Hans Thomas Hakl, Jean-François Mayer, Pierre Mollier, Charles Porset, James A. Santucci, Marsha Keith Schuchard, Jan Snoek. Part IV: Imagination, Imaginaire/Imaginal: contributions by John Patrick Deveney, Claude-Gilbert Dubois, Frank Greiner, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Massimo Introvigne, Stanton J. Linden, Christopher McIntosh, Jean Marigny, Gilles Ménégaldo, John F. Moffitt, Marco Pasi, Arthur Versluis, Jean-Jacques Wunenburger, Frédérick Tristan. Part V: Methodology andHistory of Esotericism: contributions by Jean-Pierre Brach, Maurice-Ruben Hayoun, Jean-Pierre Laurant, Pierre Lory, Seyyed Hossein Nasr,Emile Poulat, Pierre A. Riffard, James B. Robinson, Jérôme Rousse-Lacordaire, Ivan Strenski, Frédérick Tristan, Jean-Louis Vieillard-Baron. Bibliography of Antoine Faivre by Richard Caron and Marco Pasi.
Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion:
Selected Papers presented at the 17th Congress of the
International Association for the History of Religions, Mexico
City 1995 (ed. by Antoine Faivre and Wouter J.
Contributions by: Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, Pierre A. Riffard, Dan Merkur, Italo Ronca, Joseph Dan, Arthur Versluis, Jan Snoek, Jean-Pierre Laurant, Jane Williams-Hogan, Arthur McCalla, Garry W. Trompf.
This volume is based upon papers read during the innovative section "Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion" organized at the 17th International Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) in Mexico City, August 5-12, 1995. The section was created in order to fill a long-standing hiatus in the academic study of religions: whereas phenomena such as gnosticism and hermetism in antiquity, and even the occult sciences of that period, have long been recognizedas subjects worthy of serious investigation, the history of similar and related phenomena in more recent periods has hardly received the same measure of scholarly attention and recognition. The present volume is devoted to the academic emancipation of these areas as constituting a legitimate domain of research, which maybe referred toby the generic label "western esotericism". Preceded by an introductory essay on the birth of this new discipline in the study of religion, the volume provides a sample of current research in the field and devotes special attention to some central methodological questions.
Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern
Times (ed. by Roelof van den Broek and Wouter J.
This volume introduces what has sometimes been called "the third component of western culture". It traces the historical development of those religious traditions which have rejected a worldview based on the primacy of pure rationality or doctrinal faith, emphasizing instead the importance of inner enlightenment or gnosis : a revelatory experience which was typically believed to entail an encounter with one's true self as well as with the ground of being, God. The contributions to this book demonstrate this perspective as fundamentalto a variety of interconnected traditions. In antiquity, one finds the gnostics and hermetics; in the Middle Ages several Christian sects. The medieval Cathars can, to a certain extent, be considered part of the same tradition. Starting with the Italian humanist Renaissance, hermetic philosophy became of central importance to a newreligious synthesis that can be referred to as "Western esotericism". The development of this tradition is described from Renaissance hermeticists and practitioners of spiritual alchemy to the emergence of Rosicrucianism and Christian theosophy in the seventeenth century, and from post-Enlightenment aspects of Romanticism and occultism to the present-day New Age movement.
Recent years have seen a spectacular rise of the New Age movement and an ever-increasing interest in its beliefs and manifestations. This book presents the first comprehensive analysis of New Age Religion and its historical backgrounds, thus providing a means of orientation in the bewildering variety of the movement. Making extensive use of primary sources, the author thematically analyses New Age beliefs from the perspective of the study of religions. While looking at the historical backgrounds of the movement, he argues that its foundations were created by so-called western esoteric traditions during the Renaissance. Hanegraaff finally shows how the modern New Age movement emerged from the increasing secularization of those esoteric traditions during the nineteenth century.
Female Stereotypes in Religious Traditions (ed. by Ria
Kloppenborg & Wouter J. Hanegraaff).
This volume contains a collection of studies describing and analyzing stereotypes of women in the religions of Ancient Israel and Mesopotamia, and in Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Medieval Christianity, Islam, Indian Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Tibetan religions, and modern Neopaganism. In all these traditions the stereotypes are based on generalizations that are socially, culturally or religiously legitimized, and which seem to have a lasting influence on society's perception of women. They represent oversimplified opinions, which are however regularly challenged by the women who areaffected by them. In all traditions the stereotypes are ambiguous, either because women have challenged their validity, or because historical developments in society have reshaped them. They influence public opinion by emphasizing dominant views, as a strategy to restrain women and keep them controlled by the rules and morals of male-dominated society.
Contributions by: Karel van der Toorn, Albert de Jong, Pieter W. van der Horst, Anke Passenier, Ghassan Ascha, Netty Bonouvrié, Jan Peter Schouten, Ria Kloppenborg, Rosemarie Volkmann, and Wouter J. Hanegraaff.
Together with Dr. P.J. (Peter) Forshaw and Dr. M. (Marco) Pasi, I am responsible for the Bachelor Minor "Westerse Esoterie" and the Master trajectory "Mysticism and Western Esotericism", which are both part of the program Religious Studies. For the time being, the University of Amsterdam is the only academic institution in the world that offers a complete program in this field. International students are welcome to apply for admission to the Master program, which is offered in a 1-year and a 2-year (research) variant. In the bachelor program I am teaching the general introductory course "Hermetica I" and in the Master the seminar "Contested Knowledge". General course descriptions and regularly updated programs can be found at the subdepartment's website (see link below, sections "Prospective Students" and "Current Students"). For practical information about admission etc., contact the Graduate School of Humanities (see link).