Hanegraaff (history of hermetic philosophy, U. of Amsterdam) presents a short history and primer on esoteric philosophy and practice in the Western tradition. This tradition is mainly for Hanegraaff to be found in or adjacent to Western Christian culture, but also draws on Byzantine, Islamic and Jewish influence, as well as the dialectic pagan sources. He outlines a very brief history that covers gnostic traditions in hellenic culture, magic and alchemy, the Renaissance, Naturphilosophie and Christian theosophy, up through the modernist and post WWII occult. He considers both polemics and apologies by Christians throughout the centuries; worldviews that include metaphysical radicalism, platonic and alchemical mediation; questions of knowledge, gnosis and altered consciousness; modernization and the impact of new disciplines, like historical and social science, and empirical psychology. At the end he provides an extensive and descriptive resource guide that's thematized around topics raised in the book: regions, religions, initiatic societies, worldviews, and practices. Annotation Â©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Western esotericism has been a pervasive presence in Western culture from late antiquity to the present day, but until 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 bewildering 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 the 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.
A practical and accessible guide and introduction to the field of Western Esotericism
What is western esotericism? -- Very short history -- Apologetics and polemics -- Worldviews -- Knowledge -- Practice -- Modernization -- Between the disciplines -- Sources and resources.