Episode 2: A Secret History of Secret History, Part II

In this episode, part two of our overambitious survey of western esotericism, we look at the second half of the summary borrowed from the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, which mentions:

… Christian Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Christian Theosophy and Illuminism, the currents of modern Occultism, Spiritualism, Traditionalism, the New Age movement, Neopaganism, Ritual Magical groups, and a host of contemporary alternative spiritualities and forms of popular “occulture”.

Our list has jumped from the occult sciences discussed last episode right into the Renaissance; where are the middle ages? All too often, this period is devalued in historiography. We therefore spend some time surveying the amazing flowering of esoteric sciences, Hermetic lore, the kabbala, and ‘mystical’ ideas in the middle ages, and emphasise the importance of the medieval Islamicate world in the history of western thought generally, and western esotericism specifically.

We do get to the Renaissance (finally), and discuss a few key players. We then dart through the Reformation period, sketching the context of European death, destruction, and ideological warfare which provides a context for so much of  the flowering of esoteric thought in this period. Finally, we make the briefest of nods to the modern period, the new types of esoteric thinking that have arisen in the period of ‘disenchantment’ following the Enlightenment, and their continued development today.

Several delicious esoteric cocktail recipes are given, and the stage set for the bird’s-eye-view of western esotericism explored in episode three.

Works Discussed in this Episode

  • Eco, Umberto, 1989. Foucault’s Pendulum. Secker and Warburg, London. Weaver, trans.
  • Yates, Frances, 2003. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Routledge, London.

Recommended Reading

Same as Episode 1.

Themes

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