Ancient Esotericism, Problematic Assumptions, and Conceptual Trouble

in Aries
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The article critiques the idea that what scholars today call “Western esotericism” emerged only after the “Renaissance”. It argues that for an understanding of the complex dynamics that have shaped the construction of esoteric knowledge and counter-knowledge, the ancient world is crucial in two ways: First, ancient cultures provide a rich spectrum of polemical discourses of knowledge in philosophy and religion, most of them prefiguring the discursive constellations of subsequent centuries. Second, the ancient world is a huge imaginal space that has influenced identities of nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors, including leading theorists of mysticism, secrecy, and esotericism

Aries

Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism

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References

2

Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy, 335–337.

3

Riffard, L’ésotérisme, 63–88; Gaiser, ‘Platons esoterische Lehre’.

6

Von Stuckrad, Locations of Knowledge, 21–23; as a problematization of Christian biases in the study of astrology and other systems of knowledge in the construction of the ‘Middle Ages’ see von Stuckrad, ‘Interreligious Transfers in the Middle Ages’, 34–38.

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