The World of Esotericism

The University of Amsterdam has one of just a few graduate programs in the study of Western Esotericism, which is often contrasted with Christianity as follows (from a lecture handout based on work of Antoine Faivre).


Personal deity                              
                         Impersonal deity
Creation of the world by fiat        
                       Emanation of world in stages
Material and evil are real             
                      Material and evil ultimately unreal
Humans as creatures                  
                      Humans as divine sparks
                       Entrapped souls
                       Ignorance, forgetfulness
                      spiritual disciplines/exercises
Afterlife in heaven or hell             
                      Afterlife in new learning situation

(Note, I do not consider Paganism and esotericism to be identical, although many esoteric elements show up in contemporary Paganisms.)

All of this is a lead up to a fascinating web page put by the esotericism program at the University of Amsterdam, showing relationships between esoteric thought, music, art, and philosophy.

2 thoughts on “The World of Esotericism

  1. Rombald

    "Esotericism" seems an odd term. I would probably use "neo-Platonism", although this set of ideas also turns up in much of Hinduism, much of Mahayana, mystical Judaism, gnosticism, New Age, etc.

    Neo-Platonism (in my sense) is usually more tolerant than monotheism, but I don't see that it's more pagan, in any sense that I would favour.

  2. Rombald

    I'll probably get shouted at here, but I think I'm even further from neo-Platonism than from Christianity. I believe matter to be real. I believe humans to be real individuals, rather than sparks from some all-soul. I believe human moral choices to be genuine, rather than solely the product of ignorance.

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