Esotericism and the Academy:
Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture
Cambridge University Press 2012. x + 468 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-107-68097-5 (pb) / 521-19621-5 (hb)
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. In this book I tell 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 own identity to the present day. The discussion is grounded in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, thereby taking the reader on an intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the present day, while asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy, and science.
"... one of the most impressive scholarly publications I have come across". Olav Hammer, Religion 43:2 (2013).
"One need not be a prophet to predict that it will become a standard work". Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, Sehepunkte 12 (2012).
"... an extraordinary tour de force. This is the book of a lifetime, and the lifetime of someone who has read everything". Massimo Introvigne, Politica Hermetica.
"This book is an exceptional achievement. ... In short, this book and the history it describes is essential for a more complete understanding of the Reformation, the witch craze, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the advent of modernity, and the effects of the disenchantment of the world, not to mention modern conspiracy theories. Such claims can be made for few other monographs". Allison Coudert, Nova Religio 18:4 (2015).