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Defining Religion in Spite of History

Jan G. Platvoet & Arie L. Molen­dijk (red.), The Pragmatics of Defining Religion: Contexts, Concepts and Contests, Royal E.J. Brill: Leiden/Bos­ton/Köln 1999, 337-378.

I consider this one of the best things I wrote during the early part of my career. Historicity is the greatest challenge to the project of defining "religion". On the basis of an analysis of major attempt to define "religion" and "the sacred," I formulate a new definition proposal to which I still subscribe today. 

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New Age Spiritualities as Secular Religion: A Historian’s Perspective

Social Compass 46:2 (1999), 145-160.

Here I apply my definition of religion to the analysis of New Age religion, with reference to sociological approaches to the phenomenon. This is not the original version but a reprint in Bryan S. Turner (ed.), Secularization,  London 2010.

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La fin de l'ésotérisme? Le mouvement du nouvel âge et la question du symbolis­me religieux

Symboles et mythes dans les mouvements initiati­ques et ésotériques (17ème-20ème siecle), Archè Edidit/La Table d'Emeraude: Paris 1999, 128-147.

An article in French titled "The End of Esotericism? The New Age Movement and the Question of Religious Symbolism" (the title refers to a book by Raymond Abellio, but otherwise the article has no relation to his work). NO PDF AVAILABLE

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Some Remarks on the Study of Western Esotericism

Theos­ophical History 7: 6 (1999), 223-232

Esoterica 1:1 www.esoteric.msu.edu (1999).

A programmatic article explaining what the modern study of Western esotericism is or should be all about. This was part of the first phase of establishing the field in the academy at that time.

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Sympathy or the Devil: Renaissance Magic and the Ambivalence of Idols

Esoterica 1:2 www.esoteric.msu.edu(1999)

This is an early example of my fascination with "animated statues" and the concept of idolatry, here discussed in relation to Renaissance magic.