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Articles and Book Chapters 2016

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Reconstructing "Religion" from the Bottom Up

Numen 63:5/6 (2016), 576-605.

This is an ambitious argument for reconstructing the concept of "religion" on entirely new foundations. Having reviewed and critiqued existing approaches, I approach religion here as a "reified imaginative formation", identify the core dilemma in defining religion, and demonstrate how it can be resolved.  

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Alan Moore's Promethea: Counterculturalism and the End of the World

Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies 1 (2016), 234-258.

Alan Moore's Promethea (1999-2005) is among the most explicitly "gnostic," "esoteric" or "occultist" comics strips ever published. In this article I analyse its Hermetic worldview and message, which argues that there is ultimately no difference between imagination and reality. 

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The First Psychonaut? Louis-Alphonse Cahagnet's Experiments with Narcotics

International Journal for the Study of New Religions 7:2 (2016), 105-123.

The important but neglected French Mesmerist, Spiritualist, Swedenborgian and Occultist Cahagnet was also perhaps the first psychonaut, and the most important pioneer of entheogenic esotericism whose work stands at the origin of a lineage continued by Emma Hardinge Britten and Paschal Beverley Randolph.

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Gnosis

Glenn Alexander Magee (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2016, 381-392.

Although countless books have been written about "gnosticism" (a movement that is now seen as a 19th-century construct based on the heresiological imagination), this is virtually the first overview of the original meaning of "gnosis" as an experience of direct salvational knowledge of the divine. 

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Magic

Glenn Alexander Magee (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2016, 393-404.

Few if any concepts have caused so much trouble and confusion in the study of religion and culture as "magic". I analyse the reification of magic since the 19th century, its backgrounds in Christian and especially Protestant polemics against "paganism" and "idolatry," and magic does not exist - only concepts of it.

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Esotericism Theorized: Major Trends and Approaches to the Study of Esotericism

April D. DeConick (ed.), Religion: Secret Religion, MacMillan 2016, 155-170

This is a basic introduction for undergraduate and graduate students to what the modern study of Western esotericism is all about, with special attention to the various theoretical approaches that have developed since the 1990s and what they are all about.

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Ad loca secretiora: Rejected Knowledge and the Future of Libraries

Hans Thomas Hakl (ed.), OCTAGON, vol. 2 (English) : The Quest for Wholeness mirrored in a Library dedicated to Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Esotericism in particular, Gaggenau 2016, 25-34.

I wrote this short and rather pessimistic piece for the English volume in a four-part series of books devoted to the unique library of my friend Hans Thomas Hakl. I am deeply worried about the fate of libraries, especially those devoted to rare and unusual subjects,  in our digitised and commercialised world.