Traces the historical development of Western Esotericism--religious traditions which emphasize the importance of inner enlightenment or gnosis.
This volume introduces what has sometimes been called "the third component of western culture. " It traces the historical development of those religious traditions which have rejected a world view based on the primacy of pure rationality or doctrinal faith, emphasizing instead the importance of inner enlightenment or gnosis: a revelatory experience which was typically believed to entail an encounter with one's true self as well as with the ground of being, God.
The contributors to this book demonstrate this perspective as fundamental to a variety of interconnected traditions. In Antiquity, one finds the gnostics and hermetics; in the Middle Ages several Christian sects. The medieval Cathars can, to a certain extent, be considered part of the same tradition. Starting with the Italian humanist Renaissance, hermetic philosophy became of central importance to a new religious synthesis that can be referred to as Western Esotericism. " The development of this tradition is described from Renaissance hermeticists and practitioners of spiritual alchemy to the emergence of Rosicrucianism and Christian theosophy in the seventeenth century, and from post-enlightenment aspects of Romanticism and occultism to the present-day New Age movement.
Roelof van den Broek is Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. He has also written The Myth of the Phoenix: According to Classical and Early Christian Traditions and Studies in Gnosticism and Alexandrian Christianity. Also at the University of Utrecht, Wouter J. Hanegraaff is a Research Fellow in the Study of Religions. He is the author of New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought.
"This collection presents in a clear and concise way a series of critical distinctions that collectively map the field: Hermetism, Gnosticism, gnosis, Manichaeism, Hermeticism, Catharism, Esotericism, Romanticism, and the New Age. These often confused and misperceived phenomena have been delineated crisply, in a way that permits this collection to serve nicely as a general introduction to the field. This book articulates a new standard of precision and clarity. " -- Dan Merkur, author of Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions
"This work meets the current demand for scholarly, empirico-historical research in what the editors rightly denominate the 'third current' (the others are biblical faith and Greek rationality) of Occidental thought, i. e., Western Esotericism. "-- Ralph Slotten, Dickinson College