Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation

By Henrik Bogdan

Subjects: Esotericism And Gnosticism
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Paperback : 9780791470701, 247 pages, January 2008
Hardcover : 9780791470695, 247 pages, April 2007

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Table of contents

List of Tables
1. Western Esotericism
           The Delimitation of a Field of Research
           The Research Paradigms of Western Esotericism
           Western Esotericism in Theory and Practice
           Western Esoteric Currents
           Western Esoteric Rituals of Initiation
           Concluding Remarks
2. Rituals of Initiation, Secret Societies, and Masonic Initiatory Societies
           Ritual as a Field of Research
           Rites de Passage
           Rites of Initiation
           Secret Societies
           Secrecy and Masonic Initiatory Societies
           Masonic Initiatory Societies
           Masonic Rituals of Initiation
           Eighteenth-Century Masonic Terminology
           Concluding Remarks
3. Historical Background
           Ancient and Medieval Sources
           The "New Platonic Academy" of Florence
           The Spread of Western Esotericism Across Europe
           The Esoteric Missions of Giordano Bruno and John Dee
           Christian Rosencreutz and the Rosicrucian Manifestos
           Concluding Remarks
4. The Craft Degrees of Freemasonry
           The Emergence of Freemasonry
           Early Freemasonry and Western Esotericism
           The Pre-1730 Ritual Evidence
           The Master Mason Degree and the Ritual Enactment of the Hiramic Legend
           Concluding Remarks
5. High or Additional Degrees of Freemasonry
           Templar and Ecossais Rites
           Egyptian Rites
           "Esoteric" Freemasonry
           True Mason, or Académie des Vrais Maçons
           Concluding Remarks
6. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
           A Note on Sources
           Description of the Neophyte Ritual
           Analysis of the Neophyte Ritual
           Concluding Remarks
7. Modern Pagan Witchcraft or Wicca
           Gerald Gardner and the Birth of Wicca
           The Crowley Connection
           Gardner and the Witchcraft Rituals of Initiation
           First Degree: Witch and Priest/Priestess
           The First Degree Initiation
           Second Degree: High Priest/Priestess
           Third Degree: High Priest/Priestess
           Concluding Remarks
8. Conclusions

Historical exploration of Masonic rituals of initiation.


For more than three hundred years the practice of Masonic rituals of initiation has been part of Western culture, spreading far beyond the boundaries of traditional Freemasonry. Henrik Bogdan explores the historical development of these rituals and their relationship with Western esotericism. Beginning with the Craft degrees of Freemasonry—the blueprints, as it were, of all later Masonic rituals of initiation—Bogdan examines the development of the Masonic High Degrees, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—the most influential of all nineteenth-century occultist initiatory societies—and Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft movement of the 1950s, one of the first large-scale Western esoteric New Religions Movements.

Henrik Bogdan teaches in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Göteborg University in Sweden.


"…Bogdan's book is a valuable contribution to the developing academic discipline of Western Esotericism and new religions … this book will provide an important linguistic and historical step forward in a previously unrecognized field that appears to be—finally—coming into its own." — Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review

"Bogdan's book offers a useful brief primer on the history of Freemasonry and scholarship on Western esotericism, presenting considerable bibliographic information for interested scholars new to the fields. For that alone its value is assured. But Bodgan's work also illustrates important tensions within the study of Western esotericism and the connected field of Pagan Studies." — The Pomegranate

"…offers a very promising new take on the question of esotericism and its historical continuity." — Journal of Religion

"This is truly an original work on an important subject. The most significant thing is probably the definition of 'ritual.' The field of Western esotericism is a young one, and while some of its terminology is now a matter of common consent, ritual has never been subjected to scrutiny in this context. Bogdan also shows how different rituals convey different elements of the Western esoteric tradition: some Freemasonic ritual teaches alchemy; the Golden Dawn teaches Kabbalah; and witchcraft teaches principles of sexual magic. The entire book has an earnestness about it that makes the reader take these rituals seriously." — Joscelyn Godwin, author of The Real Rule of Four