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Introduction to Western Esotericism – Part 2

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Why the “Academic” approach?

Even though esoteric traditions have been characterised by an internal process one has to follow, an academic approach offers impartial knowledge around these traditions and esoteric teachings, placing them in the historical and sociopolitical background that created them. It aims to “put things in their places” and to clear the horizon that is overcrowded by misinformation. Reality is even more “magical” than the fantasy that surrounds these terms. Involvement with the academic studying of esotericism can only bring true knowledge.

What has the Academic approach to offer in one’s personal involvement with Esotericism?

If one has chosen, or wishes to choose the academic path for their spiritual development, it is a choice that can help them understand the origins of the chosen tradition, and where it falls in the timeline of historical and political events and influences. Frequently, in esoteric schools and orders, there is a tendency for the members to read and discuss only subjects that are related to the teachings and writings of the members or the founders of their tradition. This tendency limits one’s knowledge horizons, as it makes it difficult to understand specific aspects of their tradition in depth. If one wants to start their esoteric path responsibly, and even more so if they wish to lead others to do that, they ought to know in advance what a tradition has to offer, be provided with a summary of the path, and have knowledge about its roots and area traditions. This is something that can only be achieved through the academic approach as it is the only way that offers impartial information.

The academic approach is especially useful for those who do not wish to dedicate themselves to a single tradition, but they aspire to be involved with multiple ones and gain a more spherical knowledge around the subject.

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What does one study when they study Western Esotericism?

The study of Western Esotericism can be divided into three main parts.

  1. The history of evolution of the traditions from Pythagoras, Plato, through Reminiscence, to the present day and the most popular esoteric orders. This includes detailed reports on traditions such as Theurgy, alchemy, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Theosophy, magick, and all their branches and subcategories such as: secret orders and schools. These include the Rosicrucians, Masons, Martinism, the Hermetic order of Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templis Orientis etc.

  2. The phenomenology of the esoteric waves. Understanding which of these waves gave the foundation to its tradition, and how can these affect and evolve the life of someone who has been involved with said tradition… Thus, the entire bibliography around the subject or a wave.

  3. The experiential side of Western Esotericism, such as the initiation, the esoteric processes, metaphysical experiences etc.

What is the use of all of this?

Just like with every other type of knowledge, the study of the Western Esotericism gives us valuable information around our civilisation, history, and roots. If one chooses to follow and esoteric tradition on a personal level, they have a chance to gain an extended knowledge around that. On an educational/academic level, it holds the same value as any other social science and it complements studies such as Political Science, Sociology, History, Psychology, Philosophy etc. as it unearths neglected parts of every civilisation and enriches their thematology.

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