Western esotericism

There is broad agreement among scholars as to which currents of thought can be placed within a category of "esotericism", ranging from ancient Gnosticism and Hermetism through to Rosicrucianism and the Kabbalah and on to more recent phenomenon such as the New Age movement. Nevertheless, "esotericism" itself remains a controversial term, with scholars specialising in the subject disagreeing as to how it can best be defined.

Spiritual evolution

Metaphysical cosmology. Esoteric cosmology. Evolution (philosophy). Hindu idealism. Ietsism. Involution (metaphysics). Plane (cosmology). Religious cosmology. The Celestine Prophecy.

Subtle body

subtle bodiesLinga Shariraastral self
The later Theosophical arrangement was taken up by Alice Bailey, and from there found its way (with variations) into the New Age worldview. It is also associated with the human aura observed through Kirlian photography and Kilner screens. The anthroposophical view of the human being found in Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical teachings usually referred to only the Etheric and Astral Bodies. However, Steiner also used a threefold classification of body, soul, and spirit as well as a sevenfold and a ninefold description.

Theosophy (Blavatskian)

It was a major influence on the New Age milieu of the latter twentieth century. It played an important role in promoting belief in reincarnation among Westerners. A considerable amount of literature has been produced on the subject of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. Most early publications on Theosophy fell into two camps: either apologetic and highly defensive, or highly antagonistic and aggressive towards the movement. As of 2001, the scholar of religion Olav Hammer could still note that books presenting the Theosophical doctrines were mostly apologetic in nature. Examples of such works include William Q.


The Kabbalah Centre, which employs teachers from multiple religions, is a New Age movement that claims to popularize the kabbalah, part of the Jewish esoteric tradition. Jews in Islamic countries: * A. Khanbaghi. The Fire, the Star and the Cross: Minority Religions in Medieval and Early Modern Iran (IB Tauris, 2006). See also Torah database for links to more Judaism e-texts. ;Wikimedia Torah study projects Text study projects at Wikisource. In many instances, the Hebrew versions of these projects are more fully developed than the English. Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Rabbinic literature. Mesorah. Targum. Jewish Biblical exegesis (also see Midrash below).


During the occult revival of the early 19th century, alchemy received new attention as an occult science. The esoteric or occultist school, which arose during the 19th century, held (and continues to hold) the view that the substances and operations mentioned in alchemical literature are to be interpreted in a spiritual sense, and it downplays the role of the alchemy as a practical tradition or protoscience.


The later tradition took those descriptions too literally, linking them to cosmology and understanding them as "living with Brahman" by rebirth in the Brahma-world. According to Gombrich, "the Buddha taught that kindness – what Christians tend to call love – was a way to salvation." Idols of deity and icons have been a part of the historic practice, and in Buddhist texts such as the 11th-century Sadanamala, a devotee visualizes and identifies himself or herself with the imagined deity as part of meditation. This has been particularly popular in Vajrayana meditative traditions, but also found in Mahayana and Theravada traditions, particularly in temples and with Buddha images.


In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age the Vatican announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age". Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation in Christianity. In Frankfurt, Germany in 2007 the Centre for Christian Meditation and Spirituality in the Holy Cross Church, Frankfurt-Bornheim was founded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg.


religiousreligionsreligious beliefs
In general the scientific method gains knowledge by testing hypotheses to develop theories through elucidation of facts or evaluation by experiments and thus only answers cosmological questions about the universe that can be observed and measured. It develops theories of the world which best fit physically observed evidence. All scientific knowledge is subject to later refinement, or even rejection, in the face of additional evidence.

Religious studies

religionstudy of religionRS
Common issues considered by the (Western) philosophy of religion are the existence of God, belief and rationality, cosmology, and logical inferences of logical consistency from sacred texts. Although philosophy has long been used in evaluation of religious claims (e.g. Augustine and Pelagius's debate concerning original sin), the rise of scholasticism in the 11th century, which represented "the search for order in intellectual life" (Russell, 170), more fully integrated the Western philosophical tradition (with the introduction of translations of Aristotle) in religious study. There is some amount of overlap between subcategories of religious studies and the discipline itself.

Book of Dzyan

Coleman himself, far from being an authority on occult material, was a clerk in the Quartermaster Department of the US Army. He was likely not an impartial judge, having written to Coues on July 8, 1890, "I emphatically denounced and ridiculed the theory of occultism, of elementary spirits, etc., before the Theosophical Society was organized [in 1875], and from that time to this I have strenuously opposed Theosophy all the time." Coleman promised to publish a book that would "prove" his charges against Blavatsky regarding the Book of Dzyan; this book and its proof never appeared.

Mental plane

World of Thoughtdevachanic plane
The esoteric conception of the mental plane had to wait till the occult revival of the late 19th century, with the development of modern Theosophical, Hermetic, and Kabbalistic ideas that were to serve as the foundation for the current New Age movement. H. P. Blavatsky taught a cosmology and ontology consisting of seven principles and seven planes. In her writings she aimed at showing how different spiritual systems share a common source, and therefore refers to Vedantic, Buddhist, Samkhyan, Tantric, Neoplatonic, Ancient Egyptian, Kabbalistic, and Occult systems. She relates the mind with the principle of Manas, and also talks about a kosmic Manasic plane.

List of New Age topics

New Age communities. New Age Gaian. New Age travellers. New World Alliance. Rebirthing-breathwork. Sacred travel. Affirmations (New Age). Altered state of consciousness. Bhakti. Dhikr. Kundalini energy. Mandala. Meditation. Muraqaba. Prayer. Qi. Qigong. Tantra. Ambient music. Circle dance. Drum circle. Hare Krishna. Kirtan. Nambassa. New-age music. Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Neoclassical new-age music. Qawwali. Sufi whirling. A Course in Miracles. Angels. Anthroposophy. Christian anarchism. Cosmic ordering. Dances of Universal Peace. Eckankar. Goddess movement. Ietsism. Jesus. Kabbalah. Living Enrichment Center. New religious movements. New Thought. Outline of spirituality.

Glossary of spirituality terms

New Age: Describes a broad movement of late twentieth century and contemporary Western culture characterised by an individual eclectic approach to spiritual exploration. It has some attributes of a new, emerging religion but is currently a loose network of spiritual seekers, teachers, healers and other participants. The name "New Age" also refers to the market segment in which goods and services are sold to people in the movement. Nirvana: In the Indian religions Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, nirvāna (from the Sanskrit निर्वाण, Pali: Nibbāna -- Chinese: 涅槃; Pinyin: niè pán), literally "extinction" and/or "extinguishing", is the culmination of the yogi's pursuit of liberation.

Multiverse (religion)

other Universesuniverse
For example, Hindu cosmology includes the idea of an infinite cycle of births and deaths and an infinite number of universes with each cycle lasting 8.64 billion years. Anthropic principle. Ascended Master Teachings cosmology. Buddhist cosmology. Esoteric cosmology. Fine-tuned universe. Hindu cosmology. Hindu cycle of the universe. Plane (esotericism). Religious cosmology. The All.

New World Order (conspiracy theory)

New World OrderconspiracyIlluminati
Paradoxically, since the first decade of the 21st century, New World Order conspiracism is increasingly being embraced and propagandized by New Age occultists, who are people bored by rationalism and drawn to stigmatized knowledge—such as alternative medicine, astrology, quantum mysticism, spiritualism, and theosophy.

Jack Parsons (rocket engineer)

Jack ParsonsJohn "Jack" Whiteside ParsonsParsons
New Age. Quantum mysticism. Scientology and the occult. UFO religion.


All associate him with the planet Jupiter; as such, in new age angel lore he can be invoked for matters involving money, finance, law, politics, and religion. His sigil appears in Francis Barrett's The Magus, an early nineteenth century compendium of occult lore. It also appears in the 16th century treatise, The Complete Book of Magic Science. In the Japanese anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion, a giant monster of the same name, belonging to the race known as the angels, appears in the first two episodes of the anime series. * Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels (The Free Press / Macmillan, 1967) ISBN: 9780029070505

Outline of spirituality

Sufi cosmology. Sufi Texts. Sufi whirling. Involution. Outline of religion. Synchronicity.