Western esotericism

esotericesotericismesotericistWestern mystery traditionesoterismarcaneWestern esoteric traditionesoteric knowledgeesotericaWestern esoteric
Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term under which scholars have categorised a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements which have developed within Western society.wikipedia
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Gnosticism

GnosticGnosticsGnostic Christianity
The earliest traditions which later analysis would label as forms of Western esotericism emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean during Late Antiquity, where Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Neoplatonism developed as schools of thought distinct from what became mainstream Christianity.
They considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity, experienced as intuitive or esoteric insight.

Kabbalah

KabbalistickabbalistKabbalists
Renaissance Europe saw increasing interest in many of these older ideas, with various intellectuals combining "pagan" philosophies with the Kabbalah and Christian philosophy, resulting in the emergence of esoteric movements like Christian theosophy.
Kabbalah (, literally "reception, tradition" or "correspondence") is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.

Wicca

WiccanWiccansEclectic Wicca
Modern Paganism developed within occultism, and includes religious movements such as Wicca.
Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultist stream of Western esotericism.

Christian theosophy

Theosophytheosophisttheosophical
Renaissance Europe saw increasing interest in many of these older ideas, with various intellectuals combining "pagan" philosophies with the Kabbalah and Christian philosophy, resulting in the emergence of esoteric movements like Christian theosophy. A hostile critic of various currents of Western thought that had emerged since the Renaissance—among them Paracelsianism, Weigelianism, and Christian theosophy—in his book he labelled all of these traditions under the category of "Platonic–Hermetic Christianity", arguing that they were heretical to what he saw as true Christianity.
Theosophy is considered part of Western esotericism, which believes that hidden knowledge or wisdom from the ancient past offers a path to enlightenment and salvation.

Hermeticism

HermeticHermetismHermetic philosophy
The earliest traditions which later analysis would label as forms of Western esotericism emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean during Late Antiquity, where Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Neoplatonism developed as schools of thought distinct from what became mainstream Christianity.
Hermeticism, also called Hermetism, is a religious, philosophical, and esoteric tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-greatest Hermes").

Antoine Faivre

Faivre
The academic study of Western esotericism only emerged in the late twentieth-century, pioneered by scholars like Frances Yates and Antoine Faivre.
Antoine Faivre (born in Reims June 5, 1934) is a prominent French scholar of Western esotericism.

A. E. Waite

Arthur Edward WaiteA.E. WaiteWaite
This definition was popularised in the published work of nineteenth-century esotericists like A.E. Waite, who sought to combine their own mystical beliefs with a historical interpretation of esotericism.
Arthur Edward Waite (2 October 1857 – 19 May 1942) was an American-born British poet and scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

Academic study of Western esotericism

Western EsotericismEsotericismWestern esoteric studies
The academic study of Western esotericism only emerged in the late twentieth-century, pioneered by scholars like Frances Yates and Antoine Faivre.
Western Esotericism is an academic field of research, scholarship, and education that focuses on the history of European and Western esotericism.

Arthur Versluis

immediatism
Such religionist ideas also exerted an influence on more recent scholars like Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and Arthur Versluis.
Versluis' research focuses on western esotericism and magic, with a special interest in the influence of Platonism on western mysticism and American Transcendentalism.

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Golden DawnOrder of the Golden DawnThe Golden Dawn
Prominent groups in this century included the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Some followers of the Golden Dawn tradition believe that the Secret Chiefs were not human or supernatural beings, but rather symbolic representations of actual or legendary sources of spiritual esotericism.

Paracelsianism

ParacelsianParacelsianspseudo-Paracelsian
A hostile critic of various currents of Western thought that had emerged since the Renaissance—among them Paracelsianism, Weigelianism, and Christian theosophy—in his book he labelled all of these traditions under the category of "Platonic–Hermetic Christianity", arguing that they were heretical to what he saw as true Christianity.
Paracelsianism fell rapidly into decline in the later 17th century, but left its mark on medical practices; it was responsible for the widespread introduction of mineral therapies and several other formerly esoteric techniques.

Traditionalist School

TraditionalistTraditionalismTraditional School
It subsequently became a popular approach within several esoteric movements, most notably Martinism and Traditionalism.
The regular affiliation to the ordinary life of a believer is crucial, since this could give access to the esoterism of that given religious form.

Mircea Eliade

Eliade, MirceaEliadeAllan
This definition—originally developed by esotericists themselves—became popular among French academics during the 1980s, exerting a strong influence over the scholars Mircea Eliade, Henry Corbin, and the early work of Faivre.
A doctor in the Kabbalah and future Romanian Orthodox cleric, Avramescu joined Eliade in editing the short-lived esoteric magazine Memra (the only one of its kind in Romania).

Gnosis

gnosticknowledge of Goddivine origin
It was the Gnostic belief that humans, who were imbued with the divine light, should seek to attain gnosis and thus escape from the world of matter and rejoin the divine source.
The terms do not appear to indicate any mystic, esoteric or hidden meaning in the works of Plato, but instead expressed a sort of higher intelligence and ability analogous to talent.

Alchemy

alchemistalchemicalalchemists
After the fall of Rome, alchemy and philosophy and other aspects of the tradition were largely preserved in the Arab and Near Eastern world and reintroduced into Western Europe by Jews and by the cultural contact between Christians and Muslims in Sicily and southern Italy.
The perfection of the human body and soul was thought to permit or result from the alchemical magnum opus and, in the Hellenistic and Western mystery tradition, the achievement of gnosis.

Reincarnation

reincarnatedrebirthpast lives
Scholars nevertheless recognise that various non-Western traditions have exerted "a profound influence" over Western esotericism, citing the prominent example of the Theosophical Society's incorporation of Hindu and Buddhist concepts like reincarnation into its doctrines.
Today, reincarnation is an esoteric belief within many streams of modern Judaism.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Pico della MirandolaGiovanni PicoPico
Another core figure in this intellectual milieu was Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494), who achieved notability in 1486 by inviting scholars from across Europe to come and debate the 900 theses that Pico della Mirandola argued that all of these philosophies reflected a grand universal wisdom, however Pope Innocent VIII condemned these actions, criticising him for attempting to mix pagan and Jewish ideas with Christianity.
He was the founder of the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, a key tenet of early modern Western esotericism.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

Goodrick-Clarke, NicholasGoodrick-ClarkeN. Goodrick-Clarke
Such religionist ideas also exerted an influence on more recent scholars like Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and Arthur Versluis.
In 2002, Goodrick-Clarke was appointed a Research Fellow in Western Esotericism at the University of Lampeter, and then in 2005 he was appointed to a personal chair in the department of History at Exeter University.

Rosicrucianism

RosicrucianRosicruciansRosicrucian Manifestos
The seventeenth century saw the development of initiatory societies professing esoteric knowledge such as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, while the Age of Enlightenment of the eighteenth century led to the development of new forms of esoteric thought.
Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement which arose in Europe in the early 17th century after the publication of several texts which purported to announce the existence of a hitherto unknown esoteric order to the world and made seeking its knowledge attractive to many.

Occult

occultismoccultistoccultists
The nineteenth century saw the emergence of new trends of esoteric thought that have come to be known as occultism.
In his 1950 book L'occultisme, Robert Amadou used the term as a synonym for esotericism, an approach that the later scholar of esotericism Marco Pasi suggested left the term "superfluous".

Initiation

initiation riteinitiatedinitiates
In the context of ritual magic and esotericism, an initiation is considered to cause a fundamental process of change to begin within the person being initiated and its "evolution operates within both the material world and the spiritual world".

Gérard Encausse

PapusGerard EncausseGérard Encausse, ''Papus
In France, following the social upheaval of the 1789 Revolution, various figures emerged in this occultist milieu who were heavily influenced by traditional Catholicism, the most notable of whom were Eliphas Lévi (1810–1875) and Papus (1865–1916).
Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse (July 13, 1865 – 25 October 1916), whose esoteric pseudonym was Papus, was the Spanish-born French physician, hypnotist, and popularizer of occultism, who founded the modern Martinist Order.

Julius Evola

EvolaUR GroupMen Among the Ruins
His Traditionalist ideas would have a strong influence on later esotericists like Julius Evola (1898–1974) and Frithjof Schuon (1907–1998).
Baron Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola (19 May 1898 – 11 June 1974), better known as Julius Evola, was an Italian philosopher, painter, poet, esotericist, and occultist.

Christianity

ChristianChristiansChristian faith
The term "esotericism" thus came into use in the wake of the Age of Enlightenment and of its critique of institutionalised religion, during which time alternative religious groups began to disassociate themselves from the dominant Christianity in Western Europe.
Esoteric Christians regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices, hidden from the public but accessible only to a narrow circle of "enlightened", "initiated", or highly educated people.

Helena Blavatsky

Madame BlavatskyHelena Petrovna BlavatskyBlavatsky
Various Spiritualist mediums came to be disillusioned with the esoteric thought available, and sought inspiration in pre-Swedenborgian currents; the most prominent of these were Emma Hardinge Britten (1823–1899) and Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), the latter of whom called for the revival of the "occult science" of the ancients, which could be found in both the East and West.
She gained an international following as the leading theoretician of Theosophy, the esoteric religion that the society promoted.