The Western Esoteric Traditions

The Western Esoteric Traditions : A Historical Introduction

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Western esotericism has now emerged as an academic study in its own right, combining spirituality with an empirical observation of the natural world while also relating the humanity to the universe through a harmonious celestial order. This introduction to the Western esoteric traditions offers a concise overview of their historical development. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke explores these traditions, from their roots in Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, and Gnosticism in the early Christian era up to their reverberations in today's scientific paradigms. While the study of Western esotericism is usually confined to the history of ideas, Goodrick-Clarke examines the phenomenon much more broadly. He demonstrates that, far from being a strictly intellectual movement, the spread of esotericism owes a great deal to geopolitics and globalization. In Hellenistic culture, for example, the empire of Alexander the Great, which stretched across Egypt and Western Asia to provinces in India, facilitated a mixing of Eastern and Western cultures. As the Greeks absorbed ideas from Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia, they gave rise to the first esoteric movements.
From the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, post-Reformation spirituality found expression in theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. Similarly, in the modern era, dissatisfaction with the hegemony of science in Western culture and a lack of faith in traditional Christianity led thinkers like Madame Blavatsky to look East for spiritual inspiration. Goodrick-Clarke further examines Modern esoteric thought the light of new scientific and medical paradigms along with the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. This book traces the complete history of these movements and is the definitive account of Western esotericism.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195320999
  • 9780195320992
  • 228,499

Table of contents

1. Ancient Hellenistic Sources of Western Esotericism ; 2. Italian Renaissance Magic and Kabbalah ; 3. Planetary and Angel Magic in the Renaissance ; 4. Alchemy, Paracelsus and German Naturphilosophie ; 5. Jacob Boehme and Theosophy ; 6. Rosicrucianism ; 7. High-Grade Freemasonry and Illuminism in the 18th Century ; 8. Emanuel Swedenborg ; 9. Mesmerism and Spiritualism ; 10. Ritual Magic from 1850 to the Present ; 11. Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society ; 12. Modern Esotericism and New Paradigms
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Review quote

In his ground-breaking work Professor Goodrcik-Clarke summarizes a huge amount of research into esoteric literature across more than two millennia * Christopher Moody. Theology * a useful introduction to a wide range of esoteric traditions and an important reminder that orthodoxy is not the only story. * Charlotte Methuen. The Journal of Theological Studies *
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About Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is Professor of Western Esotericism at the University of Exeter, and Director of its Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO).
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76 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
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4 39% (30)
3 25% (19)
2 7% (5)
1 0% (0)
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