Western Esotericism: A Concise History (SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions)
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Widely received in France, this brief, comprehensive introduction to Western esotericism by the founder of the field is at last available in English. A historical and pedagogical guide, the book is written primarily for students and novices. In clear, precise language, author Antoine Faivre provides an overview of Western esoteric currents since late antiquity. The bulk of the book is laid out chronologically, from ancient and medieval sources (Alexandrian hermetism, gnosticism, neoplatonism), through the Renaissance up to the present time. Its coverage includes spiritual alchemy, Jewish and Christian Kabbalah, Christian theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Illuminism, mystical Free-Masonry, the Occultist current, Theosophical and Anthroposophical Societies, the Traditionalist School, and esotericism in contemporary initiatic societies and in New Religious Movements. Faivre explores how these currents are connected, and refers to where they appear in art and literature. The book concludes with an annotated bibliography, which makes it an essential resource for beginners and scholars alike."
counter-culture or a “counter-tradition” that would, by its very nature, have opposed the religious powers in place (it is obviously necessary, however, to study the complex relationships that they maintained with established institutions); nor was this the case for a number of them in the course of the last three centuries. Hence, for the eighteenth century, a “pivotal” period, we cannot talk about an “esoteric front” opposing the defenders of “reason,” because, there again, examination of the
this Hermes would have been one of the links in a chain of prestigious names. In the Renaissance, this characteristic represents one of the ways in which several modern esoteric currents would orientate their obsessive quest for origins. Hence, the rediscovery of Alexandrian 35 Hermetism contributed to give rise to a form of religious universalism previously espoused by Nicholas of Cusa (chapter 1, section II, 2). As a result, Hermetism would subsequently flourish best in periods of tolerance
entered into the common stock of ideas from which many took their religious bearings on life. 4. Esotericism on the Edge of Naturphilosophie (1815–1857) In the Germany of this period appeared translations of books by SaintMartin (G. H. von Schubert [supra, 3] is the author of one of them). The theosopher from Frankfurt Johann Friedrich von Meyer (supra, 3), of subtle and varied works, the first translator into German of the Sepher Yetzirah (chapter 1, section III, 1) and especially the author of
Pythagoras, Plato, and Jesus). At the end of the century, the emergence of a science of comparative religions and the assembly of a great Parliament of Religions in Chicago (1893) contributed to the dissemination of the expression “Primordial Tradition.” 2. Advent of Spiritualism and Occultism (1847–1860) During the first half of the century, animal magnetism had met (section I, 3) with wonderful success, one of the original forms that it had taken being narratives, by “magnetized” subjects,
constituted associations are various forms of “Fraternities,” “Fellowships,” and esoteric study groups. Thus, E S O T E R I C I S M S O F T H E T W E N T I E T H C E N T U RY ❖ 101 Gurdjieff (section I, 3), established in France in 1922, founded his “Priory” in Avon and in 1933 settled definitively in Paris. In 1915, he met Ouspensky (section I, 3), to whom we owe a detailed relation of the master’s words as well as the “work” practiced in the “Gurdjieff groups.” This “work” rests on a sort