The Western Esoteric Traditions: Historical Survey & Research Methods (HISM150)
|Duration of Module||Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;|
This core compulsory module familiarises students with the sweep of the Western esoteric traditions from their origins in Graeco-Egyptian (Hellenistic) spirituality to their revival in Europe from the Renaissance to the present. The aim of the module is to enable students to identify key aspects of esotericism. To develop an understanding of the fundamental characteristics which typically define esoteric spirituality (cosmology, anthropology, gnosis, theology of regeneration) and to examine their expression in animate correspondences, intermediaries, hierarchies, and notions of the soul. Historically, to gain insight into the social, religious and philosophical changes, which are conducive to esotericism. Finally, to study a selection of primary sources, showing the content, concerns, and purposes of esotericism over time.
The module also contains a Research Methodology (Bibliographic Diary) component, which aims to provide students with essential skills for pursuing and presenting independent research., including a competent use of research tools (bibliographic and electronic),.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. Demonstrate awareness of the origins, history, and significance of a philosophical tradition and show detailed knowledge of its varieties.
- 2. Describe and evaluate the phenomenon and balance objective and subjective responses to it.
- 3. With respect to Research Methodology, an ability to locate and evaluate critically the relevant texts relating to the study of Western esotericism (indicating editions, commentaries, translations) and the primary and secondary materials (books, journal articles, web-sites etc) required to investigate a specific topic in Western esotericism.
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 4. Deal with complex material, and the problems of texts in translation.
- 5. Interpret texts, relating their contents to contemporary scholarly debates.
- 6. Argue a position in detail, both in oral presentation and in essays.
- 7. Ability to undertake independent research.
- 8. Ability to conduct analysis of primary sources and critical interpretation of secondary literature.
- 9. Ability to argue clearly, logically and persuasively in writing.
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 10. Deal sympathetically and objectively with subtle ideas and issues, employing the latest forms of information retrieval (World Wide Web).
- 11. Think autonomously and analytically.
- 12. Construct and defend a sustained argument (both in written form and orally).
- 13. Ability to search for relevant sources and to evaluate them.
The course is divided into two equal parts:
Part One: Ancient World through Renaissance to Reformation
1 Ancient Hellenistic Sources of Western Esotericism
2 Italian Renaissance Magic and Kabbalah
3 Planetary and Angel Magic in the Renaissance
4 Paracelsus, Alchemy and German Naturphilosophie
5 Jacob Boehme and Theosophy
[Submit draft bibliographic diary with first essay]
Part Two: Modernity
7 Emanuel Swedenborg
8 Mesmerism, Spiritualism and Psychical Research
9 Ritual Magic from 1870 to the Present
10 H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society
[Submit complete bibliographic diary with second essay]
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Distance-learning||420||Full lecture scripts, powerpoints, audio files, essay tips accessed on ELE, averaging approximately 15 hours per module unit.|
|Intensive Study Days||30||Distance learning is supported by 6 non-mandatory and non-assessed study days at Exeter per academic year, involving lectures, seminars and tutorials. Seminars introduced by short presentation by students or lecturer|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Draft Bibliographic Diary||3-5, 7-8, 13||written feedback|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Essay||33||4000 words||1-13||written feedback|
|Essay||33||4000 words||1-13||written feedback|
|Bibliographic Diary||34||3-5, 7-8, 13||written feedback|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|1st 4000 word essay||4000 word essay||1-13||3 months|
|2nd 4000 word essay||4000 word essay||1-13||3 months|
|Bibliographic Diary||Bibliographic Diary||3-5, 7-8, 13||3 months|
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Modern Esoteric Spirituality, edited by Antoine Faivre and Jacob Needleman (London: SCM, 1993)
Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1994)
Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1996), chapters 14 & 15
Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), especially chapters 1-8.
Frances Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (London,: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979)
Frances Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972)
The Way of Hermes: The Corpus Hermeticum, translated by Clement Salaman, Dorine van Oyen and William D. Warton (London: Duckworth, 1999)
Brian P. Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a new English translation, with notes and introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1992). The introduction (pp. xiii-lxi) is very useful for the historical and cultural background.
Paul Oskar Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Renaissance (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press: 1993). Chapters Three and Four on Ficino and Pico.
D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella ( Stroud: Sutton, 2000)
Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, edited and annotated by Donald Tyson (St Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn, 1995)
F. Sherwood Taylor, The Alchemists (London: Heinemann, 1952). Recent editions are available.
E. J. Holmyard, Alchemy (New York: Dover, 1990)
Allen G. Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978)
Andrew Weeks, Paracelsus: Speculative Theory and the Crisis of the Early Reformation (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1997)
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, ed. Paracelsus: Essential Readings (Western Esoteric Masters Series) (Berkeley, Calilfornia, North Atlantic, 1999)
Robin Waterfield, ed. Jacob Boehme (Western Esoteric Masters Series) (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic, 2001)
Andrew Weeks, Boehme: An Intellectual Biography of the Seventeenth-Century Philosopher and Mystic (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1991)
Antoine Faivre, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition: Studies in Western Esotericism (Albany, New York: Suny Press, 2000)
Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology and Rituals of an Occult Order (York Beach, Maine: Weiser, 1997).
Joscelyn Godwin, Robert Fludd: Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two Worlds (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979)
Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004)
Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923 (Routledge & Kegan Paul: London, 1972)
Robert A. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (Aquarian: Wellingborough, 1983)
Helena Petrovna Blavatksy, Isis Unveiled (Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1976) [First published in 1877]
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1988) [First published in 1888]
Bruce F. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980)
James Webb, The Flight from Reason (London, Macdonald, 1971) and The Occult Establishment (Glasgow, Richard Drew, 1981) provide an excellent survey of occult groups and movements in the nineteenth and twentieth century periods.
Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter J. Hanegraaff with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek and Jean-Pierre Brach, 2 volumes (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2005) is the standard reference work for the subject, containing more than four hundred cross-referenced articles.
L. Baxter, C. Hughes & M. Tight, How to Research (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000)
Pat Cryer, The Research Student's Guide to Success (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000)
A.S. Maney, R.L. Smallwood, Derek Brown, MHRA Style Book (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1996 )
Nigel Fabb & Alan Durant, How to Write Essays, Dissertations, and These in Literary Studies (London, New York: Longmans, 1993)
Gavin J. Fairbairn, Reading, Writing and Reasoning (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996)
Module has an active ELE page?
Available as distance learning?