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Arcane Worlds: New Frontiers in the Study of Esotericism

The goal of this course is to dive deeper into the study of esotericism. In this three-week summer course, you will study in-person with some of the most respected academics in the fields of esotericism, alchemy, gnosticism, art and occultism, conspiracy theories, the New Age, and psychedelic culture. During classes, students will make use of primary sources, as well as secondary literature that clarify the way in which esoteric ideas have circulated and continue to circulate in both mainstream culture and more marginal contexts. This programme is offered in cooperation with the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, the world’s leading institute for academic research and teaching in the field of (western) esotericism, located at the University of Amsterdam.

  • Programme at a glance
    Mode of instruction: On-campus (3 weeks)
    Academic dates: Sunday 2 July - Thursday 20 July 2023 
    Housing dates: Friday 30 June - Monday 24 July 2023 
    Academic fee: €1675 read more about what is included in the fees
    Housing fee: €685 and a €75 refundable deposit. Housing is optional. Read more about university-organised accomodation
    Credits: 6 European Credits. Read more about credits and credit transfer
    Early admissions deadline: Wednesday 1 February 2023. Applications are processed throughout the year on a rolling basis. 
    Regular admissions deadline: Wednesday 15 March 2023
    Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                                                                                           For current university students (advanced Bachelors, Masters, Postgraduate) and professionals from any discipline who ideally have some background in studying and thinking about these topics. A general interest in the humanities and social sciences and an open mind are necessary. 
  • Programme description

    The study of esotericism is a broad and many-faceted field. In the past, it has been described as 'othered knowledge', and esotericism has often been treated as a fringe pseudo-science, or at best, forgotten or obsolete knowledge. However, in recent years, there has been a steadily growing movement within the academy to study esotericism in its many expressesions within a scholarly framework. 

    The goal of this course is to  bring together participants who are passionate about the esoteric and the occult, enabling them to delve deeply into how these studies, traditions, and related currents can be comprehended through developing a flexible yet rigorous scholarly framework. 

    Throughout this programme, participants will make use of primary sources, as well as secondary literature that clarify the way in which esoteric ideas have circulated and continue to circulate in both mainstream culture and more marginal contexts. These traditions are diverse, and are drawn upon by many historical, cultural, scientific, religious, and artistic movements and expressions, and have come to permeate many aspects of historical and contemporary life. 

    Our investigation into representations of the esoteric and the occult will go beyond the written word to include film, music, and graphic novels, as we explore together the important movements in esotericism in the past and reflect on how it manifests itself today, in the present. During the programme, participants will also have the opportunity to visit the Embassy of the Free Mind, home to the Ritman Library: the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica.

  • Academic directors

    Dr. Marco Pasi is the Director of the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. He holds a Laurea degree in Philosophy from the University of Milan, and a DEA and a PhD in Religious studies from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne, Paris). He has focused his research mainly on the relationship between modern esotericism and politics, modern esotericism and art, and the history of the idea of magic. He is the editor in chief of the Aries Book Series (Brill), and a founding member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). He has been co-chair of the Western Esotericism Group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the General Secretary of the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR).

    Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of esotericism specializing in the global history of psychedelic spirituality. He received his PhD (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He also holds Masters’ degrees from UvA and Harvard Divinity School. His latest book, Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots (OSGH Press) analyzes pilgrimage folklore that animates the rainforest landscapes of Japan's Kii peninsula, and his forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America (Oxford University Press), explores the expansion of psychedelic culture in the late Cold War era. After holding teaching and research positions at Harvard University and Yale University, he is now a lecturer at Stanford University.

    Mriganka Mukhopadhyay is a Ph.D. candidate at the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam. He is a historian of religion and completed a B.A. (Presidency College Kolkata, 2012) and an M.A. (Presidency University Kolkata, 2014) in History followed by an M.Phil. (Ambedkar University Delhi, 2017). He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on Occultism in the East: Theosophy in Bengal between 1882 and 1942 which focuses on the Theosophical movement in colonial Bengal and the role of Bengali intellectuals in the global Theosophical movement. His research interests range across Theosophy, modern history of occultism and esotericism, modern Hindu studies, Indian nationalism, and several aspects of intellectual and cultural histories in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. He is also the co-founder of OSAN (Occult South Asia Network), student-representative and ex-officio board member of ESSWE (European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism), and the book review editor of the journal Correspondences. Among other things, Mriganka has taught courses at the universities of Amsterdam and Vienna, organized various conferences and workshop, and published articles and book chapters with some of the reputed international publishers.

  • Explore our community

    To get a preview of some of the topics covered and get to know the academic directors, listen to Episode 10: Visions of the Occult, of Mokum Podcast. Marco and Christian talk about not only the winter programme, but the study of esotericism broadly, and its importance for understanding the world today. 

    Want to get to know more about studying in Amsterdam? Follow us on social media and join our summer community. Get a feel for our summer school vibe and our academic and social community, and learn about studying with us through the eyes of past summer school students. 

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Facts & Figures
Mode Short-term
Credits 6 ECTS, 3 weeks
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission Open
Starts in July