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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 program 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.

This is an advanced programme. Applicants who do not yet have a solid grounding in academic, professional or personal knowledge of these topics are requested to apply for our online winter programme, Introduction to Western Esotericism. Participants who have compelted the introductory winter programmes are prepared to attend for this summer programme, and can immediately apply for it, though this does not guarantee acceptance to the course. The final admissions decision will be made by the Programme Directors and the Admissions Committee. 

  • Programme at a glance
    Mode of instruction: On-campus (3 weeks)
    Academic dates: Sunday 10 July - Thursday 28 July 2022
    Housing dates: Saturday 9 July - Friday 29 July 2022
    Academic fee: €1650 read more about what is included in the fees
    Housing fee: €600* 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: Tuesday 1 February 2022. Applications are processed throughout the year on a rolling basis. 
    Regular admissions deadline: Friday 1 April 2022. 
    Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                                                                                           For current university students (advanced Bachelors, Masters, Postgraduate) and professionals from any discipline who already have a solid background in studying and thinking about these topics. A general interest in the humanities and social sciences and an open mind are necessary. 

    *Housing prices are tentative and will be finalised by 7 December.  

  • 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. 

    Arcane Worlds is an advanced-level summer programme with the goal of bringing 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. Christian Greer is a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions, and a scholar of Religious Studies with a special focus on esotericism. 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. Methodologically attentive to the material ephemera of underground networks, his research addresses the social history of occultism in the Anglo-American world, the formation of religious counter-cultures,  and the popularization of esotericism in the digital era. In addition to teaching at UvA’s History of Hermetic Philosophy department, he has given courses at universities throughout the United States, including the popular seminar, “Holy Hipsters: Postwar North American Religious Heterodoxy” at Yale University. His latest publication is Pawasupotto, a historical guide for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (in Western Europe) and the Kumano Kodo (Japan).

  • 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