During the last decades, Western Esotericism has established itself as an undisputed academic field of knowledge, fundamental to the understanding of the History of Ideas. It can be defined as a “thought pattern” with its roots in Greek philosophy, particularly Gnosticism, Hermeticism and Neoplatonism.
In the Renaissance, the rediscovery of ancient texts led to a revival of esoteric philosophies and an interest in the study of magic, astrology, alchemy and Kabbalah. After the Reformation, these currents gave rise to the Christian Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. Later, they assumed modern manifestations with the Theosophy of Blavatsky, magical ceremonial Orders, the modern Rosicrucian, the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner or even Carl Jung’s psychology. From antiquity to the present day these currents never ceased to be present and to have a dynamic relationship with key moments of our culture.
Expelled from the Academy with great vigor during the period of Protestantism and later the Enlightenment, these traditions have been perceived as “the other” against which scholars and religious have built their identities. After the Enlightenment, it became academically unacceptable to study “pseudo-philosophies”, which contain some of the known currents of Western Esotericism. As a consequence, after that only amateur scholars wrote about these currents, resulting in a hybrid literature full of historical errors and erroneous conceptions. The “occult” ceases to be a subject worthy of an academic survey. This biased perception reached the twentieth century, and only in recent decades we can see an effort to regenerate and reintegrate the study of this “rejected knowledge”.
In an attempt to scientifically and methodologically define this emerging field of knowledge, authors like Antoine Faivre and Wouter Hanegraaff have contributed in a fundamental way for its advance, proposing a set of characteristics that help us to identify esoteric currents and traditions, and suggesting a rigorous methodology based on the scientific method and guided by what we might call “methodological agnosticism”. In this context, it is not appropriate for a student of Western Esotericism to express personal beliefs or subjective interpretations, but rather to identify historical and philosophical currents and traditions that share these characteristics with each other and better understand the role that they eventually had in the evolution of Western culture.
Currently there are around the world few universities that offer full programs in the area of Western Esotericism. The most important academic institute in the field is the University of Amsterdam, offering a complete program, from Bachelor to PhD. The Universidade Lusófona emerged as a candidate to join this panel of pioneering universities, working collectively to teach, research and promote this emerging field.
This congress aims to deepen and contribute to the progress of Western Esotericism as a scientific discipline, exploring the several manifestations that these traditions had throughout history to the present day.