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Oriental Kabbalah And The Parting Of East And West In The Early Theosophical Society

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Chapter Summary

One of the most interesting aspects of the academic study of Western esotericism, as it has developed in the last twenty years, is precisely the qualification of this phenomenon as Western, on which there seems to be general agreement among the specialists working in the field. The empirical-historical approach advocated by scholars such as Faivre and Wouter J. Hanegraaff rejected the universalist assumptions of these religionist approaches and, as a consequence, made the reference to a specific cultural framework (i.e., the West) inevitable. This chapter focuses on one of the crucial moments of the story, when the idea of a Western tradition of esotericism took shape, and to question in particular the role of kabbalah in it. Before the nineteenth century, esotericism in Europe was pursued both within and without the dominant religious tradition of Christianity. An interest for kabbalah was present in the Theosophical Society from the very beginning.

Keywords: Christianity; empirical-historical approach; kabbalah; Theosophical Society; Western esotericism



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