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Ancient Esotericism, Problematic Assumptions, and Conceptual Trouble

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The article critiques the idea that what scholars today call “Western esotericism” emerged only after the “Renaissance”. It argues that for an understanding of the complex dynamics that have shaped the construction of esoteric knowledge and counter-knowledge, the ancient world is crucial in two ways: First, ancient cultures provide a rich spectrum of polemical discourses of knowledge in philosophy and religion, most of them prefiguring the discursive constellations of subsequent centuries. Second, the ancient world is a huge imaginal space that has influenced identities of nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors, including leading theorists of mysticism, secrecy, and esotericism

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen


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