Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences


Rudolph Steiner: Anthroposophy

William Butler Yeats: Golden Dawn Lodges

Jeanne de Salzmann: G. I. Gurdjieff – Fourth Way

The Widening Gyre: Western Esotericism in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Susan Johnston Graf and Amy Hale, eds. are seeking articles of 4,000 to 7,000 words for a volume that will explore developments within Western occultism and esotericism during the mid-twentieth century. The volume, when completed, will be under consideration for inclusion in the State University of New York Press (SUNY) series on Western Esotericism.

Interested authors should send a copy of their current curriculum vitae and a 300-500-word scholarly abstract summarizing the proposed contribution to both:

Amy Hale ( and

Susan Johnston Graf (sjg9

by October 1, 2011


Rationale and Topics

Historical analysis of Western esoteric movements over the past two

centuries has put great emphasis on cycles of popularity and the

public evolution of esoteric ideas. Two areas of scholarly focus have

been the occult revival of the fin de siècle through the 1920s and the

expansion of Neopaganism as a religious movement in conjunction with

other liberating social movements of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Comparatively, the time period between the end of World War I and

1965, which was one of consolidation and generation in the development

of Western esoteric societies and movements, has been given less

attention. Histories of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the

Theosophical Society, and other late nineteenth- and early

twentieth-century occult movements abound, but, aside from some

notable exceptions, in general there has been less concentration on

mid-century Western esoteric movements.

In this volume, we propose to concentrate tightly on the development

of esoteric groups and societies in the 45-year period between 1920

and 1965. This period saw the early unfolding and extension of Wicca,

important changes in Hermetic groups such as the Golden Dawn and the

O.T.O., and a significant change in the trajectory of Druidry in a way

that affected the entire subsequent direction of the Pagan movement.

Additionally, in the United States we see the earliest occult films of

Kenneth Anger and the first stirrings of the Church of Satan under

Anton LaVey. Likewise, in Germany we find the postwar development of

the Fraternitas Saturni. Our argument is that we should re-evaluate

this era, not only to redress the lack of scholarly attention it has

received, but also because it sets the tone and direction for Western

esotericism for the remainder of the twentieth century and into the


We seek articles which explore Western esoteric societies, movements,

and ideas, and the individuals, expressions, and places involved in

their continued flowering or declining, as the case may be, between

1920 and 1965.  

Potential topics for exploration may include (but are not limited to) the following:

The development of Golden Dawn lodges after 1920

The development or decline of continental magical orders

Post colonial magical groups in Central America, South America and the Caribbean

The fractioning of neo-Druidic orders

The interplay between the esoteric and Science Fiction

Society for Inner Light and mid-century Glastonbury

Mid-century American magical groups

The work of Kenneth Anger

Early or competing (non Gardnerian) varieties of Witchcraft.

Mid-century Freemasonry


The legacy of Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy

G. I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way

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