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Renouncing Rejected Knowledge: Again


Demons In The Academy?

Renouncing Rejected Knowledge, Again.


Many scholars of Western Esotericism support that its validation as a field within mainstream academia lies in the application of empiricism as the primary research method. Yet this perspective disregards a defining constituent of the object of study, namely, the symbolic perception which might also be termed imaginal epistemology. Pejoratively termed “religionism,” carrying connotations of inadequate scholarship, this formative element of esoteric thought has become the new pariah of the academic study of the field broadly termed Western Esotericism in its current form.

The concept of symbolic perception and interpretation is rooted in Western intellectual history, and its significance has been highlighted by a number of respected scholars who have proposed integrative models and approaches that combine scholarly rigour with imaginative and sympathetic

engagement. Other scholars have called for channels of dialogue and mutual understanding to be developed between scholars and practitioners in order to better understand the application and potentials of such epistemologies. However, this perspective is frequently repudiated, and scholars calling for more interdisciplinary approaches often find themselves marginalised, meeting with varying degrees of censure among their peers.

This approach is taking the field in a reductionist direction, with disquieting implications. More alarming still is the near-demonisation of such areas of inquiry in influential scholarly circles. Such interdictions have no place in centres of intellectual inquiry, and to support them with claims of “academic legitimacy” is to perpetuate the very reductionist and rationalist thinking that led to the separation of the sciences from the humanities and consigned the study of esoteric and initiatory philosophy to the backwaters of cultural and intellectual inquiry for the last three hundred years.

Even the most etic of approaches is not immune to subjectivity, and this begs the question of its adequacy for a subject whose very texts and images are directed towards inner, transformative work. Integrated approaches have been long established in many other areas of the humanities and social sciences, from art and performance, to ethnographic and behavioral perspectives. Thus the proscription of all but the most critical and rational methodologies necessarily fails to do justice to such a topic of study.

Phoenix Rising Academy wishes to explore the transdisciplinary options that may lead to more balanced and integrative approaches, while drawing attention to the very real dangers that we perceive in the insistence on objective and disinterested empiricism as the sole acceptable method for the study of these topics. To this end we invite interested parties to submit a proposal, or to join us for the discussion session at our symposium in connection with the:

Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

in San Francisco, California,

November 19-22, 2011.

Symposium Format

  • Five 15-20 minute keynote presentations [1.5 hrs]
  • Two video-link presentations [30 mins]
  • Up to eight five-minute statements [1 hr]
  • Panel discussion [30 mins]


Discussion tracks

  • Legitimate ways of knowing: the place of experiential knowledge and/or symbolic perception as a form of research.
  • What can we learn from each other? Bridging the practitioner-scholar divide
  • The esoteric polemic and rejected knowledge: a valid concern or a baseless claim?
  • Why are history and discourse analysis not enough?
  • Paradigms for integration and applied transdisciplinary methodology


Guidelines for proposal submission

Two keynote spots remain open, as do all the ‘statement’ segments. Precise timing will be kept, and speakers exceeding their allotted time will be asked to stop, regardless of whether they have completed their talk or not. Please help us to avoid this by ensuring that you do not exceed the allotted time.

  • Keynote lectures should not exceed an absolute maximum of 17 minutes.
  • Statements should not exceed an absolute maximum of 6 minutes.
  • Statements should consist of a clearly framed thesis and an outline of supporting detail relevant to the symposium topic.
  • Audience members will be invited to prepare one written statement or question during the symposium. These will be handed to the symposium coordinators during the intermission, and a selection will be read out during the discussion session.


With your submission please include the following:

1. Presenter information (name, mailing and e-mail addresses, phone number)
2. Type of presentation (keynote or statement)
3. Title and affiliation (institution or organization)
4. Proposal or abstract (in English, not to exceed 250 words, in PDF, or Word, or Office)
5. Biographical data (in English, not to exceed 200 words)
6. Selected track, or four keywords

Please email all submissions to

by July 15th 2011, marking “PRA Symposium”

in the subject line. All submissions will be reviewed promptly and you will be notified of the academic board’s decision within a maximum of one week after the deadline.

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