Posts Tagged ‘New Age’
Correspondences. An online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism.
Call for papers. Deadline: feb. 28, 2013.
Correspondences seeks to create a public academic forum devoted to discussion and exposition of issues and currents in the field commonly known as ‘Western Esotericism.’ The editors acknowledge that the use of “Western esotericism” as an umbrella term for a widely variant field of alternate scientific and religious ideas is problematic. Thus, articles related to esoteric currents from other global cultural centers may be accepted if a connection to “alternative” currents in “western culture” is implicitly established.
The following list of areas of study is provided for clarification: Alchemy, Anthroposophy, Astrology, Eco-spirituality, Esoteric art, literature, and music, Freemasonry, Geomancy, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Illuminism, Initiatory secret societies, Kabbalah, Magic, Mesmerism, Mysticism, Naturphilosophie, Neo-paganism, New Age, Occultism, Occulture, Paracelsianism, Rosicrucianism, Satanism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Traditionalism, Ufology, Witchcraft.
Correspondences encourages submissions from a variety of methodological and disciplinary approaches, such as: History of Religions; Sociology; Art History; Philosophy; History of Science; Literature; ; and Cultural Studies, just to name a few.
Jimmy Elwing, rMA student, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Aren Roukema, rMA student, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Egil Asprem, MA, Researcher, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Dr. Henrik Bogdan, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Dr. Juan Pablo Bubello, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Dr. Dylan Burns, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dr. Peter Forshaw, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Christian Giudice, PhD student, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Dr. Amy Hale, St. Petersburg College, United States.
Prof. Boaz Huss, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
Prof. Birgit Menzel, Universität Mainz, Germany.
More Information, please contact us at
THE NEW AGE OF RUSSIA: OCCULT AND ESOTERIC DIMENSIONS
edited Birgit Menzel, Michael Hageneister and Bernice Glazzeer Rosenthatl
SLCCEE, Volume17, – Berlin,Verlag Otto Sagner 2011
Hardcover, 451 pages,
Select Bibliography Michael Hagemeister
This volume is divided into four sections:
Prerevolutionary Roots and Early Soviet Manifestations (five chapters)
Manifestations in the Soviet Period (1930 – 1985) (four chapters)
The Occult Revival in Late and Post Soviet Russia (1985 to the Present) (seven chapters)
Comparative Aspects, Continuity and Change (two chapters)
Birgit Menzel provides a comprehensive introduction. Especially useful in addition to her summaries of individual chapters are some of the reasons she gives why the borders between science, religion and the occult in Russia have differed from those in the West, along with other difficulties for researchers in these fields. Some, as may be imagined, are due to the search for scattered material, some arise from language and translation differences between scholars. Others which must pose considerable problems are due to differences in terminology:
The terms Occult and New Age have been rejected by most Russian members of, what I will call here the occult underground,(p 18).
Terms defined in Western scholarship need modification, or further explanation when applied to Russian material, (p 19).
Specialist and General Readers
My own reading of The New Age in Russia is from the perspectives of both the specialist and general reader. I fit into both categories, having some specialist knowledge of G. I. Gurdjieff and Fourth Way teachings, but little background in Russian studies.
Although primarily a book for the specialist reader in Russian 20th century studies in relation to occultism and esotericism, this collection of essays which examines the origins and influences that formed the kaleidoscope of changing networks of esoteric and occult teachings, their interaction with changing political establishments, together with the prevailing political and international geo-political conditions, will also be of value to the general reader.
There are two factors which, without in any way lessening the value of individual essays, may cause the non-specialist reader to take things slowly. The first is because the time indicated in the first three sections starts in the late eighteenth century and ends in ‘the present’, that is 2012, however; the essays could not be expected to form a sequential series. Most of the scholars need to establish what is happening before the period they focus on, and as the author of the introduction tells us some overlapping is inevitable. The effect of this on a reader who starts at the beginning and continues on sequentially is a kind of dizzy slippage as time seems to moves forwards, backwards and then forward once more. This displacement of the reader is intensified by the change in focus from essay to essay. Some offer a wide lens view of their subject matter whilst others present more of a close up.
The second factor is that much of the subject matter, the influence of esoteric and occult teachings, their sources and backgrounds, the lineages of esoteric and occult teachings together with their relation to cultural influence, political actions and reactions, occur throughout most of the essays, and some of the same people occur in one, two or more essays albeit from differing perspectives and emphasis. For example, my own area of interest as mentioned above, is in Gurdjieff studies and the accounts given here have usefully expanded and repositioned my own understanding, placing him and his ideas in a common context relating to life in Russia before the flight to Europe and America. But these references occur in a number of different essays. Although there are some useful pointers within essays to related chapters, an index would have helped me to navigate this and other subject matters.
New Age and New Identity
The overall impression given by these essays is that Russia was seeking a ‘New Age’ and a new identity for itself during the whole of the period covering at least the century from the 1880s to the 1980s, which saw almost continual turmoil, revolt, and repression manifesting in ways which often ran counter to uninformed Western assumptions. Russians faced a continuing need for redefinitions of interrelated forms of identity: at individual, local, national, and international levels, together with the simultaneous and contradictory need to preserve, hide or obliterate these identities. All of which makes for a tendency towards multiple, separate, blurred, ambiguous or contradictory personal and ideological identities in Russia.
For example Jeffrey Kripal in his On Reading Russian Mystical Literature Upside Down (pp 421 – 431) reminds us of:
‘the multiple censorship of the mystical,‘ [citing the] ‘almost total annihilation‘ of members of the secret society the United Workers’ Brotherhood shot during the Great Terror 1937 – 38, (p 427).
This might accord with stereotyped Western expectations. However: we learn from Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal that:
In the 1920s and early ’30s, the secret police worked with the occultist Barchenko [of the United Worker’s Brotherhood] and the government funded Roerch’s search for Shamhala. In the 1960s and ’70s, the government denounced yoga as spiritual contraband, even while studying yogic breathing techniques, that could help astronauts, and it supported research on parapsychology, (Occultism as a Response to a Spiritual Crisis,p 400).
The activities of Barchenko and Roerich are each the subject of essays. Barchenko in Oleg Shishkin’s The Occultist Aleksandr Barchenko and the Soviet Secret Police (1923-1938)(pp 81-100), and Nicholas Roerich in Markus Osterrieder’sFrom Synarchy to Shambhala: The Role of Political Occultism and Social Messianism in the Activities of Nicholas Roerich(pp 101-134)
The illustrations are a welcome and instructive addition to the text. Two of the images in colour are Married by Satan (1917) p 47, and KonstantineTsiolkovskii. A Polish lacquer miniature, ca. (1980) p 150. Both suggest a close association between the erotic and the occult/esoteric.
The first, a poster for the film looks more like the sexual assault of a naked helpless woman by demons than a marriage, and appears in Julia Mannherz’s The Occult and Popular Entetainment in late Imperial Russia (pp 29-51). She explores ambivalent attitudes to the supernatural which nevertheless appeared as commercial attractions in newspapers.
Even instruction manuals and occult journals mirrored the same ambivalent attitudes … the boundaries were even more blurred in the circus arena, on stage or on the silver screen. In the performing arts, the rational and the mysterious merged within single productions, (p 38).
[Artist Kukulieva Kaleriya Vasillievna b 1937]
The portrait of Tsiolkovskii (1857-1935), regarded as the father of space travel, was made forty-five years after his death when ‘he had been made into a hero by Soviet propoganda‘. See see Michael Hagemeister’s essay Konstantine Tsiolkovskii and the Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel (pp 135-150) which shows that Tsiolkovskii ‘s scientific resaerch into space travel was but a means to his esoteric ends which while they aimed for cosmic evolution leading to imortality demaded the horrifying notion of the destruction of all imperfect human beings, animals and most plants. Hagemeister writes that ‘The magical-esoteric understanding of science and technology is still prevalent in today’s Russia‘ p 148).
The image shows him sitting with his feet on plans for space rockets, behind him a table of scientific equiment, and behind that again a dark sky with a suggestion of constellations and of the zodiac. His male sexual power has been emphasised by the use of phalic imagery (the rocket, his leg, the drapery), which here unites his career in both rocket science and esotericism, although, as we learn from the essay referred above, he ‘condemned sexual reproduction as ‘humiliating‘, p 139).
Two black and white portraits emit extremes that express the times they belong in. The first on page 23 showing Gleb Ivanovich Bokii (1897-1937) in 1918, so thirty-nine or forty years old, looks more like a painting than a photograph and seen on the page it combines extreme contrasts between black and white to show the left side of the image with a dark face against a light halo shaped background and the right side of the face bright against a dark background, the ear seems to be pointed, the eyes glance upward showing white rims underneath in a way that, for those familiar with them, are remeniscent of images of Gurdjieff. This seems a staged image of occult/esoteric power but is of a member of the OGPU (the principal secret police agency responsible for the detection, arrest, and liquidation of anarchists […] in the early Soviet Union, (see note below) who was nevertheless attracted by esotericim. This image suggests the crossover, and/or interconnections between notions of political and occult power .
The second striking image on p 178, is that of “Tosha” (Vladimir Shuktomv (1957-1987)), this is most probably a photograph which has a degenerating grainy surface quality that is also clearly of the time when dissidents transfered their allegence from political ideology to the rock music of Boris Brebenshikov and the couter-culture (see p 178).
I’ve given attention here to some of the illustrations because in my view though valuable additions, these are mostly underused and undervalued in academic texts.
Russian culture was influenced both by esotericism and occultism, and by politics throughout the periods examined in The New Age of Russia, and I have not attempted a summary of what are in effect a series of summaries of the complex inter-relation of these influences. In brief, areas looked at include medicine, academic institutions and classifications, science, space travel, interplanetary travel, utopia, technology, science fiction, novels, popular culture, theatre, cinema, Shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, Neo-Hinduism, Eastern mysticism, Theosophy, parapsychology, and Transpersonal Psychology, amongst others.
Occult and New Age Movements in Russia from the 1960 s to the 1980s (pp151-185)
Birgit’ Menzel’s essay enables us to trace the complex paths taken from the first of these dates to the second, to acknowledge Russian connections with the East. and on the way to revise general Western assumptions about the New Age in Russia.
Although there were some similarities with the New Age in Western countries: an interest in changing states of consciousness, experimentation with psychedelic mushrooms, (Castaneda’s writings arrived in Russia) and a love of rock music, this overview shows that there were also major differences and that these are worth understanding. She writes that the state system supported research into the occult or paranormal which would not have been regarded as science in the West, that the Russian New Age was mostly a province of the predominantly male intelligentsia, while in the West it was transmitted via popular culture. Western interest in sexuality and in perfecting the body, via diet, yoga, homoeopathy, and sexual expression. did not occur in Russia where the occult underground was more cerebral, with a stronger emphasis on theory than practice, ‘the ultimate goal was ridding oneself of the body rather than unifying, body mind and soul‘ ( p 185).
Comparative Aspects, Continuity and Change.
In the first essay of the fourth section of the book Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal writes about Occultism as a Response to a Spiritual Crisis, (pp 391-420), covering a series of spiritual crises causes by the loss of faith in specific ‘myths’, or ‘all encompassing ideas’ to live by during the period from prerevoutionary and early Soviet Russia, through to Late and Post-Soviet Russia. When agrarian socialism, Marxism, Symbolism, and Futurism each failed in turn interest in occultism surged, in Theosophy and Theosophically influenced teachers amongst others.
The United States has seen a similar series of crises aroused by ‘the fading appeal of the American civil religion, also known as the American Dream’ p 403). War, fears of nuclear war, the revelation of Nazi death camps, and a recognition of social injustice induced a refusal to accept the restrictions of prevailing cultural norms and were some of the factors that contributed to the counter-culture of ‘hippies’ and ‘beats’. This became an unprecedented surge in occultism from the 1960s to the present. She concludes that the uncertainties current in Russia and the USA that are likely to encourage a continued interest in occultism
In the second essay of this section Jeffrey J. Kripal’s On Reading Russian Mystical Literature Upside Down (pp 421 – 431), observes the globalisation of esoteric movements which unlike religions are usually ‘very bad at maintaining stable communities, p 421). He wonders if:
a mystical event may not only be culturally or politically dissident: it may also be cognitively and epistemologically dissonant, (p 424).
and raises a number of issues that face the scholar of esotericism. These include the ‘censoring and suppressing ideologies of the modern-day academy, p 425), and he goes on to write that in this volume only Natalia Zhukovskaia in her Shamanism in the Russian Intelligentsia (Post Soviet Space and Time) (pp 328-3470, has been willing to recount her first hand experience as researcher-scholar, and in doing so shows the reader:
Russian anthropologists and intellectuals taking on the practices and roles of the shaman themselves, in essence, going native, (p 430 431) emphasis added.
Kripal’s use of the poetic and archaic phrase, ‘going native’ is a telling one. With it he refers to notions of an abandonment of ‘civilised values’, a descent into an irrational and inferior way of life. These are familiar nineteenth, if not eighteenth century attitudes, all of which we must assume are not his own attitudes but those of the ‘suppressing ideologies of the modern-day academy‘ (p 431 ).
These are almost the final words in The New Age of Russia, and bring this intricate and detailed overview of a century and more of academic study firmly into one of the major contemporary academic debates.
Acknowledgements and thanks are due to the editors who brought this valuable contribution to esoteric and occult studies to publication. It offers evidence of the human refusal to obey or stay within defined boundaries, while simultaneously longing for security. In Russia during the 20th century these conflicting desires were expressed by politically repressive boundries, serially accompanied by a refusal to accept or to be bound by fixed, enprisoning ideologies. The two unbounded areas that continued to defy definition and which remained open for exploration during the whole century were those of the inner life, and outer space.
This photograph of Gleb Ivanovich Bokii (1897-1937) found in Google images, is clearly the source for the image described above.
As a post script to the above here are a couple of definitions of terms and initials used in the text which may be of use to fellow non-Russianists, (retreived from Wikipedia (5.6.2012).
Samizdat(Russian: самизда́т; IPA: ) was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader.
refers to literature published abroad (там, tam, “there”), often from smuggled manuscripts.
The OGPU (1922-1934) was responsible for the creation of the Gulag system. It also became the Soviet government’s arm for the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholics, the Latin Catholics, Islam and other religious organisations […] The OGPU was also the principal secret police agency responsible for the detection, arrest, and liquidation of anarchists and other dissident left-wing factions in the early Soviet Union.
NKVD stands for The People’s Commissariatfor Internal Affairs, Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), abbreviated NKVD (1934 – 1954).
from the entry for State Political Directorate Wikipedia retrieved 29.5. 2012
Call for Abstracts: “A ‘Supernatural’ History of Central Europe, 1870-present”
Editors: Eric Kurlander (Stetson U.) and Monica Black (U. of Tenn., Knoxville)
Deadline: August 1, 2012
Despite the ostensible “disenchantment of the world” proclaimed by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Europe has a rich modern history of occultism, folklore, paganism, and popular religion. Yet the “supernatural history” of this ethno- culturally diverse region, extending from the Rhine and Baltic in the North and West to the Vistula and Danube in the South and East, has yet to be written. To be sure, the last twenty years have witnessed a renaissance of interest in Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious practice since the late-nineteenth century. With the exception a few excellent monographs on occultism and parapsychology, however, historians have been slow to investigate less conventional aspects of the “supernatural” in Modern Central Europe.
We seek abstracts from scholars interested in exploring the new spiritualities, unique metaphysical experiences and practices, and novel explanations of the world that stood somewhere between natural scientific verifiability and the shopworn truths of traditional religion, and which flourished across Central Europe in the wake of the Second Industrial Revolution. We are keen to see submissions that integrate social, political, and cultural history with “supernatural” thinking and practice, broadly conceived. We are especially interested in submissions that will extend their analysis and explorations beyond national boundaries, connecting people, ideas, experiences, and movements interculturally and transnationally.
Obviously, profound complexities inhere in the term “supernatural”—and no less so in terms like “popular religion,” let alone “superstition.” All of these terms bristle with invidious distinctions and reifications imposed by those seeking to draw sharp contrasts between “orthodox” and “heterogeneous” manifestations of religion and between “science” and “popular belief”—which for our purposes might refer to various methods of explaining, knowing, and experiencing the world that somehow draw on the numinous or the metaphysical. Not only has the presence and broad scope of such practices and ideas not yet been fully explored, but they have also not been properly integrated into larger histories of Central European culture, society, and politics—despite the fact that they have from time to time been the cause of considerable friction.
By bringing together scholars from German, Austrian, Hapsburg, and Slavic Studies, we hope to address questions central to the study of Central European politics, culture, and identity in new ways. What meanings can we assign to the renewal of interest in occultism, “pseudo-science,” and folklore studies in the decades around the fin-de-siècle? How does the waxing or waning of these fields relate to questions of war and peace, revolution and reaction, crisis and stability? How have differences between “science” and “pseudo-science” been articulated in various moments and why? How did folklore, occultism, “pseudo-science” and other “supernatural” practices function as alternatives to organized religion at various moments in the Central European past? How was a fascination with the “supernatural” reflected in popular culture and the arts from the nineteenth century to today? What roles have popular superstition and everyday rituals played in Central European attempts to negotiate the trials of the twentieth century? What role did such rituals––“political religion” or otherwise––play in the legitimization of fascism, communism, and other forms of authoritarian politics before and after 1945? What influence did “supernatural” ideas and practices have in generating policies of ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and imperialism, or how can they been seen as a response to those policies? What were the differences East and West of the Iron Curtain after 1945? What are the implications in terms of class, gender, identity, and ethnicity?
Potential topics may include but are not limited to:
“Pseudo-science” and parapsychology
Séances, spirit media, and communication with the dead
Clairvoyance and prophecy
Ghost stories and apparitions
Vampires, werewolves and other monsters
The horror genre, science fiction, and “fantastic” in film, art, and literature
If you are interested in contributing an abstract of not more than 500 words for consideration, please send it, along with your CV, to Monica Black (email@example.com) and Eric Kurlander (firstname.lastname@example.org) by AUGUST 1, 2012.
JOURNAL OF THE WESTERN MYSTERY TRADITION
July 14-15, Milwaukee, WI
Call for Abstracts:
Since 2001, the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition (JWMT) has worked to publish diverse perspectives on the occultisms, magical practices, mysticisms and esotericisms commonly known as the “Western Mystery Tradition.” The JWMT is expanding the work of the web journal through its first conference.
The JWMT conference is a two-day event open to scholars, students, practitioners, and the public. The keynote speaker is the Journal’s founder and publisher, Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman.
The study of western esoteric practices has risen greatly over the last decade, focusing on Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Modern magical practices and beliefs, outside of the realm of modern Paganisms and the New Age, have received little attention. Further, practitioners have had little opportunity to present their work, either as papers or in the form of ritual practice, outside of the internet or small groups. The focus of this conference is the movement of contemporary western esotericisms, loosely construed as the “western mysteries,” and their transition from the 20th to the 21st century. The Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference 2012 is seeking abstracts for presentations, panels and practices centered on this broad subject.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
Esoteric traditions such as Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Martinism and chivalric organizations,
Ritual magical practices from organizations such as the Golden Dawn and the Aurum Solis and modern initiatory Paganisms,
Esotericisms from earlier periods, such as alchemy, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, the magical work of John Dee or the medieval grimoire traditions, and their re-emergence and relevancy to modern praxes,
Theoretical, paedogogical, and methodological approaches to the study of the western mysteries,
The relation of the esotericisms to orthodox and mainstream practices and society at large.
We welcome presentations, panels and practices focusing on methodological and theoretical issues in relation to the contemporary study and practice of the various western esoteric currents. The conference encourages an interdisciplinary approach and welcomes perspectives from the disciplines of religious studies, theology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, political science, as well as active practitioners. Papers should last 20 minutes, with time for questions and answers. Panels and practices will be scheduled for up to an hour, with time for questions and answers afterwards as necessary.
Please submit abstracts (approx. 200 words), proposals for a themed panel (with three presenters, moderator as necessary, and short description) or proposals for a ritual practice and discussion to email@example.com. Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2012.
No attachments please; copy and paste your abstract or proposal in plain text into the body of the e-mail. Submissions are not limited to academics or professional scholars. Include a brief (no more than one page) CV listing any qualifications, academic or otherwise, relevant to your proposal.
The conference will be held at the Best Western Plus Milwaukee Airport Hotel and Conference Center.
More information on the conference, registration, fees, accommodation, etc. is available at http://www.jwmt.org/jwmt12.
The Bath Literary and Scientific Institution, founded in 1824.
The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture
Department of Archaeology, History and Anthropology
University of Wales, Lampeter
Sophia Centre Conference
24-25 July 2010
Bath Royal Scientific and Literary Institute, Bath, England
Call for Papers
This conference will, for the first time, bring together academics to
investigate the theory and practice of astrology in the modern world,
from roughly 1700 to the present day.
Astrology is ‘the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and
events on earth, and the tradition that has thus been generated’
(Patrick Curry). It is a part of modern culture which arouses powerful
feelings from loyal devotion to passionate hostility. It is feared by
evangelical Christians and despised by sceptical scientists, yet is an
unquestioned feature of the popular media. It is described as magic or
psychology, and as a path to spiritual understanding or scientific
truth, and is often classed as a New Age discipline. It is mentioned in
passing in books on the sociology of religion yet is almost completely
ignored in the literature on popular culture. Where academic studies do
exist they are largely sociological or psychological investigations
designed to solve the problem of why belief in astrology persists in the
Papers may consider
. the life and work of influential astrologers
. the transmission and lineage of ideas
. questions of tradition and innovation
. the relationship of theory to practice
. the cultural context of astrological ideas
. the role and function of astrological practice
While the focus is on the modern west, appropriate papers may be
accepted on non-western cultures.
It is expected that most papers will be 20 minutes + 10 minutes
questions, although we may accept shorter presentations for reports.
Please send proposals, including a 200 word abstract and 50 word
biography, to Dr Nick Campion, firstname.lastname@example.org, by 1 November 2009.