Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism

Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism

Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism

Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism

Synopsis

From rumors about Gnostic orgies in antiquity to the explicit erotic symbolism of alchemical texts, from the subtly coded eroticism of medieval Kabbalah to the sexual magic practiced by contemporary occultists and countercultural translations of Asian Tantra, the history of Western esotericism is rich in references to the domains of eros and sexuality. This volume, which brings together an impressive array of top-level specialists, is the first to analyze the eroticism of the esoteric on the basis of expert scholarship and attention to textual and historical detail.While there are few domains in which the imagination can so easily run wild, the various contributions seek to distinguish fact from fiction--only to find that historical realities are sometimes even stranger than fantasies. In doing so, they reveal the outlines of a largely unknown history spanning more than twenty centuries.

Excerpt

In recent years, the academic study of Western esotericism has been developing rapidly from a somewhat obscure specialty pursued by a few dedicated researchers into a burgeoning professional field of scholarly activity and international organization. Once a domain restricted to the relatively secluded circles of specialists and hence hidden from the sight of most academic and non-academic readers, it is now becoming an increasingly popular topic of public and critical discussion in the context of journals, monographs, conferences, and scholarly organizations. The book you now hold in your hands is the fruit, one of many, of this growing branch of knowledge.

That there are connections between Western esotericism and the domains of eros and sexuality (which extend far beyond what we normally mean by “sex”) has, of course, been recognized before, not least by practitioners, and the various contributions to this volume provide abundant illustration of that fundamental and indubitable fact. But

For an overview of the field and its recent development, see Hanegraaff, “The Study of Western Esotericism: New Approaches to Christian and Secular Culture,” in Antes, Geertz & Warne, eds., New Approaches to the Study of Religion. There are two international academic organizations: the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (http://www.esswe.org), with an associated journal Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism (see http://www.brill.nl/m_catalogue_sub6_id9470.htm) and an associated monograph series, the “Aries Book Series” (see http://www.brill .nl/default.aspx?partid=18&pid=24740); and the USA-based Association for the Study of Esotericism (http://www.aseweb.org), which publishes an electronic journal Esoterica (http://www.esoteric.msu.edu). Conferences on Western esotericism are organized each year, alternately by the ASE in the USA and the ESSWE in Europe; permanent sessions on Western esotericism have been organized at the quincentennial conferences of the International Association for the History of Religion since 1995, and at the annual conferences of the American Academy of Religion since 2005. The present volume is based upon papers presented at a conference that is part of an annual series organized at Esalen Institute, San Francisco. Further conferences in the domain of Western esotericism, with names of participants and titles of papers, are listed in each issue of Aries. Chairs and teaching programs on Western esotericism currently exist at the Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) in Paris, at the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Exeter.

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