Tag Archives: intellectual history

Esotericism and the Academy

Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture by Wouter J Hanegraaff, from Cambridge University Press, previously only available as a 2012 hardcover, is due to release as a paperback tomorrow, March 6th, 2014.

Wouter J Hanegraaff Esotericism and the Academy from Cambridge University Press

“Academics tend to look on ‘esoteric’, ‘occult’ or ‘magical’ beliefs with contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual history. Wouter Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of ‘pagan’ ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion and Greek rationality. Expelled from the academy on the basis of Protestant and Enlightenment polemics, these traditions have come to be perceived as the Other by which academics define their identity to the present day. Hanegraaff grounds his discussion in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, taking the reader on an exciting intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the present day and asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy and science.” [via]

Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 by Caroline Walker Bynum from Columbia University Press:

Caroline Walker Bynum's The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 from Columbia University Press


Bynum seeks to explore antique and medieval ideas about embodiment through the medium of doctrines about resurrection, not vice versa. “[T]he basic conclusion…is that a concern for material and structural continuity showed remarkable persistence even where it seemed almost to require philosophical incoherence, theological equivocation, or aesthetic offensiveness.” (p. 11)

The title describes the book’s scope efficiently, although rather than coverage of a continuous development 200-1336 C.E., the chronological emphases are Late Antiquity (ca. 200 and ca. 400) and the High-to-Late Middle Ages (12th century and ca. 1300). There is a lacuna between Augustine and Peter Lombard. It is “not…a complete survey,” but instead explores particular junctures in which “bodily resurrection…was debated, challenged, reaffirmed and/or redefined.” (p. 22)

While the subject matter is essentially history of theology (a province within intellectual history), Bynum’s method incorporates cultural history, with an emphasis on visual culture and the critical apprehension of root metaphors. The theme and problems of embodiment (much in vogue in the 1990s) are central to the text.

It is an effective problematization of simultaneous distaste and need for the human body in the history of Western Christian culture. [via]



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