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Visions of the Occult: Introduction to (Western) Esotericism

The goal of this course is to offer an introductory overview of the study of esotericism as a discipline both historically and in the present. In this two-week online winter course, we will investigate the key thematic aspects of Western esotericism, as they have manifested themselves historically within currents such as Hermeticism, gnosticism, astrology, alchemy, magic, to name but a few. This program is offered in cooperation with the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, the foremost academic institution for the study of Western esotericism, located at the University of Amsterdam.

This is an introductory programme. Participants who have completed the course are ready to take the summer programme Arcane Worlds. Therefore applicants who already have significant academic, professional or personal knowledge of these topics are requested to apply directly to our on-campus summer programme, which dives deeper into these materials.

  • Dates, tuition, and deadlines
    Mode of instruction: Online (2 weeks)
    Academic dates: Monday 16 January - Friday 27 January 2023
    Academic fees: €850 read more about what is included.
    Credits: 4 European Credits. Read more about credits and credit transfer.  
    Winter course admission deadline: Monday 12 December 2022 is the final date to apply. Admissions for this course are processed throughout the year on a rolling basis. 
  • Who is this programme for?

    For current university students of any level and professionals from any discipline who have not yet extensively studied this field. A general interest in the humanities and social sciences and an open mind are necessary.

  • Programme description

    During online sessions and in guided-self study, classes, students will make use of primary sources, as well as secondary literature that clarify the way in which esoteric ideas have circulated and continue to circulate in both mainstream culture and more marginal contexts. Having completed this online winter programme, students will have acquired a solid overview of the main moments and movements related to the study of Western esotericism, both thematically and historically.

    If you're interested in scholarly inquiry into the esoteric and the occult, but don't know where to start, then this programme is ideal for you. Participants from diverse backgrounds from around the world will join us online to study these topics in depth, and introduce each other to varying perspectives, while also locating esotericism within a historical and contemporary scholarly tradition. 

    Our investigation into representations of the esoteric and the occult will go beyond the written word to include film, music, and graphic novels, as we explore together the important movements in esotericism in the past and reflect on how it manifests itself today, in the present.

  • Live sessions and assignments
  • Academic directors

    Dr. Marco Pasi is the Director of the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. He holds a Laurea degree in Philosophy from the University of Milan, and a DEA and a PhD in Religious studies from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne, Paris). He has focused his research mainly on the relationship between modern esotericism and politics, modern esotericism and art, and the history of the idea of magic. He is the editor in chief of the Aries Book Series (Brill), and a founding member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). He has been co-chair of the Western Esotericism Group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the General Secretary of the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR).

    Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of esotericism specializing in the global history of psychedelic spirituality. He received his PhD (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He also holds Masters’ degrees from UvA and Harvard Divinity School. His latest book, Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots (OSGH Press) analyzes pilgrimage folklore that animates the rainforest landscapes of Japan's Kii peninsula, and his forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America (Oxford University Press), explores the expansion of psychedelic culture in the late Cold War era. After holding teaching and research positions at Harvard University and Yale University, he is now a lecturer at Stanford University.

  • Explore our community

    To get a preview of some of the topics covered and get to know the academic directors, listen to Episode 10: Visions of the Occult, of Mokum Podcast. Marco and Christian talk about not only the winter programme, but the study of esotericism broadly, and its importance for understanding the world today. 

    Want to get to know more about studying short courses at the University of Amsterdam? Follow us on social media and join our digital community. Get a feel for our programmes, city, and academic and social life, as well as upcoming courses. Learn more about studying with us through the eyes of past students and our community of passionate experts. 

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Facts & Figures
Mode Online
Credits 4 ECTS, 2 weeks
Language of instruction English
Starts in January