Teaching Experiential Dimensions of Western Esotericism

Wouter J. Hanegraaff

in Teaching Mysticism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751198
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918782 | DOI:

Series: AAR Teaching Religious Studies Series

Teaching Experiential Dimensions of Western Esotericism

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This contribution is based an innovative program that has been running since 1999 at the University of Amsterdam, in a context that (like most European programs in the study of religion) emphasizes critical historical research on a basis of methodological agnosticism or religious neutrality. Because many of the students are attracted precisely to the experiential dimension, the latter has been a natural point of attention. This contribution discusses the tension between religionist and reductionist, and between essentialist and contextualist perspectives, and the possibility of intermediary positions. It argues in favor of an empirical and historical pedagogical approach that does not limit itself to mere description but seeks to discern significant patterns and structures. It emphasizes that the concept of “altered states of consciousness” has considerable theoretical potential.

Keywords: Western Esotericism; mysticism; Gnosis; altered states; consciousness; experiential

Chapter.  7713 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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