Gradually, interest in Esoteric Studies has been growing at the University level. Several universities have begun to offer degree programs, either in stand alone programs/departments, or as specialities in existing departments such as Religious Studies. Here, we find a small survey list of the variety of programs that are being offered. No claim is made to being exhaustive. The intent is simply to whet the reader's appetite.
Master of Arts in Western Esotericism / Univeristy of Exeter, England
The new MA in Western Esotericism at the University of Exeter represents the first initiative in this subject at a UK university. The subject is already taught in Continental Europe at the University of Amsterdam and at the Sorbonne, whose Emeritus Professor in the History of Esoteric and Mystical Currents, Antoine Faivre, established its disciplinary scope and methodology from the early 1970s onwards. Exeter, Amsterdam, and the Sorbonne are presently the only universities offering postgraduate courses or doctoral supervision in Western Esotericism.
The Western esoteric traditions reach back to Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, and theurgy in the Hellenistic world during the first centuries AD. These early sources often reveal theosophia,wisdom or knowledge in things divine, attained through spiritual exercise, contemplation and ecstasy. The early Church Fathers regarded such theosophy and gnosis ambivalently, and their variable reception in the Western and Eastern churches during the early Middle Ages is now an expanding field of inquiry. The introduction of Greek, Arab and Jewish traditions into the medieval Latin West paved the way for the rediscovery of ancient texts and led to the scholarly revival of magic, astrology, alchemy and Kabbalah in the Renaissance.
After the Reformation, these Hermetic sciences gave rise to such movements as Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, with their proliferation of esoteric rites and symbolic systems in the eighteenth century. The modem revival of esotericism extends from Romantic Naturphilosophie to nineteenth-century occultism involving Swedenborgianism, Mesmerism, spiritualism, the ancient wisdom-tradition, and ceremonial magic and para-masonic orders. Today, Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy, C. G. Jung and his archetypal psychology, and Fourth Way movements are among the major currents of modem esotericism, providing an inspiration to contemporary thinkers and practitioners in the arts, education and medicine.
Western esotericism has exerted a profound and increasingly acknowledged influence on philosophy, religion and science, culture and literature, politics and society.
Concealed Knowledge: Gnosticism, Esotericism and Mysticism
Master Degree in Concealed Knowledge: Gnosticism, Esotericism and Mysticism / University of Groningen, Netherlands
Knowledge of the mystical and esoteric currents in the history of religion in Europe, as well as the impact of Hermetic and Gnostic spirituality, is important for a better understanding of European religious and cultural identities.
This Master's degree programme is unique due to its multidisciplinary nature. It combines philological, religious-comparative and cultural-historical approaches. In addition, we offer the first diachronic overview of esotericism from the very beginnings of our Western Culture in ancient Greece to its latest manifestations in modern multicultural society.
After a solid introduction to ancient philosophical esotericism, and to Hermetic and Gnostic lore, you will:
learn about mystical traditions and the influence of Kabbalistic esotericism in Western culture from Late Antiquity down to the present day
be able to analyze and understand ancient and modern esoteric discourses
study the processes of exchange between East and West that have shaped contemporary religious landscapes
uncover underlying connections between ancient and modern religiosity and ponder the persistence or rebirth of religious conceptions and rituals.
Ph.D. In Religious Studies: Gnosticism, Esotericism, Mysticism (GEM) / Rice University, USA
The comparative categories of mysticism, gnosticism, and esotericism are all modern constructs, each different in nuance but all designed to ask just these sorts of dialectical questions, to relate orthodoxy to heterodoxy, and vice-versa.
This area of concentration in the Ph.D. program at Rice provides students the opportunity to study the varieties and commonalities of mysticism, gnosticism, and esotericism as these phenomena are both shaped within and marshaled outside (or even against) discrete religious traditions. The Department’s approach to the study of mysticism, gnosticism, and esotericism is grounded in the rigorous study of single traditions, to the extent that it demands distinct philological and historical training in particular cultural areas. It is also explicitly comparative, to the extent that it draws on multiple traditions—from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the New Age—for its comprehensive materials and theorizing.