Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Esotericism and Psychology

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_9355

Similar to the affiliated term “Gnosticism,” Western Esotericism is a scholarly term with taproots dipping back into Late Antiquity that has only recently been recognized as an independent subject in religious studies. After presenting the classic definition of Esotericism, this entry will trace the etymology of the term and the subject matter typically found under its umbrella. The second half of the entry will broadly outline the historical relationship between esotericism and the psychological sciences beginning with Franz Anton Mesmer and culminating in the contemporary New Age.

Meanings of Esotericism

Antoine Faivre, the father and leading figure of Western Esotericism as an academic discipline, defined Western Esotericism as a “form of thought” that can be recognized by the presence of four intrinsic characteristics in a thinker, movement, or text:
  • Correspondences: Symbolic and real correspondences are understood to exist between various levels of physical reality, history and...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Religious Studies: Gnosticism, Esotericism, MysticismRice UniversityHoustonUSA