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Egil Asprem and Giovanna Parmigiani on Esotericism Studies

Here is a webinar on “The Truth Shall Set Whom Free? A Conversation on Esoteric Knowledge, Alternative Spirituality, and Conspiracy Theories,” with Egil Asprem and Giovanna Parmigiani.

If, like me, you would sometimes rather read than listen, there is a transcript. For instance, here are some Egil’s opening remarks:

EGIL ASPREM: Yeah, sure. We can try. I mean it’s the million dollar question, what is this esotericism, actually. Because esotericism is a lot of different things. But one thing that it is a category, an umbrella term, more or less, that scholars use to talk about various, you could say, alternative religious, spiritual, philosophical currents. Pretty much the things that, I think, you referred to in your introduction of the series actually [? write ?] things that occur that are hard to classify in terms of the way that we look at religion and science today.

So they seem to clash with our understandings of institutionalized Christianity, for example, and science, natural science. So falling between these tiers. So in that sense, of course, they have a lot to do with knowledge, in the sense that there is often a focus on special ways of attaining knowledge, that’s central in it. Some people talk about the dynamic of the hidden and the revealed as being central to it, which can also go back to the origins of the term, actually.

Egil Asprem is a professor of history of religion at Stockholm University. while Giovana Parmigiani is a lecturer on religion and culltural anthropology at the Harvard Divinity School.

Both of the speakers have published in The Pomegranate. Asprem’s articles include “Heathens Up North: Politics, Polemics, and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway” 10, no. 1 (2008) 41–69, and several others. Parmigiani’s “Spiritual Pizzica: A Southern Italian Perspective on Contemporary Paganism” 21, no. 1 (2019):53–75, is turning into a book now in final editing, The Spider Dance: Tradition, Time, and Healing in Southern Italy, which Equinox will be publishing later this year.

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