Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Wouter J. Hanegraaff, in collaboration with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek and Jean-Pierre Brach

Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online is the comprehensive reference work to cover the entire domain of “Gnosis and Western Esotericism” from the period of Late Antiquity to the present. Containing around 400 articles by over 180 international specialists, Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online provides critical overviews discussing the nature and historical development of all its important currents and manifestations, from Gnosticism and Hermetism to Astrology, Alchemy and Magic, from the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance to Rosicrucianism and Christian Theosophy, and from Freemasonry and Illuminism to 19thcentury Occultism and the contemporary New Age movement. Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online also contains articles about the life and work of all the major personalities in the history of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, discussing their ideas, significance, and historical influence.

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Ragon de Bettignies, Jean-Marie

(595 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Ragon de Bettignies, Jean-Marie (Jean-Marie de Venise, Comte Marie de Venise), * 1781 (Bray-sur-Seine (Seine et Marne)), † 1866 (Paris) The author of Tuileur général de la Franc-maçonnerie (General Tyler of Freemasonry, 1861), like F.-T.-B. Clavel (1789-1852) or Thory (1759-1827), was a living memorial of French → Freemasonry from its reconstitution after the Empire up to its secular development in the second half of the 19th century. Ragon's passage through fringe-masonic organizations with occultist tendencies, such as …

Randolph, Paschal Beverly

(2,120 words)

Author(s): Deveney, John Patrick
Randolph, Paschal Beverly, * 8 Jan 1825 (New York City), † 29 Jul 1875 (Toledo, Ohio) Black American visionary and spiritualist whose work transformed the passive and severely limited perspective of 19th-century American → spiritualism by emphasizing active pursuit of individual progress and realization through practical techniques – in Randolph's case, the use of drugs, magic mirrors and sexuality. Born impoverished and illegitimate, he grew up on the streets as an orphan, with minimal education. He took up, i…

Reghini, Arturo

(780 words)

Author(s): Thomas, Dana Lloyd
Reghini, Arturo, * 12 Jan 1878 (Florence), † 1 Jul 1946 (Budrio) Reghini was a key figure in early 20th century Italian esotericism, playing a major role in restoring the spiritual traditions of → Freemasonry, and above all in reviving Pythagoreanism. His books and articles cover a variety of subjects including Masonic symbolism, theosophy [→ Theosophical Society], → Neoplatonism, → Agrippa and → Cagliostro. As editor of the magazines Atanòr and Ignis he published articles by → René Guénon. He also stimulated the interest of esoteric author → Julius Evola (1898-197…

Reincarnation I: Antiquity

(3,340 words)

Author(s): Keller, Carl A.
Reincarnation, or metempsychosis, metensomatosis, transmigration, is the belief in the passing of a spiritual being, the soul, after death into some other body. The four terms quoted are synonymous, although “reincarnation” is sometimes improperly reserved for the passing of the soul into a specifically human body, whereas “metempsychosis” and “transmigration” are said to include animal or vegetal bodies. In fact, this distinction does not hold for classical theories. There is a wide-spread belief among pre-literate societies that each human being possesses one …

Reincarnation II: Renaissance – present

(2,231 words)

Author(s): Zander, Helmut
Traditional beliefs in reincarnation in Europe probably came to an end after the the fall of Rome. At the end of the Middle Ages → Gemistos Plethon (1355-1452) revived the idea of metempsychosis, and the same idea had been developed independently by the → Cathars, possibly through their debate about Christian purgatory. Notions of reincarnation in the Kabbalah (Book of Bahir, c. 1200) also appear to have emerged independently, although there was some limited contact between Mediterranean Jewry and post-antiquity Gnostic groups. There is no evidence for t…

Rétif de la Bretonne, Nicolas-Edme

(2,589 words)

Author(s): Bourguet, Pierre
Rétif (or Restif) de la Bretonne, Nicolas-Edme, * 23 Jan 1734 (Sacy), † 3 Jan 1806 (Paris) Born in a small village in Burgundy, Rétif, known as “de la Bretonne” (the name of his family farm), was the son of a well-to-do peasant, whose idealized portrait he painted in La Vie de mon père (My Father's Life, 1778). Raised by two Jansenist brothers, he received a very strict religious education; however, he learned to read and write very late, and remained self-taught all his life. At age 16, he was apprenticed to a printer at Auxerre, then became a jo…

Reuchlin, Johannes

(2,621 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
Reuchlin, Johannes, * 22 Feb 1455 (Pforzheim), † 1522 (Liebenzell) Reuchlin was the leading German humanist of the Renaissance, the most prominent Hebraist of his age and the author of the central text of Christian kabbalah, De arte cabalistica (1517). The influence of his numerous books and the intense controversy which surrounded them make him a key figure in the history of European spirituality in the 16th century and the main influence on the integration of Jewish and kabbalistic elements into European thought [→ Jewish Influenc…