Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism

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

Help us improve our service

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.

Subscriptions: see brill.com

Baader, Benedict Franz Xaver von

(5,224 words)

Author(s): Versluis, Arthur
Baader, Benedict Franz Xaver von, * 27 Mar 1765 (Munich), † 23 May 1841 (Munich) Undoubtedly → Christian theosophy's greatest 19th-century German exponent, Baader is a grand unifying figure, joining in his writings the domains of science, religion, and literature, as well as the three main traditions of Christianity (Protestantism [particularly theosophy], Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy). A peerless aphorist, Baader is intellectually among the most stimulating, profound, and difficult of the theosoph…

Bacon, Francis

(2,136 words)

Author(s): Edighoffer, Roland
Bacon, Francis (first Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans), * 22 Jan 1561 (London), † 9 Apr 1626 (Highgate) Bacon was the son of a renowned attorney. Gifted with rare precocity, he had a brilliant student career at Cambridge. While he was still young (1576-1579), Elizabeth I entrusted him with a diplomatic mission to France, then appointed him Queen's Counsel; he became a member of Parliament in 1584. In 1597, he published Essayes or Counsels Civill and Morall. After the Queen's death, her successor James I elevated Bacon successively to the positions of Attorney Gener…

Bacon, Roger

(1,324 words)

Author(s): Fanger, Claire
Bacon, Roger, * ca. 1215 (place unknown), † ca. 1292 (place unknown) English philosopher, educated at the Universities of Oxford and Paris (where he lectured on Aristotle in the 1240s), author of works on a broad array of topics including optics, semantics, physics, and theology. Bacon entered the Franciscan Order in the late 1250s, perhaps after returning to Oxford. Between 1265 and 1268, he compiled his encyclopedic and ambitious works, the Opus Maius, Opus Minus and Opus Tertium, undertaken for Pope Clement IV (Pope from 1265-1268) in the hope of persuading him to aut…

Bailey, Alice Ann

(2,199 words)

Author(s): Santucci, James A.
Bailey, Alice Ann, * 16 Jun 1880 (Manchester), † 15 Jan 1949 (New York) Born to Frederic Foster La Trobe-Bateman and Alice Hollinshead, Alice Ann La Trobe-Bateman is best known by the name she assumed when she married her second husband, Foster Bailey. She is chiefly remembered for three accomplishments. First, for serving as the amanuensis for her Tibetan master Djwhal Khul (known simply as The Tibetan or D.K.), the latter's teachings appearing in twenty-four books written from 1922 until the late 1940s, all…

Ballanche, Pierre Simon

(1,440 words)

Author(s): McCalla, Arthur
Ballanche, Pierre Simon, * 4 Aug 1776 (Lyons), † 12 Jun 1847 (Paris) The Ballanche family owned a publishing house in Lyons. An encounter with Juliette Récamier during her period of exile under Napoleon transformed Pierre-Simon's ambitions. Upon his father's death in 1816, Ballanche sold the business and moved the next year to Paris, where he devoted the rest of his life to private study and chaste devotion to Mme. Récamier. Ballanche held himself above the political factionalism of the Restoration era, beli…

Balsamo, Giuseppe

(7 words)

→ Cagliostro, Alessandro di

Barlet, François-Charles

(539 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Barlet, François-Charles (ps. of Albert Faucheux), * 12 Jan 1838 (Paris), † 24 Jan 1921 (Paris) A civil servant employed in the Registry, after law studies required by his father (librarian at the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal), Albert Faucheux found in occultism [→ occult/occultism] the compensation for the scientific study he had been denied. First posted in Corsica, where he spent his free time in botanical studies, he then moved near Paris, where initiatic societies were flourishing in the 1880s, and concluded …

Barrett, Francis

(876 words)

Author(s): Gilbert, Robert A.
Barrett, Francis, * 18 Jan 1774 (Marylebone, London), † probably ca. 1830 (London) Barrett described himself, on the title-page of The Magus, the book on which his reputation rests, as a ‘Professor of Chemistry, natural and occult Philosophy, the Cabala, &c., &c.’ This was a somewhat grandiose claim for a man whose profession was that of apothecary and it brought derision from his contemporaries: the poet Robert Southey described him as a rascal who ‘professes to teach the occult sciences’ while being ‘a greater rogue than Solomon’. This jaundiced view was due in part to the notor…


(3,880 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
Basilides,, 2nd century Basilides was a free Christian teacher who presumably lived and taught in Alexandria during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (cf. Jerome, Chronicle, 201, 1f Helm). He had a son who became his disciple, Isidore. The ancient evidence about Basilides and his school can be divided into three groups: 1. the fragments and testimonies preserved by → Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea and Hegemonius ( Acta Archelai); 2. the report of Irenaeus of Lyon, which influenced the heresiology of Pseudo-Tertullian, Epiphanius of Salamis and F…

Bernard Silvester

(813 words)

Author(s): Lemoine, Michel
Silvester, Bernard (Bernardus Silvestris), * year and place of birth unknown, † after 1159, (place of death unknown) Little is known about his life. An educator in Tours, he died after 1159. He was the author of several works: Experimentarius, a book of spells, from Arabian sources; Mathematicus, a poem addressing the problem of destiny, in which he stated that ‘blind chance stirs up the ridiculous troubles of humanity; our times are play, entertainment for the gods’; and a Commentary on Martianus Capella, in which he defined notably his hermeneutics. However, his principal work was the Co…

Besant, Annie

(2,873 words)

Author(s): Santucci, James A.
Besant, Annie, * 1 Jan 1847 (London), † 20 Sep 1933 (Adyar (Madras), India) A political and social activist and reformer, one of the outstanding British orators during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose main claim to fame today is her long and eventful tenure as the President of the → Theosophical Society (Adyar) from 1907 to her death in 1933, Annie Wood was born to William Burton Persse Wood and Emily Morris in 1847. Three quarters Irish by descent and, as she writes in her Autobiography, in her heart all Irish, she was to associate with the plight of the Irish under E…