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

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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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Cagliostro, Alessandro di

(2,372 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
Cagliostro, Alessandro di (ps. of Giuseppe Balsamo), * 2 Jun 1743 (?) (Palermo (Sicily)), † 26 Aug 1795 (San Leo (Rimini)) A legendary Italian adventurer and magus, the self-styled Alessandro Count of Cagliostro first appeared in London in 1776. He claimed to have been born in a noble Italian family in 1749, and to have been initiated into the highest esoteric secrets by a Master Althotas in Malta. In London, he rapidly gained popularity for his accomplishments as a healer, and was initiated into → Freemasonry in 17…


(1,266 words)

Author(s): Pearson, Birger A.
The Cainites are presumed adherents of a Christian gnostic sect named by several of the church fathers. They are associated with “Ophians” or → “Ophites” by Clement of Alexandria ( Stromateis, VIII, 17), Hippolytus ( Refutatio, VIII, 20), and Origen ( Contra Celsum, III, 13), but these authors provide no discussion of the sect's teachings. Tertullian ( De baptismo, 1) refers to a female ‘viper of the Cainite heresy’ trying to subvert Christian baptism. The author of Pseudo-Tertullian's treatise, Adversus omnes haereses, a 3rd-century document possibly based on a lost work by…

Camillo, Giulio

(1,374 words)

Author(s): Bolzoni, Lina
Camillo, Giulio, * ca. 1480 (Portogruaro) (?), † 15 May 1543 (Milan) Camillo was born around the year 1480 in Friuli, a region in the northeastern part of Italy, perhaps in the town of Portogruaro. It seems that the family originally came from Croatia (according to → Francesco Patrizi, both he and his father were also called “Delminio” after the ancient Dalmatian town of Delminium). After pursuing his literary studies in Venice and Padua, Camillo taught rhetoric and logic in several towns in Friuli and late…

Campanella, Tommaso

(6,173 words)

Author(s): Ernst, Germana
Campanella, Tommaso, * 5 Sep 1568 (Stilo (Calabria)), † 21 May 1639 (Paris) Tommaso Campanella, one of the most original philosophers of the 16th-17th centuries, tried to reconcile the natural philosophy of the Renaissance with a radical reform of the sciences and of society. He was born at dawn on September 5, 1568, at Stilo in Calabria (then under Spanish rule), to a very modest family: his father, Geronimo, was an illiterate cobbler. At fourteen, Tommaso decided to enter the Dominican Order because this s…

Canseliet, Eugène Léon

(1,758 words)

Author(s): Caron, Richard
Canseliet, Eugène Léon, * 18 Jan 1899 (Sarcelles (France)), † 17 Apr 1982 (Savignies (France)) Eugène Canseliet, alchemist and writer, was born to a modest family of Belgian origin that settled in the Paris suburbs at the end of the 19th century. As a youth, he was interested in art, especially drawing, and competed for entrance into art schools. During World War I he attended that of Marseille, where his family had moved to protect him from the war. Canseliet never lost his passion for painting and drawing. At Marseille he met → Fulcanelli, who, according to Canseliet's account, w…


(2,168 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
The Carpocratians belong to the broad spectrum of Christian schools in the 2nd century that teach Christianity as a philosophy. Their founder, the Alexandrian Christian Carpocrates, was married to a lady called Alexandria who came from the island of Kephallenia in the Adriatic sea. They had a son called Epiphanes who received from his father an “encyclopaedic education”, wrote some treatises and died at the age of seventeen. Clement reports that the deceased Epiphanes was given divine honours: a temple and a mouseion were erected in Same on the island of Kephallenia and every…


(3,928 words)

Author(s): Bozoky, Edina
1. Introduction Catharism was a dissident movement in medieval Western and Southern Europe, considered heretical by the Church. The name Cathar, which derives from the Greek katharos (pure), was first used in 1163, by the German monk Eckbert of Schönau. Heresiological literature also employed terms such as Neo-Manichaeans, Patarins (Italy), Albigeois (Langedoc, Lat. Albigenses), Bougres (Lat. Bulgari) and Texerants/Tisserants (“weavers”). Members of the sect called themselves “Good men” or “Good Christians”. The origin of Catharism is very controversial. Some schol…

Cayce, Edgar

(1,176 words)

Author(s): Lucas, Phillip Charles
Cayce, Edgar, * 18 Mar 1877 (Hopkinsville, Kentucky), † 3 Jan 1945 (Virginia Beach, Virginia) Known to the American public as the “sleeping prophet”, Edgar Cayce became an influential forerunner of New Age spirituality [→ New Age Movement] through the voluminous body of clairvoyant “readings” he left behind at his death in 1945. The transcripts of these trance sessions were catalogued and organized by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, the institution Cayce created in June 1931. Through the publis…

Cazotte, Jacques

(1,856 words)

Author(s): Faivre, Antoine
Cazotte, Jacques, * 17 Jan 1719 (Dijon), † 25 Sep 1792 (Paris) A Catholic all his life, Cazotte was educated at a Jesuit school in Dijon. He went on to study Law, and went to Paris in 1740, where he took up a position in the Administration of the French Fleet. In 1741 he published some original fairy tales ( La patte du Chat), and in 1742 a number of fantastic “oriental” tales such as Les Mille et une fadaises, inspired by the French translation (by Galland, 1704) of the Arabian Nights (in French, Les Mille et une nuits). His professional duties obliged him to sojourn in various French harbo…


(1,189 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Cerdo, before 150 Cerdo was a Christian teacher who worked in Rome during the episcopate of Hyginus (ca. 136-142). The main sources for his life and teaching are the anti-heretical works of Irenaeus (ca. 180) and some later authors, who might be dependent on Hippolytus (ca. 220). Their information possibly derives from local Roman traditions but is very problematic. According to Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 4, 3, Cerdo came under Hyginus ‘repeatedly back to the church as a penitent: now teaching in secret, then doing penance, then again being convicted…


(1,402 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Cerinthus, ca. 100 Cerinthus was a Christian teacher who lived in Asia Minor at the end of the first or the beginning of the 2nd century. The reports about his teaching are contradictory, and as a result modern scholars have described him either as an early Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] or as a primitive Christian who had been strongly influenced by Judaeo-Christian ideas. Cerinthus appears as an arch-heretic in the first document that mentions his name, the so-called Epistula apostolorum, which was written ca. 150, most probably in Asia Minor. It claims to have been composed ‘b…