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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(11,822 words)

Author(s): Trompf, Garry W.
1. Introduction Macrohistory is the representation of history as a whole, “in the mind's eye”. It comprises all general(ized) visions of human destiny, whether as great stages or a procession of cycles through time, as an overall progress or regress, or as an encasement of the known order between determinative primordial events and some extraordinary eschaton. Macrohistory encompasses but is not limited to metahistory (the past explained by such metaphysical principles as providence or nature) nor…


(22,787 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J. | Graf, Fritz | Fanger, Claire | Klaassen, Frank | Brach, Jean-Pierre
Magic I: Introduction When contemporary academics discuss “magic”, in most cases the assumptions which guide their understanding of it are variations on a few influential theories. First, there is the “intellectualist” understanding of magic linked to the names of E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer. Tylor, in his foundational Primitive Culture of 1871, defined magic as based upon ‘the error of mistaking ideal analogy for real connexion’ (Tylor 1771, I, 116). Tylor's assumption was that primitive man, ‘having come to associate in thought those things w…

Magical Instruments

(2,932 words)

Author(s): Vescovini, Graziella Federici
There is little evidence of magical instruments from the Middle Ages, owing to the prohibitions by the doctrinal authorities of those centuries. The testimonies are indirect and derive from works of Greco-Roman paganism and medieval Arab culture that passed sporadically into medieval Latin literature. Thus the available sources are preponderantly classical and Renaissance; in the Middle Ages they were obscured, known only through citations of forbidden texts. They re-emerged in the Renaissance when the most important manual of medieval magic, Picatrix, hitherto almost unkno…

Maier, Michael

(1,463 words)

Author(s): Tilton, Hereward
Maier, Count Michael, * 1569 (in the vicinity of Kiel), † 1622 (Magdeburg) Alchemist and Rosicrucian apologist, named Count Palatine ( Pfalzgraf) by Emperor → Rudolf II (1552-1612) and appointed Medicus und Chymicus von Hauß aus by Moritz “the Learned” of Hessen-Kassel (1572-1632); known chiefly for his early baroque book of alchemical emblems, the Atalanta Fugiens, and for his prominent position in the Rosicrucian affair [→ Rosicrucianism]. The Lutheran Maier gained his Masters degree at Frankfurt an der Oder in 1592 and his doctorate at the Univer…

Maistre, Joseph de

(1,249 words)

Author(s): McCalla, Arthur
Maistre, Joseph de, * 1 Apr 1753 (Chambéry), † 26 Feb 1821 (Turin) Educated by the Jesuits, de Maistre became a member of the Savoy Senate in 1787. After Napoleon's invasion of Savoy, de Maistre went into exile in Switzerland. In 1803 he was appointed envoy to St. Petersburg by the King of Sardinia. He remained in Russia for fourteen years. Upon his recall, he served as magistrate and minister of state of the Sardinian Kingdom. The scholarship of Georges Goyau, Emile Dermenghem, and François Vermale in the 1910s to 1930s established that the Savoyard Catholic Traditiona…


(4,251 words)

Author(s): Rudolph, Kurt
1. Name The Mandaeans are an ancient religious community living traditionally in several settlements in southern Iraq (Basra, Baghdad, Amarah, Nasiriya, Suq esh-Shuyukh) and in Iranian Khuzistan (Ahwaz, Disful, Shushtar), but after the Gulf wars (1980-1986 and 1990-1991) also in Europe (e.g. Sweden, Denmark), the USA and Australia. They are thought to consist of ca. 40.000 members. For centuries, most of them seem to have been silver- and iron-smiths, boat-builders and bridge-constructors, but tod…


(1,329 words)

Author(s): Oort, Johannes van
Mani, * 14 Apr 216 (near Seleucia-Ctesiphon), † 26 Feb 277 (Beth-Lapat (Gundeshapur)) Mani, the founder of the gnostic [→ Gnosticism] world religion of → Manichaeism, was born near the southern Mesopotamian town of Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the Tigris. More or less trustworthy original Manichaean sources on his life are relatively late and scanty. It now seems certain that his father's name was Pattīg or Pattēg (Greek: Pattikios; Latin: Patticius; Arabic: Futtuq); the name of his mother was probably Maryam or Mi…


(6,493 words)

Author(s): Oort, Johannes van
1. History of Research Manichaeism is the gnostic world religion which was named after → Mani. Although this self-styled gnostic prophet and “apostle of Jesus Christ” flourished in the 3rd century C.E., it was not before the beginning of the 18th century that his religion became the object of serious historical and theological research. During many centuries, the term “Manichaeism” was in use in the West, but mainly as a label falsely applied when rejecting any dissenting opinion. In the course of the Middle Ages, both in the Church and the State, …


(2,303 words)

Author(s): May, Gerhard
Marcion,, * ca 85 (Pontus), † ca. 160 (place unknown) Marcion was a shipowner and maritime merchant from Pontus (according to Epiphanius, Panarion, 42, 1, 3, from Sinope on the Black Sea coast) and the most successful Christian heretic of the 2nd century. He founded a counterchurch for which he claimed divine truth and catholicity against the emerging “great church”. The Marcionite community survived until the 3rd century in the West, the 4th century in most of the East, and for a still longer period in Syria. It was…

Marconis de Nègre, Jacques-Étienne

(695 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Marconis de Nègre, Jacques-Étienne, * 30 Jan 1795 (Montauban (Tarn et Garonne)), † 21 Jan 1868 (Paris) The founder of the “Egyptian” masonic rite of Memphis (1838) was also one of the first theoreticians and employers of the word ésotérisme (→ esotericism). His family seems to have been marked by the double origin reflected in his name; his father Gabriel-Matthieu Marconis is said to have been an Italian officer in Napoleon's army in Egypt, while the patronym “de Nègre” is current in South/West France. This was the region where Marco…

Marcus the Magician

(1,219 words)

Author(s): Casadio, Giovanni
Marcus the Magician, 2nd century Marcus the Magician was a Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] and a disciple of → Valentinus who claimed a right to correct his teacher. The dates of his birth and death are unknown, but his floruit can conceivably be located between 160 and 180 AD. Probably he was a native of Asia Minor, an ancient centre of diffusion of Christianity, in particular of Gnostic Christianity, and he presumably carried out his propaganda missions in the Rhone valley. A presence of Marcosians – his di…

Martinism: First Period

(8,262 words)

Author(s): Var, Jean-François
The title of → Papus's work Martinésisme, Willermosisme, Martinisme et Franc-Maçonnerie (Martinesism, Willermozism, Martinism, and Freemasonry, 1899) encompasses fairly exactly what modern historiography understands under the name of “Martinism”, at least for the period of its origins and early developments (18th-beginning of the 19th century). The expression “Second Martinism” applies to the history of the Martinist Order as “re-awakened”, as Papus put it – though in fact he founded it – in 1887 [→ Marti…

Martinism: second period

(2,505 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
→ Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin created neither an Order nor a society. Whether or not an “apostolic succession”, originating from him, reached into the late 19th century, remains a matter of some debate. In the 1880s, two well-known figures in the Paris esoteric milieu, namely magnetist Henri Delaage (1825-1882) and librarian Augustin Chaboseau (1868-1946), claimed independently to have received such a succession, through an unbroken lineage of “Unknown Superiors” (Supérieurs Inconnus) dating ba…

Mathers, Samuel Liddell “MacGregor”

(1,654 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Mathers, Samuel Liddell “MacGregor”, * 8 Jan 1854 (Hackney (East London)), † 20 Jan 1918 (Paris) Together with → William Wynn Westcott, Mathers played a fundamental role in the history of English occultism as the co-founder of the → Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and as one of the leading intellectual forces behind the development of its teachings and ritual system. Little is known about his early life. He probably received some classical education at Bedford Grammar School, but the first definite date on re…

Mead, George Robert Stowe

(1,354 words)

Author(s): Godwin, Joscelyn
Mead, George Robert Stowe, * 22 Mar 1863 (Nuneaton), † 29 Sep 1933 (London) Theosophist and writer on → Gnosticism, → Hermetism, and Christian origins. Son of Robert Mead (Colonel in the Ordnance) and his wife Mary. Educated at Rochester Cathedral School and St. John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1884; M.A., 1926), reading first Mathematics, then Classics. Upon graduating, Mead joined the → Theosophical Society. He studied Oriental philosophy in Oxford (but not as a University member) and visited the University…


(714 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Menander, ca. 80 According to the Christian heresiologists, Menander was an early Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] magician and teacher, a pupil of → Simon Magus. He came from Capparetaea in Samaria and worked in Antioch, where he, ‘inspired by the demons, deceived many by his tricks of magic’. Justin Martyr (ca. 150), our first source about Menander, to whom we owe this information, adds that ‘he even convinced his followers that they would never die, and there are some alive today who, inspired by him, still believe this’ ( Apology, I, 26). Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 180), Adversus Haereses, I, 23, 5, …


(5 words)

→ Animal Magnetism/Mesmerism

Meyer, Gustav

(6 words)

→ Meyrink, Gustav

Meyer, Johann Friedrich von

(852 words)

Author(s): Fabry, Jacques
Meyer, Johann Friedrich von, * 12 Sep 1772 (Frankfurt am Main), † 27 Jan 1849 (Frankfurt am Main) Trained in law, von Meyer was successively a lawyer in his native city, counselor at the Court of Appeals in Mannheim, senator in 1816, president of the Court of Appeals and the Court of Assizes in 1827, ambassador of the free towns in the federal Diet and thrice mayor of Frankfurt, that is, head of the government of the free town. Keenly interested in literature, as early as 1794 he published a novel, Kallias, and wrote many literary essays that would appear in the Teutscher Merkur, Christoph Martin…

Meyrink, Gustav

(1,960 words)

Author(s): Pollet, Jean-Jacques
Meyrink, Gustav (Gustav Meyer), * 19 Jan 1868 (Vienna), † 4 Jan 1932 (Starnberg (Bavaria)) Meyrink's reputation is rooted in literature as well as in the occult [→ occult / occultism]. Representatives of both camps have often been tempted to take from his work only what suited them best and claim the exclusive right to interpreting it according to their perspective. It will therefore be necessary here to critically reappraise some onesided ideas about Meyrink. The illegitimate son of a senior Minister of State in Württemberg, Baron Karl von Varnhubler, and an actress f…