Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism

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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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Saint-Germain, Le Comte de

(1,912 words)

Author(s): Fuller, Jean Overton
Saint-Germain, Le Comte de, * year and place unknown, † 26 Feb 1784 (Eckernförde) Referred to by Frederick the Great as ‘a man whose mystery has never been solved’, the first evidence we have of Saint-Germain's existence is a letter by him, dated 22 November 1735 and sent from The Hague (British Library; Sloane MSS 4026, ff. 289r-290v); it is addressed to Sir Hans Sloane, to whom the author offers an incunable. Next we hear of him as being in London, at a time when the invasion by the young Pretender caused f…

Saint-Martin, Louis-Claude de

(5,446 words)

Author(s): Mccalla, Arthur
Saint-Martin, Louis-Claude de, * 18 Jan 1743 (Amboise), † 13 Jan 1803 (Aulnay (near Paris)) 1. Life and Intellectual Development Saint-Martin, who published under the pseudonym of “the Unknown Philosopher”, was born into a pious family of the minor nobility. He studied law, and practised briefly, but gave it up (although the theme of justice permeates his theosophy) at age twenty-two, for a military career. The principal attraction of the life of a military officer – he received, thanks to the duc de Choiseul, a co…

Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, Joseph Alexandre

(768 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, Joseph Alexandre, * 26 Mar 1842 (Paris), † 6 Feb 1909 (Pau (Basses-Pyrénées)) The name of “synarchy” given to the synthesis of all human knowledge, as dreamed of by Saint-Yves, played an extraordinary role within the myth of conspiracy that flourished around World War II, bearing no relationship to its author's intentions. Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's reputation was solidly established in the Parisian world after an adventurous life, followed by a written oeuvre that was widely recognized. Th…

Saltzmann, Frédéric-Rodolphe

(1,194 words)

Author(s): Keller, Jules
Saltzmann, Frédéric-Rodolphe, * year unknown (Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines), † 7 Jan 1821 (Strasbourg) Saltzmann's father, Jean-Rodolphe, son of a wealthy Strasbourg merchant, was pastor at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines from 1746 to 1759. His mother, Marie-Elisabeth Sauer, was daughter of a manufacturer in the Val d'Argent. In 1759, Saltzmann Sr. was appointed pastor at the Temple Neuf in Strasbourg, and Frédéric-Rodolphe became a pupil at the famous Protestant gymnasium, Jean Sturm. In 1765 he entered the Theology fac…

Sangro di San Severo, Raimondo di

(1,061 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
Sangro di San Severo, Raimondo di, * 30 Jan 1710 (Torremaggiore (Foggia, Italy)), † 22 Mar 1771 (Naples) One of the significant figures in the early history of Italian → Freemasonry, Prince Raimondo di Sangro di San Severo was born into one of the most illustrious families of the Naples aristocracy, with family connections extending to European royalty dating back to the Middle Ages. A pupil of Jesuit schools in Rome and Naples, di Sangro emerged in the 1730s as an inventor in several different fields, from firew…


(2,288 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
Theologically, Satanism has been defined as a religious or philosophical system which professes or manifests a hatred of Christianity. Historians and religious studies scholars usually adopt a different definition, and limit Satanism to the adoration, in an organized and ritual form, of the figure known in the Bible as the Devil or Satan. According to this definition, therefore, early modern → witchcraft cannot be defined as Satanism: whatever it was, it was not an organized form of Devil worship. Organized Satanism is a modern phenomenon. Its first incarnation was in the …


(715 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
Satornilus, ca. 120 Satornilus (Gr. Satorneilos, in Lat. sources Saturninus) was a Christian Gnostic [→ Gnosticism] active in Antioch. Our knowledge of Satornilus derives almost exclusively from the information provided by Irenaeus of Lyons in his Adversus Haereses I, 24, 1-2 (ca.180). According to Irenaeus and other anti-Gnostic writers Satornilus was a pupil of → Menander, but this view is based more on the assumption of a Gnostic “genealogy” than on a correspondence between their essential doctrines. He taught that there existed…

Scabelloni, Antonio

(6 words)

→ Scaligero, Massimo

Scaligero, Massimo

(489 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
Scaligero, Massimo (Antonio Scabelloni), * 17 Sep 1906 (Veroli (Province of Frosinone, Italy)), † 26 Jan 1980 (Rome) One of the most distinguished members of the Italian Anthroposophical Society [→ Anthroposophy], Scaligero was born as Antonio Scabelloni in Veroli (not far from Rome) on September 17, 1906. As a teenager, he became interested in yoga and in different forms of Western esotericism, and in 1921, while on vacation in Sardinia, had a mystical experience of the universe as light and energy. He subsequen…

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von

(1,026 words)

Author(s): Marquet, Jean-François
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von, * 27 Jan 1775 (Leonberg), † 20 Aug 1854 (Ragaz) The son of a pastor, and himself a student (with Hölderlin and Hegel) in the seminary of Tübingen, Schelling very soon began to publish works in the tradition of Fichte. As early as 1797 he became professor at the University of Jena, and subsequently, in 1803, at that of Würzburg. In 1801 he parted ways with Fichte, in presenting his own system of philosophy. From 1806 to 1827, he left teaching to occupy the lucrative and …

Schlag, Oscar Rudolf

(1,178 words)

Author(s): Faivre, Antoine
Schlag, Oscar (or Oskar) Rudolf, * 22 Mar 1907 (Osterhofen (Bavaria)), † (Zurich) 29 Jan 1990 Already as a teenager, Schlag was held to possess mediumnistic faculties. In 1927, Albert Schrenck-Notzing, a dominant figure in continental parapsychology at the time, recruited him as a test subject in the laboratory he had set up in Landshut (the association lasted no more than a few months). Two years later, Schlag settled in Luzern, where he worked as a philatelist. In 1930 he moved on to Zurich where he was to re…

Schubert, Gotthilf Heinrich von

(1,059 words)

Author(s): Valette, Patrick
Schubert, Gotthilf Heinrich von, * 26 Apr 1780 (Hohenstein-Ernstthal), † 30 Jun 1860 (Munich) The son of a Saxon pastor, Schubert attended lyceum at Weimar, where he followed the courses of J.G. Herder (1744-1803). The work of this great thinker would play a decisive role in the development of Schubert's philosophical thought. He studied theology in Leipzig before turning to medicine and the natural sciences. A deep faith inherited from his Pietist education [→ Pietism] combined with a veritable passion for science would mark the rest of his life. An authentic theosopher [→ Christia…

Schuon, Frithjof

(1,205 words)

Author(s): Quinn, William
Schuon, Frithjof (also known as Shaykh ʿIsâ Nur al-Dîn Ahmad al-Shâdhilî al-Darqâwî al-ʿAlawî al-Maryamî), * 18 Jun 1907 (Basle (Switzerland)), † 5 May 1998 (Bloomington, Indiana (USA)) Swiss esotericist and Sufi master [→ Neo-Sufism] whose personal life was complex and whose substantial corpus of metaphysical writings ranks among the most clear, profound, and gifted ones produced by any similar author in the 20th century. Schuon was born of German Roman Catholic parents. His father was a violinist and poet, described by …

Schuré, Edouard

(754 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Schuré, Edouard, * 21 Jan 1841 (Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin)), † 7 Apr 1928 (Paris) Schuré came from the Lutheran Protestant bourgeoisie of Strasbourg, his mother being the daughter of a university professor and the granddaughter of a pastor. His education, in French and German, was thorough but austere and conventional. Having passed through the faculty of Law, he traveled from one university to another, as customary in his days; thus he spent some time in Heidelberg, Bonn, Berlin, and Munich. He was a great admirer of → Goethe and Nietzsche, with whom he exchanged letters (a chapter of Précurseu…

Schwaller, René Adolphe

(818 words)

Author(s): Laurant, Jean-Pierre
Schwaller, René Adolphe (called de Lubicz; pseudonym Aor), * 31 Jan 1887 (Asnières (France)), † 5 Jan 1961 (Grasse (France)) This occultist writer, Egyptologist, and founder of spiritual brotherhoods was of Alsatian origin, his pharmacist-chemist father having set up practice in Strasbourg. René aspired to be a painter and was a student in Henri Matisse's atelier in Paris. Under the pseudonym of “Aor” he was an active member of the → Theosophical Society, and it was at a lecture in the Adyar Hall of the Paris Theos…


(2,584 words)

Author(s): Christensen, Dorthe Refslund
Scientology is a religious philosophy and a set of ritual practices partly based on Dianetics, a “do-it-yourself-therapy” developed by the American adventurer, philosopher and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in a number of articles and, exhaustively, in the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health published in 1950. The first Church of Scientology was founded in Washington, DC in 1955. Lafayette Ron Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska on the 13th of March, 1911, as the son of a naval officer and a teacher, Harry Ross and Ledora May Hubbar…


(9,856 words)

Author(s): De Jong, Albert | Fanger, Claire | Faivre, Antoine
Secrecy I: Antiquity 1. Introduction The only fruitful way to study secrecy in ancient cultures and religions is to study it as a social phenomenon. The private secrets of individuals, that is knowledge of facts kept hidden from everyone (for example a woman who hides from her husband the fact that the child she is bearing is not his), are not only lost to us forever, but also do not really constitute a subject that could be analysed profitably. That is why, following a lead from the German sociologi…
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