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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(1,719 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
The Naassenes were adherents of a 2nd-century Gnostic sect that is only known through an extensive report by Hippolytus, Refutatio, V, 6-11. The greater part of this report consists of an extract from a Naassene document, which is usually called the “Naassene Sermon” (V, 7, 2-9, 9). It is preceded by an introduction (V, 6, 1-7, 1) and followed by a concluding section (V, 9, 10-11, 1), in which Hippolytus provides further information about their beliefs. The whole section is part of Hippolytus' so-called “Sondergut”, which is, inter alia, characterized by the ascription of similar i…

Naturphilosophie (end 18th-first half of 19th century)

(3,196 words)

Author(s): Faivre, Antoine
Not to be confused with “natural philosophy”, considered as the pursuit of an objective knowledge of phenomena, several “philosophies of nature” have adopted a more intuitive approach, as followed by thinkers like Gottfried W. Leibniz, Georg W.F. Hegel or Henri Bergson, but also by those who represent the specific current called Naturphilosophie, which belongs to the Romantic period [→ Romanticism] lato sensu (end of the 18th century and first half of the 19th), particularly in Germany. Among the precursors of Naturphilosophie are, in particular, → Christian Theosophy, “mos…


(1,919 words)

Author(s): Introvigne, Massimo
→ Catharism, the dualistic medieval Christian heresy, disappeared in the early 15th century, and was occasionally remembered only by Church historians until the Enlightenment, when anti-Catholic philosophes lionized Cathars as victims of Catholic intolerance. Later, in the 19th century, Romantics linked Catharism to the legend of the Holy → Grail. In 1846, for instance, historian Charles-Claude Fauriel (1772-1844) interpreted the word “Monsalwaesche”, the name of the mythical Grail castle in the 13th century Parzival written by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170-1220), as …


(4,506 words)

Author(s): Pearson, Joanne E.
1. Introduction Neopaganism is a complex phenomenon, representing many different traditions, practices and beliefs including neopagan witchcraft, neopagan Druidry, Asatrú/Heathenism, neo-shamanism, “non-aligned” Paganism, and initiatory Wicca. Each has its own starting point and may have multiple founders or originators. Neopaganism is often inspired by the practices of indigenous peoples and the paganisms of the ancient world revealed through archaeology, classics, myth and history. However, prac…


(9,753 words)

Author(s): Shaw, Gregory | Leijenhorst, Cees
Neoplatonism I: Antiquity Neoplatonism was a philosophical school based on Platonic doctrines whose founder, Plotinus (205-270 C.E.), claimed only to be an exegete of the teachings of Plato ( Enn. V.1.8.10-14) and, before him, of the “ancients”, including the Pythagoreans. In the more than seven centuries after Plato, however, several philosophical schools – the Stoics and Aristotelians especially – had attained a powerful influence among thinkers in the Hellenic world, and Plotinus' writings, collected and edited by his st…


(2,659 words)

Author(s): Sedgwick, Mark
This term is used to refer to religious movements in the West which describe themselves as “Sufi” but are part of the landscape of Western esotericism more than of Islam. Such a use should be distinguished from the standard use of the term in Islamic studies, where it denotes a particular group of Sufi orders which arose in the Islamic world between the 18th and 19th centuries and which has no important connection with the West. Persons and groups in the West describing themselves as “Sufi” may be placed into one of three categories: Islamic Sufism, non-Islamic neo-Sufi…

Neo-Templar Traditions

(3,703 words)

Author(s): Mollier, Pierre
If classic historiographical methods are respected, there is no reason to believe that the Order of Templars survived in any fashion after its abolition by Pope Clement V in 1314. The Templars who survived the stake or prison probably joined other knightly or religious orders, or returned to lay status as soldiers or feudal landowners. Absolutely no medieval document suggests even a residual survival of the “Order of the Poor Knights of Christ”. It is naturally hazardous to make conjectures abou…

Nerval, Gérard de

(1,227 words)

Author(s): Faivre, Jean-Luc
Nerval, Gérard de (Gérard Labrunie), * 22 May 1808 (Paris), † 26 Jan 1855 (Paris) French poet and writer. He participated in the “battle of Hernani” (1830), associated with “Les Jeunes-France”, and was taken with an invincible passion for the actress Jenny Colon (1808-1842). Suffering a complete mental breakdown in 1841, he traveled to the Middle East (1843) and upon his return survived for ten years on minor jobs in publishing and journalism. He had another breakdown in 1853 and never fully recovered; he was hospitaliz…

New Age Movement

(4,864 words)

Author(s): Hammer, Olav
The New Age has emerged during the 1970s and increasingly during the 1980s as a common denominator for a variety of quite divergent contemporary popular practices and beliefs. Among other things, healing, channeling, the interest in crystals, varieties of positive thinking and several forms of divination [→ Divinatory Arts] have been linked to this term. The New Age also includes various “alternative” interpretations of history and of the sciences. The term itself originally arose in theosophical literature and in UFO cults [→ UFO Traditions] after World War II i…

New Thought Movement

(2,969 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Originally known under many names – such as Mental Science, Divine Science, Spiritual Science, Religious Science, Christian Science, Unity, Mind Cure, Science of Being, Home of Truth – the popular American self-help psychology known as New Thought began to spread during the 1870s and had secured a mass audience by the end of the century. The term “New Thought” itself was introduced in the 1890s and was eventually adopted by its main organizational body, the International New Thought Alliance (IN…


(1,639 words)

Author(s): Auffray, Jean-Paul
Newton, Isaac, * 24 Jan 1642 (Woolsthorpe), † 20 Mar 1727 (Kensington) Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Fellow (1672) and later President (1703) of the Royal Society of London. Member of the Convention Parliament (1689). Warden (1696), then Master (1699) of the Royal Mint. Knighted by Queen Anne (1705). Since Newton's seminal achievements in science and mathematics are extremely well known, they will not be discussed in the present short entry, which concentrates exclusively…