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(3,536 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
1. Esoteric The adjective “esoteric” (ἐσωτερι;κός) has often been attributed to Aristotle, but in fact he uses only the word “exoteric” (ἐξωτερι;κός; see references in Riffard 1990, 65) and opposes it to “acroamatic” (from ἀκρόα;μα;, oral instruction). It is in a satire by Lucian of Samosata (2nd century C.E.) that the term “esoteric” makes its first appearance. Zeus and Hermes are selling various philosophers as slaves on the market, and claim that if you buy a disciple of Aristotle, you will get…

Correggio, Giovanni da

(1,523 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Correggio, Giovanni da, * ca. 1451? (Bologna)?, † after 1503 (place unknown) Apocalyptic prophet and hermetic messiah. We know about Correggio's activities from an anonymous “Epistola Enoch” and three dedicatory epistles written by his pupil → Lodovico Lazzarelli, and from scattered references in the works of contemporaries, including the famous abbot → Johannes Trithemius. Correggio's year of birth cannot be established with any certainty: all we know is that Lazzarelli describes him as being ‘about thirty…

Lazzarelli, Lodovico

(2,984 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Lazzarelli, Lodovico, * 4 Feb 1447 (San Severino), † 23 Jun 1500 (San Severino) Italian humanist, poet, Christian hermetist, and pioneer of Christian kabbalah [→ Jewish Influences III]. Lazzarelli was born the youngest son of a physician, Alessandro Lazzarelli, in San Severino. His father died soon after his birth, and his mother moved with her children to Campli, where Lodovico began his studies under a certain Christoforo da Montone. Introduced by the latter to a typical humanist curriculum, he turned out t…

Kerner, Justinus Andreas Christian

(1,706 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Kerner, Justinus Andreas Christian, * 18 Sep 1786 (Ludwigsburg), † 21 Feb 1862 (Weinsberg) German Romantic poet and writer, physician, and early investigator of occult phenomena. Born as the sixth and youngest child of a county commissioner and civil servant, Kerner was originally trained for a business career. At the age of twelve he was healed of a nervous ailment by the practitioner of → animal magnetism Eberhard Gmelin (1751-1809): his first contact with a method of treatment he would himself practice in …

Roberts, Jane

(2,377 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Roberts, Dorothy Jane, * 8 May 1929 (Saratoga Springs, New York), † 5 Sep 1984 (Elmira, New York) Jane Roberts – her first given name is never used – preferred to see herself as a poet and writer, but achieved fame by her books based upon “channeled” messages received from a “spiritual entity” called Seth. Her childhood was difficult: her parents divorced while she was still a small child, and Jane spent some years in a Roman Catholic orphanage. Having returned home, she was forced to take care of the household w…

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…


(8,134 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
1. Introduction Primarily in Western esoteric contexts, but not exclusively there, a wide range of terms have been used to refer to the idea that there exists an enduring tradition of superior spiritual wisdom, available to humanity since the earliest periods of history and kept alive through the ages, perhaps by a chain of divinely inspired sages or initiatory groups. In tracing the development of this idea through its main historical stages, we will restrict ourselves to those authors and curren…

Champier, Symphorien

(1,090 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Champier, Symphorien, * early 1470s (Saint-Symphorien-le-Château), † 1539 or 1540 (Lyons) French humanist, neoplatonist, physician, and author on medicine and occult sciences. Champier's father was a notary and apothecary. Symphorien studied for some time at the university of Paris, and next attended medical school in Montpellier, where he matriculated in 1495. Soon after, he was practicing medicine and teaching the liberal arts in the Dauphiné and probably the Bourbonnais. In 1498 he published his first book, Janua logicae et phisicae, largely devoted to Plato and Aristot…


(3,540 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Although the various terms and expressions based upon the latin “occultus” (“hidden, secret”, from occulere, “to cover over, hide, conceal”) tend to be used indiscriminately and are often confused in common parlance, they are the reflection of a historical development in the various stages of which they refer to different things. It is of particular importance to distinguish between the original adjective “occult”, and the substantive “occultism” that made its first appearance in the 19th century. 1. Occult Qualities In the context of the medieval reception of Aristotelian…


(2,104 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J. | Versluis, Arthur
Novalis, (ps. of Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg), * 2 May 1772 (Oberwiederstedt), † 25 Mar 1801 (Weissenfels) A jurist, philosopher, mining engineer and famous Romantic poet, von Hardenberg was raised in a large family. His father, having gone through a religious crisis following the death of his first wife in 1769, raised his children in the spirit of Herrnhut → Pietism. From 1790 to 1794 von Hardenberg studied law, philosophy, history and mathematics at the Universities of Jena, where he got into contac…


(3,251 words)

Author(s): Brach, Jean-Pierre | Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
1. Introduction The idea that reality consists of multiple “levels” which in some manner mirror one another is extremely widespread in all traditional societies: it is basic to the various → divinatory arts, → magic, and → astrology; but can also be found e.g. in the architectural design of premodern villages, cities, temples and court complexes; in the ways that the orders of gods, angels or demons are imagined; in systems of → number symbolism; and in various cosmologies, including notions of th…

Jewish Influences

(11,826 words)

Author(s): Leicht, Reimund | Dan, Joseph | Kilcher, Andreas B. | Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Jewish Influences I: Antiquity The nature and extent of contacts between ancient Judaism and the assortment of sources commonly labelled “Gnostic” (or more recently “biblical demiurgical”, see Williams) is one of the most fiercely debated issues in Gnostic studies. This, however, is a relatively new phenomenon. The Church Fathers localized the origins of the Gnostic movement in Palestine (→ Simon Magus, Dositheus), but the adherence to a Gnostic sect was never seen as a relapse to something Jewish. For centuries, → Gnosticism was seen predominantly as a Christian heresy. Modern rese…


(8,671 words)

Author(s): Van den Doel, Marieke J.E. | Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
According to a tradition derived from Aristotle, the imagination (Greek phantasia; Latin: imaginatio) is a faculty of knowledge intermediary between the senses and the intellect or rational intelligence. Together with the “common sense” ( to krinon or sensus communis) and the memory it belongs to the so-called “interior senses”; but one also sometimes encounters it as equivalent to these different senses taken together. Aristotle says that phantasia derives from φῶς (light, or glow) and is primarily visually oriented. Its function is to transform sensory impre…

Intermediary Beings

(12,281 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den | Fanger, Claire | Brach, Jean-Pierre | Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Intermediary Beings I: Antiquity 1. Introduction The belief in angels, demons and other intermediary beings has become an important aspect of Western religious thought and imagination, in mainstream Christianity as well as in esoteric currents. Its emergence was mainly the result of the combination of Greek and Jewish ideas about good and evil spirits that have a direct influence on human life. Sometimes these beings are individually distinguished by name, but often they are thought to operate as name…


(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…