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  • 2023-07-10 00:21 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    To launch the research program for the newly formed Dark Arts Research Group: Studies in Gothic, Horror and the Occult, 1750-Present in the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies at the University of Copenhagen, there will be a two-day hybrid conference between 22 November and 23 November 2023 titled: ‘Occultism and Popular Culture in Europe.’

    The aim is to explore the many ways that horror, gothic and occult topics have been communicated, presented, and packaged for broad audiences from the late eighteenth century to today. We are especially interested in the ways different kinds of media technology, ranging from print and woodcut illustrations to photography and film have shaped conceptions of horror, gothic and the occult.

    We are delighted to have two fantastic keynote speakers lined up for the event: Mathias Clasen, Aarhus University; and Richard Noakes, University of Exeter.

    For more information please click here:

  • 2023-07-04 19:26 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)


    Devil 2024 Conference

    15-18 May 2024

    University of King’s College,

    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

    Keynote Speakers

    Francesca Stavrakopoulou  University of Exeter, UK

    W. Scott Poole College of Charleston, US


    Keynote Panel, “the Satanic Renaissance”

    Joseph Laycock, Texas State University

    Ross Blotcher, co-host of “Oh No, Ross and Carrie”

    Julie Exline, Case Western University

    Michelle Brock, Washington and Lee University

     The Devil 2024 explores the nature, significance, and operation of demonism and demonization across the western tradition. The conference will bring together scholars interested in the social and cultural construction of the devil and the impact of demonism across different chronological periods and from diverse methodological backgrounds. It aims to foster interdisciplinary dialogue that addresses challenging questions about how notions of the demonic are shaped by cultural priorities and anxieties, by professional discerners and the media, and by discourses of fear and safety.

    “The Devil 2024” will investigate why these images repeat through the ages and why they continue to have still have resonance in the modern world.

    The Programme Committee welcomes proposals for 20-minute papers, for panels (generally consisting of three papers), and workshops or round-tables dealing with any aspect of demonism and its manifestation in the western tradition.

    Themes may include but are not limited to:

    • Binaries and contrarieties
    • Colonialism and demonism
    • Constructions and reconstructions of the demonic
    • Demonic and authority
    • Demonisation and its application
    • Demonism and the pursuit of knowledge
    • Demon possession
    • Demons and panics
    • Demons and the environment
    • Devil, exclusion and social cohesion
    • Devil, perception and cognition
    • Devil in the media and popular culture
    • Diagnosing, engaging and challenging the demonic
    • Gender, power and social order
    • Inversions and subversions
    • Representations of the devil

    Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be submitted through our online submission portal at by 15 October 2023.


    Halifax (pop. 500,000) is the largest city in Atlantic Canada and is the capital of the province of Nova Scotia. It is serviced by direct flights from Boston, New York, London, Montreal, and a number of other major North American and European cities. It has a range of services and attractions and has become a leading regional centre for dining and entertainment. The temperature in May generally ranges from 7C (44F) to 15C (59F).


    Programme Committee: Michelle D. Brock (W&L Univ.), Peter Dendle (Penn State, Mont Alto), Sarah Hughes (Temple), Vera Kirk (Univ. of Malta), Kathryn Morris (Univ. of King’s College), Richard Raiswell (Univ. of Prince Edward Island), David R. Winter (Brandon Univ.).

    For more information, please visit us at or contact us at

    Richard Raiswell

    Dept. of History,

    Univ. of PEI

    550 University Ave.,

    Charlottetown, PEI

    C1A 4P3


    Fellow, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies,

    Victoria University in the Univ. of Toronto.

  • 2023-03-31 13:22 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Dear ESSWE Members,

    This is a friendly reminder that early bird registration for ESSWE9 at Malmö University closes at 23.59 CET on April 15th.,cultureandidentity/esswe9

  • 2023-03-15 15:15 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)


    Organised by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Andreas Kilcher

    The Simulations of the Unseen Conference will investigate the shifting meanings of “simulation” from an interdisciplinary perspective with contributions from the histories of art, religion, philosophy, science, and technology. The key theme the event explores is how unseen worlds are modelled and proliferated. The basic format consists of lectures by senior scholars, followed by question-and-answer sessions led by doctoral student respondents. Please visit the conference websites for lecture abstract and further information.

    Registration is mandatory. Register before May 1, 2023.

    After the registration deadline, all registered conference participants will receive information on the venues and the book of abstracts, including the full conference schedule, by e-mail.

    If you have any question write us.

    The conference is supported by Swiss National Science Foundation as part of the SNSF project "Scientification and Aestheticization of 'Esotericism' in the long 19th century".


    Thursday, May 11

    18:15 – 18:30 Welcome & Introduction by Andreas Kilcher

    18:30 – 19:45 John Tresch (Warburg Institute): Mapping the Modern Cosmos, Seen and Unseen

    19:45 Apéro

    Friday, May 12

    9:00 – 9:15 Welcome & Introduction by Chloë Sugden and Jonas Stähelin

    9:15 – 10:45 Maria Avxentevskaya (MPIWG Berlin)
    Simulation for Proof and Persuasion in the Experimental Practices of the Early Royal Society

    10:45 – 11:15 Coffee break

    11:15 – 12:45 Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University)
    Thelma Moss, Aura Photographer

    12:45 – 14:15 Lunch break

    14:15 – 15:45 Philip Ursprung (ETH Zurich)
    Simulations of the “Inner Design”: Franz Junghuhn’s Volcanoes in the mid 19th century

    15:45 – 16:15 Coffee break

    16:15 – 17:45 Judith Siegmund (Zurich University of the Arts)
    Simulation as a General Form of Knowledge and its Relationship to Artistic Action Today

    Saturday, May 13

    9:00 – 10:30 Simone Natale (University of Turin)

    Simulating Sociality in Machines

    10:30 – 11:00 Coffee break

    11:11 – 12:30 Isabel Millar (Newcastle University)

    Post-Conceptual Art: A Pataphysical Object

    12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break

    13:30 – 15:00 Katrin Solhdju (University of Mons)

    Simulation of Disease: Pathology, Delinquency, or an Act of Contestation?

    15:00 – 15:15 Coffee break

    15:15 – 16:45 Monika Dommann (University of Zurich)
    Simulation in the TV Age. “Die Welt am Draht” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1973)

    16:45 Closing remarks by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Andreas Kilcher


    The meaning of both the term and the concept of “simulation” is bound up in an oscillating tension between depiction and deception. Contemporary scientific practice relies on models and simulations to stage realities beyond the limits of our ordinary senses. Scientific simulations enable the prediction of future events and the perception of their trajectories, such as viral spreads, economic upheavals and changes in climate. Yet simulations, spanning from simple graphic illustrations to highly complex computer-generated environments, should also be met with suspicion. Jean Baudrillard famously cautioned against the destabilizing effects that simulations can have on reality. In a world oversaturated by simulacra and mass spectacle, separating fact from fiction, the signs of the real from the real, is a precarious pursuit. Simulation, he writes, entails the generation of hyperreality: the production by models of a real without origin.

    This conference is not, however, premised on Baudrillard’s diagnosis. Nor do we wish to praise simulations as instances of linear technical progress, or approach them as products of the digital era alone. Rather, we believe that the simulation, both theoretically and historically, is best understood as an ambivalent tool for revelation, yet also riddle and ruse. We seek to engage with, rather than eliminate or unmask this duality, expanding discussions to include the long nineteenth century, where simulation as a term took on manifold often conflicting meanings.

    Two pivotal nineteenth-century scientific developments contributed to destabilizing the real. First, aided by various technical apparatuses, areas such as chemistry and physics envisioned an invisible world of ethereal undulations, electrical discharges, magnetic forces and subatomic particles. Second, sense physiology showed that human sense perception had little to do with the objective world, but was rather determined by internal physiological processes. These two factors contributed to a growing distrust in the accuracy of human vision, as mechanical recording and measurement devices that registered ever subtler spheres of reality were privileged. The reality to which these devices allowed access was increasingly mediated. This process raises a series of interesting epistemological questions regarding the problem of simulation: How are hypotheses derived from a plurality of technically produced images, representing sections of the world invisible to the human eye? Crucially, how are facts distinguished from artifacts in the absence of a visible referent? How does one translate measurable facts, which are at the same time technical artifacts, into scientific fictions or robust theories?

    The epistemic uncertainties arising from this multiplication of the invisible become strikingly apparent when one considers the emergence of occultism that ran parallel to this process. While many contemporaries viewed science’s venture into the unseen with despair, occultists reveled in the new possibilities that increasingly simulated worlds invited. Accessing the invisible scientifically held the promise that invisible objects which had hitherto belonged to a speculative, transcendental beyond could now be naturalized and made visible. They could be simulated as “occult knowledge” with the newly acquired methods and techniques of science.

    Fin de siècle discourses on hypnosis reveal another instance in which the epistemological implications of simulations were investigated. Known as the “simulation problem,” psychologists and physicians working with hypnosis struggled to determine whether the hypnotic state could be separated from a simulated one. Psychologists questioned whether a subject could convincingly feign hypnosis, deceiving even the most experienced hypnotists. Although generally acknowledged in treatises on hypnotism of the period, the emergence and consequences of this problem were mostly downplayed, as the matter exposed the limits of the male “medical gaze,” threatening psychology’s claim to scientific objectivity.

    Investigations into the simulation of hidden phenomena also interweave with art history. Art objects have historically interacted with occult paradigms to generate productive ambivalences and enchantments. Occultism has cultivated an experimental epistemic uncertainty in art – a visual vocabulary of claimed occult knowledge has continued to circulate through certain image-objects. Modern artists and esotericists have experimented with various aesthetic approaches, attempting to positivize the occult cosmologies otherwise locked in one’s mind. Occult paradigms participated in the development of art movements of the fin de siècle, for example, Belgian symbolist painting. Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), Jean Delville (1867-1953), and Félicen Rops (1833-1898) sought to aestheticize hidden realms of experience through mystical imagery replete with arcane iconography. They rejected realism in painting, portraying a syncretic, intuitive inner life. Their works transcend the mundane to depict higher spiritual realities and incite visionary states in viewers. Aligning with the epistemological dilemmas that scientists face, artist-esotericists seek to simulate and thus enact the experience of occult illumination.

    As this sweeping history reveals, the topic of simulation traverses historical subdisciplines, foregoing clear-cut boundaries between science and non-science. Scientists, artists, and occultists alike possess relevant knowledge of the ambiguity, treachery and duplicity involved in simulation; of the devices and deceptions involved in sensitive visual description. Simulations lie between the visible and the invisible, representation and the irrepresentable, idea and image, form and matter. They can be sites of illuminating microcosmic and macrocosmic visualisation, yet also beguilement, error and betrayal, which we look forward to exploring through the Simulations of the Unseen conference.

  • 2023-03-08 16:44 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The application for travel bursaries for this year's ESSWE conference in Malmö is now open. The first deadline is March 31. If funds are still available after applications for the first deadline have been assessed, a second call will be announced for April.

    Please find the application form and information on how to apply on the Bursaries page.

  • 2023-02-28 12:15 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Please read the full call for papers here:

    Modern Theosophy is renowned for its reception of ancient Asian traditions, but the Theosophical movement and related esoteric currents have also enthusiastically reinvented ancient Egyptian, Ptolemaic, and Hellenistic traditions. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Theosophical interest in the ancient world was part of a larger movement. Egypt was eagerly embraced as a powerful topic in art, fashion, and literature, and Egyptology emerged as an academic discipline. Theosophy and related esoteric traditions did not stand on the outskirts of these expressions; but formulated their perspectives in a dialectical relationship with broader trends and vice-versa. Occasionally, the receptions, conceptions, relationships, and entanglements were so pronounced that it was difficult to clearly distinguish between Egyptology, Egyptomania, and Egyptosophy. During the same period of time, there was a renewed and continued interest in the ancient world, ancient philosophies, ancient mythology, and ancient religious traditions, which constituted an integral aspect of both Theosophy and the ‘occult revival’ at large.

    Key-Note Speakers:

    – Professor Henrik Bogdan

    The Lure and Romance of Ancient Egypt: John Yarker, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Freemasonry

    – Professor Eleanor Dobson

    Egyptians on Mars: Science, Science Fiction and the Theosophical Imagination at the Fin de Siècle (online key-note lecture)

    Conference Committee:

    – Conference Chair: Prof. Tim Rudbøg (Associate professor, Science of Religion, director of the Copenhagen Centre for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism, University of Copenhagen);

    – Prof. James Santucci (Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at California State University, Fullerton);

    – Paulina Gruffman (PhD candidate in History of Religions, Lund University, Sweden);

    – Erica Georgiades (MRes Religious Experience Cand, University of Wales Trinity Saint David; PgD Merit Ancient Religions UWTSD; BA, Hons, Philosophy and Psychological Studies OU).

    Please read the full call for papers here:

  • 2023-02-07 09:26 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    This conference is organised by Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities in collaboration with Dr. Giuliano D’Amico, Associate Professor at the University of Oslo and director of the research network Esotericism and Aesthetics in the Nordic Countries, and Dr. Marco Pasi, Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents.

    The osmosis between esoteric/occult and artistic discourse, which scholars have termed “occulture”, has mainly been studied from a national perspective and drawing upon case studies from the last 60 years. Such lack of comparative knowledge and studies is somewhat surprising if one takes into account the impact of esoteric and occult materials from a wider “South” (including not only Southern Europe, but also Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin) that has made its way in Northern Europe since at least the end of the 19th century, focusing, but not limited to, Sufism, Egyptosophy and Freemasonry, or, conversely, about the continuous forms of inspiration that Nordic alternative spirituality has had on artistic production in Southern Europe (e.g. with the proliferation of Nordic paganism in occultural discourse). The proposed conference aims at filling this scholarly gap, open up avenues of research and discussing new ways of approaching and conceptualizing occultural phenomena with a North-South perspective as a starting point. We understand “North” and “South” as including, respectively, the Nordic, Baltic, German and English-speaking countries in Europe, and Southern European, Mediterranean, and African countries/areas.


  • 2023-02-06 11:17 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    This advanced summer programme provides a venue for enthusiasts of ‘othered knowledge’ to take a deep dive into the study of esotericism and the occult. Participants will gather at the University of Amsterdam and join experts at the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, the world’s leading institution for academic research and teaching in esotericism, to broaden their knowledge in a wide variety of topics.

    Students will explore important movements in esotericism in the past, as well as how various traditions reverberate in the present. Making use of flexible yet rigorous scholarly frameworks, participants will encounter various traditions (from occultism and alchemy to gnosticism and psychedelic culture), diving into primary texts as well as film, music, and other forms of cultural expression.

    Programme website: Arcane Worlds: New Frontiers in the Study of Esotericism | Housing and scholarships available | Starts in: July | Duration: 3 weeks | Early admission deadline: 1 February 2023 | Regular admission deadline: 15 March 2023 | Questions? Email:

  • 2023-01-26 12:47 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    The ESSWE Board welcomes applications for organizing the Tenth Biennial International ESSWE Conference, to be held in 2025. The application should include a description of the host institution, a preliminary budget, a suggested theme for the conference, and CV of the applicant/s. The application should be sent to the ESSWE Secretary Henrik Bogdan ( no later than June 1, 2023.

    Henrik Bogdan

    Secretary of the ESSWE

  • 2022-12-13 11:55 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

    Organisers: Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies and the Copenhagen Centre for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism

    Venue: Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

    Deadline for abstracts: 1st of February, maximum 250 words

    This 2-day conference will explore the ways that Buddhist modernism and the spiritual movements of the fin de siècle (as exemplified by the Theosophical Society), both reacting to and enacting the dynamics of colonialism, continue to transform spiritual and ecological movements within and beyond the 21st century.

    We invite papers that explore questions such as:

    • How are the legacies of Buddhist modernism and esoteric movements still active in modern environmentalist discourse?
    • In what ways are the kinds of dualisms or oppositions active within the ideas of the fin de siècle, such as spiritualism/materialism and evolution/reversion, embedded within or resisted by contemporary environmental movements?
    • How have Buddhism and spiritual movements been influenced by changing ecological conditions and understandings of the planet? By such phenomena as biodiversity loss, pollution, and the climate crisis?
    • Could a critical return to esoteric source materials from the fin de siècle provide fresh understandings or insights into the current ecological crises?

    If you are interested in contributing to this conference, please send your abstract (max. 250 words) and author details to by 1st of February 2022.

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