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Inaugural Conference of the ESSWE on "Constructing Tradition: Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism"

  • 2007-07-20
  • 2007-07-21
  • Tübingen, Germany
Many forms of early modern and modern esoteric knowledge claim to represent or restore an ancient, primordial or lost wisdom tradition as a "secret doctrine". The conceptualisation and realisation of such claims places a major emphasis on ideas of tradition and its transmission, either through oral traditions or the discovery and dissemination of sacred and mythic books. The questions of heritage and tradition, of origin and genealogy, are crucial to the foundation of any esoteric knowledge, whether in alchemy, astrology, magic, Kabbalah or Theosophy. Such knowledge legitimates itself through its origins, its ancestry and its transmission and may even seek to invent and construct its own tradition. It is this aspect of esoteric discourse that the inaugural conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) intends to engage. The title, “Means and Myths of Transmission”, refers to the more technical, material aspect of tradition, on the one hand, and to its mythical or philosophical aspects, on the other. Against this background, the conference will bring together various methodological approaches and perspectives that compare the traditions of esoteric knowledge with corresponding concepts and practices in religion, literature or science. This will offer fruitful perspectives in the analysis of Western esotericism and its complex role between various cultures of knowledge. Theory, myth and history may serve to illustrate the different accesses to this topic. The constitution and construction of esoteric knowledge and its transmission may be examined as theoretical concepts or as myths within the literature of the tradition itself, or in the actual historical practice of how esoteric groups bequeath their knowl-edge to posterity. Accordingly, one can distinguish a) theoretical concepts, b) myths, and c) the historical practices, strategies and procedures of transmission. 


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