HRVB0103FU Esoteric Traditions: across religion, science and philosophy in European history

Volume 2020/2021

Studieordning for det centrale fag på bachelorniveau i Religionsvidenskab, 2015

Studieordning for det gymnasierettede tilvalg på bachelorniveau i Religionsvidenskab, 2015

Fagstudieordning for BA i Religionsvidenskab, 2019

Fagstudieodning for BA tilvalg i Religionsvidenskab, 2019

Fagstudieordning for BA-sidefag i Religionsvidenskab, 2019

Fagstudieordning for KA tilvalg i Religionsvidenskab, 2019


This course will explore Europe’s colorful landscape from antiquity to our present time with a focus on the religious ideas and traditions that throughout time, have been categorized as either ‘esoteric’, ‘magical’, ‘occult’, ‘mystical’ ‘irrational’ or as pure ‘superstition’, such as kabbalah, Hermeticism, alchemy, astrology, Platonism, Theosophy, occult philosophy, and ideas and traditions related to various secret societies.

The aim of the course is to analyze the historical, cultural and discursive mechanisms behind the construction of categories such as ‘the occult’ and ‘magic’ and to read these traditions and ideas into their larger historical and philosophical contexts.

Based on current research within the field, this course will historically focus on the pluralistic European religious landscape and on the role of the esoteric traditions in the many exchanges and debates that have taken place between the major religious traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. The influence of and influence on the developments in science and philosophy will also be discussed, as well as the relationship between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, reuse of ideas from antiquity, and the continued influence of the pagan religions. This course will also examine the specific religious beliefs, knowledge types, polemical discourses and practices that have characterized esoteric traditions in their interaction with other traditions.

This module allows you to write your exam essays in a variety of relevant topics and addresses students at BA, MA and PhD levels.

Learning Outcome

BA 2015-studieordning
Valgfrit område (aktivitetskode HRVB00061E)
Valgfrit område med sprogudprøvning (fagelementkode HRVB00081E)

BA Gymnasierettet tilvalg, 2015-ordning:
Valgfrit område med sprogudprøvning (aktivitetskode HRVB10121E)

BA 2019-studieordning
Valgfrit område (aktivitetskode HRVB00151E)

Valgfrit område med sprogudprøvning (aktivitetskode HRVB00171E)

BA-sidefagsordning, 2019-ordning
Valgfrit område med sprogudprøvning (aktivitetskode HRVB10151E)

BA Tilvalg 2019-studieordning
Valgfrit område (aktiviteskode HRVB10231E)

KA Tilvalg 2019-studieordning
Frit valgt emne (aktivitetskode HRVK13001E)


Essential background literature, all available online, include:

Goodrick-Clarke, N. (2008). The Western esoteric traditions: a historical introduction. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stuckrad, K. (2010). Locations of knowledge in medieval and early modern Europe, esoteric discourse and Western identities (Brill's studies in intellectual history v. 186). Leiden & Boston: Brill.

Rudbøg, Tim. (2013 & 2020). The Academic Study of Western Esotericism. Vols. 1 + 2. Copenhagen: H.E.R.M.E.S.’ Academic Press.

Hanegraaff, W. (2012). Esotericism and the academy, rejected knowledge in western culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Magee, G. (2016). The Cambridge handbook of western mysticism and esotericism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Copenhaver, Brian (2015). Magic in Western Culture, From Antiquity to the Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Other literature will be available online in Absalon

The course is composed of classes, lectures, discussions, supervision, source-work.
This international course is in English and will be available online as well as in real-time. It allows you to write an essay in a variety of relevant topics and addresses students at all levels.
Distance learning participation is possible. Writing your exam essays in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and English is also possible.
Course literature will be available online in Absalon and at the Royal Danish Library.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 84
  • Preparation
  • 328,5
  • Total
  • 412,5
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)