Reason, Faith, and Gnosis: Potentials and Problematics of a Typological Construct

  • Wouter J. Hanegraaff
Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-5555-3_7

Part of the Knowledge and Space book series (KNAS, volume 1)
Cite this paper as:
Hanegraaff W.J. (2008) Reason, Faith, and Gnosis: Potentials and Problematics of a Typological Construct. In: Meusburger P., Welker M., Wunder E. (eds) Clashes of Knowledge. Knowledge and Space, vol 1. Springer, Dordrecht

This chapter contains an introduction to the academic study of Western esotericism, a new field of research that has been developing rapidly since the 1990s, and focuses on the role of “gnosis” in that context. Against an older approach associated chiefly with Gilles Quispel, the author argues that the triad of “reason—faith—gnosis” should not be used as a description of actual historical currents but that it may be useful as an analytical typology applicable to any kind of claimed knowledge. Whereas the first type of knowledge (“reason”) is defined as both communicable and verifiable/falsifiable, and the second type (“faith”) as communicable but not verifiable/falsifiable, gnosis is claimed to be a superior type knowledge that is neither communicable nor verifiable/falsifiable. The author argues that an adequate understanding of this third type requires cross-disciplinary methodologies that apply anthropological and psychological theories of “trance” or “altered states of consciousness” to the analysis of historical sources.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wouter J. Hanegraaff
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities, Research Group of Hermetic PhilosophyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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