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

  • Wouter J. Hanegraaff
Part of the Knowledge and Space book series (KNAS, volume 1)

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Broek, R. van den (2005a). Hermes trismegistus I: Antiquity. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 474–478). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  2. Broek, R. van den (2005b). Hermetic literature I: Antiquity. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 487–499). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  3. Broek, R. van den (2005c). Hermetism. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 558–570). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  4. Buntz, H. (2005). Alchemy III: 12th/13th–15th century. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and Western esotericism (pp. 34–41). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  5. Copenhaver, B. P. (1990). Natural magic, hermeticism, and occultism in early modern science. In D. C. Lindberg & R. S. Westman (Eds.), Reappraisals of the scientific revolution (pp. 261–301). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Copenhaver, B. P. (Ed. & Trans.). (1992). Hermetica. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dan, J. (1997). The Christian kabbalah: Jewish mystical books and their Christian interpreters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Library.Google Scholar
  8. Faivre, A. (1973). L’ésotérisme au XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Seghers.Google Scholar
  9. Fanger, C., & Klaassen, F. (2005). Magic III: Middle ages. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 724–731). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  10. Ficino, M. (Trans.). (1471/1989). Liber de Potestate et Sapientia Dei, Pimander, Florence, Italy: Studio Per Edizioni Scelte (originally Treviso, Italy: Geraert van der Leye). Facsimile reproduction.Google Scholar
  11. Godwin, J. (1994). The theosophical enlightenment. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  12. Haage, B. D. (2005). Alchemy II: Antiquity—12th century. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 16–34). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  13. Hanegraaff, W. J. (1995). Empirical method in the study of esotericism. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 7(2), 99–129.Google Scholar
  14. Hanegraaff, W. J. (1996). New age religion and western culture: Esotericism in the mirror of secular thought. Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  15. Hanegraaff, W. J. (1998). On the construction of “esoteric traditions”. In A. Faivre & W. J. (Eds.), Western esotericism and the science of religion: Selected papers presented at the 17th Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, Mexico City, 1995 (pp. 11–61). Louvain, Belgium: Peeters.Google Scholar
  16. Hanegraaff, W. J. (2001). Beyond the Yates paradigm: The study of Western esotericism between counterculture and new complexity. Aries, 1(1), 5–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hanegraaff, W. J. (2004). The study of Western esotericism: New approaches to Christian and secular culture. In P. Antes, A. W. Geertz, & R. R. Warne (Eds.), New approaches to the study of religion: Vol. 1, Regional, critical, and historical approaches (pp. 489–519). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hanegraaff, W. J. (2005a). Occult/occultism. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 884–889). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  19. Hanegraaff, W. J. (2005b). Tradition. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 1125–1135). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  20. Hanegraaff, W. J. (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach. (2005c). Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism. Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  21. Hanegraaff, W.J. (forthcoming 2009). Altered States of Knowledge: The Attainment of Gnosis in the Hermetica. The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 3.Google Scholar
  22. Harvey, D. A. (2005). Beyond enlightenment: Occultism and politics in modern France. De Kalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Israel, J. (2001). Radical enlightenment: Philosophy and the making of modernity, 1650–1750. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kemper, H.-G. (1999). Aufgeklärter Hermetismus: Brockes’ Irdisches Vergnügen in Gott im Spiegel seiner Bibliothek. In M. Neugebauer-Wölk (Ed.), Aufklärung und Esoterik (pp. 140 – 169). Hamburg, Germany: Felix Meiner.Google Scholar
  25. Kilcher, A. (1998). Die Sprachtheorie der Kabbala als ästhetischen Paradigma: Die Konstruktion einer ästhetischen Kabbala seit der frühen Neuzeit. Stuttgart, Germany: J. B. Metzler.Google Scholar
  26. Laurant, J.-P. (1992). L’ésotérisme chrétien en France au XIXe siècle. Lausanne, Switzerland: L’Âge d’Homme.Google Scholar
  27. Lory, P. (2005). Hermetic literature III: Arab. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 529–533). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  28. Lucentini, P., & Perrone Compagni, V. (2005). Hermetic literature II: Latin Middle Ages. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 499–529). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  29. Neugebauer-Wölk, M. (Ed.). (1999). Aufklärung und Esoterik. Hamburg, Germany: Felix Meiner.Google Scholar
  30. Nock, A. D., & Festugière, A.-J. (Ed. & Trans.). (1991–1992). Corpus Hermeticum (2 vols). Paris: Les Belles Lettres. (Original work published 1946.).Google Scholar
  31. Owen, A. (2004). The place of enchantment: British occultism and the culture of the modern. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  32. Pekala, R. J., & Cardeña, E. (2000). Methodological issues in the study of altered states of consciousness and anomalous experiences. In E. Cardeña, S. J. Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence (pp. 47–82). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Quispel, G. (1992). De Hermetische Gnosis in de loop der eeuwen: Beschouwingen over de invloed van een Egyptische religie op de cultuur van het Westen. Baarn, The Netherlands: Tirion.Google Scholar
  34. Quispel, G. (Ed.). (2005). Gnosis: De derde component van de Europese cultuurtraditie. Deventer, The Netherlands: Ankh Hermes. (Original work published 1988.).Google Scholar
  35. Sarton, G. (1975). Introduction to the history of science (Vol. 1). New York: Krieger.Google Scholar
  36. Schmidt-Biggemann, W. (Ed.). (2003). Christliche Kabbala. [Pforzheimer Reuchlinschriften 10]. Ostfildern, Germany: Jan Thorbecke.Google Scholar
  37. Secret, F. (1985). Les Kabbalistes Chrétiens de la Renaissance (Rev. and expanded edition: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France: Arma Artis. (Original work published 1964.).Google Scholar
  38. Tart, C. T. (Ed.). (1972). Altered states of consciousness. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. (Original work published in 1969.).Google Scholar
  39. Thomas, K. (1971). Religion and the decline of magic. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.Google Scholar
  40. Thorndike, L. (1923). A history of magic and experimental science (Vols. 1–8). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Treitel, C. (2004). A science for the soul: Occultism and the genesis of the German modern Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  42. von Stuckrad, K. (2005). Astrology III: Middle Ages. In W. J. Hanegraaff (Ed.), in collaboration with A. Faivre, R. van den Broek, & J.-P. Brach, Dictionary of gnosis and western esotericism (pp. 119–128). Brill, England: Leiden.Google Scholar
  43. Walker, D. P. (1972). The ancient theology: Studies in Christian Platonism from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Westfall, R. (1980). Never at rest: A biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Yates, F. A. (1964). Giordano Bruno and the hermetic tradition. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  46. Zimmermann, R. C. (1969–1979). Das Weltbild des jungen Goethe: Studien zur hermetischen Tradition des Deutschen 18. Jahrhunderts (Vols. 1–2). Munich, Germany: Wilhelm Fink.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations