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About the Association for the Study of Esotericism

Association for the Study of Esotericism Ninth Biannual Conference

The University of California at Davis, May 14-17, 2020

Call for Papers

Esotericism and the Scientific Imagination

Scientific ideas have not just fostered secularity and religious decline, as Max Weber famously argued, they have also been used to help people believe in the existence of unseen, heavenly realms and recover imaginative spaces for the supernatural. In a similar way, religious beliefs are not inevitably antagonistic to science, but have shaped scientific theories and practices as we can see in the case of astrology, alchemy, and the various strands of esoteric thought that have influenced natural philosophers and theologians across the ages and globe. This did not end with the birth of modern science. Einstein, along with quantum mechanics, showed, for example, that nature behaved in confounding ways: clocks ticked more slowly the faster they traveled; events that were simultaneous to one observer were not to another; gravity caused time to slow down; space could be bent and distorted by large objects; energy and mass were interchangeable; and, perhaps most bewilderingly of all, quantum mechanics couldn’t be reconciled with General Relativity, which implied there were two sets of laws and mathematical equations, one for large and another for subatomic particles. Modern physics consequently brought back those “mysterious incalculable forces” Weber thought had been banished forever. This led to an explosion of popular metaphysical speculations dealing with free will, the mind/body problem, the mystery of consciousness, and the possibility of multiple coexisting universes in the work of many artists, writers, philosophers, and speculative scientists, not to mention sci-fi authors and devotees of New Age religions.

We invite papers and panel proposals dealing with the way esoteric ideas, theories, and practices have shaped the scientific imagination from the ancient to the modern world in both the East and West.

Our deadline for panel or paper proposal submission is 30 December, 2019.

If you wish to submit a paper proposal or a thematically focused panel proposal (with three presenters and short descriptions included) for review and possible presentation at the conference, please send email it to


No attachments, please: simply copy and paste your abstract into plain text email. Individual abstracts should be limited to one or two paragraphs, and must indicate academic affiliation and/or other academic qualifications. Independent scholars are welcome to submit proposals. Please note that our previous conferences were at maximum capacity, so it is best to submit your proposal sooner rather than later. We hope to post a preliminary list of accepted proposals early in 2020.

For more information on the ASE, see our website at www.aseweb.org

For further information check the conference homepage at  http://www.aseweb.org/

E-Mail:  ASEDavis2020@gmail.com

Keynote speakers will include Cathy Gutierrez, author of Plato’s Ghost, and The Occult in Nineteenth-Century America, Christopher McIntosh, author of Beyond the North Wind, and Peter Berbegal, author of Strange Frequencies


Dear Colleagues,

 The editors of Religions have asked me to guest edit a special issue of the journal on the topic of “Esotericism and the Scientific Imagination.”  This is an opportunity for conference attendees to submit their papers for publication.

Sincerely, Allison Coudert

Association for the Study of Esotericism


In May, 2002, the journal Esoterica hosted the First North American Symposium on the Study of Esotericism at Michigan State University. There, the invited participants created a new scholarly organization, the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE], along with a mission statement and a set of goals. This organization subsequently was incorporated in August, 2002, as a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The primary mission of this organization is to support excellence in scholarship and to foster communication among scholars who, though their work originates from a wide range of fields, find esotericism a common theme of their research.

Our Board includes Arthur Versluis (Michigan State University), President, Lee Irwin (College of Charleston) Vice President, Mel Draper (UC Davis) Treasurer, Secretary, M. E. Warlick (University of Denver).

Esotericism, Religion, and Nature illuminates the way that nature is understood by major esoteric figures and traditions. Taken together, these articles shed new light on the connections between humanity, nature, and religion. Authors include Joscelyn Godwin, Wouter Hanegraaff, Lee Irwin, Richard Smoley, Arthur Versluis, M. E. Warlick, and many others. The second in a series of volumes on Western esotericism, this book emerged from international academic conferences held by the Association for the Study of Esotericism.  In this groundbreaking collection, leading scholars in this emerging field explore how nature can be understood in a wide range of esoteric religious contexts. Included here are articles on subjects ranging from alchemy and panpsychism to music, Appalachian folk magic, and new religions.

Our third volume in the series Studies in Esotericism, Esotericism, Religion, and Politics was published in 2012.  In this groundbreaking collection, scholars explore how politics can be understood in a much wider range of esoteric religious contexts than is usually recognized. Included here are articles on subjects ranging across the modern era and from a broad geographical expanse, including Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, and North America. This is the first book to focus on how esotericism and politics intersect not only across the conventional spectrum, but also outside it. Taken together, these articles shed new light on the connections between politics and religion. Authors include Joscelyn Godwin, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Lee Irwin, Daniel McKanan, Arthur Versluis, M. E. Warlick, and many others.  The book can be purchased here.

Please visit the website of our sister organization, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE, www.esswe.org), for information about other academic events in this field.