Monday, June 12, 2006

Association for the Study of Esotericism Conference

I have just returned from the second Association for the Study of Esotericism national conference in Davis, California. As a practicing ritual magician, it is difficult to express how fantastic it is that esotericism is finally beginning to warrant serious consideration among academic scholars. Esotericism has had an enormous influence on the history and philosophy of Western civilization, but even ten years ago the mention of anything esoteric was met with dismissal by scholars of every subject from psychology to the humanities. Here is a link to the conference schedule, which was entitled "Esotericism, Art, and Imagination."

In a way it is fitting that the conference would be the first story posted on this blog. The intent behind this site is largely the same - to facilitate the discussion of the sorts of spiritual techniques and methods that are usually found in various esoteric traditions, along with their history and influences upon popular culture, history, and philosophy. ASE was founded with a similar objective, and their full mission statement may be found here.

One of the issues that tends to arise when practitioners and scholars get together is the so-called edic-emic split. Edic refers to the objective inquirer's perspective, whereas emic refers to the perspective of the practitioner involved in the subject being studied. Some investigators believe that the only way to ascertain the true nature of any subject is to observe it from the outside without becoming involved in it to prevent the biases inherent in the insider's perspective from dominating the conclusions of the work. On the other hand, others like myself believe that the purely objective approach is profoundly limited especially when addressing subjects that depend upon interior states of consciousness. The best approach, in my opinion, is to embrace both perspectives and that is exactly what ASE has appeared to have managed to do.

I also attended the first national convention in 2004, and this time around the papers presented were even better, which is high praise considering that they were excellent in 2004. There were about the same number of attendees, though I was pleasantly surprised to run into more members of my fraternal order, Ordo Templi Orientis, and most of the people that I really liked from the last conference were also present at this one. Also, I picked up a number of interesting ideas that will help me in putting together my next book.

All in all, I highly recommend the conference and other work of ASE. The next conference will be in 2008, and according to what I heard this last weekend it will be in Charleston, North Carolina. My thanks to everyone who made this conference possible, and to ASE for working to advance the study of esotericism in the academic world.

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