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An Aries Special Issue

Together with Markus Altena Davidsen (Leiden University), I am setting up a special issue of Aries on “Esotericism and the Cognitive Science or Religion”. At this stage we are looking for abstracts from people who might be interested in contributing a full research article.

Please find details in the CfP, linked here and pasted below. Feel free to spread the word to anyone who might be interested in this project.

Call for Abstracts, Aries special issue on Esotericism and the Cognitive Science of Religion

(Edited by Egil Asprem and Markus Altena Davidsen)

The cognitive science of religion (CSR) and the academic study of Western esotericism have both made a significant impact on religious studies over the past two decades. The study of esotericism continues to deepen our understanding of the historical complexities of religion in the West, and has identified a number of blind-spots related to heterodox religion, radically experiential practices, and overlaps between “religion”, “magic”, and “science”.

Meanwhile, CSR is rapidly changing the way scholars think about and approach key processes of religious practice, adding important new experimental and analytic tools to the scholar’s toolbox. This special issue of Aries aims to explore the potential of bringing these two fruitful fields together. What happens when we apply CSR approaches to the empirical material studied by esotericism scholars? How can key areas of interest in the study of esotericism, such as the notion of (experiential) gnosis, correspondences, imagination, higher knowledge, rejected knowledge, magical thinking, secrecy, and initiation contribute to the development of new approaches in CSR? How can we think about ritual practices such as theurgy, divination, healing, and ceremonial magic in terms of CSR approaches to ritual? Moreover, how can we use CSR approaches to these issues to integrate the study of esotericism more firmly in the broader comparative study of religion?

We are looking to curate research articles that deal with these and related questions. We take an inclusive view of CSR, and are happy to consider approaches from e.g. personality- and social psychology. We are especially interested in hands-on approaches that demonstrate the use of CSR inspired methodology to esoteric subject matters. We look in particular for articles based on contemporary ethnographies, interview or experimental data, but are also open for articles that bring CSR to bear on historical sources. The important thing is that studies should be able to integrate cognitive and psychological perspectives with existing state-of-the-art scholarship on esotericism.

If you want to take part in this special issue, please send us an abstract of your proposed topic by June 15 2015. Please specify as far as possible the empirical scope of your proposed article, as well as the CSR approaches you plan to work with. Include a short bibliography of the key literature you intend to draw on. On the basis of received abstracts, we will invite authors to submit their completed articles for peer review. The deadline for receiving finished manuscripts will be February 1 2016.


Relevant subject matter includes but is not limited to:

  • New Age movement
  • Ritual magic
  • Channeling
  • Healing/holistic health
  • Correspondence thinking
  • Kabbalah / esoteric hermeneutics
  • Sex magic
  • Spiritualism
  • Neoshamanism
  • Contemporary paganism
  • Astrology
  • Alchemy
  • Western initiatory societies


Relevant CSR approaches include but are not limited to:

  • Epidemiological approaches to the spread of esoteric representations
  • Cognitive optimality theory (e.g., agency detection, promiscuous teleology, minimal counter-intuitiveness, theological correctness)
  • Cognitive ritual theory (e.g., ritual form hypothesis, two modes theory, cognitive resource depletion theory)
  • Embodied cognition
  • Neurocognitive, experimental, and psychological approaches to experiential practices
  • Personality and individual difference correlates for esoteric practitioners (e.g. positive schizotypy, absorption, hypnotizability)
  • Conceptual blending theory


Please email your proposed abstract to Egil Asprem ( and Markus Altena Davidsen ( If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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SAGE Publications is pleased to announce a new journal:

Critical Research on Religion is a peer-reviewed, international journal focusing on the development of a critical theoretical framework and its application to research on religion.

First issue to be published April 2013

We invite you to submit an article to this journal and encourage you to get your libraries to subscribe to it.

Benefits of this Journal

Critical Research on Religion provides:

* A unique venue for those engaging in critical research on religion not only in religious studies and theology but in the sub-disciplines of the other social sciences and humanities which focus on religion

* International and interdisciplinary journal scope – helping to set the direction for this new interdisciplinary critical discussion of religion

* High quality peer review provided via an international board of experts

* High visibility and increased usage – CRR will be hosted on SAGE Journals, powered by HighWire.

* Articles will sit alongside more than 50% of the world’s most cited journals, attracting more than 53 million users monthly.


Register now for free online access to the first volume of Critical Research on Religion.


About the Journal

Critical Research on Religion provides a common venue for those engaging in critical analysis in theology and religious studies, as well as for those who critically study religion in the other social sciences and humanities such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, and literature. 

A critical approach examines religious phenomena according to both their positive and negative impacts. It draws on methods including but not restricted to the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Marxism, post-structuralism, feminism, psychoanalysis, ideological criticism, post-colonialism, ecocriticism, and queer studies.

The journal encourages submissions of theoretically guided articles on current issues as well as those with historical interest using a wide range of methodologies including qualitative, quantitative, and archival. It publishes articles, review essays, book reviews, thematic issues, symposia, and interviews.


For further information, please see:

SAGE Press Release

Journal Homepage


We look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Roland Boer, Jonathan Boyarin and Warren S. Goldstein

For further inquires, please contact:




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John Locke


 Jordana Rosenberg
Critical Enthusiasm: Capital Accumulation and the Transformation of Religious Passion
Oxford University Press, April 2011

The Atlantic world of the long eighteenth century was characterized by two major, interrelated phenomena: the onset of capital accumulation and the infusion of traditions of radical religious rapture into Enlightenment discourses. In exploring these cross-pollinations, Critical Enthusiasm shows that debates around religious radicalism are bound to the advent of capitalism at its very root: as legal precedent, as financial rhetoric, and as aesthetic form. To understand the period thus requires that we not only contextualize histories of religion in terms of the economic landscape of early modernity, but also recast the question of secularization in terms of the contradictions of capitalism.

Critical Enthusiasm contributes to new directions of scholarship in literary and legal history, secularization studies, and economic criticism. It is unique in producing a model for literary and cultural study that is simultaneously attuned to economic and religious forces. By approaching the history of capitalism through religious debates, Critical Enthusiasm discloses significant intersections of aesthetic form and of financial flows that have been hitherto ignored.

Through chapters that highlight moral philosophy, religious prophesy, early modern statute law, poetry, and political theory, Rosenbergshows that the contested nature of enthusiastic rapture is crucial to understanding the major institutional transformations of early modernity. These transformations–colonial plunder, the rise of finance, the administration of racialized labor, and the legal reform that justified such practices–shaped the period; they also laid the foundation for our contemporary world.


Jordana Rosenberg is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies
Volume 2010.1 – “Post-anarchism Today”

Edited by Duane Rousselle & Süreyyya Evren

We have been witnessing a growing interest in the development of a distinctly ‘anarchist studies’ approach to scholarship. Along with this, divergent disciplines are beginning to take anarchist scholarship more seriously. We are beginning to get the sense that, as anarchists, our work is rapidly coming to be defined as the radical position within various ‘schools’ of radical studies. Within this shift, there has been an expansion within the anarchist rubric toward more vibrant and diverse contributions: non-anarchists are beginning to adopt anarchistic philosophies, anarchists are beginning to appropriate non-anarchist philosophies as their own by reading them through their own selective lens, and anarchist scholars are beginning to draw upon any number of sources and methodologies for their inspiration. As a result, the anarcho-sphere has been witnessing adventurous and refreshing new debates.

We hope to offer a platform for the documentation of these recent developments in anarchist thought and to inspire others to see anarchism in all of its brilliant manifestations by linking these developments under a common tendency. We are inspired by Jesse Cohn’s invitation to an ‘anarchist cultural studies’ wherein he has suggested that “anarchists have pretty much always been interested in and actively theorizing about and investigating the kinds of things that now get called ‘cultural studies’” — we are pleased to offer the space in which you, our friends and comrades, can further explore these investigations.

The most difficult part of this project was simply to begin. But we are happy to share with you all that we have passed that part! The first issue of ADCS, volume 2010.1, “Post-anarchism Today,” includes articles from geology, film studies, sociology and religious studies. The publication of this issue coincides with the release of our new book “Post-anarchism: A Reader” (Pluto Press) and may be thought to include materials that expand upon the discussions included therein.

You may pre-order hard copies of ADCS 2010.1 for yourself or for your (campus and radical) libraries by visiting:

However, you may also read the first issue on our website at the end of the month in a typographically accurate PDF format and print this out to share with your friends and colleagues by visiting:

Our promise to you: we will always keep our journal free and easily accessible online using the highest quality print-ready formats.

We should state at the outset: our journal aims to disrupt the compulsion toward the commodification of radical knowledge. In this regard, our journal will always be freely available to read, download, print, and distribute from our website. Our publication uses open source software (the Open Journal Systems web platform) and fonts, and aims to contribute to the open source movement.

We invite you to pre-order our journal and to watch our website for updates. We also encourage submissions for future issues to

Thanks goes out to the North American Anarchist Studies Network for providing the needed infrastructure for this project to get off of the ground – we consider ourselves to be working within the Cultural Studies working group of the network and invite others to join the discussions at

For Anarchy,
Süreyyya Evren
Duane Rousselle

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