Enlightenment and Esotericism – Ways into Modernity
International Conference of the DFG Research Group
The Enlightenment in the referential Context of modern Esotericism (Die Aufklärung im Bezugsfeld neuzeitlicher Esoterik)
Interdisciplinary Center for European Enlightenment Studies
Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung (IZEA)
Halle, Germany, March 9-12, 2010
Following the conferences “Enlightenment and Esotericism” (Aufklärung und Esoterik) in 1997 at the Herzog-August Library in Wolfenbüttel and “Esotericism in the Enlightenment” (Esoterik in der Aufklärung) in 2006 at the IZEA, now a third conference on this subject will pose the question: To what extent can the multi-faceted relationship between Enlightenment and Esotericism in the eighteenth century be considered as constitutive for Modernity?
The influence of the Enlightenment on Modernity has been much postulated and is an intrinsic constituent in the self-validation of Modernity. At the same time it is clear that Esotericism has also played an important role, right up to the present day. Yet what has been little known up to now is just what significance the mutual reciprocity between Enlightenment and Esotericism in the eighteenth century (and the resulting transformations from this relationship) have had.
Esotericism, as an aggregate of different historical streams of thought, can be identified through the reception of Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism and Cabbala, as well as through the assimilation of the so-called old sciences of Alchemy, Magic and Astrology from the Renaissance on. During the course of the Early Modern period, related movements such as Paracelsianism, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy and Freemasonry developed out of these streams of thought. As the first two conferences have shown, these various esoteric currents continued to have an impact during the Enlightenment, whether they were negated, integrated or transformed.
What role then did the Enlightenment play in the rise of “modern” Esotericism? What about the Enlightenment itself, which developed its profile not least by engaging with esoteric streams of thought? Through which paths – whether through continual or interrupted transmission – did the resulting manifestations of the encounter between the Enlightenment and Esotericism arrive at the later Modern period? What accounts for the affinity between Modernity and the artistic-literary, philosophical, theological, scientific or historical-political expressions of the exchange between Enlightenment and Esotericism?
The conference Enlightenment and Esotericism – Ways into Modernity would like to dedicate itself to these questions. Contributions are encouraged from all history-oriented disciplines which investigate the major issues, which reflect on methodical approaches to answering the questions posed or which offer concrete case studies for discussion. The main focus will be on the “long eighteenth century,” that is, on topics dealing with the age of the Enlightenment itself as well as on topics addressing the transition into the first decades after 1800. Nonetheless contributions which treat the nineteenth or twentieth centuries exclusively are also welcome if they take the main theme of the conference into consideration.
Proposals are requested by March 31, 2009 and should include a lecture title, a short abstract of one-half to a full page and a brief vita. Please address all submissions to:
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