Western Esotericism is an academic field of research, scholarship, and education that focuses on the history of European and Middle Eastern Esotericism.

As an academic field, the study of Western Esotericism was greatly influenced by Michel Foucault and the English scholar Frances Yates, with works like Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition of 1964. In the 1970s a specific research institute was established at the University of Amsterdam, now led by Wouter Hanegraaff, with further institutes established at the Sorbonne in Paris by Antoine Faivre, and the University of Exeter in England, led by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Other universities pursue the study of these topics as part of History or other faculties.


Universities that teach the subject include:

Specific degrees that can be granted include:

  • MA in Western Esotericism from University of Exeter, UK.


University courses in Western Esotericism may cover some or all of these subjects: alchemy, astrology, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, Christian Kabbalah, Hermetic Qabalah, Kabbalah, and numerology.

Academic legitimacy

Studying such subjects as astrology at universities of good reputation may at first seem strange, but it should be noted that degrees in Western Esotericism usually focus on the history of esotericist currents. The aim of research in Western Esotericism is to discover the interactions between esotericism and society at large and to study the history and spread of esotericist currents and movements. One could also say that since universities already teach theology and comparative religion, it makes perfect sense to teach the history of esotericism as well.[1]


  1. See links to institutions below

See also

External links