The Western Esoteric Traditions

A Historical Introduction  By Nicholas Goodrick- Clarke (Oxford University Press, USA) £19.99

Professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism at Exeter University. He is also a scholar of German and may be known to readers of Swedenborg as the translator of Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason, Ernst Benz’s seminal biography. In this work, Goodrick-Clarke provides an invaluable insight into the history of Western esotercisim – and Swedenborg’s place within its multiple and interwoven traditions. Each chapter examines a different tradition, from the Ancient Hellenistic Period, through to the Neoplatonism and Gnosticism emerging during the early Christian era, through to Jabob Boehme and theosophy, to Swedenborg and more recently the analytic psychology of Gustav Jung. The author’s approach is broad and consciously contextual. His chapter on Swedenborg is concise and would provide a brilliant introduction for a newcomer to Swedenborg’s ideas. Goodrick-Clarke explains how Swedenborg’s esotericism was distinguished from the wider tradition by its roots in Enlightenment science, rationalism and Protestant pietism. Historically, these were often secularizing influences but in Swedenborg’s case, they helped to define and also justify his mystical theology.

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