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Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esoteric Traditions

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742558366
ISBN-10: 9780742558366
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Arthur Versluis' prolific writings on Western esoteric thought continue to shape and define the field. His current work, Magic and Mysticism, provides lucid insight into a scarcely known tradition that continues to exert a tremendous influence on the way we see our lives, and beyond. The breadth of his coverage alone is a reason to read the book. (David Appelbaum, SUNY New Paltz)

Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esoteric Traditions is an ambitious recasting of the gnostic insight that has inspired and influenced countless writers through the ages. Arthur Versluis, one of the generation's more prolific scholars of esotericism, has produced a volume that is both comprehensive in scope and exacting in detail. Moving beyond previous studies that separate mysticism and magic, Versluis argues that these two products of human imagination, which are not entirely reducible to rational analysis, need to be juxtaposed, as they help us define the larger spectrum of the esoteric. I have little doubt that this work will be of great interest to specialist and non-specialist alike, to historians of mysticism and esotericism in particular, and to students of comparative religion more generally. (Elliot R. Wolfson, New York University)

Persecuted throughout the ages by orthodox Christians and marginalized by scholars until recently, esotericism and esotericists have finally come into their own. In this succinct, deftly organized, and lucidly written account, Arthur Versluis presents a history of western esotericism from antiquity to the present. His book will appeal to anyone interested in the 'third' or 'gnostic' component of western thought, which provided and still provides a middle path between faith and reason for those striving for spiritual enlightenment. (Alison Coudert, University of California, Davis)

A remarkably clear, erudite, and concise guide to a field that has been far too long neglected. Versluis manages to compress an enormous amount of research and insight into a short space. This will be an extremely useful tool for scholars and seekers alike. (Richard Smoley, coauthor of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions)

Versluis brings a delightful balance between scholarly attention to detail and a warm understanding of the subject and the characters involved. Magic and Mysticism is joy to read and ideal for anyone who wants to understand the importance of esotericism on Western culture and why it is still important to us today. (Mark Stavish, Institute for Hermetic Studies, author of The Path of Alchemy)

Arthur Versluis has written a wonderfully concise overview and analysis of Western esotericism. The scholarship is wide-ranging and up to date, yet the tone is quite readable and not overly academic. (Jay Kinney, former editor and publisher of Gnosis)

This newest work by an outstanding American scholar of Western Esotericism offers an integrative interpretation of three critical themes: gnosis, magic, and mysticism. Surveying the intertwined histories of these themes, the author provides a multitude of insights on the creative interactions between various historical schools, individuals, and historic periods, all set against the social dynamics of anti-esoteric and heresiophobic rhetoric. This is a crucial, transdiciplinary review that brings new definition and nuance to the study of Western Esotericism. In addition, the section on Theosophy give new scope and depths to that topic and shows its formative influence on contemporary esoteric thought and practice. Highly recommended. (Lee Irwin, College of Charleston)

About the Author

Arthur Versluis is the founder and president of the Association for the Study of Esotericism and editor of the journal Esoterica. He is the author of many books and is a professor of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures at Michigan State University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (May 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780742558366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742558366
  • ASIN: 0742558363
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mr. Stephen A. Orzel on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A new field of acamdemic study has emerged in the past decade: The Western Esoteric Tradition. "Magic and Mysticism" is a true introduction to this field. By following a chronological path, it also tells the story of Western civilization from the perspective of magic and mysticism. The chapters clearly demarcate major movements and periods, beginning with the Egyptians and Greeks, on to the Gnostics, Kabbalists, and Hermeticists, then to medieval folk magic and renaissance Alchemy, followed by early-modern movements like Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and Theosophy. Finally we learn how more recent movements such as the Golden Dawn, OTO, Anthroposophy, and Chaos Magick fit into this wisdom tradition.

Anyone interested in introducing themselves to this vast body of knowledge and wisdom would find no better place to begin than "Magic and Mysticism". To me an introduction means clear organization, lots of names, dates, and places, and most importantly motivates you to continue pursuing the subject. Since reading the book I have gone further in depth into Hermeticism, Qabalah, Alchemy, and the Golden Dawn. The book has has become a strong foundation and is my top recommendation as an introduction to this field of study.

Several important features make this book unique. In the introduction the author defines the word 'esoteric' and distinguishes it from 'exoteric'. Esoteric knowledge is that which is reserved for the few, while exoteric knowledge is available to all. He also defines the words 'magic' and 'mysticism', showing how the two differ and sometimes intersect. Mysticism has more to do with union with the divine, while magic has more to do with causing change in the world, although there is no clear dividing line, especially in Alchemy and Kabbalah.
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By Alexander on March 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I am currently reading this book. It is engaging and thought provoking. When I finish a chapter, I can't stop contemplating how my spiritual beliefs have been influenced by this great history.
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