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Occultism in a Global Perspective, Henrik Bogdan & Gordan Djurdjevic, eds.

Reviewed by Jack David Eller

ABSTRACT: A very interesting set of essays illustrates the intellectual and institutional relations between occult and esoteric traditions in the West and beyond, with clear implications for anthropological thinking on religion, syncretism, and globalization.

Two of humanity’s most fascinating, and troublesome, traits are our imagination and our capacity to contemplate the hidden. In a way, these are the same trait, as thinking about the hidden depends on imagination, and humans have erected fabulously complex systems of the hidden-imagined, including what we tend to call ‘the occult.’

In his deservedly famous analysis of ‘occulture’ as a form of re-enchantment, Christopher Partridge defined occulture broadly as “those often hidden , rejected, and oppositional beliefs and practices associated with esotericism, theosophy, mysticism, New Age, Paganism, and a range of other subcultural beliefs and practices, many of which are identified by Campbell as belonging to the cultic/mystical milieu and by Stark and Bainbridge as belonging to the occult subculture” (2004, p. 68). Following Peter Clarke, he further grants that ‘the occult’ is multidimensional, an ‘umbrella term’ for many, often apparently unrelated or even contradictory notions including “a range of ‘deviant’ ideas and practices (although it is debatable as to whether some beliefs are socially deviant or, indeed, ‘hidden,’ bearing in mind their massive and rising popularity), including magick (as devised by Aleister Crowley), extreme right-wing religio-politics, radical environmentalism and deep ecology, angels, spirit guides and channeled messages, astral projection, crystals, dream therapy, human potential spiritualities, the spiritual significance of ancient and mythical civilizations, astrology, healing, earth mysteries, tarot, numerology, Kabbalah, feng shui, prophecies (e.g. Nostradamus), Arthurian legends, the Holy Grail, Druidy, Wicca, Heathenism, palmistry, shamanism, goddess spirituality, Gaia spirituality and eco-spirituality, alternative science, esoteric Christianity, UFOs, alien abduction, and so on” (70).

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