Ecology and Esotericism: Special Issue of Correspondences: A Journal for the Study of Esotericism
Call for Proposals: Ecology and Esotericism
Special Issue in Correspondences: Journal for the Study of Esotericism
Guest editor: Timothy Grieve-Carlson (Westminster College)
Correspondences: Journal for the Study of Esotericism invites abstracts for a special issue on esotericism and ecology. Environmental historians and philosophers have consistently noted the resonance of esoteric philosophy in the history of environmental thought, through the Renaissance to the contemporary period. Important examples include Carolyn Merchant’s 1980 book The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution, an enormously influential feminist history of early modern European attitudes towards the environment in which Merchant relies on figures like Marsilio Ficino, Paracelsus, Giordano Bruno and Heinrich Agrippa in her narrative of resistance toward mechanistic philosophy in the early modern period. More recent examples include Phillip Blom’s 2017 book Nature's Mutiny, where Bruno and John Dee are both recognized as important examples of how a changing climate shaped novel religious ideas. Environmental philosophers like Peter Sloterdijk (Spheres Vol. 1) and Timothy Morton (Being Ecological) have explored the role of esoteric philosophy in their own work. How can (or should?) scholars of esotericism join this conversation? How have they joined and shaped the conversation around environmental history and philosophy already?
This special issue aims to draw the expertise of scholars of esotericism and related subjects into this conversation in two ways. First, this issue seeks to theorize the relationship between the ecological and esoteric religion and philosophy generally. Building on the historiography of Jan Assman’s notion of Hermetic “cosmotheism,” adopted by Wouter Hanegraaff, and Frances Yates’s “religion of the world,” this issue calls for theoretical explorations of the environmental meanings and potentials of esoteric ideas and practices. For example, what does the wellestablished connection between esotericism, Romanticism, and pantheism tell us about the environmental and ecological meanings of esoteric traditions and their practitioners? And how exactly do contemporary environmental philosophers and ecocritics read and use esoteric material in their work?
The second aim of this special issue is to explore specific examples of ecological and environmental thinking in major esoteric movements. Recent books like Dan McKanan’s 2017 Eco-Alchemy: Anthroposophy and the History and Future of Environmentalism show the potential of this kind of work. The Renaissance and early modern periods are surprisingly fruitful areas of research for environmental historians and scholars of esotericism, where popular notions of mutual influence, vitalism, and environmental thinking abounded in subjects like astrology and alchemy. Religious and philosophical focus on the environment persists in later esoteric works of figures like Jacob Böhme and into the eighteenth-century writings of Mesmer and the later magnetic theorists.
Moving past the early modern to the contemporary, this issue welcomes analyses of categories like “nature,” “ecology,” “landscape,” and the nonhuman in any form of contemporary esoteric thought or practice, including but not limited to the New Age, paganism, and contemporary witchcraft. Analyses of ecological thought in global forms of esoteric religion and practice are particularly welcome. This includes but is not limited to global Indigenous traditions and South American, African, Asian, and Latin American traditions and practices. Contributions are warmly encouraged from authors at all career stages, including independent scholars working individually or collaboratively within any discipline. Potential topics could include but are not limited to the following:
- Attitudes and approaches to mass extinction, climate change, and the global ecological crisis in contemporary esoteric practices and/or communities
- Ecological thought in early modern alchemy and/or astrology
- Theory of ecology and environment in the historiography of esotericism
- Environmental and ecological meanings around the intersections of esotericism,Romanticism, pantheism(s), and the paranormal
- The roles of nonhumans like plants, animals, and nonliving agential forces in contemporary esoteric practices and/or communities
- Biodynamics and other esoteric agricultural practices
- Ideas of “nature” in recent and contemporary esoteric religion and thought, including the New Age, paganism and witchcraft.
Abstracts (up to 400 words) for full articles (8,000 to 10,000 words), as well as a short biography (max. 100 words) should be sent to the editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 September 2022. Please contact the editor at any stage with queries. Final drafts of articles will be due by 1 March 2023.