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  • 1.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Aren't We Living in a Disenchanted World?2019In: Hermes Explains: Thirty Questions about Western Esotericism / [ed] Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Peter J. Forshaw, Marco Pasi, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019, p. 13-20Chapter in book (Other academic)
  • 2.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Esotericism and the Scholastic Imagination: The Origins of Esoteric Practice in Christian Kataphatic Spirituality2016In: Correspondences: Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism, E-ISSN 2053-7158, Vol. 4, p. 3-36Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Scholars agree that the imagination is central to esoteric practice. While the esoteric vis imaginativa is usually attributed to the influx of Neoplatonism in the Italian Renaissance, this article argues that many of its key properties were already in place in medieval scholasticism. Two aspects of the history of the imagination are discussed. First, it is argued that esoteric practice is rooted in a broader kataphatic trend within Christian spirituality that explodes in the popular devotion literature of the later Middle Ages. By looking at the role of Bonaventure’s “cognitive theology” in the popularization of gospel meditations and kataphatic devotional prayer, it is argued that there is a direct link between the scholastic reconsideration of theimaginative faculty and the development of esoteric practices inspired by Christian devotional literature. Secondly, it is argued that the Aristotelian inner sense tradition of the scholastics left a lasting impression on later esoteric conceptualizations of the imaginative faculty. Examples suggesting evidence for both these two claims are discussed. The article proposes to view esoteric practices as an integral part of a broader kataphatic stream in European religious history, separated out by a set of disjunctive strategies rooted in the policing of “orthopraxy” by ecclesiastical authorities.

  • 3.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Explaining the Esoteric Imagination: Towards a Theory of Kataphatic Practice2017In: Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, ISSN 1567-9896, E-ISSN 1570-0593, Vol. 17, no 1, p. 17-50Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The imagination is central to esoteric practices, but so far scholars have shown little interest in exploring cognitive theories of how the imagination works. The only exception is Tanya Luhrmann's interpretive drift theory and related research on mental imagery cultivation, which has been used to explain the subjective persuasiveness of modern ritual magic. This article draws on recent work in the neuroscience of perception in order to develop a general theory of kataphatic (that is, imagery based) practice that goes beyond the interpretive drift theory. Mental imagery is intimately linked with perception. Drawing on "predictive coding" theory, the article argues that kataphatic practices exploit the probabilistic, expectation-based way that the brain processes sensory information and creates models (perceptions) of the world. This view throws light on a wide range of features of kataphatic practices, from their contemplative and cognitive aspects, to their social organization and demographic make-up, to their pageantry and material culture. By connecting readily observable features of kataphatic practice to specific neurocognitive mechanisms related to perceptual learning and cognitive processing of mental imagery, the predictive coding paradigm also creates opportunities for combining historical research with experimental approaches in the study of religion. I illustrate how this framework may enrich the study of Western esotericism in particular by applying it to the paradigmatic case of " astral travel" as it has developed from the Golden Dawn tradition of ritual magic, especially in the work of Aleister Crowley.

  • 4.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Om religionspluralisme, reformasjon, og postsekularitet2016In: Internasjonal Politikk, ISSN 0020-577X, E-ISSN 1891-1757, Vol. 74, no 4Article in journal (Refereed)
  • 5.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Predictive processing and the problem of (massive) modularity2019In: Religion, Brain & Behavior, ISSN 2153-599X, E-ISSN 2153-5981, Vol. 9, no 1, p. 84-86Article in journal (Other academic)
  • 6.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-19392014Book (Refereed)
  • 7.
    Asprem, Egil
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Davidsen, Markus Altena
    What Cognitive Science Offers the Study of Esotericism2017In: Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, ISSN 1567-9896, E-ISSN 1570-0593, Vol. 17, no 1, p. 1-15Article in journal (Other academic)
  • 8.
    Asprem, Egil
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Dyrendal, Asbjørn
    Close Companions? Esotericism and Conspiracy Theories2018In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion / [ed] Asbjørn Dyrendal, David G. Robertson, Egil Asprem, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2018, p. 207-233Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Western esotericism is intimately linked with conspiracy theories. On the one hand, conspiracy theories often focus on alleged “secret societies” such as the Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, or the Freemasons, sometimes thought to possess superhuman powers. On the other, contemporary esoteric currents often spin their own conspiratorial narratives involving reductionist science, materialistic medicine, and corrupt repressive politicians, acting in concert to keep the true esoteric knowledge of divine origins and human potential from a population starved of spiritual truth. How might we explain these relationships? This article proposes a model that combines historical, sociological, and psychological factors, arguing that the relationship is intrinsic. Historically, “esotericism” is a product of mnemohistorical processes where “hidden lineages” from ancient times to the present play a crucial role, both for adherents identifying with such secret traditions and opponents attributing unwanted developments to secret cabals; socially, esotericism is organized along the lines of the loosely structured and culturally deviant “cultic milieu”; psychologically and cognitively, the cultic milieu produces selection pressures that favour certain personality traits and cognitive styles associated with increased conspiracism as well as paranormal beliefs and attributions, and produce forms of “motivated reasoning” that make conspiracy theories about “the establishment” – and competing esoteric groups – appealing.

  • 9.
    Asprem, Egil
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Robertson, David G.
    Dyrendal, Asbjørn
    Afterword: Further Reflections, Future Directions2018In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion / [ed] Asbjørn Dyrendal, David G. Robertson, Egil Asprem, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2018, p. 527-534Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    While the handbook as a whole establishes the study of conspiracy theory as an interdisciplinary subfield in the study of religion and transcends the usual geographic limits in studies of conspiracy beliefs, this afterword identifies key topics that should be developed further in future research. Mediatization, transnational flows, and glocalized uses of conspiracy theories are topics that continue current research trends, but there is also need for considering the role of specific religious organizations. The dynamic relationship between organized religion and state power, when conspiracism is disseminated from above, is another area that tends to be overlooked in current research. Some geographical and cultural areas are left all but untouched, with conspiracy thinking in non-literate societies a particularly glaring lacuna. A broadening of methodological approaches is also warranted. Gender, sexuality, and the body are central loci for both organized religion and conspiracy theories, but notably absent from existing research. Finally, the role that religion might play not only in the creation, spread and adoption of conspiracy beliefs, but also in in resistance against them deserves further attention.

  • 10.
    Asprem, Egil
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Taves, Ann
    Explanation and the Study of Religion2018In: Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion / [ed] Brad Stoddard, Equinox Publishing, 2018, p. 133-157Chapter in book (Other academic)
  • 11.
    Asprem, Egil
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Taves, Ann
    To Our Critics2018In: Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion / [ed] Brad Stoddard, Equinox Publishing, 2018, p. 192-203Chapter in book (Other academic)
  • 12. Crockford, Susannah
    et al.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Ethnographies of the Esoteric: Introducing Anthropological Methods and Theories to the Study of Contemporary Esotericism2018In: Correspondences: Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism, E-ISSN 2053-7158, Vol. 6, no 1, p. 1-23Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this article, we introduce the ContERN special issue on ethnographies of the esoteric. While the study of esotericism has been dominated by historical-philological scholarship, recent years have seen an increase in anthropological approaches to contemporary esotericism. We argue that this development provides the field not only with new tools, but also fresh perspectives on long-standing theoretical challenges. What are the implications of situating esotericism in particular ethnographic fieldsites? How does anthropological theory reflect on deep-rooted assumptions in the field? We address these questions using examples from the articles in the present special issue as well as other recent ethnographies of esoteric subject matter.

  • 13. Dyrendal, Asbjørn
    et al.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Robertson, David G.
    Conspiracy Theories and the Study of Religion(s): What We are Talking about, and Why it is Important2018In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theories and Contemporary Religion / [ed] Asbjørn Dyrendal, David G. Robertson, Egil Asprem, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2018, p. 19-47Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Conspiracy theory and religion are both contested categories. They are ’complex cultural concepts’ the use of which depends on the specific social formations making use of them. These constructions, all involving struggles over power, meaning, and signification, can both help and hinder interdisciplinary dialogue and multidisiplinary approaches. In this chapter we trace some of the building blocks that different academic disciplines bring to and make use of in their study of conspiracy theory to show the potential connections and delineate some of the conflicts. The chapter centres on the building blocks going into studying conspiracy theory as knowledge and as narrative, and goes on to highlight some of the potential ties to the study of religion.

  • 14. Dyrendal, Asbjørn
    et al.
    Robertson, David G.Asprem, EgilStockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion2018Collection (editor) (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Conspiracy theories are a ubiquitous feature of our times. The Handbook of Conspiracy Theories and Contemporary Religion is the first reference work to offer a comprehensive, transnational overview of this phenomenon along with in-depth discussions of how conspiracy theories relate to religion(s). Bringing together experts from a wide range of disciplines, from psychology and philosophy to political science and the history of religions, the book sets the standard for the interdisciplinary study of religion and conspiracy theories.

  • 15. Robertson, David G.
    et al.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Dyrendal, Asbjørn
    Introducing the Field: Conspiracy Theory in, about, and as Religion2018In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion / [ed] Asbjørn Dyrendal, David G. Robertson, Egil Asprem, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2018, p. 1-18Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Conspiracy theory and religion are complex phenomena. The relationship between them varies. This chapter introduces some of these relations, highlighting conspiracy theory in, about, and as religion. Conspiracy theory as religion highlights conspiracy thinking as worldview – conspiracism – and the parallels and differences between religion and conspiracism in modes of thinking and organizing collective action. Conspiracy theory in religion highlights religions as organized collectives, the content of and the roles more specific conspiracy theories play in different regions for different groups. Conspiracy theory about religion highlights the varied uses of conspiracy theories in demonizing religious collectives.

  • 16. Taves, Ann
    et al.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Scientific Worldview Studies: A Programmatic Proposal2019In: Evolution, Cognition, and the History of Religion: A New Synthesis: Festschrift in Honour of Armin W. Geertz / [ed] Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, Luther H. Martin, Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Jesper Sørensen, Brill Academic Publishers, 2019, p. 297-308Chapter in book (Refereed)
  • 17. Taves, Ann
    et al.
    Asprem, Egil
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
    Ihm, Elliott
    Psychology, meaning making, and the study of worldviews: Beyond religion and non-religion2018In: Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, ISSN 1941-1022, E-ISSN 1943-1562, Vol. 10, no 3, p. 207-217Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    To get beyond the solely negative identities signaled by atheism and agnosticism, we have to conceptualize an object of study that includes religions and nonreligions. We advocate a shift from “religions” to “worldviews” and define worldviews in terms of the human ability to ask and reflect on “big questions” (BQs; e.g., what exists? how should we live?). From a worldviews perspective, atheism, agnosticism, and theism are competing claims about one feature of reality and can be combined with various answers to the BQs to generate a wide range of worldviews. To lay a foundation for the multidisciplinary study of worldviews that includes psychology and other sciences, we ground them in humans’ evolved world-making capacities. Conceptualizing worldviews in this way allows us to identify, refine, and connect concepts that are appropriate to different levels of analysis. We argue that the language of enacted and articulated worldviews (for humans) and worldmaking and ways of life (for humans and other animals) is appropriate at the level of persons or organisms and that the language of sense making, schemas, and meaning frameworks is appropriate at the cognitive level (for humans and other animals). Viewing the meaning making processes that enable humans to generate worldviews from an evolutionary perspective allows us to raise new questions for psychology with particular relevance for the study of nonreligious worldviews.

1 - 17 of 17
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