Faculty of Humanities
University of Amsterdam

Bachelor courses

The Hermetica Minor | World’s first BA programme in esotericism

The BA Programme “Hermetica”

The Minor Hermetica is a series of five courses on esotericism that is offered as part of the Religious Studies BA programme at the UvA. For the complete programme, see Western esotericism: A unique specialism.

The courses offer a comprehensive overview of the history of esoteric currents, practices, and discourses, from antiquity to the present day. The first course, “Western Culture and Counter Culture”, is in a lecture format and offers a general introduction to the conceptual and historical dimensions of the field in the wider context of Western culture. The subsequent two courses are in a seminar format and focus on Western esotericism in specific periods, each taught by a specialist of the period in question. Currently the courses on the Early Modern period and the period from the 18th century on, are taught in English. Please find detailed course information below.

BA courses

When: 1st semester, block 1-2

Instructor: Dr. Wouter J. Hanegraaff

Language of instruction: English

Course description:
This course provides a “big history” overview of the main currents of Western intellectual and cultural history from Antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on how intimately religion and spirituality have always been interwoven with philosophy, the natural sciences, and the arts, and with due attention to political and social context. At the same time, the module problematizes the hegemonic agendas and implicit ideological assumptions that have driven traditional historical narratives of Western culture. It does so by giving systematic attention to a range of so-called “esoteric” currents, ideas, practices, and organizations that have tended to be rejected, suppressed, marginalized, or discredited in traditional academic scholarship; and furthermore it calls attention to other key dimensions that have tended to be marginalized or excluded in more traditional ethnocentric understandings of what “the West” was supposed to be all about (notably the Middle East and northern Africa, the Byzantine empire, and the Islamic world). By giving equal attention to normative ideas of “Western Culture” and to various types of “Counterculture” against which it has been defining its own identity, the module both describes and questions the “grand narratives” that have dominated academic understandings of Europe and the West. Against this background, special attention wil go to the basic polemical and apologetic discourses that inform current intellectual as well as public debates about religion and spirituality, and their relation to modernity.

View the study guides:

Secrets of the West 1: Culture and Counterculture before Modernity

Secrets of the West 2: Culture and Counterculture before Modernity

When: 2nd semester, block 1

Instructor: Dr. Peter J. Forshaw

Language of instruction: English

Course description:
On the basis of primary sources and secondary literature, this module examines the history of Western esotericism during the Renaissance and Early Modern Period. Each class will focus on a founder or chief exponent of important Western esoteric currents such as Christian Cabala, Paracelsianism, Rosicrucianism and Christian theosophy, including such famous names as Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Agrippa, Paracelsus, Kircher and Dee. Our close reading of primary source material will be set in the context of contemporaneous social, religious and intellectual developments. Students will be introduced to some central themes in the study of Western esotericism, including Renaissance typologies of magic, astrology, cabala, alchemy’s quest for the elixir, philosophers’ stone and transmutation, all with a consideration of their relation to early modern science and religion.

View the study guide:

Study guide 2021-2022

When: 2nd semester, block 2

Instructor: Dr. Marco Pasi

Language of instruction: English

Course description: This module offers a broad chronological overview of the history of modern Western esotericism (from the middle of the 18th century up to our days), focusing on its main trends, movements, and authors. This will include an analysis of currents and phenomena such as Illuminism and the birth of Mesmerism, romanticism, spiritualism, occultism, traditionalism, and the New Age. Both primary sources and secondary literature will be used as reading material. The main focus of the course is on the processes that have led to important transformations in esoteric discourses after the Enlightenment. Both continuities and ruptures with previous esoteric thought will be assessed. A visit to the library of the Theosophical Society in Amsterdam will be organised towards the end of the course.

View the study guide:

Study Guide 2021 – 2022

Start getting your Bachelor now

The HHP Centre is fully integrated in the University of Amsterdam’s educational system. This means that in order to enroll in our teaching programmes you have to go through the normal channels of the UvA’s Faculty of Humanities. Please note: BA programmes are handled by the College of Humanities, while the international MA programmes are handled by the Graduate School of Humanities. Questions about how to apply should always be addressed to the appropriate office.

How to enroll in our Bachelor programme

Our BA courses are taught as part of the BA programme Religiewetenschappen. For information about the programme, as well as about how to apply, when to apply, and whom to contact, see:

Bachelor Religiewetenschappen

College of Humanities (contact)

Secretary Religious Studies (contact)

Studying at HHP

The HHP Centre is currently the only institute in the world to offer a complete academic specialism in Western esotericism, from the BA to the PhD level.

Taught by leading specialists in the field, our study programme offers a unique opportunity for students to be at the vanguard of a new and exciting development in the study of Western religion and culture.

Learn more about our complete study programme in Western esotericism.

Student experiences

Do you have any questions about studying at the HHP Centre?

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