Faculty of Humanities
University of Amsterdam


A full academic program in Western esotericism

A complete study program in Western esotericism

Esotericism and religious pluralism

European religious history is far more complex than the common picture of a “Christian Occident” suggests. Since antiquity, alternative versions of Christianity have interacted, merged, and competed with pre-Christian religious practices,  the religions of Judaism and Islam, and various philosophical systems. How has this pluralism shaped Western religious history? What has been the influence of heterodox currents such as Gnosticism and Hermeticism on the melange of European religiosity? What role did alchemy, magic, and astrology play during the scientific revolution? What is the historical reality behind pop-cultural references to secret initiatory societies, such as the Rosicrucians and the Illuminati? What has happened with the practice of magic since the Enlightenment? And what is the status of spiritualism and occultism in modern culture, including literature and art?

These are some of the key questions explored by our comprehensive study programme in Western esotericism. HHP 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.

Our BA and MA modules are fully integrated in the interdisciplinary Religious Studies unit of the University of Amsterdam, with its focus on diversity and religious pluralism. This presents unique opportunities for combining the study of esotericism with subjects such as Islam or Judaism, or to acquire relevant languages, such as Latin, Greek, Arabic, or Hebrew.

Bachelor, Master, and PhD opportunities

Our Bachelor program consists of four separate modules that deal with Western esotericism from antiquity to the present, as part of the Religious Studies program of the UvA. For the complete program, see the  UvA Course Catalogue 2020-2021. As a rule, the language of instruction for these courses is Dutch, but there are exceptions. Our Master modules are taught entirely in English.

The MA consists of three core modules, focusing on different thematic and historical aspects of Western esotericism, as well as a shorter introductory module and a MA thesis. For the complete program, see the UvA Course Catalogue 2020-2021. It is also possible to opt for a two-year Research MA, for which additional courses are necessary. For the complete program, see the UvA Course Catalogue 2020-2021

HHP has two regular PhD positions, one focusing on esotericism in the early modern period, the other on modern and contemporary esotericism. As a rule, both positions will become vacant every four years, at which point there will be a formal call for applications. Both regular positions are occupied at present (2020), but other ways exist to do a PhD as well. Please find more information about our study program and how to apply by browsing these pages.