Faculty of Humanities
University of Amsterdam

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Faculty of Humanities
University of Amsterdam

Meet the Staff

Who is who at the HHP Centre?

Academic Staff

Dr. Marco Pasi

Marco Pasi is Associate Professor in the History of Western Esotericism in the Modern Period and is the Director of the HHP Centre.

Marco graduated in Philosophy at the University of Milan (1994). He then obtained his PhD in Religious Studies, specializing in the History of Western Esotericism under the supervision of Antoine Faivre at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (2004).

He has been a Frances Yates Fellow at the Warburg Institute, a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) and at the Max Weber Kolleg (University of Erfurt), and has been a Visiting Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, at the University of Cagliari, and at the University of Turin. He has been the General Secretary of the European Association for the Study of Religions (2014-2019) and the Co-Chair of the Western Esotericism Group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR). He is currently the Chief Editor of the Aries Book Series (Brill).

Prof. Dr. Wouter J. Hanegraaff

Wouter J. Hanegraaff is Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents.

Wouter was born in Amsterdam in 1961. He studied classical guitar at the Conservatory of Zwolle and Cultural History at the University of Utrecht, where he obtained his Ph.D. (cum laude) in Religious Studies in 1995. From 1996 to 1999 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the department for the Study of Religion at the University of Utrecht, and has held his present position at the HHP Centre at the University of Amsterdam since its foundation in 1999. In 2006 he was elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW). Alongside numerous articles, he is the author of New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden 1996/Albany 1998); Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447-1500): The Hermetic Writings and Related Documents (Tempe 2005; with Ruud M. Bouthoorn); Swedenborg, Oetinger, Kant: Three Perspectives on the Secrets of Heaven (West Chester 2007); Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge 2012); and Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed (London 2013). He has also (co)edited seven collective volumes, including the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (Leiden 2005) and Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism (New York 2011; with Jeffrey J. Kripal). A new monograph Hermetic Spirituality and the Historical Imagination: Altered States of Knowledge in Late Antiquity will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2022.

Dr. Peter J. Forshaw

Peter J. Forshaw  is Associate Professor in History of Western Esotericism in the Early Modern Period.

Peter graduated in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Indian Philosophy at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1986), then worked in France, India, Thailand, and Japan, before returning to the UK to take an MA in Renaissance Studies (1998), followed by a PhD in Early Modern Intellectual History (2004) at Birkbeck, University of London. His doctorate was on the complex hieroglyphic and theosophical figures and the interplay of alchemy, magic and cabala in the Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae – Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom (1595/1609) of Heinrich Khunrath of Leipzig (1560-1605). This was followed by postdoctoral fellowships researching the history of ritual magic, alchemy, and astrology at the universities of London, Strathclyde and Cambridge. Peter has been at the HHP Centre since 2009 and specialises in the intellectual and cultural history of learned magic and its relation to religion, science and medicine. He has been editor-in-chief of Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, editor of The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science (2007) and Laus Platonici Philosophi: Marsilio Ficino and his Influence (2011). He is now preparing a monograph, The Mage’s Images: Occult Theosophy in Heinrich Khunrath’s Early Modern Oratory and Laboratory, for Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History. He serves on the academic councils of SHAC (Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry) and ESSWE (European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism).

Mriganka Mukhopadhyay, MA

Mriganka Mukhopadhyay is a PhD researcher in the Modern Period at the HHP Centre.

Mriganka was born in Kolkata in 1990. He pursued BA (honours) in History from Kolkata’s erstwhile Presidency College (2012) and completed his MA in History from Presidency University (2014) where he was awarded with a gold medal for coming first in his batch.

He then pursued MPhil from Ambedkar University Delhi (2017) where he wrote a dissertation on the history of the Bengal Theosophical Society and Bengali intellectual elites’ interest on esotericism.

His academic interests include history of the Theosophical Society in colonial India and the activities of Indian theosophists in that period.

In the PhD project his particular focus is on the theosophical movement in Bengal. He examines how theosophical ideas disseminated in Bengal and influenced it’s social, political, religious and cultural life in the 19th and 20th centuries.

liana saif

Dr. Liana Saif

In 2021, Liana Saif (PhD, 2012) joined the HHP Centre as Associate Professor in the History of Medieval Esotericism.

Prior, she was a research associate at the Warburg Institute and the Université Catholique de Louvain, and held the British Academy post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford (St Cross). Saif’s work focuses on Islamic esotericism and the occult sciences, with a special interest in the exchange of esoteric and occult knowledge between the Islamic and Latin ecumenes. Her book The Arabic Influences on Early Modern Occult Philosophy was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. She is currently preparing a long-awaited critical translation from Arabic into English of Maslama b. Qāsim al-Qurṭubī’s (d. 964) Ghāyat al-ḥakīm, known in its Latin translation as the Picatrix. She has conducted research on the tenth-century secret brotherhood Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ (The Brethren of Purity), the pseudo-Aristotelian Hermetica, and Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (Geber in Latin). She also worked as a project curator at the British Museum, deepening her interest in the material and artistic manifestations of the occult and the esoteric. Saif is a member of the board of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) and a founding member of the European Network for the Study of Islam and Esotericism (ENSIE). Editorial roles include being a board member for Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism and Brill’s Islamic Translation Series, and an associate editor of the journal Early Science and Medicine.
Dylan Burns

Dr. Dylan Burns

Dylan Burns is Assistant Professor in the History of Western Esotericism in Late Antiquity.

Born (1981) in Rochester, New York and raised in Jacksonville, Florida and Boulder, Colorado, Dylan earned his B.A. in Religion at Reed College (2003, Phi Beta Kappa) and his M.A. in Religious Studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (2004, cum laude). He returned to the USA for his doctoral work, earning his PhD in Religious Studies at Yale University (2011), with a focus on ancient Christianity and its relationship with later Greek philosophy, Gnosticism, and apocalyptic literature. Dylan held a postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Theology (2011–2013) and served as office manager for the German Research Council-funded project Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC, 2013–2021), hosted by the Egyptological faculties of Leipzig University and the Free University of Berlin. He has been a research associate at the Max Weber Kolleg (University of Erfurt), and fellow of the collaborative research group “Beyond Canon” (University of Regensburg) and the Foro di Studi Avanzata (Rome). Dylan is co-editor of Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies (Brill), and has served as co-chair of the steering committee for the Society of Biblical Literature’s program unit “Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism” (International Meeting 2017–present; Annual Meeting 2012–2017).

John M. MacMurphy, RMA

John M. MacMurphy is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

John holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a Research MA (Cum Laude) in Religious Studies (Western Esotericism) from the University of Amsterdam where he focused on Jewish Mysticism. His RMA thesis titled “Abraham Abulafia and the Academy: A Reevaluation” was supervised by Peter Forshaw and Wouter Hanegraaff. Primary research interests include: alchemy, magic, altered states of consciousness and the reception of both theoretical and practical applications of Kabbalah within the purview of the European occult milieu and related traditions.


Hedvig Martin is a PhD candidate at the HHP Centre.

Hedvig Martin is a PhD candidate at the HHP Centre with a project on the Swedish occult painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), funded by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefits. She has an RMA in History from Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden, with the thesis “Hilma af Klint and The Five 1896-1907” (2018). Related research interests include art history and occultism in fin-de-siecle Europe, Western esotericism in Sweden, and altered states of consciousness and its neuropsychology.


Dell J. Rose, RMA

Dell J. Rose is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

Dell holds a Bachelor’s degree, with majors in English, History, and Religion, and a Masters degree in Folk Studies. His current project deals with Charles Augustus Tulk and the reception of Swedenborg’s ideas amongst 19th century reforming societies, as well as the role that Swedenborgian ideas played in 19th century political discourse. Further academic interests include: Christian theosophy, especially that of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig and Jakob Böhme, Willem Bilderdijk studies, Sabbateanism, and the work of Franz von Baader.
Giulio Dalla Grana

Giulio Dalla Grana, RMA

Giulio Dalla Grana is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

Giulio is pursuing a joint-Ph.D. with the University of Turin (Department of Historical Studies) and the University of Amsterdam (Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents). In 2019, he graduated in Political Sciences and International Studies in a double-degree program between the University of Padua and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His research interests are mainly focused on the relations between political power and religious authority on the one hand, and on the influence of esoteric traditions on political and religious thought on the other. His doctoral project will have a duration of three years, from October 2020 to December 2023. The project is funded by the University of Turin. His doctoral research is devoted to the Polish mystic Andrzej Towiański (1799-1878) and his Italian disciples. The project investigates the reception of Towiański’s religious doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church, and the socio-political contribution of the Italian Towianists in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Tjalling Janssen, RMA

Tjalling Janssen is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

After a vocational degree in graphic design (2015) and a one year of teacher training in History (2017), Tjalling received BA (2020) and RMA degrees (2022, cum laude) in Religious Studies, the last two both at the University of Amsterdam. During his RMA, he was a founding member of the HHP Student Association. His RMA thesis, supervised and assessed by Peter Forshaw and Liana Saif, was a reception history of elementals from the sixteenth to the late nineteenth century covering both natural philosophy and literature, investigating the significance of gender and its cultural transformations. His current PhD project at the HHP, supervised by Peter Forshaw and Wouter Hanegraaff, also deals with these beings, but instead mainly focusses on how they are embedded in the natural-philosophical context of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, now looking at the relationship between humanity and the natural world, and how understanding this aspect can contribute to the history and philosophy of ecology. His overall research interests include intermediary beings, alchemy, magic and Paracelsianism in modernity broadly construed (sixteenth to early twentieth century), and how these themes and schools of thought have influenced and have been influenced by things such as (natural) philosophy, spirituality, our relationship to the environment and other topics with a social component.

Brennan Kettelle, RMA

Brennan Kettelle is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

Brennan Kettelle holds a Research Master’s degree in Religious Studies, with a focus on Western esotericism (University of Amsterdam, 2021, cum laude), as well as a Master’s degree in Gender & Cultural Studies (Simmons University, 2018, cum laude). Her PhD project – supervised by Marco Pasi – investigates historical associations between the religio-mythic demoness Lilith and queerness within nineteenth-century literary, artistic, and occult discourses. Aiming to foster intersectional collaboration between queer studies and esotericism studies, Brennan is more broadly interested in examining both queer currents within esoteric literature, orders, and figures, as well as esoteric themes within queer subcultures, politics, and histories. As such, her current research also focuses on the lesbian-pagan poetess Renée Vivien (1877-1909), analyzing the occult influences of her queer, satanic oeuvre. Brennan’s other academic interests include nineteenth and twentieth-century occultism, sex magic, esotericism and politics, and conspirituality.  

Corey Andrews, RMA

Corey Andrews is a PhD student at the HHP Centre.

Corey is an American with a military background and current PhD candidate at the center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam.

He received a Bachelor’s degree (Summa Cum Laude) in Biological Anthropology and Religious Studies from the University of Massachusetts in August of 2019 before moving to Amsterdam to pursue a two-year Research Master’s degree at the University of Amsterdam. In October of 2021 he graduated with a Research Master’s degree with Cum Laude distinction from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam.


His PhD project, which began in June of 2022 focuses on the theme of ‘Pansophia’ in early modern European thought and occult philosophy, especially as it relates to Rosicrucianism, John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) and esoteric Christian symbolism in 16th and 17th century book culture. 

Vincent Roy-Di Piazza, Post-doc

Vincent Roy-Di Piazza is a guest researcher at the HHP Centre.

Vincent Roy-Di Piazza is a postdoctoral Vossius Fellow 2023 at the HHP Centre.

Vincent is an early modern historian of science, religion, and northern Europe, and a specialist of Emanuel Swedenborg. Vincent obtained his DPhil in history of science in 2022 from the University of Oxford, having previously graduated from the Sorbonne, the Conservatoire de Paris (CRR Paris), the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris. After his PhD, Vincent worked as a British Arts and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford, and he is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Hagströmer Library, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, having previously held research fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Fondazione Cini, and the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. His latest peer-reviewed publications include journal articles in the Intellectual History Review, Etudes Germaniques, and the Annals of Science.

Dr. Christian Greer

J. Christian Greer is co-director and lead instructor for the HHP's intensive seminars programmes, "Visions of the Occult: Introduction to (Western) esotericism" and "Arcane Worlds: New Directions in the Study of Esotericism."

Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies with a special focus on psychedelic culture. He holds a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, as well as a MA and PhD (cum laude) in Western Esotericism from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. While a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Divinity School, he led a series of research seminars on global psychedelic spirituality, which culminated in the creation of the Harvard Psychedelic Walking Tour, a free audio guide detailing how the Harvard community has shaped the modern history of psychedelic culture. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Drugs and Religion programme unit at the American Academy of Religions.

His latest book, Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots (co-authored with Dr. Michelle Oing) analyzes the pilgrimage folklore associated with the rainforests of Japan’s Kii Peninsula. His forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America (Oxford University Press), explores the expansion of psychedelic culture within fanzine networks in the late Cold War era. He has held teaching positions at Harvard University, Yale University, and is currently a lecturer at Stanford University. Additionally, he is director of “The Psychedelic Universe: Global Perspectives on Higher Consciousness,” an intensive summer school seminar hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s  Graduate School of Social Sciences in association with the HHP. He is also co-director and lead instructor for “Visions of the Occult: Introduction to (Western) esotericism” (offered online each winter) and “Arcane Worlds: New Directions in the Study of Esotericism” (offered every summer), both intensive seminars hosted in collaboration with the Graduate School of Social Sciences and the HHP.

Dr. Olli Pitkänen

Olli is a doctor of social sciences and a postdoctoral scholar of philosophy who spends the first half of 2024 as a visiting researcher at the HHP centre.

Olli wrote both his MA (2011) and PhD (2020) theses in the University of Jyväskylä (Finland). Both theses were concerned with the concept of evil, especially in Immanuel Kant and F.W.J. Schelling, and how their central ideas have been adopted in contemporary philosophy, which went through a sort of “renaissance of evil” in the 1990´s, to borrow Lars Svendsen´s terminology. Since completing his PhD Olli has studied esotericism from a philosophical perspective in the University of Helsinki, and published two articles in SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy and Environmental Philosophy. His current research project Esotericism in Philosophy from the 19th Century to the Present (2022–2025) is funded by the Academy of Finland.  

At the moment Olli is editing a compiled volume Philosophical Perspectives on Esotericism: From the 19th Century to the Present (to be published by Routledge), which includes philosophers interested in esotericism and philosophically minded scholars of esotericism worldwide from established names such as Glenn Alexander Magee, John Ó Maoilearca, and Jason Josephson-Storm to rising PhD scholars. Olli is also working on several articles that address various connections between academic philosophy and esotericism from the time of German idealism to present questions in environmental philosophy, feminist philosophy, political philosophy, and philosophy of mind.

Sangyun Han

Sangyun is a PhD student at the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University and a visiting researcher at the HHP Centre.

Sangyuns research focuses on the history of modern Japanese religion, especially the relationship between the “Occult Boom” of the 1970s and Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Her recent articles include “1970 nendai no nihon ni okeru ‘Okaruto’ gainen no juyō to tenkai: ‘Mikkyō būmu’ to no kankei o chūshin to shite” [The Reception and Development of the Concept of ‘the Occult’ in 1970s Japan: On the ‘Mikkyō Boom’ and its influence] (Gakusai nihon kenkyū 1, 2021), “Sengo nihon ni okeru mikkyō to kagaku: Hirai Tatsumi no kitōron o chūshin to shite” [Mikkyō and Science in Postwar Japan: Hirai Tatsumi’s Idea of Prayer] (Kindai Bukkyō 28, 2021). She is currently working on her doctoral project entitled “Mikkyo and the Occult in Postwar Japan: The Perspective of Global Religious History,” which examines the revival of esoteric Buddhism in postwar Japan in relation to the appropriation of alleged New Age ideas. By tracing the process of entanglement between Western “esoteric” ideas and Japanese religious tradition, she aims to propose an alternative history of esotericism from an East Asian perspective.

Dr. Francesco Baroni

Dr. Francesco Baroni is a lecturer at the University of Lausanne and a guest researcher at the HHP Centre.

Born in 1980 in Florence, Italy, Francesco earned an MA in Medieval Studies from the Paris-Sorbonne University (2005) and a PhD in Religious Studies from the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (2009, cum laude). He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Italian Institute for Historical Studies (2010–2012), a resident member at the Swiss Institute of Rome (2014–2015), and a fellow at the Cini Foundation of Venice (2020). Since 2013, he has been affiliated with the University of Lausanne, where he teaches the course Introduction to the History of Western Esotericism as a lecturer.
His research primarily explores the evolution of Western esotericism since the 19th century, including Christian esotericism, perennialism, New Age movements, and transpersonal psychologies.
Currently, he is conducting a research project that delves into the Catholic Church’s engagement with spiritualism, occultism and theosophy in Italy from 1838 to 1919, focusing particularly on the role of the Holy Office and the Vatican. This project is funded by the DREST (Italian Doctoral School of Religious Studies) and is administratively headquartered at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UniMoRe).

Ninian L. Nijhuis, MA

Ninian Nijhuis obtained a Cum Laude Master Degree at the HHP Centre.

Ninian L. Nijhuis obtained a Cum Laude Research Master degree in Religious Studies with the HHP Centre at the university of Amsterdam in 2021. Ninian also holds a BA in Law and a MA in Public International Law from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Ninian’s main focus is on Western Esotericism and her key fields of interest are the works and psychology of Carl G. Jung, sidereal astrology, mysticism and the interactions between spirituality and science.

She is responsible for the HHP Centre’s social media presence since 2019. Since her graduation in 2021, Ninian has been furthering her research independently and works as a sidereal astrologer and a coach. Furthermore, she has started training to become an Jungian Psychoanalyst with the NAAP and has been awarded an honorarium by the Trustees of the Kristine Mann Library for her proposal The Idea of Sacrifice in the Black Books of Carl G. Jung.

Moreover, Ninian’s RMA thesis, titled Madness and Divine Madness: The Black Books of Carl G. Jung, will be added to the Kristine Mann Library.

Dr. Mariano Villalba

Mariano Villalba is a postdoctoral fellow in Spirituality and the Arts, a fellowship in a collaboration of HHP, CSWR at Harvard Divinity School, the Warburg Institute, and the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities at the Giorgio Cini Foundation.

Mariano Villalba is an early-career academic with a research focus on esotericism in colonial America, contemporary Latin America, and early modern Spain. He completed his undergraduate studies in History at the University of Buenos Aires in 2010 and earned a Master’s degree in Sociology of Culture and Cultural Analysis from the National University of San Martín in 2016, both in Argentina. His master’s thesis focused on the astrological and evil eye treatises of the Castilian humanist Enrique de Villena (1384-1434). Supported by an academic excellence scholarship from the Swiss government, Mariano pursued a joint PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Lausanne and in the History of Religions and Religious Anthropology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études-Université Paris Sciences & Lettres, which he completed in 2023. His dissertation, titled “Race, Nation et Révolution: Arnold Krumm-Heller et l’ésotérisme au Mexique (1910-1920),” received the University of Lausanne prize for a critical dissertation in sciences of religions. Currently, Mariano is developing a manuscript based on this dissertation, titled “Occult Mexico: The Imagination of Mexican Antiquity, from the Colonial Era to Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Revolution.” He serves as the editor-in-chief of Melancolia, annual journal dedicated to the academic study of Esotericism from Latin America.

Antoinette Rutten

Antoinette Rutten is the secretary of the HHP Centre.

Antoinette studied Old Greek and Latin at the University of Amsterdam; after the bacchelor she switched to Ancient History, Papyrology and Swedish. However, after finishing her studies she finally realised that she didn’t want to be a teacher or scholar, instead she became a secretary.

For all general information:
Ms. Antoinette Rutten (secretary)

E: hermetica-fgw@uva.nl

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