This research project examines the Catholic Church's response to spiritualism, occultism, and theosophy in Italy from 1838 to 1919, with a specific focus on the role of the Holy Office and the Vatican. Our analytical approach is twofold. First, through a systematic study of previously overlooked archival sources, we explore the Church's formal and regulatory responses, including Holy Office decrees, condemnations in the Index of Forbidden Books and texts from the First Vatican Council. Second, we delve into the cultural, theological, and political debates of the period. Our research highlights the Church's engagement with esotericism at a crucial historical juncture. Key findings reveal the importance of theological debates and investigations into paranormal phenomena, as well as the role of the Holy Office in monitoring and assessing new global spiritualities. Additionally, our study aims to illustrate how the Church, amidst a broader conflict with the modern world, crafted new narratives of the 'esoteric Other,' thereby significantly shaping the religious mnemohistory of Western societies.
As part of the University of Amsterdam, our research falls under the umbrella of the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH) at the Faculty of Humanities.
As part of the Religious Studies unit the HHP centre participates in the interdisciplinary research group on Religious Dynamics and Cultural Diversity.
The presence in Amsterdam of the famous Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, situated in the Embassy of the Free Mind, and of the rich material of the Amsterdam University Library’s Special Collections (Bijzondere Collecties) provides important research facilities for our staff. The HHP’s strong emphasis on historical research of primary sources is greatly advanced by these libraries and collections.
The HHP centre is an intrinsic part of a larger international network that promotes, creates and distributes peer-reviewed academic research in the interdisciplinary field of Western esotericism.
The European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) was founded in Amsterdam in 2005, the staff at the HHP centre continues to be deeply involved with the further development of this international learned society.
Current research projects at the HHP Centre
An overview of dissertations completed at the HHP centre.
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