The research project investigates the diffusion of the religious doctrine of the Polish mystic Andrzej Towiański (1799-1878) in Italy and its reception by the Roman Catholic Church.
Inspired by a divine revelation that happened in 1828, Towiański elaborated a complex religious doctrine imbued with Judaic and Catholic heterodox elements, alongside Romantic and post-Enlightenment political and philosophical concepts. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Polish mystic traveled all across Europe. He gathered disciples, especially in Vilnius, Saint Petersburg, Dresden, Paris, and Bruxelles. Nonetheless, he was usually persecuted by the political authority because he was identified as a political agitator promoting the Polish cause.
Towianism began to diffuse in Piedmont in 1848. Towiański’s disciples were predominantly Italian laymen and clergymen who advocated the unification of Italy and the renewal of the Catholic Church. After a few years, the ecclesiastical authority became suspicious of the phenomenon and started to investigate the Towianists.
Towiański was almost exclusively studied by Polish scholars because of his relations with Polish Romantic literature. Nonetheless, Towianism was a European phenomenon that found fertile ground in Italy and France.
Towiański’s disciples published the teachings of the Polish mystic and hagiographic volumes. Therefore, the studies conducted on Towianism were mostly based on the Towianist narrative, focusing on his exoteric nature instead of the esoteric one.
Through the study of unedited Towianist documentation scattered in several European cities, this research tries to describe an esoteric doctrine and its relations with the Roman Catholic Church amid the European revolutions.
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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