Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation

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For more than three hundred years the practice of Masonic rituals of initiation has been part of Western culture, spreading far beyond the boundaries of traditional Freemasonry. Henrik Bogdan explores the historical development of these rituals and their relationship with Western esotericism. Beginning with the Craft degrees of Freemasonry-the blueprints, as it were, of all later Masonic rituals of initiation-Bogdan examines the development of the Masonic High Degrees, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn-the most influential of all nineteenth-century occultist initiatory societies-and Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft movement of the 1950s, one of the first large-scale Western esoteric New Religions Movements.

About the Author:
Henrik Bogdan teaches in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Goteborg University in Sweden

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Bogdan's book offers a useful brief primer on the history of Freemasonry and scholarship on Western esotericism, presenting considerable bibliographic information for interested scholars new to the fields. For that alone its value is assured. But Bodgan's work also illustrates important tensions within the study of Western esotericism and the connected field of Pagan Studies.— The Pomegranate

"...offers a very promising new take on the question of esotericism and its historical continuity."— Journal of Religion

"This is truly an original work on an important subject. The most significant thing is probably the definition of 'ritual.' The field of Western esotericism is a young one, and while some of its terminology is now a matter of common consent, ritual has never been subjected to scrutiny in this context. Bogdan also shows how different rituals convey different elements of the Western esoteric tradition: some Freemasonic ritual teaches alchemy; the Golden Dawn teaches Kabbalah; and witchcraft teaches principles of sexual magic. The entire book has an earnestness about it that makes the reader take these rituals seriously."— Joscelyn Godwin, author of The Real Rule of Four"
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Henrik Bogdan teaches in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Göteborg University in Sweden.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction     1
Western Esotericism     5
Introduction     5
The Delimitation of a Field of Research     6
The Research Paradigms of Western Esotericism     9
Western Esotericism in Theory and Practice     17
Western Esoteric Currents     20
Western Esoteric Rituals of Initiation     23
Concluding Remarks     25
Rituals of Initiation, Secret Societies, and Masonic Initiatory Societies     27
Ritual as a Field of Research     27
Rites de Passage     30
Rites of Initiation     35
Secret Societies     40
Secrecy and Masonic Initiatory Societies     44
Masonic Initiatory Societies     49
Masonic Rituals of Initiation     50
Eighteenth-Century Masonic Terminology     51
Concluding Remarks     52
Historical Background     53
Ancient and Medieval Sources     53
The "New Platonic Academy" of Florence     54
The Spread of Western Esotericism across Europe     57
The Esoteric Missions of Giordano Bruno and John Dee     60
ChristianRosenkreutz and the Rosicrucian Manifestos     63
Concluding Remarks     65
The Craft Degrees of Freemasonry     67
The Emergence of Freemasonry     67
Early Freemasonry and Western Esotericism     70
The Pre-1730 Ritual Evidence     76
The Master Mason Degree and the Ritual Enactment of the Hiramic Legend     85
Concluding Remarks     93
High or Additional Degrees of Freemasonry     95
Introduction     95
Templar and Ecossais Rites     95
Egyptian Rites     100
"Esoteric" Freemasonry     103
True Mason, or Academie des Vrais Macons     107
Concluding Remarks     119
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn     121
Introduction     121
History     124
A Note on Sources     127
Description of the Neophyte Ritual     128
Analysis of the Neophyte Ritual     137
Concluding Remarks     143
Modern Pagan Witchcraft or Wicca     145
Gerald Gardner and the Birth of Wicca     145
The Crowley Connection     148
Gardner and the Witchcraft Rituals of Initiation     153
First Degree: Witch and Priestess/Priest     155
The First Degree Initiation     157
Second Degree: High Priestess/Priest     160
Third Degree: High Priestess/Priest     164
Concluding Remarks     167
Conclusions     169
Appendix     173
Notes     175
References     209
Index     225
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