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Hidden Intercourse

Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism

Wouter J. Hanegraaff

Publication Year: 2011

From rumors about gnostic orgies in antiquity to the explicit erotic symbolism of alchemical texts, from the subtly coded eroticism of medieval kabbalah to the sexual magic practiced by contemporary occultists and countercultural translations of Asian Tantra, the history of Western esotericism is rich in references to the domains of eros and sexuality. This volume, which brings together an impressive array of top-level specialists, is the first to analyze the eroticism of the esoteric without sensationalism or cheap generalizations, but on the basis of expert scholarship and attention to textual and historical detail. While there are few domains where the imagination may so easily run wild, the various contributions seek to distinguish fact from fiction-only to find that historical realities are sometimes even stranger than the fantasies. In doing so, they reveal the outlines of a largely unknown history spanning more than twenty centuries.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Things We Do Not Talk About

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pp. ix-xxii

In recent years, the academic study of Western esotericism has been developing rapidly from a somewhat obscure specialty pursued by a few dedicated researchers into a burgeoning professional field of scholarly activity and international organization. Once a domain restricted to...

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Sexuality and Sexual Symbolism in Hermetic and Gnostic Thought and Practice (Second - Fourth Centuries)

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pp. 1-23

In this first chapter we will be dealing with two broad, variegated, and partly interconnected religious currents that both flourished in Late Antiquity and emphasized the importance of spiritual knowledge (gnōsis). One of them is known as Hermetism, and the other is usually...

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Conceiving Spirits: The Mustery of Valentinian Sex

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pp. 24-48

Valentinian thought and practices have been the subject of countless academic studies even prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi collection in 1945. In this literature, the Valentinians were characterized as elitist Gnostics who believed in the certainty of their salvation...

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Sexual Intercourse Between Humans and Demons in the Islamic Tradition

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pp. 49-64

The term “esoteric” has a very specific meaning in the Islamic tradition. The Koran as well as other fundamental religious texts emphasize the difference between what is “apparent” and “outward” (zâhir) and what is “hidden” and “inward” (bâtin). Zâhir is everything that is obvious in...

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Murmuring Secrets: Eroticism and Esotericism in Medieval Kabbalah

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pp. 65-110

I commence with a generalization the validity of which must be illustrated from particular instantiations: eroticism and esotericism converge at the point of their divergence. Or, so it might seem, as eroticism ostensibly exposes the concealed and esotericism conceals the exposed. On...

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Ta'Anug: Erotic Delights from Kabbalah to Hasidism

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pp. 111-152

Describing feelings is a notoriously difficult thing to do. The problem is enhanced when those who do so use a language that is not their vernacular, and even more so when that language is part of sacred scriptures, which are understood as paradigmatic and as informing or teaching...

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Complications of Eros: The Song of Songs in John of Morigny's Liber Florum Celestis Doctrine

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pp. 153-174

Within the long and varied tradition of medieval Christian commentaries on the Song of Songs, the yearning for the beloved, articulated from both masculine and feminine perspectives, becomes key to a hermeneutic construction illuminating the relation of the divine to the

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Under the Mantle of Love: The Mystical Eroticisms of Marsilio Ficino and Giordano Bruno*

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pp. 175-208

The literary and philosophical phenomenon of the Renaissance trattati d’amore began with the publication in 1484 of Marsilio Ficino’s highly influential De Amore (first manuscript version 1469) and found an impressive culmination in Giordano Bruno’s De gli eroici furori published in...

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Revealing Analogies: The Descriptive and Deceptive Roles of Sexuality and Gender in Latin Alchemy

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pp. 209-230

Sexual and erotic language and imagery is extremely common in alchemy. Its most visible form occurs in oft-reproduced alchemical emblemata that routinely contain graphic depictions of gendered entities and copulating couples. Alchemical texts regularly employ erotic...

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Probing Women and Penetrating Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe

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pp. 231-280

Throughout western history knowledge has been conceived of as a commodity controlled and rationed by those in authority. Kant’s sapere aude (dare to know) would have made no sense if it had not been preceded by centuries of admonitions about the dangers of knowledge...

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Sensuous Relation with Sophia in Christian Theosophy

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pp. 281-308

The biblical texts which mention Sophia, “the Divine Wisdom” (hokmâ in Hebrew, sapientia in Latin),1 have been the object of many commentaries throughout the history of Christianity.2 Her ontological status is one of the most debated issues in the history of sophiology. Two...

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Deadly Dates: Bodies and Sex in Spiritualist Heavens

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pp. 309-332

In his writings on love and marriage, eighteenth-century visionary Emanuel Swedenborg asserts that conjugal love can take one of two trajectories and unite either the good with the true or else the false with the evil; participants in such unions are bound for heaven or hell respectively. Marriage is divinely ordained, and the union of God...

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Sexual Mysticisms in Nineteenth Century America: John Humphrey Noyes, Thomas Lake Harris, and Alice Bunker Stockham

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pp. 333-354

When we look at the more noteworthy developments in nineteenth-century American attitudes regarding sexuality, we can consider them in terms of broad social changes—like the emergence of the “free love” movement in the nineteenth century—or focus on particularly...

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Paschal Beverly Randolph and Sexual Magic

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pp. 355-368

By the mid-nineteenth century, magic (and the occult generally) in the West were in parlous straits, paralleling those described in the surprising recent bestseller by Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.1 The novel is set in a fair approximation of early nineteenth-century England...

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The Knight of Spermatophagy: Penetrating the Mysteries of Georges le Clément de Saint-Marcq*

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pp. 369-400

Do you want to know a secret? It is a secret that has been kept intact for centuries, but it is of supreme importance, actually indispensable for understanding the real essence of Christianity and the hidden development of Western culture. It can give you the key to penetrating the

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The Yoga of Sex: Tantra, Orientalism, and Sex Magic in the Ordo Templi Orientis

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pp. 401-444

Since their fi rst discovery of the complex body of texts and traditions known as “Tantra,” Western authors have been at once horrified and tantalized, scandalized and titillated, by this seemingly exotic form of Eastern spirituality. Above all, Western authors have been particularly...

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The Theory and Practice of Sexual Magic, Exemplified by Four Magical Groups in the Early Twentieth Century

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pp. 445-478

For obvious reasons, sexual magic is a subject that evokes controversy and curiosity. Surprisingly, however, there exists—with the laudable exception of two works on the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and on Paschal Beverly Randolph1—practically no critical scholarly literature...

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The Roar of Awakening: The Eros of Esalen and the Western Transmission of Tantra

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pp. 479-520

The multiple weavings of eroticism and esotericism within the history of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California—the mother of the American human potential movement founded in 1962 by Michael Murphy (1930) and Richard Price (1930–1985)—is a vast half-century tapestry...

List of Contributors

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pp. 521-528

Index of Persons

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pp. 529-539

Index of Subjects

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pp. 540-546

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246441
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823233410
Print-ISBN-10: 0823233413

Page Count: 544
Publication Year: 2011