Earl Fontainelle

Earl Fontainelle

Earl Fontainelle.JPG

Historical Method, Science as Art, and Honesty about the Impossible: Some Observations on the Academic Study of Western Esotericism for Occultists

The academic study of western esotericism is a very young, constantly-changing field of study in the humanities. In this talk I will give a brief history of the field, discussing the origins of the term ‘western esotericism’ in the esoteric milieux of fin-de-sie`cle Occultism, its evolution through the works of notable scholars and esotericists, and its current existence as an academically-rigorous historical field. We will then explore the current state of the field, covering major trends, new directions, and, more broadly, the question of the future of the Humanities and of the ‘Superhumanities’. The talk will finish with some interlocking reflections of the nature of institutional academic knowledge, modernity and disenchantment, the practitioner/scholar divide, and the interdisciplinary future of a field which – if we play our cards right – is ideally placed to engage with emerging global weirdness in a creative way.


Earl Fontainelle is a researcher and para-academic historian working in the history of western esotericism. He hosts the Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast (www.shwep.net), a long-form academic outreach programme, now in its fifth year, chronicling the history-of-ideas of western esotericism from the beginning.