In this keynote lecture, Wouter J. Hanegraaff (University of Amsterdam) calls attention to the significance of entheogenic substances in much post-war esotericism. He argues that a number of biases have prevented scholars from sufficiently acknowledging this dimension of religion, and calls for a renewed attention to the religious use of hallucinogenic substances. In the process, Hanegraaff also revisits his own classic study, New Age Religion and Western Culture (Brill, 1996), which, he now argues, was equally influenced by intellectualist, Protestant biases about “religion”, causing him to overlook the entheogenic undercurrent of several central New Age spokepersons.
The lecture was presented to the First International Conference on Contemporary Esotericism at Stocholm University, on August 28, 2012.
Excellent stuff, very interesting. Question: Is there any evidence of “entheogenic esotericism” in the Western world from between, say, the 1750’s and the 1850’s?
I read the (brilliant) Deveney book on Paschal Beverly Randolph, which mentions entheogenic drug use amongst certain French Spiritualists in the 1850’s. So I wonder: How much further back can we trace this thing, in a modern Western context?