What this project is all about

In 2012 I published a monograph Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press). In this book I analyzed the historical process through which certain intellectual traditions and ideas rooted in the learned and popular "paganism" of late antiquity came to be  discredited as "rejected knowledge" by the time of the Enlightenment.
The overall argument is that Western modernity defined and still defines its core identity through a process of rejecting and discrediting its polemical counterpart referred to by such terms as "paganism, "superstition," "the occult," "magic," "idolatry," "mysticism," "pseudo-science," or "the irrational" - and nowadays studied under the general label "Western Esotericism".

Having published that book, it has taken a while for me to decide what to do next; but eventually, the following step turned out to be an obvious one. The implication of my argument is that many of our deepest assumptions about "true and reliable knowledge," "the nature of reality," or "the history of human culture and civilization" are in fact polemical constructs that need to be examined, reconsidered, questioned, deconstructed, and quite possibly abandoned. Much that we tend to consider so obvious as to be beyond questioning or debate just seems self-evident because that is what our dominant culture teaches us to think. Conversely, much that has been discredited as not worth knowing, and not worth caring about, turns out to be crucial to understanding the story of Western culture. Having devoted my academic career to studying neglected and marginalized figures, ideas, and traditions, it has become perfectly clear to me that our general ignorance about them has created - and keeps facilitating - deeply flawed ways of imagining the course of Western intellectual and cultural history. The leading question that came out of this realization may be formulated as follows:

What happens to our common ways of imaging the history of 
Western culture if we reject the rejection of rejected knowledge? 

The best way to answer this question is by addressing it not just in abstract terms but by actually showing how the story of Western culture can be told differently and more correctly.  So that is the objective: writing a new grand narrative, from the presocratics to the present, that seeks (1) to systematically reintegrate those ideas and traditions that have been rejected since the Enlightenment and (2) to reconsider and reevaluate the nature of their relation to those ideas and traditions that we have learned to see as dominant and central.
Obviously this is a very large and ambitious project. If anyone were to call it megalomaniac I could hardly blame them, but I will give it my best shot anyway. It will certainly take me years to finish this book, and I will have to delve into many topics and domains of learning with which I am hardly familiar at present. It is perfectly clear to me that I have no chance of succeeding without receiving feedback, input, and advice from all those friends and colleagues out there who know countless things that I do not know yet but will need to learn about.

So, dear reader, this is where you come in! I will try to use this blog as a notebook that documents my creative processes of research, reflection, and writing. I will be "thinking aloud" about whatever I am reading and working on, hoping that some of you will be interested enough to "think with me" and share your comments and ideas (and of course, I hope you will warn me if you see me turn into a blind alley or think I do not know what I'm talking about). If you want to be kept updated through email, please register as a "follower" through the icon on the top left corner.

I will be deeply grateful for any help I receive, and will give my full attention to all serious responses, question and suggestions. Please understand though: if I do not respond right away, or not at all, that does not mean that I'm not listening or taking your words seriously. All it means is that my ultimate priority in using my time is to actually write the book! When it comes out, in a hopefully not too remote future, all those who have contributed will be gratefully acknowledged. In the meantime, I hope that, as this notebook develops, it will take on a life of its own and will become interesting enough to reward you for spending some of your time on it.

In short, right at the outset I want to express my profound gratitude for any contribution you'll be willing to make to this project.

And now, let the games begin!

Popular Posts