Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Wouter J. Hanegraaff, in collaboration with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek and Jean-Pierre Brach

Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online is the comprehensive reference work to cover the entire domain of “Gnosis and Western Esotericism” from the period of Late Antiquity to the present. Containing around 400 articles by over 180 international specialists, Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online provides critical overviews discussing the nature and historical development of all its important currents and manifestations, from Gnosticism and Hermetism to Astrology, Alchemy and Magic, from the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance to Rosicrucianism and Christian Theosophy, and from Freemasonry and Illuminism to 19thcentury Occultism and the contemporary New Age movement. Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online also contains articles about the life and work of all the major personalities in the history of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, discussing their ideas, significance, and historical influence.

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Occult/Occultism

(3,540 words)

Author(s): Hanegraaff, Wouter J.
Although the various terms and expressions based upon the latin “occultus” (“hidden, secret”, from occulere, “to cover over, hide, conceal”) tend to be used indiscriminately and are often confused in common parlance, they are the reflection of a historical development in the various stages of which they refer to different things. It is of particular importance to distinguish between the original adjective “occult”, and the substantive “occultism” that made its first appearance in the 19th century. 1. Occult Qualities In the context of the medieval reception of Aristotelian natural philosophy, a distinction was made between the manifest, directly observable qualities of things (such as colors or tastes), and their occult qualities, which were not directly observable and could not be accounted for in terms of the four elementary qualities. Important examples were the force of magnetism, the influences emanating from the stars, and the curative virtues of herbal, animal and mineral substances. Although their ef…

Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph

(3,965 words)

Author(s): Breymayer, Reinhard
Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph (pseudonyms: Halatophilus Irenaeus, Bibliophilus Irenaeus), * 2[?] May 1702 (Göppingen), † 10 Feb 1782 (Murrhardt) 1. Life From 1717 to 1720 Oetinger was a pupil at the Monastery School in Blaubeuren, where he came into contact with August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), who visited the town in 1717. He then transferred to the Monastery School in Bebenhausen, near Tübingen (1720-1722). At the University of Tübingen, he was a scholarship student at the “Stift” (Theological Seminary). Here, he first studied liberal arts from 1722 until completing the requirements for the master's degree in 1725, after which he studied theology until 1727. After the completion of his studies, Oetinger first attended to the education of his brothers Wilhelm Ludwig, Johann Christoph und Ferdinand Christoph. During the period from September 1729 to June 1737 he undertook a series of journeys in order to broaden his intellectual horizons, interrupted by employment in Tübingen: he was a tutor (“Repetent”) at the Stift from 1731-1733 and 1737-1738, having been given leave from this office in the interim. In 1738 he received his first appointment as a pastor in Hirsau, and on April 22 of the same year married Christiane Dorothea née Linsenmann (1717-1796). In 1743 he became Pastor in Schnaitheim. In 1746 he transferred to Walddorf, near Tübingen. In 1752 he was promoted to the office of superintendent (dean) in Weinsberg, near Heilbronn on the Neckar. This was to be an extremely tumultuous period in his life: the congregation complained about his “abstruse” sermons; a sexton circulated a false rumour to the effect that the piano teacher of Oetinger's daughter had gotten both this daughter and Oetinger's wife pregnant. In 1759 Oetinger transferred in the office of superintendent to Herrenberg, near Tübingen. In 1765 he was named ducal councillor, prelate, and abbot in Murrhardt, and took over his duties there in 1766. Duke Carl II Eugen of Württemberg, who planned to establish a salt-works near Murrhardt, had appointed Oetinger to this office because of his knowledge of chemistry. In 1766-1767 Oetinger's book on Swedenborg was confiscated at the behest of the Duke's Consistory, and in 1767 his publications were placed under the control of the censor – both within and without the borders of the Duchy of Württemberg. Oetinger henceforth evaded this measure by publishing his works anonymously or under other names, by suppressing the name of the printer, or by having his works printed outside Württemberg (e.g. in the free Imperial cities Schwäbisch Hall and Heilbronn), partly withholding the name of the printer here as well. In 1772/1773 Oetinger was governor of the silver mine “Unverhofftes Glück” at Wüstenrot, near Murrhardt. This enterprise failed because he was deceived by the fraudulent machinations of the mining counsellor, Gottlieb Riedel, from Saxony. Towards the middle of 1776 Oetinger, who sympathized with the Freemasons [→ Freemasonry] as well as with the later Rosicrucians [→ Rosicrucianism] (he was particularly venerated by those in Amsterdam and by the group around → Nikolay Ivanovich Novikov [1744-1818] in Moscow), travelled to Nuremberg to visit a group of presumably Rosicrucian-oriented Christians. O…