Esotericism and the Scientific Imagination: Call for Conference Papers

Arthur Versluis's picture
Call for Papers
December 30, 2019
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
Religious Studies and Theology, Popular Culture Studies, Humanities, Sociology

Association for the Study of Esotericism Ninth Biannual Conference


The University of California at Davis, May 14-17, 2020 


Call for Papers


Esotericism and the Scientific Imagination


Scientific ideas have not just fostered secularity and religious decline, as Max Weber famously argued, they have also been used to help people believe in the existence of unseen, heavenly realms and recover imaginative spaces for the supernatural. In a similar way, religious beliefs are not inevitably antagonistic to science, but have shaped scientific theories and practices as we can see in the case of astrology, alchemy, and the various strands of esoteric thought that have influenced natural philosophers and theologians across the ages and globe. This did not end with the birth of modern science. Einstein, along with quantum mechanics, showed, for example, that nature behaved in confounding ways: clocks ticked more slowly the faster they traveled; events that were simultaneous to one observer were not to another; gravity caused time to slow down; space could be bent and distorted by large objects; energy and mass were interchangeable; and, perhaps most bewilderingly of all, quantum mechanics couldn’t be reconciled with General Relativity, which implied there were two sets of laws and mathematical equations, one for large and another for subatomic particles. Modern physics consequently brought back those “mysterious incalculable forces” Weber thought had been banished forever. This led to an explosion of popular metaphysical speculations dealing with free will, the mind/body problem, the mystery of consciousness, and the possibility of multiple coexisting universes in the work of many artists, writers, philosophers, and speculative scientists, not to mention sci-fi authors and devotees of New Age religions. 


We invite papers and panel proposals dealing with the way esoteric ideas, theories, and practices have shaped the scientific imagination from the ancient to the modern world in both the East and West.


Our deadline for panel or paper proposal submission is 30 December, 2019.

If you wish to submit a paper proposal or a thematically focused panel proposal (with three presenters and short descriptions included) for review and possible presentation at the conference, please send email it to

No attachments, please: simply copy and paste your abstract into plain text email. Individual abstracts should be limited to one or two paragraphs, and must indicate academic affiliation and/or other academic qualifications. Independent scholars are welcome to submit proposals. Please note that our previous conferences were at maximum capacity, so it is best to submit your proposal sooner rather than later. We hope to post a preliminary list of accepted proposals early in 2020. 

For more information on the ASE, see our website at


For further information check the conference homepage at







Contact Info: 

Dr. Allison Coudert, Conference Organizer

University of California at Davis



Contact Email: