Insider and the Academia: the Past and the Future of “Going Native in Reverse” in the Study of Esotericism

Aliter (5):3-9 (2015)
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The concept of “going native in reverse” reflects the fact that nowadays more and more people involved in new religious movements and esoteric groups participate in academic activities related to the study of religion in general and particularly in the study of their movements. On the one hand, these people bring insider’s perspective in the academia. On the other hand, they bring academic knowledge and critical mind in esoteric community and change it. This situation seems to be a positive tendency in the development of modern spirituality both for insiders and for the society in general, because contemporary knowledge and critical mind can make religious and esoteric currents more subtle and adequate for the modern world. But what is the future of this tendency in regard to an insider/outsider problem? Maybe they can change the academia by bringing new unexpected perspectives in the study of religion and esotericism. However, conservative academic elites can finally reject researchers who try to bring the insider perspective in the academia and even expel them from academic circles. In this case they will turn into a marginal group inside the academia, and for their skeptical colleagues they will remain to be those eccentrics who want “to wear the esoteric and the scholarly hat simultaneously”, as W. J. Hanegraaff put it. On the other hand, such researchers may try to form a new discipline, so to speak an “esoteric divinity” that will fight for the place both in the academia and in the esoteric community in the next decades. However, the esoteric community itself may reject this tendency, because many of its participants today seem to have an inimical attitude toward to rationalism and the academia.
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