Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The study addresses the question of how religious creativity in the West manages to adapt to the forces of modernity. The empirical data are drawn from a set of historically and thematically related movements, from late nineteenth century theosophy to the contemporary New Age.The dissertation is divided into three main sections. The first serves as a necessary background, presenting a number of theoretical concepts used throughout the study. A brief historical overview of contemporary esotericism is also introduced.The second and most extensive section presents the three discursive strategies commonly employed to support the doctrinal statements of late modern esotericists. Firstly, religious innovations are bolstered by claiming that they are founded on ancient traditions. Secondly, it is claimed that modern science is beginning to confirm the validity of various esoteric doctrinal statements. Thirdly, it is commonly stated that personal experience can validate esoteric claims. The study shows how all three strategies have adapted to the changing default presuppositions of the surrounding culture regarding tradition, science and religious experience.The third and final section examines how all three strategies interconnect and form a whole, by examining a particular case: how the strategies are used to support the concept of reincarnation.


  • Olav Hammer
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Religions


  • discourse, anthroposophy, discursive strategy, disembedding, emic historiography, globalization, late modernity, movement text, New Age, reflexivity, religious experience, scientism, secularization, sociocognitive analysis, tradition, theosophy, Theology, Western esotericism, Teologi
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2000 Oct 7
  • Olav Hammer, Allhelgona Kyrkogata 8, 223 62 Lund
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2000-10-07 Time: 10:00 Place: Edens Hörsal External reviewer(s) Name: Rothstein, Mikael Title: [unknown] Affiliation: [unknown] --- The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: History and Anthropology of Religions (015017025)