RENSEP (Research Network for the Study of Esoteric Practices) is an unincorporated association whose mission is to promote and advance the interdisciplinary and comparative study of esoteric practices from a global perspective. RENSEP’s ambition is to organise and structure a stimulating intellectual and methodological environment that allows researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines to meet and exchange their analyses and interpretations of esoteric practices from an open-minded, data-based, non-ideological and apolitical perspective. RENSEP’s unique approach is to provide a shared cognitive and interactional space – the RENSEP website – that transcends traditional academic boundaries by supporting the participation and encounter of both scholars and practitioners of esoteric practices.
RENSEP is aware that we live in a historical period of political and epistemological tensions, and that esoteric practices can be instrumentalised and politicised in multiple ways. It should be taken for granted that doing research on the practices of right or left wing esoteric movements, which is absolutely necessary from a scholarly viewpoint, neither legitimises these movements, nor should scholars who study these movements be suspected – through rhetorics of ‘guilt of association’ or so-called ‘contact guilt’ – to automatically share their ideologies. RENSEP is a politically neutral research network, hence it will take all measures necessary to ensure that its online platform will not be abused for political statements or agendas.
RENSEP has a limited yearly budget for promoting the study of esoteric practices beyond established channels of academic funding. All fund requests are decided upon by RENSEP’s scientific committee.
RENSEP is a privately funded unincorporated association based in the UK. RENSEP is financed by private donations as well as by the subscriptions of its affiliate members.
The work of RENSEP is guided by the following principles:
Global perspective | RENSEP wishes to transcend Westernist perspectives and is interested in studying and comparing esoteric practices from multiple cultural and religious environments.
Interdisciplinarity | RENSEP wishes to create a research environment in which methods and perspectives from multiple disciplines inspire and enrich each other (among them anthropology, psychology, history, philology, sociology, cognitive study of religion, neurosciences, area studies).
Praxeology | RENSEP intends to focus on the study of practices, of practical experiences, and of praxis-knowledge, whereas dogmas, theories and worldviews take a back seat.
Independence | RENSEP wishes to promote and establish a truly inquiring, neutral, open-ended, non-religionist, non-essentialist, apolitical, and non-ideological study of esoteric practices, adhering to the highest standards of academic rigour.
Efficacy | RENSEP is interested in comparing esoteric practices from multiple backgrounds in order to trace underlying principles that inform experiences of evidence and efficacy, beyond cultural or traditional framings and ideologies.
Transcending boundaries | RENSEP wishes to break through habitual academic boundaries between the researcher and the researched by creating ‘strategic collaborations’ between scholars and practitioners, thus creating a unique global network in which both perspectives may complement and inspire each other.
Databases | RENSEP has a strong interest in creating databases – of ritual scripts; ritual diaries; experience reports; etc. – that may facilitate the study and analysis of esoteric practices for both scholars and practitioners.
Funding | RENSEP provides funds for the study of esoteric practices, e.g. for queries and other forms of data-collection, for creating data-bases, for organising conferences and workshops, for awarding short-term (e.g. travel) grants as well as long-term PhD fellowships, for supporting related network initiatives, or for financing relevant publication projects.