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.
The Research Network for the Study of Esoteric Practices (RENSEP) aims to expand a network of scholars and practitioners who cultivate the idea of interdisciplinarity in the scientific study of esoteric practices.
The RENSEP platform allows everyone to:
- interact with other members to facilitate a collaboration;
- propose initiatives that are oriented towards shared research subjects and methodological debates;
- join or initiate thematic research groups.
It offers a virtual and centralised framework, providing researchers with collaborative and organisational tools. The web platform is a means of promoting interdisciplinarity by creating a cognitive and interactional space shared by researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines. We also invite scholars and independent researchers working on topics related to esoteric practices to join the RENSEP platform and initiate cutting-edge investigative activities by engaging with the world’s largest network of practitioners.
Everyone with a vested interest in esoteric practices can join RENSEP, whether you are a beginning scholar or practitioner, an academic professor, a scientist, or a professional practitioner.
Here are a few reasons:
- Connect with an international network of academics and practitioners eager to share knowledge of esoteric practices.
- Collaborate on a range of knowledge-based research projects that go beyond conventional boundaries.
- Help carry out our mission. RENSEP is a non-profit and privately funded association, and so we rely on membership fees and donations to keep our mission going.
- Get access to the RENSEP database which will collect already-existing online databases of historical data and experiential knowledge and, over time, compile our own data using both voluntary practitioner uploads of ritual diaries, accounts, and scripts, our own questions or polls, material from anthropologists’ fieldwork, and manuscripts owned by RENSEP.
- Get exclusive access to scholarly materials like articles, videos, blogs, webinars, and workshops that will help you learn more about esoteric practices.
- Joining RENSEP means supporting academic research and fieldwork. RENSEP collaborates with various important research institutes and provides funds for the study of esoteric practices, such as for queries and other forms of data collection, for organising conferences and workshops, for awarding grants and fellowships, and for various cutting-edge research projects.
For a RENSEP year-long membership you pay $49,99 per year, which is about $4,17 per month.
Students, unwaged and otherwise financially disadvantaged individuals are elligible for our concessionary membership rates. For all info, click here.
In case you deliver a significant contribution to the RENSEP platform in terms of content (blog artcicle, research article, data, etc.), you may qualify for a one-year free membership.
You become a RENSEP member by following a few steps. First, you register and complete the sign-up process, after which you pay for your full membership. On the RENSEP website, there are plenty of buttons that will take you to the registration page, just look for the “register,” “join us” or “sign up” buttons. For example, you can find the sign-up button at the top right of the screen or click here. After you have registered and made your profile, the only thing left to do is choose your full membership, which you can do here.
Yes, you can! All RENSEP members can submit blog articles.
We have three blog categories: Science & the Esoteric, Practitioner’s Voices, and Case Studies. Do you have an idea or article you think is right for the blog? Send your ideas and submissions to email@example.com.
To donate, go to the RENSEP donate page at the top of the screen. Once you are on the page, you can select your donation amount. You can also select the project that you want to contribute to. In case you choose a specific project, your donation will be used solely for the project of your choice.
If your donation is more than $50, you will automatically become a free member of RENSEP for one year.
For additional information, do not hesitate to use our contact form or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read all about RENSEP and its mission in the About section on the website. If you are on the RENSEP Home page and bring your cursor to the About section, a drop-down menu will appear, through which you can navigate and read the pages “About RENSEP,” “Our Mission Statement,” “A Matrix of Esoteric Practices,” “Scientific Committee,” and “Collaborations.”
Definitions are a tricky business in the present-day humanities. Recent debates about critical categories in the study of religion, and about the problem of essentialism, in particular, suggest that the time of monothetic or otherwise substantialist definitions of esotericism, occultism, magic, or any other basic category in the study of religion, is over. RENSEP therefore opts for a multifactorial heuristic working definition of esoteric practices that, much like a typological matrix, combines four dimensions. The matrix reflects our conviction that esoteric practices are part and parcel of the history of religions in more general terms, but that there are four distinctive elements that help demarcating these practices from other types of religious behavior: 1) Controllability; 2) Individualisation; 3) Self-empowerment; 4) Experience. These distinctive elements may also be interpreted as positionings on one side of four polar spectra.
Esoteric practices tend to be characterised by a controllability of spiritual matters, processes, or encounters, often through elaborate ritual techniques; on the other side of the spectrum is the assumption that spiritual matters, external spiritual entities, or one’s destiny, are largely uncontrollable, stereotypically condensed in the monotheistic creed ‘Thy will be done’.
Esoteric practices tend to focus on the individual will, on self-development, and on individualised forms of spiritual truth-seeking; on the other side of the spectrum is the focus on the collective, on religious communities or traditions, and on complying with the respective norms and truth claims.
Esoteric practices tend to ascribe substantial power or ritual agency to the individual practitioner; on the other side of the spectrum is the ascription of agency to external actors, institutions, or entities, e.g., to priests, churches, or God’s.
Esoteric practices tend to stress the importance of personal experiences which may, over time, lead to the development of elaborate systems of experience-based praxis-knowledge, and strategies of secrecy due to the ineffable nature of these experiences; on the other side of the spectrum is the more or less unquestioned belief in given doctrines or truth claims of religious communities or leaders, devoid of any intense personal experiences.
The RENSEP team believes that, ambivalences notwithstanding, this multifactorial working definition helps to identify esoteric practices within and beyond larger religious traditions and institutions. The matrix may be used pragmatically to test whether any particular case or practice can be considered esoteric – and thus relevant for the work of RENSEP –, according to its positioning on all four of the above-mentioned spectra. Applying and fine-tuning this matrix is an ongoing and shared endeavour, wherefore we hope to get constructive feedback, critique as well as improvement suggestions by all RENSEP members.
You can read this working definition of esoteric practices here.
Of course, you can! RENSEP has a translation tool on the website, which will instantly translate sections on the website to your language of choice. Once you are a full member, you go to your profile page and then you scroll down to “Site Settings” and click “Edit.” In the edit section, you can choose your preferred “On-Demand Language.” After you have chosen your language, you can activate the translation tool by simply clicking on the translation button at the lower left side of the page.