Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Wouter J. Hanegraaff, in collaboration with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek and Jean-Pierre Brach

Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online is the comprehensive reference work to cover the entire domain of “Gnosis and Western Esotericism” from the period of Late Antiquity to the present. Containing around 400 articles by over 180 international specialists, Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online provides critical overviews discussing the nature and historical development of all its important currents and manifestations, from Gnosticism and Hermetism to Astrology, Alchemy and Magic, from the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance to Rosicrucianism and Christian Theosophy, and from Freemasonry and Illuminism to 19thcentury Occultism and the contemporary New Age movement. Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism Online also contains articles about the life and work of all the major personalities in the history of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, discussing their ideas, significance, and historical influence.

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Boehme, Jacob

(5,903 words)

Author(s): Weeks, Andrew
Boehme, Jacob, * ca. 24.4.1575 (Alt-Seidenberg), † 17 Jan 1624 (Görlitz) Shoemaker, Lutheran dissenter, and author of numerous writings that exercised a profound and lasting influence on German Spiritualism and → Pietism and its equivalents in other countries, on German literature and philosophy, as well as on mysticism and → Christian Theosophy. 1. Life Despite a rich mythic and legendary overlay, the salient facts of Boehme's life are largely documented. He was born into a prosperous and respected Lutheran peasant family. As a young man, he was g…


(2,125 words)

Author(s): Bozoky, Edina
Bogomilism was a religious movement, condemned as heretical, which first appeared in the 10th century in Bulgaria. Its name comes from that of the first preacher of the sect, the pop (priest) Bogomil. The movement spread from Bulgaria to Constantinople and to different regions of the Byzantine empire (Macedonia, Thrace). Since the 12th century, the impact of Bogomilism is attested in the West. Concerning the doctrinal origins of Bogomilism, scholarly opinions diverge. Medieval authors emphasized the characteristics it had in common with → Manichaeism, Pauli…


(1,708 words)

Author(s): Broek, Roelof van den
The Borborites or Borborians were adherents of a Gnostic sect that flourished in the 4th century and reportedly continued its existence at least until the 6th century. Epiphanius of Salamis, who has left us an extensive report on the Borborites ( Panarion, 26), says that they were influenced by the teachings of the → Nicolaitans ( Pan., 26, 1, 3), who are discussed in Pan., 25. They called themselves “Gnostics”, but were also known as Phibionites, Stratiotics, Levitics, Secundians, Sokratites, Zachaeuses, Coddians and Barbelites ( Pan., 25, 2, 1; 26, 3, 7; also Anacephlaleiosis, 26). Si…

Bourbon, Duchess of

(8 words)

→ Orléans, Bathilde d'

Bourignon, Antoinette

(1,196 words)

Author(s): Versluis, Arthur
Bourignon, Antoinette, * 13 Jan 1616 (Lisle (Flanders)), † 1680 (Franeker (Netherlands)) Bourignon was born to wealthy Catholic parents. Even as a child she spent much time in prayer and reclusion, and at four asked her parents in what country Christians lived, so that she might travel there, since she thought Christians lived in poverty and were not interested in worldly things. Although her father wanted her to marry a rich merchant, she left home in 1636, and spent some time in a convent. As she grew old…

Bô Yin Râ

(1,404 words)

Author(s): Faivre, Antoine
Yin Râ, Bô (ps. of Joseph Anton Schneider, as of 1920 Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken), * 25 Jan 1876 (Aschaffenburg), † 14 Feb 1943 (Massagno (Switzerland)) Schneider studied at the Städelsche Art Institute in Frankfurt, from which he graduated in 1899, and at the art studios of the Municipal Theatre in Frankfurt (1896-1898). Hans Thoma, one of the leading German artists of the time, accepted him as one of his pupils. Later he also came to benefit from the advice and support of Max Klinger. In 1900-1901, he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and attended the Academy Julian in Paris before returning to Vienna. He then stayed…

Boyle, Robert

(1,642 words)

Author(s): Principe, Lawrence M.
Boyle, Robert, * 25 Jan 1627 (Lismore (Ireland)), † 31 Jan 1691 (London) Boyle is a preeminent figure of the 17th century. He is best known as a natural philosopher, particularly in the fields of chemistry and physics, but his scientific work covers many areas including hydrostatics, medicine, earth sciences, natural history, and traditional → alchemy. His avid service to the Christian faith produced devotional and ethical essays, and theological tracts on the limits of reason and the role of the natural phi…

Boys des Guays, Jacques François Etienne le

(706 words)

Author(s): Boyer, André
Boys des Guays, Jacques François Etienne le, * 1794 (Châtillon-sur-Loing (now Châtillon-Coligny, Loiret)), † 1864 (Saint-Armand-Montrond (Cher)) Le Boys des Guays was the grandson of a special lieutenant in the bailiwick of Montargis (Loiret) who later became Procureur Général under the First Empire, and the son of a member of the military administration of Louis XVI. After earning a law degree, he became an advocate at the Royal Court of Paris, then decided for the magistracy, which he left in 1830 following hi…

Britten, Emma (Floyd) Hardinge

(3,109 words)

Author(s): Mathiesen, Robert
Britten, Emma (Floyd) Hardinge, * 2 May 1823 (Bethnal Green (near London)), † 2 Jan 1899 (Manchester) One of the most influential figures in the early development of → Spiritualism in the United States and England, both as a medium and trance-lecturer and as a historian and theorist of that religious movement. A founding member of the → Theosophical Society and a member of its first Council. A powerful advocate for the revival of the study of → magic, and for its essential identity both with 19th-century mediums…

Bruno, Giordano

(6,456 words)

Author(s): Ciliberto, Michele
Bruno, Giordano (Filippo), * January/February 1548 (Nola), † 17 Feb 1600 (Rome) 1. Life Filippo Bruno was born in Nola, near Naples, as the son of Giovanni Bruno, ‘uomo d'arme’ (armiger), and Fraulissa Savolino. He first studied in Naples under the direction of Giovan Vincenzo Colle, known as “Il Sarnese”, and the Augustinian father Teofilo da Vairano. In 1565 he entered the Neapolitan monastery of San Domenico Maggiore, taking the name of Giordano. Ordained priest in 1572, he completed his course of theological studies in 1575 with a dissertation on the Summa contra Gentiles. In June 1…

Bulwer-Lytton, Edward George

(2,963 words)

Author(s): Godwin, Joscelyn
Bulwer-Lytton, Edward George (Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer), * 25 May 1803 (London), † 18 Jan 1873 (Torquay) Novelist and statesman. Youngest son of General William Earle Bulwer and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton. He first went by the name of Edward Bulwer. In 1838 he was created a baronet, and became Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer, Bt. In 1843, under the terms of his mother's will, he changed his surname to Bulwer-Lytton. In 1866 he was created 1st Baron Lytton of Knebworth, and was thereafter known as Lord Lytton. Bulwer-Lytton's father died when he was four years old, leaving him to b…

Burton, Richard Francis

(865 words)

Author(s): Godwin, Joscelyn
Burton, Sir Richard Francis K.C.M.G., * 19 Mar 1821 (Elstree), † 20 Jan 1890 (Trieste) Traveler and translator. Son of Lt.-Col. Joseph Netterville Burton and Martha Baker. Childhood in France and Italy, educated by private tutors. Learned several languages before attending Trinity College, Oxford (1840-1842; no degree). Burton was attracted to the occult while at Oxford, when the artist John Varley (1778-1842) drew his horoscope and introduced him to the kabbalah [→ Jewish Influences]. As an officer in the Arm…