Israel Regardie and the Psychologization of Esoteric Discourse

Christopher A. Plaisance

This is an article in the history of Western esoteric currents that re-examines and clarifies the relationship between esoteric and psychological discourses within the works of Israel Regardie. One of the most common ways in which these two discourses have been found to be related to one another by scholars of the esoteric is through the process of “psychologization”—with Regardie often being put forth as a paragon of the process. This paper argues that a unitary conception of psychologization fails to adequately describe the specific discursive strategies utilized by Regardie. In order to accurately analyze his ideas, a manifold typology of complementary, terminological, reductive, and idealist modes of psychologization is proposed instead. Through this system of classification, Regardie’s ideas regarding the relationship between psychological and esoteric discourses are understood as a network of independent but non-exclusive processes, rather than as a single trend. It is found that all four modes of psychologization are present, both in relative isolation and in combination with one another, throughout his works. These results demonstrate that while it is accurate to speak of Regardie as having psychologized esoteric discourse, this can only be the case given an understanding of “psychologization” that is differentially nuanced in a way that, at least, accounts for the distinct discursive strategies this paper identifies.

psychologization; method and theory; psychology and esotericism; science and religion; Israel Regardie; Golden Dawn