The Case of Gurdjieff and Crowley
Is it possible to satisfactorily define the words “esotericism,” “occultism,” and “magic”? Do these terms have any utility? Can “esotericism” be understood without reference to a complement such as “exotericism”? It is suggested that esotericism held a niche place in Western culture even before the rise of Western esotericism in the nineteenth century, although the word was rarely employed. After a study of the terms, and especially of the concepts they reference, the alleged similarity of G. I. Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley is taken as a case study. I compare their methods and teachings, their meetings, and the applicability of these three terms to these figures, asking if Gurdjieff’s and Crowley’s systems were esoteric, occult, both, or neither. This discussion provides the occasion to consider the “argument from silence,” and its validity in historical studies.
G. I. Gurdjieff; Aleister Crowley; A. R. Orage; esotericism in the Gospels; Pythagoreanism; H. P. Blavatsky; argument from silence; argument ad ignorantiam