Olav Hammer



På spaning efter helheten.

My first published book is a guide to New Age religion, written in
Swedish. A 
first edition appeared in 1997. A second,
extensively revised version was published in 2004. Not least in commercial terms, this title has been a success. Nearly 25,000 copies have been sold – a significant number for a book written in a language spoken by only 9 million people. A Danish edition has also appeared, but (so far) no other translations have been published.

Profeter mot strömmen.

This book is an introduction to post-Enlightenment esotericism, from Mesmer to Rudolf Steiner – also in Swedish. The cover was designed by the publisher to illustrate the title, which is literally “Prophets against the current”.

Osunt förnuft.

A work of popular science, on cognitive fallacies, false memories and other aspects of the human mind that have to do both with our religious imagination and with everyday life.

Claiming Knowledge.

This is my doctoral dissertation, on the ways in which contemporary religious movements legitimate their claims. The data are taken from various related movements within the theosophical family, but the strategies of legitimation apply more generally.

Edited books:

Berättelser om ondskan.

A Swedish-language volume edited with Catharina Raudvere, on the understanding of evil in various religious traditions.

Med gudomlig auktoritet.

A volume – also edited with Catharina Raudvere – on religion and politics.

Jung och det andliga.

A book
on Jung (also in Swedish) edited together with Kurt Almqvist. My idea was to explore Jung as founder of a religiously oriented world-view, but several contributions turned out to be more apologetic than I had expected. (This was my first-ever attempt at editing a book)

Polemical Encounters.

Esoteric Discourse and its Others, eds. Olav Hammer & Kocku von Stuckrad. In its historical development from late antiquity to the present, western esotericism has repeatedly been the issue of polemical discourse. This volume engages the polemical structures that underlie esoteric identities and the controversy about esoteric currents in European history. You can find a list of chapters here.

The Invention of Sacred Tradition. eds. James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer, deals with the ways in which various religions construct “invented traditions” to account for the origin and transmission of their scriptures.


Alternative Christs, ed. Olav Hammer. European History of Religions is characterized by the recurrent reinterpretations of major religious topoi by mainstream theologies as well as by marginalized currents. This volume surveys the role of Christ in the mythological discourse of various movements from Manichaeanism and various Gnosticisms, to Theosophy and the New Age. 

The following seven volumes are in varying stages of completion:

Western Esotericism in
eds. Olav Hammer and Henrik Bogdan. Despite the important role of esoteric currents in constituting the religiously plural European landscape, esotericism in various local settings such as Scandinavia remains a largely uncharted terrain. This ambitious volume will collect state-of-the-art scholarship on Such esoteric currents from the 16th century to the present. To appear in January 2016.

Religion, by Olav Hammer and Jesper
Sørensen. A popular science book on religion, in two distinct versions: Danish
and Swedish. Danish version (Religion i psyke og samfund) to be
published by Aarhus University Press; the Swedish version (definitive title to
be determined) to be published by Studentlitteratur. Projected year of
publication for both versions: 2010.

in Pre-Christian Europe
. An edited volume that presents up-to-date information on some twenty
pre-Christian religions of Europe, stressing in particular the contacts between
various ethnic groups and the pluriformity of religion within each group.
Several chapters on prehistoric religion, from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age,
will be edited by David Warburton of Aarhus University, Denmark; I will edit
the remaining chapters. To be published by Equinox, projected year of
publication: 2010.

of the Theosophical Current
. A volume edited by Mikael Rothstein (University of Copenhagen) and
myself, dealing with the history of the TS, and with some of the many
off-shoots of the Theosophical Society that have influenced the religious landscape
of the modern West, To be published by Brill, projected year of publication:

and Identity Politics
An edited volume on the ways in which “religion” as a category is
constructed, and on the ways in which its negative or positive others are
classifed as something radically other than religion: as e.g. magic,
supersitition or spirituality. Projected year of publication: 2011.

Companion to New Religious Movements
. A volume edited by Mikael Rothstein and
myself – the title should be self-explanatory. Projected year of publication:

Religion and the Authority of Science.
A volume edited by James R. Lewis and myself. To be published by Brill,
projected year of publication: 2010.