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Esotericism, also Western esotericism, is a collective term for various spiritual movements and currents in Western culture based on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Neo-Platonism of late antiquity. It includes, in particular, Renaissance magic, Paracelsus' teachings, Rosicrucianism, Christian Kabbalah, Freemasonry, theosophy and the New Age. A closely related and often interchangeable term is occultism, which refers to occult, ie hidden properties or forces, in nature.

In addition to this definition, based on a list of historically intertwined movements and teachings, esotericism can also be defined as the reservation of certain secret knowledge to the initiates, regardless of religious or spiritual direction. Both of these definitions are often used at the same time, which leads to confusion as to what esotericism actually means; the above-mentioned term Western esotericism is therefore used for the first of the defined phenomena.

There are also attempts to define Western esotericism on the basis of typical characteristics. French academic Antoine Faivre includes among these basic features the concept of magical correspondences - associated with the idea of ​​macrocosm and microcosm, belief in the universe as a living being, emphasis on creative imagination and inner transformation of esotericism through knowledge, often accompanied by the idea of ​​harmony between spiritual currents - prisca theologia, and passing on experience through initiation. However, some researchers, such as Kocku von Stuckrad or Hans Kippenberg, point out that while Faivre's concept corresponds very well to the traditions he specializes in, such as Renaissance magic, Christian theosophy and German Naturphilosophii, Jewish and Islamic esotericism is less applicable or influential. Buddhism in Western esotericism.

Esotericism is often commercialized, and examples of the "esoteric industry" can be found in ancient times. A wide range of literature, pendulums, crystals, divination or therapies represents a kind of business branch. Esotericism of this type has little in common with "esoteric knowledge" of this type.

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