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Book: The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization

Chapter: 10. Enchanted Sight/Site: An Esoteric Aesthetics of Image and Experience

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30135


This chapter proposes an “esoteric aesthetics” as enabling a rethinking and reformulation of aesthetic relations that distinctly takes into account varieties of material agency. It takes seriously the question of how we are to understand aesthetic engagement if we are not interacting with purely empirical material. This approach has potentially radical implications for the concept of subjectivity, artistic agency and interpretations of the role of image or object and the viewer. Therefore, the argument draws together several academic disciplines: in particular, post-structural philosophy, Western art historical discourse and the Western esoteric tradition. The objects selected for analysis are an image found in an early Coptic magical handbook (p. 12 of P. Macq. I, c. VIIth century CE) and Crow Stone (Dumfriesshire, April 1998), a work by the contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy. Through analysis of these examples, this chapter argues that an esoteric aesthetics requires not only attention to the possible agency of image or object, but also attention to one’s own embodied experience and the multiple frameworks through which meaning is made.

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