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Western esotericism

Communities that are seen to be part of Western esotericism vary greatly from one another in their views. From the viewpoint of history of religion and culture, there are 37 communities in Finland that have their foundation in esoteric tradition.

The Christian Community (in Finnish: Kristiyhteisö) in Finland is one of the esoteric communities. It was established in 1967 by a teacher, Helmer Knutar, who had attended a seminary of the Christian community in Stuttgart. The Christian community was registered as a religious community in 1969 and in 2015 there were 290 members in the community. The Christian Community is linked to the anthroposophical movement of Rudolf Steiner that has its roots in theosophical movement. Steiner schools have an established status in the Finnish society with 24 schools, but many parents who have their kids in those schools do not have an anthroposophical conviction. Theosophy has arrived in Finland already in the 1890s and the Theosophical Society was established in Helsinki in 1907. Theosophical influence can be found from various esoteric associations, and many non-Christian religious views have reached Finland through the Theosophical Society. Some esoteric associations, however, hold Christian views central to their teachings.

Furthermore, the international Freemason association Le Droit Humain spread to Finland from Denmark in 1920 and grew fast in the 1920s. The national alliance was established in 1928 and registered in 1929. Pekka Ervast (1875-1934), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society in Finland, was the leader of the Finnish Freemason Association from 1920 to 1928.

The Free Catholic Church was registered as a religious community in 1929. The church has drawn on theosophy but it highlights the Roman Catholic tradition. In 1957 it got its own bishop in Finland. There were 139 members in the church in 2015.

Moreover, in the beginning of the 1900s some English psychics visited Finland and the first spiritualistic associations were established in 1909 to Helsinki and Tampere. The Finnish Spiritual Society was founded in 1946 by a writer and translator Helmi Krohn (1871-1967). Spiritualism has interested women in particular. The society has around 1 500 members. Also, parapsychology landed Finland around the same time with spiritualism. The roots of the parapsychological society are in a community established in 1907, Sällskapet för Psykisk Forskning (SPF), that started parapsychological research. Nowadays its sister organisation, Parapsychological Research Society (Suomen parapsykologinen tutkimusseura, SPT), established in 1938, continues the same discussions, as the operation of SPF has faded. It is also linked to the neo-spirituality in Finland (see Neo-spirituality).

The esoteric associations established from the 1990s onward have mainly young adults as their participants, while the older associations have more aged membership. Committed practice of esoteric religiousness is quite rare. At the same time some phenomena having to do with occulture influence in the Finnish culture.

Source:
Illman, Ruth & Ketola, Kimmo & Latvio, Riitta & Sohlberg, Jussi (ed.) (2017) Monien uskontojen ja katsomusten Suomi. Tampere: Church Research Institute.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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