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Dr Karolina Maria Hess

Dr Karolina Maria Hess


Assistant professor in the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations. Graduate of pedagogics, ethnology and philosophy; PhD candidate in sociology. She defended a doctoral thesis on Polish Theosophy with honors in the Institute of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. In her interdisciplinary research she concentrates on the margins of culture, alternative currents and controversial ideas – especially those of esoteric and religious character. From the perspective of intellectual history, she studies alternative spirituality and Western esotericism and their role in shaping of various cultural phenomena. She is a member of Polish and international research teams.

Academic interests

  • Theosophy and the Theosophical Society in Poland and around the world;
  • Western Esotericism – methodology of research, history and ideas in Central and Eastern Europe, its role in contemporary culture;
  • The boundaries between scientific discourse and occultism at the turn of the 20th century;
  • New religious movements in comparative perspective.

Selected publications

  • 2020, Władysław Reymont’s Fascination with Occultism: Biographical and Artistic Threads, „Књижевна историја” [Literary History] Vol. 52, No. 171, 75–100.   
  • 2020, Seks. Cielesność, płeć, seksualność w ujęciu ezoteryków polskich [Sex. Carnality, gender, sexuality in terms of Polish esotericists]. In: Polskie tradycje ezoteryczne 1890–1939. Tom V. Idee przewodnie, red. M. Dobkowski, T. Cegielski. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Gdańsk – Warszawa, 119–146.   
  • 2019, Studies on Western Esotericism in Central and Estern Europe (Studies in Cultural Iconology 1), N. Radulović, K. M. Hess (eds). Publications of the Research Center for Cultural Iconology and Semiography, University of Szeged, JATEPress Szeged.
  • 2019, Nightmares, lethargy, and wandering in the afterlife: visions of the mysteries of life and death in Agnieszka Pilchowa’s novel Zmora, “Melancolia. Revista de Historia del Centro de Estudios sobre el Esoterismo Occidental de la UNASUR” Vol. 04, 57–82 (with Małgorzata A. Dulska).
  • 2018, The Idea of Ideoplasty and Occult Phenomena in the Theoretical and Empirical Research of Julian Ochorowicz, „Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural” Vol. 7, No. 2, 239–274.  
  • 2017, Sad Satan’s Children: Stanisław Przybyszewski and Esoteric Milieus, “La Rosa di Paracelso. Rivista di studi sull'Esoterismo occidentale”, issue Diabolus in singulis est: The Devil, Satan and Lucifer, No 2, 133–158.
  • 2017. Czarownice. Studia z kulturowej historii fenomenu [Witches. Studies in the cultural history of the phenomenon], A. Anczyk, J. Doroszewska, K. M. Hess (eds), Wydawnictwo Sacrum, Kraków.
  • 2017, Kazimierz Stabrowski’s Esoteric Dimensions. Theosophy, Art, and the Vision of Femininity, “La Rosa di Paracelso. Rivista di studi sull'Esoterismo occidentale”, issue L'Eterno Esoterico Femminino - The Eternal Esoteric Feminine, No 1, 37–61 (with Małgorzata A. Dulska).
  • 2016. Studia ezoteryczne. Wątki polskiej [Esoteric studies. Polish threads], I. Trzcińska, A. Świerzowska, K. M. Hess (eds), Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Kraków.
  • 2016, Rose Cross, Saturn’s Menagerie and the Coal Mines of Silesia: Strange Visions of Teofil Ociepka, "Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions" 19, no. 4, 57–79 (with Małgorzata A. Dulska).

Research projects

  • PI of the project in the Iwanowska Programme of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, titled Boundaries of Science and Occultism at the Turn of the 20th Century –  the Example of the Research of Julian Ochorowicz. Research grant awarded for 6-month visiting research at Michigan State University, USA (2021–2022).
  • PI of the project in an individual research grant “Etiuda” funded by the National Science Centre of Poland including a scholarship for the finalisation of the PhD dissertation Polish Theosophical thought and the ideas of the international Theosophical Society, 1905-1939. A critical analysis of selected philosophical topics, based on the decision No. DEC-2016/20/T/HS1/00226 (2016–2017)
  • PI of the project The reception of the category of the East by Polish esoteric environments at the turn of the 20th century and its cultural and religious consequences funded by the National Science Centre in Poland based on decision no. DEC-2013/11/N/HS1/04812 (2014–2016).
  • Researcher in group project Polish Culture in Relations to the Western Esoteric Philosophy in the Years 1890-1939. Head of the project: Prof. Monika Rzeczycka, University of Gdansk. The research is carried out within the framework of the Minister of Science and Higher Education's programme NPRH, no. 0186/NPRH4/H2b/ 83/2016 (2016–2019).

Other achievements

  • Co-founder and steering committee member of CEENASWE – Central and Eastern European Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism, a regional network of ESSWE – the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE).  
  • Co-founder and member of Polish Society for the Study of Western Esotericism.