Aaron French


Position Title
Graduate Student in the Study of Religion
Provost's Disseration Year Fellow (2020-21)

915 Sproul

Adviser(s): Allison Coudert, Chunjie Zhang, Timothy Lenoir, Frederick Amrine

Education and Degree(s):

  • M.A. in The Study of Religion, with a Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis
  • B.A. in Religious Studies, Minors in Classics and English, University of Arizona

Research Interest(s):

  • New Religious Movements
  • Secularism and Modernity
  • Esotericism and Occulture
  • European Reception of Asian Religions
  • Max Weber
  • Rudolf Steiner
  • History of Science
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Religion and Science
  • Religious Experience and Science Fiction

Teaching Experience:

  • Main Instructor, UC Davis – Religion, Magic, and Science
  • Main Instructor, UC Davis – Religion and Science Fiction
  • Main Instructor, UC Davis – Death and the Afterlife
  • Teaching Assistant, University of Arizona – Spirituality, Psychology, and the Mind
  • Teaching Assistant, University of Arizona – God, Humanity & Science


My general area of focus is the history of science, religion, and esotericism during the 19th century in Central Europe, particularly Germany. I am interested in how cultural and epistemological boundaries separating different types of knowledge—for example, science, religion, and esotericism (broadly speaking)—were constructed during the period referred to as “modernity” in European intellectual history. The tentative title of my dissertation is Reimagining Religion, Science, and Nature in Germany and Switzerland, 1875-1925. By highlighting two early twentieth-century German intellectuals—Max Weber (1864-1920) and Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)—my research draws out the underappreciated influence of esotericism and Asian religious philosophy on the development of scientific and religious thought in fin-de-siècle Europe.

In addition to my academic work, I am a writer and editor in the speculative fiction genre. I have edited several genre-fiction anthologies focusing on supernatural and science fiction themes and have published many short stories, novellas, and a novel. More information about my work in mainstream publishing and speculative fiction can be found at my author website Exegeting the Mystery.

Selected Publications:

“Voyage to India with Sir William Jones: The Asiatick Society Remakes the West.” Presented at the 14th International Symposium on Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Arizona. Published in Travel, Time, and Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Time: Explorations of World Perceptions and Processes of Identity Formation. Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 22 (De Gruyter, 2018).

“The Mandela Effect and Future Memory.” Presented at the Sixth International ESSWE Conference: Western Esotericism and Deviance, Universität Erfurt, Germany. Published in Correspondences: Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism (vol. 6, no. 2, 2018).

Honors and Awards:

  • Graduate Group in the Study of Religion Dissertation Writing Summer Fellowship, 2018
  • Study of Religion First-Year Fellowship, 2015-16
  • Ora Bretall Scholarship in Humanities, 2014
  • “Spirit of Inquiry” Honors College Scholarship, 2014
  • “Why Humanities Matter” Scholarship, 2013