ASE 2016 Conference Schedule
All events will take place in the UC Davis Student Community Center.
6:00-7:00 Reception – Room D
7:00-8:30 First Keynote Lecture – Room D
Mind Maps: From Skulls to Skulduggery in Spiritualism
The finding of the first Neanderthal skeleton in 1856 fueled the flames of physiognomy and phrenology alike with European intellectuals hoping to finally prove that character was indeed stamped on the body. With their fierce belief on progress, Spiritualists were among the first to equate evolution with improvement with painful ramifications for ranking deviants on the chain of being. The scientists behind early criminology and the concept of “moral insanity” were overwhelmingly Spiritualists, revealing the dark side of the very progress they so wished for. Opening a virtual cabinet of curiosities, this talk explores how bodies were measured, photographed, and revealed as maps of minds and morals.
9:15-10:45 First Session
Archetype as Guide: The Soul Mapped in the Stars
Chair: M.E. Warlick
- Samuel Arthur Malkemus Archetypal Astrology and the Human Soul: Metaphysical Implications of a Panpsychist Perspective
- Laura Reddick The Archetypal Lens: Tarot as a Frame for the Psyche
- Matthew Thierry Switzer Revolutionary Magic for a Free Society: Simon Magus’ Integral Approach to Archetypal Resonance
Chair: Nell Champoux
- Ted Hand Kabbalah, the Angelic Mind, and the Structure of the Intelligible World in Pico della Mirandola
- Mark Roblee The Vehicle of the Soul in the Neoplatonic Imagination: Map IS Territory
- Kevin Corrigan Plotinus and Gregory of Nyssa: The Architecture of the Soul for a Sacred Theurgic Universe
10:45-11:00 Coffee Break
11:00-12:30 Second Keynote Lecture – Multi Purpose Room
Cartographies of Soul in Near Death Experience: Challenges to Esotericism
This presentation will explore the nature of soul in the context of NDE (Near Death Experiences), particularly focused on contemporary NDE occurring in the context of “clinical death” as documented by medical professionals. Evidence will be assembled to illustrate the conditions of the post-mortem state: the stages of transformation, the depths of experience (based on clinical distinctions), the interactive context of post-mortem encounters, the veridicality of NDE accounts, and the descriptive phenomenology of soul that can be extracted from this evidence. Using this material I will explore a theoretical question: Is “soul” as described in NDE an ontological isolate or an intersubjective entity? This evidence will be used as a base for an analysis of more traditional “esoteric” cartographies to demonstrate the continuities and discontinuities between the constructive models of religious and spiritual esoteric traditions. In my conclusion I will offer some thoughts on the nature of esoteric studies and future directions for research.
2:15-2:30 Coffee Break
2:30-4:00 Second Session
Heads and Bodies
Chair: Joscelyn Godwin
- Simon Magus Discord in the Temple of Psyche: Left-Brain Right-Brain Metonymy and the Neuromythology of Western Esotericism
- Sandra Pryor Alchemy, Astrology, and the Tree of Life: Representations of the Soul, Cartographies, and Correspondences
- John Crow More than the Sum of its Parts: Mapping the Subtle Bodies in Theosophy
Chair: Christa Shusko
- Jayne Bittner “The Drug Does Nothing”: Mary Baker Eddy’s Exploration of the Mind to Mind Connection
- Colette Walker Harmonizing the Spiritual-Divine with the Physical-Earthly: Rudolph Steiner’s Theories of Art in Therapeutic Practice
- Melvyn Draper Vital Matters: The Science and Art of Homeopathy
Chair: Lee Irwin
- John Corrigan Hawthorne, Faulkner and the Cosmic Body: Esoteric Medicine and the Invention of the Gothic Self
- Thomas Willard Early Modern Writers on the Magical Soul
- Elena Glazov Corrigan The Trials of the World Soul in the Writings of Vladimir Soloviev and Boris Pasternak
9:15-10:45 Third Session
Performance and Happenings
Chair: Claire Fanger
- Amy Hale Conjuring Strange and Ancient Larvae: Barry William Hale and the Negotiations of Occult Performance
- Jeremy Guida Exorcising the Pentagon: Esoteric Practice, Political Protest, and the Role of the Underground Press
- Philip Deslippe Dissimulation and Demonstration Rooms: How Hotels Gave Rise to Early American Yoga
Art and Material Objects
Chair: M.E. Warlick
- Alexandra Fine Visualizing the Soul: Contemporary Aura Photography and Metaphysical Technologies of Seeing and Healing
- Joscelyn Godwin Masonic Memory-Palaces in the Early American Republic
- John Zandler Religion, Esotericism, and the Martial Arts in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Chair: Nell Champoux
- Elizabeth Abbate Alchemy, Lumen sensibus, and the “Eternal Feminine”: Esoteric Elements in Mahler’s Eighth
- Erik Davis Soul Space: Sound and Subjectivity in New Age Music, 1975-1985
- Stephen Lett Helen Bonny’s Cut-Log Diagram of Altered States of Consciousness
10:45-11:00 Coffee Break
11:00-12:30 Fourth Session
Dreams and Death
Chair: Mark Roblee
- Kim Bateman Conceptualizations of the Disembodied Soul: The Appearance of the Deceased in Dreams of the Bereaved
- John Treat The Very Soul of Propriety and the Soul Equal and Triumphant: Black and White Women’s Souls in the Funeral Rites of the Daughters of the Tabernacle and the Order of the Eastern Star
- Paul Mirecki A Ritual Handbook Text for Soul Divination from Roman Egypt
Space and Place
Chair: Claire Fanger
- Kerry Koitzsch The Structure of Libraries and the Cartography of the Soul: Correspondences between Collections of Books and their Collectors
- Nell Champoux Ductus and Visionary Navigation in John of Morigny’s Liber florum
- Elizabeth Lowry Physical and Spiritual Paths: Mapping the Journeys of Two Nineteenth-Century Spiritualist Women
Diagrams (in the Flesh)
Note: This panel will run until 12:40.
Chair: Tom Willard
- E. Warlick Mapping the Mystery: The Evolution of Alchemical Diagrams
- Paul Ivey Theosophical and Dispensational Diagrams of the Constitution of Man, A Search for Scientific Plausibility
- Aaron French Esoteric Physiology: Mapping the Soul-World onto the Body
- Anne Parker Tree of Life as Soul Map: Dion Fortune’s Imagistic Algebra of Gnosis
2:00-3:30 Fifth Session
Sex and Drugs
Chair: Aaron French
- Christa Shusko Soul Growth through Sexual Intercourse in the Works of Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham
- John MacMurphy The Power of the Soul: Between Sexual Magic and Theurgy in Jewish Esotericism
- Johann Nilsson Opium Dreams, Mystical Visions and Interior Journeys: Opium Smoking as a Religious Practice in Late 18th and Early 19th Century Occultism
Heart and Soul in the Medieval Christian Cosmos
Chair: Nell Champoux
- Victoria Nelson The Love Road Trip: Rene of Anjou’s Dream Vision and the Feeling Experience of Allegory
- Minji Lee “The Heart of God Almighty is now upon Your Heart”: Comforting the Soul through Pleasure and Pain in Angela of Foligno’s Memorial
- Claire Fanger Inscriptions and Impressions on the Heart: Locating the Soul’s Memory of God
3:30-3:45 Coffee Break
3:45-5:00 Third Keynote Lecture – Room D:
Subtle Bodies: Cartographies of the Soul, from India to ‘the West’ and Back Again
Starting in the early twentieth century, there has been much influence of Indian ideas of the subtle body (specifically the chakras) on Western esotericism, percolating from Theosophy and Occultism (especially via Aleister Crowley) through New Age spirituality. Over the same time period, the chakra system in India changed considerably, particularly during the British colonial era; when transmitted to Europe and England, it was further refracted through the lenses of Orientalism, colonialism, and consumer culture. This lecture will explore how cartographies of the soul in esoteric traditions always also reflect the cartographies of the external world, including its history, politics, and economics. As I trace the contours of the Indian subtle body in various new guises and appropriations, I will also use this exploration to critique the category of “Western esotericism.”
5:30-8:30 Dinner – Gunrock Pub
9:00-10:15 Sixth Session
East and Esotericism
Chair: Joscelyn Godwin
- Allison Coudert Ensouling the Universe: Eastern Influences on 19th century Romanticism
- Geoffrey Redmond Fu Xi Meets Hermes Trismegistus: The I Ching Becomes Tarot
- Gordan Djurdjevic “Wishing You a Speedy Termination of Existence”: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Buddhism and the Conceptual Limits of the Category “Western” in the Study of Esotericism
10:15-11:30 Open Business Meeting – Room D
Moderator: Arthur Versluis
Featuring discussion of possible book, future conference venues, and the future of the Association for the Study of Esotericism.
ASE 2016 Paper Descriptions
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
Abbate, Elizabeth. PhD, The Boston Conservatory
“Alchemy, Lumen sensibus, and the “Eternal Feminine”: Esoteric Elements in Mahler’s Eighth”
Mahler’s Eighth Symphony was composed in 1906, in the midst of the early century outpouring of interest in the esoteric and occult. Mahler’s conviction that the Eighth had been transmitted to him by a higher power, his references to the Faustian work as his “Mass” and a “gift to the nation,” and his decision to set the hymn text Veni Creator Spiritus (Part 1 of the symphony) together with the closing scene from Goethe’s Faust (Part 2), all suggest his commitment to an esoteric framework. Musicologists have demonstrated that Mahler, like Goethe, would have understood the Veni Creator Spiritus as an appeal to a universal world genius, but it had numerous contemporary esoteric associations as well, including its quotation by occultist Eliphas Levi and probable use in masonic ritual. Contemporary discussions of Goethe’s Faust focused on its origins in Paracelsian and Platonic ideas and in Renaissance alchemy. A musical analysis of the Eighth verifies Mahler’s commitment to the esotericism in his texts. The music setting “Lumen sensibus” (from the hymn) is pervasive throughout the piece, juxtaposing the sense of its original text with passages from Faust, and Mahler writes complex harmonic passages with enharmonic modulations between the keys of E flat and E to demonstrate the relationship between the earthly sphere and that of Goethe’s Mother of God/goddess. The use of the two keys in the closing Chorus mysticus suggests that the earthly sphere is but a likeness (modulating to E), yet that spirit and substance are one and the process of transformation is rooted in earthly life (E flat). Further, Mahler’s focus on images of the fire of the “Creator,” the presence of the “Goddess” in earthly life, and the transformative nature of the “eternal feminine” foreshadows the Jungian concepts of archetypes and anima, implying that Mahler’s “gift to the nation” may have been intended as a mystical elevation of the masses through appeals to the collective unconscious.
Bateman, Kim. PhD, Executive Dean, Tahoe-Truckee Campus of Sierra College
“Conceptualizations of the Disembodied Soul: The Appearance of the Deceased in Dreams of the Bereaved.”
It has been a well-established finding among contemporary psychologists that dreams about the deceased are an active means through which the bereaved can process the trauma of loss (Barrett, 1992; Bateman 2016; Garfield, 1997; Pollock, 1989; Raphael, 1983; Roeder, 1981; Weizman & Kamm, 1985). In this paradigm, the dream image has been conceptualized as an internally generated memory trace, or introjection. In contrast, pre-scientific cultures and modern tribal peoples have understood the dead in dreams to be substantive visitations (Garfield, 1997; Moody, 1993; Van de Castle, 1994). Thus, the dichotomy of the image of the deceased as a fantasy figure or as an actual reference emerges. In charting a cartography of the soul, perhaps these images in dreams can be conceptualized metaphorically, as neither an invention of the mourner or the actual soul of the dead, but as something that lies between the living and the dead. As such, this co-created image can be a rich source of information for understanding the complexities of relationship in life and in death. This study employed a phenomenological method to further elucidate this hypothesis. Six subjects who had experienced sudden losses were asked to keep dream journals and participate in interviews throughout a two year period. It was found that the image of the deceased did reflect and assist the bereaved in their grieving. It was also noted that the image of the deceased changed as well through the dream series. Perhaps the dream is a meeting ground where the living offer their imaginations as a space through which both the living and the dead can continue to individuate.
Bittner, Jayne. Ph.D. student, Graduate Group in the Study of Religion,
University of California, Davis
‘The Drug Does Nothing’: Mary Baker Eddy’s Exploration of the Mind to Mind Connection.”
This paper explores why the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, neglected to develop a doctrine of the soul and instead explored the relationship of the mortal mind to the Divine Mind. With soul or spirit as arguably more Christian terms, why did Eddy choose to use the word “mind” to explain humans’ relationship to God? This is an important question considering that Eddy’s goal was to restore primitive Christianity, not to found a non-Christian metaphysical religion. This paper argues that her use of the term “mind” rather than soul was strategic and positioned in a particular historical context. Mind-cure proponents in the nineteenth century, like Eddy, claimed their methods were scientific and rational. They believed the power of the mind could be tested and measured empirically. Therefore, I argue that Eddy’s focus on the mind is not only situated in this nineteenth century metaphysical context of an increased interest in the power of the mind, but also reflective of her desire to ground her healing techniques in scientific language and methods. For Eddy, it was not material medicine that healed sickness (for physical matter was an error or illusion), but rather the Divine Mind of God. It was the mortal mind (designated by a lowercase “m”), when disconnected from the Divine Mind, that falsely believed in the power of medicine. She claimed her method for healing, achieved through prayer and the realization of the error of matter and the reality of Spirit, was testable and observable and therefore empirical and scientific.
Champoux, Nell. Syracuse University (PhD Candidate), LeMoyne College (Adjunct Professor)
“Ductus and Visionary Navigation in John of Morigny’s Liber florum.”
For medieval monks (and the broader medieval intellectual elite), the soul was capacious, involved with much of what we would label as perceptual or cognitive activity, as well as more rarified functions like the apprehension of the divine. Within this broad sweep of the soul’s territory, medieval monks were often hard at work on the project of mapping out the soul, or at least certain of its regions. Albertus Magnus, in his 1246 treatise “On the Good” highlights the need to shape the soul (the sort of soul he is discussing here is a combination of modern thought, or intellection, and memory) into a place, carefully ordered and spaced. This focus on the creation of an interior world that was deliberately charted by the individual monk was a common one throughout the middle ages and repeated in many of the texts used for schooling novices. These carefully planned and mapped spaces of the mind were mirrored in exterior architectural and artistic worlds that were similarly planned and charted. Such spaces were meant to be “read,” like a map, to aid in the project of understanding and contemplating the divine. Medieval texts refer to this “reading” of an architectural space or work of art as a process called ductus. Ductus can be ascribed to a text, a piece of music, a single work of art, or an architectural space. Here, my focus will be on architectural spaces, on churches; spaces that were “read” through elements highlighted by light and liturgy, often taking the form of sculptures. In these churches, the already “mapped” souls of medieval monks were in a space perfectly keyed to their own interior worlds. This paper will map one element of the broader space of the soul, that of the visionary navigation of real ecclesiastical spaces, within the work of one monk, the fourteenth-century Benedictine John of Morigny, a (somewhat) reformed practitioner of medieval magic (a term I use here advisedly, since this abstract is not the place to hash out the proper terminology and its borders), whose text, the Liber florum was burned as necromantic in 1323. I will argue that his visions, though fully internal, taking place in the space of dreams, are still marked by the waypoints highlighted by ductus and that ties can be made between John’s visionary encounters with ecclesiastical spaces and ecclesiastical spaces in the waking world.
Corrigan, John Michael Corrigan, PhD. Dept. of English, National Chengchi University
“Hawthorne, Faulkner and the Cosmic Body: Esoteric Medicine and the Invention of the Gothic Self.”
This paper explores architectural space in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Faulkner and argues that the American Gothic was influenced by early modern innovations in medicine that were esoteric in character. I briefly discuss the gradual shift away from the Galenic medical tradition toward a holistic and magical view of the human body in the plague theory of Marsilio Ficino and the medical practices of Paracelsus, and I show that Hawthorne and Faulkner preserved key elements concerned with health and pathology and encoded them in architectural edifices. Nathaniel Hawthorne explicitly utilizes the belief in the human being as a microcosm of nature and the universe in a number of his most famous fictions, giving it spatial expression in The House of the Seven Gables and The Marble Faun. Faulkner’s earliest depictions of the plantation house in his Yoknapatawpha canon similarly reveal a predilection to this view of esoteric correspondences as a key for identifying the pathologies of the human self. Where most scholars have tended to see Faulkner’s work as an anticipation of postmodernity, I argue that his critique of the plantation house should be reconsidered to include his development of older forms of knowledge that attempt to map and give expression to transcendence and the human form.
Corrigan, Kevin, Director of the Emory University Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, Emory University.
“Plotinus and Gregory of Nyssa: the architecture of the soul for a sacred theurgic universe.”
I shall present and analyze 2 cartographies of the soul/mind that, in my view, have been either consistently misunderstood or underappreciated to the point of not even appearing in historical accounts of the mind/soul/body relation. The first case is Plotinus who has been very well studied over the past 30 years, but is in danger of being pigeon-holed even by Plotinus-scholars as a totally otherworldly sage who held the view that we can be free and impassible only if we live “detached from every link with the body.” While detachment and impassibility are important, this prevalent contemporary view is false and fails to chart a much more subtle cartography of soul. The second case is Gregory of Nyssa, who, like Plotinus, has many different views of the mind/soul/body relation. I shall present only one of these cartographies, a poineering that is, I suggest, the most important mind/soul/body map from Aristotle to Aquinas, a map in some ways akin to the thought of Augustine, but ultimately more important than Augustine and, perhaps, even than Plotinus. My overall thesis will be that Plotinus and Gregory help to create the architecture for a sacred theurgic universe that will influence and mold later thought.
Coudert, Allison. Professor, Religious Studies, UC Davis.
Following Weber, much has been written about the disenchantment of the world and its secularization beginning in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation and continuing to this day. Egil Asprem has seriously challenged this view by problematizing Weber’s notion of disenchantment and presenting ample evidence that there was plenty of enchantment in the scientific theories devised and discussed in the first half of the 20th century. It is the object of this paper to show that the same can be said of the early modern period. The idea that a materialist and mechanical philosophy achieved canonical status in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is quite simply wrong. Instead of taking souls out of the natural world, souls proliferated as Kabbalists, Pythagoreans, Vegetarians, and Romantics turned toward the East, accepting a monist philosophy that envisioned souls as an inherent part of all forms of matter, even machines.
Crow, John L. PhD. Florida State University
“More than the Sum of its Parts: Mapping the Subtle Bodies in Theosophy.”
When speaking to her students, on June 20, 1889, H.B. Blavatsky, frustrated, scolded them claiming, “Look here, you Europeans ought never to have been given the seven principles. Well, perhaps in a hundred years you will understand it. It would be a thousand times better to hold to the old methods, those that I have held to in Isis Unveiled, and to speak about triple man: spirit, soul, and matter; then you would not fall into the heresies, in such heresies as you do.”  This terse response was to a series of questions her students asked about the principles that compose the human body. They were confused because the descriptions H.P.B. gave in The Secret Doctrine were far from clear. With the emergence of Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky inaugurated a new system of occultism which offered descriptions of the subtle bodies that compose the human body. Initially claiming there were three divisions, she later expanded these to seven, ranging from the physical body to the immortal spirit. Yet, these descriptions were constantly changing, having a variety of labels, and arranged up in myriad ways. After her death in 1891, three prominent leaders in the Theosophical movement, Annie Besant, Charles W. Leadbeater, and C. Jinarajadasa took up the challenge of systematizing the representations of the subtle bodies, organizing the terminology, and standardizing the divisions. To do so, they fully embraced the rhetoric and aesthetics of modern science, deploying consistent language and labels, producing numerous graphs, illustrations, charts, and photographs, all in an effort to effectively map the composition of a person, and to have consistent terminology across Theosophical literature. By making a consistent map of the body, and claiming it was occult science, they built a foundation upon which Theosophy could thrive, and it did. During the first three decades of the twentieth century Theosophy grew rapidly worldwide, becoming a movement that counted a membership in the hundreds of thousands.
Davis, Erik. PhD Candidate, Rice University, Department of Religion.
“Soul Space: Sound and Subjectivity in New Age Music, 1975-1985.”
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new zone of music making and listening practices emerged from the confluence of a number of important streams of musical and non musical culture. What resulted went by a number of names, but has generally been categorized as New Age music—a term that reflects the fact that the ethos and imagination associated with the alternative spirituality of the 1970s played a central role in the articulation and consumption of the new genre. As such, New Age music itself allows us a privileged access to certain aspects of the “spiritual but not religious” current in the wake of the counterculture. One dimension is representational: cover art, song titles, and semiotic “samplings” from romanticized traditions important to the New Age, from chakra symbolism to Native American flutes. More rewarding to analyze, however, are the largely instrumental music’s rhetoric and deployment of “space” and “vibration” as sites of experiences ranging from resonant fusion to unbounded drift to affective but largely impersonal immersion. As such, New Age music offered sonic templates and imaginal cartographies that both symbolized and catalyzed cosmic modes of subjectivity while serving an almost cosmological role in offering concrete “images” capable of cohering what was often a highly amorphous blend of concepts, practices, altered states, and subject positions. At the same time, this aesthetic language was balanced by a strikingly functional one, as musicians presented their work as expressions of a vibrational science whose healing powers would offer more than forms of consumption associated with secular entertainment. Such metaphysical pragmatics were itself dependent on changes in technology, however, notably the emergence of the cassette tape as an inexpensive recording and distribution platform and, more importantly, the increasing affordability of good synthesizers, sequencers, and multitrack recording gear. Ironically, the individualized “spiritual” experiences of expansion and exploration promoted by the music often reflected the increasingly dense interiority of the electronic home studio itself.
Deslippe, Phillip. Dept. of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Dissimulation and Demonstration Rooms: How Hotels Gave Rise to Early American Yoga.”
Despite the current popularity of yoga in the United States and the recent waves of scholarly attention given to it, little attention has been given to the first half of yoga’s history in the United States. With the exception of a handful of figures, most historians see little yoga during the first decades of the twentieth century. Upon closer inspection, however, there was a large and vibrant world of yoga during this time that reached its height in the interwar decades of the Twenties and Thirties. Indian-born yoga teachers were not primarily authors, and neither were they anchored to a specific location. Rather, they were peripatetic, and constantly traveled across the country, moving from city to city for anywhere from a week to several months at a time in movements akin to Methodist circuit riders.
Overwhelmingly, the main sites for the teaching of yoga during this time were hotels. While this might appear at first glance to be incidental or an interesting aside, the connection between hotels and yoga in the interwar decades is significant. As with esotericism, early American yoga was a matter of dissimulation, and its teachers presented themselves differently to the general public than they did to their committed students. The composition of hotels—lecture halls, demonstration rooms, and private suites— provided fitting spaces for the three main forms of teaching of yoga during this time: large public lectures, private series of classes for smaller groups of students, and dyadic, thaumaturgical relationships between teachers and students. The common use of hotels also allows an understanding of yoga as a marginal and mostly unaffiliated presence on the American religious landscape of the early twentieth century, and its teachers not as singular figures, but of a type and part of network that exchanged information and shared many of the same venues in common. Through an extensive use of historical newspapers, archival sources, and personal interviews with the children and grandchildren of yoga teachers from this time, this paper aims to give a new view of yoga’s early history in the United States that through focusing on its presence in hotels ,will show it to be largely a matter of inner and outer teachings, public personas and secret relationships, that found suitable and temporary homes across the country in hotels.
Djurdjevic, Gordan. PhD.
“Wishing You a Speedy Termination of Existence: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Buddhism and the Conceptual Limits of the Category ‘Western’ in the Study of Esotericism.”
Aleister Crowley maintained a lifelong interest in Eastern spiritual traditions. After initial exposure to Western esotericism through his membership in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crowley lost interest in magic and embraced agnostic skepticism and, through his mentor Allan Bennett, Theravāda Buddhism. Subsequent to his acceptance of the mantle of the prophet of Thelema, he renounced Buddhism — but not completely. He continued to promote a basic form of Buddhist meditation, the mahasatipatthana, as an important tool in disciplining the mind; he included the Buddha among seven historical Magi in his version of prisca theologia; and he argued that the three highest grades in A.˙.A.˙., his own system of spiritual achievement, imply the mastery over those aspects of reality that Buddhists call ‘marks of existence’: suffering, impermanence, and lack of self. My paper explores the evolution of Crowley’s views on Buddhism and theorizes about the importance of non-Western forms of spirituality in the study of esotericism.
Draper, Melvyn. PhD Candidate, History Department, UC Davis.
“Vital Matters: The Science and Art of Homeopathy.”
Homoeopathy, a vitalist medical paradigm predicated on the core principle of similia similibus curentur, or, “like cures like,” was first outlined by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in his 1810 treatise, Organon of the Rational Healing Art. Arising out of his dissatisfaction with what he considered to be the failures of orthodox, heroic medicine, and the empiricism upon it which it rested, Hahnemann argued that homoeopathy was a natural law of cure and his system of similars was rational and scientific, not esoteric. Yet, despite his frosty rejection of the “…metaphysical, mystical, and supernatural speculations, which idle and self-sufficient visionaries have devised….” scholars have highlighted the presence of distinctly esoteric ideas in Hahnemann’s writings, including an embrace of mesmerism and spiritism, and suggestions that he was a Swedenborgian. The suffusing of homoeopathy with esoteric ideas is perhaps most evident in the theory of a vital force that is integral to the homoeopathic system of medicine. In this paper I shall suggest that this vitalist basis reveals homoeopathy to be a non-binary expression of esoteric thought that needs to be situated within the context of the enchanted modernity that has recently been examined by Egil Asprem in his reassessment of Max Weber’s “problem” of disenchantment. By viewing homoeopathy as an emanation of Enlightenment natural science we are able to observe the centrality of esoteric thought in the construction of modernity and account for the continued and enduring presence of homoeopathy in contemporary medical culture.
Fanger, Claire. Professor, Department of Religion, Rice University
“Inscriptions and impressions on the heart: locating the soul’s memory of God.”
In biblical contexts, the topos of “writing on the heart” is associated with the making of a covenant between God and his faithful in three well-known locations: Jeremiah 31:33: “this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart.” The passage is paraphrased in Heb 8:10: “I will give my laws in their hearts and on their minds will I write them,” and again, using similar words, in Heb 10:16, in which it becomes, in later Christian readings, specifically a New Covenant symbol. However in late medieval writing, the idea of a covenant written or impressed on the heart develops a distinctively personal aspect, and often develops ritual, experiential and visionary dimensions as it is worked into mystical embodied experience. Gertrude of Helfta describes a prayer that she says repeatedly ultimately to produce a visceral experience of God literally penetrating her heart. In a reversal of the metaphor, Henry Suso in his memoir tells how he inscribes God’s name over his heart with a sharp stylus, calling the resulting wound and scar a “love token.” This “love token” sometimes radiated light, and thus became an experiential and phenomenal reminder of his own personal pact with God. And in John of Morigny’s Liber florum, operators of the prayers are advised to inscribe his prayer book “on the parchment of the heart, using the finger of conscience”; it becomes clear that this writing of the book on the heart is a part of its capacity to induce divine visions. In all cases, the association of the heart as the original locus of the written covenant links to its power to orchestrate experiences of God by synchronizing maps of God, memory, and the soul. I will triangulate these episodes of inscription and impression on the heart (all written near or shortly after 1300) to develop a picture of the heart as a specific place in the microcosm that enables direct divine experience.
Fine, Alexandra. Ph.D. Student, University of California, Davis
“Visualizing the Soul: Contemporary Aura Photography and Metaphysical Technologies of Seeing and Healing.”
In looking closely at contemporary technologies of aura visualization as produced from Kirlian photography and computer-generated technologies since the 1980s, I draw connections between these modern modes of visualization and esoteric and metaphysical practices of seeing. The aura photography of today presents a fusion of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs with scientific ideas on normality, health, and balance. Such scientific practices of healing have predominantly been used to categorize and characterize individuals of particular identities, thus contributing to and creating a culture wherein certain individuals (white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, upper-middle class, etc.) are considered to be the norm and are correspondingly granted the power and privilege associated with the dominant class. I trace Western conceptions of the aura back to Franz Mesmer’s 18th century notion of animal magnetism, with its particular spiritual and scientific understandings of the soul and healthy living. Such notions reflected and helped to produce scientific (perceived as “legitimate”) information on health and survival, which became problematic in ranking individuals of varying racial, ethnic, gendered, and sexual identities hierarchically. For example, how were the auras of women, people of color, or queer people visualized? I investigate how these aura readings worked to assess not just individuals’ souls, but also their identity and social position, and advocated strategies for how individuals may enhance their physical body and their lived experiences. By engaging in a study of contemporary modes of aura visualization, contextualized through a genealogical consideration of esoteric and metaphysical ways of using seeing for healing, I hope to explain how and why the desire to look inwards to the soul has persisted as a way to heal the physical body.
French, Aaron. PhD Candidate, Study of Religion, UC Davis
“Esoteric Physiology: Mapping the Soul-World onto the Body.”
Weber’s theory of disenchantment argued that the spread of Protestantism and modern capitalism, alongside the progress of materialistic science, resulted in a secular, material, and disenchanted view of nature, human beings, and societies. However, scholars of esotericism have revealed that many individuals strove to re-enchant this new world in which they found themselves, often under the radar of the academy. Drawing on such claims, this paper will show that in addition to re-investing the natural world with magical and soul-like qualities, esotericists re-enchanted human physical bodies through systems of occult physiology and spiritual anatomy. To do this, the paper will look at three prominent esotericists of the late 19th/early 20th centuries; Rudolf Steiner, Franz Bardon, and Manly P. Hall. Investigating how these personalities re-sacralized the physical body—in opposition to (but deeply predicated upon) modern materialistic science—can assist future researchers with aspirations to bridge the scientific-medical approach and the scientific-spiritual approach. Instead of rejecting modern materialistic science, these esotericists made use of it to re-sacrilize the body in order to present a new form of integral healing involving both the body and spirit.
Glazov-Corrigan, Elena. Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature
Director of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, Emory University
“The Trials of the World Soul in the Writings of Vladimir Soloviev and Boris Pasternak.”
The prose of the Russian writer Boris Pasternak is known for his intention to bring together the esoteric thought of the Russian Symbolists and the naturalistic realism of Leo Tolstoy. This paper examines Pasternak’s debt to Vladimir Soloviev and the latter’s view that “the World Soul” (the organizing feminine principle of nature that extends into the life of human beings) lacks the necessary unifying power in her struggle with chaos” and, thus, searches for the intellectual principle that can give unity to the multilayered and separated characteristics of the natural space where she resides. Without insisting on too close a correspondence between Soloviev’s ideas of the ongoing cosmic drama and the depiction of the confrontation between nature and human beings, this paper will address the resonances between the two writers that redirect and fill with expanded meaning Pasternak’s desire to speak of the Russian destiny by finding in its catastrophic experience new levels of signification.
Godwin, Joscelyn. Professor, Colgate University
“Masonic memory-palaces in the early American Republic.”
Twelve remarkable tracing boards, preserved in New York State’s masonic lodges and mostly unpublished, combine large-format painting with symbolic and didactic imagery. They date from the first zenith of American freemasonry, before it was devastated by the reaction to the Morgan Affair (182 7-30). Masonry served in pioneer regions as a social cement transcending sectarian differences, and offered an optimistic vision of human potential, at variance with that of the dominant Calvinism. The tracing boards, painted by itinerant artisans or by the masons themselves, served as compendia of the whole masonic experience. They resemble Renaissance frontispieces and alchemical or kabbalistic diagrams, with which they share many symbols. Thus a distant residue of the Hermetic tradition penetrated to some of the most remote corners of the expanding Republic. From 1812 there appears a hierarchical arrangement like a memory-palace, quite unlike tracing boards of the Old World, representing the psychological and spiritual evolution of the initiate through the three Craft degrees. The repertory of symbols, also different from those of Europe, reflects the transition in American freemasonry from the deism and Enlightenment values of the Revolutionary period to a more moralizing and broadly Christian orientation.
Graf, Susan Johnston. Associate Professor of English. The Pennsylvania State University, the Mont Alto Campus.
“Listening to the Gods: William Blake’s Jerusalem.”
The centerpiece of William Blake’s prophetic oeuvre is his long poem, Jerusalem. Blake seems to say that the poem is dictated to him by Jesus Christ himself. Blake claimed that all of is prophetic works were dictated to him by spiritual intelligences. As with all of Blake’s prophetic books, Jerusalem is an illuminated book in which some of the ideas are accompanied by Blake’s colored drawings. I am proposing to present ideas about some aspects of the cosmology Blake develops in Jerusalem. Generally speaking, Blake has created, (or if we believe him—and I tend to think we should believe visionary artists and take them at their word) or written out for us from dictation, an account of the beginnings of the universe, or at least the beginnings of the solar system. Some of his work—that in the early prophet books that proceed Jerusalem–seem to be a kind of prequel to the Bible, which Blake called the greatest “imaginative” work ever written. With Jerusalem, not only the Earth, but also England is in existence. Because of Marsha Keith Schuchard’s contribution to our understanding of Blake’s religious background and his parents’ connection to the Moravian Church, we can now understand that Blake’s Christianity is of a more unconventional tenor than previously thought. His revelations in Jerusalem are as stunning as they are heterodox. The presentation will include a slideshow of some of the drawings.
Guida, Jeremy. PhD Student, Religious Studies, UC Davis
“Exorcising the Pentagon: Esoteric Practice, Political Protest, and the Role of the Underground Press”
On October 21, 1967, at least 35,000 people protested the war in Vietnam in Washington DC. The initial protest involved predictable methods: political speeches, music, and marching. After the initial meeting, tens of thousands of protestors marched across the Potomac river where the demonstration took a decidedly esoteric turn. The event had been billed as “the Exorcism of the Pentagon.” Ed Sanders had designed a ritual exorcism, drawing on esoteric religious practices like alchemy, Native American Shamanism, Paganism, and ancient Hittite religions. Sanders printed a leaflet for the event reading, “We Freemen, of all colors of the spectrum, in the name of God, Ra, Jehovah, Anubis, Osiris, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, Thoth…We are demanding that the pentacle of power once again be used to serve the interests of GOD manifest in the world as man” (Mailer 1971, 120). After Sanders scattered cornmeal in four directions in front of a large “Eye of Providence,” protestors collectively allied their mental energies with the intention of levitating the Pentagon. Allen Ginsberg chanted “Om” on stage, and Kenneth Anger secretly performed what he believed was a more efficacious occult ritual beneath the stage. On this cold Autumn night in Washington, esotericism provided the method for Counter-cultural protest. Relying on primary and secondary sources, this paper explores the roles that the underground press played in facilitating the demonstration. It explores the newspapers’ relationship to esoteric ideas, how they promoted the esoterically-inspired event, how they covered the event, and how they rationalized the fact that the Pentagon never physically moved. Ultimately the paper shows that underground newspapers were, among other things, a kind of esoteric institution, capable of providing esotericists the means to mobilize politically.
Hale, Amy. PhD.
“Conjuring Strange and Ancient Larvae: Barry William Hale and the Negotiations of Occult Performance.”
As Edmund Lingan (2014) in Theater of the Occult Revival has observed , the occult ritual style which emerged from the 19th century Occult Revival and which persists to this day was more centrally influenced by trends in art and theater than what might be considered “standard” religious ritual (p.i). Although some rituals, primarily those associated with initiatory orders are scripted and regularized, many occult rituals or rites are personal and idiosyncratic, and while they may be rooted in text or tradition (imagined or otherwise), they share more structural features with theater or performance art than what we might typically ethnographically categorize as “ritual”. Public occult rituals are “more than” theater, given that they do have an overtly religious component to them and are typically directed at some sort of spiritual transformation, but they clearly occupy a different space than other public performances of religious rites. Publically performed occult rituals are by their very nature “out of place”, as “The West” does not have a social space where they may comfortably exist. So how do these conditions impact framing, interpretation, display and reception when an artist or practitioner performs an occult rite in a public setting? This paper emerges from continuing conversations with Australian ritual performance artist Barry William Hale, whose multimedia somatic conjurations of Beelzebub and his Enochian “workings” have been performed at festivals, events and museums internationally. Hale is also a dedicated practitioner, and as such his audiences are bearing witness to and are also potentially participants in Hale’s evocations. Using Hale’s work as a starting point, I will explore issues of display, audience, consent and belief with respect to contemporary occult performance, to further explore the distinctions of Western Esoteric and occult art in relation to wider categories of religious art.
Hand, Ted. Graduate Theological Union, Art and Religion, Graduate Student
“Kabbalah, the Angelic Mind, and the Structure of the Intelligible World in Pico della Mirandola.”
The influence of Pico della Mirandola’s “Christian Kabbalah” on Western Esotericism is well known, but exactly what he meant by his provocative and controversial statement that “there is no science that assures us more of the divinity of Christ than magic and and Kabbalah” is still controversial. The problem is often framed as a question of whether Pico “really” did magic, or intended something like the angel magic we find in later Christian Kabbalists like John Dee. I will argue that much of the confusion can be cleared up by paying attention to the Neoplatonic metaphysics of angels to which Kabbalah is connected. Pico explains his concept of Kabbalah by making a comparison between man and angels, celebrating the idea of “becoming angelic” through philosophy and mystical theology. This requires some exposition of the position of man and angels in the cosmos, and in his other works Pico details the metaphysics of the intelligible world, or “Angelic Mind,” with support from Dionysius the Areopagite as well as late antique neoplatonists like Plotinus, Iamblichus, and especially Proclus. In this presentation I will review the connection between soul and cosmos implied by the concept of “becoming angelic” which Pico explores in his Oration and 900 Conclusions, Commento, and Heptaplus. The conclusion that I have reached is that the problem of whether Pico “really” did magic has been misleadingly framed, and understanding how he sees Kabbalah as being comparable to the mystical theology and angelology of Dionysius can help us reframe what he means by magic.
Ivey, Paul Eli. School of Art, University of Arizona.
“Theosophical and Dispensational Diagrams of the Constitution of Man, A Search for Scientific Plausibility.”
My paper discusses examples of theosophical diagramming beyond foundational texts. Theosophists such as C. Jinarajadasa charted “vehicles for the soul;” Edward L. Gardner purported to provide, through diagrams of the “heavenly man,” an “all inclusive model for the vast totality of forms on our earth;” Claude Bragdon diagrammed the human as a cube, or mystic square, containing all dimensions as the “sum total” of divinity. James S. Perkins illustrated the “orbits of human consciousness” as a continuous creation in “seven skinned space.” L. Gordon Plummer used St. Paul and his biblical definition of man as body, soul, and spirit as a point of departure for visual explanations of the seven principles of identity. Rosicrucian Max Heindel, like Plummer, defined the human as having essentially a “manifold trinitarian nature,” paralleling Christian diagrams of the time. I also explore an interesting and little-studied relationship between theosophical diagrams and those created by Christian dispensationalists, who believed history was divided into a series of divinely ordained eras, and who emerged at the same time as the modern Theosophical Society. Against broader theosophical representations was the development of popular Christian diagrams by Clarence Larkin, C. C. Gosey, and C. I. Scofield, recently studied by religious historian Brendan Pietsch, that mapped and diagrammed the constitution and progress of the soul revealed throughout sacred history.
“The Structure of Libraries and The Cartography of the Soul: Correspondences between Collections of Books and their Collectors”
One of the greatest libraries in British history began as a library of hidden or esoteric knowledge. The private library of John Dee is only one example of a library, personally and lovingly cultivated by its owner, eventually reflecting the interests, emotions, and affinities of its builder. Other examples of this subtle correspondence between the collected and the collector abound. Aby Warburg’s personally crafted library, using unique principles of organization such as ‘the law of the good neighbor’, Gershom Sholems’ collection of books on the Kaballah, and Walter Benjamin’s musings on the psychology of the book collector — help us map out the cartography of the soul of the book collector, as well as the correspondences to the physical manifestation of their interests and spiritual philosophies. In this paper, we discuss the biographies of some lesser known esoteric library builders — along with the more well-known ones — and how the individual soul’s dimensions and affinities defined their collections and the ultimate fates of the physical libraries themselves, those collections of books which were ultimately the culmination of the collector’s life-work and the focus of enthusiasm, passion, spiritual epiphany, and even love. In conclusion, we discuss future mappings of some of these esoteric collections with their builders, and some proposed “field trips” for investigating them.
Lee, Minji. PhD Candidate, Rice University
“The Heart of God Almighty is now upon Your Heart”: Comforting the Soul through Pleasure and Pain in Angela of Foligno’s Memorial.”
In this paper, I will analyze how Angela of Foligno (1248-1309) achieved consolation of soul and realized the presence of God in her heart through embodied pleasure and imagined pain. Angela of Foligno was a medieval mystic and religious woman in the habit of the Third Order of St Francis. Even after Angela became known for a number of visions and comforting words she had received from God, she still often expressed doubt as to whether she was qualified enough as a true messenger of God. Her uncertainty came mostly from her sense of sin (though no particular sin is specified to readers), and feelings of “nothingness” in herself. When she was not sure why God chose her, Angela suffered from serious separation anxiety, always worrying when God was not with her. In the Memorial, the book in which Angela’s scribe, Arnold, recorded Angela’s experiences for her, Angela describes how the experiential reality of both pleasure and pain came in to help her feel the presence of God in her heart, and to reassure her that she was not only saved but also chosen to be God’s messenger. Firstly, Angela sought after and received pleasure from seeing, touching, and eating Jesus. Secondly, Angela imagined excessive pain involving all different ways of being tortured; she confirmed her faith in an ongoing way through these pains. I argue that, by seeking delight and imagining suffering, Angela cultivated the knowledge that her soul would be one with God, whose heart she describes as impressed upon or enclosing hers.
Lett, Stephen. Graduate Student. School of Music, Theatre & Dance University of Michigan.
“Helen Bonny’s Cut-Log Diagram of Altered States of Consciousness.”
This paper elaborates Helen Bonny’s notion of holism based on her cartography of the psyche called the cut-log diagram of altered states of consciousness (ASC). As a theoretical contribution to the field of music therapy, Bonny’s diagram functions to demonstrate how listening to music can lead to both the abreaction of psychical materials of the personal unconscious and the achievement of peak, transpersonal experiences. In her presentation of the diagram, Bonny situates her diagram in relation to two other diagrams of the psyche: a caricature of the Freudian psyche and Roberto Assagioli’s egg model. For Bonny, the poles of the spiritual and the material presented in Assagioli’s diagram are folded together, affording an understanding of the spiritual not as radically distinct from the material but as inhering in it. The result is a spiritual-material space which individual consciousnesses traverse. While inspired in part by him, however, Bonny’s model departs significantly from Assagioli’s egg model. In both Freud’s and Assagioli’s model of the psyche, the personal unconscious is placed at the bottom of the diagram. For Freud, and Assagioli following him, this unconscious is understood the psychical residue of perceptual encounters with the outside, material world. Bonny’s cut-log diagram, then, collapses the up-down distinction, folding the diagram’s top into its bottom and vice versa. The distinction between material and spiritual is elided in favor of mapping all states in relation to its accessibility to consciousness. Here both the outside material world and the collective unconscious serve as equally inaccessible limits for a personal consciousness. For Bonny, a healthy personal consciousness is not stationary, residing in the central circle, which she associates with rational, reductionist, or dualist thought.
MacMurphy, John M. University of Amsterdam
“The Power of the Soul: Between Sexual Magic and Theurgy in Jewish Esotericism.”
The connection between the soul and eros within Jewish esotericism has been well established in the academy by scholars such as Moshe Idel, Elliot Wolfson and more recently Charles Mopsik. However, although frequently compared with eastern tantric schools, the praxis aspect of kabbalistic sexual methods is still shrouded in mystery. By examining Talmudic, Heichalot texts, and zoharic references, as well as medieval and early modern kabbalistic sources from the schools of Abraham Abulafia (1239-1291), Moses Cordovero (1522-1570) and Isaac Luria (1534-1572), this paper explores for the first time what may be the forgotten sexual school of mysticism within Jewish esotericism. Moreover, this paper examines not only the role of the soul within the sexual act itself but also the enigmatic intentions behind its operations. Finally, this paper argues that while the original aim behind these procedures was to produce theurgic results, modern occultist thinkers within western esotericism such as Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) and Julius Evola (1898-1974) utilized the same theurgic methodologies and reappropriated them into magical applications.
Magus, Simon. PhD Candidate, History, Exeter University
“Discord in the Temple of Psyche: Left-Brain Right-Brain Metonymy and the Neuromythology of Western Esotericism.”
The neurosurgical interventions devised for the treatment of Grand Mal epilepsy in the early and mid-Twentieth Century divided the corpus callosum – the large white matter bundle connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This resulted in the ‘discovery’ and investigation of a whole new Neuropsychology of purported ‘Split-Brain Theses.’ These ideas eventually found their way into so-called ‘New Age’ notions of functional localisation in the two hemispheres – ignoring the fact that the original division of the brain had been surgically ̶ and therefore, in terms of anatomy ̶ artificially construed. In this paper, I shall consider the importance of such Neuromythology to the project of the scientific and apparently empirical justification of such theories. Apart from the notions of a creative, imaginal, voiceless Right hemisphere, compared with a rational, ‘logical’ Left brain, I shall provide an exposition of how such ideas reflect on a broader Apollonian and Dionysian division in the Western cultural cartography of the soul. My discourse will be broadened to elide other neuromythologies, including Rene Descartes’ pineal ‘Third Eye’, and a number of possible neurobiological substrates for the energy centres re-presented in the Western populist conceptions and constructions of the South Asian Chakra system. With a view to considering the history of the ‘maps’ of the psyche, I shall consider the transition of imagery from the ‘Ventricular Theory’ of the Mind-Brain in the Early Modern Period to the highly sophisticated neuroimaging techniques which have become a central part of the ‘Cartography of the Soul’ in postmodernity. With a view to understanding how such maps transition through various media, I shall consider the collaboration of John Dee and Gerardus Mercator on the ‘Mercator Projection’ of the Globe; how a comparativist view can see the transition from the two-dimensional map to the three-dimensional globe, as compared to the transition between the brain and psyche.
Malkemus, Samuel Arthur. Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies
“Archetypal Astrology and the Human Soul: Metaphysical Implications of a Panpsychist Perspective.”
Archetypal astrology suggests that the cosmos, and specifically our solar system, carries an intrinsic and richly patterned wisdom that is uniquely linked to the human psyche. This wisdom impacts the dynamics of the entire global community as well as the specific dynamics of the individual, the human playing a cocreative role in altering the structure of this patterning. Stated otherwise, the cosmos is reflected in the human soul and the human is reflected in the cosmic soul, and both are mutual partners in their shared evolution. This presentation explores how the unique dynamics of the human soul are interwoven within this greater archetypal matrix, by focusing upon fundamental philosophical issues that allow for the creation of a nuanced metaphysical portrait of this perspective. The philosophical perspective of panphysicism is used, together with dynamic systems theory and depth psychology, to understand the complex relationship between the human soul and the cosmos.
Mirecki, Paul. PhD., Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department / University of Kansas
“A ritual handbook text for soul divination from Roman Egypt.”
This paper will present a commentary on a mostly unstudied fourth-century document (Papyrus Kellis Coptic 7) first published with minimal descriptive notes in 1999. The manuscript was discovered during excavations sponsored by the Dakhleh Oasis Project at the town Ismant el-Kharab (Roman “Kellis”) in Egypt’s western desert. The fragmentary text represents only about 15% of the original, the rest of which deteriorated over time. The paper will propose an identification of the genre and social function for the text with explanatory commentary. In relation to esoteric beliefs and practices, it will be argued that the text was part of a handbook for divination used by a ritual expert for interpreting either public omens or more likely private dreams for his clients. Such divination resulted in personalized “psyche-logical” guidance. Parallel texts will be presented and discussed. A photo and a text transcription and translation will be presented via Powerpoint.
(2) “Regulations on the impure psyche near Greek and Roman sacred spaces”
After discussing ancient Greek concepts of the psyche, this paper will present the texts of temple warning inscriptions from sacred sites in the Mediterranean basin during the Greek and Roman periods. Persons who were believed to have acquired impurities through contact with profane processes, mostly related to birth and death, were not allowed, via regulations made explicit in the warning inscriptions, to enter within sacred temple precincts. Such persons were thought to transmit impurity into a sacred space, thus hindering priestly activities within the pure space and compromising the pure environment required by the resident god. A state of purity could be regained through various rituals and also the acquisition of proper mental attitudes associated with the soul (“purity of mind”).
Nelson, Victoria. Writer Extraordinaire.
“The Love Road Trip: Rene of Anjou’s Dream Vision and the Feeling Experience of Allegory.”
For much of the history of Western culture, passions and personal traits, vices and virtues, were thought to be forces external to the individual, energies we do not possess but (a crucial distinction) are possessed by. Allegory enjoyed a millennium-long reign as the most popular mode in literature and the visual art precisely because it was the perfect vehicle for concretely representing ideas, traits, and emotions not as subjective experience but as outside forces vying for control of our psyches. Some of the most beautiful and moving exemplars of allegory are found in the medieval dream vision, subgenre love. Rene of Anjou’s spectacularly illustrated Book of the Heart Seized By Love (1457) maps a profoundly interior experience by positioning it in an external landscape populated by characters who embody and enact the powerful energies of Hope, Despair, Jealousy, Anger, and every other feeling we have all experienced in our own love trips—for most of all, allegory and the premodern worldview remind us that what we regard as a profoundly individual experience is a collective one shared by all.
Nilsson, Johan. PhD Candidate. Lund University, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
“Opium dreams, mystical visions and interior journeys: Opium smoking as a religious practice in late 18th and the early 19th century occultism.”
The religious use of intoxicants in the modern West is not, as often thought, a product of 1960s counterculture. The fascination with the alleged spiritual potential of psychoactive substances that captivated individuals like Timothy Leary or Carlos Castaneda, was preceded by the sacralization of certain drugs in social settings linked to the occult movements of the late 18th and the early 19th century. One of these drugs was opium. In the late 19th century exposure to East Asian opium smoking had rekindled the French and Anglo-American interest in opium. The drug was written about in novels and newspapers, studied by doctors and denounced by newly formed anti-opium societies. Opium dens became quite common in America and France. One persistent minor theme in the turn of the century discourse on the drug was what has been called the sacralization of opium. The drug had a certain spiritual or magical aura since the writings of Thomas De Quincey. That aura was now strengthened. Around the turn of the century, French writers like Claude Farrère and Jules Boissière could speak of opium as the divine drug, call its use a sacred rite and describe its smokers as members of a secret and esoteric cult. Both authors wrote short stories where the drug is portrayed as a substance that offers its users entrance to the spiritual world. Interestingly enough these literary constructions of the drug had their counterpart in an approach to opium that developed in certain corners of turn of the century occulture. Here, what remained poetical clichés in fin de siècle literature, was turned into practice by figures such as the French Daoist Albert de Pouvourville and Aleister Crowley, both of whom believed that opium could be used as an aid to reach mystical states of consciousness, unleash creativity and explore interior regions of the soul. Opium smoking was strongly associated with popular and orientalist notions of a mystical east, and the practice was often connected to an interest in Asian religions. This paper will analyze Esoteric practices of opium use, their relationship to a wider cultural context of practices and discourse connected with the drug, and their association to the fascination with the mystical orient within late 19th and early 20th century occultism.
Parker, Anne. Graduate Student, Religious Studies, Rice University
‘Tree of Life as Soul Map: Dion Fortune’s Imagistic Algebra of Gnosis.”
Dion Fortune was an early twentieth century occultist trained in the Golden Dawn whose writings were both popular and formative for many later new religious movements. In her influential work, The Mystical Qabalah, Fortune presents the tree of life as a glyph, a method, a key, and a tool of gnosis, and reflects at length upon the value symbols possess for the student of otherwise inaccessible forms of knowledge. Fortune is open about the fact that her interpretation of kabbalah is designed for students of the modern esoteric tradition. At the opening of The Mystical Qabalah, she writes “it is not necessarily incumbent upon us to do certain things or hold certain ideas because the Rabbis who lived before Christ had certain views” (chapter 1, section 6). Her intent to synthesize and renew the traditional kabbalistic mapping is already expressed in the title of chapter 1, which labels kabbalah “The Yoga of the West.” For Fortune, the knowledge produced by kabbalistic practice is essentially timeless: simultaneously inner and outer, of one’s individual psyche as well as a larger, group-psyche, thinkable, but as of yet unthought. In this paper, I will present Fortune’s functional understanding of the tree of life as a map and tool for charting passage into esoteric forms of knowledge, focusing on the sets of linkages to images, colors, symbols, chakrahs and other things that she weaves with the sephirotic matrix. My interest is in framing, via Fortune’s work, a partial answer to the question “what do images and symbols help us know, and how do they help us know it?”. I will draw upon the work of Francis Yates and Mary Carruthers concerning ars memoriae in order to place Fortune’s arguments concerning the tree of life in a broader psychological and historical context.
Pryor, Sandra. Ph.D. Old Dominion University, Department of History
“Alchemy, Astrology, and the Tree of Life: Representations of the Soul, Cartographies and Correspondences.”
As Count Korzybski said, “the map is not the territory.” In this paper, I will approach cartographies of the soul from the perspective of interrelationships between them and of theory as an approach to praxis: alchemy as an inner path of the soul and astrology as a representation of a corresponding outer journey, with seven classical planets of astrology and seven corresponding metals of alchemy, considering alchemy as an inner work which correspond to alchemical metals and how these can be related to various models of the Tree of Life and the Cube of Space. Several systems have been used, which on one level are somewhat contradictory: groups such as the Golden Dawn and Builders of the Adytum attribute the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet sequentially while in other systems, the Tree is mapped differently, with the horizontal paths attributed to the three mother letters (and to elemental fire, water, and air), the vertical paths to the planets, and the diagonal paths to the simple letters (which in turn are mapped to the astrological signs). Correspondences have also been made to the colors, musical notes, and chakras. This paper will suggest that the maps of the hermetic, Ari, and Gra Trees are not contradictory but are guides for practice and representations of lived spiritual experiences. It will explore contemporary theories and practices, especially concepts of levels of the soul and esoteric practices of development of higher states of awareness, considering the work of Patrice Guinard, Jeffrey Kupperman, Robert Wang, and Leonora Leet, and suggesting areas of further investigation.
Reddick, Laura Pustarfi.
“The Archetypal Lens: Tarot as a Frame for the Psyche.”
The 78 cards of the tarot deck have long been considered an esoteric tool for divining the future or as a mystical lens into the past and present. However, the 78 cards of the tarot, seen from an archetypal view, can provide a reference point for delving into the psyche. Using archetypal cosmology as developed by Richard Tarnas, this paper will reframe the imagery of the Rider-Waite-Coleman tarot deck as a journey in and through the psyche and position the tarot as a tool for understanding ourselves.
Redmond, Geoffrey. New York City
“Fu Xi Meets Hermes Trismegistus: The I Ching Becomes Tarot.”
Divination and esoteric thought share the goal of attaining knowledge not available through normal empirical means. While esotericism contains general accounts of the nature of the cosmos and the human place within it. Divination applies such accounts to answer specific inquiries on the level of individuals or societies. Divination remains widely practiced in all cultures. Whether or not it can reveal the future, it does reveal much about human hopes and fears.Divination can be seen as a map or systematic laying out of ways the soul interacts with the universe. Both serve for exploration, external and internal respectively. Each use serves to show the location of the user in a specific set of circumstances. Given the tendency of esotericism toward syncretism, it is not surprising that the I Ching has often been mapped onto Tarot-like card sets. This is facilitated by the similar number of elements in the two systems – 78 for Tarot and 64 for I Ching. Both are visual – the hexagrams for the I Ching and the paintings for contemporary Tarot. While I Ching is aniconic, Tarot has more immediate visual appeal, which has been applied to the creation of Tarot cards with I Ching imagery. There are several types of I Ching Tarot, as well as a great variety of divinatory objects that utilize the hexagrams. The latter include the luopan (feng shui compass), coins, trigram dice, sticks, a I Ching ‘Oracle Wheel’ and, inevitably, websites for picking and interpreting a hexagrams.
Roblee, Mark. PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“The Vehicle of the Soul in the Neoplatonic Imagination: Map IS Territory.”
The “vehicle of the soul” (ochêma pneuma) was a Neoplatonic technology for attaining personal divinity: “[T]he soul possesses the so-called ‘luminous vehicle,’ something star-like and eternal…this vehicle is enclosed in the starry body which in some people lies inside the head…” (Damascius, Vita Isidore 153). This luminous soul vehicle was also understood to be the seat of imagination (phantasia) and the “organ” by which sensual and divine perceptions were apprehended. For the Neoplatonist, active imagination itself was the vehicle for the soul—or even, the soul itself—much like Blake’s “divine body of man.” With ancient and modern theories about reading and the imagination in mind—from Quintilian to Cognitive Poetics—this paper interrogates the way texts that describe the vehicle of the soul function as implicit “spiritual exercises.” These exercises are imaginative technologies of self-transformation that construct personal divinity and map out a sacred anthropology. In this paper, I invite the modern reader to navigate a numinous inner cartography where human consciousness itself is divine. Imaginative engagements with personal divinity heighten self-reflexivity. Such reflexive states or “awareness of awareness” take us to the heart of the strange, sometimes overwhelming, recognition of the fact of our existence where the self becomes the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that Otto ascribes to the divine “Other.” Accounting for imaginative engagements with texts about personal divinity—and the resultant heightened self-reflexivity—complicates how historians of religion and religious studies scholars interpret esoteric models of personal divinity. In conclusion, I will suggest the usefulness of an interdisciplinary approach that yields greater compassion for how ancient peoples understood themselves and experienced their worlds on their own terms, a perspective that values many sources of knowledge and many ways of being.
Switzer, Matthew Thierry. M.A. Philosophy and Religion, California Institute of Integral Studies
“Revolutionary Magic for a Free Society: Simon Magus’ Integral Approach to Archetypal Resonance.”
This presentation approaches the phenomenon of magic as an inquiry into the hidden (occult) forces that generate our realities. The Magus tends to the boundary between spirit and social worlds, an emissary mediating access to bring balance and energetic healing to patients in need. Indeed, this has been a proper function of magic for millennia in both indigenous and western traditions, facilitating the all-too-human struggle towards “the good life” through an enduring philosophy of hope. Magicians then suggest emancipatory agency, attuning themselves to natural and supernatural powers with revolutionary implications for upsetting dominant and detrimental paradigms. Focusing on Simon Magus, the 1st century Samarian proto-gnostic and “arch-heretic,” a brief history of magical influence is traced that locates him within the wider tradition of psychophysical transmutation, often used to exploit or heal archetypal dynamics, while demonstrating his potency for reintegrating unconscious wisdom into the waking mind by embodying a myth of perfection that abounds in esoteric thought and its continuing trends.
Treat, John D. PhD Candidate, Dept. of History, University of Arkansas
“The Very Soul of Propriety and the Soul Equal and Triumphant: Black and White Women’s Souls in the Funeral Rites of the Daughters of the Tabernacle and the Order of the Eastern Star.”
The Daughters of the Tabernacle were a black working and lower-middle class women’s organization concentrated in the former slave states and founded during the late-nineteenth century creation of the Jim Crow system. Yet the Daughters’ funeral rites show that these women maintained a belief not only in the triumph of the black woman’s soul in eternity, but also of a radical reordering of the present world, encompassing both racial justice and greater gender equality. This stands in sharp contrast to the funeral rites of the white women of the Order of the Eastern Star, who were sent to their graves with assurances that the world to come would be a pleasant and decorous place much like this one, a realm in which appropriately bourgeois female virtues such as sincerity and purity would continue to endear the departed sister to the ranks of a cozily patriarchal heaven.
Walker, Colette. Ph.D. student, Art and Religion, Graduate Theological Union
“Harmonizing the Spiritual-Divine with the Physical-Earthly: Rudolf Steiner’s Theories of Art in Therapeutic Practice”
Austrian philosopher, esotericist and artist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), formulator of the “spiritual science” of anthroposophy, has long been acknowledged for his innovative contributions within education, both in the Waldorf Schools and in the Camphill Movement. He has more recently attracted significant interest among advocates of organic farming for his system of biodynamic agriculture. Less widely known are Steiner’s extensive teachings on the spiritual benefits of intuitive and abstract forms of painting, methods that continue to be implemented and expanded upon by his students in educational and therapeutic settings to the present day. Steiner presented his ideas about form and color in hundreds of lectures and articles during the same period that pioneering abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky was publishing his own pivotal treatises, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912) and Point and Line to Plane (1926). Like Kandinsky, Steiner hoped to counter what he perceived as the hyper-materialism of the modern age and believed that a new form of non-mimetic art could help humankind advance to the next level of spiritual evolution. Steiner valued art-making as a powerful means toward the ultimate aim of spiritual growth, and proposed that such intuitive engagement with form and color through painting could help bring about increased wholeness in individuals and, through them, within the wider human community. He developed highly intuitive painting methods he termed “lazure painting” and “painting out of the color” to provide guidelines for students wishing to pursue art as a spiritual practice.
The rationale for Anthroposophical Painting Therapy, a healing modality inspired by Steiner’s ideas and further developed by his student Liane Collot d’Herbois (1907-1999), is rooted in this perceived capacity of art for fostering spiritual growth and healing. Unlike more well known approaches to art therapy that use art-making as a diagnostic tool, Anthroposophical art therapy posits that intuitive engagement with the properties of color and form themselves, within the context of a therapeutic relationship, can help bring increased psychological balance and health to the client. This paper will address this rich but underexplored topic, re-examining Steinerian conceptions of the beneficial properties of form and color in light of recent clinical studies on art and positive affect.
Warlick, M. E. Professor, European Modern Art, University of Denver
“Mapping the Mystery: The Evolution of Alchemical Diagrams.”
Visual representations of the soul in alchemy are rare, but references to soul and to spirit can be found in alchemical diagrams. Geometric diagrams are scattered throughout alchemical imagery, appearing first in the late fourteenth-century and lasting well into the seventeenth century. This paper will explore alchemical representations of geometric forms and diagrams that provide the underlying foundation for alchemy’s dualistic masculine and feminine figural symbols. Circles, triangles and squares are simple forms, yet they carry alchemical references to the unity of matter; to its three-fold composition from Sulphur, Mercury and Salt; and to the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The seven ancient planets, including the Sun and Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and their oversight over the seven metals, are also represented in diagrammatic form. Comparisons will be made between the medieval cosmological diagrams and some of the earliest alchemical diagrams in the manuscript of Constantine of Pisa. As alchemical imagery developed, both simple and more complex diagrams evolved within the printed texts of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1617) and Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi maioris (1617), among others.
Willard, Thomas. Professor, University of Arizona, Department of English
“Early Modern Writers on the Magical Soul.”
Several early modern figures posited the existence of a magical soul, operating on a higher level than the sensitive, animal, and rational souls of medieval philosophy and in contact with the anima mundi or world soul. In the sixteenth century, Cornelius Agrippa reminded readers that there was a fourth soul, not the animal-rational soul of Aristotle, but a divine soul, “divine by the image of divine propriety” (divinam per imaginem divinae proprietas; De Occulta Philosophia, 3.44). He added that this soul, being made in the image of God, was attuned to the Word of God in such a way as to make possible the knowledge of magic and especially Kabbalah. Theophrastus Paracelsus taught that imagination was a higher form of reason, proceeding from the act of Creation, leading one back to it, and providing a connection to the various forms of magical knowledge (Astronomia Magna). And Giordano Bruno described such imagination as a heroic enthusiasm found in poets as well as prophets and sages (De gli eroici furori). Thomas Vaughan, writing in the seventeenth century, claimed that all esoteric knowledge, and especially knowledge of alchemy, proceeded from a “magical soul” that put the magician in contact with the world’s soul (Anima Magica Abscondita). All of these writers sought to legitimate esoteric study against the charges of religious, political, and scientific authorities. All became embroiled in debate about the existence and role of what later became known as the “esoteric soul.” But together they exerted a powerful influence on later writers as diverse as W. B. Yeats and C. G. Jung.
Zandler, John. Ph.D. Candidate, UC Davis, History Department
“Religion, Esotericism, and the Martial Arts in Medieval and Early Modern Europe.”
Religion, Esotericism, and the Martial Arts in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
While there has been significant scholarly and popular interest in the connections between spirituality and Asian martial arts, scholars of religion and esotericism have generally overlooked the history of European martial arts. The methods taught by European masters of arms and fighting schools were highly practical; however, they developed within a broader cultural context in which lay piety and, in some cases, esoteric ideas and practices played important roles. This presentation will explore some of the most significant intersections between European martial arts and chivalric piety, astrology, numerology, magic, and the esoteric currents of Renaissance culture. Among the topics I will examine are: discussions of violence and personal piety in the writings of prominent masters of arms; astrological and numerological tables related to judicial combats in 15th century German fighting manuals; the widespread concern regarding the use of protective amulets and talismans in duels and judicial combats, the influence of Pythagorean concepts in the Spanish destreza system of rapier fencing, and the presence of Neoplatonic and Hermetic ideas in both Italian and Spanish fencing manuals. This talk will cover largely unexplored territory, and it is my hope that it will suggest new avenues of research for scholars of esotericism.