Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences



Visions of Utopia: Masonic, Religious & Esoteric

The Ninth International Conference organised by


Saturday & Sunday 3-4 November 2007

Canonbury Academy, 6 Canonbury Place, London N1 2NQ
The idea that a perfect society could be planned, created and sustained can be traced back to Plato’s description of Atlantis, but it entered the popular imagination during the religious and cultural upheavals of Renaissance and Reformation when, in the early sixteenth century, Sir Thomas More published Utopia, his speculative vision of an ideal society. Since that time speculative philosophers, enthusiasts, dreamers, visionaries and reformers — of every shade of religious, political and philosophical opinion — have presented countless other visions of the ideal society to the world at large, ranging from Sir Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. These have varied from messianic and impracticable dreams, sometimes satirical or even dystopian in tone, to a number of real projects that have, for a time, succeeded and flourished. Many Enlightenment projects could perhaps be viewed as utopian in character.

These visions frequently represented an optimistic view of human society, offering innovative ideas and espousing such values as religious and political tolerance, mutual aid and openness to philosophical and spiritual speculation. Their value to us lies not only in their historical interest and in the intriguing nature of individual utopian visionaries, but also in the significance of their ideas for the improvement of a world in a state of uncertainty and flux.

This conference aims to consider the many aspects – historical, biographical, literary, artistic and speculative – of these visions of Utopia, to explore their sources and the variety of interactions between them, including the contribution of Freemasonry as a speculative system to the articulation of utopian visions and the involvement of individual freemasons in utopian projects. Topics for papers may include, for example, real or imaginary societies; established utopian settlements; literary utopias; socio-religious innovators; biographical and critical studies of personalities who have exercised a significant influence or contributed to utopian visions within or upon the masonic community; and the question of hierarchical versus non-hierarchical systems in relation to masonic views of the ideal society.


Saturday 3 November

9.15 Registration & coffee
9.50 Opening: CMRC Trustees
Introduction: Carole McGilvery CIPR
CMRC Conference Organiser
Chair: John Acaster FCIB
Hon. FIWO. Manchester Association of Masonic Research

10.00 Professor A. Lentin MA PhD (Cantab) FRHistS
Barrister & Tutor in Law, Open University
Prince M.M. Shcherbatov’s Journey to the Land of Ophir:
18th-century Russian Utopia

10.40 Christopher McIntosh DPhil (Oxon)
Hon. Fellow of Exeter University
The Quest for Shangri-La
– A compelling example of the Utopian Dream

11.20 Morning coffee

11.45 Professor dr. W. J. Hanegraaff
Chair, History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam
Utopias of the Mind – Reality & Imagination
12.25 Speakers panel – questions and discussion

1.00 Lunch

2.30 Tobias Churton MA
Hon Fellow of Exeter University
Broken Masonry: Healing Europe with a dirty joke
(Johan Valentin Andrea)

3.10 Robert Gilbert BA Hons
PM. Q.C. Lodge 2076 Author/Editor
Heaven in the New World:
Rosicrucian Art & the Shaker ‘Gift’ Drawings

3.50 Afternoon tea

4.20 Pierre Mollier
Director Library & Museum, Grand Orient of France
French Utopians & Freemasonry – 19th century
5.00 Speakers panel – questions and discussion
5.30 Close

Sunday 4 November

9.30 Coffee

9.50 Welcome & introduction: Carole McGilvery
Chair: Dr Andrew Prescott
Manager of Library Services and Director of the University Research Centre, Lampeter, University of Wales

10.00 Dr Peter Forshaw BA MA PhD (London)
British Academy Post Doctoral Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London
Campanella’s City of the Sun

10.40 Richard Lines
Secretary, Swedenborg Society
From the Spiritual to the Natural:
The Idea of the New Jerusalem in Swedenborg & Blake

11.20 Morning coffee

11.45 Dr Guido Giglioni
Warburg Institute, Casamarca Lecturer in Neo-Latin Cultural & Intellectual History
Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis – The Matter of Desire & Political Utopia

12.25 Speakers panel – questions and discussion

1.00 Lunch

2.30 Lyman Tower Sargent
Prof. Emeritus, Political Science, University of Missouri, USA Visiting Fellow,
Mansfield College, University of Oxford
Reflections on Utopias & Everyday Life:
Utopianism & Communitarianism

3.10 Mark Tabbert
Director of Collections, George Washington Masonic Memorial, USA
George Washington’s Masonic Vision for an American Utopia

3.50 Dr Chloë Houston
Lecturer Early Modern Drama, School of English & American Literature,
University of Reading
Noland or Neverland? Thomas More’s Utopia: Travel & the Ideal Society

4.30 Speakers panel – questions and discussion

5.00 Afternoon tea

5.30 Close

Registration form
Weekend Conference fee £77 (Lunch optional at £8.50 per day)
For further information, tickets, accommodation, meals and travel contact: Carole McGilvery on 020 7226 6256 or



September 20, 2007 at 8:22 am


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