Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences

Archive for the ‘CCWE CONFERENCES’ Category




This year’s conference is one of a series of CCWE conferences that continue and deepen research specifically in the field of Western Esotericism and the Arts, with a primary focus on secrecy.

Participative panel discussions will focus on secrecy: its positive, negative and ambiguous aspects, its uses and abuses in relation to literature, music and the visual arts, these may be expressed in such themes as:

vision, transformation, truth, the divine
the unknown, the future, death, the afterlife
power, control, anti-establishment aims, membership of an elite
language, texts, places, teachers
revelation, interpretation, levels of consciousness, ambiguity
codes, ciphers, correspondences, magic, hypnotism, hallucination
in the context of their relevance to the political, cultural and social demands of their time.

Presentations will be published on the website ahead of the conference. Lighthouse Editions are considering publishing a book of the conference papers, but these should not be submitted before the conference.

Deadline for submission end of July
Please send an initial abstract of 100-200 words to:

Dr Sophia wellbeloved

THE INTRODUCTORY PAPER FOR EACH SESSION WILL NOT BE MORE THAN 15 MINUTES IN LENGTH and will be followed by an open discussion for the remaining thirty minutes so 45 minutes in total.
All papers will be published on the CCWE website ahead of the conference.

RESPONDENTS to papers are invited to send a brief email with their interests in the areas of:

Secrecy related to:
French Surrealism in the 1930s
19th Century Hermeticism and Magnetism
Musical Modes
Imagery drawnfrom Bibblical story and Greek myth
17th Century painting in the Netherlands

Respondents may be asked to prepare short Position Papers from which they may contribute during the relevant panel session. Accepted Position Papers will be published on the CCWE website.
All participants are welcome to take part in the panel discussion that follows the above address. If you have a specific interest in this area or a contribution you would like to make please send details to




Nicolas Poussin: The Birth of Bacchus, 1657, detail
(see the complete image below the Keynote Address)


An exploration of the genesis and evolution of Poussin’s schema for The Birth of Bacchus will be given by
JULIA CLEAVE MA member of the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy THE LURE OF SECRECY
For of the knowledges that contemplate the works of Nature, the holy philosopher hath said expressly; that the Glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out: as if the Divine Nature, according to the innocent and sweet play of children, which hide themselves to the end they may be found; took delight to hide his works, to the end they might be found out; and of his indulgence and goodness to mankind, had chosen the Soule of man to be his Play-fellow in this game.”
Francis Bacon Preface to the Advancement of Learning (1640)

Poussin, the Quadrivium and the Mysteries

The circle of learned men for whom Poussin painted regarded themselves in some ways as privileged persons, who had been initiated into mysteries unknown…incomprehensible to the vulgar. Anthony Blunt Nicolas Poussin The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (1958)

Theon of Smyrna, writing in the 4th century CE, states in the midst of his Mathematics Useful for the Study of Plato: We can again compare philosophy to the initiation into things truly holy, and to the revelation of the authentic mysteries.

OED Definition of Theurgy:
2. The operation or intervention of a divine or supernatural agency in human affairs; the results of such action in the phenomenal world.

Poussin’s approach to his art was essentially theurgic. He conceived his compositions as a form of sacred theatre in which what is portrayed – an encounter between human and divine worlds – is intended (for those who have eyes to see) to move the soul of the viewer.

Bernini – after examining in detail, on his knees, the third painting in Poussins’s series of the Seven Sacraments Extreme Unction – declared: it has the same effect as a beautiful sermon to which one listens with rapt attention and after which one is left speechless, for one’s innermost being has been moved.

Poussin, himself, likened his art to the Greek theory of the musical modes: When all parts of the composition were assembled together in due proportion…there proceeded a power to breed various passions in the soul. In his final statement on the nature of his art he went further:

It is an imitation with lines and colours on any surface of all that is to be found under the sun. Its aim is delectation
. Not only is Poussin hinting here at his espousal of a form of solar mysticism but, in using the term ‘delectation’, he means not simply pleasure or delight, but is invoking St. Augustine’s notion of ‘delectatio bono’: a beatitude which leads to union with the divine.

Bernini’s phrase: left speechless recalls the Greek concept of arrhetos meaning ‘unspeakable’ or ‘inexpressible’ – a term from the lexicon of the mysteries which applies both to the injunction on initiates to keep secret the sacred rites – a necessary protection from the profane – but equally it implies the impossibility of conveying in speech such momentous experiential knowledge, or gnosis.

Whether Poussin is drawing for his subject-matter on Biblical story or Classical myth, he is concerned with such moments of epiphany or epopteia – with the dramas of initiation, trial, revelation and transformation which we associate with the Mysteries. The word mysteria, meaning secret rite or doctrine, was applied by the Church Fathers to the Christian sacraments as well as to the initiation ceremonies of the ancient world.

In the service of this aim, Poussin deploys the disciplines of the Quadrivium – the four subjects (literally the four ways) which were regarded by classical writers as pathways to spiritual enlightenment.

Hence the meticulous architectonics which underpin his art: a deployment of whole number ratios, root geometries and musical proportions which is analogous to a form of temple-building. As in the history of architecture, so in the history of art, knowledge of these mathematical subjects was regarded as a closely-guarded secret – what Luca Pacioli called, in his treatise on the Divine Proportion: secretissima scientia, the most secret science. De Divina Proportione – drawn largely from the work of Piero della Francesco – was illustrated by Leonardo and published in 1509. While all claims to the persistence of a tradition of speculative geometry in painting need to be judiciously made, there is clear evidence that, more than a century later, artists like Poussin (buon geometra) were still making conscious use of geometry in their compositions for what appear to be both symbolic and talismanic purposes.

Not only is Poussin concerned with Arithmetica, Geometria, and Harmonia; he also engages with the fourth of the Quadrivium subjects: Astrologia or Astronomia. In a number of his canvasses, through a subtle combination of ecliptic geometry, together with solar, planetary or zodiac imagery, he explores the symbolic links between microcosm and macrocosm – humanity and the visible world under the influence of super-sensible forces.

Academic approaches to Poussin’s art have a tendency to treat his subject-matter as fossilized cultural memes – the stock topoi of sacred or secular art – to be interpreted in socio-historical, psychological or aesthetic terms, rather than as possessing spiritual content. On Dante’s hermeneutic scale of the four levels of interpretation: literal/narrative, allegorical, moral and anagogical, modern scholarship seldom ventures beyond the third level. Our predominantly secular culture has difficulty in acknowledging transcendence: shying away from lived spiritual experience, from the possibility of visionary flights of soul.

A myth gets its animation from a mystery (Pico della Mirandola)

The interpretation of The Birth of Bacchus is a case in point. This ‘mysterious canvas’, originally painted for one of Poussin’s closest friends and fellow-artist, Jacques Stella, now hangs in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. It has given rise to some puzzlement among art historians. They are at pains to account for the artist’s decision to combine in one scene two disparate myths which appear unconnected by any narrative thread: the stories respectively of the Birth of Bacchus and the Death of Narcissus. Drawing on scientific ideas current among Poussin’s libertins contemporaries, as well as Renaissance traditions of mythography, their solution has been to interpret the picture as essentially an allegory of opposing physical processes of regeneration and decay in Nature. While this theme is undoubtedly present, an exclusive focus on natural history is too reductive, and forecloses on more esoteric readings of the composition. It is only when this is viewed in the light of metaphysical traditions that we discover a more profound rationale for Poussin’s ‘mysterious’ conception. His sophisticated schema encodes a complex pattern of alchemical and planetary symbolism, consistent with Neo-Platonic and Hermetic conceptions of cosmology and the transcendent destiny of the human soul. Further confirming this anagogical interpretation, the artist left behind a number of clues in the form of some mythographical notes, and in a more explicit detailing of his ideas in one of his preparatory sketches.

Poussin’s highly-charged and often enigmatic canvasses invite us to muse deeply on their esoteric import – holding out the promise of access to veiled or submerged hermetic truths. This is the lure of secrecy, implicit in Francis Bacon’s remarkable image of a concealed God, inviting human souls to be his Play-fellows in a game of divine hide-and-seek, de-coding the phenomenal world in search of Deus Absconditus, and, in the process, discovering their own true destinies. (Vere tu es Deus absconditus was the gnomic inscription given to a posthumous engraving by Claudine Stella of one of Poussin’s most striking works The Holy Family on the Steps.)

An exploration of the genesis and evolution of Pousin’s schema for The Birth of Bacchus will be the subject of Julia Cleave’s keynote address.



Nicolas Poussin: The Birth of Bacchus, 1657

JULIA CLEAVE (MA Oxon, MA Essex) is a member of the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy. As an independent scholar, she is currently conducting research into the encoding of the hermetic traditions in Renaissance and Seventeenth-century art and literature, including evidence for proto-masonic symbolism and ritual practice. In 2003 her proposal for a doctoral thesis on sacred geometry and the mystery traditions in the works of Nicolas Poussin was accepted by the School of Traditional Arts at the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture. She has given lectures at the History of Astrology Seminar, the Theosophical Society, the School of Economic Science, the Jupiter Trust and the Temenos Academy.

Publications include:
A review of Friend to Mankind – Marsilio Ficino 1433-99 ed. Michael Shepherd in Temenos Academic Review 4 (Spring 2001)
Ficino’s Approach to Astrology as Reflected in Book VII of his Letters
Culture and Cosmos Volume 7 Number 2 (Autumn/Winter 2003)
Burlesquing the Brotherhood (Paper given at the 6th International Conference at the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre).
The Canonbury Papers Vol. 4: Seeking the Light – Freemasonry and Initiation (2007)
Of Hiram and Aymon – the Evolution of the Legend of the Third Degree
Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research Vol XCVIII [98] [2008].


Leverhulme GES

Universisties of Szeged and Budapest
Leverhulme Visiting Professor
Department of English, Communication, Media and Film
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England

will respond to the Keynote Address.

Professor Gyorgy Szonyi
Selected Publications

6 monographs, 11 edited volumes, 91 articles in the fields of Renaissance research, English and Hungarian studies in periodicals, collections of essays, encyclopedias. Book reviews, essays, critiques on Hungarian culture and current European issues. Two novels (1983, 2002) and short stories

Gli angeli di John Dee. Roma: Tre Editori, 2004, 170 pages, 9 illustrations.

John Dee’s Occultism. Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2004 (Series in Western Esoterism), 350 pages, 32 illustrations.

Pictura & Scriptura. Hagyományalapú kulturális reprezentációk 20. századi elméletei [Pictura & Scriptura: 20th-century Theories of Tradition-based Cultural Representations]. Szeged: JATEPress, 2004 (Ikonológia és muértelmezés 10), 324 pages, 54 illustrations.

Edited Books and Journal Issues:
“The Voices of the English Renaissance.” Special Issue, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 11.1 (2005), 253 pages.

The Iconography of Power: Ideas and Images of Rulership on the English Renaissance Stage. Szeged: JATE Press, 2000 (Papers in English & American Studies 8), 214 pages, illustrated. With Rowland Wymer.

European Iconography East & West. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996 (Symbola & Emblemata 7), 263 pages, illustrated

Selected Articles and Book Chapters since 2001:
“The Dark Offsprings of Humanism: Erasmus, Reuchlin, and the Magical Renaissance.” In Marcell Sebök (ed.), Republic of Letters, Humanism, Humanities. Budapest: Collegium Budapest (Workshop Series 15), 2005, 107-25.

“John Dee as Cultural, Scientific, Apocalyptic Go-Between.” In Andreas Höfele, Werner von Koppenfels (ed.), Renaissance Go-Betweens. Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005, 88-104.

“Occult Semiotics and Iconology: Michael Maier’s Alchemical Emblems.” In Karl Enenkel – Arnoud Visser (ed.). Mundus Emblematicus: Studies in Neo-Latin Emblem Books. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003 (Imago Figurata, Studies 4), 301-25.

“Le intuizioni di Aby Warburg alla luce delle sfide postmoderne”. In Carlo Bertozzi (ed.), Aby Warburg e le metamorfosi degli antichi dèi. Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 2002, 183-203.


TESSEL M. BAUDUIN MA University of Amsterdam

elite knowledge and the avant-garde in French surrealism of the 1930s

Andre Breton

André Breton

In the first Manifeste du Surréalisme André Breton, founder of surrealism, states that he will reveal the “secrets of the magical surrealist art”, subsequently describing different surrealist techniques. In this paper I will investigate some of these “secrets”, focusing predominantly upon automatism, visual alchemy and other techniques for creating surrealist art, combining this furthermore with a review of the concept of secrecy in surrealism. As I will show, concepts of secrecy, elite knowledge, or even of gnosis, were prevalent in the art theoretical discourse of surrealism in the 1920s and ‘30s (the particular scope of this paper), and concerned reception of art, creation of art, as well as exhibition practices. Secrecy in surrealism was intimately tied to its avant-garde tenets, and thus to the internal paradox of the avant-garde: the simultaneous need for elitism and for revelation. The secret of surrealism is only meant for a select few and the approval of the general public needs to be avoided at all cost – but then, how can the surrealist revolution be inclusive and reach out to all? As I will make clear, the particular “secrets of the magical surrealist art” provide an answer.


Tessel M. Bauduin, MA, is a historian of art and culture. She is currently working at the University of Amsterdam, in a double position as lecturer and PhD-student, at the department History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. After having taught art history for a couple of years, she is now teaching various courses in religious studies and history of hermetic philosophy. Her PhD-research is concerned with the interaction of esotericism and avant-garde art movements in general, and with the reception of esoteric sources in the discourse of Parisian surrealism in the 1920s and 1930s in particular. Her thesis is expected to be published in 2012. Tessel’s freelance activities include lecturing and teaching in art history. For more, please see and



Kunstgeschichtliches Institut der Goethe Universität Frankfurt


Art Cabinet: Willem van Haecht 1628


In the 15th century, scholars, patrons and artists (re-) introduced the hermetic tradition and with that the Order of the inspirati into European thought. Even in the southern Netherlands, especially in Antwerp, esoteric literature was studied and printed very often.
Nevertheless, with the counter-reformation in Antwerp there were frequent bans, and legal processes against these philosophical-religious currents. A famous process took place against the painter Otto van Veen, teacher of Pieter Paul Rubens. My paper explores the influence of esoteric traditions in the Antwerp School in the early 17th century. It focuses on Willem van Haecht ‘s Art Cabinet painting from 1628 that depicts paintings with hidden Hermetic-Christian and Paracelisian contents and asks why it was favored by elitist thinking and why esoteric interests had to remain secret. Haechts Art Cabinet of illusion – studied alongside the Corpus Hermeticum and little examined theoretical treatises by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo or Pieter Paul Rubens – seems to display an elitist and secret microcosm within the Antwerp society.




The photographic image gives a new form of ‘life’ – or in any case, a new ‘state of things’, a new way of being a thing – to something available out of our visible field, out of our hands, out of our immediate apprehension. It is life transported to another world by the sensitivity of the photographic plate. Michel Frizot

And even if he be dead. He will come back. Sooner or later. He is eternal. Savitri Devi from Pilgrimage (on the return of the Hitler Avatar)

Since the cataclysm of the Second World War that ended in Europe with the death in his bunker of Adolf Hitler, there has arisen, out of the ashes, an underground and secret esoteric movement where, according to Nicholas Goodrick Clarke, certain individuals have “transformed the negative attributes of Nazism into a cult of cosmic significance.” Drawn by the lure of Ariosophist myths and dreams of a resurrection of Hitlerist ideals there are some for whom the relics of the Third Reich are more than historical curiosities associated with a war that ended more than sixty years ago. To those devotees of Esoteric Nazism objects associated with Hitler and in particular photographs, have become fetishized as iconic links with his presence. I am specifically interested in the use of the Hitler image, the postcard photograph and photographic portrait, which works as both index and icon. It seems evident that there is an enormous interest in collecting ‘relics’ from the Nazi era (ranging from badges and items of clothing to dinner plates) but beyond the remit of the specialist, historic or military collector there is also an esoteric impetus to access objects with direct links to Hitler for a ‘spiritual’ reason. This is particularly true of photographic representations of Hitler that suggest a closeness to the photographed subject without having to be personal objects directly linked to Hitler the man (usually rare or with a high price tag). This notion of the photograph as a piece of material culture carrying with it a deeper association is evident in this quote by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning:

It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases – but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing…the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits.

It is this transmutation where the photograph becomes a religious icon that intrigues me. I have been exploring aspects of Esoteric Hitlerism as a Nazi cult where the use and iconic transformation of images of the ‘Führer’ play a major role. Esoteric Nazism has developed in a covert but broad form since the end of the Second World War. Inspired by the writings of devotees such as Miguel Serrano and Savitri Devi, Esoteric Hitlerists regard Adolf Hitler as a Messiah, deified after his Berlin ‘sacrifice’; or even as the tenth and final Avatar of Vishnu.
Again according to Savitri Devi, Hitler was:
 …the god-like Individual of our times; the Man against Time; the greatest European of all times. (From the dedication to her book, The Lightning and the Sun).

This research has developed out of my examination of the use of photography as a pseudo-scientific tool in areas such as criminology, colonialism, eugenics and racial science; and the origins of such ideas in esoteric theories dating back to the Classical era. My specific interest here lies in the analogue photographic trace as related to such ‘religious’ practices – a small but significant area within the devotions of Esoteric Hitlerism.

My paper will briefly explore the relationship between the material connectivity of photography and the subject recorded and in particular the iconic status attributed to such images as ‘unholy’ relics for these secretive Esoteric Hitlerists.


Dr. Christopher Webster was born in the UK in 1965. In 1982 his family moved to South Africa. Webster studied art and art history as an undergraduate and postgraduate in South Africa. In 1989 after graduating from art school, he lived and worked as an artist and lecturer in the Johannesburg area for several years. In 1996 he was appointed lecturer in fine art at Aberystwyth University’s, School of Art. Membership of international research committees and editorial boards has included and includes: The South African Association of Art Historians, Association of Studies in Esotericism, European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, Overseas Advisor to Faculty of Art, Vaal University of Technology (South Africa), international editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, international editorial board of the South African Journal of Photography. Most recent contributions to books include chapters for: The Nineteenth Century Encyclopaedia of Photography, Routledge, (2007) and Esotericism, Art and Imagination, MSU press (2008). As evidenced by international exhibitions and conference papers, Webster continues to develop, with his PhD and Masters students, alternative approaches to photographic practices (both chemically and conceptually). Webster’s most recent practice is centred on the production of short 16mm films that include stop motion animation and manipulation of the film surface. Areas of research and research supervision covers: (specifically) – occult and esoteric applications of photography (including physiognomy, spirit photography, documentation of esoteric events, photographs as evidence of the supernatural), the staged and manipulated photograph (especially in photo-collage and photomontage). Webster has investigated and adapted the iconography of the photographic image and in recent years he has participated in many group and solo shows including exhibitions in Johannesburg, Lancaster, Cape Town, London, Tel Aviv, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Baltimore, Cardiff and Pretoria. His recent art practice work centres on 16mm film experimentations. He is continuing to work on making new short films whilst concurrently researching material for a book exploring the use of faked photographs and photographs of doubtful provenance produced during the Second World War.

One person exhibitions/screenings

· Cipher – Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, 1 October – 19 November, 2005; Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 21 January – 4 March, 2006; St Michaels Theatre, New Ross, Ireland, April, 2006; Garter Lane, Waterford, Ireland, 8 May – 5 June, 2006; UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa, 4 July – 30 September, 2006; Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa, 16 April – 4 May, 2007
· Visions and Traces – School of Art Gallery, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, 2006
· Fragments – Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, USA, 2002, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2003
· Sleepwalkers – Gallery 1885, London, UK, 2000; School of Art Galleries, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, 2001
· Riemland’s Edge – (part of africainside during Photofestival Noorderlight 2000) Museum het Princessehof, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, 2000
· Gnosis – Folly Gallery, Lancaster, UK, November 1999 – January 2000; 100 X C (online exhibition), The Month of Photography, Cape Town, South Africa, 1999-2000
· Memory of the Fall – School of Art Galleries, UWA, Aberystwyth, UK, February – March 1998; MuseuMAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa, May – June 1998; Durban Centre for Photography, Durban, South Africa, July – August 1998
· Roadworks – Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1993

Group exhibitions/screenings

• Beyond Words, (six person group show), Safehouse Gallery, Belfast, UK 24/01 – 07/02 2009.
• Film House, filmmakers in Wales, National Library of Wales Drwm, 29/01/2009.
• Outcasting, Season 4 ( August to September, Cardiff, UK, 2008.
• Imaging the Bible, Aberystwyth University School of Art, Aberystwyth, UK, 2008.
• Stone, Plate, Grease, Water – International Contemporary Lithography, The Museum of Modern Art Wales, Machynlleth, 12 March – 12 May 2007; Bankside Gallery, (next to Tate Modern), London, 14 August – 27 August 2007; The Naughton Gallery, Queens University Belfast, 4 September – 29 September 2007; Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbran,
8 March – 26 April 2008
• Prints of Wales, Belger Arts Centre, Kansas City, USA, 2007
• fforma, Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 2007
• fforma, Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Llanbedrog, UK, 2006
• Originals 06, The Mall Galleries, London, UK, 2006
• Aberystwyth Printmakers, Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth, UK, 2005
• fforma, Stark Gallery, London, UK, 2005
• Aberystwyth Printmakers, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, 2005
• fforma, Theatre Clwyd, Mold, UK, 2005
• Swansea Print Workshop, auction of original prints, The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Museum, Swansea, UK, 2004
• fforma, Theatre Mwldan, Cardigan, UK, 2004
• Contemporary Art from Around the World , Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2003
• fforma, Y Tabernacl, Museum of Modern Art Wales, Machynlleth, November – February 2003; St.David’s Hall, Cardiff, February – March, 2004
· Group Show, Gallery international, Baltimore, USA, 2003
• Toko, fforma exhibition at Toko, Aberystwyth, UK, 2003
· Exhibition of International Assemblage Artists, Gallery 24, Berlin, Germany, 2003
· Group Show, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2002
· Harlech Biennale (Print Open), Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech, UK, 2002
· Premier Exhibition, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, 2002
· Emerging Artists 2002, Limner Gallery, New York, USA, 2002
· Exposed, Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, New York, USA, 2001
· Identikit, Brixton Art Gallery, London, UK, 2001
· Current Works 2001, Society for Contemporary Photography Gallery, Kansas City, USA, 2001
· Studios Midwest A-I-R Program, Knox College Arts Building, Galesburg, USA, 2001
· fforma, Courtroom Gallery, Lampeter, UK, 2001
· Emerging Artists 2001, Limner Gallery, New York, USA, 2001
· International Young Art 2001 – international group exhibition finalist: Sotheby’s, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 2001; Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, USA, January 2001
· The Welsh Lens, international touring group exhibition: Parco e Museo Genna Maria Villanovaforru, Sardinia, September 1999; Galeria Zirpoli, Belizona, Switzerland, May – June 1998; Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, UK, October – November 1997
· Through the Glass, Darkly – School of Art Galleries, Aberystwyth, UK, 1996
· Images with a Twist – The Photo-Arte Gallery, London, UK, 1996
· International Environment Week Exhibition – United Banking Hall, Vereeniging, South Africa, 1994
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1994
· Drawing With Light – ‘Pushing the Limits of Photography’- ICA, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1993
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1993
· Vaal Triangle Artists – ICA, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1993
· Art School Staff Exhibition, Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1992
· Kaleidoscope – Gallery 88, Sasolburg, South Africa, 1992
· Rolfe’s Impressions – Grahamstown Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa, 1991
· Anniversary Exhibition of Photography – Goldfields Gallery, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1991


· Studios Midwest A-I-R program, Galesburg, USA, 2001

Gallery representation

· Gallery International, Baltimore, USA
· Clampart, New York, USA


· Kato-Ezell Collection, West Virginia Center for Creative Photography, Elkins, USA
· MuseuMAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa
· The Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
· School of Art Collections, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK
· Axis database, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK
· Many private collections (international)

Exhibition catalogues

• Prints of Wales, exhibition catalogue, Belger Arts Centre, Kansas City, 2007
• Cipher, exhibition catalogue, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2005
· fforma, exhibition catalogue, UWA & Museum of Modern Art Wales, 2003
· Fragments, exhibition catalogue, Artemisia Gallery Chicago & Gallery International Baltimore, 2002
· International Young Art 2001, exhibition catalogue by Artlink and Sotheby’s, 2001
· Riemland’s Edge, Catalogue published, Noordelicht Fotofestival, 2000
· Riemland’s Edge, CD-ROM published, Noordelicht Fotofestival, 2000
· Sleepwalkers, exhibition catalogue, a Gallery 1885 publication, London, 2000
· Memory of the Fall, exhibition catalogue, UWA School of Art & MuseuMAfricA, 1998
· The Welsh Lens, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art Wales, 1997

Publications, conference papers, public lectures/workshops

• Paper delivered ‘ Face of the Divine: The Esoteric roots of Physiognomic Photography’ at the conference Hidden Sources: Western Esoteric influence on the arts, The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Western Esotericism, Cambridge, October 2008.
• Spirit, Ghost and Psychic Photography, in the Nineteenth Century Encyclopaedia of Photography, Routledge, 2007.
• Paper delivered ‘Fragments in Photography’ at the conference Cultural Histories and Vocabularies of the Fragment in Text and Image c.1300-2000, Aberystwyth University, June 2007.
• Cipher: Staging the Mind in the Photographic Construct, South African Journal of Photography, 1 (3), 2006.
• Gallery talk and exhibition walkthrough (x 4), University of South Africa Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa, July 2006
• Paper delivered ‘Photography, bastard of science or esoteric art?’ at the conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism, at the University of California, Davis, Davis, June 2006
• Gallery talk, Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, Ireland, May 2006
• Public lecture and gallery talk, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, UK, October 2005
• Analysis of Love, image reproduced in The William and Mary Review, Williamsburg, Virginia, Volume 42, 2004
• Paper delivered ‘Drawn from Nature; Hermetic references in the early photographs of W. H. F. Talbot ’ at the conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism, at Michigan State University, East Lansing, June 2004
· Public Lecture, Galesburg Civic Art Center, Galesburg Illinois, July 2001
· Images from the Past, (book review), Inscape No 41, spring 2001
· What is and What is Not, Inscape, No. 40, winter 2000/1
· The Portrait Cabinet of Dr Bleek: Anthropometric Photographs by Early Cape Photographers, in Critical Arts: A journal for Cultural Studies (Murdoch University, Perth, Australia & University of Natal, Durban), South Africa, March 2000, ISSN0256004
· Paper delivered ‘Spiritualism and Photography’ at the conference Visions, Dreams and Nightmares at Marymont University, Washington DC, March 2000
· Robert Greetham Photographs 1978 – 1998, Inscape, No.32, winter 1999
· Seeing the Odalisque: Aspects of the colonial gaze in South Africa 1845 – 1975, in de Arte, University of South Africa art journal, South Africa, July 1999, ISSN00043389
· Paper delivered ‘A Woman of Sofala’ at the conference Encounters with Photography organised by the University of Cape Town and the South African Museum, Cape Town, July 1999
· Gallery talk, School of Art, Aberystwyth, UK, February 1998
· ‘The Sale of Dante’s Dream to the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool’, University of Michigan Press; The Rossetti Archive (Internet archive devoted to the life and work of D. G. Rossetti and compiled by Jerome McGann), 1998
· Public Lecture, ‘Rossetti and Hall Caine’, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, September 1998
· Public workshop accompanying The Welsh Lens, Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, UK, October 1997
· Paper delivered ‘Memento Mori: The dichotomy of the desire to marry the machine (camera) to the spiritual in an increasingly secular age’ at the conference Shamanism and Belief in European Photography organised by The European Society for the History of Photography, Helsinki, October 1997
· Africa Obscura, University of Pretoria Art Journal, Vol. 2 (2), June 1997
· Photographing Anything, Inscape, No.24, summer 1997
· The Use of Metaphor in Landscape Photography, Inscape, No.12, winter 1995
· Photography in South Africa, Inscape, No.13, spring 1995
· Life in the Liberated Zone, (book review), Inscape, No.13, spring 1995
· Black Dog (short story), in Probe, the quarterly publication of Science Fiction South Africa, No.81, South Africa, September 1990


· Review of the exhibition Cipher in the Cape Argus, 29 April 2007
· Review of the exhibition Fragments in the Baltimore Sun, 11 February 2003
· Television interview for Ghosthunters a program for French TV channel 3, and the Discovery Channel, 2002 (broadcast 2003)
· Register Mail interview whilst an artist-in-residence at Studios Midwest, Galesburg, Illinois, July 29 2001
· Interview on the radio station the Laser, WLSR, Galesburg , Illinois, July 30 2001
· Exhibit-A, issue 6, September 2000, ISSN14629496
· Soul Searching (the work of Christopher Webster), in (not only) Blue, No.26, April 2000, ISSN13230026


· National Diploma (distinction visual communication), School of Art and Design, Vaal Triangle Technikon, South Africa, 1989
· National Higher Diploma, cum laude & academic colours, School of Art and Design, Vaal Triangle Technikon, South Africa, 1993
· PhD, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, School of Art, 2006

Other experience

· Lecturer in fine art, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK, 1996 – present
· On the Editorial Board of the South African Journal of Photography, 2006 – present
· On the Editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, 1999 – present
· On the International Editorial board of Consciousness, Literature and the Arts & Rodopi publishers (Amsterdam)
· Lecturer in photography, Vaal Triangle Technikon, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 1991 – 1994
· Guest-curator, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa, 1992 – 1993
· Liaison Officer for the visual arts, Vaal Triangle Culture Coalition, South Africa 1993
· Photographer’s Assistant, Michael Meyersfeld Studio – Johannesburg, South Africa 1990 -1991

DR JON WOODSON Howard University, Washington
The Lure of Secrecy for Writers in Early Twentieth Century America


Lighthouse Editions are most grateful for the charitable donation we have received from Education Services that have allowed us to offer some funding towards fees for presenters.


REGISTRATION FEE is £135 which includes lunch and refreshments during the day and the conference dinner in the evening. This can be paid as

£135.00 by UK checuqe
£143.00 (£135 plus bank charges £8.00) via bank transfer to the UK from Europe
or £138 via Paypal

details will be sent by email. Registration fees must be paid before a place at the conference, or can be confirmed. Places will be limited so early application is advised.

Friday 9th October
On the evening before the conference there will be an informal get together for those who have already arrived in Cambridge at the Double Tree Hilton. This is a superb hotel in the historic Cambridge city centre, beside the river Cam.

Hilton 3

We will gather in the Bar which looks out onto the Cam, you can ask for us at the reception desk.

Hilton map

Granta Place, Mill Lane
Cambridge, CB2 1RT
01223 259 988

See more info at:

see map at;xx=1300;yy=720;mt=c;mx=1344;my=862;sx=4;tl=Cambridge%20University%20Library

Wofson Court is on Clarkson Road at the top of the map off Grange Road.

Wolfson Court Cambridge CB3 0EH
Girton College’s Wolfson Court in central Cambridge is built around seven courtyards, within easy walking distance of the city centre and the University Library.

wOLFSON COURTfloralwalkway

Wolfson Court


Andrew Brown

Chairing the conference for the day is

a liberal Christian minister, a University Chaplain to Cambridge University, Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Regional College and also a professional jazz double-bass player. He teaches jazz/rock bass at Anglia Ruskin University and occasionally teach subjects related to inter- and multi-faith matters for the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge.

He writes of the connection between Western-esotericism and the Socinian/Unitarian Christian traditions: ‘that there were a number of figures within both the Radical Reformation and the later Radical Enlightenment periods who, for a variety of reasons, were particularly interested in neo-Platonism and the Kabbalah. In affirming Jesus’ humanity and the Unity of God the Socinian/Unitarian tradition (initially born out of an interesting mix of Italian Renaissance Humanism and Polish Anabaptism) naturally found some of the fruits of this study particularly interesting because it opened up new theological and philosophical possibilities for a genuine reconnection with Judaism and Islam, both of which also denied the divinity of Christ.’


Friday 9th October
from 6.30 – 8.00
informal get together
in Hilton Bar Mill Lane

Registration and welcome

9.30 – 10.30
First panel
Julia Cleave Keynote
Gyorgy Szonyi responds

10.30-11.00 coffee

11.00- 12.30
Second panel
11.00 – 11.45
1st presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
11.45 -12.30
2nd presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
12.30 – 1.30

1.30 – 3.00
Third panel
1st presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion
2.15- 3.00
2nd presenter – 15 mins presentation 30 mins discussion

3.00 – 3.30

3.30 – 4.00

4.00 – 5.00
reflections on the day

5.00 Close




23 Trumpington Street, Cambridge

As we go along Trumpington Street towards Brown’s for our conference dinner you will see what looks like a wide open gutter, on both sides of the street. This is known as Hobson’s Conduit and was built from 1610 to 1614 by Thomas Hobson to bring fresh water into the city of Cambridge from springs at Nine Wells near the village of Great Shelford. There is more info about this and on Hobson himself, from whom we get the phrase Hobson’s choice’ on Wikipedia,



Girton College Tower

4.30pm There will be a visit guided to Girton College and chapel with special reference to the scholar Annabel Kitson, and poet and Fellow of Girton Kathleen Raine. We will be shown around by Rev Dr Malcolm Guite who is Chaplin at Girton, and was our Keynote Speaker at last year’s conference. After an English cup of tea in the Fellows common room, there will be the opportunity of going to Evensong, where we will hear Girton’s particularly fine choir.

Raine was a research fellow at Girton College from 1955 to 1961, and in 1962 she was the Andrew Mellon Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. She taught at Harvard for at least one course about Myth and Literature offered to teachers and professors in the summer. She also spoke on Yeats and Blake and other topics at the Yeats School in Sligo, Ireland in the summer of 1974. A professor at Cambridge and the author of a number of scholarly books, she was an expert on Coleridge, Blake and Yeats.



If you can stay for a few days, either before or after the conference there are many wondereful buildings to visit and places to go to in Cambridge which this year is celebrating the 800 years since it’s founding.

Websites which give useful info about where to go and what to see in Cambridge:

“The name “Cambridge” summons breathtaking images – the “Backs” carpeted with spring flowers, Kings College Chapel, punting on the river Cam, and of course the calm of the College buildings. The City known worldwide as a centre for academic excellence, retains much of the atmosphere of a bustling market town, with its narrow streets, and cobbled market place. Home to 100,000 people, it is also a centre for technological expertise, has a varied arts programme, and many good shops, including fine book shops. The City, is richly served with museums and galleries, from the Fitzwilliam Museum, with a fine collection of paintings and works of art, Folk Museum and many collections of scientific and classical interest, available in the University Museums. Close to the city centre, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is well worth a visit. A forty acre paradise of plants, the garden includes a lake, tropical glasshouses, Systematic Beds and Winter Garden. Cambridge with its’ winding streets and splendid architecture has much to offer at any time of the year; it is also the ideal centre for visiting the surrounding country side – the historic houses of Wimpole Hall and Audley End are close by, Ely Cathedral – the “Ship of the Fens”, peaceful villages with riverside pubs; the rolling wooded countryside made famous by the artist John Constable, are all a short drive away.”

This is probably the most comprehensive website giving details of

hotels and bed and breakfast, self catering,
(you can also find other internet sites with bed and breakfast lists). Accommodation is always booked up in Cambridge and the week of the conference will be an expecially busy one as the new academic yer is beginning and many parents will be staying in town.

include Gardens, and nature reserves.

among their Museums, Art Galleries listing are:

Kettle’s Yard House’

For sixteen years, Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim Ede, a former curator at the Tate Gallery, London, and his wife, Helen. It houses Ede’s collection of art, mostly of the first half of the twentieth century. The collection includes paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones, Joan Miró and many others, along with sculpture by artists including Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Paintings and sculpture are interlaced with furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects. Ede’s vision of Kettle’s Yard was of a place that was not ” an art gallery or museum, nor . . . simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability . . .” Each afternoon (apart from Mondays) visitors can ring the bell and ask to look around.

Kettle’s Yard, Castle Stree,t Cambridge CB3 0AQ
Tel +44 (0)1223 352124

The Fitzwilliam Museum

from their website:

“History of the Collections”

“Few museums in the world contain on a single site collections of such variety and depth. Writing in his Foreword to the catalogue of the exhibition for Treasures from the Fitzwilliam which toured the United States in 1989-90, the then Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, wrote that “like the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam addresses the history of culture in terms of the visual forms it has assumed, but it does so from the highly selective point of view of the collector connoisseur. Works of art have been taken into the collection not only for the historical information they reveal, but for their beauty, excellent quality, and rarity… It is a widely held opinion that the Fitzwilliam is the finest small museum in Europe”.


gives details of colleges you can visit see their entry on St John’s College below:

About St John’s College St John’s College was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. The second largest of the constituent Colleges of the University of Cambridge, it has about 135 Fellows, 530 undergraduates and 300 graduate students. The total current membership of the College, comprising in essence all those who have studied here, stands at around 12,000. Visiting St John’s The College is open to visitors from Saturday, 7 March 2009 to Sunday, 25 October 2009 (10am to 5.30pm)

They also list details for


Trinity College Chapel

Trinity College: founded in 1546 of particular interest to visitors are the Great Court (scene of the Great Court Run ) and the Wren Library



Kings College : was founded in 1441 and attracts many visitors each year especially to see the Kings College Chapel. If you like walking you can download a one hour MP3 walking tour of Cambridge from



The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the directors share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive.. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see

Lighthouse Editions are most grateful for the charitable donation we have received from Education Services.



January 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm


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The Unitarian Church building, Emanuel Road, Cambridge, Emmanuel Road, CB1 1JW

The entrance to the Church Building is in Victoria Street, CB1 1JW

go to
search for Victoria Street and then Cambridge for map

the church is opposite Christ’s Pieces

We can’t offer accommodation but the site below offers a directory of accommodation which includes both Hotels and Bed and Breakfast.

It also shows some video tours of Cambridge, the view from punting along the College backs and others.

see also


Tourist Information Centre
Wheeler Street
Tel: 08712 268 006
Fax: 01223 457 549



We regret that we have not funds to help with expenses for those attending the conference.

The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the co-ordinators share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive (see people).

PROGRAMME: HIDDEN SOURCES: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts

Update on the Second annual CCWE one day conference.

Date: Saturday, 11th October 2008, 9.30am – 5.00pm
Venue: The Unitarian Church building, Emanuel Road, Cambridge, Emmanuel Road, CB1 1JW

For all enquiries plus registration please contact Dr Sophia Wellbeloved at

Chaired by
Andrew James Brown
Whilst studying the philosophy of the Enlightenment at Oxford AJB became aware that many of the period’s philosophers drew upon western esoteric traditions. That many ideas now central to secular liberal democracies led him to explore, in particular, the work of Francis Mercury van Helmont (1614-1698) and his contribution to ideas of universal salvation and religious toleration.


The influence of Western Esotericism in Literature, Music and Esoteric Geometry is examined by the following presenters:


Western Esotericism and the Arts.

This address will trace the hidden course and some of the sources of the stream of “esoteric” thought and imagery which flows, so often unnoticed through western arts, and in particular will look at literature. The line of esoteric insight and understanding which passes through Boehme to Swedenborg, to Blake and from Blake through to Yeats and so into the “mainstream” of high modernist literature is well known. Less well known is the way renaissance revivals of hermetic learning pass down through Milton, to later poets and especially Coleridge, who was familiar in the original languages of almost the entire Corpus Hermeticum and was also reading and critiquing the German mystical writers and Swedenborg. Indeed it was through Swedenborgian circles that the meeting between Coleridge and Blake was arranged, a hugely significant event which is completely ignored by mainstream literary history. I will suggest in this paper that there is a line to be traced from Coleridge to many “mainstream” nineteenth and and twentieth century writers.

Perhaps the most unlikely literary group to be formed and informed by esoterica, the Oxford Inklings, the group of creative Christian apologists centred around CS Lewis which included Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. He will show that the works of this latter group depend very strongly for their shape and meaning on astrological structure and also on a mysticism of primal sound and harmony. Specifically we will look at how esoteric tradition from the Order of the Golden Dawn passes through Charles Williams to Lewis, whilst at the same time Owen Barfield, a devotee of Rudolph Stiener, is able to persuade Lewis, through the thought of Coleridge, of the creative and truth-bearing powers of imagination.

We will explore the way in which Tolkien’s concept of mytho-poeia affects both his own and Lewis’ writings and finally at the way in which these many themes are harmoniously linked in Tolkien’s work especially the Silmarillion, whose initial images of creation can be traced back via Georgio’s mystical “Harmonia Mundi” to the earliest orphic traditions. At present the Inklings are pigeonholed as “conservative Christians” and often used as blunt weapons in the conflicts between conservative Christianity and both secularism on the one hand .and non Christian spirituality on the other. My contention is that the rediscovery and defence of Christian mysticism in the works of these writers involves a recovery of just those esoteric and mystical elements which could make Christianity a harmonious participant in our contemporary spiritual awakening and not, as some would have it, a fearful forbidder.

MALCOLM GUITE was born in Nigeria and raised in Africa and Canada, Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge, where he also works as a priest and academic. He has published two collections of poetry; Saying the Names 2002 and The Magic Apple Tree 2004 and has also published poems in Radix, The Mars Hill Review, Crux, Second Spring and the Ambler. He has played in rock’n’ roll band The Crocodiles, trad jazz outfit Ecu-Jazz, and is currently front man for Cambridge rockers Mystery Train. He has collaborated with Kevin Flanagan on jazz-poetry and also the oratorio The Ten Thousand Things for which he wrote the libretto. His CD The Green Man is out on Cambridge Riffs and iTunes.

Some Publications:
What Do Christians Believe? Granta 2006, (Dutch Edition 2007, Greek Edition 2007, American Edition 2008), part of Granta’s new series on different faith-systems: What Do We Believe?.

In preparation for Ashgate: Faith Hope and Poetry to be published in their series Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts.

‘Poetry, Playfulness and Truth…’ a chapter on the theology of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest in Faithful Performances; Enacting Christian Tradition ed. Trevor Hart and Stephen Guthrie Ashgate 2007.

Contributions on Numbers and Exodus in Reflections for Daily Prayer; Lent to Pentecost Church House Publishing 2008.

Six poems in Live Simply Canterbury Press 2008

His poems have been published in Radix, Second Spring, Mars Hill Review, Crux, Poetry on the Lake and The Ambler.


Robert Fludd (1574-1637). Utriusque cosmi maioris
scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque
technica histori. Oppenheim, 1619

from Giovanni Battista Della Porta’s 1586 treatise De Humana Physiognomia.



Photography has, since its announcement to the world in 1839, wielded a deep psychological power over those photographed and for those in possession of photographs. This power stems from the fact that rather than the image being a simulacrum – a sketch – the photograph is perceived to be the very image of the sitter, their reflected shade. Nature, in the photograph, does indeed seem to record nature.

The apparent veracity of the photographic image in these contexts lent it an unprecedented (and often unquestioned) credibility. The camera’s ability to accurately reproduce the world on a two-dimensional surface stood as proof that the manner in which a subject was recorded was definitive and unquestionable. Despite its shrunken, monotone and two-dimensional appearance, the photograph was held in a position of unparalleled importance as a piece of factual evidence.

In the nineteenth century the ability of the camera to take (as opposed to make) a likeness was quickly matched with the developing concepts of likeness as a measure of the inner man. T. H. Huxley suggested that by understanding and measuring every aspect of the physical exterior of the body something of the inner man and his history might be revealed. If knowledge could be gleaned from looking then it followed that such measurement and documentation would lead to understanding. As a device of moralising and comparison the photograph was unsurpassed – for as it was so closely linked to reality belief followed. But the origins of this belief in a physiognomic reading were derived from an esoteric knowledge that had been in existence since antiquity. Indeed Johan Casper Lavater stresses in his seminal physiognomic text (Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe (1775-1778)) the likeness as a derivation of the mark of the creator, a mystical connection to a higher ideal that through moral degradation leads to visual ‘types’.

My paper touches upon the journey from this esoteric connectivity to a mystical ideal through to its (dark) culmination in the search for a (mystical) purity of race and type in the comparative photography of German scientist and eugenicist Hans F. K. Gunther (author of The Racial Elements of European History (1927)).

I will use images as illustrations of this historical examination of the divine geometry – for e.g. illustrations to Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi, Della Porta’s De Humana Physiognomia, Lavater’s Essays on Physiognomy,some examples of anthropometric photographs and photographic illustrations from Hans F. K. Gunther’s The Racial Elements of European Culture and as a comparison one or two examples of the photographic project undertaken by the German photographer August Sander in his Man of the Twentieth Century.

Christopher Webster writes:
‘I was born in England in 1965. In 1982, when I was 16, my family moved to South Africa. In 1989 I graduated from art school in South Africa. After teaching and practising as an artist in the Johannesburg area for several years, I returned to the UK and lived for a year in London. In 1996 I was appointed lecturer in fine art at Aberystwyth University’s School of Art. In 2006 I completed my PhD in Fine Art. I continue to live in west Wales where I teach, write and work as an artist.’


Giorgio De Chirico – 1888-1978


The ballet Le Bal was one of the last productions staged by the Ballets Russes. One month after it opened in London, Sergei Diaghilev was dead. But its initial opening on May 9, 1929 in Monte Carlo and subsequent runs in Paris and London were met with high acclaim. With sets designed by Giorgio De Chirico, the scenario by the Russian dancer and librettist Boris Kochno was based on a story by the Romantic poet Vladimir Sologub in which a young man falls in love with a masked woman at a masquerade ball. This paper will explore esoteric aspects of De Chirico’s scenography and examine relationships between his costume and stage designs and the esoteric iconography of his paintings. In these works, the “masque” of reality includes allusions to columns, temples and architectural elements that connote the damaged, or deconstructed “inner” structural integrity of art and society.

Giovanna Constantini

Giovanna Costantini holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the History of Art. An NEH award recipient, her academic appointments have included professorships at the State University of New York and the University of Michigan, with Visiting Scholar residencies at the American Academy in Rome. Her research centers on esotericism in the art of the early twentieth century, with special emphasis on De Chirico, the Parisian avant-garde and Surrealism, as well as modernist interpretations of the tarot and the shadow theatre. Her reviews of art historical texts and exhibition catalogues have appeared in The Art Book (Blackwell). An active member of ESSWE and ASE, she has delivered papers on
esotericism in art at conferences in den Hague (The Netherlands), Davis (CA), Tübingen (Germany) and Charleston (SC). Other papers on art have been presented at the Tisch School of the Arts (NYU) in New York and College Art Association conferences in Seattle (WA), Chicago (IL) and San Antonio (TX).


In the field of music we are fortunate to have with us Laurence Wuidar (F.N.R.S.) Docteur en musicologie de l’Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is looking at:

Claudio Monteverdi


It is well know that esotericism may be a starting point for musical compositions, such as the works composed for the Masonic loges. It is also well know that esotericism may be the secret key to decipher a musical score, such as the too famous Bach-numerology topic. It is much less known that a lot of composers and musicians were also alchemists, astrologers or magicians.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse various esoteric activities of some sixteenth and seventeenth century composers and musicians, mainly in Italy, where the Inquisition was forever prone to censure them. The esoteric expression of a humanistic encyclopaedism reveals how the figure of the composer was not imaginable per se. Thus we distort history by regarding them only as composers or musical theoreticians. Only by breaking down the wall between the disciplines can we reconstitute the visage of musicians, such as Claudio Monteverdi, Lodovico Zacconi, Pier Francesco Valentini, Theodato Osio or Guido Trasuntino. The interest and the activities (teachings, writings and experiments) of these musicians for the sciences and arts, such as astrology or alchemy, tell us how their knowledge was a multidiscipline one. It also tells us how the musical process of composition has, in fact, synergies with such arts and sciences. That is ‘quintessentially’ true if we look at the enigmatic canons, the hidden message they veil to the profane and reveal to the initiated, as well as the manner they were resolved after a process of ora, labora & invenies (to quote the motto we find in the Mutus liber, in the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae of Heinrich Khunrath and in many other enigmatic canons). The composers were the custodians of secret rules, whether astrological, musical or alchemical, they taught to a small number of disciples. Thus their musical activities can not be completely understood if we are not first aware of their esoteric activities.

Laurence Wuidar

Docteur en Philosophie & Lettres – Musicologie (ULB, 2007) avec une thèse intitulée Musique et hermétisme après le concile de Trente : Astrologie et canons énigmes (« Thèse Européenne » défendue en français, italien, anglais), détentrice d’un DEA en Histoire de l’Art (ULB, 2003), agrégée de l’enseignement supérieur (ULB, 2003), licenciée en musicologie (ULB, 2002), candidate en droit (FUSL, 1998), Laurence Wuidar est actuellement chercheur au FNRS et suit les cours du Master de la Scuola di Paleografia & Diplomatica de l’Archivio Segreto Vaticano après avoir exercé des mandats de recherches au Warburg Institute (University of London, Research Fellow, Frances A. Yates Fellowship 2006-2007), à l’Université de Bologne (Università di Bologna, Collegio dei Fiamminghi, Fondation Jean Jacobs 2004-2005), à l’Université de Cambridge (Cambridge University, Fondation Wiener-Anspach, Gonville & Caius College, Research Fellow, 2004) et avoir obtenu une bourse de recherche de l’Institut Historique Belge à Rome (Rome, Academia Belgica, 2003-2004). Du 14 au 18 avril 2008, elle a organisé à l’Academia Belgica de Rome le colloque international “Musique et ésotérisme”, qui a rassemblé une trentaine de conférenciers venus de treize pays.

Philosophie des formes musicales cryptées et énigmatiques, histoire de l’astrologie dans ses rapports avec l’histoire de la musique aux Temps Modernes, étude comparée de la littérature emblématique et de la musique jusqu’au 18ème siècle, démonologie et musique dans la Renaissance italienne.

Publications Monographies

– Canons énigmes et hiéroglyphes musicaux dans l’Italie du 17è siècle. De la cryptographie hermétique à l’herméneutique sacrée chez Pierre Francesco Valentini, Romano Micheli et Lodovico Zacconi, Bruxelles, Peter Lang, à paraître (prévu : fin septembre 2008.

– Musique et astrologie après le concile de Trente, Turnhout, Brepols, à paraître (prévu : août 2008.

– Musique et emblèmes : miroirs symboliques et imaginaires sonores (1531-1750), présenté au concours de l’Académie Royale de Belgique, 2008.


– « L’interdetto della conoscenza: segreti celesti e arcani musicali nel Cinque e Seicento », Bruniana & Campanella, à paraître.
– « Egyptian Wisdom and Christian Faith in Renaissance and Seventeenth Century Italy. Hieroglyphics in Art and Music », Jale Erzen (éd.), XVIIth International Congress of Aesthetics, Aesthetics Bridging Cultures, Ankara, 9-13/07/2007, à paraître.
– « La Flûte en noir et blanc : la mise en scène de William Kentridge à la Monnaie », en collaboration avec Valérie Dufour (ULB), à paraître.
– « Bibite cantores. De l’ivresse des cantori aux déboires du Bach-Pokal » en collaboration avec Walter Corten (ULB), volume d’hommage à Henri Vanhulst, à paraître.
– « Virgilio Mazzocchi: cantate pour la visite du cardinal Francesco Barberini au Collegio Romano », en collaboration avec Annick Delfosse (ULg), Revue liégeoise de musicologie, à paraître.
– « Un musicista astrologo nell’Italia del Seicento : Padre Lodovico Zacconi », Intersezioni, Rivista di storia delle idee, 2008, p. 5-28.
– « Démons sonores dans l’Italie du XVIème siècle. De la possession diabolique chantante aux remèdes musicaux contre les esprits malins », De Musica, n° XII, 2008, Internet, .
– « Les Geroglifici Musicali du Padre Zacconi », Revue Belge de Musicologie, 2007, p. 61-87.
– « Musique et démonologie de Jean Bodin à Pier Francesco Valentini», Studi Musicali, 36/1, 2007, p. 65-95.
– « Les œuvres astrologiques de Padre Lodovico Zacconi (1555-1627) face à la censure ecclésiastique », Bulletin de l’Institut Historique Belge à Rome, 2005, 138-159.
– « Magie démoniaque et allégorie de l’ouïe : le canon musical dans les vanités de Breughel, Natali et Van Lear», Annales d’histoire de l’Art, 2005, p. 89-108.
– « De l’emblème au canon, étude iconographique et essai herméneutique de Kircher à Bach », Imago Musicae, 2004-2005, p. 263-287.
– « Pier Francesco Valentini Romano, théories musicaux-astronomiques, jeu d’astrologie et énigmes musicales dans la Rome du XVIIème siècle », Bulletin de l’Institut Historique Belge à Rome, 2004, p. 375-403.
– « Liszt et Fétis : 40 ans d’échanges multiples », Quaderni dell’Istituto Liszt, 2004, p. 137-174.

Actes de colloques & dictionnaire

– « Images religieuses en musique de la Renaissance à Bach et l’Italie Baroque», in Agnès Guiderdoni & Ralph Dekoninck (éd.), actes du colloque Emblemata Sacra. Rhétorique et herméneutique du discours sacré dans la littérature en images, Universiteit Leuven & Université Catholique de Louvain, 27-29 janvier 2005, Turnhout, Brepols, collection « Imago Figurata », p. 441-451.
– « Imbrication d’image, de texte et de musique dans un corpus de prières énigmatiques à la Vierge », in Catriona MacLeod (éd.), actes du colloque Seventh International Conference on Word & Image, University of Pennsylvania, 23-27 septembre 2005, Amsterdam, Edition Redopi, à paraître.
– Thierry Levaux (éd.), Dictionnaire des compositeurs belges, « Ivan Cayron », « Dimitri Coppe », « Jean-Luc Fafchamps »…, Lasne, Art in Belgium, 2005.


– Music and Esotericism, Brill (Aries, monographie), à paraître.


– Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire : Prins (Jacomien) & Teeuwen (Mariken) (éd.), Harmonisch labyrint. De muziek van de kosmos in de westerse wereld, Hilversum, 2007.


Julia Cleave will explore the geometry of Tobias and the Angel

A Florentine Renaissance painting of Tobias and the Angel portrays a transformative encounter between human and divine. The story, taken from the Apocrypha, may be read as an initiatic adventure involving trials by water and fire. By a miracle of imaginative composition, the artist has condensed this narrative into a single captivating image. While its richness of detail and beauty of form make an immediate appeal to the senses, its talismanic power derives more subtly from an interplay of hermetic symbolism, drawing on alchemy and astrology, and a remarkable matrix of Platonic geometries.

It has recently been established that Leonardo, as an apprentice in Verrocchio’s workshop, also had a hand in the painting. More unexpectedly, details in the picture (which has been on display in the National Gallery since the 1860s), together with stories of angels and demons taken from the Apocryphal Books of Tobit and Enoch, seem to have provided inspiration for Conan Doyle’s first-ever Sherlock Holmes story.

Julia Cleave (MA Oxon, MA Essex) is a member of the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy. As an independent scholar, she is currently conducting research into the encoding of the hermetic traditions in Renaissance and Seventeenth-century art and literature, including evidence for proto-masonic symbolism and ritual practice. In 2003 her proposal for a doctoral thesis on sacred geometry and the mystery traditions in the works of Nicolas Poussin was accepted by the School of Traditional Arts at the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture. She has given lectures at the History of Astrology Seminar, the Theosophical Society, the School of Economic Science, the Jupiter Trust and the Temenos Academy.

Publications include:
A review of Friend to Mankind – Marsilio Ficino 1433-99 ed. Michael Shepherd in Temenos Academic Review 4 (Spring 2001)
Ficino’s Approach to Astrology as Reflected in Book VII of his Letters
Culture and Cosmos Volume 7 Number 2 (Autumn/Winter 2003)
Burlesquing the Brotherhood (Paper given at the 6th International Conference at the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre).
The Canonbury Papers Vol. 4: Seeking the Light – Freemasonry and Initiation (2007)
Of Hiram and Aymon – the Evolution of the Legend of the Third Degree
Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research Vol XCVIII [98] [2008].


Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D of College of the Siskiyous, in Northern California, USA will present:


She provides textual analyses from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that demonstrate Carroll’s “masterful job of concealing” both Gnostic and Neoplatonic themes in both books. A concomitant phenomenological interpretation of historically re-contextualized biographical data further supports the argument. The gradual progression from Platonic idealism, via the earlier Cambridge Platonists and Thomas Taylor, toward nineteenth century theosophy and spiritualism is traced as it pertains to the theme. Her paper draws substantively from Chapter V of her, Behind the Looking Glass, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, July 2008, which purports that Lewis Carroll intentionally obscured esoteric allegory in his Alice books.

An article from Theosophy, dated March 5, 1939, asks “how many realize that no initiated philosopher had the right to reveal his knowledge clearly, but was obliged by the law of the sanctuary to conceal the truth under the veil of allegory or symbol?” Roger Bacon, centuries earlier, in Wisdom of Keeping Secrets (c.1260), had similarly written, “a man is crazy who writes a secret unless he conceals it from a crowd and leaves it so that it can be understood only by effort of the studious and wise.” Lewis Carroll was not a crazy man–and this author argues that he did a masterful job of concealing his secrets from the crowd.

SHERRY L. ACKERMAN, Ph D, is Professor of Philosophy at College of the Siskiyous, in Northern California, USA. As an active scholar with the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, she has authored numerous papers and journal articles. Her interest in Western Esotericism began as an undergraduate philosophy student and has continued to be a foundational element throughout her professional writing and teaching. She is equally as passionate about Lewis Carroll. _Behind the Looking Glass_ , Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008 – is the culmination of many years of Carrollian scholarship that she gleefully describes as “a long time down the Rabbit Hole”.


Dressage in the Fourth Dimension, (Cleveland Heights, Ohio: Xenophon Press, 1997), ISBN: 0-933316-10-0: This book concludes that humanity’s alienation from nature can no longer be ignored. Pointing to the enormity and immediacy of the crisis, the book deconstructs fundamental contemporary cultural assumptions pertinent to mankind’s relationship to nature.

Dressage in the Fourth Dimension, Second Edition, Novato, California: New World Library, November 2008, ISBN: 978-1577316237. Foreword by Linda Kohanov (The Tao of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds, New World Library; 2001, 2003). Artwork by Jane Pincus (Our Bodies, Ourselves, Touchstone, 1976).

Behind the Looking Glass.(Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, July 2008, ISBN: 9781847184863: A definitive study of the Alice and Sylvie and Bruno books, via a philosophical examination of Lewis Carroll’s literary position in relationship to the British nineteenth century Neoplatonic/Occult Revival.


The Psyche Project: Aperspectivity and the Ego. International Jean Gebser Society Conference; University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, WI. October 18-21, 2007.

Toward an Integral Perspective: Re-collecting Ancient Initiatory Cultures. 2007 ReConnext Conference; Shastao Institute of Practical Philosophy; Stewart Mineral Springs, Weed, CA. July 20-22, 2007.

The Looking Glass: Identifying Neoplatonic Influences on Victorian Literature. International Society for Neoplatonic Studies session at the American Academy of Religion Meeting. San Diego, CA: November 17-20, 2007.

[Alice readers can also find John’s Tufail’s ‘Caroll’s Philosophy: Language and Contingency in Alice in Wonderland’, post on CCWE Internet Publications page]

Frank Albo is a researcher and teacher from the University of Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada, who is well known for his discoveries and writings about the Manitoba Legislature. His research has led to the findings and interpretations of numerous occult/masonic symbols and figures inside the Manitoba Legislative Building. He is currently engaged in doctoral research at Cambridge University.

He introduces us to the Vesica Piscis


This paper posits that the sudden appearance of vesica piscis in the nineteenth century was due to the advent of non-Euclidean geometry. Non-Euclidean geometry threatened traditional views of geometric truth and it was met with vehement resistance from English Freemasons who endorse a geometric theology resting on the infallibility of Euclid. Masonic pundits championed the re-apotheosis of geometry which they indelibly linked to the vesica piscis and its formulation in medieval architecture. Their theories influenced nineteenth century ideas of harmony and proportion promulgated by British architects C.R. Cockerell and F.B. Bond.

1. The Vesica Piscis – Dürer’s brainchild
The term vesica piscis, derives from the Latin translation of Dürer’s practical manual of geometric theory, Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt (1525).

2. Frederick Bligh Bond (1864-1945) – necromancer of GlastonburyBond was an architect, Freemason, and numerologist who claimed that the vesica piscis was latent in the plan of Lady Chapel in Glastonbury. His theories of architecture were influenced by Cockerell.

3. Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863) – evangelist of the vesica piscis. The nineteenth century professor of architecture responsible for vivifying the popular mystique of the vesica piscis as a formula of exemplary proportion handed down from the Freemasons.

4. Thomas Kerrich (1748-1863) – evangelist of the vesica piscesKerrich argued that the visica piscis had informed the proportions of nineteen churches. His studies published I a popular antiquarian journal impacted Cockerell’s theories of medieval design.

5. Cockerell’s Rules of Design – from Freemasonry to Cesariano
Cockerell presents his tripartite rules of design for ideal beauty and proportions in architecture, which he credits to the Vitruvian commentator, Cesare Cesariano, and the medieval Freemasons.

6. The Unseating of Euclid – nineteenth century innovation of non-Euclidean geometry
The emergence of non-Euclidean geometry in the nineteenth century challenged the universality of Euclid and spawned a proliferation of Masonic texts on the sacrality of the vesica piscis.

7. Re-apotheosis of Geometry in Victorian Britain – Freemasonry’s geometric theology
The Masonic idea that geometry is an exclusive and secret science handed down by God to Euclid and the architect of Solomon’s Temple. In Freemasonry, geometry is a touchstone of divine power.

8. Cockerell’s unwitting legacy – the vesica piscis and the Church of Scientology
From the geometric mysteries of the vesica piscis sparked off by Cockerell’s studies of medieval proportions to an aerial signpost marking the sacred writings of the Church of Scientology.



James Eisner, tenor baritone, will accompany himself on the lute and guitar, singing a set of esoterically influenced songs which will include:

John Donne

Pelham Humphrey (1647-1674)/John Donne (1572-1631)


John Dowland (1562-1626)


F. Schubert (1797-1828)/J. W. Goethe (1749-1832)


W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)/Traditional Irish melody

first giving a brief account of the inter-relation of lyric and musical structure.

James was born in Sheffield but spent his early years in New Jersey, USA. He now lives in Cambridge UK, and has sung with various groups including Trecento, Otto Voci, The Cavalli Choir, Queen’s College Choir, The Cambridge Taverner Choir and the New Cambridge Singers, and until recently directed the Orwell Singers and the London-based Czech choir ‘Hlahol London’.


Simon Jenner

Will look at the esoteric connections which bring together some of the writers and composers of early twentieth century music, focusing on Constant Lambert

and Anthony Powell.

Jenner’s doctoral research looked at Oxford poetry of the 1940s, he writes for Poetry Review, PNR, The Tablet, Music on the Web and the British Music Society, is the recipient of many awards and bursaries, his collection of poems ‘About Bloody Time’ was published in 2007. He is Director of Survivors’ Poetry, and editor of Waterloo Press (see


Registeration is £30 which includes coffees teas and lunch. You can send this now via Paypal to or by cheque made out to The Cambridge Centre for Western Esoterisim and email me for the full mailing address.

Full Conference Programme will be posted in a later update.
For enquiries contact: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved:



to be held on Saturday 11th October 2008
in the Unitarian Memorial Church in Cambridge CB1 1JW UK


The Association for the Study of Esotericism website gives the following useful definition of esotericism:

The word “esoteric” derives from the Greek esoterikos, and is a comparative form of eso, meaning “within.” Its first known mention in Greek is in Lucian’s ascription to Aristotle of having “esoteric” [inner] and “exoteric” [outer] teachings. The word later came to designate the secret doctrines said to have been taught by Pythagoras to a select group of disciples, and, in general, to any teachings designed for or appropriate to an inner circle of disciples or initiates. In this sense, the word was brought into English in 1655 by Stanley in his History of Philosophy.

Esotericism, as an academic field, refers to the study of alternative or marginalized religious movements or philosophies whose proponents in general distinguish their own beliefs, practices, and experiences from public, institutionalized religious traditions. Among areas of investigation included in the field of esotericism are alchemy, astrology, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, magic, mysticism, Neoplatonism, new religious movements connected with these currents, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century occult movements, Rosicrucianism, secret societies, and theosophy.

It is also important to consider that the major world religions have all been influenced in various ways by esotericism, and Western esotericism has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Artists in the literary, musical and visual fields have long been influenced by and involved with esoteric teachings and practices, some of these connections are well known, Botticelli and astrology, Mozart and Freemasonry, Yeats and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but many remain less known or hidden, so that the extent and importance of these influences tends to have been underestimated or unrecognised.

Papers are invited which look at Western Esotericism and the Arts, from a variety of academic and practitioner disciplines. Please send an email of your abstract in two hundred words to Dr Sophia Wellbeloved

The registration fee must be received before speakers can be confirmed.


Reverend Dr Malcolm Guite
Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge is both poet and priest.
see his website

The registration fee is £30.00 for the day, includes light lunch, coffee and tea student rates available. Contact: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved at

The Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the co-ordinators share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive (see people).


June 26, 2008 at 9:40 am


This image has been chosen by Malcolm Guite, Keynote speaker for CCWE 2nd Annual conference Saturday 11th October, 2008. Permission to use it kindly granted by The Fitzwiliam Museum. See a transcript of Blake’s words below:

“The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.

For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas now it appears finite and corrupt.

This will come to pass by an unprovement of sensual enjoyment

But first the notion that man has a body as distinct from his soul is to be expunged: this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.


February 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm


The Unitarian Church From Christ’s PiecesThe Unitarian Church From Christ’s PiecesThe Unitarian Church From Christ’s PiecesCAMBRIDGE CENTRE FOR WESTERN ESOTERICISM

CCWE is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the co-ordinators share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive (see people).



The conference will be held in the Church Hall, entrance in Victoria Street to the left of the church as you see it here, see Map and Accommodation.


Academics and practitioners with an interest/involvement in the field of Western Esotericism are invited to this conference, see also Home and Aim pages.

Speakers and programme below:


PRESENTERS and their papers

is the minister of the Memorial Church (Unitarian), Cambridge and is one of the chaplains to the University, Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Regional College. His research interests centre on liberal Christianity, its self identity and relationships with other faith traditions. He is also a musician and has recently contributed entries on Unitarian hymnody to The New Julian Dictionary of Hymnody (ed. J. R.Watson, Canterbury Press/Eerdmans, forthcoming 2007).

In keeping with the underlying aim of the conference, this paper draws on two complementary perspectives. The first is academic and historical; the second is theological and is offered from the perspective of a minister of religion who has responsibility for a contemporary liberal Christian church.

The paper begins with a brief overview of the recent work of scholars such as Allison Coudert, Stuart Brown and Victor Nuovo who have begun to explore the influence of the Kabbala upon key enlightenment ideas (especially religious toleration and the development of science) and upon important individual figures (such as John Locke 1632-1704, Lady Anne Conway 1631-1679 and Gotfried Wilhelm Leibniz 1646-1716). As Coudert has shown in The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century (Coudert 1999), one important aspect of this process was the Kabbalistic philosophy of Francis Mercury van Helmont (1614-1698)
Van Helmont had been influenced by the Lurianic form of Kabbala (see Scholem 1955, Chapter Seven) and such a philosophy, with its optimistic world view that the world could be restored to its original perfection through human effort and its doctrine of the revolution of the human soul through many lives, naturally appealed to certain Christians who found the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and eternal damnation (irrespective of a person’s actual moral life) detestable. This philosophy offered one solution to the problem Christianity had with regard to the salvation of all those who came before Christ as well as all those in the present who, for various reasons, had not (or, for whatever reason, could not have) encountered Christ. As we shall see, Van Helmont’s Kabbalistical philosophy made a contribution to the development of a doctrine of universal salvation which, in the intervening centuries, has become central to many forms of modern-day liberal Christianity.

Informed by this historical study the paper’s concluding, and major, section takes its initial cue from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 1937 publication, Nachfolge (Eng. trans. The Cost of Discipleship, 1948). In this book Bonhoeffer attacked what he called the “cheap grace” being preached in Protestant (especially Lutheran) churches of his day where an unlimited offer of forgiveness was being made which merely allowed the covering up of the real ethical and moral laxity that existed within the church. This section of the paper will argue that in a similar way much modern day liberal Christian universalism has (for a number of reasons which will be explored during the course of the paper) badly misunderstood and marginalised key religious ideas which originally gave genuine ‘bite’ to this doctrine and so, today, is simply offering up a “cheap universalism.”

Conway, Anne (ed. Allison Coudert and Taylor Corse)
1996: The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge)

Coudert, Allison P.
1999: The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century – The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury van Helmont, 1614-1698 (E. J. Brill, Leiden, Boston and Koln)
1995: Leibniz and the Kabbalah (Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht and London)

Israel, Jonathan I. Israel
2001: Radical Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, Oxford)

Nuovo, Victor
2002: John Locke – Writings on Religion (Oxford University Press, Oxford)
Two unpublished papers: Dubia circa Philosophiam Orientalem and Reflections on Locke’s Platonism

Popkin, Richard H.
1992: The Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought (E. J. Brill, Leiden, New York, Kobenhavn and Koln)

Stuart, M. A. (editor)
1997: Studies in Seventeenth-Century European Philosophy (Oxford, Clarendon Press)

van Helmont, Francis Mercury:
1682: A Cabbalistical Dialogue (London)
1684: Two hundred queries moderately propounded concerning the doctrine of the revolution of humane souls, and its conformity to the truths of Christianity (London).
1685: The Paradoxical Discourses (London)


is Lecturer and Deputy Director in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. He is the editor of Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal (Routledge, 1997) and author of The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture (Brunner-Routledge, 2004) and Revelations of Chance: Synchronicity as Spiritual Experience (SUNY, 2007).

Jung as a Modern Esotericist
C. G. Jung (1875-1961) was deeply interested in and influenced by the western esoteric tradition, including mystery religions, Gnosticism, astrology, and especially alchemy, and a strong case can be made for viewing Jung, in at least one facet of his identity, as a modern esotericist. Antoine Faivre, in his classic formulation, identifies four essential and two non-essential characteristics of esotericism. The four essential characteristics are: a world-view based on correspondences; an account of nature as living; the importance of imagination and mediations between a seen and an unseen world; and the experience of transmutation. The two non-essential characteristics are ‘the praxis of concordance’, that is, establishing connections between different traditions and fields of knowledge; and transmission—the passing on of knowledge from teacher to disciple, often by means of initiations. Subsequently, Wouter Hanegraaff suggested that by the end of the nineteenth century western esotericism, as defined by Faivre, had been transformed by its reflection in what he calls the ‘four “mirrors of secular thought”: the new worldview of “causality”, the new study of religions, the new evolutionism, and the new psychologies’. In this talk I will consider the extent to which Jung’s psychological model, especially including his theory of synchronicity, exhibits these essential, non-essential, and secularised characteristics of esotericism. I will also evaluate Hanegraaff’s suggestion that Jung’s distinctive way of updating traditional esotericism through his theory of synchronicity makes him a unique figure in the historical study of esotericism. Finally, I will note how Jung’s status as both a scholar and, in his way, a practitioner of esotericism has influenced the reception of his work in academic, clinical, and esoteric contexts.


taught Buddhism, the bhakti tradition, new religious movements, and altered states of consciousness at Lancaster (UK) and Berkeley and Santa Barbara (California). He is the author of ‘The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions’ (Open Court, 1997) and is currently writing a book on the Hit (with special reference to rock’n’roll). He lives in France.


The essential principle of human consciousness is transposition: (re)creating something in another form.
‘Gong’ is a woody word not a tinny one (even though gongs can be made of tin);
Evelyn Ashford, the great American sprinter, running like a mountain stream and molten lava (at the same time);
Loneliness in a song not by an ache in the voice (which would be emotional acting) but in the spaces between the notes (Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘One For My Baby’);
When my five-year-old granddaughter explains something in her concentrated, calm way, it’s like large snowflakes falling.
These could be seen as correspondences (in the esoteric sense) but I’m not happy with the mechanical sense of this term (as in Hesse’s Glass Bead game), when we can read off one set of ‘arrangements’ against another. Transposition is re-enactment, not looking things up in an index.
When we transpose in this way, we have a realization of simultaneous realities: that ‘this’ is also ‘there’ in another ‘form’. And it’s this realization that is the origin of the notion of level because the connection between these ‘forms’ is not causal like a seed and a flower. It’s an awareness that what we’re ‘seeing’ is not confined to its form – it has other forms. And moving from one form to another is what we do: we jump levels. It’s the fundamental human experience.
Transposition is thus a kind of metaphor – and that’s where meaning comes from. Something is meaningful when we realize that it goes beyond its ‘form’ – that it is, in a sense, already in other forms. Babies can laugh before they can talk – and that’s because they ‘get’ the movement from one level to another (which is the basis of all meaning, linguistic or not). To transpose in this way is to be human.
Esotericism is that set of principles that govern the ‘modes’ of transposition. The three gunas, the four elements (which feed into alchemy and astrology), the five tattvas, are one set, as it were.
Jung’s four types: intuition, thinking, feeling, sensation. (That’s why I put ‘seeing’ in scare quotes above. All four types are modes of being aware. ‘Seeing’ is the sensation mode of transposition but it’s not the only one – or perhaps it would be better to say that ‘seeing’ has a different sense in each of the four types);
The five virtues and their equivalent vices; Buddhism’s three defilements (kleshas).
All of these modes are also ways of being: how we engage with reality, and embody it and transmit it. (All transposition is a form of transmission.) They are the laws – the means of expression – that govern the active/creative imagination. (And we’ve all got it. It’s not a special gift. It’s what allows us to be stupid and mean, for example.)
Reality is itself transpositional and has created something – the human race – which approximates to itself. In the very process of being alive, we encounter the same principles.
Esotericism is traditionally understood as the ‘deep’ explanation of the human condition: both our own make-up and how the world/reality is governed. I agree. All I’m saying is that the principles that operate are to be found in what we do most naturally: language, laughing, quarrelling, being lost. That’s why we can’t see them.

DR PATRICK CURRY is a lecturer in the MA programme for the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination at the University of Kent and the author, with Roy Willis, of Astrology, Science and Culture (Berg, 2004) as well as various papers. He is currently organising a conference on the subject of divination in early October 2007.

I will discuss the problem of trying to understand a phenomenon such as divination with a set of views (both values and concepts) which start off from – and thus invariably end up returning to – the wrong ‘place’ . The mismatch turns on significantly different concepts of truth: one that is ‘participatory’ (perspectival, contextual, embodied, etc.) – the diviner’s – as against one that is ‘causal’ (universal, single, purely discursive, etc.), which tends to be the scholar’s. But our job as scholars is surely to do justice to our subject(s), not to convert it/them into instances of what we putatively already know. I will suggest a remedy. (I might also mention the peculiarity of astrology as the Western form of divination par excellence.)

is director of a Lighthouse Editions, a small independent company see publishing books related to G. I. Gurdjieff. Her publications are; Gurdjieff, Astrology and Beelzebub’s Tales, Solar Bound, 2002, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, Routledge, 2003, Gurdjieff’, The Astrology Book: an Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences. Ed., James R. Lewis, Detroit: Visible Ink, 2003

How did membership of the Gurdjieff Society in London from 1962-1975 influence my academic research?
How do changing attitudes of educational institutions to practitioners of esoteric disciplines influence teaching and research and Dialogue?

I would like to offer some brief notes on both of these topics, beginning with thoughts on how membership of the Society has influenced my academic research in relation to the two books I have published.

The first one is Gurdjieff, Astrology and Beelzebub’s Tales, this is my analysis of Gurdjieff’s major text, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) in terms of astrological correspondences. I will look at:

• how the text has been generally been regarded by academics, how it is read by practitioners and how pupil readers
seek to analyse the text.

• the complexity of the teaching in relation to the structure of the Tales

• how being a practitioner helped me

• the advantage of a scholarly approach

• impediments to dialogue

The second and quite different book is a dictionary of Gurdjieff’s teaching terms. Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts Routledge, 2003, I will say how my practitioner and scholarly experience influenced my understanding and writing.

And lastly an open question:

academics who are practicing the esoteric teaching or discipline they are teaching/researching are now employed in University departments, how does this affect the dialogue between scholar and practitioner?



FRIDAY evening,
get together for those already in Cambridge from 7.00PM at Browns’ Restaurant and Bar, 23 Trumpington Street, CB2 1QA t. 01223 461655

Registration and coffee

10.00 – 11.00 (15 minutes presentation and forty-five minutes discussion for all sessions)

How did membership of the Gurdjieff Society in London from 1962-1975 influence my academic research?
How do changing attitudes of educational institutions to practitioners of esoteric disciplines influence teaching and research and Dialogue?

12.00 – 1.00

1.00 -2.00

2.00- 3.00


4.00 – 4.15

Plenary session

Close of Conference

£25.00 for the day includes light lunch with glass of wine, coffee and tea.
(£20 if paid before June 2007) student concessions £15.00.

Please make your cheque out to CCWE and send
c/o Sophia Wellbeloved, 13, Brandon Court, CB1 1DZ



The CAMBRIDGE CENTRE for the study of WESTERN ESOTERICISM is independent of any academic or esoteric communities, the co-ordinators share an interest in the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and in the establishment of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network can thrive (see people).


July 14, 2007 at 11:43 am