Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences

Posts Tagged ‘Andrew James Brown



CCWE was co-founded by Dr Sophia Wellbeloved and Andrew James Brown in Cambridge in 2006 and is a transdisciplinary organisation independent of any academic or esoteric communities, with the aims to:

  • To engage with scholars from a variety of academic disciplines and to encourage their researches into Western Estoricism through the medium of conferences, seminars and publication on our websites.
  • To host conferences and seminars that will lead to a greater understanding and exploration of some of the roles Western esotericism has played, especially in relation to the arts and to European social, political and economic culture since the establishment of Christianity in 313AD, with special reference to the modern era and to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • To host seminars that will address and enable the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and for the provision of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network of scholars and practitioners can thrive.


In conjunction with these aims there are three wordpress blogs. which gives information about our own conferences, acts as an information channel and network giving details of conferences dealing with allied or similar academic subject matter at universities in the UK, USA and Australia and India. is also an independent though more specialist site focusing primarily on giving both academic and practitioner news and reviews of events, books and conferences in relation to the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff see here for details of the Esoteric Poetry Competition, together with conference information for academic and practising poets and writers.

These three sites now attract between them in the region of 800 to 1000 readers a day, they cover overlapping but separate issues relating to Western Esotericism.

We have held three conferences

2007 Practitioners and Scholars in Dialogue,

2008 Hidden sources: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts,

2009 The Lure of Secrecy; Western Esotericism & the Arts,

and will hold the first

CCWE Seminar 1: Legitimate Forms of Knowledge? 13 May 2010, in Girton College, Wolfson Court, Cambridge. Practitioners and scholars of magical and other esoteric teachings will ask how do we define legitimate forms of knowledge?

Girton College, Wolfson Court, Cambridge:  floral walkway


March 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

CCWE SEMINAR 1: Legitimate Forms of Knowledge?


SEMINAR 1: Legitimate Forms of Knowledge?

Date and time: Thursday 13 May 2010, 2.30 – 5.30 pm

Venue: Wolfson Court, Girton College, Cambridge

There are practitioners of esoteric disciplines for example: Magic, Alchemy, Astrology, Gnosticism,

and there are scholars who study these disciplines. This seminar is for academics who belong to both these groups and would like to begin an exploration of some of the ways we might encourage a better understanding of both these interrelated activities by asking how we define legitimate forms of knowledge.

We are delighted to have with us:

DR SUSAN GREENWOOD Visiting Senior Research Fellow of Sussex University, a scholar and practitioner of magic, whose recent publication The Anthropology of Magic, (Berg, 2009), addresses this question by recounting some of the academic debates about the history and nature of magic together with her own experience of magical practices and begins to examine ‘the challenging topic of revisioning science so that magic can be considered as a legitimate form of knowledge.’

The seminar will be chaired by ANDREW JAMES BROWN, Woolf Institute, Cambridge.


2.30 – 2.45  Welcome and introductions

2.45 – 3.00  DR SUSAN GREENWOOD will present for ten /fifteen mins


Visualise a spider’s web that stretches across different branches in a hedge at dawn; pearls of dew hang from its delicate strands and each thread makes a connection to the whole. This web is a beautiful part of the natural world and a wonder of nature in itself, but it can also be used for envisioning a different type of science. The metaphor of a web can bring together such seemingly disparate branches of knowledge as science and magic into a new pattern that includes both.
Susan Greenwood The Anthropology of Magic Oxford: Berg, 2009: 146.

Historically magic has been seen as an irrational belief opposed to reason, and in evolutionist terms as leading to the development of an enlightened science. Due to rationalistic theories in the social sciences, magic has more recently tended to be explained solely by its psychological or sociological effects, resulting in the subjective experience of magic being marginalized.

As a practitioner of magic and an anthropologist my aim has been to create a bridge of communication between the experiential domain of magic and the social sciences. The focus of my paper is to explore an approach to this subject that helps us understand the experience of magic as an aspect of consciousness, and legitimate it as a source of knowledge.

3.00 – 3.30 general response and discussion of her presentation

3.30 – 3.45 tea

3.45 – 4.30  ten/fifteen min presentation from
DR MATT LEE, Greenwich University,
Matt is an active philosopher and practicing magician from Brighton, UK. Academically he works in the space in between the dominant traditions of analytical and continental philosophy, drawing upon Deleuze and Guattari to develop a transcendental materialist philosophy. Magically he draws on the Chaos current and for the last three years has been facilitating a working magical group in Brighton which irreverently practices Golden Dawn kabbalistic techniques and Enochian magic.

The role of practical knowledge (‘know-how’) has become increasingly central to philosophical concerns with knowledge over the last century. One of the central difficulties encountered in the increasing acknowledgement of the role of ‘know-how’ is a problem of transmissibility and learning. The more knowledge is taken to be something unconsciously learnt, the less conscious reasoning processes can be taken to be at its centre. The worry for many in philosophy is that this dynamic masks a loss of reason rather than an advance into a new conscious practice.
Followed by discussion

4.30 – 5.00  DR ALASTAIR REID, Girton College, Cambridge, will lead a structured exploration of points arising during the afternoon.

5.00 –  5.30  Options. Looking at how to take this forward into the next seminar.

There are limited places, if you are interested in securing a place at the seminar please email Dr Sophia Wellbeloved at with a brief note of your academic and practitioner interests.

There will be a fee of £15.00 to cover costs (this includes tea and there is free available parking).


The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Western Esotericism, see is independent of any academic or esoteric communities with an aim to forward the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and for the provision of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network of scholars and practitioners can thrive. From 2009 CCWE has operated within Lighthouse Editions Limited, a small publishing company Directors: Dr Sophia Wellbeloved, Jeremy Cranswick – see


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:



Dr Sophia Wellbeloved is director of a small independent publishing company publishing books related to G. I. Gurdjieff. see and htpp://

is the author of:
Gurdjieff, Astrology and Beelzebub’s Tales, Solar Bound, 2002,
Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, Routledge, 2003, See links.
49 Trojan Herrings & Tripidium, Waterloo press 2009




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), SEE LINKS.



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 fervent about philosophical relevancy and, in her teaching, guides students away from the twin dangers of abstract reason and uncontrolled irrationality. In following Nietzsche, she participates in phenomenological psychology and actively experiments with her life. In 2008, she published:
· Behind the Looking Glass.(Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008) which is 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.
· Dressage in the Fourth Dimension, Second Edition, (Novato, California: New World Library, 2008) which draws on such diverse sources as sacred geometry, ancient Western and Eastern philosophies, and esoteric spirituality in an attempt to suggest methods for healing humanity’s alienation from nature.



is Professor of Western Esotericism and Director of the Centre for the Study of Esotericism, University of Exeter. Current areas of supervision include Hermeticism; Rosicrucianism; Swedenborg; Theosophy and Modern Art; Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy; contemporary Gnostic movements. Publications include: Helena Blavatsky (2004); Emanuel Swedenborg: Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason (2002). As General Editor of Western Esoteric Masters (North Atlantic: Berkeley) he has edited Rudolf Steiner (2004), John Dee (2003), Emanuel Swedenborg (2003), Jacob Boehme (2001 ), Robert Fludd (2001), SEE LINKS.



Dr. Lee Irwin is Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the College of Charleston. He has studied world religions intensively, with an emphasis on Native American religions, Western Esotericism, Hermeticism, Contemporary Spirituality, and Transpersonal Theory — particularly around themes connected to dreams and visions. He is also the Vice President of the Association for the Study of Esotericism (, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Sophia Institute ( where he gives frequent presentations and for the Institute for Dreams Studies ( where he also present regularly. He is also an Associate Editor and a contributor to Elixir: The Journal of Consciousness, Conscience, and Culture ( and a member of the Editorial Board of Esoterica: The Journal of Western Esotericism ( His books include: The Dream Seekers, Visionary Worlds, Awakening to Spirit, The Gnostic Tarot, and The Alchemy of Soul (forthcoming, spring 2007), SEE LINKS.




Daren Kemp is editor of the Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies ( with Marion Bowman (Open University). He is the editor of Handbook of New Age with James R Lewis, and author of New Age: A Guide and The Christaquarians. Dr Kemp lectures widely, including recently at the London School of Economics and Edinburgh University, and by invitation in Tokyo and Hungary. His academic interests focus on alternative spiritual movements, anomalous experiences, and their interaction with mainstream society, especially law and business. Daren is also qualified as a solicitor and chartered company secretary.



is a Lecturer in History and Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge. He is the author of ‘Social Classes and Social Relations in Britain 1850-1914’ and ‘United We Stand. A History of Britain’s Trade Unions’.

He edits the History and Policy website developing a network of historians interested in interacting with public life. His main research interests are in the history of trade unionism, popular radicalism and counterculture; and he has recently started a new project on the history of British counterculture since 1945. This will require a transdisciplinary approach, taking in literature and psychiatry/psychotherapy for a start, beginning as it does with the early careers of Alexander Trocchi and R. D. Laing.

He is currently in the final stages of a book on shipyard workers and social relations in Britain, 1870-1950. This aims to reconnect economic, social and political history by dealing with the organisation of work, the relations between leaders and members within a major craft union, and the role of that union in Labour Party politics.


The Library at the University of Kent at Canterbury


is lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury and co-convenor of its M.A. programme in the study of mysticism and religious experience. He is the author of articles on Jung (most recently in Harvest, 1998, 2000, and Jung and the Monotheisms, ed. J. Ryce-Menuhin) as well as on Rudolf Otto (Religious Studies) and the transpersonal psychologist, Ken Wilber (Religion, 2001). He is presently working on a book on ‘C. G. Jung, Numinous Experience and the Study of Mysticism’. He teaches courses on Analytical Psychology and Eastern Mysticism, Phenomenological and Psychological Approaches to the Study of Mysticism, Gurus and Disciples, Psychology and Religion, and Hinduism: Paths to Salvation


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