Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences

Posts Tagged ‘Dr Sophia Wellbeloved



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


THE EXPRESSION OF FREEMASONARY: Its ritual, oratory, poetry, music, literature, art and architecture

Leiden University

2nd Call for Papers and Conference Announcement
Organized by:
The Chair for Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and Socio-cultural European Phenomenon
The Leiden Institute of Religious Studies (Faculty of Humanities), Leiden University

27-28 November 2008, The Netherlands
Proposals for papers before 1 August 2008 (extended deadline, details below):

The Expression of Freemasonry
For centuries freemasons have led a separate creative existence behind closed doors. The rituals, orations and poetry used in the lodge use words to express the society’s hopes, aspirations, philosophy and approach to religion and society. The music of the lodge includes songs and larger scale cantatas. Many lodges had an orchestra or at least and organist and a choir. Orchestral and piano pieces without words but incorporating Masonic symbolism have also been composed for lodge use. As well as musicians actors have always found a home in the lodge and some Masonic plays even found their way onto the public stage as did some operas. These songs, poems, musical works and dramas range from the amusing to the serious, from the occasional to the esoteric, from bawdy to deeply religious.

Freemasonry and esoteric themes have been widely used by authors in the 19th century in Germany and elsewhere for literary works as well as in our own time in e.g. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Masonic and esoteric influences are also to be seen in the visual arts; for example paintings and theatre scenery. Freemasonry has exerted an important influence on architecture in general and in the design of lodge buildings in particular. A perhaps unexpected influence is to be seen in garden design where some gardens take the visitor on a journey past masonic or esoteric symbols.

All of these various aspects of Masonic culture need to be recorded and interpreted. And when this vast creative effort by members of a closed brotherhood is set in the wider context of the time, place and the society in which masons wrote and created it sheds light on the evolving place of freemasonry in society as a whole. This causes us to ask questions such as ‘did freemasonry influence social development directly or indirectly or was it itself led by the great upheavals of the Enlightenment, revolutions and wars that have beset the last centuries?’

SpeakersSpeakers are students and academic experts in the field of study, including:
Mrs. Diane Clements, Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London, UK;
Prof. Emeritus James Stevens Curl, School of Architecture, Leicester’s De Montford University, UK;
Prof.dr. Malcolm Davies, Chair for the Study of Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and a Socio-cultural European Phenomenon, Leiden University, The Netherlands;
Dr. Max de Haan, Editor in Chief of Thoth, The Netherlands;
Mrs. Drs. Andréa Kroon, Leiden University / OVN Foundation, The Hague, The Netherlands;
Dr. Andreas Önnerfors, Centre for Research into Freemasonry, University of Sheffield, UK;
Dr. Andrew Pink, University College London, UK;
Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Tyssens, Free University Brussels, Belgium.

The program will include a performance and discussion of masonic music.

The conference is organized by the Chair for the Study of Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and a Socio-cultural European Phenomenon at the The Leiden Institute of Religious Studies (Faculty of Humanities), Leiden University.

Speakers will be scholars and students from several academic disciplines.
The conference has the support of The Order of Freemasons under the Grand East of The Netherlands, The Cultural Masonic Centre ‘Prince Frederik’ (CMC), The Foundation for the Advancement of Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in The Netherlands (OVN), The Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions (LISOR), The Sub Department History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (Univ. of Amsterdam), the Centre for Research into Freemasonry (CRF) at the University of Sheffield, FREE / Interdisciplinaire Onderzoeksgroep Vrijmetselarij (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and departments in other universities.

Call for papers and registration
A summary of potential papers is invited, not exceeding 400 words. Papers on the cultural heritage of movements similar or related to freemasonry including esoteric groups are also welcome. A short CV of 250 words or less must be added. The closing date for submissions is Friday 1 August, 2008. The Conference committee will inform speakers if their concept for a paper has been accepted by 15 August 2008.

The International School at The Hague

The conference will take place in The International School at The Hague. The event will be accessible to all who are interested in attending, but due to a limited number of seats registration will be required. Registration fees will be announced shortly. For more information or preliminary registration, please contact the conference organizers at:

Related Event
The conference will be preceded by the inaugural lecture of Prof.dr. Malcolm Davies, Chair for Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and a Socio-cultural European Phenomenon at the University of Leiden on 25 November 2008.

Scholars who are considering attending both events may also be interested in visiting (at their own opportunity) the important major historical collections for the study of freemasonry and western esotericism in The Netherlands: the Cultural Masonic Centre ‘Prince Frederik’ (The library of the Dutch Grand Lodge) in The Hague and/or the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam.
Seating at the inaugural lecture is limited. If you would be interested in attending the lecture please contact:

Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam



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

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