Workshop Sessions

Sophia and the Mysteries of Community in 19th Century America - Christopher Bamford

Immigrants All - Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D.

The Doctor, The Adept, and the Quest for the Philosophers Stone - Brian Cotnoir

Transcendentalism, Silence, and Sublimity in American Landscape Painting 1825-75 The Spiritual Context - Barbara Novak

Walt Whitman's Democratic Vistas and the Creation of a Spiritual Democracy - Bruce Novak, Ph.D.

Paschal Beverly Randolph: A 19th Century African American Esotericist - John Patrick Deveney

In Blavatsky's Shadow: America's Unsung Mages - Jay Kinney

Reading Esoteric Dimensions of American Literature - Arthur Versluis, Ph.D.

The Spiritual Background of Saul Bellow’s Writing - William Hunt

Esoteric Los Angeles - Louis Sahagun

Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation - Mitch Horowitz

The America Story - Nancy Jewel Poer

ew Harmony as proposed by Robert OwenSophia and the Mysteries of Community in 19th Century America
  - Christopher Bamford

Perhaps America's most revolutionary contribution to esotericism came through the communitarian movement, which drew upon many spiritual currents – Christianity, Transcendentalism, Swedenborgianism, Fourierism, Spiritualism to name only a few - to create a new Sophianic understanding of both the divine and what it means to be human. This workshop will examine many different manifestations including Mother Anne Lee and the Shakers, Robert Owen and New Harmony, John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Community, and Thomas Lake Harris and his community at Wassaic.

 

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1902Immigrants All
  - Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D.

Joscelyn Godwin, himself an immigrant, invites participants to describe and discuss their own relationship to the worlds of their ancestors. What are they glad that they or their families brought from there, and glad to be free from? Does America offer spiritual possibilities of its own, or is it a political and sentimental mirage, cut off from Tradition? What inherited assumptions affect the way we answer these questions?

 

Distillation by Alembic 1910The Doctor, The Adept, and the Quest for the Philosopher's Stone
  - Brian Cotnoi

In the 1660's, word spread through London that an adept, Eirenaeous Philalethes, had made the philosopher's stone. The publication describing this work, Secrets Reveal'd: An Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King, was handled by a young Harvard educated doctor from New England - George Starkey. When Dr Starkey came to England, he became Robert Boyle's teacher in the "chymical arts." Only recently was it discovered that the adept and the doctor were one and the same. This workshop will trace this remarkable man's life, the reasons for his double life, as well as examine and decipher parts of his Secrets Reveal'd.

 

'Morning in the Tropics', Frederick Church, 1877Transcendentalism, Silence, and Sublimity in American Landscape Painting 1825-75
The Spiritual Context

  - Barbara Novak

This workshop examines the search for God in nature and ideas of silence and sublimity as seen in the paintings of the Hudson River School. It will deal primarily with Thomas Cole and Frederick Church who lived and worked in the Catskills, but will also include two other key Hudson River artists and the New England Luminists. The landscapes of the period will be considered in the spiritual context of the age as they connect to the thinking of Emerson and Thoreau and to American Indian and East Indian concepts.

 

Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman's Democratic Vistas and the Creation of a Spiritual Democracy
  - Bruce Novak, Ph.D

Cornel West has called Walt Whitman's 1871 treatise Democratic Vistas a greater work than his epic Leaves of Grass. We will explore together why this is so by tracing the development of the democratic idea, as Whitman did, from a stage of "political foundation rights," through a stage of "material prosperity," leading up to its true founding in "a sublime and serious Religious Democracy," the advent of which we may right now be witnessing.

 

Paschal Beverly RandolphPaschal Beverly Randolph:
A 19th Century African American Esotericist

  - John Patrick Deveney

Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) was a 19th century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and sex magician. It is a revelation to realize the poverty of what preceded Randolph and his monumental achievement in transforming occultism and spiritualism from antiquarian bookishness to the pursuit of individual spiritual growth here and now through practical spiritual techniques. The history of western and especially American spirituality since Randolph's death might be seen as the working out of his ideas on realizing our own divine nature.

 

Albert PikeIn Blavatsky's Shadow:
America's Unsung Mages

  - Jay Kinney

The prominent role played by Madame Blavatsky in the occult revival of the late 19th century has tended to obscure the significant contributions made by lesser known figures. We will take a good look at two such people, the esoteric Masons Albert Pike and Albert G. Mackey, whose work in Masonic circles helped lay the groundwork for the spread of esotericism and the perennial philosophy.

 

Emily DickinsonReading Esoteric Dimensions of American Literature
  - Arthur Versluis, Ph.D.

We will work through some esoteric dimensions of major literary works - in particular, writings by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson, but also a few others. Clearly, one can read such works on a surface level, but one soon discovers that they have multiple levels. At the same time, it is not uncommon for these authors to offer us an "open esotericism," in which the more esoteric dimensions of their work are hidden in plain sight.

 

Saul BellowThe Spiritual Background of Saul Bellow's Writing
  - William Hunt

The work of Saul Bellow is often noted for inventive narratives that range over the American scene and character. However, a paucity of published critical attention has been directed to reckoning the depth of Bellow's involvement with the spiritual lives of urban Americans. Poet William Hunt, who was a friend and participant with Bellow in the study of Rudolf Steiner's work for twenty years, will discuss how Bellow's late fiction mirrors the esoteric issues of morality raised by both Anthroposophy and Bellow's own background as a student of Kabbalah.

 

Manly P. Hall's proposed Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles, 1934Esoteric Los Angeles
  - Louis Sahagun

The turn of the last century in Los Angeles was a time when many civic and business leaders, judges, architects, and entertainment industry figures were members of Masonic lodges or esoteric schools whose Neoclassical temples were among the most imposing buildings on the Southern California landscape. In the 1950s and 60s, Manly P. Hall's Hollywood compound, among others, attracted a new generation of seekers from surprisingly diverse fields including the actor Burl Ives, California Governor Goodwin Knight, and the one and only Elvis.

 

Frederick DouglasOccult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation
  - Mitch Horowitz

America possesses an esoteric tradition that is largely unknown yet permeates our culture. Beginning in the late 17th century, influences from Spiritualism, Freemasonry, New Thought, Transcendentalism, Mesmerism, and a host of philosophies and occult traditions have shaped America in unexpected ways. Drawing on his forthcoming book, Occult America, Mitch Horowitz reveals the metaphysical influences beneath our national life, exploring figures ranging from Mary Todd Lincoln to Henry A. Wallace, Frederick Douglass to Marcus Garvey, Joseph Smith to Colonel Henry Steel Olcott.

 

Arms of the United States of AmericaThe America Story
  - Nancy Jewel Poer

Our vast and beautiful land is peopled with diverse, innovative citizens with inherent vitality and good will. But we need a greater awareness of the responsibilities that go with great freedom. This visual presentation includes a broad view of turning points in American history and the nation's many heroic individuals as they shine with inspiring light while facing the nation's powerful darkness.

 
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Esoteric Upstate New York:
Iroquois Nations, Feminists, Utopians and 21st Century Esotericists
 
 
 
Greece 2008
Spain 2007
Czech Republic/Germany 2006
Italy 2000
Wales 1998
Prague 1997
Bohemia1995