Conferences and Programs


UPCOMING CONFERENCES and PROGRAMS

 

An Esoteric Quest

An Esoteric Quest for the Lost World of the Incas, and the Living Spirituality of Indigenous Peru and Bolivia in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Cusco

August 20 or 22 - 28, 2018
 

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PAST CONFERENCES and PROGRAMS

2017

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2017: An Esoteric Quest in the Western Isles of Scotland: Megalithic, Celtic and Norse Cultures in the Outer Hebrides

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The thirteenth in a series of conferences on Western spiritual traditions continued our theme from our 2016 Quest in Iceland of exploring the mysteries of the North. We investigated the geometry and alignments of the evocative standing stones, pondered the meeting of Gaelic and Norse cultures, experienced the mystical beauty of these islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, and learned about Scotland’s more recent esoteric traditions. Our home base was Lews Castle overlooking Stornoway harbor, a beautifully restored 19th-century estate.

 

2016

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2016: An Esoteric Quest for the Mysteries of the North in Iceland

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The twelfth in the Open Center’s series of conferences on the Esoteric Quest took place on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the West of Iceland, a place long held sacred in Norse Mythology. Its sparkling ocean and long ridge of protective mountains terminate in the Great Snow Mountain Glacier itself, Snæfellsjökull, long seen as a holy place. While Norse mythology itself is filled with fascination and spiritual depth, there also was much more to the Vikings than the familiar stereotype of plunder and mayhem. They were not only warriors and raiders, but also adventurers, artists and shamans who deeply valued the Völvas, seeresses capable of peering into the future. Conference goers were invited to join leading scholars, writers, artists and adventurers to enter the great Mysteries of the North in one of the most magical realms on earth.

 

2015

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2015: An Esoteric Quest in the South of France

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This Esoteric Quest was held in the Languedoc region of France. Long known as a focal point for numerous spiritual streams, this area was at the heart of the high medieval culture of both the Troubadours and the Gnostic Christian Cathars. The Bons Hommes, as the Cathars called themselves, created one of the most remarkable and enigmatic spiritual movements of the Middle Ages, the destruction of which was one of the great tragedies of European religious life. The Troubadours were the first to bring romantic love to the Western world in poetry and song of great elegance and charm that expressed a new merging of the erotic and the mystical.

 

 
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2013: An Esoteric Quest for Ancient Arabic and Medieval Sicily

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This Quest took us to medieval Sicily, a brilliant center of Arabic culture with its poets, geographers and mosques. In the 12th century, the incoming Norman impulse created the most tolerant, multicultural and radiant land of its time, a place where Catholics, Byzantines, Jews, and Muslims all co-existed and flourished. It was an island where esoteric knowledge flowed through philosophers, Sufis, Neo-Platonic troubadours, Kabbalists and alchemists, and seekers of The Grail.

 

The Western Esoteric Tradition in the 21st Century

News!

I recently co-presented at a symposium on this theme at the Sivananda Retreat on Paradise Island in the Bahamas from April 25th to 28th.
I’m fortunate to be joined by some of my favorite speakers on this theme – Joscelyn Godwin, Marjorie Roth and Leonard George.

Here’s what the website says about it:

A golden thread of spiritual wisdom can be traced through much of the Western world. Follow the courses of multiple Western esoteric streams to explore their spiritual influence on the present age.

Learn about ancient Alexandria, the Sufis of Islamic Andalusia, the hermetic and neoplatonic resurgence of 15th Century Florence, the alchemical world of Renaissance Bohemia, and more.

The teachings of this symposium draw from the 22-year history of Esoteric Quests created by New York City’s celebrated Open Center. Join this gathering of eminent scholars, historians, and musicians who will bring these oracles, myths, art, and songs to life.

This retreat and yoga center is a jewel on turquoise seas with the steady, soothing rhythm of the waves calming those jangled city nerves. I have deeply enjoyed my prior visits there including the most recent one in which I spoke on my memoir, The Jeweled Highway, at a symposium on spiritual narrative- My Story, Their Story, Your Story organized by the redoubtable scholar of Indian and Jewish spirituality, Nathan Katz. We were joined by Jan Willis, gutsy, eloquent and engaging facer down of the KKK in the JIm Crow South, and Roger Kamenetz, poet, dream journeyer, and author from New Orleans. It was a truly lovely experience. Here is the link: https://www.sivanandabahamas.org/course/western-esoteric-tradition-21st-century-april-2018/


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An Esoteric Quest for Ancient Alexandria

Greco-Egyptian Birthplace of the Western Mind
June 12th to 17th, Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria was for seven hundred years the greatest center of learning and culture in the ancient world, a brilliant crucible in which the civilizations of ancient Greece and Egypt intermingled and absorbed streams of wisdom from throughout the known world. Its legendary Library and Museum made it possible for many of history’s greatest philosophers, scholars, and scientists to flourish, and for the city to become the cradle of Hermeticism, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. Alexandria was a city filled with compelling personalities, from its founder Alexander the Great, to Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic Pharaohs. Its long list of influential thinkers includes the great Jewish philosopher Philo, the Gnostic Christian Clement, the Neoplatonists Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus, and finally the noble and tragic Hypatia, last of the pagan lovers of wisdom. Please join us for the first international conference held in Alexandria to bring vividly to life the most influential center of culture and esoteric wisdom in antiquity, the authentic birthplace of the Western mind.

The conference also includes expeditions to sacred sites in and around Alexandria, and evenings featuring cultural presentations of music and poetry.

To read more go to: www.esotericquest.org


This is the latest in a series of conferences on the ‘lost spiritual history of the west’ that I have organized over the last fifteen years. You can find brochures for each of these on the Esoteric Quest website.

2009: An Esoteric Quest for Inner America

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The Open Center’s eighth Esoteric Quest addressed the life-enhancing spiritual impulses that emerged powerfully in America. We brought alive the worldviews of Native Americans, seventeenth century Alchemists, Freemasons and Founding Fathers, Transcendentalists, early Feminists, and Spiritualists. We also honored numerous twentieth century American writers and artists influenced by esotericism, and celebrated the contemporary, multicultural, spiritual explosion. Writers, scholars and performers joined in the beautiful Catskill Mountains at a special moment of rebirth of the American spirit.
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2008: An Esoteric Quest for the Mysteries and Philosophy of Antiquity: Spiritual Experience, Wisdom and Art in Ancient Greece

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This Quest took place on the magical island of Samothrace, Greece, far off the beaten track in the northern Aegean Sea. For a thousand years, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace was one of the most famous mystery centers of the ancient world, rivaling Delphi in stature and fame. International scholars, writers and artists gathered for the seventh in the Open Center’s series of conferences on the Western Esoteric Tradition. The conference was followed by three optional journeys. One explored the Sufi world of Istanbul, the other journey traveled to Delphi, Eleusis, and other evocative mystery centers of mainland Greece. Lastly we traveled to Ephesus, Didyma, and Miletus, exploring oracles and sacred sites from early Christianity.
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2007: An Esoteric Quest for the Golden Age of Andalusia: Sufis, Kabbalists and Christian Philosophers in Medieval Spain

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This conference took place in Granada, the evocative and beautiful city lying below the snowy Sierra Nevada that, alone on the Iberian Peninsula, remained under Muslim control until the fateful year of 1492. Outstanding faculty from Spain, France, Britain and the United States addressed such topics as: the Zohar, the Sufis of Andalusia, Arabic alchemy, Ibn ‘Arabi and Rumi, the knowledge system of Ramon Lull, the troubadours, and the place of Spain and Islam in the Grail stories. Evenings were filled with poetry, flamenco, and music that emerged from the blending of ‘Las Tres Culturas‘.
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2006: An Esoteric Quest in Central Europe, From Renaissance Bohemia to Goethe’s Weimar

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This eight-day itinerant conference began in the Czech Republic in Kutna Hora and then proceeded to Marianske Lazne (Marienbad) in western Bohemia. It concluded in Weimar, Germany, and followed the Western Esoteric Tradition from fifteenth century Bohemia to its reemergence in Goethe’s artistic and scientific work.

 


Another major interest of mine is developing a more holistic approach to death and dying in our culture.

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A major interest of mine is in the emergence of holistic approaches to Death and Dying. The Open Center has produced six conferences on the Art of Dying: Spiritual, Scientific and Practical Approaches to Living and Dying since 1995 and now has an Art of Dying Institute that offers a six month certificate program in Integrative Thanatology and many other events on this theme. The Art of Dying 7 will take place in the spring of 2020.

These have been some of the most life-enhancing events I have ever had the privilege to organize. They coincide with America’s gradual emergence from a fundamental stance of denial and fear around dying to a view that is more open, enlightened, and aware of the merit derived from being aware of death and the transience of life on a moment by moment basis rather than ignoring these facts until a crisis arrives.

Please see www.artofdying.org for further details.


2000: The Italian Renaissance and the Esoteric Traditions: Hermetic, Cabalistic and Neo-Platonic Philosophers & Their Influence Today

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This five-day conference took place in Florence, Italy, and looked at the world of Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and the many other remarkable figures and esoteric impulses that characterized fifteenth century Florence.

 

 

 

 


1998: The Grail: Arthurian Mysteries and the Grail Quest

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This conference brought alive the Celtic background of the Grail stories and explored the roots and meaning of the Arthurian legends. It was held in Lampeter, Wales.


1997: Prague, Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition

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Held at the Zofin Palace on an island in the center of Prague, this conference coincided with the Festival of Rudolf II, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and Holy Roman Emperor in 1600, and investigated many aspects of the alchemical world of renaissance Bohemia.


1995: The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited: The Western Mystery Tradition in Bohemia. A Conference in Honor of Frances Yates

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The first of the Open Center’s conferences on the Western Esoteric Tradition, this event brought together scholars, researchers and writers in the Southern Bohemian mecca of alchemists, Cesky Krumlov. It was named after Frances Yates’ pioneering work, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment.

 

 

 


The Holistic Centers’ Network and the International Holistic Centers’ Gathering

There are few better ways to keep your finger on the pulse of the holistic ‘movement’ than by attending this unique Gathering of centers from all over North America and increasingly from all over the world. In addition to the Open Center, the following centers are regular participants at this five day event every spring in which we share our insights, lessons, struggles, successes in a spirit of openness, candor and mutual support.

I have developed a worldwide network of friends and colleagues from my participation in these warm, open and informative events on both US Coasts and in both Eastern and Western Europe.

There’s not much doubt that holistic ideas and practices are emerging all over the planet, and these centers are some of the focal points of this impulse.

The next Gathering will be held at Hollyhock on Cortes Island in British Columbia, a hundred miles north of Vancouver from May 12 to 17 2019. Please go the www.centersgathering.org or www.hollyhock.ca for further information.

Here is an article that covers my role in the Gathering over the last 25 years.