Gnosis & Alterations of Consciousness: ESSWE Thesis Workshop

Flammarion woodcut altered

Time for Thesis Workshop in Amsterdam: “Gnosis & Alterations of Consciousness”

It’s an odd-numbered year, and it’s spring (sort of, some places). And it’s soon time for a new ESSWE Thesis Workshop in Amsterdam, the third one in the line (after this and this). In years when there is no ESSWE conference, these open workshops designed for MA and PhD candidates who are involved with some independent research and thesis writing in the field of esotericism, are organised in conjunction with the annual ESSWE board meeting. We’ve had one on alchemy in 2010, and one on magic in 2012. This year’s workshop has just been announced: the topic is “Gnosis and Alterations of Consciousness”, the date is May 10 (a Saturday), and the place, as previous years, is Amsterdam. It is also completely free (although you should contact the HHP secretary to book a place – see the official call for details). A great excuse for spending a May weekend in Amsterdam!


It should be fun. It will also be my first trip back to Europe since December. I am going to give a talk on astral projection – a first show-case of some of the new research projects I’ve been working on since relocating to UC Santa Barbara. We are in fact a small delegation coming from UCSB (the workshop is adjacent to the big EASR/NGG conference in Groningen, so it made a lot of sense): The keynote will be delivered by Prof. Ann Taves, known from books such as Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (1999), and Religious Experience Reconsidered (2009), the former President of the AAR, and a mover and shaker of the Religion, Experience and Mind (REM) Lab Group here at UCSB. Together our talks should bring attention to methodological difficulties in the study of textual accounts of experiences, in classification, labelling, and explanations, and look into practical methods and procedures for working with this sort of material. Should be useful for anyone starting up thesis work in this area.

The two other talks are by Wouter Hanegraaff, who needs no further introduction, and Birgit Menzel (Johannes-Gutenberg Universität Mainz), who will talk about the study of altered states in the Russian esoteric context. All guaranteed to be interesting stuff, no doubt! In addition to the lectures, there will be a proper workshop session as well as a roundtable. As in previous years, near to a dozen of other esotericism scholars will be present too, and there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss with them on any topic (not just “gnosis and altered states”).

The full program is available at the ESSWE website, but I paste it below for convenience:

A one-day workshop for graduate and postgraduate students organised by ESSWE in conjunction with the Chair for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam, on Saturday 10 May 2014.

Throughout the day, international scholars from varying perspectives will present papers, discuss issues around framing research questions, and reflect on developing the skills necessary to successfully carry out research. This workshop will provide an opportunity for graduate and postgraduate students to engage with specialists in the study of Gnosis and Alterations of Consciousness, and other subjects more broadly based in the field of Western Esotericism.

It should be stressed that while the focus of our  specialist speakers is on Gnosis and Alterations of Consciousness, time will be available for students to interact with the scholars and discuss more general strategies for research, such as the issues of definitions, typologies, disciplinary boundaries and interdisciplinarity, questions of primary and secondary sources, publication, networking and other practical matters of a scholarly life. The chronological focus will not be restricted to the Early Modern period, but will range from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century.

Doors open for registration at 10:30 and the event begins at 11:00.

The day will be divided into three main parts:

1) Oratory: Presentations by guest speakers

11:00-11:10 Welcome to the Workshop
11:10-11:30 > Prof. Wouter J. Hanegraaff (University of Amsterdam): tba
11:30-11:50 > Prof. Birgit Menzel (Universät Mainz): ‘Alterations of Consciousness in Russia and their Scholarly Investigation’
11:50-12:10 > Dr Egil Asprem (University of California, Santa Barbara): ‘Reverse Engineering Astral Projection’
12:10-12:20 Short Break
12:20-13:00 >Keynote Speaker: Prof. Ann Taves (University of California, Santa Barbara): ‘What just happened? [Sudden] Alterations of Consciousness and Other Experience Events’

13:00-14:30 Lunch Break – As this is a free event, lunch is not provided, but there are many cafes and restaurants nearby in the Spui.

2) Laboratory: ESSWE board members and guests split into groups in order to discuss various themes related to research.

14:30-15:30 – Students have the opportunity to discuss practical research issues with the following scholars, in addition to the speakers: Henrik Bogdan, Jean-Pierre Brach, Peter Forshaw, Boaz Huss, Andreas Kilcher, Sophie Page, Marco Pasi, Mark Sedgwick, Gyorgy Szonyi, & Helmut Zander.

15:30-15:45 Coffee Break

3) Roundtable Discussion (Chair: Christian Greer)

15:45-16:30 – Themes that have arisen during the workshop

16:30 Workshop Close, followed by ESSWE Members’ Meeting until 17:00 and then wine and nibbles until 18:00.

Please note: this is a free event.

Venue: Doelenzaal, University Library, University of Amsterdam, 425 Singel, Amsterdam. Click HERE for directions to the Doelenzaal on Google Maps.

For more details, or to book a place, contact Nadine Faber:



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  1. Reblogged this on Wolf and Raven.

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