Eros, Sexuality, and Embodiment in Esoteric Traditions Conference

The Seventh International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism will be held May 24-27, 2018 at Rice University, located in Houston, Texas.  The Conference theme is Eros, Sexuality, and Embodiment in Esoteric Traditions. Friday May 25’s speakers will include Dr. Richard Kaczynski speaking on From Ceremony to Sex: Examining Aleister Crowley’s Transition from Ritual to Sex Magic and Gordan Djurdjevic speaking on Mysteries of the 156 Current: The Convergence between Magic, Eros, Body, and Feminism in the Work of Amodali.

Conference Schedule 


Thursday 24th

4:30 pm [Humanities first floor] on-site registration starts

5:15-6:45 pm [Humanities Courtyard] Reception

6:45 pm [KMR] Welcoming remarks

7:00 – 8:30 pm

KMR Plenary session Keynote 1

Amy Hollywood, Harvard Divinity School

Angelic Love: Swedenborgian Bodies in Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove

Friday 25th

Session 1: 9:00-10:30 am

[1A] Hum 119 Esotericism and Embodiment in the Visual Arts

Presider: Amy Hale

  • Sandra Pryor: Eros and Archetypes, Embodiment and Spirituality in Esoteric Tarot
  • Melinda Weinstein: Cezanne’s Noumenal Bodies
  • Colette Walker: Art, Esotericism and the Body: Johannes Itten and Mazdazan Practices at the Bauhaus

[1B] Hum 117 Veiled and Unveiled: Luna, Venus, and Their Lovers

Presider: Aaron French

  • E. Warlick:Luna on Top: The Chemical Wedding and its Transformations
  • Tom Willard: Alchemy and Mythology: The Case of Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens
  • Joscelyn Godwin: Venus Unveiled: From Alchemy to Irony

[1C] KMR Extraterrestrial Love, Sex, and Desire

 Presider: Jeff Kripal

  • Cathy Gutierrez: From Comets to Castration: Alien Agency in Heaven’s Gate  
  • Christa Shusko: Red is the Color of My True Love’s Planet: Fin de siècleMartian Romances
  • Elizabeth Lowry: These Lovers Are Out of this World: Contactee Narratives and Sex Positive Discourse

Session 2: 10:45 am – 12:15 pm

[2A] KMR Magics of Sex and Generation

Presider: Della Campion

  • Susan Johnston Graf: What George and W.B. Yeats Were Up To: Sex Magic, Babies, and the Golden Dawn
  • Richard Brzustowicz: Arthur Edward Waite’s Erotic and Sexual Esotericism
  • Richard Kaczynski: From Ceremony to Sex: Examining Aleister Crowley’s Transition from Ritual to Sex Magic

[2B] Hum 117 Women, Magic, Power

Presider: M.E. Warlick

  • Geoffrey Redmond: Women in Chinese Divination and their Confucian Suppression
  • Michele Olzi: The Aeon of the Mother: Sex, Magic, Satanic Feminism, and Gnostic Contaminations in the Work of Maria de Naglowska (1883-1936)
  • Gordan Djurdjevic: Mysteries of the 156 Current: The Convergence between Magic, Eros, Body, and Feminism in the Work of Amodali

 [2C] Hum 119 Literary Esotericisms

Presider: Tom Willard

  • Christopher Senn: Comic Books as Occult Tools and Ritual Spaces: The Pop Magic of Grant Morrison
  • Tim Grieve-Carlson: E.B. Du Bois Between Worlds: Embodiment and Esotericism in The Souls of Black Folk
  • James Cochran: “And I will again become your special comrade:” The Queer Magic of Jack Spicer’s Poetics

Session 3: 1:30-3:30 pm

[3A] KMR Performing Esoteric Sexuality

Presider: Joscelyn Godwin

  • Keith Schuchard: Gender Shifting in the Sifting Time: A Moravian Twist on Kabbalistic Homoeroticism
  • Elizabeth Abbate: “Heiros gamos” in Tippett’s Opera The Midsummer Marriage: Explorations of Embodiment and Transformation
  • Aaron French: Revival of the Mysteries: Esotericism and the Re-enchantment of the Arts
  • Kendra Leonard: Haunted Scores: Music and Ghosts in Early Cinema

[3B] Hum 117 Yoga, Eros, Embodiment

Presider: Gordan Djurdjevic

  • Ben Joffe: University of Colorado, Boulder Tantric Sex for Everybody? Reflections on the Contemporary Transmission of Karamudra or Tibetan Buddhist Sexual Yoga Practice
  • Keith Cantu: The “Mystic Anatomy” of Theodor Reuss
  • Nicholas Collins: Love in the Time of Mechanized Petrifaction: Eros and Ananda in Klages and Aurobindo
  • Massimo Introvigne: Embodiment Yoga in Manhattan: Ronit Singer and the Oneness Center 

[3C] Hum 119 Eros and Magic before the Renaissance

Presider: Nell Champoux

  • Anne Parker: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermons on the Song of Songs: Encounters with Phantasms of the Erotic Word
  • Minji Lee: True Knowledge of God Obscured in Mind and Body: Hildegard of Bingen’s Medical and Religious Understanding of Adam’s Fall
  • Claire Fanger: Recuperating the Adamic State:  Medieval Theurgy and Cultivated Dreaming

 4:00 -5:30 KMR Plenary session

Rockwell Lecture and Keynote 2

Massimo Introvigne, CESNUR

Sacred Sexuality in Some Contemporary Esoteric Groups:

From Early 20th Century Origins to MISA

Saturday 26th

Session 4: 9:00-10:30 am

[4A] Hum 119 Divine Bodies, Gnostic Bodies

Presider: Arthur Versluis

  • Mark Roblee: “Those destined to be gods must first become human”: Embodied Divinity in Late Antique Theurgy
  • Shannon Grimes: Zosimus & Theosebia: An Erotics of Alchemical Pedagogy
  • George Sieg: Their Own Body They Defiled: Amorous Archon(tic)s and the Origin of the Gnostic World

[4B] Hum 117 Theory and Method Goes Erotic

Presider: Anne Parker

  • Geoffrey McVey: An Erotic Epistemology: Giordano Bruno and the Desires of Scholarship
  • Sam Stoeltje: Re-Writing Descartes with St. Teresa’s Arrobamiento
  • Jenna Danchuk: Women’s Ways of Knowing: Interrogating Essentialisms in Feminist Witchcraft and Goddess Culture

Session 5: 10:45 am -12:15 pm

[5A] Hum 119 Contemporary Occultisms: Myth, Innovation, Authentication

Presider: Melinda Weinstein

  • Amy Hale: Cornwall as a Site for Discourses of Authenticity in Contemporary Witchcraft
  • Amodali: The Harlot that Shaketh Death – Aleister Crowley’s “Babalon” as a Source of Innovative, Erotic, Phenomenological Models in Contemporary Esoteric Practice
  • Benjamin Mayo: Drinking at Mímir’s Well: Marie Cachet and Varg Vikernes’ Remembering and Reorienting Paganism through the Revival of Neanderthal Religion 

[5B] Hum 117 Esotericism and Vampirism: The Case of the Temple of the Vampire

Presider: Cathy Gutierrez

  • Gordon Melton: The Development of the Vampire Metaphor in Western Esotericism
  • Joseph Laycock: “The Only True Vampire Religion”: The Temple of the Vampire, the Free Market, and the Cultic Milieu
  • Respondent: Massimo Introvigne

 Session 6: 1:30-3:30 pm

[6A] Hum 119 Platonic Perfections: Subtle Bodies and Idealized Sex

Presider: M.E. Warlick

  • Simon Cox: Subtle Incarnation and the Body of Light in Renaissance England
  • John Crow: Against Sex and Marriage: Blavatsky’s Arguments for Celibacy and Chastity Being at Occultism’s Core
  • Allison Coudert: Eros, Sexuality, and Embodiment in the Work of Frances Swiney
  • Della Campion: Gynecological Goings-On at Oneida: God, Sex and the Question of Parity

 [6B] Hum 117 Esotericism and Health

Presider: Claire Fanger

  • John MacMurphy: From Healing to Sexual Mysticism: Embodiment Through Kabbalistic Praxis
  • Holly Folk: Glandular Theory: The Spiritual Physiology of Rosicrucianism
  • Christa Shusko: Astrology, Health, and Eugenics: Eleanor Kirk’s The Influence of the Zodiac Upon Human Life
  • Mark Lokensgard: The Body, Spirit Incorporation and Illness in the Practices and Teachings of Edgar Cayce and Chico Xavier

4:00 – 5:30 pm Hum 117 Plenary session

Keynote 3

Arthur Versluis, Michigan State University

Eros and the Future of the Esoteric Humanities

Sunday 27th

Session 7: 9:00-11:00 am

Hum 117 Esotericism in the Classroom, a Round Table

Presider: Claire Fanger

  • Amy Hale: Occult Cultures and Speaking Their Language: The Strategic Deployment of Esotericism in Curriculum Development
  • Nell Champoux: Teaching the Theological Fringe
  • Jeff Kripal respondent

Plenary Speakers:

Angelic Love: Swedenborgian Bodies in Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove
Amy Hollywood, Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies at Harvard Divinity School.

Amy Hollywood’s work has explored the place of mysticism (or “enthusiasm”) in relation to philosophy, psychoanalysis, and theories of gender, along the span of Christian history from medieval to contemporary. She is co-editor, with Patricia Beckman, of the Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism (2012), and author of The Soul as Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart (1995), Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference, and the Demands of History (2002), and Acute Melancholia and Other Essays: Mysticism, History, and the Study of Religion (2016).

Sacred Sexuality in Some Contemporary Esoteric Groups: From Early Twentieth Century Origins to MISA
Massimo Introvigne, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), Torino, Italy

Massimo Introvigne is an Italian sociologist and director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements.  His academic interests encompass a broad array of religions and new religious movements and their influence on popular culture. His numerous groundbreaking publications have appeared in Italian and French as well English. Books include Il ritorno dello gnosticismo (1993), Les Mormons (1996), The Unification Church (2000) and most recently in English Satanism: A Social History (2016)

Eros and the Future of the (Esoteric) Humanities
Arthur Versluis, Michigan State University

Arthur Versluis is professor and Chair of Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. A key player in the development of Esotericism as an academic field in North America, he founded the Association for the Study of Esotericism in 2002 and remains a driving force in the organization. He has published extensively on Theosophy and American Transcendentalism. His books include American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (1993), The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (2001), Restoring Paradise: Western Esotericism, Literature, and Consciousness (2004) and American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion (2014).

You can register for this conference here:

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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