Events Programme




28th June 2021


The Transmigrations of TALIESIN: The Mystery of the Ancient Child


Professor John Carey


Taliesin was already celebrated in the ninth century as one of the great poets of the age of Arthur, and was later said to have been ‘chief of the bards’ (pen beirdd) at Arthur’s court. He may originally have been a historical individual, flourishing in the sixth century; but he became a figure of legend, the prototypical poet of the Welsh, famed as a master of magical speech and supernatural knowledge. It was the Taliesin of the imagination who provided some of the primary inspiration for Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, and who was used as a persona by the poets Charles Williams and Vernon Watkins. This talk will consider the figure of Taliesin, the tales concerning him, and the wisdom attributed to him, in the broader context of Welsh and Irish tradition.

John Carey is Professor of Early and Medieval Irish at University College Cork, where he teaches medieval Irish and Welsh language and literature; he is also general editor of the Temenos Academy Review. His books include Ireland and the Grail (2007), Ten Basic Principles That Inspire the Work of Temenos (2017), The Mythological Cycle of Medieval Irish Literature (2018) and Magic, Metallurgy and Imagination in Medieval Ireland (2019). He is the O’Donnell Lecturer in Celtic Studies, University of Oxford, for 2020-21; a Member of the Royal Irish Academy; and a Fellow of the Temenos Academy.


7th July 2021


Icons, Image and Presence


Sir Richard Temple


Images of Christ and the saints are just a visual expression of something universally true, something that was never not there: Divine Presence. Byzantine and medieval Slav painters, drawing on traditions of ancient knowledge as well as from their own spiritual disciplines and contemplative practice, could create images imbued with Presence.

The illustrations will suggest that the origin of the icon is to be sought in Egypt where, in the second century, there came together painters of the ancient Hellenic traditions of art, representatives of the Schools of Egyptian Wisdom and Christians. From such a meeting flowered the religious culture of monasteries of the Egyptian desert and Sinai.

This culture gave rise to what later came to be called Hesychasm and a tradition sometimes referred to as esoteric Christianity. Academic historians and academic theologians tend to relegate all this to an impenetrable labyrinth where one can feel more and more lost. Icons on the other hand provide a direct experience, a living experience, of the higher realities whose existence is all around us, and present in us, but not perceptible to the rational mind and the physical senses.

Sir Richard Temple  founded the Temple Gallery, London in 1959 as a centre for the study, restoration and exhibition of ancient icons and sacred art. He is the author of Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity (1990) and ICONS Divine Beauty (2004).


12th July 2021


Ascending the Hermeneutic Ladder:

Botticelli’s La Primavera and Ficino’s Venus Humanitas


Julia Cleave


Most commentators on this painting are content to take their cue from Giorgio Vasari’s terse description: Venus, whom the three Graces deck with flowers, denoting the Spring. In interpreting Botticelli’s lyrical presentation of nine mythological figures, they seldom venture beyond the second rung of Dante’s hermeneutic ladder.

If we are to enlarge our response, and engage with the picture philosophically and soulfully, we need to turn to the writings of Marsilio Ficino who appears to have played a key role in its genesis.

Far from being a merely picturesque tableau, Botticelli’s composition presents us with a sacred performance in three acts, a drama of emanation, rapture and return. Three of Ficino’s letters in particular, provide us with some important clues as to the true nature of Love, and the real circumstances behind the commissioning of the painting, which have a lot to do with the moral and spiritual education of the young Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici.

Ficino believed that the function of the visual arts was to remind the soul of its divine origin by creating resemblances to the ideal forms. In the painting we see Venus and Mercury acting in concert with divine Eros as hierophants in a triple sequence of initiations, each involving a synthesis of dialectical opposites.

The central figure of Venus – a perfect embodiment of Ficino’s Venus Humanitas – appears like an epoptic vision at the climax of the Mysteries: the life-changing revelation which was said to banish the initiates’ fear of death and confirm their immortal destiny. Acting as psychopomp, Hermes-Mercury indicates the journey heavenward with the distinctive angle of his caduceus. That all four of the quadrivium subjects – those ways to wisdom believed to confer immortality on the human soul – play a role in the composition, is further proof of Botticelli’s anagogical intent.

Julia Cleave is an independent scholar, a Fellow of the Temenos Academy and a member of its Council and Academic Board.


VENUE for ALL the above talks:   The Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3ED

Nearest Underground: HOLBORN

TIME:   Doors open 4.40pm   Lecture begins at 5.15pm   Expected end time: 7 to 7.30pm

Admission is FREE


Places will be limited due to the current COVID situation.

TELEPHONE:   (01233) 813663

An email confirmation will be sent to you upon receipt of your booking.

Covid-19 requirements
Please do not attend if you or a member of your household has tested positive for Covid-19/has symptoms associated with the virus/are feeling unwell.

The rules of the venue will apply and we ask that you maintain social distancing for the safety of all attending. Please bring a face mask. In the current circumstances the talks are subject to cancellation at short notice – if possible, please check the website for any last-minute changes before setting out.






16th February 2021



The spiritual symbolism of light has a long history. Because the sun is the life-giving source of light and warmth upon which all creatures on Earth depend, the light emanating from the sun provides a natural symbol of the creative power of the divine source of existence. Many spiritual traditions also affirm that within the human being, too, there is an interior sunlike source of light and warmth. In this lecture we shall reflect on some of the mystical, theological and philosophical teachings concerning this inner source of light, the goal of becoming inwardly illumined and of shining light into the world. We shall seek to understand how bringing light to the world may be understood as our deepest human vocation.

Jeremy Naydler, PhD is a Fellow of the Temenos Academy and author of two recent books on technology and the human spirit: The Struggle for a Human Future (2020) and In the Shadow of the Machine (2018). This lecture further develops themes touched on in the lecture “From Smart Planet to Sacred Earth” given on September 28th, 2020.

A recording of the talk is now available on the ARCHIVE.




Monday 19th October 2020

Plotinus and the Planets

Tom Bree

The Greek word Kosmos means ‘order’. But it also means ‘adornment’ in the sense of an externally visible apparel. In a similar way the eternally ordered truths of mathematical theory become visibly apparent through manifesting in geometric form.

It can accordingly be understood that the numerical thoughts, forever contemplated in the Divine Mind, become visible through the ordered numerical movements of the planets and the stars.

The idea that the periodic circular movements of the heavens embody mathematical patterns is not a new one. It pervades the thought of the ancient and medieval worlds. But even in more recent years this idea has been re-emphasised yet again from new angles within the research of people such as John Michell, John Martineau and Hartmut Warm.

This talk will look at the geometric relationships that exist between the Sun and the first three planets – Mercury, Venus and Earth – and how these relationships naturally reflect Plotinus’ description of the three Hypostases plus ensouled nature along with their emanation from the One.

Tom Bree is a Geometer-Artist, teacher, and writer. He teaches practical geometry at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts as well as for many other organisations in the UK and abroad. His book The Cosmos in Stone will be published by Wooden Books.

A recording of the talk is now available on the ARCHIVE.


Wednesday 7th October 2020

Dante’s Journey in Gothic Cathedral Design

Tom Bree

The eastward journey through a cathedral forms a symbolic ascent climbing towards the place of the rising sun. However for the soul to return to its heavenly origin a certain lightness and buoyancy is required as attested to by the image of St Michael in which he weighs human souls on judgement day.

Within Dante’s poem, Commedia, such a preparation for ascent requires him to first descend to the Inferno so as to face the very lowest reaches of the soul’s potential. Only then can he slowly begin his rise back upwards, first to the surface of the earth followed then by an ascent to Eden which lies at the summit of the Mountain of Purgatory. Finally he ascends through the heavens to the Empyrean where he becomes reunited with the soul’s divine origin.

Dante’s journey is made in emulation of Christ because he descends to the inferno from Jerusalem on the afternoon of Good Friday and then re-ascends to the surface of the earth again on the morning of Easter Sunday. In this way he personally re-encounters the Harrowing of Hell which is Christ’s necessary descent into the underworld prior to His Resurrection on Easter Sunday and eventual ascent into heaven 40 days thereafter.

This illustrated talk will demonstrate how the three stages that characterise Dante’s journey are also present in the design of the ground plan of the first English Gothic cathedral. In this sense the beginning of the journey through Wells Cathedral is actually one of descent and only then can there subsequently be an eastward ascent towards the rising of the Bright Morning Star.

Tom Bree is a Geometer-Artist, teacher, and writer. He teaches practical geometry at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts as well as for many other organisations in the UK and abroad. His book The Cosmos in Stone will be published by Wooden Books.

A recording of the talk is now available on the ARCHIVE.


Monday 28th September 2020

From “Smart Planet” to Sacred Earth:

Technology and the Resacralization of Nature and the Human Being

Dr Jeremy Naydler

The rollout of 5G and the transformation of the Internet into a so-called “Internet of Things” are the most recent manifestations of an ambitious project to shift the fulcrum of our lives from the real to the electronically mediated, or virtual, world. This project, which has been widely embraced in recent months, stems from a worldview opposed both to the traditional sacred conception of the human being as made “in the image and likeness of God” and to the theophanic conception of nature as manifesting an intelligence, the source of which is divine.

As a consequence, we are increasingly presented with a desacralized image of the Earth as an electronically enhanced “smart planet”, and of human beings as digital citizens living computer-dependent lives. How, then, can we find the spiritual ground on which to stand in this technologized world? And how can we conduct our lives in such a way as to protect, nurture, and with renewed vigour to defend, that which is intrinsically sacred in both nature and the human being?

Jeremy Naydler, PhD, is author of two recent books on technology and the human spirit: The Struggle for a Human Future: 5G, Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things (2020) and In the Shadow of the Machine: the Prehistory of the Computer and the Evolution of Consciousness (2018). He is a Fellow of the Temenos Academy.

A written version of this paper is now available on the ARCHIVE.




[Image: Part of a larger Batik painting, The Holy City, by Thetis Blacker]