MICHAELMAS TERM 2021
Monday 4th October 2021
A Tribute to Warren Kenton (Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi)
Introduction to Kabbalah
Reverend Marie-Elsa Bragg
In the chair Professor Grevel Lindop
Throughout biblical times the mystical tradition of both Jewish and Christian Kabbalah has been hidden, or adapted its terms to new religious and philosophical ideas. However, the basic teaching of the Tree of Life, otherwise known as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, with its four levels and dynamic network of paths and principles has remained the same. The word Kabbalah comes from the Hebrew root ‘to receive’ and the esoteric map within this tradition is passed on to every generation in the hope that it might both guide and awaken us further into relationship with ourselves, the world and the divine.
Marie-Elsa Bragg is a writer and priest. She studied Jewish Mysticism and Jewish festivals at Leo Baeck Rabbinical College and Theology at Oxford University. She has been a Spiritual Director for over twenty years, and a student of the late Warren Kenton (Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi) for over twenty-five years.
Tuesday 19th October 2021
Dante and Spiritual Intelligence
Dr Mark Vernon
In the chair Dr Jeremy Naydler
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, who died 700 years ago this year, is many things: a personal crisis, a diatribe against corruption, an unsurpassed poem, a celebration of love. But as it is celebrated this year, it’s possible that its heart, as Dante described it, is side-lined or overlooked. He called it realising that ‘I am more than I am’, discovered by journeying through three domains of reality. So what is the nature of this perceptual expanse and how does it come about?
The lecture will examine the transformation Dante underwent, which human beings can still undergo. It will focus on what might be called the emergence of Dante’s spiritual intelligence, which is different though not divided from his rational and emotional intelligence. Spiritual intelligence knows many things: that descent and ascent are intimately linked; that time can be experienced in dramatically different ways; that virtues are crucial not so much for moral reasons but because they connect with reality; that the whole of life is one life, unified not through uniformity but, as Dante describes it, like a book of many leaves bound by love, each with its part.
In wisdom traditions, this is called the beatific vision and nondual consciousness. Dante recognised himself as a modern poet. His vision of what we are capable is no less inspiring, and important, now.
Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist and writer, based in London. He is also a broadcaster and podcaster, and regularly gives talks and lectures. He has a PhD in philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. He is the author of A Secret History of Christianity (John Hunt Publishing), which focuses on Owen Barfield; and of Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey (Angelico Press), published on 13 September 2021, the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. He is also the author of books on friendship and ancient philosophy, love and the good life. He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England.
Wednesday 3 November
Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi
In the chair Ian Skelly
This lecture will explore the traditional iconography, Leonardo’s originality, what subsequently happened to the picture, the Gospel background, and the esoteric significance of this now recently cleaned masterpiece.
This ‘unfinished’ work raises questions about the biography and the genius of the artist. Sometimes the concept “unfinished” is rightly applied knowing the intentions of the artist, and sometimes to the more or less legitimate expectations of a patron or later viewers. There is also a sense in which a work of art merits being seen simply as it is today.
It is indeed a salient, if also unexpected, characteristic of the Renaissance that the art is not complete until the observer becomes active in the process of beholding. Our interaction with the architecture, sculpture, or painting brings the dimension of time and process to what otherwise remains a spatial reality. Leonardo, more than any of his contemporaries, challenges us to engage with him and dare to collaborate in the artistic process he began.
Andrew Wolpert’s research in Renaissance Art History is part of a wider interest in the Evolution of Consciousness as expressed in all the arts. He has given courses in various institutions in Europe, Asia and Australia, including Emerson College and the University in Stuttgart for Waldorf Teacher Training.
VENUE for ALL the above talks: The Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3ED
Nearest Underground: HOLBORN
TIME: Doors open 5.40pm Lecture begins at 6.15pm Expected end time: 7.45pm
Admission is FREE
ADVANCE BOOKINGS ONLY PLEASE to email@example.com
An email confirmation will be sent to you upon receipt of your booking. Please let us know if you are unable to attend in the event that the lecture has a waiting list. Thank you.
Places are limited.
TELEPHONE: (01233) 813663
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.
SUMMER TERM 2021
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
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.
LENT TERM 2021
16th February 2021
BRINGING LIGHT TO THE WORLD: OUR DEEPEST HUMAN VOCATION
DR JEREMY NAYDLER
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.
[Image: Part of a larger Batik painting, The Holy City, by Thetis Blacker]