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Approaching Esotericism and Mysticism: Cultural Influences

This multidisciplinary conference approaches the traditions of Western esotericism and mysticism from a cultural-historical perspective. The aim is to analyse the diverse influences of esoteric ideas and practices and the various forms of mysticism in their cultural-historical surroundings. We promote approaches that focus on individuals, groups and networks, and various archival source materials, but we also welcome papers dealing with esoteric or mystical textual traditions.

The conference will consist of keynote lectures and sessions that can be either traditional paper sessions or roundtable talks and panels.  The social program of the conference will consist of e.g. esoteric and occult walking tours in Turku and artistic performances (plans for an event together with Art Teatro Circus -group). An excursion to the exhibition on Finnish art and clairvoyance at the Gallen-Kallela Museum (Espoo/Esbo, 11.5.–8.9.2019) is also being planned. The exhibition is part of the research project Seekers of the New and is curated by Nina Kokkinen.

We invite people from different academic backgrounds to discuss western esotericism and mysticism included but not limited to the following topics:

Esotericism and mysticism in art, literature and music
Esotericism and mysticism in popular culture
Esotericism and mysticism in Nordic countries, Eastern Europe, South Europe etc.
Esotericism, mysticism and transnational networks
What has been hidden, silenced or otherwise remained in the margins of esoteric and mystical traditions and in the research field (e.g. gender, class, ethnicity…).
Ethics and positioning in the study of esotericism and mysticism
Individuals and archival sources in the study of esotericism and mysticism
To apply, please send an abstract (or panel proposal with abstracts) of approximately 150 words to the Donner Institute, , no later than 31 December 2018. Letters of acceptance will be posted no later than 31 January, 2019.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in volume 29 of the Donner Institute Series Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis as the co-publication of the Donner Institute and research project Seekers of the New.

The expert symposium is arranged jointly by the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural history and the research project Seekers of the New: Esotericism and the transformation of religiosity in the modernising Finland at the University of Turku. The project is funded by the Kone Foundation.

5–7 June 2019 in Åbo/Turku

Approaching esotericism and mysticism: Cultural influences

Conference website: www.abo.fi/esomyst

Facebook event: Approaching esotericism and mysticism

Hashtag: #esomyst2019


Approaching Esotericism and Mysticism: Cultural Influences
A conference arranged by the Donner Institute and Seekers of the New Research Project

5-7 June, 2019

Åbo Akademi University

ASA-building, Fänriksgatan 3 / Vänrikinkatu 3

20500 Åbo / Turku


The keynote lectures and paper sessions are open to all and free of charge. Welcome!

Wednesday 5.6

08.30                  Registration and coffee

09.00                  Words of Welcome

Director Ruth Illman, The Donner Institute

Chancellor Ulrika Wolf-Knuts, Åbo Akademi University

09.15                  Keynote

Prof. Olav Hammer, Department of History, Study of Religions, University of Southern Denmark: Esotericism and mysticism: two essentially contested concepts

10.15                  Coffee

10.45                  Paper Session 1 (parallel sessions)

Session A

10.45               Suvi Karila: The case of spiritualism within the American Freethought                                     Movement

11.15               Christa Shusko: Eleanor Kirk’s entrepreneurial esotericism

11.45               Matti Rautaniemi: Theosophical roots of yoga in Finland

Session B

10.45                Olli Pitkänen & Oskari Koskela: Esotericism in Black Metal Music and the                              Contemporary Occult Milieu

11.15               Kimi Kärki: Sounds like magick: The two soundtracks of Kenneth Anger’s                               film Lucifer Rising

11.45               Tilman Hannemann: Conceptualising magic in 1950s Germany

12.15                  Lunch Café Fänriken, ASA-building, Fänriksgatan 3/Vänrikinkatu 3

13.15                 Paper session 2 (parallel sessions)

Session C

13.15                  Carles Magrinyà: The cave as a visionary space in esotericism, mysticism                              and Cervante’s Don Quixote

13.45                  Eeva Kallio: Wisdom and spirituality as advanced levels of human                                           psychological development: reflecting latest research

14.15                  Tiina Mahlamäki: The interpretation of Emanuel Swedenborg’s image of                                after life in Laura Lindstedt’s Oneiron

Session D

13.15                 Abby R. Eron: A Clairvoyant Pictorialism: Gertrude Käsebier’s                                                 Photography

13.45                  Nina Kokkinen: The eyes of my soul have opened: Clairvoyance in Akseli                                Gallen-Kallela’s art

14.15                  Tonje Haugland Sörensen: Far north in the woods – the mysticism and                                   spirituality in the works of Theodor Kittelsen

14.45                  Coffee

15.00                  Keynote

Dr. Per Faxneld, History of Religions, Stockholm University, Sweden

The death of the author and the birth of the Luciferian reader: Ur-                                           images, postmodernity and semiotic self-apotheosis

18.00-20.00      Reception at the Donner Institute, Biskopsgatan 13 / Piispankatu 13

Spiritism Amusante.  Performance: Pauliina Räsänen

20.00-              Dramatized and guided tour to esoteric and occult Turku enacted by                                         students at the University of Turku


Thursday 6.6

09.00                  Keynote

Prof. Christine Ferguson, English Literature, University of Stirling, UK

Journoccultism: Newspaper scrying from Machen to Fort

10.00                  Coffee

10.30                  Paper session 3 (parallel sessions)

Session E

10.30                  Michelle Foot: The visual culture of Christian-Spiritualism in Scotland

11.00                  Marja Lahelma: Artists as producers and mediators of esoteric knowledge

11.30                  Raymond Radford: UrbEX and new maps of meaning: Psychogeography                                as an innovative methodology for understanding new sacred space

Session F

10.30                  Jasmine Westerlund: Olly Donner, the artistic life of an Anthroposophist

11.00                    Billy Gray: Western Sufism, Rumi and teacher-disciple relationship in                                      Elif Shafak’s The Forthy Rules of Love

11.30                  Giuliano D’Amico: Henrik Ibsen’s The Fantasy of Peer Gynt. Drama and                                 Theosophy in Britain

12.00                  Lunch

13.00                  Paper session 4 (parallel sessions)

Session G

13.00                 Tommy Ramstedt : Applying the methodological framework of scene in                                   the study of Western Esoteric environments and spaces

13.30                 Cristoffer Tidelius: Studying paranormal (oc)culture: Previous attempts

14.00                  Sara Duppils: Happiness is not of this world – The significance of the                                        French Spiritist branch for the Swedish spiritist movement during the                                    19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Session H

13.00                 Carl W. Karlson: A constant critique: The appropriation of raditionalism                                and esoteric thought in the works of Tage Lindbom (1909–2001)

13.30                 Peter Olsson: Torsten Hedlund and Swedish Theosophy: Archival                                            insights

14.00                  Minna Hovi: Memento mori, Froberger: A musician’s transnational                                        network and the immorality of the soul

14.30                  Coffee

15.30-23.00      Excursion

15.30 The excursion bus starts 15.30 in front of the conference site

17.30 Arrival at the Gallen-Kallela Museum, Espoo

18.00 Guided tour of the exhibition “Finnish Art and Clairvoyance”, curator Nina Kokkinen

19.00 Conference Dinner at Tarvaspää CafeZoceria

21.00 Bus departs from the Gallen-Kallela Museum, arrive in Turku/Åbo at 23.00


Friday 7.6

10.00                  Paper session 5 (parallel sessions)

Session I

10.00                  Carole M. Cusack: Gurdjieff and the angry young men: Colin Wilson,                                       Stuart Holroyd, and waking up in 1950s Britain

10.30                  Hippo Taatila: George Ivanovich Gurdjieff

11.00                  Karen Swartz: Behind every successful man (there is at least one                                                exhausted woman): Rudolf Steiner’s silent and silenced partners

Session J

10.00                  Erik A. W. Östling: Millen Cooke and the “Son of the Sun”

10.30                  Linda Annunen: Spatial enchantment in contemporary spirituality:                                        Constructing mystical places through shamanistic and African drumming

11.00                  Pekka Pitkälä: Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa, August Strindberg and the                                          common origins of the languages of mankind

11.30                  Lunch

12.30                  Paper session 6 (parallel sessions)

Session K

12.30                  Peter Södergård: The process of having the mind of God. A semiotic                                          analysis of the iconisation of imagination in Corpus Hermeticum XI

13.00                  Susanna Åkerman: Emanuel Swedenborg’s Clavis Hieroglyphica

13.30                   Carrie Sealine: Genealogy of a neo-Pagan ritual

Session L

12.30                  Juuso Järvenpää: Friends of foes? The difficult relationship of                                                    Spiritualism and Theosophy in the early 20th century Finland

13.00                  Kaarina Koski: Esoteric journals and folk belief tradition in early 20th                                    century Finland

13.30                  Tora Wall: Elves, trolls and dragons: Supernatural beings as                                                      personifications of nature in Swedish tourism

14.00                  Coffee

14.30                  Keynote

Dr. Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Department of Cultural History,                                                           University of Turku, Finland: Ethics and esotericism

15.30                Closing panel: keynote lecturers Per Faxneld, Christine Ferguson, Olav                                     Hammer & Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Director of the Donner Institute, Ruth                                 Illman (convener)

16.00                  Sparkling music and farewell provided by Seekers of the New Research                                    Project