March 30, 2022
Ways of Knowing through the Changing Landscapes of Esoteric Art
Dr.Giovanna Parmigiani in a conversation with Dr. Amy Hale about how our understanding of artists’ esoteric practice is shaping the conversation between art, artists and the audience. We will primarily be looking at the contributions of women artists, both historical and current, ranging from the Theosophically inspired Hilma af Klint and Surrealist occultist Ithell Colquhoun to a number of contemporary artists for whom esoteric practice is foundational to their art.
March 23, 2022
Paranthropology: The Anthropology of the Paranorma
Dr.Giovanna Parmigiani in a conversation with Dr. Jack Hunter about the anthropology of the paranormal. What is the paranormal? How can we make sense of out-of-the ordinary experiences? How can we study the paranormal—anthropologically?
The Writing of Wisdom: Divine Sophia in Russia
This presentation will analyze ancient icons of Divine Wisdom along with many other influences on the pivotal religious philosopher and poet Vladimir Solovyov and, through him, on his heirs in Russian religious thought in the 20th century. Solovyov wrote repeatedly of what he called Divine Sophia (or whom he sometimes referred to as Sophie, when the figure appeared to him or talked with him through his own pen). He experimented in multiple artistic genres and philosophical discourses, through which he attempted to articulate the "bogochelovecheskii" (divine-human) activity in which it/he/she engages.
February 28, 2022
Divining the Feminine in Tibet: Saga & Sādhana of Yeshe Tsogyal
Yeshe Tsogyal, the leading female presence of Tibet, appears in two distinct genres of literature, autobiographical and ritual practice texts (sādhana). Anne Carolyn Klein/Rigzin Drolma draws on a recent practice texts related writings to conclude that this sādhana is at core a conversation about one’s own relation to a divine feminine, which gradually reveals a wholistic divine, a non-binary writ large, that is nonetheless fully feminine in image and metaphor.
February 23, 2022
Gut and Other Knowledges in Religions of the African Diaspora
Dr. Elizabeth Pérez discusses practices of embodied knowledge production and transmission in such Afro-Diasporic religions as Cuban Lucumí, Haitian Vodou, and Brazilian Candomblé. In conversation with CSWR Research Associate Dr. Giovanna Parmigiani, she connects the insights from her first book on sacred food preparation with current scholarship on gut feelings, knowing, and beings in Black Atlantic traditions. Distinguishing between intellectual comprehension and the types of understanding that practitioners derive from ritual experience, Dr. Elizabeth Pérez explains that the connections between the belly and the brain have only begun to be explored in Black Atlantic traditions.
February 16, 2022
Negation, Not-knowing, and the Dark in Brazilian and Cuban Creole Forms of Religion
In this event, Diana Espírito Santo will examine the ambiguous, dark spaces of paradox from the point of view of two distinct ethnographic sites: Brazil and Cuba, with Umbanda and creole espiritismo respectively. In exploring the various vignettes—of a self that must forget itself in order to retain its mode of conscious trance in Brazil, of the impossibility of knowing one’s spirits in a multiplying metamorphic cosmos in Cuba, both signaling the general breakdown of reality and its knowability—she will think through an interstitial, in-between, impossible logic, and will call out the gaps in scholarly approach premised on the notion that knowledge is there to be grasped, with the right techniques.
December 8, 2021
The Truth Shall Set Whom Free? A Conversation on Esoteric Knowledge, Alternative Spirituality, and Conspiracy Theories
A discussion of esoteric spiritualities tend to encourage a personal search for spiritual truths, unburdened by concerns for dogma and authority. Such seekership has been cast as a particularly individualistic, liberal, and democratic way of doing religion, well-adapted to pluralistic modern societies. The apparent surge in of conspiracy theories playing on authoritarian populist narratives in some spiritual milieus troubles the picture. In this conversation with Egil Asprem we explore the relationship between the spiritual quest for esoteric knowledge and conspiracy theories.
Cultural Appropriation in Neopagan and New Age Religions: A Conversation with Sabina Magliocco
This lecture is a discussion on the phenomenon of cultural appropriation in modern Paganism and the New Age movement. Sabina Magliocco (University of British Columbia), along with HDS students, will explore this theme and its ethical dimensions with reference to contemporary examples.“Cultural Appropriation in Neopagan and New Age Religions: A Conversation with Sabina Magliocco” is part of the CSWR’s new initiative, “Transcendence and Transformation.”
Transcending Transcendence: Repentance and Hypernomian Transformation of Law
This lecture by Elliot Wolfson will examine the viability of a kabbalistic ideal of transformation from the vantage point of identifying repentance as the hypernomian foundation of the nomos, the grounding of the law in the ground that exceeds the law of the ground. I argue that the hallmark of religious nihilism is not antinomianism but the promulgation of the belief that impiety is the gesture of supreme piety. I will explore the subject of hypernomianism by a close analysis of the concept of infinitivity and its engendering in Derridean terms the law beyond the law, which he identified further as the nonjuridical ideal of justice, the gift of forgiveness, the aspect of pure mercy in relation to which it is no longer viable to distinguish guilt and innocence.
November 15, 2021
Sophia and Sophiology: From Boehme to Schelling
Jacob Boehme may have been the first to have developed the Old Testament figure of Sophia, Yahweh’s eternal partner of Proverbs 8, into a metaphysical doctrine of divine androgyny. Beginning in his 1809 Freedom Essay, and continuing through to his 1841 Philosophy of Revelation, Schelling repeatedly returned to the Boehmian figure of Sophia, insisting that she was more than mere metaphor. Boehme's sophiology, according to Schelling, advanced a crucial metaphysical point, one that is as relevant to the philosophy of religion of today as it was 150 years ago."Sophia and Sophiology: From Boehme to Schelling" is part of the CSWR's new initiative, "Transcendence and Transformation."
November 10, 2021
Black Magic Matters: Hoodoo as Ancestral Religion
Does Black Magic Matter? A brief discussion of the African American traditions known as Hoodoo, Conjure and Rootworking, and practices of divination, spiritual protection and healing. We will discuss the origins of magic in the specific context of slavery in America and consider the meaning of black magic in the present day. Like their enslaved forebears, today’s practitioners cultivate ancestral spirituality in support of individuals and communities, and to heal diverse afflictions of the body politic, intergenerational trauma, racial and sexual violence, and economic impoverishment.“Black Magic Matters: Hoodoo as Ancestral Religion” is part of the CSWR’s new initiative, “Transcendence and Transformation.
October 25, 2021
The Archaeology of Ecstasy: Psychedelics in the Ancient Mediterranean World
Can archaeology help us recover the ecstatic experiences of ancient peoples from the Aegean or Near East? And, if so, what evidence is there that such ecstatic experiences were induced by what we now call “psychedelics”? To what degree was the ancient pursuit of ecstasy understood as an individual or a collective imperative, or both? And in pursuing such questions, what do we learn not only about the ancient Mediterranean world, but about our own modern world, and the contemporary psychedelic renaissance and its priorities? CSWR Director Charles M. Stang will host archaeologists Karen Polinger Foster (Yale) and Andrew Koh (Harvard) to present their research and to discuss these and other questions about “the archaeology of ecstasy.”Karen Polinger Foster is Lecturer Emerita in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the History of Art at Yale University.
The first event of Gnoseologies: Transcendence and Transformation Today in which we will discussed “magic” with Dr. Susan Greenwood. This series focuses on ways of knowing that are often labeled as “non-rational.” Traditionally referred to as gnosis in Western philosophical and religious traditions, and often understood in contraposition to science (episteme), these ways of knowing are becoming more and more influential in contemporary societies, popular culture, and academic research.October 4, 2021 The Divine Feminine: A Modern Genealogy
Fellows Hadi Fakhoury and Mimi Winick for a discussion with Joy Dixon (University of British Columbia) of her first book, Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England, along with her new book project tentatively titled, Sexual Heresies: Religion, Science, and Sexuality in Modern Britain.
A conversation with Native American Church leaders Steven Benally and Sandor Iron Rope, who discussed the centuries-old sacramental use of plant medicines such as peyote. They explored the history of the persecution of this plant medicine and the Indigenous peoples and cultures for whom it is sacred, and how Indigenous perspectives might complicate or challenge the contemporary “psychedelic renaissance.”
Charles M. Stang, Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR), discussed the Center’s new initiative, “Transcendence and Transformation,” and introduced its first cohort of research associates and post-doctoral fellows: Matthew Dillon, Hadi Fakhoury, J. Christian Greer, Giovanna Parmigiani, and Meryl (Mimi) Winick.