Opening the Magic Windows

Introductory Price: £35

A five-week course (via Zoom) with Mary Attwood, Geoffrey Cornelius, Louise Livingstone, Angela Voss and William Rowlandson.

In this course, the core team of the MCS Centre will each explore their own ‘magic window’ into the world of the mysterious, the ineffable, the impossible, the extraordinary and the numinous.  The Centre offers a resistance to the increasing rejection, disconnection, fragmentation and dumbing-down of the arts and spirituality (not to say the humanities in general) in mainstream education, and asks how we can reclaim an integral vision of the human being, nature, cosmos and whatever lies beyond.  Each session will consist of 45 minutes lecture followed by a short break and group discussion.

The series is now available as a video bundle for purchase. Click here to find out more.


Session 1: Sunday October 4th 3.00-4-15 BST

Angela Voss: The Magic Window of the Gnostic Researcher

My magic window is the imagination, envisioned by esoteric traditions as the bridge between human and divine worlds. I will talk about this intermediary faculty we all have ‘but few use’ according to Plotinus, and how contemporary scholars such as Jeffrey Kripal and Iain McGilchrist are helping us find new metaphors to bring it back to life in our over-literalised, materially-oriented world. I will discuss Kripal’s definitions of the ‘gnostic scholar’ and the ‘third classroom’ as states of being and spaces where traditional academic dualisms can be overcome and a new ‘luminous’ place of epiphany and inner transformation may emerge.

Session 2: Sunday October 11th 3.00-4.15 BST

Louise Livingstone: The Magic Window of the Heart

My magic window is the heart – specifically, the heart that lies beyond the scientific narrative. Drawing on personal experience, I will explore the limitations of living in a world where the heart can only live as a biological organ. Responding to James Hillman’s lament that we are bereft of an adequate philosophy of the heart, I contemplate how reconnecting seriously with the emotional, feeling, symbolic, metaphoric, religious, holistic, intelligent heart could offer us a deeper, more expanded experience of life itself; if only we gave it a platform to speak, and cultivated the ears to hear.

Session 3: Sunday October 18th 3.00-4.15 BST

Mary Attwood: The Magic Window of Renaissance Art

We might catch a glimpse through windows that open our perceptions, hearts and minds to something forgotten or perhaps never even realised was there. Often these experiences come when we least expect them and take us by surprise. But sometimes these windows wait for a shift in perception in us, just like the beautiful works of art which wait patiently in our galleries and museums for us to notice them with the right eyes.

My magic window is art – and in particular, Renaissance art. This was a pivotal moment in our history where works of art were literally windows to other worlds; they were not dead objects to be analysed but were understood as alive, animate beings which enabled a deepening and broadening of perception into the nature of existence. In fifteenth century Renaissance Florence the vast outpouring and flourishing of the image through architecture, sculpture and painting, embodied philosophical and symbolic ways of seeing, knowing and being. Works of art from this time were created to awaken the senses, intellect and soul and move both seer and image into a space of beholding. We will look at Fra Angelico’s Annunciation and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to discover that these are not just beautiful images, but are living presences, ever- changing, alive and animate.

Session 4: Sunday October 25th 3.00-4.15 GMT

William Rowlandson: The Magic Window of the Imaginal


My magic window is the presence of the imaginal in literature. The word Imaginal was employed by Frederic Myers in the late 19th century to designate the interplay of matter and mind in the psychic phenomena he investigated. The term took on new meaning with Henry Corbin’s exploration of Sufi mysticism and the works of Swedenborg to illustrate the intermediary world of visionary landscapes and spiritual encounters. I explore the imaginal in relation to the strange moments where the reader becomes character in the fiction, where the character greets the reader by name, where the text winks back…

In this session we discuss Argentine poet, essayist and short story writer Jorge Luis Borges, who dedicated his life to exploring what he called ‘the interstices of unreason’ in the fabric of reality. We consider certain texts of Borges that illustrate the strange interrelationship between author, narrator, character and reader in ways that blur the divisions between fiction and non-fiction, fantasy and reality. We then discuss Argentine novelist and short-story writer Julio Cortázar, master of the uncanny. We explore certain short stories where the reader and the character appear to communicate through the page, across time and distance.

PDFs of the texts will be provided in advance of the session.

Session 5: Sunday November 1st  3.00-4.15 GMT

Geoffrey Cornelius: The Magic Window of the Four Senses Hermeneutic

My magic window is a contemporary recasting of the Four Senses hermeneutic of medieval Christianity,  especially in its relevance to seekers of wisdom through myth and symbol. The Christian tradition arose in late antiquity, rooted in allegorical methods developed in Judaism and later Platonism. Its origins lie in the interpretation of sacred narrative, moving from the literal and historical, through allegory, and into the turning of the soul towards the mystical sense. In the Divine Comedy Dante makes the radical step of revisioning the Four Senses into poetics, showing that this fourfold may be discerned in varied spiritual transmissions. In the same way we reveal the essential nature of this fourfold for all who seek a healing for the loss of soul in fractured times. 

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