Symbol and Imagination

The aim of this module is to learn about the history of the imagination as a mode of knowledge in the Neoplatonic, esoteric and Romantic traditions, and to enter into experiential ‘spaces’ in which this knowledge may inform students’ understanding and appreciation of their own imaginative powers. The module is intended to introduce students to the relationship between imagination and spirituality, through creating exercises in active imagination, creative drawing and poetry, symbolic walking and cosmology, Renaissance art, music and the idea of the ‘divine feminine’ in historical and contemporary contexts. Students write reflexively, drawing on personal experiences and bringing theories of the imagination to bear on their insight.

Papers on this topic.

Stone Fitzgerald, 'Love Triangle, roads to the imaginal in Corbin, Jung and Hillman'
Inviting an Image to Teach - Louise Bunn

James Elkins in his book, Pictures and Tears, has a list of suggestions for approaching an image, making space within yourself for it, and allowing it to penetrate you. In this exercise, the most important tasks are to allow yourself time, fully engage, and clear one’s mental chatter for listening to the image with attention. (Elkins 2004 p210-12) “Allow yourself the most intimate and naïve encounter, and then dissect it into knowledge of historical value.” (Elkins 2004 p213).

Continue reading: “Inviting an Image to Teach”

The Glastonbury Landscape: History, Mythopoesis and Truth - Dani Hawkyard

Even from just preliminary glances at such books as Dion Fortune’s Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart and John Michell’s New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury, it is painfully clear to me that the mythology of this sacred place is inescapably vast – far too vast to be done justice in a mere four-thousand words (the scope of this essay). To attempt such a feat I feel would be overwhelming, both to author and to reader, and I do not believe I could truly honour such a remarkable heritage within such a small space. It is in light of this that I have chosen to approach the assignment from my own unique perspective, and to offer my attention in particular to the mythology of the  allowed Glastonbury earth, including the Glastonbury Land Zodiac.


Continue reading:  ‘The Glastonbury Landscape’

Imagination and Theurgy - Simão Cortês


The objective of this essay will be to discuss the thought of three of the most influential thinkers on active imagination of the twentieth century (Jung, Hillman and Corbin) and its connection to theurgy, as defined by Iamblichus and Gregory Shaw. For this, we will look especially at the psychological and metaphysical assumptions of the three authors, as well as their views on mystical or esoteric practices. I will occasionally draw on other thinkers like Tom Cheetham and Robert Bosnak.


Read ‘Imagination and Theurgy’

Analysis of symbolic and sacred texts using the four senses hermeneutic - Hannah Jayne

Luke 1:26-55, 2:1-7 – The annunciation and virgin birth

Mary the Mother of Jesus – few spiritual figures have attracted such adoration and appropriation. In only a few verses in the New Testament she makes her mark on the Gospel narrative and the world. Her name has been used to epitomise feminine spirituality and courage, an inspiration to women seeking to connect with the divine. However, her story, as portrayed through the narratives of patriarchal religion, has led to the veneration of submission and virginity as female virtues, allowing female spirituality to be subjugated beneath the male gaze. Using the four senses hermeneutic to reinterpret these verses allows for a deeper and broader interpretation of the text, and it is my intention to show how this text has inspired my own spiritual life, and how we can avoid the pitfalls of patriarchal readings and understand Mary as a link to the divine feminine, informing and empowering female spirituality.

Contine reading: ‘Analysis of symbolic and sacred text using the four senses hermeneutic’

How Natural is Ficino's Natural Magic? - Carole Taylor

Of all Ficino’s work, the most pertinent to an understanding of what he termed ‘natural magic’ is De vita libri tres or Three Books on Life, particularly book three, De vita coelitus comparanda , which Copenhaver describes as the most important work on magic of the early modern period (Copenhaver, 1990, p.267).

A number of scholars have noted the presence of theurgic elements in De vita. Kaske and Clark, for instance, stress the theurgic content of Ficono’s Neoplatonic sources (Kaske and Clark, 1989) pp.46-47), Copenhaver cites the impact of the theurgic magic of Iamblichus, Psellos and the Chaldean Oracles (Copenhaver, 1987, p.453), and Voss refers to it as ‘a beginner’s guide to theurgic ritual under the cloak of a manual on health’ (Voss, Ficino’s Natural Magic, p.2). The book only narrowly escaped being banned (Campion, 2009, p.89) and Ficino published an Apology just four months later, restating his position on magic, so it is clear that the more orthodox authorities viewed it with suspicion. However, through infusing the spiritual aims of Neoplatonic philosophy into Christianity, he seems to have reframed the idea of ‘natural magic’ altogether, extending it into a celestial context and emphasising the ‘natural’ life-giving properties of the celestial bodies. A complete spiritual and cosmological vision emerges, and perhaps a new understanding of the notion of ‘natural magic’.


Continue reading: ‘How natural is Ficino’s natural magic’

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