Dear readers, on the third day The Husband borrowed the camera to take pictures of boats. This means that the many of the images here were taken with my tablet. As such, the greased-up lens may make it impossible for you to actually see the subject at hand. Is that a scholar of esotericism? Is it Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting? No one knows for sure. I apologize in advance.
Day three was really funky—there was a strange vibe going on that made everything seem empty and quiet. The previous evening, many of us had gathered at a nearby pub and this may have been a reason for the pall on the mood. Several folks showed up in the morning just for the Aleister Crowley session and hightailed it back to sleep. Others were reserving their enthusiasm (or at least their energy) for the evening’s conference dinner. All-in-all, everyone was in a funk.
Let’s be honest, you want to hear about the session on Aleister Crowley. I don’t blame you. Honestly, Aleister Crowley rarely gets old for me, and it was nice hearing scholarly perspectives on his work. The first to present was Johan Nilsson, who discussed Crowley’s criticism of spiritualist practices and his willingness to induce so-called hysteric states as a means of ritual practice. Nilsson introduced a theme that was to run throughout the session, namely the line Crowley had to negotiate between psychology, magick, and science. This led to several discussions about the nature of Crowley’s own experiences, which of course aren’t necessarily the realm of scholarship, even if they are fascinating.
Nilsson was followed by Shawn Gray, who talked about health in Thelema and how it’s related to the practice of the eucharist and attainment of the Holy Guardian Angel. Gray brought in the concept of physical and spiritual harmony and how the HGA is believed to harmonize both the inner and the outer worlds of the adept. Like the previous lecture, he waded into speculative waters by examining the motivation behind Crowley’s shifting views on angelic reception.
Finally, Damon Z. Lycourinos gave a ridiculously well-researched paper on the physicality of sex magic and embodiment as a tool of ritual. I think I speak for many in the audience when I say that his anthropological methods and engagement of the topic at hand were really impressive. However, I was a bit disappointed that he neglected female perspectives of sex magick. In his defence, women aren’t exactly the majority of ritual magicians and so, as Lycourinos pointed out, getting a fair sample size for his research is difficult. However, several of us debated this issue after the lecture, and the consensus seemed to be that even if women weren’t available for study, perhaps the inclusion of the attitudes of men toward their female sex magick partners could be explored more fully, at least to engage the gender dynamic.
What I really enjoyed about the conference were the post-lecture Q&A sessions. Unlike other conferences, I found the majority of the questions were genuinely helpful in further explicating the topic at hand. There were very few ‘opinion in the guise of a question’ questions, and not too much audience grandstanding. Where there was criticism, it seemed geared with an eye towards helping the scholar think more deeply about their topic, rather than just a tear-down of the ideas at hand. Cheerio, good sport. Cheerio.
And then there were more presentations…
On Friday evening, a fancy dinner was held for conference participants at the Gothenburg Masonic Hall. Obviously, this was pretty cool (and The Husband, being a Freemason, loved it). Like the other post-conference gatherings, I got into some really interesting conversations with some really cool people researching some really cool stuff. Really.
With one more day of conferencing to go, it was an early night. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll recap the Panel on ESSWE Sub-Groups and share how I weaseled my way onto the conference stage! Also, for those music fans out there, I offer an evening with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Or at least with me.
Catch up on the other days of the ESSWE4 conference here.