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Esoteric Quest for Ancient, Arabic and Medieval Sicily

  • 2013-06-13
  • 2013-06-18
  • Siracusa, Sicily
Join us on a Quest as we follow the golden thread of wisdom, the half-forgotten spiritual history of the West, in our tenth international conference on the Western Esoteric Tradition. Sicily is one of the most culturally intriguing and historically rich places in the world. Located at the center of the Mediterranean, mid-way between its Western and Eastern shores, at the point where Europe almost meets Africa, it has been swept by multiple waves of civilization and developed its own distinct and passionate culture. Known to the Ancient Greeks as Persephone’s Island, it was a vital part of Magna Graecia, where the philosophers Empedocles and Plato sought to implement wisdom in the aftermath of Pythagoras’ School beyond the straits in nearby Crotona. In the 10th and 11th century, Sicily became a brilliant center of Arabic culture as Palermo rose to become the jewel of the Islamic world with its poets, geographers and mosques. In the 12th century the incoming Norman impulse created the most tolerant, multicultural and radiant land of its time, a place where Catholics, Byzantines, Jews, and Muslims all co-existed and flourished. It was an island where esoteric knowledge flowed through ancient philosophers, Sufis, Neo-Platonic troubadours, Kabbalists, and seekers of The Grail.

Join scholars, artists, writers and historians as we explore these dimensions of Sicily. From the pre-Socratic philosophers through the Muslim poets to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, ‘Stupor Mundi,’ this island’s cultural history is profound, powerful and unexpected. The latest in a highly regarded series of Quests produced in Europe and North Africa, this conference will take place on the beautiful small island of Ortigia, in Siracusa, a place filled with evocative traces of ancient, Islamic and medieval history.


Steve Bass, M.A., has practiced as an architect in New York City since 1974. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the Royal College of Art, London, where he studied under the direction of Keith Critchlow, and has been visiting assistant professor of architecture at Notre Dame University. He is a fellow of the Institute of Classical Architecture and is author of the forthcoming Proportion in Architecture.

Paul Bembridge, M.Phil., FRSA, is a specialist in European literature who teaches courses in the Western Esoteric Traditions for the University of Exeter in the UK. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a long-standing contributor to the N.Y. Open Center’s Esoteric Quest series.

Leonard Chiarelli, Ph.D., is a Sicilian-American born in Brooklyn who specializes in the history of Sicily under Islamic rule. His History of Muslim Sicily is the first detailed study in English covering Sicily as part of the Arabo-Muslim world. He is librarian of the Aziz S. Atiya Library for Middle East Studies at the University of Utah.

Paul Fenton, Ph.D., is professor of Hebrew Language and Literature in the Department of Arabic and Hebraic Studies at the Sorbonne. A scholar of both Hebrew and Arabic, he has explored extensively the intersection of Jewish and Islamic culture, especially in the areas of philosophy and mysticism. He is the author of numerous books and studies, including an edition of Ibn Waqar’s Principles of the Kabbalah, and Judah Ibn Malka’s Commentary on the Sefer Yezira.

David Fideler, Ph.D., is the editor of the journal Alexandria: Cosmology, Philosophy, Myth, and Culture. His books include The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library; Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition; and The Soul of the World: Understanding Our Bond with the Living Universe (forthcoming).

Leonard George, Ph.D., is a Canadian psychologist, educator, author and broadcaster. His academic affiliations include Capilano University, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Author of two books, Crimes of Perception and Alternative Realities, he has been focused for many years on the spirituality of antiquity and as an advisor to the Esoteric Quest conferences.

Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., is a leading scholar and writer on the Western Esoteric Tradition including its musical aspects. He teaches at Colgate University and has written, edited and translated numerous books including Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, The Spiritual Dimension of Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde, and Mystery Religions of the Ancient World.

Ellen Goldberg, M.A., is a psychotherapist who has been working within the Hermetic Tradition for thirty-five years. She has been on the faculty of the N.Y. Open Center since 1985 and taught at six previous Esoteric Quest conferences. Ellen is the founder and director of the School of Oracles and has a private psychotherapy practice in New York City.

Clare Goodrick-Clarke, M.A., has been a faculty member of the N.Y. Open Center’s Esoteric Quest conferences since 1995, and a founding faculty member of the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO), at the University of Exeter, U.K., since 2005. At EXESESO, she teaches courses on the esoteric body, the history of medicine, and the history of alchemy.

John Keahey
is the author of three books about Italy, most recently Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean. His other works include Venice Against the Sea and A Sweet and Glorious Land: Revisiting the Ionian Sea.

Malcolm Kennard, Ph.D., has had a diverse career as an academic with many peer-reviewed publications both in science and the arts. He has had a fascination with Frederick II from a young age, fostered by his father’s original research and writings.

Douglas Kenning, Ph.D., is of Sicilian heritage and has lived on the island for the last fifteen years. He divides his year between Sicily, where he runs a tour company, and the San Francisco area, where he lectures on Mediterranean histories and cultures.

Alessandra Marchi, Ph.D., studied Sufism at the Ecole des Hautes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Her research interests include the development of Sufism in the West, notably in Italy, and the transformation of its rituals and traditions. She is also working on the history of the Italian community in Egypt at the Centre for Alexandrian Studies in Alexandria.

Christopher McIntosh, D.Phil., is a scholar and writer focused on the esoteric traditions. His books include The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason; The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria; and Gardens of the Gods. He teaches in Exeter University’s Center for the Study of Esotericism.

Scott Olsen, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religion at the College of Central Florida and the author of The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret which was awarded first place for design by the Bookbinders’ Guild of New York. Scott lectures widely on the Perennial Philosophy with special emphasis on the Divine Proportion and Transformative States of Consciousness.

Karen Ralls, Ph.D., medieval historian and religions scholar, was Curator of the Rosslyn Chapel Museum Art exhibition prior to relocating to Oxford, where she continues her specialist 12th to14th century research. Her books include The Templars and the Grail, The Knights Templar Encyclopedia, and the forthcoming Sacred Doorways: History, Lore, Places and Symbolism of Twelve Medieval Mysteries.

Marjorie Roth, DMA, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Music at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, where she teaches Music History, Studio Flute, and Women’s Studies, and directs the Honors program. She has recently published in a collection of essays on Music & Esotericism and, in August 2009, gave a presentation for the N.Y. Open Center on “Spiritualism and Feminism in 19th Century Upstate New York” and presented on “Divine Women: Cleopatra and Hypatia” last year in Alexandria.

Mary Taylor Simeti
is an American writer who has lived in Sicily for almost forty years, and is the author of On Persephone’s Island, Pomp and Sustenance and Bitter Almonds.

Ralph White is co-founder and creative director of the New York Open Center, one of America’s leading institutions of holistic learning. He has directed and organized a series of ten international conferences on Western Esotericism, of which this is the latest.

Conference Staff:
Conference Director: Ralph White, New York Open Center
Coordinator: Carrie Wykoff, Events That Matter
Registrar: Andrea Lomanto, New York Open Center
Conference Bookkeeper: Nancy Rotger, New York Open Center
On-Site Curator: Lalena Kurtz

For more information, please click HERE to visit the Esoteric Quest webpage.

* Scholarships are available to members of ESSWE*

For further information check the conference homepage at 


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