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Western Esotericism Course: from the Ancients to the Renaissance
Western Esotericism Course: from the Ancients to the Renaissance

Tue, 23 Feb


Western Esotericism Course: from the Ancients to the Renaissance

A focused scholarly survey of the Western Esoteric Tradition through Renaissance, with Dr Sasha Chaitow. Dates: 23 Feb, then March 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th.

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Time & Location

23 Feb 2021, 19:30 – 21:30

About The Event

Treadwell's is delighted to offer the most complete academic course on the study of Western Esotericism. Taught via Zoom by Dr Sasha Chaitow (PhD Cultural History, University of Essex), this course covers the ancient world up to the Renaissance. Topics are: the ancient world, neoplatonism, gnosticism, Renaissance hermeticism, alchemy and kabbalah. 

This course costs £150 and includes all lectures listed below, which can be attended live and/or watched later, as recordings will be available for the duration of the course. 

Here is the full programme:

The Academic Study of Western Esotericism (preliminary self-viewing lecture)

This lecture introduces the terminology, methods, and issues in the field of Western Esotericism. Dr Chaitow explains and demystifies some of the methods, jargon, and key issues -- it is highly important to listen to it first, because it clarifies the framework and approach followed throughout the rest of the course. This is a pre-recorded lecture available online starting mid-February. You listen to it in your own time before 23 February.   

Western Esoteric Thought from Antiquity to Modern Times  (preliminary self-viewing lecture)

Esoteric thought has made an impact on almost every aspect of culture and science from antiquity to our time. This lecture provides a historical roadmap of this fact, giving an overview of key esoteric ideas through time, together with their impact on wider culture. Dr Chaitow will refer to every theme explored in later lectures, so this talk is a vital point of reference for all the live sessions which follow. This pre-recorded lecture is available online starting mid-February. You listen to it in your own time before 23 February.

23rd February: First Live Session: Greetings and Questions

In this live session students meet Dr Chaitow and fellow participants on the course, via Zoom. It's a friendly hello and a chance to ask questions arising from the introductory lectures above. It sets the group up for the following five weekly lecture-discussion sessions.

2nd March: The Hellenistic Period     (Live Lecture & Discussion)

Hermeticism and Neoplatonism are two of the three key pillars upon which Western Esoteric thought rests. This lecture looks at the historical context, key concepts of the soul and human existence in relation to the divine and to nature within these two monumental currents of thought, exploring the subtle differentiations between the philosophical and religious approaches to these timeless questions.  Live session runs 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm GMT (UK time)

9th March: Gnosticism in Antiquity   (Live Lecture & Discussion)

This lecture looks at antique gnosticism and its absorption into later traditions. The third current fundamental to esoteric thought, gnosticism is frequently misunderstood or mislabelled. It had a powerful impact on esoteric thought and its journey through the centuries saw it take many different forms as it interacted with other esoteric currents. This lecture looks at the philosophical and religious content of gnosticism in its historical context, explores key issues in the scholarly understanding of gnosticism, and traces some of its most important effects on and survival within later esoteric currents. Live session runs 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm GMT (UK time)


16th March: The Renaissance   (Live Lecture & Discussion)

This lecture looks at the Renaissance as the time of the birth of the 'Western Esoteric Traditions'. Following a period of relative stasis, the rediscovery of Platonic and Hermetic thought in 15th century Florence brought about a paradigm shift in Western culture. The Renaissance interpretation of these materials, their amalgamation with Christian, Jewish, and other philosophies, and a renewed theory of correspondences, gave rise to what are often called the 'Western Esoteric Traditions'. This lecture unravels their numerous strands, demonstrating their origins, evolution, and their later impact.  Live session runs 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm GMT (UK time)


23rd March:   Alchemy: The Art of the Philosophers   (Live Lecture & Discussion)

This ancient art derived from metallurgical practices with a sacerdotal dimension. As it travelled through the centuries, alchemy came to embody a symbolic perception of nature that resulted in protoscientific experimentation inseparable from philosophical and spiritual self-development. Frustratingly complex, endlessly fascinating, alchemy still captures the imagination through its enigmatic emblems and mysterious symbolic languages. This lecture introduces key landmarks in the history of alchemy and its interaction with other esoteric philosophies, summarises its key points of significance, and demonstrates its enduring impact across the fields of human knowledge. Live session runs 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm GMT (UK time)

30th March:  Kabbalah: Healing the World   (Live Lecture & Discussion)

The introduction of Jewish kabbalah to the Latin West had a momentous impact on the shaping of esoteric thought, particularly from the Renaissance onward, when the Christian reception of kabbalistic thought led to its fusion with other esoteric currents. This lecture outlines key philosophical and theological concepts in early Kabbalistic thought, highlights key figures in the Jewish kabbalistic tradition, then traces its development into Christian cabala, the many modifications and alterations made by later esoteric thinkers, the twists and turns of its journey through to the French occult revival, and from there, its metamorphosis into qabalah in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Live session runs 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm GMT (UK time)

This course is taught by Dr Sasha Chaitow, who earned her PhD in Cultural History at the University of Essex. She holds an MA in the History of Western Esotericism (University of Exeter, 2008), and an MA in Literature (University of Indianapolis, 2004). She has published two books based on her research, is working on two more, and has also published extensively in peer-reviewed journals as well as magazines and professional journals. 

 A detailed course overview is available here. Those wishing to continue to study after this course ends can take our sequel course with Dr Chaitow, covering the period from Renaissance to the modern era Details here


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