New: The Varieties Of Esoteric Christianity

Since the earliest beginnings of Christianity and its crystallisation into orthodox forms, both in the East and in the West, there have been alternative interpretations typically considered to be heretical by the mainstream churches. This course takes a sample of these from the 18th through to the 20th centuries and examines some leading thinkers and/or organisations that their ideas have given birth to. From the 18th Century we look at Emanuel Swedenborg, so influential for William Blake, and the subsequent founding of the New Church. From the latter part of the 19th Century we encounter ex-Theosophists including Anna Kingsford, whose work inspired The Order of the Cross, Rudolf Steiner, whose Christian Community became the religious wing of the Anthroposophical Society, and also Dion Fortune, whose Society of the Inner Light remains to this day a Christian esoteric fraternity. Finally, the long-term president of the Theosophical Society reveals in her writing a more favourable opinion of mystical Christianity than did her mentor H.P. Blavatsky.

Who is this course for

No previous knowledge required. Suitable for anyone interested in the later development of Christianity in the West and how, through charismatic individuals, it adapted itself in a mystery tradition direction. Also, for anyone interested in the role of the esoteric in providing alternative models for religion.

What does this course cover

We look at the rise of complementary approaches to the theology and practice of conventional Christianity in the modern period. Through a comparative analysis of some of these approaches we see the ways in which both the discipline of interpretation (hermeneutics) and the inner sight (e.g. clairvoyance), added to an esoteric understanding, often gave rise to social groupings at odds with both literal, fundamentalist and more liberal accounts of the Biblical opus.
By the end of the course you should be able to:
I. Compare and contrast the different interpretations made by key figures highlighted in the course
II. compare and contrast each and/or all of these with the more conventional approaches of mainstream Christianity.
III. Evaluate alternative esoteric Christianity as a whole and recognise where and how its leading ideas, methods and literary devices came from and were utilised

What will it be like

Exposition; examples of key texts read in class by both tutor and students; discussion; handouts.
Progress will be assessed via feedback through question and answer sessions, round robin debate and observation of responses to material presented, visual, written and aural

What else do you need to buy or do

Writing material, folder and/or file. Ideally reading a relevant text or texts between the two day schools would be beneficial, chasing up references to the key founders, etc.

What this course could lead to

Courses on classical and more recent mystery traditions, either at the Mary Ward Centre or elsewhere, history of religion courses or those on esoteric philosophy more generally.

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Got a Question about this Course?

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Why come to Mary Ward Centre?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’