Esoteric Quest workshops


From medieval chivalry and prophecy to the age of discovery:

The Iberian Matrix

Yuri Stoyanov, Ph.D.

The Catalan-Aragonese and Portuguese dimensions of medieval chivalric literature and ideology (Arthurian, Holy Grail-related, etc,.) are increasingly seen as crucial for understanding of the survival and role of military-religious orders in the Iberian-propelled Age of Discovery between the 15th and 17th centuries. In the Iberian melting pot, these traditions encountered, blended and cross-fertilized with diverse trends of prophetic and apocalyptic literature – as in the case of the polymath Arnaldus de Villa Nova (1240-1311). This is also reflected in the era’s striking millennialist prophetic visions, dynastic narratives (with their regional and global aspirations) and evocative “hidden king” prophecies. Underpinned further by astrological speculations and calculations as well as sacred geography and geopolitics notions, the Iberian matrix of ancient and cutting-edge ideas and currents inaugurated in the 15th century the Age of Discovery, when distant civilizations were brought into contact for the first time and new worldviews started to emerge and transform the globe.


platonic principles in high medieval churces

Scott Olsen, Ph.D.

Platonic principles of construction are found in high medieval churches throughout Europe. Our focus in this session will be on the design of Templar churches from Tomar to London, along the Camino of Santiago pilgrimage, and on other churches and cathedrals of the period. We will give special attention to the work of Keith Critchlow, distinguished architect and prior Esoteric Quest presenter, and his viewpoint regarding Platonic geometry that “the golden mean recurs consistently throughout the proportioning of the great sacred buildings of mankind.” We will also consider John Michell’s position that the geometric structure of the Temple was the lynch pin linking Man to the Cosmos and key to understanding the entire philosophy and science of the Ancient World. We will draw too on the sketchbook of 13th century artist Villard de Honnecourt, and consider the contribution of contemporary architects Steve Bass and Alvin Holm.

Burgos Cathedral
The Story of Parzival The Templar


Parzival, the Templars, and Grail Christianity

Paul Bembridge, M.Phil.

In the blood-stained chronicles of history, the Templars fight against Muslims on the front line in Spain and in the Holy Land. But in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the Templars are keepers of the Grail, a strange object whose power brings Muslims and Christians together in lasting peace. Writing at the height of the Crusades, around 1210, Eschenbach says he found the story of the Grail in Spain, in Jewish and Arabic sources, telling of a Grail Christianity, unknown to Christian orthodoxy. But what was the Grail? In Parzival it is not the cup of the Last Supper but a mysterious stone, ‘lapsit exillis’, a gemstone amongst exiles. Let us explore together what that means, and how it relates to our Esoteric Quest of many years.


“The Lusiads”

Experiencing Camoes’ Epic Poem of the Age of Discovery

Nuno Ferreira Gonçalves

In this reading workshop, participants will be invited to read stanzas of “The Lusíads” by Luís de Camões, the most famous poem in Portuguese history. This epic work is dedicated to the heroes of the naval explorers from Sagres. One of its themes is the encounter with the land of Venus, an island of women comparable to Avalon in the Arthurian stories, as a reward for both bravery in the quest and for success in the initiatory crossing of the deep ocean. We will be invited to offer our collective reflections around the symbology in the poems. Nuno will also offer an interpretation of this journey of the Portuguese Argonauts to these numinous islands following the double path of Love and Wisdom. The poems will be accompanied. by evocative illustrations and mystically, some of it composed by the presenter.

Rosy Cross
Henry The Navigator


Prince henry the navigator

His Life and the Search for the Fabled Kingdom of Prester John

Malcolm Kennard, Ph.D.

Grandmaster of the Knights of Christ, Prince Henry, mathematician, designer and visionary, was born in 1394 to King John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster, sister to Henry IV of England. One of the most intriguing and influential figures of the Age of Discovery, he subdued Moorish pirates in North Africa, and pursued the expansion of Portugal’s fledgling empire by using light, fast caravel ships and sponsoring explorations to what was considered the end of the world. An important part of his explorations was the search for the legendary priest-king, Prester John, who was said to rule a lost Christian Kingdom located somewhere in the heart of Africa or Asia. However, these beginnings of empire were also connected to colonialism and the international slave trade, topics that we can no longer leave unaddressed in the 21st century.


Fernando Pessoa:

The Beyond-God and the Way of the Serpent

Paulo Borges

One of the most unique themes in the work of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s most celebrated modern poet, kindred to his esoteric pursuits, is the search for what there is beyond God, sensed as the infinite transcending of every religious and metaphysical concept, and as the immanence of the bottomless bottom of the self. The pursuit of the Beyond-God, the search and the experience of the intimate abyss, sometimes called “not being anything,” aims to make it possible to “be and feel everything in every way”. In this way, Beyond-God is the experience of continuously becoming other in the transcendence, of moving beyond all self-images and pairs of opposites in worldly consciousness. Pessoa called this process the Way of the Serpent, the wayless way of the spirit that transcends everything, including God and the Self.

Fernando Pessoa Photo
Marsilio Ficino


The Moon Within the Soul

Renaissance Neoplatonism in Iberia

Leonard George, Ph.D.

“If I were to search, Ficino, for the truest disciple of ancient wisdom, who truer than you could I possibly find?” Thus wrote the Spaniard Benito Arias Montano in his book Virorum Doctorum, a work celebrating humanism as an “antidote to fanaticism”. Few figures loom larger in the history of Western esotericism than the Florentine Marsilio Ficino, whose influence during the Renaissance in Iberia was widespread. In fact, the University of Coimbra was a center for the study of Ficino’s thought which, though it promoted ancient wisdom, flew under the radar of the Inquisition and was never censored or suppressed. What was the magic of Ficino’s vision, and his teachings about the Moon Within as key to the care of the soul, that so enchanted scholars and seekers across the Mediterranean world and beyond?



The Strange World of Neo-Templarism

Christopher McIntosh, D.Phil.

When the Knights Templar were dissolved in the early 14th century a legend was born that has continued to grow over time and has given rise to a plethora of groups and orders invoking the name and mystique of the Templars. These include Masonic and esoteric orders, charitable initiatives, conservative political groups and other types of organizations operating under a Templar banner. This workshop will complement Christopher’s lecture on the real history of the Templars by exploring the multiple and complex expressions that have grown out of this initial impulse.

Lisbon Quake


Portugal After the Earthquake, as seen by William Beckford

Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D.

William Beckford (1760-1844) jumped ship in Lisbon in 1787 to avoid having to manage his sugar plantations in Jamaica. He wittily recorded his musical and erotic adventures in the high society of Lisbon and Sintra, and later wrote a classic travelog describing his excursion to the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha. But looming over all this were two moral shadows: Beckford’s dependence on slavery for his immense wealth, and the lasting impact of the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 on Christendom’s belief in a benevolent Deity.

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Esoteric Quest Portugal

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