Destination Plovdiv, Bulgaria: The European Capital of Culture in 2019
By Ralph White
In late August, the Open Center will offer its fifteenth Esoteric Quest, one of the world’s leading conferences and journeys into the half-forgotten spiritual history of the West. Since these Quests began in 1995 in Cesky Krumlov, the Southern Bohemian mecca of alchemists, we have mined a golden seam of esoteric beauty and wisdom that serves as a wonderful counterpart to the yogic, Buddhist and shamanic traditions that are so widely explored in our holistic world.
This year we will be in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Europe’s oldest living city. It has been continuously occupied for 6,000 years and serves in 2019 as one of Europe’s two capitals of culture. Bulgaria is definitely off the beaten path for most people, just as the Czech Republic was a quarter of a century ago. Today many people know Prague and its exquisite charm but few have yet begun to explore the many mysteries of the Valley of the Thracian Kings, the Rhodope Mountains where Orpheus and Dionysus were worshipped, or the delights of the golden beaches of the Black Sea. So this Quest is for those who want to venture a little further afield into an area largely unknown in the United States.
As always, we will be joined by an outstanding faculty with the leading authorities on Thracian archeology and Orpheus, the foremost writer on the Hidden Tradition in Europe – the followers of the Holy Religion of Light – and outstanding writers and artists deeply versed in the whole spectrum of the esoteric traditions.
But we shouldn’t give readers the impression that this is an academic event. True, it does have scholars of the highest order, but the alchemy of these Quests consists of not only the delight of new learning, of piecing together the world’s wisdom traditions, but also in the magic of the ambience where we meet, the power of the song, music and dance of the region, and of course the immense conviviality of our time together. Our first Quest took place in the world capital of beer, and this year we will enjoy the fine wine that has been cultivated in the Bulgarian lands for 2,500 years at the behest of Dionysus, god of wine and ecstasy.
Bulgaria is also known for its refined, poly-harmonic singing – listen to the famous Mystère de Voix Bulgares – its vigorous folk dances, and its healthy and imaginative cuisine (Bulgaria once was known as the Garden of Europe). It’s also true that there are more levels of culture, civilization and spirituality in Plovdiv than in any place the Quest has taken us so far.
This is the land where Great Mother figurines dating back 35,000 years can be found next to the first human attempts at writing, in the form of scratched lines on fossils. The land of Thrace brought us not Orpheus, semi-divine inspirer of song and music who charmed all living creature with his lyre, but also the gladiator and warrior Spartacus. We have remnants of the Hellenistic civilization of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip, plus one of the finest Roman amphitheaters anywhere in the world. Bogomils who shared beliefs similar to those of the Cathars of Southern France, were prominent here for centuries.
Bulgaria was governed by the Ottomans for 500 years – up until the 1880’s – and we will commence our conference in a lovely Mevlevi Sufi tekke where whirling dervishes in the tradition of Rumi danced into levels of spiritual ecstasy. Some of these deep traditions have continued into the 21st century with the legacy of the Bulgarian spiritual teacher Peter Deunov and the growing popularity of Paneurythmy, a practice performed in the midst of nature that he founded over a hundred years ago.
This is the rich cultural and spiritual ground awaiting discovery by the adventurous at heart. We invite you to learn more at www.esotericquest.org or to call our Quest registration director at 212-219-2525 x 101 (discounts and scholarships are still available to those needing them).
These Quests are life-changing and life-enhancing experiences which we cannot recommend highly enough. Often, enduring soul friendships are formed during these days of heightened awareness and learning in a powerfully evocative location. The Esoteric Quest represents one of the major fruits of the Open Center’s thirty-five years of work in the realm of consciousness and holy wisdom. We hope you’ll join us!
Ralph White is co-founder of the New York Open Center and currently serves as Senior Fellow and Conference Director. Since the Open Center’s inception in 1984 he has created hundreds of programs across the spectrum of holistic learning. In particular, he directs the Esoteric Quest conferences in Europe the Western Tradition that have now continued for twenty years, and the Art of Dying conferences that address the emergence of a more holistic understanding of death in contemporary America. From 1995 to 2001 he edited Lapis Magazine, winner of the Alternative Press Award 2000 from Utne Reader. He has been a seminal presence in the development of the global network of holistic centers . A writer and speaker, he is the author of the memoir, The Jeweled Highway: On the Quest for a Life of Meaning.
An Esoteric Quest in Bulgaria: At the Crossroads of the Mysteries
In Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the Oldest Living City in Europe
August 22-27, 2019
Click here for more info and to register.