The Esoteric Quest Conference is a vital and creative experience of the rediscovery of the lost spiritual traditions of the West. Our next conference will be taking place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in August.
Leonard George has been an advisor and presenter for the Esoteric Quest conferences for many years. He is a Canadian psychologist, educator, writer and broadcaster, and a lifelong student of Western esotericism. We spoke with him recently about the Esoteric Quest Conference and what’s planned for this year’s conference in Bulgaria.
NY Open Center: Tell us about your history with the Open Center’s learning travel events.
Leonard George: The first Esoteric Quest event I attended was in Florence in 2000. That was before they were called “Esoteric Quests.” I believe Christopher McIntosh came up with the series name later.
It was a life-changing experience, to be sure. Not only did it lift me from a year-long bout of depression, but I met my beloved Marjorie there and others who have become cherished friends such as Steve Bass and Joscelyn Godwin. I also started my friendship with Ralph White.
At the next Quest I attended (An Esoteric Quest in Central Europe, From Renaissance Bohemia to Goethe’s Weimar) I gave two presentations, and have served as a presenter and advisor for every Quest I’ve attended since (Samothraki, Greece; Alexandria, Egypt; Siracusa, Sicily; Carcassonne, France; Hellnar, Iceland; Stornoway, Scotland; and Urubamba / Cusco, Peru).
NY Open Center: What do you think makes these topics unique?
Leonard George: There has been a shift in spiritual consciousness within the Western world over the past several decades–the 1954 publication of The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley was a landmark, but the roots of the shift go further back to the works of Jung, Underhill, Bucke and others early in the century. These roots themselves have roots reaching back to antiquity.
First nurtured in subcultures and countercultures in Western society, but slowly seeping into mainstream awareness, the notion that everyone (at least potentially) can seek and find spiritually transformative experiences is now not an exotic idea.
But for various reasons, many Western seekers sought access to such experiences in traditions outside the Western world –in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Indigenous traditions. Yet the long course of Western culture itself is a treasury of teachings about deep spiritual experience.
Ralph White saw that this treasury was little-known among Western seekers.
The Esoteric Quest conferences since the first one Ralph organized in 1995 have highlighted this neglected Western current of spiritual possibilities. An exception was last year’s event in Peru and Bolivia, which served as a bridge between esoteric traditions of the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
NY Open Center: What do you see as the value in traveling directly to these locations as a group?
Leonard George: We can learn a lot from books and videos. But there are
insights we can only gain by walking the land, breathing the air, eating the food,
hearing the music and dancing the dances of the locations that gave birth to those insights. So there is great advantage for our spiritual journeys if we can travel physically to the special places and immerse ourselves in the deep experiences they offer.
The Esoteric Quest events cover all the bases. Ralph and his team members Carrie Wykoff and Andrea Lomanto (who are literally the best on the planet at organizing such events) recruit stellar presenters. Some take an intellectual slant, while others a more artistic one; however, they all share an esoteric resonance. The team ensures all travelers experience and enjoy the “genius loci”–spirit of the place.
NY Open Center: Why are you looking forward to this year’s Esoteric Quest to Bulgaria?
Leonard George: I’m intrigued by the old cultures of the region, including ancient Thrace, which are little-known and under-appreciated by most of us from outside the area.
This Esoteric Quest will feature many of the world’s top authorities on the
spiritual legacy of Southeast Europe, and I aim to help set the stage for these experts with an introductory overview for those of us who are not experts.
I’m also intrigued by three divine figures of antiquity, each of whom is linked to Thrace – Orpheus, Dionysus and Hekate – and I hope to share some insights about them.
But mainly I’m going as part of my personal esoteric quest. I look forward to deepening my understanding by learning from and celebrating with everyone I meet in this very special corner of the world.
To learn more and register for our next Esoteric Quest Conference in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in August with post-conference tours in Bulgaria and Romania, visit our website: EsotericQuest.org.