An Esoteric Quest in Portugal and Galicia, Spain:
The Camino, the Templars, Saudade and the Soul of Portugal 
September 10-15, 2020 
This September, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Esoteric Quest, the Open Center’s highly regarded exploration of the Western Tradition, with a conference in Portugal, a land of bright sun, lush vineyards and expansive sea, and a country richly endowed with little-known spiritual and esoteric history. 

Our Main Conference will take place in Tomar, the legendary stronghold of the Knights Templar, with its magnificent castle, sacred convent and magical ambience. It will also highlight Portugal’s fascinating Jewish and Sufi history, introduce us to its extraordinary modernist philosopher and poet, Fernando Pessoa, and embrace the exquisite music of Fado, longing turned to melody. This is perhaps the most moving expression of the Portuguese soul, known as saudade.

Portugal is filled with beauty, a complex history, and deep spiritual traditions. The Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Jews, and Christians have all left significant legacies, as have the Knights Templar. Suppressed in France and throughout most of Europe, the Templars continued in Portugal under a new guise, the Order of Christ. Their grandmaster was Prince Henry the Navigator who placed his country at the forefront of the Age of Discovery as Europe began to explore the Atlantic and the coast of Africa, searching not just for trade but for Prester John, the mythical priest king thought to rule an enlightened kingdom in the heart of Africa or Asia.

We’ll have optional and illuminating Pre and Post-Conference Journeys (more on these below), and our special, alchemical blend of deep learning, evocative locations, exhilarating music and dance, and warm conviviality that is the essence of our Esoteric Quests. We look forward to welcoming you to the Quest fellowship this September.
Belem Tower

Pre-Conference Experience:
Esoteric Lisbon and Sintra
September 8-10, 2020

Our Pre-Conference Experience brings us two nights in Lisbon, the captivating capital city, overlooking the Atlantic and the River Tejo. We’ll have a choice of either enjoying esoteric Lisbon, with its impressive Jeronimos Monastery and winding cobblestoned streets, or spending the day visiting Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site with its celebrated “well of initiation” at the Quinta da Regaleira.

Post-Conference Journey
The Lands of the Knights Templar and the Alentejo Coast
September 15-20, 2020

One of our two Post-Conference Journeys takes us further into the beautiful valleys and villages of central Portugal on the trail of the Knights Templar, who experienced a remarkable resurgence in this country after their suppression. We will visit these mysteriously beautiful eastern borderlands with their medieval castles and hilltop fortress towns, and conclude our travels on the nearly untouched Atlantic beaches of the Alentejo Coast, with their forests of pine and cork oak.

Post-Conference Journey
The Camino of Santiago de Compostela:
The Portuguese Way to the }Heart of Galicia
September 15-20 or 22, 2020

Our second trip follows the Portuguese Way of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, stopping first in the beautiful Alto Douro wine region and then in romantic Porto, enjoying a serene boat ride on the river and exploring the city’s rich history, including its Jewish legacy. We then cross into Celtic Galicia, the northwest province of Spain, and arrive in Santiago itself. Those who chose will have an opportunity to walk short portions of Europe’s most famous pilgrimage route. An optional extension will take us to the wild coast of Fisterra, the traditional end point of the Camino.

Upcoming Quest Events

A Preview of an Esoteric Quest in Portugal 
and Galicia, Spain
With Ralph White and Andrea Lomanto
Free Introductory Event
April 3, 2020 at 7:00pm

Our Open House will be followed by an optional screening at 8:30pm of Carlos Saura’s wonderful film Fados, highlighting Portugal’s achingly beautiful art form.

About The Quest

The Esoteric Quest is an ongoing conference and travel series engaged with the rediscovery of the lost or half-forgotten spiritual history of the West. It brings together scholars, writers, artists, and performers deeply versed in the Western Esoteric Tradition and offers some of the leading events in the world on this profound topic.

The Quest began in 1995 in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, the Southern Bohemian mecca of alchemists, with the conference entitled “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited” (an “esoteric Woodstock” as it was described at the time by Gnosis magazine). It has now continued for 25 years and has addressed such themes as The Italian Renaissance and the Esoteric Traditions in Florence, Italy; the Golden Age of Andalusia in Granada, Spain; the Cathars and Troubadours in 12th century Languedoc in France; and the world of Ancient Alexandria in Egypt.

Produced by the New York Open Center, the city’s leading institution of holistic learning for over thirty-five years, The Esoteric Quest is more than a study of spiritual history. It seeks to find the relevance of these traditions to our circumstances in the present day and foster deep interest in the wisdom of different cultures and epochs. The speakers and locations are carefully chosen to offer memorable and convivial experiences that enrich our sense of wonder and open us to fresh ways of seeing the world. Its prime ingredients are high-quality learning, an evocative ambiance, and a program that includes the arts and a strong emphasis on building warm community.

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2019: An Esoteric Quest in Bulgaria: At the Crossroads of the Mysteries

Our 15th Esoteric Quest took place in Plovdiv, Europe’s oldest living city, inhabited for over 6,000 years. We returned to our esoteric roots in Eastern Europe, exploring the many mystery traditions that have crossed paths over the centuries in this fascinating place.

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2018: An Esoteric Quest for the Lost World of the Incas and the Living Spirituality of Indigenous Peru and Bolivia: In the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Cusco
The Open Center’s 14th Esoteric Quest—our first in South America—took place primarily in the tranquil Sacred Valley of the Incas, not far from Cusco, next to the rushing Urubamba River, with its snow-capped mountain vistas.

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2017: An Esoteric Quest in the Western Isles of Scotland: Megalithic, Celtic and Norse Cultures in the Outer Hebrides
The thirteenth in a series of conferences on Western spiritual traditions continued our theme from our 2016 Quest in Iceland of exploring the mysteries of the North. We investigated the geometry and alignments of the evocative standing stones, pondered the meeting of Gaelic and Norse cultures, experienced the mystical beauty of these islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, and learned about Scotland’s more recent esoteric traditions. Our home base was Lews Castle overlooking Stornoway harbor, a beautifully restored 19th-century estate.

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2016: An Esoteric Quest for the Mysteries of the North in Iceland
The twelfth in the Open Center’s series of conferences on the Esoteric Quest took place on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the West of Iceland, a place long held sacred in Norse Mythology. Its sparkling ocean and long ridge of protective mountains terminate in the Great Snow Mountain Glacier itself, Snæfellsjökull, long seen as a holy place. While Norse mythology itself is filled with fascination and spiritual depth, there also was much more to the Vikings than the familiar stereotype of plunder and mayhem. They were not only warriors and raiders, but also adventurers, artists and shamans who deeply valued the Völvas, seeresses capable of peering into the future. Conference goers were invited to join leading scholars, writers, artists and adventurers to enter the great Mysteries of the North in one of the most magical realms on earth.

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2015: An Esoteric Quest in the South of France
This Esoteric Quest was held in the Languedoc region of France. Long known as a focal point for numerous spiritual streams, this area was at the heart of the high medieval culture of both the Troubadours and the Gnostic Christian Cathars. The Bons Hommes, as the Cathars called themselves, created one of the most remarkable and enigmatic spiritual movements of the Middle Ages, the destruction of which was one of the great tragedies of European religious life. The Troubadours were the first to bring romantic love to the Western world in poetry and song of great elegance and charm that expressed a new merging of the erotic and the mystical.

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2013: An Esoteric Quest for Ancient Arabic and Medieval Sicily

This Quest took us to medieval Sicily, a brilliant center of Arabic culture with its poets, geographers and mosques. In the 12th century, the incoming Norman impulse created the most tolerant, multicultural and radiant land of its time, a place where Catholics, Byzantines, Jews, and Muslims all co-existed and flourished. It was an island where esoteric knowledge flowed through philosophers, Sufis, Neo-Platonic troubadours, Kabbalists and alchemists, and seekers of The Grail.

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2012: An Esoteric Quest for Ancient Alexandria

This journey explored “The Mysteries and Philosophy of Antiquity” that thrived in Alexandria, Egypt. Our conference vividly brought to life this most influential center of culture and esoteric wisdom in antiquity, the authentic birthplace of the Western mind.

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2009: An Esoteric Quest for Inner America

The Open Center’s eighth Esoteric Quest addressed the life-enhancing spiritual impulses that emerged powerfully in America. We brought alive the worldviews of Native Americans, 17th century Alchemists, Freemasons and Founding Fathers, Transcendentalists, early Feminists, and Spiritualists. We also honored numerous 20th century American writers and artists influenced by esotericism, and celebrated the contemporary, multicultural, spiritual explosion. Writers, scholars and performers joined in the beautiful Catskill Mountains at a special moment of rebirth of the American spirit.

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2008: An Esoteric Quest for the Mysteries and Philosophy of Antiquity: Spiritual Experience, Wisdom and Art in Ancient Greece

This Quest took place on the magical island of Samothrace, Greece, far off the beaten track in the northern Aegean Sea. For a thousand years, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace was one of the most famous mystery centers of the ancient world, rivaling Delphi in stature and fame. International scholars, writers and artists gathered for the seventh in the Open Center’s series of conferences on the Western Esoteric Tradition. The conference was followed by three optional journeys. One explored the Sufi world of Istanbul; the other traveled to Delphi, Eleusis, and other evocative mystery centers of mainland Greece. Finally, we traveled to Ephesus, Didyma, and Miletus, exploring oracles and sacred sites from early Christianity.

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2007: An Esoteric Quest for the Golden Age of Andalusia: Sufis, Kabbalists and Christian Philosophers in Medieval Spain

This conference took place in Granada, Spain, the beautiful city lying below the snowy Sierra Nevada that, alone on the Iberian Peninsula, remained under Muslim control until the fateful year of 1492. Outstanding faculty from Spain, France, Britain and the United States addressed such topics as: the Zohar, the Sufis of Andalusia, Arabic alchemy, Ibn ‘Arabi and Rumi, the knowledge system of Ramon Lull, the troubadours, and the place of Spain and Islam in the Grail stories. Evenings were filled with poetry, flamenco, and music that emerged from the blending of ‘Las Tres Culturas‘.

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2006: An Esoteric Quest in Central Europe, From Renaissance Bohemia to Goethe’s Weimar

This eight-day itinerant conference began in the Czech Republic in Kutna Hora and then proceeded to Marianske Lazne (Marienbad) in western Bohemia. It concluded in Weimar, Germany, and followed the Western Esoteric Tradition from 15th century Bohemia to its reemergence in Goethe’s artistic and scientific work.

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2000: The Italian Renaissance and the Esoteric Traditions: Hermetic, Cabalistic and Neo-Platonic Philosophers & Their Influence Today

This five-day conference took place in Florence, Italy, and looked at the world of Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and the many other remarkable figures and esoteric impulses that characterized 15th century Florence.

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1998: The Grail: Arthurian Mysteries and the Grail Quest

This conference, held in Lampeter, Wales, brought alive the Celtic background of the Grail stories and explored the roots and meaning of the Arthurian legends.

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1997: Prague, Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition

Taking place at the Zofin Palace on an island in the center of Prague, this conference coincided with the Festival of Rudolf II, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and Holy Roman Emperor in 1600, and investigated many aspects of the alchemical world of renaissance Bohemia.

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1995: The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited: The Western Mystery Tradition in Bohemia. A Conference in Honor of Frances Yates

The first of the Open Center’s conferences on the Western Esoteric Tradition, this event brought together scholars, researchers and writers in the Southern Bohemian mecca of alchemy, Cesky Krumlov. It was named after Frances Yates’ pioneering work, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment.

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Video Library

This crowd-funded project makes the audio and video recordings of almost all previous Quests available to the general public. Currently, our Quests in Iceland and Greece are available for streaming; more will soon be added. You can view individual lectures and workshops or stream a complete conference for a modest fee.

CHECK OUT THE WHOLE LIBRARY!
Digital Library
Supported Devices
There are lots of ways to watch The Esoteric Quest videos on devices other than your computer — to start, Vimeo is available for these popular app platforms and devices:

TV and Set-top Devices
Apple TV (2nd and 3rd Generation, pre-installed)
Apple TV (4th Generation): search for “Vimeo” in the tvOS App Store
Android TV: search for “Vimeo” in the Google Play Store
Roku
Amazon Fire TV devices
Samsung TVs (2015 Tizen-powered devices)
Chromecast (via our iOS and Android mobile apps)

If you prefer to take The Esoteric Quest on the go, you can do so with the Vimeo app on the following devices:

Mobile and Tablet
iOS iPhone/iPad
Android phones and tablets
Amazon Fire tablets

Contact

For more information, please contact Andrea Lomanto at 212.219.2527 x101, or write to quest@opencenter.org.

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