Esoteric Quest Plenaries

Poacher’s Pilgrimage: An Island Journey
Alastair McIntosh, Ph.D.

What are we within when we come to these islands? What does it mean to touch base with places so elemental, so visceral, in the roaring of the sea, in the whisper of the wind through heather and the fields of summer flowers, and in an ancient people who are at once gentle and ruggedly determined? We are living in times that have neglected the spiritual, and the consequences are playing out. It is time to ask again, and more deeply than ever before: What gives vision and meaning? Alastair will discuss his pilgrimage by foot through Lewis and Harris, and his book about it, Poacher’s Pilgrimage, an ecology of the imagination.


The Secret Common-Wealth:
An Overview of Esoteric Scotland
Leonard George, Ph.D.

The ancient Greek explorer Pytheas visited the Isle of Lewis, where he viewed a “round temple” marking the place where the moon visits earth. Pytheas likely saw the stones of Callanish. This site, and others like the Ring of Brodgar, were millennia old when Pytheas sailed, and they still grace Scotland with some of the world’s first traces of esoteric activity. Scotland’s rich inner life has continued ever since, finding expression in Arthur and Merlin, alchemists and cunning folk, Templars and Freemasons, Findhorn and even Hogwarts (which J.K. Rowling’s novels set in the Highlands). The Scottish witch hunts and Reformation violence show what can happen when we fear or forget the esoteric depth.


Megalithic Construction and the Rise of Civilization:
What Did They Know And When Did They Know It?
Steve Bass, M.A.

The stone circles and chamber and passage monuments of the Neolithic period are awesome in scale, inspired in conception, subtle in execution and deeply moving to experience.  From a modern point of view, it seems miraculous that early people could have created such works.  This presentation traces a body of spiritual and intellectual knowledge, sometimes called sacred geometry, that lies behind our ancestor’s achievements.  It hopes to illustrate what Neolithic people had to know to build such structures and how they could have come upon such knowledge. Such an exploration creates a bridge to the past and could provide helpful insights to transcend our present world of materialistic alienation.


Mysteries of the Lands of the British Isles: From the Megalithic to the Viking Age
Haraldur Erlendsson, M.D.

We will focus here on the key sacred sites of the British Isles, starting with early Megalithic stones such as Callanish, and then consider how sacred trees and the saints of the Celtic Church, principally St. Patrick and St. Columba, assumed the role of the ancient gods.  We will also examine the stages of transformation within the solar mysteries, and the significance of the visit in 986 AD of King Olaf Tryggvason to the monastery of Tresco – The Wood Island – in the Isles of Scilly. There a prophecy sets him on a journey to reawaken and realign the new Christian culture to the old ways – the Celtic and Nordic mysteries. We will also touch on the significance of Stornoway, location of our conference, from this perspective.


Out from the Shadow of the Vikings
Mary McCormack

Mary shares with us what was it like to grow up on a ‘Viking’ island, believing herself to be, as a Macleod, descended from the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man and Iceland, and part of a proud Viking clan that once were the overlords of Stornoway and its surrounding areas, only to discover that the reality of her story was far more complex. How do you embrace your newly revealed Celtic/Gael roots when everything you were told from childhood pointed to your Viking blood? Mary will tell us her story.


Hidden Order in the Runes of the Elder Futhark:
The Most Ancient Runes and Their Cosmological System
Halvard Hårklau, M.Sc.

Are the Nordic Runes strange signs imbued with magical power, or simply a set of phonetic idioms for common writing? Popular opinion today, as well as
scholarly opinion in a more romantic era, certainly associates them with mystery and magic, contrary to the more dismissive current academic view. This presentation suggests that the runic forms and their sequence contain a complex mathematical structure that may cast new light on their origin. We will also investigate possible esoteric currents, Eastern and Western, that may have conveyed the cosmological system that inspired the creation of the runes.


The Continuing of the Celtic Spirit
Tess Maginess, Ph.D.

The Celtic spirit may be defined in many ways, but its essence includes a deep respect for, and connection to, nature.  Often this is expressed in a theology where the divine lives in nature, and so we must not wound nature. A further aspect is a humility which allows that there may be many otherworlds beyond us, imagined as physical or as metaphysical. Crucially, otherworlds are not seen as remote or abstract, but as modes of being that are just across the threshold. Whether within a Pagan or Christian nexus, reaching out to that which is Other is a guiding imperative. This plenary will concentrate on how this Celtic spirit inscribes itself in Irish literature and arts, continuing a dynamic that has lasted thousands of years.


Freemasonry: The Scottish Connection
Christopher McIntosh, D.Phil.

The history of Scotland and that of Freemasonry are closely interwoven in a dense fabric of fact, fantasy, legend and romance, surrounded by many intriguing questions. Was Scotland the birthplace of what is now called speculative Masonry? What of places like the 15th century Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh with its amazing carvings, some of which suggest Masonic motifs? Key names that need to be mentioned include: King James VI of Scotland, who is credited with having put Scottish Freemasonry on an organized footing; and Andrew Ramsay, a Jacobite who spread the mystique of Scotland among continental Masons, leading to the creation of the Ancient and Accepted or Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. This talk will explore this fascinating tapestry, looking at both the historical record and the mythical dimension.

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