Thursday, 19 May 2011

Daimonic Imagination

The Academy seems to be caught in a moment between exhultation and crisis. Such was the frisson at the Daimonic Imagination conference hosted by the University of Kent. This is not simply because the door has come ajar and errant daimonologists such as ourselves can slip into the discourse complete with official name badges and wild ideas, nor because some of those within the Academy are finding the courage to come out as practitioners themselves. But because of more fundamental changes in the world, writ large in the troubling stars.
But let us not get ahead of the story, and first let us taste the exhultation.

If the esoteric community is guarded, so too is academia, and we were delighted to get a chance to see the academics in their own environment and not feel excluded, but rather welcomed. Aside from the overuse of the word ‘ontology’ and perhaps a little more agonising over the implications of Kant than practitioners care for, the same passion and engagement was present. So too was the range of experiences and approaches. Anthropologists, Jungians, philosophers and historians all rubbed elbow patches, and none questioned the existence of the Daimon, but rather how we can meaningfully discuss the experience. It was a delightful banquet of parthenogenesis and psychedelics, fairies and Ficino. Debate and conversation was lively and well intentioned, the boundaries between disciplines were found to be permeable. This is the same feeling we experienced at Breaking Convention,the psychedelic conference on the same campus last month, and that we are also experiencing in the global practitioner community. Something profound is changing.
But how long can we sup at this paradisiacal feast?

The hosting Centre for the Study of Myth’s Geoffrey Cornelius recounted how the department had been memorably described by a senior administrator as ‘one mumbo short of a jumbo’. This is where the bright colours begin to decay into a monochromatic scale. Myth is neither respectable nor respected, and those who have dared to pursue the mysteries and build mystery schools within the establishment have done so on perilous ground. Though the academics have made their subject fit the demands of the Academy and produced excellent work (which they may be surprised to find is widely read in our circles) the climate has changed. As one of our friends who has seen his own academic future dissolve puts it, ‘in five years all that will be left in teaching is shopping and woodwork’, that is, marketing and engineering. The Academy and its aspirations are no longer grudgingly supported by the State. The daimons and the fairies will be the first to melt away, like an LSD saturated sugar cube, and that perhaps is what we also were witnessing. Though big hitters like Hutton have tenure, we wonder how many more will be able to rise to his stature. This will be a loss for all of us, and we offer our support to all beleagured academics in increasingly dificult times, especially those who have been brave enough to come out as practitioners in a disbelieving or actively hostile culture.
For those who wish to walk on the wild side, the invitation is open to our own modest conference to be held in Brighton on Saturday August 20, we can promise a different experience, but the same welcome you had the courtesy to extend to us.


Marguerite said...

Nice writeup, Peter. Important issues. I've forwarded it to the communities of the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, also in CA, as these issues are relevant to us all. Marguerite Rigoglioso

Scarlet Imprint said...

Thanks Marguerite, much appreciated.

theteemingbrain said...

Thanks so much for the report/writeup/analysis. I was thrilled many months ago to catch wind of this conference, and have been scouting for reports from and responses to it ever since it took place. (I would have attended myself, but there was the matter of that pesky Atlantic Ocean standing in my way.) I'm sorry, but not surprised, to hear that the whole thing may be part of a fleeting efflorescence in terms of mainstream academia's support and acceptance. The work will continue, at any rate..

Scarlet Imprint said...

The Work is looking stronger than ever, and the response of the academics to the looming threat is very heartening.
We are sure that events like this will continue to proliferate with or without official support. Human spirit is endowed with creativity and resourcefulness, thanks to our daimons, but we can't do much about the Atlantic getting in the way...