Graham Pemberton
Jun 10 · 7 min read

Channels of Esoterica

That was the title of a conference which I attended and spoke at last weekend. It was the third in a series called The Roots of Wisdom, organised by the Leeds (England) Theosophical Society. This article is a brief summary and review of what happened.

The Leeds headquarters is a beautiful room, containing a magnificent peace window

and in the adjoining room are two beautiful windows depicting the signs of the zodiac.

On Saturday morning the conference was opened by Tim Wyatt; his talk was called Secrets of Infinity. The synopsis said: “The inner workings of the cosmos have always been known to a select few. Throughout history parts of this wisdom have been revealed to a wider audience often in intriguing ways”.

In essence this was the history of esoteric ideas. He began by saying these tend to appear in small groupings, never in a mass movement; most people now prefer to watch sport or go to rock concerts rather than become involved with an esoteric group. This was not intended to be an elitist statement, merely a description of how things are. He thought that at the current time older people don’t understand esotericism, but that among some young people there is currently an intuitive understanding and connection. This left me wondering whether we might be about to experience a wave of spirituality, a mass movement of true religion. It is certainly needed.

Some statements that stood out for me were that:

  • in the 21st century we are “drowning in information but starved of wisdom”
  • the ancient Mystery schools of Egypt, Babylon, and Greece need to be revived
  • religion is spirituality for children, the various religions wanting exclusive ownership of the ideas
  • in the past advanced people tended to be killed by the Church, the State, or the mob.

Anticipating my own talk, he said that Madame Blavatsky, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, railed against science, but also said that science is the answer. We spiritual people are not anti-science, we just want better science.

The next speaker was Susan Leybourne, whose title was The Kabbalah: Paths of Illumination. The Kabbalah is a system of medieval Jewish mysticism, whose Tree of Life (as in the photo) “is a system of philosophy, meditation, contemplation, and magic. It offers both practical and theoretical applications for spiritual development, illumination and the awareness of higher powers”. This is obviously a very complex subject, hard to summarise, but in one hour Susan gave us interesting insights into this Tree of Life and its Sephiroth, including the feminine aspects of divinity.

The afternoon opened with a talk by Janet Lee called Art and Esotericism. The synopsis said: “Since the dawn of time art has been humans’ primary route to spiritual and esoteric states of being. In the 19th and 20th centuries occultists and theosophical artists harnessed this power and created the greatest modern works of art and culture”. This talk was obviously slide based — we saw many beautiful paintings — so that I can’t convey its power in words. Some of the better known artists we saw were William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, August Strindberg (better known as a playwright), Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. Less well-known names but none the less impressive were Hilma af Klint, Kazimir Malevich, Giacomo Balla, Frantisek Kupka, and Nicholas Roerich.

The first day concluded with a talk by Gary Kidgell called Archetypes and the Spiritual Path. The synopsis said: “Analysis of Carl Jung’s ‘archetypes’ reveals how these ‘divine ideas’ are represented within the human psyche as symbols. The symbolism of myth and dreams illustrate the role they play in spiritual transformation”. The most interesting part of the talk for me was when Gary made connections between the Theosophical understanding of consciousness, Jungian psychology and the egg-diagram of Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis. He also provided interesting insights into the Quest for the Holy Grail, and the myths of Perseus and Medusa, and the Labours of Hercules.

(Gary, like Ted below, is also an esoteric astrologer, and the author of The Inner Journey: Pathways to the Higher Self¹.)


On Sunday morning Susan Leybourne returned to give a talk entitled: The Tarot: A Guide Along the Path of Initiation. The synopsis said: “The images of the 78 cards offer a coded guide to Hermetic wisdom, karma, spiritual, alchemy, numerological and planetary factors as well as myth cycles and ancient archetypes. The Tarot reveals its mysteries by moving through deeper layers and levels meaning until the true purpose of the soul is revealed”. Susan is a professional medium and psychic. She said that most people come for a Tarot reading, wanting insight into their current life situation. However, it is possible to do readings with a view to understanding past lives and karma, and proceeded to do such a reading in front of us with a volunteer from the audience.

Then Ted Capstick talked on The Soul-based Principles of Astrology. The synopsis said: “The emerging science of esoteric astrology explores the depths of the permanent soul rather than just the transient personality. These highly revealing techniques also assist in the alignment of consciousness with higher spiritual principles”. Considering the fact that astrology is held in contempt by scientists, rationalists, and sceptics in general, it was interesting to spend a weekend somewhere where it is accepted wholeheartedly, and is almost a way of life.

The core of Ted’s talk was an analysis of the birth chart of John Lennon, many aspects of his life and events in it being indicated there. Some other striking statements he made were that:

  • the birth chart contains the essence of and is a summary of all previous lives
  • (in his understanding) the ancient Greek philosopher Plato ‘overshadowed’ the psychologist Carl Jung (I’ll leave the reader to ponder what that might mean).

Great Britain is currently experiencing a political crisis, having voted to leave the European Union, but seemingly incapable at the moment of implementing this. It was therefore interesting when Ted produced a chart with progressions, suggesting that there would be a major political revolution in Britain in 2025, which might finally settle the issue.

Tim Wyatt then returned to open the afternoon with Alchemy: The Science of Spiritual Transformation. In advance of the weekend, this was the talk that potentially interested me the most. As a fan of Carl Jung, who had a great interest in alchemy, believing that it was about the spiritual transformation of the personality, rather than a literal turning of lead into gold, I wondered what approach Tim would take. The synopsis said: “Is it possible to turn lead into gold? Astonishingly, yes it is. But alchemy is deeply misunderstood. It is much more than just getting rich quick. On a spiritual rather than purely material level it offers us the potential of hugely accelerated evolution”.

So it turned out Tim believed in both approaches, giving some historical examples in which, believe it or not, some practitioners had apparently managed to create gold. He made the interesting observation that, if we define alchemy merely as a process of transformation from one thing into another, then the whole universe is a “vast alchemical laboratory”, as indeed is the human body (which, for example, can transform any liquid into urine).

A further interesting observation, which had never occurred to me, was that with this definition of alchemy, then we might have a solution to some of the world’s environmental problems. Tim quoted Hermes Trismegistus who, on the Emerald Tablet, said that “the purpose of alchemy is to perfect the world”. Currently humanity is struggling with the problem of plastic usage. Tim suggested that a solution would be to attempt to reverse engineer plastics. That would be an incredibly practical, and urgently needed, use for alchemy!

The conference then concluded with my talk entitled Time for a New Paradigm: a Reunification of Science and Religion. I hope the title is self-explanatory. If you’d like to read it, you can choose between two versions by clicking here.

Paul Barker, President of Leeds Theosophical Society


I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).

Ted Capstick speaking


  1. Claregate Ltd., 2017

Graham Pemberton

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I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships.