Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Metaphysics Portal

Or view as a table.

A Careful Reading of The Mountain of Silence

Kyriacos Markides's classic exploration of Eastern Orthodox thought and mysticism rewards slow, careful, contemplative reading and discussion. Various aspects of Orthodox mysticism and religious practice are addressed in a series of conversations that the author has with "Father Maximos," a priest and monk trained in the spiritual atmosphere of Mt. Athos. Please join us as we use this text as a gateway into understanding Orthodox and more generally sacramental forms of Christian thought and practice, all in a friendly, non-partisan, and open group setting.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Demons and Exorcism in History

This module explores the practice of exorcism, from ancient Egypt and the Near East through antiquity and into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will look at spells, rituals, and practitioners as well as the causes of possession, demons, and curses.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Early Modern Europe (1500-1800): Philosophy and Literature

This module examines the cultural and philosophical phenomena which emerged during the Renaissance (e.g. humanism, utopianism, skepticism) (15th to early 17th century) and the Enlightenment (e.g. reason, individuality, satire, etc.) (17th to late 18th century); the changing attitudes to religion (the Reformation) and science (the Scientific Revolution) will also be tackled. Lastly, receptions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in modern, popular culture will be explored.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

In the Age of Wonder: The Many Themes of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal, a film directed and created by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, was released at Christmastime in 1982. An attempt at a more mature and decidedly darker direction for Henson, it performed modestly in the box office to mixed reviews. Despite its poor initial beginnings, over the next 42 years, The Dark Crystal became a cult classic. Why the appeal all these years later? In this class we will explore this multifaceted dark fantasy as a stand of world building from the better appreciated “Muppet” canon. Over the course of eight sessions we will discuss the world of Thra through the film itself, seen afresh with the new lenses of various forms of modern criticism. Please join us for a combination of short lectures and lively discussion of this visual and technical masterpiece whether you’re a long-time fan or neophyte.
Precepted by Kerra Fletcher and Jay Moses

Magic: Grimoires 1

In this module we will use Owen Davie’s Grimoires: a History of Magic Books as a guide to look at a number of different texts, focusing on Late Antiquity to Early Modern books. We will discuss where the books were used, by whom, and how some were related to one another. We will also look at how the books were spread and received, as well as, when possible, some details about individual books. Because of the breadth of the subject we will not have time to delve too deeply into the texts themselves.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Magic: Grimoires 2

In this module we will look more deeply into one or more texts on magic. Using modern translations and publications, we will focus on one or two texts, read and discuss them. This may include the Testament of Solomon, Picatrix, or the Liber Razielis Archangeli, or another text depending on the interest of the participants.

Note: While this is the natural follow-up class to the first Grimoires Module, it can be taken without taking the first Grimoires class.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney

Reading John Donne’s Holy Sonnets

Renaissance clergyman John Donne was a prolific scholar and poet. His verses follow many different poetical forms and vary widely in tone from the solemn and devout to the seductive and sensual. In this module, we will study Donne’s Holy Sonnets, a sequence of poems that blend meditations on the divine with vivid but sometimes irreverent imagery. Here we will discuss selected sonnets individually and the full collection in some of the different arrangements and forms in which it was read and copied in the seventeenth century. Along the way, we will look at the connotations and complexities of words and particular lines, identify biblical and other allusions, and delight in the language of these complex and thought-provoking Renaissance sonnets.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Sunshine, Fleas, and Desperate Pleas: Eight Amorous Verses by John Donne

Although a priest, Renaissance poet John Donne was on paper a playboy, a quality the first publishers of his poems sought to downplay by censoring scandalous words, leaving some verses out of the collection, and placing the raciest poems they included near the end of the volume. While the publishers may have found these difficult to align with his staid churchman persona, Donne’s earliest readers collected these poems with joy, sharing them in private verse collections and prioritising his most sensual poetry over his complex religious lyrics. In this module we will read and discuss eight of Donne’s most popular amorous verses, paying particular attention to his puns and allusions, superficial treatment of women, and beautiful literary structures and styles. (Warning: this module is not for the faint of heart: Donne is just as explicit as Shakespeare! Think carefully before inviting your parents to join you.)
Precepted by Faith Acker

Tolkien and the Romantics: Dark Romanticism and the Gothic Literary Tradition

The Gothic genre has inspired many creative minds to explore the darker realms of human psychology and the wider world, sparking fear, terror, horror and repulsion in its audience. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is as much a ruined Gothic wasteland as it is an idyllic utopia. From Shelob's cave and the hypnotic Mirkwood to the Paths of the Dead and the Barrow-Downs, this module will examine Tolkien's use of Dark Romantic and Gothic techniques that were used by writers such as Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and E.T.A. Hoffman to strike terror in the heart of their readers.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The Funk of Forty Thousand Years: A Literary History of the Gothic
• Workshop 1: Chilly Echoes in Tolkien's Middle-earth
• Lecture 2: Bottomless Supernatural: Terror, Horror, Abject
• Workshop 2: Conjuring Creepy Creatures
• Lecture 3: The Weird, the Eerie, and the Dark Side of the Mind
• Workshop 3: Defamiliarising Middle-earth
• Lecture 4: Ruined Landscapes
• Workshop 4: What is left? Can the Gothic recover Middle-earth?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

J.R.R. Tolkien famously 'found' his legendarium, translating and editing The Red Book of Westmarch for his twentieth century readers. This is not the first time an author has 'forged' a 'lost' literary history as James Macpherson's 'Ossian' documents from the 1760s started a craze for forgeries. Thomas Chatterton's Rowley and Turgot manuscripts similarly fed off the Ossian controversy while questioning what it really meant to 'forge' a document.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The 1760s, the Age of Forgery
• Workshop 1: Which Red Book are we reading?
• Lecture 2: The Growth of Romantic Nationalism
• Workshop 2: The Book of Lost Tales: a mythology for which England?
• Lecture 3: Oral Traditions: Immortality and Youth
• Workshop 3: Vocalising Myth and History
• Lecture 4: Textual Traditions: Mortal Anxiety and Tangible History
• Workshop 4: Writing myth and history

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Imagining and Dreaming

The imagination and dreams are essential parts of J.R.R. Tolkien's world building which he explored across many stories from 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'On Fairy-stories' to 'The Notion Club Papers'. The same can be said of the Romantics who saw an important connection between the two. In works such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan', Lord Byron's 'The Dream' and 'Darkness', and Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', the imaginary and dream-like meet with awe-inspiring, melancholy or blood-chilling results.

The module sessions are structured as follows:
• Class 1: The Realms of (Childhood) Faery (60m)
• Class 2: Faery’s Enchantment (60m)
• Class 3: The Terror of the Night (60m)
• Class 4: The Past is an Imagined Dreamworld (90m)
• Class 5: Visions of the Apocalypse (60m)
• Class 6: Senses and Sensation (60m)
• Class 7: Glimpses, mere Fragments (90m)
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Nature and Ecology

J.R.R. Tolkien's revolutionary depictions of nature have inspired many to respect and cherish the environment. However, if we journeyed back two hundred years, we would discover that radical British Romantic authors were also challenging how readers perceived their surroundings! In this module, we will use ecology to explore the many parallels and contrasts between Tolkien's Arda and the Romantic's portrayals of nature big and small: mountains and meadows, woods and wildernesses, daffodils and dead marshes. This will include examining how characters react to the environment, nature's existence as separate from our own, and the broader concern of the Industrial Revolution's destructive potential.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Visions of Nature
• Workshop 1: What do your Elf-eyes see?
• Lecture 2: All things Sublime and Beautiful
• Workshop 2: Sublime, Beautiful, or both at once?!
• Lecture 3: I want to see mountains!
• Workshop 3: One with our environment
• Lecture 4: Ecology without Humanity
• Workshop 4: What is actually out there beyond the Human sphere?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].