Modernism & Alternate Spiritualities

A One-day symposium

10th January 2020 

RCA, London. 


In ‘A Secular Age’ Charles Taylor argues that instead of characterising Western modernity as a moment that saw a decline in religion, emphasis should instead be placed on the way in which the spiritual climate was reconfigured, particularly in terms of the way belief became a matter of individual choice.


 Modern life, he argues, bore witness to a ‘spiritual super-nova, a kind of galloping pluralism on the spiritual plane’. Coterminous with the decline in the authority of the Church in the early 20th century was a turn to alternative spiritual pathways: the teaching of independent gurus such as GI Gurdjieff, PD Ouspensky and Meher Baba of Eastern Religion and appropriated versions in occult systems of thought, including Theosophy, Anthroposophy and magical organisations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


This was a culture that was playful and explorative, one in which – as spiritual seeker Rom Landau put it in his book ‘God is my Adventure’ – people were ‘only too willing to delve into […] unorthodox schools of thought, yet without feeling compelled to accept this or that method as the only valid one.’


The aim of this symposium is to explore the intersection of this spiritual culture with literary and artistic modernism. Traditionally characterised as a movement infused by secular disillusionment, recent scholarship has emphasised the continuation of the sacred among the moderns, albeit in ways that were often idiosyncratic, outlandish and deviant.


10th January 2020

At the RCA
Kensington Campus 

Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Modernism & Alternate Spiritaulties SYMPOSIUM

Read our call for papers here

Deadline for panel & paper proposals is 29th November 2019 at 6pm GMT. 


Organising Committee 

Imogen Woodberry is an AHRC PhD student at the Royal College of Arts. 

Polly Hember is an AHRC and TECHNE funded PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Focusing on modernism and visual culture, her thesis explores the work of the POOL group. She is a representative of the British Association of Modernist Studies (BAMS) and co-edits the Modernist Review and the Decorating Dissidence Blog.

Dr Anna Neima is a social and cultural historian of the twentieth century, specialising in practical utopianism. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, looking at Dartington Hall and its links with social reform in Britain and further afield between the wars. She is currently working on a book for Picador about the international wave of social experiments in how to live that was sparked off by the First World War.

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© 2019 Modernism & Alternate Spiritualities | 10th January 2020 | RCA |

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