A Tide of Ghosts: Esotericism and Art beyond Fact and Fiction

A two-day multidisciplinary conference exploring how the use of fictionings, in various entanglements of art, politics, and esotericism, bleeds into the real and how the two relate, if they ever are truly separate.

A Tide of Ghosts explores the coastal areas of planetary occulture and esotericism where that which has been submerged rises again. The hallucinatory horizon, separating sea from sky, the ghosts from the living, is as thinly defined as the borders between imagination and reality. The tide simultaneously covers and reveals a topography where art, politics and the occult are entangled with not only the contemporary, the near future and the near past, but also with the future future and the past past. Esotericism, whether rejected or forgotten, returns as a tide of ghosts to claim its presence. Like coastlines, esotericism represents places of agency and potentialities, fields of possibilities challenging consensual reality, glimpsing what is to come through remnants of what has or could have been, sunken lands and forgotten cities, other ways of living and belonging.

This conference reports back from these shores and their points of contact with an outside. What happens if we switch aesthetic and occult terms for political ones or mix them up? If we treat fictions as if they were real? And what happens when the tide shifts? History has always been used and interpreted in various ways. An undertow of esoteric and occultural movements has pulled at the present to revitalise or re-enchant it since the Rosicrucian manifestos ignited a new mythology and the prisca theologia movement excavated an ancient wisdom that since has inspired dozens of groups and activities.

A jumbled assemblage of associations is Theosophy and the Golden Dawn in the late 19th century, but also symbolism, the suffragettes and mystical utopianism; the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift and the Green Shirts in the 1920s and 1930s but also surrealism and the spectre of communism; anarchism and hippies in the 1960s and 1970s but also the critical aquarianism of people like William S. Burroughs and Octavia Butler and groups like the Process Church and thee Temple of Psychick Youth flooding into music; or the spectrum from a decolonial, feminist witchcraft to a shamanic alt-Right to a revolutionary demonology in both the present and contemporary art; all attempts to break into destiny by learning to transform reality through its representations. In short, by using art, myths and fictions. In other words, by using magic(k) and the belief that reality can be shaped according to will. Waves of occulture bleed into reality to make themselves real.

Confirmed keynotes 

Confirmed keynotes are Annebella Pollen, professor in Visual and Material Culture at the University of Brighton, and Egil Asprem, professor in the History of Religions at Stockholm University. 

Call for papers 

To collectively explore these lines of flight alongside our keynotes, we welcome proposals by everyone for a multidisciplinary conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, 23-25 October, 2024; academics, independent scholars, practitioners, artists, and activists, and not only individual submissions but also collaborations, performances and what have we.

Please send an abstract of a maximum of 300 words or provide a rationale for your proposed activity to timrudboeg@hum.ku.dk  and kasper.opstrup@hum.ku.dk by Thursday 21 March, 2024. You will receive a decision no later than 15 April. Links to visual or other visual aids may be included. Please use the subject line: Tide of Ghosts Conference proposal, and also include a short bio of no more than 200 words. 

Presentations will be 20 minutes with 10 minutes for questions.



The conference marks the first conference of the Scandinavian Network for the Academic Study of Western esotericism (SNASWE). It is co-organized by the Novo Nordic funded research project Twisting the Fabric of Space: On the Art and Politics of the Hidden which has Kasper Opstrup as its PI and The Copenhagen Centre for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism headed by Tim Rudbøg.

PhD seminar

In conjunction with this conference SNASWE hosts the first PhD seminar for PhDs working on esotericism and/or occulture in or about the Nordic countries. The idea is for PhD candidates to share research, receive feedback and get to know each other. Participation consists of submitting a draft chapter or similar and give a 20 min presentation as well as reading the works of others to give feedback.

The PhD seminar is Wednesday, 23 October, at UCPH. 

PhD candidates and their supervisors are urged to send Tim Rudbøg timrudboeg@hum.ku.dk Manon Hedenborg White manon.hedenborg-white@mau.se and Tiina Mahlamäki tituma@utu.fi an email Thursday 21 March 2024.