Skip to content

In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group

Where we are vs where we should be.

In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group is a free (donations accepted) 4 week transdisciplinary seminar and reading group that aims to redress modern art by turning to how the sciences, religious beliefs, and occult traditions provide a better articulation of modern art. Dialogue is opened up between practitioners in fields of study that traditionally engage infrequently. This allows for conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and imaginative intervention and integration from across disciplines as a means of addressing the art historical discourse on the topic of the ‘spiritual dynamic’ in modern art

Each session will last 1 hour, consisting of a brief introduction followed by group discussion on select readings circulated in advance of each session.

You do not need formal training in this particular subject area to join the series. Participants should come seeking knowledge, as eager contributors from diverse backgrounds.

The Group is currently not meeting. Stay tuned for updates.


Fictional prereading: The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

Session 1. Blank Spaces on the Maps of Learning: Complex & Mixed Disciplinary Worlds. This session will serve as an informal introduction to the lecture series and its thematic approach rather than chronological, with a focus on the historical use of the terms science and occult. We will think about the complexity of occultism as historical phenomenon and the history of exclusion in textbook and museum narratives when addressing the spiritual dynamic in modern art, a recurring theme in the series. We’ll read texts by Egil Asprem, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, and H.P. Blavatsky.

Session 2. Front Line Shifts: Writing the Spiritual Perspective in Modernist Art History. This session is concerned with the historiography of the spiritual dynamic in modern art. We’ll look at how slowly the study of spirituality in modern art emerged in art historical scholarship and examine the ways in which art history grapples with the writing and inclusion of esoteric, occult, and spiritual themes. We’ll read texts by W.D. MacColl, Sixten Ringbom, Maurice Tuchman, and Kenneth E. Silver.

Session 3. A Spiral in Our Minds: Art History’s Vertiginous Gaze on Hilma af Klint. This session examines the public reception of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, paving the way for a fresh albeit complex (re)examination of the spiritual dimension in modern art. We will focus on exhibition essays and art criticism written on af Klint in both Europe and North America.

Session 4. New Forms of Art Historical Writing: Analytical Tools & Interpretative Models. Our final session looks to how methodological intervention can perhaps address fundamental elements left out of the art historical discourse. We’ll discuss Jeffrey Kripal’s Superhumanities and the empirical-imaginary, the importance of transdisciplinarity, the concept of “occulture” as an analytical tool, and consider more innovative and ‘unusual’ concepts in the writing of art history. Thus, collectively, we will explore alternatives and new vocabularies that might pave the way for a more nuanced and spiritually significant approach to the writing of modern art with spiritual, esoteric, and occult themes. We’ll read texts by Jeffrey Kripal, James Elkins, and Nina Kokinen.

©2021 Emily Leon


  1. Ildi Ildi

    I was part of the first working group and all I can say is wow. Emily is incredibly knowledgeable and she creates such a gentle learning environment where everyone is free to express their thoughts and their insights based on their worldview and experiences (whether personal or studied). The group consisted of all types imaginable: from academics like myself to artists to people with a casual interest that ran the gamut of belief, and we all learnt from each other.

    It was one of the most invigorating experiences I’ve had in a very long time and it reignited my own personal academic and creative work.

  2. I was lucky to be part of the first iteration of the In the Eggshell working group in 2021. I made friends in the group, advanced my own research interests, and came away amazed at and thankful for the care Emily put into organizing every element of the project. Emily is a gifted scholar and teacher, and each session was brimming with insights, intellectual camaraderie, and a generous array of resources that left everyone in the group charged up with inspiration and appreciation not just of Emily or the topics discussed but for the potential for experimental extracurricular critical scholarship and meaningful developments in the fuzzier (and more interesting) regions of art and art history. Cannot recommend this more highly.

  3. Clearly art aids in the expression of and dialogue with the mysteries, rendering the invisible, the occulted and the occluded into tangible and visible domains—into objects. By way Emily’s luminous curiosity this wonder-filled journey explores history as rendered through markets—the art market—as validated through critical theory and venerated into degrees known as art history. We’re not walking on eggshells, we’re softening our edges through spirit and art and science. With one hand wielding a sword of transcendence and the other hand demonstrating the wand of immanence, Emily is a benevolent host. Master of all three of these domains, as an artist, as an occultist, and as a historian, her Eggshell seminars are a dinner party of thought and community.

  4. Simon Simon

    I felt privileged to be a participant of ‘In the Eggshell’ in 2021, being struck by the sheer generosity of Emily in giving of her time, effort, and deep erudition in providing insight, guidance, skill and sensitivity in facilitating and contributing to very fruitful mutual discussion and development of ideas and knowledge among a diverse group of participants. I learnt so much in these sessions from Emily and fellow working group members and appreciated the depth and thematic structure of each session’s set reading which afforded a good balance between learning and the interplay of imaginative insights. All told, a stimulating and inspiring experience in a field of transdisciplinarity that I’m really grateful to have been involved in.

  5. Participating in the group has been immensely rewarding and a pleasure to be a part of. Emily carefully curates the reading list and builds a complex, cumulative sense of disciplinary challenges to art history methodologies across the seminar series. She is consistently enthusiastic, engaging, and intellectually incisive and this allows the group to have a focused structure, encouraging close analysis. Crucially, however, there remains flexibility and collaboration amongst the wide variety of curious people, encouraged to engage on their own terms, who find themselves drawn to In the Eggshell.

    I have found it particularly enriching not only in a broader, personal sense – especially in connecting with others that share the same interests – but directly in my work as a PhD researcher examining the intersections of early twentieth-century avant-gardism with spirituality.

    I am immensely grateful to Emily for the labour of love that has been the making of this group, and for creating a space where those interested in esotericism and art can come together constructively and discuss, debate, and share freely with one another. I could not recommend it highly enough to those with an interest in these subjects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *