All photos, except where specified: Kathleen White
Sophia Summer School 2016
This year's annual Sophia Centre Summer School was once again held in the beautiful and ancient city of Bath Spa in England's West Country, the 9th session since the MA took up residence at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The session began with the usual meet-up at All Bar One on Monday evening, allowing old friends a chance to renew ties and newcomers a warm welcome into the fold of multifarious scholars who comprise the Sophia Centre family. This year's programme of lectures, presentations, exhibitions and excursions highlighted the diverse and erudite work of students, tutors, lecturers and alumni.
Dr Nick Campion opened on Tuesday morning with a lecture entitled "Psychology and Astronomy: The Discovery of the Self in the Middle Ages', in which he delineated the tension between influence of stars vs the omnipotence of God, between determinism and free will, tracing the roots of the self into antiquity. Dr Fabio Silva followed with an overview of student Skyscape Astrology projects over the past six years, noting that MA students and alumni now comprise 20% of all speakers at the upcoming SEAC 2016 Conference to be held in Bath in September. After the tea break, Maria Nita presented her 'Secularisation Thesis', in which she examined religions as text and history, positing that modernisation may lead to secularisation. Dr Amy Whitehead spoke on 'Folk Religion and the Turn to Things', discussing the many ways that religion is entangled with material culture, emphasizing the relationality between subjects and objects and the power inherent in matter. After lunch, Dr Bernadette Brady present her theories on 'Astrology: a Cosmological or Chaotic Creature', exploring how cosmos came from chaos and the web of connectivity that binds all to everything, concluding that astrology has elements of both philosophical absolutism and cultural relativism. Dr Frances Clynes followed with a detailed look at the complex nature of Internet research ethics.
The day finished with four of a total of six presentations that were made by existing or recently graduated students, each providing a facet of the wide range of research being pursued within the MA, and at the same time allowing students to polish their presentation skills and learn the fine art of giving and receiving critical feedback.
Dr Jenn Zahrt summarized her dissertation, 'Legitimizing Astrology - a historical case study with lessons for the present'; Jose Luis Belmonte provided a fascinating informal discussion on psychological astrology and the soul; Alina Pelteacu presented an intriguing talk on 'How are Dreams Understood', exploring the relationship between understanding the dream world and personal cosmologies; and Eva Young provided a look at research into possible cosmological themes in Medieval Gothic Rose windows in Chartres Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Denis in France and the Cathedral of San Vigilio in Italy.
On Wednesday, the Summer School hosted Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University and three of his astronomy students. Dr Darrelyn Gunzburg presented her research into Pietro Lorenzetti's 'Madonna dei Tramonti (Madonna of the Sunsets)', a fresco in the Lower Church of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, followed by Meira Epstein's talk on 'Ibn Ezra and Maimonides: Astrology at the Crossroads', tracing how astrology became occult in Jewish thought. The remaining two student presentations following the tea break. Ilaria Cristofaro presented her research into 'Perception of Time in Sacred Spaces', discussing how human concentration slows or suspends the experience of time, thus creating the possibility for an experience of the sacred. Next, Morag Feeney-Beaton gave a summary of her dissertation project on 'Spinning, Weaving and Cosmology', exploring how contemporary handweavers and spinners in the British Isles perceive ritual and sacred symbolism in their actions.
After lunch, there were three skill sessions on offer: Dr Fabio Silva and Tore Lomsdalen showed how to measure altitude with a clinometer and azimuth with a compass; the intricacies of Endnote referencing software were explored with Dr Brady and Dr Gunzburg; and Dr Silva and Dr Brown presented 'The Sky as Primary Source', a tour of the Stellarium planetarium software. Dr Brown's students then presented two papers: Kieran Simcox with 'Limiting Eye Magnitudes in the Context of Passage Graves' and Amanda Reyes Asturias and Phillip Johnson with 'Sacred Spaces and Skyscape Experiences - Contemporary Artistic Exploration of Astronomy within Stellarium (Astro and Fine Arts)'.
Roman Amphitheatre at Caerleon
Thursday's field trip provided a feast of ruins, beautifully narrated by Jon Cannon, starting with the Roman Baths, Barracks and Amphitheatre at Caerleon in Wales. The Baths contained samples of Roman helmets, cookware and cutlery, as well as sandals and other items. The remains of the Barracks provided remarkable insight into how a Roman garrison organised the living spaces of its soldiers and leaders. The amphitheatre still retained a ghost of its original ambience, including the compelling remains of an altar to the Goddess Nemesis. After a tea break, enjoyed by some of us in the Priory Hotel and Restaurant, built on the site of a Medieval monastery, the group debarked to see the remnants of Roman town walls and temple in Caerwent, where we paused for a superb pub lunch at The Coach and Horses Inn. Thus restored, the group proceeded to Tintern Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian abbey on the Welsh bank of the River Wye near Chepstow. Jon provided a running commentary on the history of the Abbey, the gothic church towering overhead, almost completely intact bar its roof and part of the nave. A brief visit to the Abbey gift shop concluded the visit.
Chris Mitchell kicked off Friday's morning of lectures, bringing us up to date on 'Roger of Hereford: England's First Astrology Book'. Dr Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum followed with a presentation on 'Philosophy and Fate in Hellenistic Astrology', and Dr Campion concluded with a lecture on 'Understanding the Space Race'. Janet Carroll appeared live via Webex to present the winners of the Photo Competition, photos from which had been on display during the week in an exhibition carefully curated by Eva Young. The results: 1st place to Grace Cassar, 2nd place to Madeleine Marchand, and 3rd place to Ingrid O'Donnell.
The Summer School finished with updates from Dr Gunzburg on the activities of the Alumni Association, which include a series of upcoming lectures featuring Rod Suskin, Dr Silva and Faye Cossar. Dr Campion provided a glimpse into the expansion of the Sophia Project, which include a link to Schumacher College's MA in Spirituality and Ecology: starting in January 2017, this MA will share three of Trinity St. David's module from the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology - - Sacred Geography, Divination, and Heavenly Discourses. Other links are being forged with the Prince's Scho ol of Traditional Arts. In addition, the Sophia Centre organised the recent confere nce 'Living on Earth: Charting a Course for Harmony' in partnership with the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness (INSPIRE), the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Shumacher College, he ld 7 July 2016 at the Trinity Saint David Lampeter campus. Featured speakers included David Cadman of the Gaia Foundation, John Sauven of Greenpeace, and Tony Juniper of the Prince of Wales' International Sustainability Unit. Thus a week of delights ended: friendships forged and deepened, ideas posed and discussed, minds expanded by new possibilities and experiences. An inspirational week for all who attended and a reminder of the circle of support and enrichment provided by the Sophia Centre.
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