Another year, another Esotericon has come and gone. This one was a wee bit different than last year’s, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that the energy, fellowship, discourse, and love of learning was there in enormous quantities.
The 2020 Mid-Atlantic Esotericon was held, in a virtual setting, on July 25, 2020. It was an all-day affair that included speakers, panelists, tarot readings, and fundraising that was truly a sight to see.
As one of the hosts, I most assuredly had some takeaways from this years’ experience, far different than those I thought I would have when we announced a second event way back in June of 2019.
When we cleaned and packed up from the inaugural 2019 event, we all came off this euphoric “high”; one that helped us make an easy decision to continue with the Esotericon format for another year.
We booked a venue, found a locale for a social night, called around to book a Sunday event, and rallied our endless supply of Rainbow Girls, who truly made the 2019 event a magical experience. Feeding us, making sure everyone went to the right place, and cleaning up after 157 esoterically minded people for an entire weekend was a daunting task and could only have been accomplished by this amazing group of young ladies. (Had to throw the kudos in at the beginning before I forget to do it later.)
We had everything planned and booked by October of 2019, so it seemed like “smooth sailing” until the Summer of 2020. We took the commentary and feedback from the prior year’s event and incorporated those lessons learned, and truly expected a fantastic in-person event here near the Nation’s Capital.
Then our friend COVID-19 showed up. Disrupted families, jobs, events, and lives all over the World. To say that a global pandemic on this scale was met with unpreparedness all over the planet is an understatement. It kicked our butts, and it changed the face of our social existence for years to come. We waited as long as we could to figure out what to do.
Then conferences started canceling or postponing until a later, undetermined date. The “Masonic” conference schedule was already filled to the brim throughout the year, and we couldn’t just move it to another date. We decided as late as possible, (hoping for an 11th hour save) to switch to all-virtual, with the idea in our heads that this coming event would pale in comparison to the first.
So we did what any other group of well-intentioned lads would do--we tried to make the best of this very weird situation and began to plan out what would become the first “Virtual-only” Esotericon.
In my head, I knew we were going to miss out on the fellowship and discourse, two things which are absolutely essential when you are speaking to people on or conversing about things like Hermeticism, the Ancient Mysteries, and the lost History of our gentle Craft. There is something that can never be replicated by face-to-face discourse with like-minded people, all speaking about things that they like, or even don’t like, about the topics at hand.
Or so I thought….
We decided since we had more “room” to work with in the digital landscape, to open ticket sales back up to folks who wanted to attend, this new, fandangled “digital” event. We thought that we would get a few stragglers who would not have come in-person due to distance or scheduling, etc., but a small group nevertheless.
How wrong we were. We ended up with 101 virtual tickets. 101 more people that came because we offered a virtual option to an initially in-person event. It was astounding. More on that later.
The number grew so large that we immediately became concerned with the number of attendees, open microphones whilst going to the bathroom with one’s headset on, people yelling at their pet, kids, or spouses while not on mute, that we made the late decision to switch to a Webinar-style format instead of an open Zoom meeting. It was a tough decision, limiting the attendees to text and chat, and missing out on seeing everyone’s lovely faces, but webinars exist for a particular reason. They exist to disseminate information to a mass of people with little turmoil and headache on the part of the conference hosts.
So the day was fast approaching: the frantic shipping of goodies, last-minute schedule changes, organizing almost 250 people into something that resembled the magic of 2019 was all coming to a head. Registrations were sent, tickets were confirmed, and people were bombarded with an avalanche of emails in preparation for the event. All was (crossing-fingers) ready for the big day.
Then came Saturday morning. All the presenters arrived, we made intros and started with our first speaker. Five minutes into Chuck Dunning’s presentation, I knew this was going to be a great day. The Chatbox in Zoom was aflutter with dialogue and commentary. People were asking salient and very interesting questions. After the presentation, everyone was engaged with the presenters and hosts and moved in a similar fashion throughout the day.
A long day to be sure, but presentations from Chuck Dunning, Dave Bacon, Don McAndrews, Angel Millar, Josef Wages, and even Robert Johnson provided fascinating and well-researched presentations. The topics spanned the gamut on what people would consider “esotericism:” hermeticism, meditation, perception and thought experiments, the missing pieces of ritual history, and the temple of man as a symbol weaved into the language of consciousness.
In between each talk, the chat was alive with commentary, book suggestions, follow-up commentary, and an overall sense of mirth and enjoyment.
The unlisted surprises we had in store for the attendees this year were: Most Worshipful Brother Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the District of Columbia, with a brief intro about the Masonic Legacy Society, which is essentially a revival of the study of the Mysteries of Freemasonry using the lens of the Craft Degrees to further one’s path of self-improvement.
Next, we had a hello and thank you from Most Worshipful Brother Shaun Bradshaw, current Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina and past Esotericon guest, who welcomed everyone and showed everyone at the event that there is hope in the Craft for those who are called to lead, to still adhere to the real purpose of Freemasonry, and to make it a rallying cry for Masons in their care.
The other round of surprises came at the end of the day, when the (then) Grand Worthy Advisor, Miss Kaitlyn: "GiGi” Costis, presented a “thank you” to all the attendees for their support, then informed us all of the charity which we helped support by donating $3500.00. She told us of her and her family’s personal experience with Give Kids the World Village, an amazing resort in Florida, which provides vacations to critically and terminally-ill children and their families.
This was followed by, as far as I can tell, the first “esoteric” presentation related to Rainbow Girls, the ladies Masonic youth group that has Assemblies all over the world. Miss Maribel Martinez presented an erudite commentary on the hidden symbolism of the Rainbow, how it applies to the young ladies in the Order, and how the Rainbow ties to ancient flood myths that span the centuries and the globe. I don’t think of heard of anything else like that before 😊
At the end of a long day, just before we turned off the cameras and microphones, said our goodbyes to all our guests, and then took in the experience, I can honestly say that the mood in that group of four hosts was a combination of jubilation and surprise. The conference TRULY went spectacular. Of course, there were a couple of little technical glitches, and the occasional “extra break” to get speakers lined up, but to say that this went well under the circumstances and time required to craft such a different event is truly an understatement.
So back to my comments about my “wildly different takeaways” for this year’s event. We had planned on taking the lessons we learned from the 2019 event, and tweaking a couple of things to enhance the experience of the event. Once COVID hit, those little tweaks went right in the shred bin. My takeaways for the revamped virtual experience were as follows:
- People who are interested in the more esoteric, educational, or allegorical aspect of the Craft are, by far and wide, some of the most adaptable and open-minded people I have the pleasure of knowing,
- Being virtual, while it took away the “face-to-face” aspects that make this event so great, did not diminish the enthusiasm and dialogue that carried on for 10 + hours.
- The panelists were able to provide directed and poignant talks, in environments of comfort and control, which (I think) made them more personal and enriching.
- We have learned that we can extend our reach, invite more people, and go bigger and different (won't say “better”) with little fear of failure. The need is present and it must be filled.
To close this little love letter to the Mid-Atlantic Esotericon, I can honestly say that this year’s conference was more magical than I would have thought possible. The energy and sense of togetherness were there, even though most of us were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. The discourse and transmission of wisdom is the primary reason why I became a Freemason, and my heart has found a place where I can truly experience it. I can only count to days to June 11-13, 2021, when we mount up and give this another whirl.