IHS 2019 Annual Conference

For information on the Institute for Hermetic Studies Third Annual Conference to be held on May 2, 2020 use the following link.



The information below regarding the 2019 Conference is for archival purposes only.


Institute for Hermetic Studies Second Annual Conference

Where: Hilton Garden Inn Wilkes-Barre

242 Highland Park Boulevard

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18702


When:             04 May 2019

Thank you to the Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund of the Luzerne Foundation, Bro. David Stang, and other ‘Unknown Superiors” for their generous financial support for this conference.


10:00 – 10:15 Mark Stavish – Introduction

10:15 – 11:00 Dr. Stevan Davies – Spirit Possession and the Origins of Christianity

In this presentation Davies argues that the historical Jesus of Nazareth had little to do with the initial foundation and spread of Christianity, rejecting the standard views that the Christian movement was initiated by the teachings of Jesus, or by stories that Jesus had been seen alive after his death. It was Jesus’ experience of Holy Spirit possession, and then the Holy Spirit possession experiences of Jews and Gentiles throughout the Roman empire, that gave rise to the Christian religion. In his book, Davies provides the entire text of “Jesus the Healer,” new essays on the Pentecostal origins of Christianity, and the apocryphal Odes of Solomon as evidence of a pre-Christianity.

Stevan Davies is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Misericordia University and the author of several books on early Christianity, including Revolt of the Widows, The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom, The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated & Explained, and The Secret Book of John: the Gnostic Gospel Annotated & Explained.

11:15 – 12:00 George Hansen – Liminality, Binaries, and the Paranormal

Anthropological studies of myth and ritual illuminate the paranormal, the esoteric, and the hermetic, derived from the name Hermes, the Greek trickster god.  Hermes governs liminality, a concept developed in anthropology that addresses initiations, transitions, the betwixt and between, the excluded middle, ambiguity, and uncertainty.  It is an abstract notion that provides considerable insight.  It can be applied to individuals, small groups, and entire cultures.

Binaries such as life-death, god-human, heavens-earth, male-female, human-beast have been recognized by virtually all cultures.  Liminality is characterized by blurring of binary oppositions (synonyms of binaries include opposites, polarities, dualisms, dichotomies).

Paranormal phenomena display liminal and trickster features.  The phenomena are often stigmatized, marginalized, and considered somewhat disreputable.  Groups that directly attempt to engage them tend to fall apart, thereby exhibiting anti-structure (a concept nearly synonymous with liminality).

George P. Hansen is the author of the groundbreaking book on paranormal research, The Trickster and the Paranormal (http://www.tricksterbook.com/) . Hansen has been employed in parapsychic research at both the Rhine Research Center and Psychophysical Research Laboratories (Princeton, NJ). His papers in professional journals have covered mathematical statistics, deception, skepticism, and methodological criticisms. Hansen is a member of the Institutional Brotherhood of Magicians and a frequent speaker at conferences on parapsychology and unidentified aerial phenomena.

12:00 – 2:00 Lunch

2:15 – 3:00 Shannon Taggart – Mediums, Mambos and Michael Jackson, an Illustrated Presentation

In this illustrated presentation, Shannon Taggart will share original photographs and research from her various bodies of work that explore attempts to blur the line between life and death. This talk will discuss the different ways Spiritualist mediums, Vodou practitioners, and even the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson use altered states of consciuosness in their quests to access invisible realms.

Shannon Taggart is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York.  Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in publications such as TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover and Newsweek. From 2014 – 2016, she was Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.  Her book, SÉANCE, will be released in fall, 2019.  For more, visit shannontaggart.com.


3:15 – 4:00 Nick Siegert – Natural Man Illumined; Johann Gichtel’s Mystical Figures at Ephrata

Jacob Martin, a married member of the Ephrata Community, created a series of illustrations of a human being with astrological and esoteric figures. Up until recently, the meaning and origin of these illustrations remained a mystery. Recent research has revealed that these illustrations were copied from a treatise on spiritual rebirth published in 1696 by German theosopher and mystic, Johann Georg Gichtel (1638-1710). Gichtel was a writer and visionary who promoted the work of early 17th-century visionary and mystic Jacob Boehme (1575-1624. He compiled the first complete edition of Bohme’s works. He also distilled the ideas and writing of Boehme and was extremely important in spreading Boehme’s ideas and thought to Conrad Beissel and other radical pietists. He was also a significant theosophical writer and mystic in his own right, and an authority on spiritual alchemy which draws heavily on the work of Boehme.  This paper interprets the symbolic meanings in Martin’s illustrations, copied from Gichtel. Additionally the connections between Jacob Martin and the Ephrata Community to Gichtel’s writings will be explored.  The findings of this new research shed new light on some of the esoteric beliefs of the Ephrata Community held by one of their most intriguing and little-understood members.


Nick Siegert is the Tour Guide Supervisor of the Ephrata Cloister (https://ephratacloister.org/about/history/), a nationally registered historic site dating to the early 1700s and founded by the German mystic Conrad Beissel. The influence of Beissel and the Cloister in early American history and spiritual life was significant and continues to this day. Nick has a BSED from West Chester University and has worked at the Ephrata Cloister since 2008.

4:00 – 4:30 Announcements and Closing Remarks

4:30 -7:00 Social/Rest/Dinner

7:00-9:00pm Mark Keyes and Joe Hawk – Applied Criminology and the Paranormal

Criminal investigation techniques have been studied by Retired State Police Detective Mark Keyes and Retired Municipal Police Officer Joe Hawk while approaching sites with reported active hauntings as a crime scene. In many cases, the experiences witnesses were reporting mimicked criminal incidents in many respects. Going beyond traditional paranormal research, Mark and Joe wanted to find factual evidence to corroborate metaphysical information and documented physical activity obtained during investigations and employed a variety of criminal investigation techniques to do so.


Mark Allan Keyes is a retired criminal investigator for Pennsylvania State Police with over a dozen years of experience researching paranormal phenomena. Keyes and his wife Lauren founded the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association (PPA) and has been featured on numerous television and radio shows including Discovery Channel’s The Haunted, Paranormal Survivor, Paranormal 911, and Haunted Hospitals. He is also former co-host of WILK radio’s Paranormal Science, and the author of Chasing Shadows – A Criminal Investigators Look into the Paranormal.

Joe Hawk, Jr., (“Hawk”) has been interested in the paranormal since he was a child. As an adult, he found that using his experience in the field of law enforcement could help him in the paranormal field. Molding his two passions together had a amazing outcome even bringing the first fully trained police K9 into paranormal investigations. He now wishes to share his experience in hopes to help others. Hawk is the founder of East Coast Para Con held annually in Scranton (Pennsylvania) and has the honor of having his own essential oil spray named after him.


Registration Information

Hilton Garden Inn Wilkes-Barre

242 Highland Park Boulevard

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18702


Telephone: 570.820.8595


Use the following link when reserving your hotel room.

Booking Link: https://secure3.hilton.com/en_US/gi/reservation/book.htm?inputModule=HOTEL&ctyhocn=AVPWIGI&spec_plan=HER&arrival=20190503&departure=20190506&cid=OM,WW,HILTONLINK,EN,DirectLink&fromId=HILTONLINKDIRECT

Group Name: Institute for Hermetic Studies

Date Range for Discount: Arrival Date: 03-May-2019    Departure Date: 06-May-2019
Room Price: $129 per night


Conference Registration:

Registration fee:

$55 if registration is received before March 1, 2019

$65 if registration is received between March 1 and April 30

$75 if registration is received after April 30 or on the day of the event


To register for the conference please send a check or money order to

Institute for Hermetic Studies, P.O. Box 4513, Wyoming, Pennsylvania 18644-04513


Pay with PayPal using the following email address

Institute for Hermetic Studies, info@hermeticinstitute.org

Please include your name, address, phone and email contact information regardless of how you wish your payment to be processed.



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  1. Fantastic day, I found the topics interesting and I really enjoyed the Q&A at the end of each presentation. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement.
    As usual Mark ran a great program and tight ship keeping every program and speaker on track with the schedule. Always great getting together Mark I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other for one function or another in the near future.


  2. Shannon Taggart · · Reply

    A wonderful conference! A day of interesting talks that drew incredible people and inspired many compelling conversations. Many thanks for the invitation!


  3. Jeremy Boyd · · Reply

    Really enjoyed every segment, myself. Everyone else attending was very friendly, and helpful including the presenters. Would definitely look forwards to future installments. 🙂


  4. Nick Siegert · · Reply

    What a great conference!! A small, but very enthusiastic and serious group of scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts from all walks of life. I presented a paper, “Natural Man Illumined: Johann Gichtel’s Mystical Figures at Ephrata”. Got great questions and comments. All of the other presentations were fascinating and well thought out. Thanks to Mark Stavish for organizing the conference and for starting The Institute for Hermetic Studies. Check out is many books. This was one of those conferences where you could get into some in-depth conversations with presenters after their presentations and really share some ideas. I really felt at home. Sign me up for next year!


  5. steve · · Reply

    Loved the conference. I’ve been to lots of conferences and attended many talks in the past and the IHS conference has an extremely high density of amazing presentations and presenters. I can’t help but feel that it is sliding under the radar for most people because if esotericists knew how awesome this conference is, the attendance would even higher. I’ve attended twice over the past two years and it has been so worth the time and I don’t anticipate ever skipping a year. Nice job Mark!


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