Centre for Continuing Education

Art and Philosophy of the Spirit Course

Religion & Spirituality. Learn about systems of faith and worship.

Learn about beliefs, cultural systems, and world views the smart way with Religion & Spirituality courses at the University of Sydney.

Our contemporary definition of ‘spirit’ is based on the convergence of three streams of knowledge: the impact of Eastern spiritual systems on the West in the 19th century and the parallel re-emergence of the Western stream of esoteric knowledge; followed by a 20th century global culture shaped by Internet technology.

In separating ‘the spiritual’ from ‘the religious’, this course investigates a global, culturally inclusive interpretation of contemporary spirituality. You will benefit from an unbiased, non-denominational presentation of this sensitive domain. The narrow focus of spiritual systems will be defined, and the art of spiritual practices and spiritual philosophies interpreted.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the concepts of a spiritual system
  • recognise and decode the visual language of any culture that references the concepts of a spiritual system
  • differentiate between a religion and a spiritual system
  • identify spiritual and religious elements in images
  • recognise the differences in visual art between spiritual and psychological concepts with regard to developing consciousness
  • create and develop your own diagrammatic language to express these concepts
  • perceive how the 21st century invites an inclusive and comprehensive concept of the spiritual through art, and participate with confidence in this discourse.


Key concepts in spiritual systems

  • Defining the difference between the ‘Spiritual’ and the 'Religious'
  • Case studies of contemporary spiritual systems including: Kundalini tantra (Eastern); Spiritual Science (Western); Pranic Healing (Eastern/Western)
  • The function of art in a spiritual system – eg Nath Charit Folios; Splendor Solis Manuscripts; Alchemy and The Hermetic Library

Spiritual images and spiritual narratives in contemporary visual culture

  • Spiritual narratives in cinema and television
  • The martial arts
  • Hatha yoga
  • Art and magic – hierarchies of demons; sigils
  • Healing and art – the sand paintings of Native Americans; the sand mandalas of Buddhist monks; the healing paintings of Emma Kunz; ‘Pranic Healing’ diagrams
  • The relationship between planetary forces and deep ecology in spiritual science; the fourfold system of subtle bodies

Being and non-being in art

  • God and Gods – the ‘psychic symbol’; formlessness meditation
  • Hierarchies of angels – Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Colour for Artists’; William Blake
  • Images of the Ineffable – Modernist art; mandalas and yantras in yoga; Neo-tantric art

Death, dying and higher consciousness

  • Texts examined include: How to Know Higher Worlds, Rudolf Steiner; The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche; Sure Ways to Self-Realisation, Swami Satyananda; Meditations for Soul Realisation, Choa Kok Sui; The Bliss of Inner Fire, Lama Yeshe; The Upanishads
  • Reincarnation in the Western systems of Anthroposophy (aka Spiritual Science) and Theosophy
  • Yoga Nidra and visualisation techniques
  • Concepts of transformation and different transformational techniques in Western and Eastern systems

Intended Audience

There are few courses that examine the dense concepts of spirituality in a non-partisan context. The academic framing of the subject refers to popular culture and has broad appeal.

Suitable for:

  • members of the general public
  • art teachers and educators – the individual case studies offer practices that may be incorporated into secular art education
  • undergraduate and postgraduate students – the long history of spiritual philosophy may be studied.

Recommended Reading

Primary reading:

Lander, J 2014, Spiritual Art and Art Education, Series: Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies, USA.

Secondary reading – three case studies of contemporary spiritual systems:

Satyananda Saraswati, S 2002, Kundalini Tantra, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India.

Satyananda Saraswati, S 2006, Sure Ways to Self-Realization, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India.

Steiner, R 1911, ‘From Jesus to Christ: A Cycle of Ten Lectures’, delivered in Karlsruhe, 1911, Anthroposophic Press (available online at the Rudolf Steiner Archive)

Steiner, R 1994, ‘How to Know Higher Worlds’ (aka Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment), Anthroposophic Press (available online at the Rudolf Steiner Archive)

Sui, C. K 1990, Pranic Healing (Instructions in the spiritual art of healing with coloured prana), Samuel Weiser Inc.

Sui, C. K 2000, Meditations for Soul Realisation, Institute For Inner Studies Inc.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • This course has been so enlightening and I have learnt so much in such a short space of time! The presenter really knows the stuff and explains everything thoroughly making sure that you understand everything. Definitely recommend this course if you are interested in spirituality, art and meditation.

  • The material was well chosen, and offered a marvellous opportunity to hear the guest speakers share their experiences, while working on set in Venice.

  • I really enjoyed being able to take a course on such an esoteric subject. It was incredibly dense, covering huge concepts in 4 weeks, so very stimulating.

  • The course material was delivered in a clear, simple and straightforward way. It covered what was promised and I enjoyed it immensely. The presenter was simply a breath of fresh air. I hope to attend more classes at Sydney University – sharing an abundance of knowledge. A big thanks to you all for creating this course at an affordable price, they’re not easy to find!

  • Thank you for including this course on spirituality in your program. I loved the content. Very stimulating, thought-provoking and reassuring.

Art and Philosophy of the Spirit Course

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What others say.

  • Very passionate and inspiring teacher. The course has certainly made me look at spirituality in a way I have not considered before.
  • Loved this course and learnt so many new things!
  • Absolutely loved this course. I was sad for it to finish. I was wonderfully nourished with knowledge and research!