In memoriam Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, 1953-2012.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this, having recently received the tragic news of the untimely passing of Professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke following a brief illness.
His scholarship and career path is well-known and I do not want to dwell on it here; rather I want to pay personal tribute to a fine scholar and gentleman whose vision provided myself and many others with the unique opportunity to acquire a sound understanding of the world of Western Esotericism, through the MA and PhD programme at EXESESO, Exeter. I know I speak for others as well as myself when I say that when this programme first began, to many of us it seemed like a door into a world we had always sought to understand, but never had the tools or chance to. Because of the flexibility afforded by its format as a long-distance course, combined with academic rigour and a plethora of study-material, it offered us the opportunity to study something we all cared about, without being restricted by our work/family commitments or geographical location, while the study weekends offered sessions jam-packed with knowledge, information, and a chance to talk with some of the most brilliant scholars in the field.
On a personal level, had it not been for the Exeter MA in Western Esotericism, I would not now be pursuing an academic career – in fact I would not be doing a lot of things that this programme opened to me. It was thanks to Nicholas that I was given the opportunity, in 2008, to participate in the organisation of the Esoteric Quest conference in Samothrace, Greece, and that experience opened a new world to me. In 2009, I took the plunge of organising the 1st Phoenix Rising conference at my alma mater in Athens, Greece, and was both honoured and more than slightly moved when Nicholas and his wife Clare contacted me and said they wanted to come – a gesture of support that I have never forgotten. I also remember Nicholas taking a keen interest in my artwork and acknowledging my longstanding interest in it when helping me to focus my PhD proposal. Despite the fact that our paths eventually diverged because in time I felt that a strictly historical approach was not the one I wanted to follow, I have, and will always, remember him as a gentleman, a fine scholar, and one of those teachers who always made you want to surpass yourself.
As we begin to come to terms with Nicholas’ passing, my fellow-Exeter graduates and I have already concluded that the best tribute we can pay him is to try to live up to his expectations and continue his vision of bringing the study of esotericism more firmly into academia. For my own part, Phoenix Rising Academy was born out of my desire to help to support the field and provide introductory level courses to people who might otherwise never have the opportunity or the skills to pursue an advanced academic degree, or who indeed were not comfortable nor conversant with the notion of the academic study of esotericism at all. It was always my hope that in this way it would be possible to support the work of EXESESO and to help provide an entry-point and foundation for people who would then go on to pursue the MA programme there. Any misguided impressions to the contrary are just that, misguided, and I have always seen Nicholas’ vision as a guiding light in this regard. It is my fervent hope that as time begins to heal the pain of his loss, Clare Goodrick-Clarke and the other EXESESO faculty will continue the path he opened, and that many more students will benefit from his vision of esotericism in the academy and the work that he has left for them.
My sincerest condolences go to Nicholas’ wife, Clare, and all who knew him and benefited from his vast knowledge. The best we can do is to remember him and each play our small part in continuing what he started, each according to our ability. May he rest in peace and live on in our memories.