The presentation of the activities of the Eranos Foundation has a particular meaning. Those of us who have devoted ourselves to Eranos find it very gratifying that our institution has remained prestigious and long-lived for over ninety years. Eranos is an extraordinary initiative, whose central purpose has been to provide time and space for thinking. This was no easy task given the date of the founding of Eranos – 1933.
Considering the political climate and the limited tools available at that time, one can easily imagine the challenges faced by the organizers of the first Eranos Conferences. Despite the hurdles, the Eranos experience was able to establish itself as a pioneer in interdisciplinary dialogue. Its contributions to the cultural history of the 20th century are widely recognized by leading thinkers around the world and continue to this day.
The opportunity for thinking – for the time and space to do so – is at the center of the Eranos meetings held at Ascona-Moscia (Switzerland). Thinking –because beyond the different subjects dealt with year after year, what was important is the possibility of giving birth to new thinking, originating from a meeting of scholars from various geographical origins and from different academic fields.
Such new thinking holds the possibility of exceeding the sum of its parts, which include knowledge from a variety of scientific disciplines – from psychology to natural sciences, from philosophy to theology, from mythology to anthropology. This interdisciplinary lens has brought fresh perspectives to questions at hand far more readily than could a single discipline.
The Eranos Conferences, in their original form, have also been a specific model of use of time and space, which offered ideal conditions for in-depth conversation, a model that is nowadays almost remote. Though we have wonderful historical documents, it is still not easy for us today to imagine the full meaning of being immersed in these extended dialogues, many of which lasted up to ten days. The gatherings, which included personalities with the highest scientific profile, were held in a place of great beauty.
Trying to reinstate this tradition today is for us a way to acknowledge the unique value of the role of thinking, and of its freedom, in the development of authentic knowledge: a role that can never be replaced by simple methods or techniques.