14th November 2006
Chris Nunn: Who has free will? How does it work?
For a quarter of a millennium, scientific thinking has suggested that our feeling of free will is illusory. I argue that such thinking is wrong because based upon a wrong metaphor. Many suppose we are machine-like, while in fact we are more story-like. Starting from two neuro-scientific ‘axioms’, I show how the development of narratives embodied in memory allows us a degree of freedom from both neural determinism and the even tighter coils of social determinism. But the ‘I’ who possesses this freedom is not quite the same as the ‘I’ whom we experience from moment to moment.
Dr. Chris Nunn is a retired psychiatrist who has worked in a variety of clinical and research settings, most recently affiliated to Southampton University Medical School. His main research interests were in mind/body relationships and manic-depressive illness.
Currently, he is an assistant editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. Apart from contributions to the technical, psychiatric literature he has published peer reviewed and other papers relevant to the ‘consciousness’ field and two books, namely:-Awareness: what it is, what it does Routledge (1996) and De la Mettrie’s Ghost: the story of decisions Palgrave MacMillan (2005)
19th October 2006
Guy Claxton: The Wayward Mind
Societies have always struggled to explain the wayward hinterlands of human experience – dreams, possession, madness, creativity, sixth sense, holiness… Throughout history, three kinds of stories have vied for supremacy, and all are still very much alive. They are the supernatural, the psychological, and the neurological. Is it the gods, the unconscious, or the brain what done it? Drawing on his latest book The Wayward Mind, Guy Claxton traces these accounts, and asks: has our understanding of the brain now eliminated the need for the other two?
Guy Claxton is Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Bristol. His earlier books include the best-selling Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind and Noises from the Darkroom. He holds degrees from Cambridge and Oxford, and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.
19th September 2006
Alister McGrath: The Twilight of Atheism? Reflections on the Future of Religion and its Alternatives
The lecture will explore the changing fortunes of atheism in the west since about 1750, and ask what its future might be. Particular attention will be paid to the highly influential critique of religion found in Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Marx. The current status of the movement will be examined by engaging with the religious views of Richard Dawkins, and the somewhat severe criticisms that he directs against religion in general. The lecture will deal with the social, cultural and intellectual factors that have shaped the western response to atheism in the last two centuries, and note how the changes in these parameters have significant implications for the future. In particular, the lecture will consider how atheism is linked with the rise of the Enlightenment, and move on to explore the implications of the rise of postmodernity for the movement. Finally, the implications of the changing fortunes of atheism for religious belief in the United Kingdom will be considerd. As Alister McGrath is himself a former atheist, he brings insights into the appeal of this worldview, as well as some of its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Prof. Alister McGrath, MA, DPhil, DD, FRSA is currently Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. He studied natural sciences at Oxford, and gained his DPhil while working in the research laboratories of Professor Sir George Radda. A former atheist, he has published the only book-length study to date of Dawkins’ views on this matter: Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life Blackwell Publishers (2004).
15th August 2006
Andrew Burniston: To Dwell in the Space of the Heart
When Sri Ramana Maharshi was asked what the mind was, he replied, ‘The mind is just a bundle of thoughts. Stop thinking and then show me where the mind is’. Such a radical via negativa appears to eliminate psyche, imagination and indeed the very premises of Jung
s psychology. No wonder Jung did not pay a visit to the Maharshis ashram when he was touring India. Sri Ramana
s method of Self Enquiry (Atma Vichara) brings about the cessation of all thoughts. But there is a second soteriological doctrine scattered throughout the teachings: the science of the Heart. When the pieces are assembled this doctrine shows some unexpected parallels with the alchemical meditation of Gerhard Dorn, a 16th century Paracelsian physician. Jung began his dialogue with Dorn in the 1930s and it culminated 20 years later in Ch.VI of Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW.14), his last major piece of writing. Jung even took Dorns work with him on the voyage to India. One wonders what would have happened if Jung had been open to dialogue with Sri Ramana. In my talk I will suggest that the science of the Heart does not contradict individuation but takes it to a new level. Far from ending in the extinction of ego consciousness, this method leads the union of the whole man with the Unus Mundus, the archetypal foundation of the world.
Andrew Burniston is a phenomenologist of religion. For the last 30 years his studies have been focused on Jung and his fellow Eranos scholars. He has published in such journals as Spring, Harvest and Alexandria and is currently running a Jung course in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford.
18th July 2006
David Peat: Eros in Physics
What is the role of eros in physics? The talk will take as examples the life and work of Wolfgang Pauli, both as a physicist and a researcher into the nature of the psyche, as well as references to David Bohm. It will explore Jung`s notion that Eros must be present to balance Logos. Eros was also present in the Great Work of alchemy. But what is the role of Eros in the world of contemporary physics?
Dr. David Peat worked for many years as a theoretical physicist in Canada. He became a friend and colleague of David Bohm and has organized dialogue circles between artists and scientists and between Native American Elders and Scientists. In 1996 he moved to the medieval village of Pari where he opened the Pari Center for New Learning (www.paricenter.com). His most recent book is Pathways of Chance that can be ordered fromwww.paripublishing.com.
27th June 2006
Christian de Quincey: Experience Beyond Belief: Cultivating the Four Gifts of Knowing
In these confused and troubled times, we need a deeper felt sense of relationship’not just with our fellow humans, but with all sentient beings.
Drawing on personal experience and the wisdom of indigenous cultures, as well as insights from modern science and philosophy, Dr. de Quincey explores the deep roots of consciousness in relationship. He shows how a full understanding of consciousness involves the Scientist
s Gift of the senses, the Philosophers Gift of reason, the Shaman
s Gift of feeling, and the Mystics Gift of
sacred silence. Dr. de Quincey invites us to feel our profound interconnectedness, and shows how we can tap into the embodied wisdom of other animals, plants, planet, and cosmos. On the journey toward transformation, wisdom is beyond belief.
Christian de Quincey, Ph.D., is an award-winning author and international speaker on consciousness, cosmology, and spirituality. His books include Radical Nature and Radical Knowing. He teaches consciousness studies at John F. Kennedy University and The Graduate Institute.
16th May 2006
Gail Ferguson: Cracking the Intuition Code
Most agree that modern man must curb the impulsion to ‘do and have it all’ before he causes existing natural systems to crumble and our fledgling globalization to falter. Pressure is building. How can we help ourselves? Enter, human intuition.
Most also agree that as learning systems go, intuition is unreliable, thus powerless, to serve our present-day needs. Evidence says this is woefully inaccurate; the threat of not recognizing intuition’s merits and using it methodically to choose direction for our actions is out-and-out reckless.
Psychologist and author, Gail Ferguson, describes intuition as an ancient tool that we must sharpen for twenty-first century use. Author of Cracking the Intuition Code (Contemporary Books, 1999), Gail specializes in the subject of intuition within the field of parapsychology. She holds a BS in psychology from Tufts University and an MA in psychology from the University of Redlands in CA. While her headquarters, SetPoint Associates, is based in Seattle, Washington, Gail practices worldwide as teacher, investigator and intuitive consultant, or psychic practitioner.
18th April 2006
Angus Jenkinson: The Spirit of the Organisation
So what is an organisation? Billions of people belong to, live or work in, and shop from millions of organisations. Organisations are not unique to the human world, but human organisations reflect the uniqueness of human beings. And each is unique, like the human being. Coco Chanel wrote in a letter to a friend just a century ago: ‘Is No.5 a person?’
Observation of ‘organisation’ reveals both tangible and intangible aspects (such as physical assets and working policies/culture) as well as intermediate aspects such as processes. But each organisation also has a unique identity in the way that a species or person has. This makes the French French and IBM different to Hewlett-Packard. This unique identity, the spirit, muse, character or brand, shapes and is shaped by the tangible and intangible.
From the traditional notion of ‘folk spirit’ to the magical tradition of the ‘egregore’ and now to the incantation of ‘the brand’, humans have reflected on the relationship between their shared community of purpose and an ideal entity with whom they interact and perhaps serve. How should we understand this? How does phenomenal experience cast light on an Aristotelian/Platonic perception of the issue? What is the notion of ‘health’ when applied to an organisation? I will ask questions and pose some possible answers.
Prof Angus Jenkinson became chief executive of a leading technology firm in the 1980s before starting his own consulting company. In 2001 he was given the Chair of Integrated Marketing and Luton Business School. Integrated marketing, of which he is considered a leading authority, involves issues of wholeness, identity and purpose, and the meaning of organisations to customer and other stakeholder communities. His additional interests and skills are highly diverse. He is for example an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, an author of From Stress to Serenity. and has practised anthroposophy as a path of knowledge since 1974 (viz. Rudolf Steiner).
21st March 2006
Beata Bishop: Lilith Revisited – Female Rebellion and the Search for Consciousness
Beautiful, seductive, wild and murderous, Adam`s rebellious first wife is the stuff of male nightmares in the Hebrew tradition, and in various disguises has remained so ever since. Lilith is the irresistible demon who flies through the night on dark wings, seduces men who sleep alone, steals and kills babies and remains fiercely independent. But on a less basic level, freed from the projections of men scared of their own sexuality, Lilith represents something different: a positive aspect of the feminine principle that the monotheistic religions, with their exclusively male God-image, have condemned and banished. That act of denial destroyed the cosmic balance of the masculine and feminine principles, the wholeness of Yin and Yang, and determined the cultural, moral and ethical development of the Western world, with consequences that are only too obvious today.
From a psychological point of view, the myth of Lilith in conjunction with the first three chapters of Genesis contains some fascinating contradictions; it also shows that in some critical situations it was the woman, not the man, who took the initiative. Not only was it Lilith who took the hazardous decision to leave the Garden of Eden – Adam had to be forcibly removed – but the first act of Eve, created to be Adam`s obedient helpmeet, was to break the rules and eat the forbidden fruit; in other words, she chose consciousness….
In the midst of the present global crisis, it`s time to revisit the decisive myths of our past and discover what they have to teach us.
Beata Bishop is a writer and psychotherapist working along Jungian and Transpersonal lines. She enjoyed a cosmopolitan education which left her quadrilingual, with an insatiable appetite for travel. Having read English and history of art, she spent the early part of her professional life in journalism and broadcasting, writing radio features for BBC World Service for 12 years. Concurrently she trained in counselling and psychotherapy and underwent Jungian analysis. After a bout of metastasized cancer and recovery on a nutrition-based alternative therapy twenty-two years ago, she has been working in private practice in West London. Her book, A Time to Heal, is in its fourth English edition and has been translated into seven languages.
9th February 2006
Scilla Elworthy: Hearts and Minds: towards an understanding of terrorism
Terrorism and political violence have assumed a new profile in politics around the world. Achieving peace and security now has to involve strategies for preventing and reducing the use of terror to pursue political and territorial conflicts. New thinking and new approaches are needed. We need to address the factors that fuel cycles of violence and influence the use of terror over time, including the emotional and psychological effects of violence and humiliation, factors often missing from our traditional approaches to counter-terrorism, and especially the ‘war on terror’.
To address this broader range of factors requires a different repertoire of methods to prevent conflict, strengthen human security and interrupt the cycles of violence through which terrorism and repression flourish. Much more is known about how to reduce and prevent violence than our current public debate about terrorism acknowledges. A careful analysis of the root causes of political violence reveals the persistent influence of powerlessness, exclusion, trauma and humiliation. If it is to be applied effectively, this knowledge should inform and influence the development of new security doctrines based on principles of non-violence, neutral third parties, mutual respect and dialogue. Dr. Scilla Elworthy will propose a set of practical steps that could and should be taken in a wide range of conflict situations, outlining practical actions that have been successful elsewhere and could be used with positive effect in Iraq, Israel’Palestine and more widely.
Scilla Elworthy founded the Oxford Research Group in 1982 and was Executive Director until December 2003. The Group established a reputation for independent research into military decision-making, resulting in its ability to organise meetings between the most senior policy-makers and their critics, in all the nuclear nations including China. It is for this work that she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2003 and has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. She then founded Peace Direct, which grew out of O.R.G.’s conflict prevention work, became an independent NGO with charitable status during 2004, and was named ‘Best New Charity’ at the Charity Awards 2005. For 25 years she has specialised in the role of women in peace research and peace-building, and is adviser on conflict resolution to the first ladies of several Middle Eastern nations.
19th January 2006
Ian Rankin: Polar Shift – a very real possibility
This talk follows Ian Rankin’s book, Doomsday Just Ahead, which gives evidence of catastrophic changes to the Earth. Pole Shift has occurred irregularly but often in the past, and is shortly due once more. Sudden death of the Siberian mammoths, hugely increased volcanic activity, altered sea levels, and palaeo-magnetic reversals, all point to changed polar positions. And the corollary ‘ there never was an ice age, only changes in the location of the arctic and antarctic regions.
He looks at a new Non-Newtonian theory of the solar system which explains these changes. It also explains the motions of the planetary bodies
Sir Ian Rankin’s varied life has seen him follow several careers. Educated at Eton College and Christ Church Oxford, after military service with the Scots Guards, he went first into advertising, following which he became an industrialist with a number of varied interests. One of those ‘ the exploration for oil ‘ has led him into the fringes of geology, meteorology, vulcanology and a host of other earth sciences including an understanding of the solar system. This led to the publication of ‘Doomsday Just Ahead’ in 2004.