London Group Events 2008

18th December 2008

Mid-Winter Reflection

Using her personal experiences of rootedness and uprootedness, Sr. Eva invites us to reflect on the symbolism of light and darkness in our own life journeys. We come from a variety of different faith roots, but we share a deep longing for peace in our families and in the world at large. Eva maintains that this is not merely a seasonal wish, but a deep rooted desire which can transform our darkest fears. Reflecting on her life as a Jewish child in Nazi Germany, a refugee in this country, an adolescent struggling with the impact of light and darkness in our lives, she ponders on the wonder of our being. She still marvels from time to time how she came to enter a religious congregation!

Drawing on some of her own and other people’s life experiences, she will reflect on the symbolism of light and darkness, hoping that this will evoke echoes of each one’s own unique journey.

18 November 2008

Shanida Nataraja: The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation

What goes on in the brain when we meditate? Are we biologically programmed to need religious and mystical experiences? Can the benefits of meditation be measured? In this talk, Dr Shanida Nataraja explores the extraordinary research that shows practices such as meditation, tai chi and yoga are not only helpful in reducing stress; they may actually be crucial for good health and optimal brain functioning. From the effects of meditation on blood pressure and depression to the latest insights from brain imaging studies, this talk will reveal the scientific evidence that proves meditative practices should be at the very heart of our everyday lives.

Dr Shanida Nataraja has a PhD in Neurophysiology from University College London. For her PhD thesis, Shanida investigated the brain processes underlying learning and memory, and continued in this field of research for a further two years, as a post-doctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. About eight years ago, Shanida embarked on a career in scientific communications. She is currently Scientific Director at a medical education agency where she produces a wide range of different materials, for both doctors, nurses, and patients. Shanida regularly meditates, and has received basic instruction in tai chi, chi gung, and iyengar yoga.

21 October 2008

Usama Hassan: God, Science and the Koran

This talk will cover the following themes from a Muslim mystical perspective: responses to some modern scientific arguments against God from a Muslim perspective; the unity of knowledge implied in the Unity of God; the world as a manifestation of the Names of God, with the names of Beauty and Precision reflected in the laws of science; the theory of evolution and the breathing of the Spirit of Godinto humanity.

Dr. Usama Hasan is currently Senior Lecturer in Computing Science at Middlesex University, Planetarium Lecturer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and an imam at Tawhid Mosque in London. He holds MA, MSc and PhD degrees from the universities of Cambridge and London, and is a certified transmitter of the sacred texts of Islam, the Koran and Hadith. He lives in London with his wife and four children.

9th September 2008

David Bell: Humanity and Divinity in John’s Gospel: an exploration of ways of knowing, being, and healing in the Logos theology

Knowledge of God has been eclipsed by scientific progress for a couple of centuries. Yet there is a widespread yearning to live more simply, experience life more fully, and rediscover a spirituality that makes sense for our times. The Logos theology of John’s Gospel offers a path forward, moving first the heart from the shadows and then the mind.

Rev Dr David Bell is Director of Ministry Development Programmes for the Methodist Church of New Zealand. He believes that the open-minded SMN approach to the science-spirituality interface is of great value and actively promotes it within church life.

14th August 2008

Philip Frances: What is Red in the Science of Goethe?

Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), as well as being an outstanding poet and playwright, also developed a methodology about how one could constructively engage with the world of experience. His participatory approach differs from the immediate prescription of things one can read from a common science book, in requiring a commitment of the whole being. Goethe invites us to experience the colour at the frontier of dark and light and transformation where unity meets difference. As Rudolf Steiner describes:

Modern natural science sees darkness as a complete nothingness. According to this view, the light which streams into a dark space has no resistance from the darkness to overcome. Goethe pictures to himself that light and darkness relate to each other like the north and south pole of a magnet. The darkness can weaken the light in its working power. Conversely, the light can limit the energy of the darkness. In both cases color arises.[i]

Goethe contrasts the world of common science which seeks to reduce the world to a series of laws, with commitment to a world of experience which has to be actively chosen. His Theory of Colours (1810) provides a complete platform from which to view modern science and contemporary issues in society and spirituality, by suggesting the intuitive leap to the wholeness of our own place between darkness and light.

Philip Franses, mathematician and computer project initiator, came into contact with Goethean Science at Schumacher College, during an MSc in Holistic Science. He has studied with Brian Goodwin, Margaret Colquhoun (also at Pishwanton) and Henri Bortoft . He gives workshops in Goethean Science, especially in its relevance to the healing of the division between science and spirituality.

17th July 2008

Edi Bilimoria: Beethoven and the A-Lonely Triumph over Spiritual Suffering

‘Kill out all ambition, but live like one ambitious.’ This famous saying from the mystical verses from Light on the Path encapsulates Beethoven whole approach to his great Art. This lecture will show how Beethoven sacrificed every personal necessity to the cause of his Art and that his inspiration drew directly from the highest fountain of religious feeling, philosophical insights and spiritual wisdom. His personal trials and tribulations were the stepping stones to his ultimate triumph over adversity, his mission in life and his destiny were fused. He scaled the lofty heights alone.

Edi D. Bilimoria (DPHIL, FIMECHE, CENG) works as a Consultant Engineer for the transport, petrochemical, construction and oil and gas industries. He has been Project Manager and Head of Design and Safety for major projects such as the Channel Tunnel, London Underground systems , offshore and petrochemical installations. He is a keen musician and pianist, an international lecturer for the Theosophical Society and an active participator and lecturer for The Scientific & Medical Network. Edi is the author of The Snake and the Rope – Problems in Western Science Resolved by Occult Science.

23rd June 2008

Max Payne: Sri Aurobindo – A prophet for the 21st Century?

Aurobindo was one of the leading members of the Hindu Renaissance. As a child he was sent by his parents to be educated in England. He was a brilliant scholar and won scholarships to St Paul’s school and Cambridge but when he returned to India he became a political activist and freedom fighter and was brought up for trial before one of his fellow Cambridge students, now a judge. He was acquitted but brought to trial again and imprisoned. However in jail he experienced an overwhelming spiritual vision and from then on pursued the path of yoga and enlightenment. He fled to the French enclave of Pondicherry and there founded his ashram dedicated to the Integral Yoga.

The core of his teaching was that mankind is part of a vast cosmic system whereby the ultimate eternal Divine descends into creative existence and that existence returns to its source by a vast process of evolution. Teilhard de Chardin proposed a similar vision, though these exact contemporaries never knew each others’ evolutionary scheme. However, while Teilhard’s sees the process in terrestrial terms, Aurobindo’s vision was cosmic.

The role of the Integral Yoga is to lift human consciousness to the level of Supermind. Aurobindo was strongly influenced by the Bhagavad Gita which he first read in English translation (like Gandhi). Enlightenment comes through a serene dedicated action steering a middle path between the denial of the materialist and the refusal of the ascetic. His philosophy has influenced many 20th century thinkers seeking to unite science and religion.

MAX GASCOYNE PAYNE is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy ( rtd.) Sheffield Hallam University. Early recruit to the SMN, founder member of the Council, Trustee of SMN and former chairman of Trustees. Has lifelong interest in the intersection of science and religion, and is a frequent contributor to Network and The Christian Parapsychologist. Coordinator of the Yorkshire Group of the SMN.

13th May 2008

Jane Clark: Reason and Heart in the Islamic Mystical Tradition

Both European and Islamic culture were highly influenced by Aristotle’s vision of reason as the highest of the human faculties, and the idea that fulfilment of our human potential involves developing it to its highest degree. This is still a ruling principle in western thought, but within Islam the idea arose that the intellect has limitations, and that there is a higher faculty ‘ the heart ‘ which produces a different, more balanced and complete level of fulfilment. This talk will explore the concept of the heart and suggest that it has great relevance for science and our situation in the world today.

Jane Clark is a teacher and researcher who has been studying the ideas of Ibn ‘Arabi and his followers in the Islamic mystical tradition for more than thirty years. Originally trained in the sciences, she has a long standing interest in alternative scientific paradigms and the relevance of the mystical traditions for understanding our contemporary situation. She was the editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies and, with Willis Harman, New Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science and has written and lectured widely on the work of Ibn ‘Arabi.

24th April 2008

Cherry Gilchrist: Circling the White Stone: The Russian Magical World

In southern Siberia, local people today still walk in a circle round a solitary ‘White Stone’ as they have done for thousands of years, for healing and good fortune. This stone symbolises the roots of the Russian tradition, its origins in shamanism, and in the myth of the World Tree that sustains all life. Current day Russian folk traditions, and magical practices have grown from this core belief, and are enlivened with nature spirits and fabulous fairy tales, which offer a kind of folk ecology, a relationship with this wild and varied landscape. Cherry Gilchrist, who has visited Russia over 50 times, shows how this magical spirit pervades much of Russian culture even today, and recounts some of her own experiences while researching there. The talk is based on her new book, The Soul of Russia: Magical Traditions in an Enchanted Landscape, which will be available for purchase on the night.

Cherry Gilchrist has always been fascinated by folklore, magic and mythology. This led her to research English folk song while still in her teens, to study the Western hermetic tradition, and more recently, to research the Russian tradition while travelling there to buy folk art. She is an author and a lecturer, and has written over twenty books, including Explore Alchemy, Stories from the Silk Road, Russian Lacquer Miniatures, and Divination.

6th March 2008

Paul Devereaux: The Sounds of Sacred Places

This rich and unique audio-visual presentation will cover the relatively new study area now called ‘archaeoacoustics’ in which archaeologists are beginning to listen to archaeological sites as well as looking at and excavating them. It is part of a broader movement known as ‘sensory archaeology’. The range of approaches to listening to sacred places, from natural in situ sounds to electronic acoustic investigation, will be covered and worldwide examples given. In the process, Paul will touch on the way the ancient use of site acoustics could affect consciousness. He has recently been working on Malta and (currently) in Wales, and hopes to be able to add brief news of that work in this up-to-date review of the sounds of past time…

Paul Devereux is a founding co-editor of the new peer-review journal, TIME & MIND – The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, and is currently a research fellow at the Royal College of Art engaged in an audio-visual mapping project of the source area of the Stonehenge bluestones in Wales. He is the archaeology columnist for Fortean Times, author of some 26 books and many magazine articles and peer-review papers, and lectures internationally.

TIME & MIND – The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture

21 February 2008

Peter Dewey: The Mysticism of the Abrahamic Story – the hidden teaching

In this lecture, we shall look at the mysticism in Judaism through exploring the esoteric meanings in the stories of Adam and Eve; Cain and Able; Abraham and Sara and the Covenant; the meaning of numbers; the story of Hagar and the birth of Isaac, the origins of Islam; the birth of Isaac and his sacrifice; Jacob and Esau and the deceit of the inheritance. There will be space for discussion and for questions as the talk progresses.

Peter Dewey is an Anglican priest and a former school chaplain and religious studies teacher. He has been involved in interfaith dialogue and activities most of his life. He enjoys being a student of the mystical path and a lecturer in esoteric studies and a teacher of meditation. Peter was also a senior tutor of the Interfaith Seminary for the training of Interfaith ministers and is currently a trustee of it.

22 January 2008

Mike King: Secularism: The Hidden Origins of Disbelief – a book launch

Spirituality is a difficult subject in the modern world. Everywhere, from popular media to the university, from the bookshelf to the dinner table, religions are derided or marginalised and public figures, such as Richard Dawkins, set upon anyone who admits to a belief in God. The secular mind appears to be shaped by the Enlightenment legacy of Marx, Darwin and Freud, where disbelief has arisen from the twin impact of the rise of scientific rationalism and the revulsion against religious cruelty.

In his book Secularism, Mike King shows that the earlier Enlightenment thinkers who initiated these arguments had no intention to eradicate religion, but to improve it. Instead, a third and hidden factor is presented as the key to the origins of Western disbelief: the rise of a non-devotional spiritual impulse, best understood in Eastern terms. Its failure to be accepted, either by mainstream religion or the secular world, led to the first expressions of atheism. An uneasy dΓ©tente then developed between secular culture and faith tradition, which coexisted in a ‘mutual ignorance pact’ until the rude awakening of 9/11.

King engages with a wide range of thinkers, including Pythagoras, Plotinus, Spinoza, Darwin and Freud, and, most importantly, incorporates detailed studies of a variety of spiritual leaders and Eastern thinkers, providing a perspective that readers are unlikely to have encountered before while looking for the origins of the secular mind. A compelling case is made that the current antagonism between religion and science has no basis: the ‘God’ put forward on one side is too narrow a historical conception, and the science put forward on the other side is too limited to account for the variety of spiritual impulse.

— The first of two volumes on this fascinating and timely subject.
— A startling critique of western culture and its dismissal of ‘faith’.
— A thought-provoking and insightful read for academic and lay person alike.

Dr Mike King is Reader at London Metropolitan University. He serves as Director for the Scientific and Medical Network and sits on the Steering Group for the Wrekin Trust Forum, which promotes spiritual learning on all levels within society.