22nd December 2009
Fire for the Heart : a selection of tales for the winters hearth – wisdom humour love – laced with the sublime poetry of Rumi
DUNCAN MACKINTOSH is an actor, storyteller, director, teacher, and has been researching the dynamic mystery of ‘Presence’ for many years. Born in South Africa, he trained in the arts of speech and drama from the esoteric perspective provided by Rudolf Steiner. He was co-founder of the Rose Theatre Co. performing Shakespeare, and has also been storytelling and reciting poetry for many years. He has taught speech, drama and storytelling widely, including at Emerson College and Artemis School of Speech and Drama, Sussex UK. He has given storytelling and poetry performances worldwide, with particular focus on Rumi, complemented by a focus on ‘presence’ and the deepening contact with who we truly are. Rumi has been an ever-renewing inspiration and unfailing guide in his life, as he has pursued his own enquiry and deepening in the Mystery of Being.
20th November 2009
Leroy Little Bear: Blackfoot Worldview and Its Quantum Implications
Conceptualization of what ‘reality’ is has been monopolized by the ‘Western World’ because it has written everything down or formulated it mathematically. In other words, if something is not written down or mathematically formulated it is usually not taken seriously. Consequently, Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing have been pushed aside as not contributing much to human knowledge. Blackfoot ways of knowing and the knowledge that manifests there from have been victims of such classification and categorization by Western academia. Only within the very recent past have some scholars begun to look at ways of knowing other than the Western ways of knowing. Scholars are just beginning to uncover Indigenous ways of knowing that may have ways of viewing ‘reality’ that might possibly assist in answering questions that have ‘stumped’ Western science. For instance, the Blackfoot Thought World is based on constant flux, energy waves, everything being animate, everything being related, existence requiring renewal, and space/place orientation. The Blackfoot language compliments the Blackfoot Thought World by being action and process oriented. Consequently, stories about ‘reality’ from a Blackfoot perspective are very different from the stories told by the Western World. The Blackfoot Worldview is another ‘window’ through which to look out at ‘reality’. We should not limit ourselves to only one way of looking at ‘reality’, which up to now has been the approach by Western academia.
Prof. Leroy Little Bear is a member of a member of the Blood tribe of the BlackfootConfederacy. He founded the Native American Studies Department at the University of Lethbridge and was Chair for 21 years before becoming founding Director of Harvard University’s Native American Program. He has written several books on Native self- government and Native Justice. Leroy also organized the first of a series of dialogue circles for Native American Elders and Western Scientists. He also had a number of discussions with David Bohm on language and world views.
10th November 2009
Iain McGilchrist: The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
Why is the brain divided at all? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been puzzled over for centuries. Iain McGilchrist draws on a vast body of recent brain research to reveal that the difference is profound ‘ not just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world. The left hemisphere is detail-oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility and generosity. He goes on to look at the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists, from the ancient world to the present day. He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequence.
Dr. Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls’ College, Oxford, where he studied literature and philosophy, before training in medicine. He is a former Consultant and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital, and has taken part in neuroimaging research into brain asymmetry. He now works privately as a Consultant Psychiatrist in London. The talk relates to his new book examining the role of brain asymmetry in the evolution of Western culture
13th October 2009
Marilyn Monk: Science and Imagination
In this paper I will present the scientific evidence for the power of our imagination and belief to bring about profound changes in our biology.
First, I will briefly present scientific evidence at the sociological, psychological, neurological and physiological levels for the power of our imagination in the creation of health and wellbeing, or dis-ease and stress, in our lives. Our imagination mirrors reality in triggering neurological and physiological changes in our cells and our bodies.
Then I will proceed to the evidence at the level of molecular biology and development to present some of my own work on genome programming ‘ that is the regulation of gene activity or gene silencing by epigenetic modifications of the gene DNA. The genome is the hardware ‘ the genes we inherit; the epigenome is the software – the programming of the genome to determine the ON/OFF state of our genes.
Our imagination governing our life potential (life view), and future health and well being, is itself programmed at the molecular level of gene function by the way we experience our environment. A large part of this programming occurs in early childhood as the newborn adapts to fit the surrounding physical, nutritional and psychological environment. But programming and deprogramming will continue throughout life ‘ for example in the epigenetic origins of cancer and possibly its remission.
Whereas mutations affecting gene expression are irreversible, epigenetic modifications affecting inherited patterns of gene expression may be reversed, though rarely. This raises the most important question as to whether the molecular programmes already established and inherited in our genes may be consciously reversed by our imagination and beliefs.
Professor Marilyn Monk is UCL Emeritus Professor of Molecular Embryology at the Institute of Child Health researching the regulation of gene expression in development and cancer, and the early diagnosis of genetic disease. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Monash University and Honorary Professor at University of Melbourne. In addition to her scientific career, Marilyn is an Alexander Technique Teacher, Journey Practitioner and Psychosynthesis Counsellor.
17 September 2009
Jennifer Kavanagh: The World is our Cloister: the modern religious life
There is a popular misconception that the dedicated religious life is conducted only behind the walls of a convent or monastery. But people of all faiths, and those who do not feel a need for labels, are trying to live a devotional life in the world, to live in a Spirit-led way. Jennifer Kavanagh discusses how she and the people she has talked to across the faiths find a balance between engagement in the world and withdrawal, a life of action and one of contemplation; how to be in the world but not of it.
An underlying theme is the mystical experience at the heart of all religion. Beyond the barriers of belief and practice lies the stark and simple reality of relating to God: ‘the practice of the presence of God’.
Jennifer Kavanagh is a Quaker and former literary agent. She now works in the fields of prison reform, conflict resolution and microcredit. Writing, talking and broadcasting have become increasingly important in her life of faith. She is working on her third book.
11 August 2009
Athar Awar: Medicine and Modernity: from Botticelli to Botulus.
In Western Europe and North America, around 10% of gross domestic product is spent on medicine. This medicine seems to work: over the last 150 years, our scientific knowledge of the body has vastly increased. But, worldwide, people may be sicker than ever. Why? Athar Yawar explores how we define, practise, and limit medicine. He also asks: amid financial and ecological crunches, what is the future of medicine, and the people who take it?
Dr. Athar Yawar was a senior editor for The Lancet. His essays on culture, philosophy, and medicine have been published in The Lancet and the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, reprinted elsewhere, and pirated. He trained as a psychiatrist in London, and has worked for several years with survivors of torture.
16th July 2009
Mike King: Postsecularism: The Hidden Challenge to Extremism
Mike King will present a summary of his most recent book, published in March by James Clarke and Co. In Postsecularism, the follow-up to his acclaimed Secularism, Mike King posits that out of the conflict between socially dominant secular thinkers and the embattled ‘new defenders of faith’ a third approach arises which is neither a return to pre-Enlightenment beliefs nor a continued hegemony of the secular. King identifies this as the postsecular. It retains critical modes of thought and at the same time returns in all seriousness to questions of the spirit. The postsecular provides a framework within which to move beyond religious and atheist extremism.
Drawing on a wide range of contemporary thinkers from Dawkins to Anthony Flew, from Christopher Hitchens to Alister McGrath, from across the spiritual spectrum, King identifies a new mode of thought, exploring its relevance to everything from physics to the arts, postmodernism, and feminism. What emerges is a thoughtful and persuasive discussion of the route to reconciliation between the combative worlds of the religious and the secular.
Dr Mike King is Visiting Research Fellow at London Metropolitan University. He is the author of over fifty papers and three books spanning the fields of art, science and the spiritual, and is a former Director of the Scientific and Medical Network.
11th June 2009
Christopher Riley: The Spiritual Gift of Apollo
Between 1968 and 1972 twenty-four American astronauts travelled to the Moon. They remain the only human beings in history to have visited another world. Aside from the obvious and well documented scientific and technological breakthroughs that Apollo brought, many of the lunar explorers returned with a new spiritual perspective on life.
The experience of being far enough away from the Earth to cover it with your thumb changed the way they saw the place of humanity in the cosmos. Edgar Mitchell, commander of Apollo 14, felt moved enough to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences and devoted much of the rest of his life to the study of consciousness. Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, returned with a feeling that there was just to much purpose and too much logic for all this. Looking back at the blue marble of Earth suspended in the blackest of black skies he felt that there had to be a creator who stands above the religions that we have created to govern our lives.
In a wide ranging exploration of the meaning of the Moon landings, and drawing on clips from his 2007 film In the Shadow of the Moon, science writer and documentary film maker Dr Christopher Riley explores the spiritual gifts of Apollo for this 40th anniversary year.
Chris is a writer, broadcaster and film maker and has worked in the field of public engagement in science for over fifteen years. He gained his doctorate from Imperial College, University of London in 1995 and began reporting for the BBC Radio Science unit the same year. He had a presence in various capacities in all major BBC astronomy programs ever since.
Chris was a founding scientist of the UK National Science Line and is a consultant to theCentre for Science Education, the Ideas Foundation and the innovative education communications company GovEd. He is a guest lecturer on the Science CommunicationMSc, at Imperial College, University of London and a senior visiting fellow at the Department of Media Production of the University of Lincoln. He lectured at the bi-annual UK Space School of University of Leicester between 2000 and 2005 when he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of his endeavours in public engagement in astronomy. Behind the camera at the BBC produced and directed over 50 films for the flagship science and technology show Tomorrows World.
Chris is currently writing a book for the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 and a series of articles for BBC News online.
During his career he has flown at twice the speed of sound on Concorde, floated weightless for 30 minutes on board both Russian and European Space Agency parabolic flights and has ridden on two of NASAs astrobiology missions chasing the Leonid meteor showers around the world for BBC News.
6th June 2009
Rupert Sheldrake: Understanding Consciousness and Spiritual Experience
A day conference organised by the Alister Hardy Soc and the SMN London Groups
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: The Extended Mind, Morphic Resonance and Spiritual Experience
Our minds are much more extensive than our brains, both in space and time. Rupert Sheldrake will outline evidence that shows how interconnected we are with the world around us, with each other and with those who have gone before. He will show how the hypothesis of morphic resonance sheds new light on rituals and sacred places and will explore the idea that consciousness is not confined to beings with brains.
Rupert Sheldrake Ph.D is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and several books, including A New Science of Life (new edition, February 2008). His web site iswww.sheldrake.org.
Prof. Ursula King: Consciousness and Spirituality: A Mystery at the Heart of Cosmic Evolution
During the current Darwin bicentenary celebrations we hear almost daily about the great epic of the evolution of life, but not much about how this is animated by consciousness and spirit. Ever since Darwin published his controversial work, there has been a strong polarisation between thinkers of matter and thinkers of spirit; this debate still continues today and resonates strongly in the pugnacious rhetoric of the so-called new atheists. For some thinkers, like Teilhard de Chardin for example, the evolution of the cosmos is linked to a process of growing spiritualization fundamentally dependent on the mysterious phenomenon of consciousness. I want to show how these more inclusive ideas about evolution arise out of the closely interlinked scientific observations of both biosphere and noosphere, and how such a more integral interpretation does not only link up with the deepest insights of classical religious and philosophical traditions, but also has profound implications for a new evolutionary spirituality of personal and social transformation, only possible through a further awakening of the energies of love within thinking, evolving humanity.
Ursula King is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol. Her publications deal with gender and religion, the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and pluralistic approaches to spirituality. Her latest book is The Search for Spirituality. Our global quest for meaning and fulfilment.
Prof Chris French: The Evolution of Consciousness: Implications for Anomalistic Psychology
Anomalistic psychology aims to explain anomalous experiences in psychological terms. A number of these anomalous experiences potentially have profound implications for our understanding of the nature of consciousness, apparently providing evidence for post mortem survival following the death of the physical brain, and suggesting the possibility that the mind can in certain circumstances become separated from the brain in the living, implying a form of dualism. However, dualist approaches to the mind-body problem face a number of problems from a philosophical point of view, not the least of which is that raised by the theory of evolution. It will be argued that, even though we are some considerable distance from fully understanding the nature of consciousness, the dualist approach is unlikely to provide the answers. Recent claims from the research literature on near-death experiences, that NDEs cannot be explained in terms of conventional neuroscientific assumptions will be critically assessed in this context.
Chris French is a psychologist, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has written over a hundred scientific papers and chapters and frequently appears on radio and television offering a sceptical perspective on paranormal and related claims (www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/apru)
19th May 2009
Elisabet Sahtouris: Scientific Revolution or Evolution?–Conquest vs. Consortium as the Future of Science
Ever since Thomas Kuhns 1950s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions we have looked for the signs of a new paradigm emerging to replace the old in western science (the only science legitimating itself) and, indeed, we have identified it. In essence it shifts the picture of our universe from one in which consciousness is the late emerging product of a material universe to one that recognizes the universal primacy of consciousness. In this talk I will explore this model of scientific revolution as exemplifying the conquest mode of a new paradigm replacing the old, which my view of evolution biology makes obsolete, and propose an alternative that we considered in the 2008 Hokkaido Symposium on the Foundations of Science and which better fits my ideas on evolution as a maturation process from hostile competition to mature collaboration.
Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris is an internationally known American/Greek evolution biologist now living on Mallorca. She has taught at the Univ. of Massachusetts and MIT, was a UN consultant on indigenous peoples, is a member of the World Wisdom Council and organized the first Evolution of Science Symposium in Hokkaido, Japan, with a second symposium to be held in Kuala Lumpur this year. She presents to businesses, banks, governments, progressive business alliances and other international organizations on the maturation of humanity from competition to cooperation, as well as on what we can learn from nature to live better on a hotter planet.
Her website is
21 April 2009
Shakti Maira: Beauty: a Master Key for Sustainable Relationships
Consumerism and Global Capitalism have reshaped societal and culture systems (including the arts) around the world. A market-driven economic system has formed that values what can be priced, bought, sold or held as investment ‘ and seems to assume that happiness is primarily an economic issue and can be achieved through consumption and capital accumulation. Beauty and aesthetics have become misunderstood and largely obsolete in most cultural practices (including the fine arts) and in the design and discourse of all major social systems.
There is a small but vital, and growing, recognition of the need for a more relational understanding of life – that it is webbed, networked, interconnected, inter-related and interdependent; and for imagining and creating new ways of living that are more consistent with this understanding – ecologically aware, cooperative, sane, balanced and harmonious. Is it possible that beauty and aesthetics are an extremely significant, though overlooked or weakly articulated, part of this understanding and of the solutions sought, if not at their very heart? That beauty is a fundamental organizing principle in the ‘relational’ world?
The economic crisis that has swept the world may present a marvellous opportunity for some fundamental rethinking and to understand beauty, and how and why beauty is relevant in modern life, how it co-relates with happiness, and how aesthetics govern the very systems of life. That beauty may be as foundational to life as oxygen, proteins and micronutrients.
In this talk, it will be contended that rightly understood, beauty and its relational values of harmony, balance, proportionality and rhythm might be a veritable master key to solving a range of problems that stem, in part, from a profound confusion about beauty and its relational values. Beauty will be deconstructed and its relational essence will be posited in five axioms of relational aesthetics and in seven postulates of beauty. The talk will end with an introduction to The Beauty Dialogues: Exploring Patterns of Sustainable Relationships ‘ an initiative to revive beauty and relational aesthetics around the world.
In 2006, Shakti Maira’s book Towards Ananda: Rethinking Indian Art and Aesthetics was published by Penguin/Viking. He has for many years written about art, aesthetics and education for magazines and newspapers, and has formulated the ‘Asian Vision of Arts in Education: Learning through the Arts’ for UNESCO. His article, A Master Key, is published in Resurgence (March/April 2009).
Shakti Maira trained as an economist and business manager and worked in multinational banks and corporations in the U.S. and in India, including the World Bank, and has simultaneously been a professional artist with 24 one-person shows around the world. For more information, visit
17th March 2009
Martin Redfern: Reporting Climate Change: Reflections in the Ice
Antarctica is the only continent that is not a natural home to humans. Indeed, apart from creatures that take their nourishment from the sea, such as whales, seals and penguins, the largest natural inhabitants are no more than a millimetre tall.
Antarctica is a continent isolated in deep freeze by ocean and air currents. Ninety percent of the planet’s ice is here, comprising 70% all the fresh water. But parts of Antarctica are warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. Glaciers are accelerating, threatening a worldwide sea level rise of several metres.
Martin Redfern is Senior Producer, BBC Radio Science Unit and SMN Board member. He is one of a group of very few journalists to have been able to visit the white continent and join scientists on HMS Endurance for their trips ashore to study this beautiful yet alien world. With the help of photos, sounds and film clips, he will share highlights of his journey and comment on the scientific and experiential implications of what he saw.
26th February 2009
William Morris: Weaving Middle East Peace
William Morris will discuss the Middle East Peace Process, and share some of the insights he has gained in conversations with players from across the spectrum, including Hamas in Gaza (he travels to Gaza regularly) and with key opinion formers in Israel. In particular he will discuss options for a continued cease-fire with Gaza, prospects for Palestinian / Palestinian peace – and whether Israel / Palestine peace is a long term (over the next decade) rather than short term prospect.
William will also brief members on the wider Middle East situation, discussing attitudes he has encountered in recent visits to Iraq and Syria. He will focus on religious allegiances and their impact on the politics of an increasingly polarised and fragmented region. In conclusion he will examine the impact of major scientific advances on the balance of power in the region including the internet and the nuclear bomb and the corresponding impact of the emergence of the theocratic Iranian state as a Mid East superpower.
Formerly a journalist and publisher, William Morris is an expert on Arab Affairs with close family connections with the Arab world stretching back more than 30 years. At one time William Morris edited ‘Voice’, a periodical on Arab Affairs. He has worked closely with the governments of many Middle Eastern countries.
He is the Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation, an organization which produces policy papers for submission to governments. Most NCF work is second track and behind the scenes. Examples are wide ranging. For instance the NCF has run missions into Iraq on behalf of the UK Minister of State for Foreign Affairs prior to the Iraq war, to examine prospects for war avoidance. It established the new International Media Council (since incorporated into the International Council for Press and Broadcasting) to examine problems of bias and racism in the media. It provided a forum for direct dialogue between Serbs and Albanians over Kosovo (The West only permitted proximity talks at the time of the war). It produced reports on shared sovereignty issues with regard to Kashmir and Jerusalem. It worked on Mid East Peace Process issues including a Resident Commissioner for Conciliation and a Comprehensive Peace Process (Abdallah/Arab Plan). See
22nd January 2009
Isabel Clarke: Madness, Mystery and the Survival of God
The persistence of spirituality in a scientific age produces puzzlement ‘ and irritation in some! Where organized religion loses out, other forms of spirituality or fascination with the unknownspring up to fill the vacuum. I will suggest an explanation for this phenomenon, based on fundamental psychological processes ‘ the way the brain is wired up.
Extensive research into cognitive organisation appears to lead to a startling conclusion. Our sense of being a coherant self, with a unitary consciousness is achieved by control passing backwards and forwards between two separate cognitive systems ‘ except that they do not always work smoothly together, and that is when things become interesting!
These facts offer a way of understanding the old idea of the two worlds, two realities etc. They also suggest ways of managing that doorsill or threshold between them. They lead to further challenging new perspectives ‘ such as a rethink of the relationship between psychosis and spirituality.
In exploring these ideas, it is always my aim not to reduce spirituality and spiritual experience to a material explanation, but to honour the mystery and significance of this area of experiencing, at the same time as giving it coherance and position within scientific discourse. It is my conviction that spirituality lies at the heart of what it is to be human.
Isabel Clarke is currently a consultant clinical psychologist, working in the NHS, as psychological therapies lead in a psychiatric inpatient hospital; Woodhaven, which serves West Southampton and the New Forest. She has published and organised Symposia at national and international conferences on how therapy can be delivered in the inpatient setting. She has a particular interest in spirituality; in understanding it psychologically and the overlap with psychosis. She edited a book, Psychosis and Spirituality; Exploring the New Frontier,( 2001), and has organised three conferences on Psychosis and Spirituality in 2000, 2001 and 2005 in the Winchester area. She is active with the developing Spiritual Crisis Network (www.SpiritualCrisisNetwork.org.uk). Other publications and talks can be found on her website: