Mid-Winter/Christmas celebration 16th Dec
Winter Solstice, a Dark Night of the Soul
As we witness the birth of the dark half of the year when the sun has sunk to its lowest point on the horizon, the enveloping darkness and the cold nights bring remembrance of our human ancestral fear of an inevitable descent into the underworld. The Celtic tradition plants the elder and the birch at the entrance to this journey and the Greeks and the Romans place Hermes (Mercury) at our side to lead us down into a gradual understanding of the mysteries of life and death.
However, perhaps the works of that great Spanish mystic of the 16th century, John of the Cross, best describe what a person undergoing the dark night experiences – the painful sense of privation, that darkness of the intellect, aridity in the exercise of love, the emptiness … in the face of a dread-filled loss of spiritual Light.
This endarkenment is yet a necessary stage of a journey toward enlightenment; a moment when the pleasures that so satisfied the ego at the beginning of the adventure, those tangible forms that we grasped, the sense-objects we believed were teaching us about consciousness, have suddenly lost their luminosity and seem to uncover the insufficiency of our existence and so we backslide from great inspiration into dullness. We have lost contact with the Infinite.
The poem, the ordeal and the night described therein are – all the same – the very means by which the lover encounters his beloved, the only way home to an even higher understanding of Consciousness (light) for which all our expressions and earlier ideas become preparatory or insufficient. I hope we can discover though this wonderful poem how the night brings us to find eventually – at the centre of ourselves – a bright burning flame of renewal. I hope that a Christmas ritual, a meditation, the fire and the candles can become a joyous celebration of the rebirth of an inner unconquered Sun – our own ‘Dies natalis Invicti Solis’!
Katriona Munthe is a Junghian analyst and theatre therapist who lives in Italy. Her international work delves into understanding the spiritual traditions and techniques of initiation – through art and theatrical performance! Public events in museums, art galleries and cultural institutes have included Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, The Biodrama Mysteries and Archaeology of the Mind, Short films: Dante, a journey to the Underworld, The Religion of No Religion, Paravento and a Handful of Masks (that documents street performance in Venice) – have been a way of studying character and the individuation process. She maintains a private psychoanalytical practice, lectures on Medicine and the Mind and trains hospital personnel in Personality Assessment and Meditation.
Gary Lachman: The Ghosts of Kusnacht: Jung and the Dead
In 1944, following a heart attack, the psychologist C.G. Jung underwent a Near-Death Experience – or, depending on your perspective, delirium. It was after this episode, in which Jung found himself floating 1,000 miles above the earth, that he came out of the closet about his life-long, but often obscured, relationship to the occult. But Jung’s involvement with death and the dead had been with him from the beginning. His maternal grandfather kept a vacant seat for his dead wife, with whom he had frequent conversations. Jung started his career with a disseration on the spirit voices heard at seances. Jung himself told a group of his followers that experience of the collective unconscious put one in contact with the dead, and during his ‘confrontation with the unconscious’ following his break up with Freud, Jung received a ‘channeled’ spirit message, which he called The Seven Sermons to the Dead. Although Jung shared his interest in the dead with his older contemporary, the ‘spiritual scientist’ Rudolf Steiner, his professional persona shied from making his fascination public. Yet he and Steiner were both adepts at entering the curious state of consciousness called hypnagogia, in which, Steiner argued, one could speak with the dead directly. Jung himself remarked, on the death of his sister, that ‘What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it.” How did he know? In my talk, based on my book Jung the Mystic, I will explore Jung’s strange relationship to the dead, its similarities to the ideas of other thinkers, such as Rudolf Steiner, and ask why Jung felt it necessary to keep silent about this aspect of his work for much of his career.
Gary Lachman is the author of several books on the meeting ground between consciousness, culture, and the western esoteric tradition, including Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings; Politics and the Occult: The Left, The Right, and the Radically Unseen; The Dedalus Book of Literary Suicides: Dead Letters; Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work; In Search of P.D. Ouspensky; Into the Interior: Discovering Swedenborg; and A Secret History of Consciousness. He is a frequent contributor to the Independent on Sunday, Fortean Times, and other journals in the UK and US. As Gary Valentine he was a founding member of the rock group Blondie and is the author of New York Rocker: My Life in the Blank Generation, a memoir of his years as a musician. In 2006 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lachman lectures regularly in London and abroad on the history of the counterculture and the western inner tradition and broadcasts occasionally for Radio 3 and 4.
19th October 2010
David Luke: Energy-consciousness duality: Parapsychology as a scientific mystery tradition
This talk will illuminate how in the ancient mystery traditions energy and consciousness were never considered separately. In their search for the ultimate nature of physical reality, modern day physicists have finally come full circle and have had to consider consciousness in their equations, a factor more at home in the field of psychology. At the genuine confluence of both of these disparate fields is parapsychology, the enigmatic study of the marriage of mind and matter. Delving into the past, ancient wisdom will be used to illuminate the way forward for the future scientific study of energy-consciousness.
David Luke PhD, is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich where he teaches an undergraduate course on the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences. Currently he is also President of the Parapsychological Association. As a writer and researcher he has a special interest in altered states of consciousness and he has studied ostensibly paranormal phenomena and techniques of consciousness alteration from South America to India, from the perspective of scientists, shamans and Shivaites. He lives life on the edge, of Hackney, in London.
7th October 2010
Paul Devereaux: MAGICAL MINDSCAPES: How landscape was invested with meaning in the Ancient World
Paul will give us a highly illustrated tour of the Ancient World, looking at several varieties of visual and other sensory sacred geographies, from Native American ground drawings to Chinese and Japanese gardens and much else besides, and suggest what environmental wisdom we can draw from them today. The presentation will be a celebration of Pauls major new book, ?Sacred Geography?, being published this year by Gaia Books.
Paul Devereux is a founding editor of the academic publication, Time & Mind ‘ The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture(Berg), a research affiliate with the Royal College of Art, a Senior Research Fellow of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL), Princeton, and the Director of the Dragon Project Trust. He has written a great many articles for general publications and a string of peer-reviewed papers, plus twenty-six books since 1979, many published internationally, dealing variously and primarily with the anthropologies of consciousness, archaeoacoustics and other aspects of ancient sites, landscapes and lifeways, as well as selected other topics. He lectures in Europe, the UK and North America.
28 September 2010
Denis Blejer: The Magical Play of the Creation According to Modern Physics
The Creation is a magical play known as the Lila of the Absolute. Modern physics is consistent with this point of view. The revolution in physics that took place during the 20th century dramatically changed the view of a purely mechanistic and deterministic universe to one full of magic and potentiality. This talk will present the magical mystery of relativity theory and cosmology through illustrative examples.
Dennis Blejer is an engineering physicist by profession. He has been employed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory since 1985, where he is engaged in studies on electromagnetic scattering and phenomenology, radar systems design and signal processing. He is also the branch leader for the School of Practical Philosophy and Meditation in Boston and has been a member of the School for 35 years. His interest in consciousness studies comes from his practice of meditation and study of the philosophy of mind. he holds a Bachelor Degree in Physics from Brandeis University and was on the research staff of Harvard University Dept of Engineering and Applied Physics, where he also did graduate studies in applied physics and mathematics.
13th July 2010
Zoe Bran: Ancient Techniques for the Modern World: An Introduction to Shamanism
Shamanism, the worlds oldest healing and problem-solving technique, is a worldwide phenomenon thought by archaeologists to have been part of human activity for at least 40,000 years and possibly very much longer. Despite, or perhaps because of the recent upsurge in media interest in shamanism, there is a tendency to use the word as an umbrella term for almost anything exotic and mysterious. AskWhat is a shaman? and most responses would include the words witchdoctor or medicine man. People are often surprised to discover that shamanism is not a religion yet was the precursor to most major world religions, including the Judaeo-Christian and Buddhist traditions. One of the chief purposes of Zoes work as a practitioner and teacher is to demystify shamanism and with this in mind she will present an introduction to the subject from its prehistoric origins to its growing use in contemporary Western society.
Dr Zoe Bran was head of the Health Education Group of The Terrence Higgins Trust from 1987-1989 and her pioneering doctorate explored AIDS and civil rights. As a writer and university lecturer, Zoλ has covered topics as diverse as journalism, sex, creative thinking and shamanism. Her books describe troubled areas of the world, including Bosnia and Cuba. Currently director of Shaman UK, Zoλ is one the UK’s leading Core Shamanic practitioners and teachers. Her weblog has a worldwide readership.
15th June 2010
Christopher Titmuss: What is Truth?
In this presentation with question and answers, we will explore the nature of truth. Are there many truths? Is there one truth? Or is there no such thing as truth. Is there a difference between a well-researched scientific theory and truth? If there is no difference, then the truth cannot change and become an untruth or partial truth due to fresh knowledge. If it was a partial truth, then what was true and what was untrue?
If there is always a difference between truth and theory, then scientific theory remains in that category of theory, widely accepted or not.. If that is the case, then how will a scientist find out what truth is outside of a theory. If there is no such thing as truth, no truth that endures, then life is theory, well researched, well argued but nevertheless a theory, subject to adaption, change or being dropped. In this exploration, we will look into this important issue, and see from the essential tradition of the Buddha what the exploration of truth really means.
Christopher Titmuss, a former Buddhist monk in Thailand and India, teaches Awakening and Insight Meditation around the world. He is the founder and director of the Dharma Facilitators Programme and the Living Dharma Programme, an online mentor programme for Dharma practitioners. He gives retreats, participates in pilgrimages (yatras) and leads Dharma gatherings. Christopher has been teaching annual retreats in Bodh Gaya, India since 1975 and leads an annual Dharma Gathering in Sarnath, India since 1999. A senior Dharma teacher in the West, he is the author of numerous books including Light on Enlightenment, An Awakened Life andTransforming Our Terror. He is a campaigner for peace, social justice and various global issues, Poet and writer, he is the co-founder of Gaia House, an international retreat centre in Devon, England. He has written recently written an 8000 word chapter Are Scientists Trapped in their Theories? for his next book. He lives in Totnes, Devon, England.
11th May 2010
Angela Voss: The Four Levels of Interpretation: from science to mysticism
In this session we will explore the neoplatonic and early Christian framework of levels of interpretation or perception, which arose out of the framework of the multi-levelled cosmos and the corresponding human modes of apprehending it. First formulated by Proclus and the later Platonists, Church Fathers such as Origen and St Augustine took up the method as a way of understanding sacred texts, progressing from literal to mystical modes of apprehension via the allegorical and symbolic. In the Renaissance, such a method was applied to poetry and art, and it is an extremely helpful tool in discriminating between differing discourses, such as the scientific, the imaginative and the mystical, and understanding the problems involved when, for example, symbolic or religious experience is reduced to rational or literal paradigms.
Dr Angela Voss is currently a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent, where she directs an MA programme in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination. She originally trained as a musician and through Renaissance music was led to the work of Marsilio Ficino, on whose astrological music therapy she completed a PhD at the City University London. She is particularly interested in the imagination as a path of spiritual knowledge, practices of divination and symbolic interpretation, archetypal and transpersonal psychology and contemporary psychical research into the nature of spiritual reality.
22nd April 2010
Anne Baring: The Call of the Cosmos and the Great Work of Alchemy
In 1929, D.H. Lawrence observed in his book Apocalypse and Other Writings, We have lost the cosmos by coming out of responsive connection to it. We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body of which we are still parts. The great range of responses that have fallen dead in us have to come to life again. It has taken two thousand years to kill them; who knows how long it will take to bring them to life. Jungs rediscovery of the deeper dimension of the Soul that he called the Collective Unconscious has recovered for us many of the responses that have been lost and, with them, the inestimable treasure of a renewed relationship with the Cosmos. His insights into the Great Work of alchemy – namely, the transformation of human consciousness – have been a crucial aspect of this process of recovery and restoration.
The Cosmos calls to us from the deepest ground of our being. The Great Work of Alchemy responds to that call, refining and attuning our nature so that we – created from the substance of the stars – may know ourselves as participants in and co-creators with that mysterious ground. This talk will explore the mythologal background to and the process of the alchemical Work.
Anne Baring is a retired Jungian Analyst and the author and co-author of The One Work, A Journey Towards the Self and, with Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image; with Andrew Harvey, The Mystic Vision and The Divine Feminine; and a book for children, The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time. With Dr. Scilla Elworthy, founder of Peace Direct, she has recently published Soul Power: an Agenda for a Conscious Humanity. Her website explores the deeper issues facing us at this crucial time of choice. Her current book, The Dream of the Cosmos, is posted on it. Go to
18th March 2010
Roger Woolger: C. G. Jung: Scientist, Mystic and Prophet
Carl Gustav Jung’s genius as a psychologist is widely recognized. He influenced psychiatry, broadened our understanding of religious experience and built bridges between science and spirituality, east and west with concepts like the collective unconscious, synchronicity and more. Yet the personal sources of Jung’s major works, especially the only recently published Red Book in which he painted his visionary encounters and recorded dialogues with archetypal forces are still poorly understood.
In this richly illustrated slide lecture Dr. Woolger will show and comment on many rarely seen pictures from the Red Book, notably Jung’s quasi-gnostic mandalas that relate to his channelled writings. He will trace Jung’s extraordinary inner life, from his secret childhood dreams and his opening to ‘personality number two,’ to his epochal visionary confrontation with titanic inner forces. He will show how such visions were the seeds of Jung’s mature understanding of the Self and the Christ of the alchemists, who is the Philosophers Stone at the heart of the living cosmos
Dr Roger Woolger is a pioneer in Deep Memory Process (regression therapy) and a life-long student of world spiritual traditions. A graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, he holds degrees from Oxford and London Universities in psychology, philosophy and comparative religion, and is an acclaimed speaker at many international conferences.
9th Feb 2010
James le Fanu: Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves
The most recent findings of genetics and neuroscience have quite inadvertently (and without anyone really noticing) subverted the central tenet of the scientistic view that there is nothing in principle that cannot be accounted for in exclusively materialist terms. James will present a brief summary of these developments as set out in his recent book Why Us? and consider the implications for our understanding of ourselves of the unbridgeable explanatory gap that has emerged between genes and form,brain and mind.
Dr. James Le Fanu combines practice as a family doctor in London with writing a twice weekly column for the Telegraph newspapers. His books include The Rise & Fall of Modern Medicine (1999) which won the LA Times book prize and most recently Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves– described by AN Wilson as quite astonishingly refreshing.
27th January 2010
Oliver Robinson: The Case for a Cosmic Idealism: Seven Steps To Understanding The Universe as Mind and the Mind-Dependent Nature of Things
The diverse membership of the Scientific and Medical Network hold one thing in common ‘ a rejection of philosophical materialism as an exclusive framework for understanding the universe. With the rejection of materialism as a basic philosophy, one is left with the option of some form of dualism or idealism as a foundational philosophy. There are many expressions of both of these broad schools, and here I will be presenting arguments for a ‘cosmic idealism’. Idealism states that Mind, not matter, is the fundamental and a-priori reality, and a ‘cosmic idealism’ avoids the potential solipsism of subjective idealism by stating that that Universe does not just exist subjectively in individual minds but also in a cosmic mind or consciousness. After a brief review of the history of idealist philosophy, I will present a seven-step sequence of reasoning that shows that objects in the external world are entirely dependent on mind, and exist as forms of mind. I conclude with a discussion of how cosmic idealism provides a solid foundation for both empirical science and spirituality, and how it is possible to be an ontological idealist but an epistemological dualist.
Dr Oliver Robinson is senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Greenwich. He was on the board of the Scientific and Medical Network for several years and now helps with their website and marketing. He has run an informal philosophy discussion group for many years and has a passionate interest in the intersection of science, philosophy and spirituality. He attends Quaker meetings, loves his bicycle and practices a martial art called Wing Chun.