13th November 2012
Gary Lachman: Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality
In the popular mind, Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society are strongly associated with the mystic East, with India, Tibet, and enigmatic Mahatmas, hidden away in the Himalayan fastness. Yet Blavatsky’s roots lie deep in the western esoteric tradition. Blavatsky’s “quest for the unknown” began in Rosicrucian Freemasonry, and in her early years, she travelled around the globe, in search of occult masters from whom she could learn secret knowledge and gather first hand experience of magic. Starting out among the spiritualists, Blavatsky soon mastered her powers and declared herself a magus, able to command elementals at will, and not merely be a medium for the dead. In her first major work, Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky brought together a phenomenal range of magical influences, synthesizing the work of Eliphas Levi, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Mesmer, Paracelsus, the Neoplatonists, and many other western occultists, into a thrilling, widely influential compendium of esoteric wisdom for which Egypt, not Tibet, was the heart. At the same time, Blavatsky allied herself with a number of progressive, even radical movements, joining revolutionaries on the barricades, and promoting an international egalitarian society, well in advance of our own global concerns. And to top it off, she was a woman, arguably the most remarkable of the 19th century, who travelled where many men feared to go, and blazed trails that later esoteric adventurers would follow. More than anyone else, Blavatsky was responsible for the modern occult revival and for practically everything associated with the ‘New Age’ today, from chakras and reincarnation, to karma and the astral plane. This talk will be based on his forthcoming book of the same title, due for publication in October 2012.
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.
8th October 2012
Rupert Sheldrake: THE SCIENCE DELUSION: Freeing the Spirit of Inquiry
The science delusion is the belief that science already understands the nature of reality, in principle. The fundamental questions are answered, leaving only the details to be filled in. The impressive achievements of science seemed to support this confident attitude. But recent research has revealed unexpected problems at the heart of physics, cosmology, biology, medicine and psychology. In his new book, Dr Rupert Sheldrake shows how the sciences are being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. Should science be a belief-system, or a realm of enquiry? In the sceptical spirit of true scientific enquiry, Sheldrake turns the ten fundamental dogmas of science into questions, opening up startling new possibilities. For example, the ‘laws of nature’ may be habits that change and evolve. The Gravitational Constant may not be constant. Minds may extend far beyond brains. The total amount of matter and energy may be increasing. Memories may not be stored as traces in our brains. Sheldrake argues that science would be better off without its dogmas: freer, more interesting and more fun.
Rupert Sheldrake, PhD is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and 10 books, including The Science Delusion (January 2012). He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, a Research Fellow of the Royal Society, Principal Plant Physiologist at ICRISAT (the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) in Hyderabad, India, and from 2005-2010 the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge. HIs website is
21st September 2012
David Bell: Insights from the battle of the archetypes in the Genesis creation stories
There are few sentences in the Bible that have evoked such deep feelings of appreciation and such howls of rage as Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning, God created’ Could the two personalities, Adam 1 and Adam 2, (Joseph Soloveitchik’s thesis) shed new light on science’s climb to dizzying heights of technological success, all the while creating the abyss of moral chaos into which it threatens to push humanity. The ancient and new eco-theology frameworks suggest a path of wisdom for 21st century spirituality.
Dr David Bell is Principal of Trinity Methodist Theological College, Auckland, New Zealand. He has written, preached and taught on the faith-science interface for thirty years, in a variety of church settings. He writes, ‘The subject grows ever more luminous and richer in time as science develops. The quest for ways of knowing with both the heart and the mind has become central to contemporary spiritual experience.’
2nd September 2012
Ravi Ravindra: Different Sights or Different Eyes: Perception in Physics and in Yoga
Both spiritual search as illustrated in Yoga and scientific research as illustrated in Physics are interested in objective knowledge. However, the two ‘knowledges’ are different from each other, and many of their differences relate to the nature of perception in the two disciplines. We need to be aware of these differences if we are to avoid settling for an easy integration or a superficial reconciliation. The illusion that we have already found what we need will prevent us from seeking further.
Yoga aims at a change of being or a rebirth or a cleansing of our perceptions, leading to more compassion, humility and love. An intellectual and physical (that is, scientific) understanding neither requires any transformation of our being nor can it lead to such a transformation. Neither scientific knowledge about people who have spiritual knowledge nor theoretical knowledge about the spirit makes one a sage.
The unitary insight of the sages is not a matter of universalizing or generalizing from particulars by reasoning, inference, or induction. It is primarily a matter of perception–an actual vision. It is an insight, not a conjecture or an abstraction subject to refutation or confirmation. This perception is possible only when the doors of perception are cleansed of all fear and fantasy.
Prof Ravi Ravindra: A native of India, he emigrated to Canada and is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he served for many years as a professor in three Departments: Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Physics. He was a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Simla, and Founding Director of the Threshold Award for Integrative Knowledge. He has been a member of the Board of Judges for the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He is an honorary member of the Scientific and Medical Network. Ravindra’s spiritual search has led him to the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, G. Gurdjieff, Yoga, Zen, and a deep immersion in the mystical teachings of the Indian and Christian traditions. He is the author of many books on religion, science, and spiritual disciplines, including:
The Gospel of John in the Light of Indian Mysticism (formerly titled The Yoga of the Christ)
Science and the Sacred
Pilgrim Without Boundaries
The Spiritual Roots of Yoga
The Wisdom of PataΓ±jali’s Yoga Sutras
Ravindra is the Series Editor of an eight volume series dealing with The Inner Journey in the major spiritual traditions of the world. The series has been published by the Morning Light Press, Sandpoint, Idaho.
4th July 2012
Ian Angell and Dionysius Demetis: Science’s First Mistake: Delusions in Pursuit of Theory
Science is a perpetual search for new ideas, but this says nothing of how correct it is. Angell & Demetis argue that no matter how elaborate, sophisticated or subtle a scientific description may appear, it always generates paradox. Science, the formal enterprise for probing the nature of reality, is awash with such paradoxes, from zero and infinity, to causality, particles and gravity. Reality emerges from our systems of observation, but paradox is a fundamental property of observation within emergent systems. As now ex-scientists, Angell & Demetis challenge us to recognise that as we seek scientific rationality, ultimate reality, concluding formulae or final identities, we will find, or even generate, paradoxes.
Prof Ian Angell is Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics. Angell’s first degree is in Pure Mathematics, and his Doctorate is in Algebraic Number Theory, although he now claims to be an “ex-mathematician.” He first came to prominence through his work in advanced computations and computer graphics, and apart from his academic output has written the software and produced animation sequences for television advertisements and for science and business programmes. He is an author of more than 14 books (translations into 8 languages), including the ‘New Barbarian Manifesto’ and the upcoming ‘Flight of the Golden Geese’.
Dr. Dionysios Demetis is a former associate staff member of the London School of Economics and currently a Research Fellow and member of the Scientific Board of the Geolab Institute of the Ionian University in Corfu. He has a background in Physics – his first academic love. As a now ex-phycisist he thinks back on the first time he heard the word ‘epistemology’ with affection. In his spare time he composes music and has also composed the Anthem for the International Society for the Advanced Study of Spacetime. He has also written extensively on the field of Economic Crime and Anti-Money Laundering and his book entitled ‘Technology and Anti-Money Laundering’ is published worldwide by Edward Elgar. He holds an MSc and a PhD from the LSE.
19th June 2012
Robert Forman: Enlightenment Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be
We’ve all heard of enlightenment. Many of us started our paths aiming for it in some sense. According to traditional texts and accounts, Enlightenment is said to be an amazing state. But is it? What is it like, actually. How does it look, feel or smell?
Does it live up to its hype? And if it doesn’t live up to our fantasies, then what gold, of the spiritual persuasion, should we actually be after in the complex lives we live? And how do we get that? Even more important, how might enlightenment or the quest for it help us answer the question with which many of us struggle: how to live the depths of our spiritual or prayer life in our everyday lives?
We will explore the life qualities that the state of enlightenment actually brings to a life, and ask how we might learn to weave its values into our everyday lives.
Dr. Robert Forman is the author of the just released Enlightenment Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be : A Journey of Discovery, Snow and Jazz in the Soul. He is uniquely qualified both personally and professionally to re-imagine the spiritual life. A meditator who hasn’t missed a day in some 42 years, he gained a Ph.D. from Columbia University, specialising in religious experiences around the world, and became a tenured professor of comparative religions at City University of New York. After he retired from teaching he helped found the Journal of Consciousness Studies and founded and still directs the Forge Institute for Spirituality and Social Change, which has developed the Soul Jazz family of programs to help people weave the depths of their spiritual discoveries into their everyday lives.
For further information see
15th May 2012
Andreas Mavromatis: Hypnagogia and Related Processes
Reference to the strange and wonderful experiences of hypnagogia dates back to the time of Aristotle, yet Andreas Mavromatis’ work is the first book on this unique state of consciousness. It provides a detailed and exhaustive account of the nature of hypnagogia, bringing its diverse phenomena into a comprehensive framework.
Dr Mavromatis argues that this common, naturally occurring state may not only be distinct from wakefulness and sleep but unique in its nature and function, possibly carrying important evolutionary implications. He explores and analyses the relationship between hypnagogia and other states, processes and experiences – such as sleepdreams, meditation, psi, schizophrenia, creativity, hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, eidetic phenomena and epileptic states – and shows that, functioning in hypnagogia, we may gain knowledge of aspects of our mental nature which constitute fundamental underpinnings to all human thought. In addition, functioning in hypnagogia is shown to play a significant part in mental and physical health.
This evening Andreas will explore the underlying conditions that connect the experiences of hypnagogia to those of creativity, schizophrenia, psi, meditation, mysticism and dreams. Is there a method in this madness? And how does consciousness fit into this?
Time permitting, the talk will be followed by outlining procedures for experimental investigation into objective/communal mental space.
Dr. Andreas Mavromatis was born in Cyprus, graduated from high school, worked in newspapers and magazines and in the merchant navy. While still in Cyprus joined the Society for the Research of Truth (meditation, introspection, psychic and spiritual exercises).
In London, worked in restaurants, factories and warehouses, in building and decorating, and as a journalist, actor, script-writer, film-maker, concert-organiser, teacher and lecturer in further and higher education; published a couple of books, poetry, various articles in journals; became the subject of interviews on radio and television here and abroad; pioneered publicly-funded classes in parapsychology and the ‘paranormal’ at London colleges and institutes.
12th April 2012
Elizabeth West: Ways in which we Create our own Reality
An exploration into how our world view creates our reality. The world view we hold is not always conscious and it is useful to explore the hidden assumptions we have about reality. Some physicists are speaking of the observer participant in the universe, recognising that without consciousness and our measurements the universe we know would not exist. Buddhism has always taught that the version of the world we see and live in is a product of our own minds. If this is the case, are there ways of doing it better? Both for our own benefit and that of others.
For 30 years of her life, Elizabeth West was a Roman catholic nun, so the experience of several traditions from the inside inspires her to continue the work of dialogue at the level of practice, enabling people to deepen their understanding of the spiritual journey. Recently she has become interested in the dialogue between religion and science and the ways in which meditation can be taught in a secular context for the benefit of society. For eleven years Elizabeth has run the Buddhist Christian Vedanta Network, but feels that now is the time to widen its context to include the dialogue with Buddhism and Science, thought the study of consciousness using Buddhist meditation practices and its uses in teaching meditation in a Secular context.
Elizabeth has been involved in Interfaith dialogue in various forms over the past 25 years. Since 1977 her particular interest has been in the Contemplative Traditions of all the major faiths. She spent time in India visiting Hindu and Christian Ashrams while studying with a Christian nun who taught yoga and Vedanta in a Christian context. After this she worked in Westminster Interfaith, fostering dialogue between the many Faiths present in the Greater London Area, during this time she took an MA in World Religions at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. After this Elizabeth lived and worked with the Christian Meditation Centre in London. During this time she also led Buddhist/Christian retreats with various Buddhist teachers. She has had contact and teaching from Mrs Tweedie a renowned Sufi teacher. She has spent time with both Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhist teachers. She is now a student of Dr Alan Wallace.
13th March 2012
John Clarke: The self-creating universe: the emergence of a new worldview
How does order come out of chaos? The Ancient Greek philosophers first pondered this question, and since then the Judaeo-Christian tradition has answered it in terms of God as the supreme origin of order. This was also the answer given by most of the great pioneers of modern science in the seventeenth century, and is still a satisfactory answer for many. However, in recent times a new set of answers has arisen in terms of self-organizing systems. Beginning with such thinkers as Bergson and C.D. Broad a hundred or so years ago as a reaction against rising mechanism and reductionism, and developing more recently across a whole range of scientific and philosophical investigation, a radically new idea has become widely influential, often referred to as emergentism. Nature, on this view, is seen as having an indigenous capacity for spontaneous self-development, of creating novel and complex forms, with examples ranging from the universe itself to the emergence of life, consciousness, language and culture. This talk will trace the evolution of this idea and show how it has implications, not only for our understanding of the emergence of order in the universe, but can help to shape a new worldview in a time of metaphysical crisis.
John Clarke is Professor Emeritus in the History of Ideas at Kingston University, London, where he taught before his recent retirement, and before that he taught philosophy at McGill University in Montreal and at the University of Singapore. Amongst the books he has published are In Search of Jung: Historical and Philosophical Inquiries, and Oriental Enlightenment: the Encounter between Asian and Western Thought. He is a former Chair of the Scientific and Medical Network, and has a particular interest in the links between science, religion and the humanities, and in the development of a post-religious spirituality
23rd February 2012
David Lorimer: The Protein Crunch ‘ Civilisation on the Brink
It is now increasingly apparent that our global food system is dysfunctional. There are still over 1 billion people on the edge of starvation, but more than 1.3 billion are overweight and are endangering their health as a result, leading inexorably to huge rises in healthcare expenditure. Just a hundred years ago it would have been inconceivable that the human impact on the environment might become so great as to threaten the Earth and our own survival. Yet now this is the case. The population did not reach 2 billion until the 1930s and it is now nearly 7 billion and rising to over 9 billion by 2050.
In 1960, human beings only used half of the Earth’s annual renewable capacity but we have been overdrawn since the 1990s and now use up nearly 140% every year ‘ we go into ecological overdraft in August. The Earth is our only habitat. We now stand at a turning point in our history and in the history of the Earth, having acquired the power to wreck the biosphere. We are the only species to have become more powerful than the biosphere on which we depend. So other species are also relying on us to maintain the Earth as their habitat as well. And so are our children.
So the key question is: what are the prospects for our globalised civilisation? Can we overcome the self-destructive tendencies that have led to the demise of previous civilisations? Are we collectively heading for ecological overshoot and subsequent collapse? If so, what do we urgently need to do about it? And, more fundamentally, are we politically, economically and psychologically capable of taking the necessary action?
David Lorimer, MA, PGCE, FRSA is a writer, lecturer and editor who is Programme Director of the Scientific and Medical Network and Editor of Network Review. He is the author and editor of many books, most recently Thinking beyond the Brain, Science, Consciousness and Ultimate Reality and Towards a New Renaissance. He is a Fellow of the International Futures Forum and was editor of its digest, Omnipedia – Thinking for Tomorrow. His book on the ideas and work of the Prince of Wales ‘ Radical Prince – has been translated into Dutch, Spanish and French. His latest book, written with Jason Drew ‘ The Protein Crunch ‘ assesses the precarious future of food and the environment. He is also President of Wrekin Trust and Chief Executive of Character Education Scotland.
12th January 2012
Peter Fenwick: End of Life Experiences – a Spiritual Perspective
Spiritual awareness is an important part of care for the dying. Research with a palliative care team, and with the carers in hospices and a nursing home, has confirmed that end of life experiences, which occur in the last few days of life have spiritual implications for the dying and their families.
The person dying can have powerful visions of dead relatives or close friends who they say have come to ‘take them on a journey.’ These deathbed visions occur in the last few days and hours before death, usually in the setting of clear consciousness. The ‘visitor’ appears to be in real space as the dying direct their gaze and comments at a particular place. Their presence is felt as reassuring and comforting. Occasionally spiritual beings or angels are seen, but in the UK culture this is rare. Very rarely these visions were seen by others in the room.
Deathbed ‘coincidences’, are also reported, in which someone close to a dying person reports being ‘visited’ by them at the time of their death. Carers of the dying also report that at the moment of death they may see the body surrounded by light, mists leaving the body or an intense feeling of love in the room. Other phenomena reported at the time of death are clocks stopping, mechanical devices malfunctioning, e.g. alarms going off and TVs stopping, and odd animal behaviour.
Dr Peter Fenwick is Consultant Neuropsychiatrist emeritus to the Epilepsy Unit at the Maudsley Hospital, which he ran for twenty years. He is presently appointed as a Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry and Southampton University, and Honorary Consultant Clinical Neurophysiologist at Broadmoor Hospital. Over the last ten years he has spent several months a year working in the field of magnetoencephalography in a neuroscience research laboratory in Japan. He has published five papers on the above studies, and a book The Art of Dying, co-authored with his wife, is an account of the end of life research written for the general public.