London Group – Meeting Reports 2003

November 2003

Radical Prince: the Integral Vision of HRH the Price of Wales

November 14th
Our very own David Lorimer, Programme Director of the Network, gav e the presentation in this month’s meeting and talked about his new book. David started by giving us an overview of his he came to have this idea whilst driving down the A9: a report goes out in the media about something the Prince says and then there is silence. Then he says something else for which he may or may not be vilified, and then silence again. We are left with fragmented information about what the Prince does and what he stands for. David went on to the Prince’s website and found a wealth of interesting information about the Prince’s involvement in various project and the book idea was born. The book charters the Price of Wale’s main interests against the background of his essentially platonic philosophical standing. In our inner world live our values as well as aims and aspirations which we work for in the outer world. The past, embodied in tradition, is an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration touching as it does, the depth of our collective experience. Radical, as in ‘roots’ refers therefore to the Prince’s conviction of the importance and value of ancestral knowledge and wisdom. Using the best of our modern thinking together with the best of traditional knowledge will result in a holistic approach from which life and all things living will benefit. The book covers the wide range of the Prince’s interests always against this background. All his activities are geared towards healing, whether in community, personal, soil, landscapes, or the split between reason and intuition or tradition and modernity., he advocates a ‘both/and’ approach rather than an ‘either/or’ with a ‘hands on’ method to bring positive results. The Prince is the patron or president of over 300 charitable organisations and his personal interest is a hallmark of his work. The offices of the Prince’s Foundation in Shroeditch, in a converted storehouse has been refurbished using mainly recycled materials and is an example of his ideas on regeneration. Covering the Prince’s interest in land, architecture, education, business and leadership as well as in people’s personal needs and wellbeing, the book redresses an important balance by giving a comprehensive overview on what the Prince of Wales stands for and how he takes his philosophical perspective and worldview into the real world of living people making practical and real changes that will affect the individual as well as the collective. The book is available from the office at a price of £20.

October 2003

Contact with the Dead: What Human Values Research Project Tells Us

In October our speaker was Prof Erlendur Haraldson from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. Dr. Haraldson has researched evidence for life after death for a number of years in Iceland as well as in the USA and co-authored a book with Karlis Osis called At the Hour of Death. In his talk Erlendur presented the statistics of his research into Apparitions and experiences of contact with the dead. The research population was self-selected from readers of four different magazines who were asked to write in if they have had such experiences. They were then asked a number of questions regarding these visions and Erlendur compiled some interesting statistics based on these replies. For example, half of widow/ers experience the presence of their partner after they died. More than half of the experiences happen during daylight (or full electric light) which contradicts the traditional belief that ghosts appear in the dark. The subjects belonged to all ages and were mostly engrossed in some activity when the experience took place. Seventy percent of the apparitions were known to the experiencer and 52% happened within one year of their death. The literature shows that much of these results mirrored a survey conducted some 100 years ago called ‘Phantasms of the Living.’ Visions and Apparitions are intriguing events and based on these results it seems that they are not really all that rare. The Human Values Study was conducted in most countries in western Europe and the USA in the early 1980s. One of the questions asked ‘have you really felt that you were in contact with someone who had died’? The percentage of those who replied in the affirmative ranged from 9 to 41% in the various countries, Iceland and USA topping the list, with Italy next (34%) followed by Germany (28%) and the UK (26%), the lowest being Norway (9%).

Prof. Haraldson

September 2003

A Kabbalistic View of the Psyche and Spiritual Development

The speaker for our September talk was Warren Kenton, also known by his Hebrew name of Z`ev ben Shimon Halevi. With the help of slides Warren invited us to think about the long journey of the human soul. He started off by asking the question – what distinguishes humans from animals. One of the answers lies in the fact that humans can think about past, present and future, whereas animals live only in the present. History therefore plays and important part and group experiences have a profound effect on the personal as well as collective human psyche, conscious and unconsciously. We carry within us the karmic journey of our forefathers.

In the Kabbalistic tradition, humanity is divided into a hierarchy based on the ‘age’ of the soul. ‘Young souls’ have as their focus basic survival (food, sex, money etc) and the older the souls are, the more their preoccupation becomes orientated towards service to others and the question becomes more and more who am I and what is the purpose of my life. Souls, says Warren, originate from the ‘Treasure House’ of Souls which itself originates in the ‘Treasure House’ of Spirit which itself arises from the Divine. So a soul leaves the Divine and travels ‘down’ until it gets to the very basic level, incarnating as a young soul, then starting its journey back ‘upwards’ towards the Divine. We followed the journey on the Tree of Life or the Jacob’s Ladder, the larger and more comprehensive version. Warren spent much time explaining the role Karma and its correlate Free Will, have in the journey back to the Divine. It was an interesting talk with many questions and a number in the audience were amazed at how every spiritual tradition and every psychological model find itself reflected on the Tree of Life. Warren has written many books on the Kabbalah and you can find out more by looking up

Warren Kenton

July 2003

Joseph Milne

Our invited guest speaker this month was Joseph Milne (PhD) who entitled his talk The Shakespearean Cosmos: an Exploration of Heavenly Law in the Plays Of Shakespeare. Joseph is amongst others an honorary lecturer at the University of Kent in Canterbury and a fellow of the Temenos Academy. He started by exploring the meaning of the context in which a story, any story, unfolds. This context is all important because every character, every situation is deeply connected and dependent on the context in which it happens. In Shakespeare’s time the world was regarded as a manifestation of the mind of God. It is within this context that all Shakespeare’s plays develop and human meaning exists as a relationship of life to the universe. This relationship of human consciousness and reality has not changed but the discourse that belongs to it has. We now have a discourse of materialism which no longer considers the meaning of human existence in relationship to the cosmos. King Lear was used as an example to show how a mere psychological interpretation of the interplay of human desire misses the point completely. The role of king has an inbuilt cosmic meaning and how King Lear carries this role will determine the movements within this tragedy. King Lear wilfully wishes to abdicate his duty as king which together with the mistake of asking who of his three daughters most loves him, demonstrates him not being connected to his cosmic role which then unleashes a sequence of events leading to total chaos. The whole of nature is thrown into chaos when an individual seeks a function which is not his own. There is a natural order of things and human conduct must be in harmony with it. In Shakespeare’s tragedies the characters start in a state of knowledge and choose to make the wrong decisions which then end in chaos. He draws from a poetic rather than a philosophical source pointing to a lawful interconnection of action and reaction.

June 2003

Peter Russell

Peter Russell‘s lecture was entitled Consciousness – the Bridge between Science and Spirit. He briefly explained how he came to formulate his present ideas, from the time in which he was a Cambridge undergraduate in physics, through to his studies of Eastern philosophy and meditation. He started off being stung by what David Chalmers called the ‘hard problem’, of how unconscious matter can give rise to consciousness. As consciousness he understands the general capacity for experience, or the ‘space’ within which experience happens. Thoughts feelings, perceptions etc all happen within consciousness. He came to the conclusion that this is not a ‘hard’ problem but an ‘impossible’ one. It will never be answered in the current worldview as we have a clash of paradigms. Quoting Kuhn, Peter observed that this is the anomaly which does not fit into the model and which becomes the catalyst for a paradigm shift. It is a true anomaly as it obeys the principle of being neither explainable nor deniable. We cannot explain it and neither can we deny that we are conscious and he quoted Descartes, who he feels was misunderstood for what he really meant with his ‘Cogito ergo sum’ was ‘thinking gives me existence’ – i.e., I am conscious or I exist. Peter proposes a meta-paradigm to accommodate the parallel of physical reality, in which scientists probe an ‘objective’ reality out there and consciousness, in which another type of scientists – called mystics – conduct observations in a subjective reality with meditation as the tool. Across cultures we find that mystics have the same experience of deep peace and being at one with all there is. In this state the experience of ‘I am God’ actually expresses the sense of ‘amness’ of one’s own divine qualities. Peter has as website with some very interesting features which I recommend visiting.

Peter Russell

May 2003

Mike King

Mike King (PhD) talked about the Centre for Postsecular Studies which he has founded at the London Metropolitan University. He started by explaining the origin and meaning of the word Post Secular, which relates to a renewal of interest in spiritual life as a mode of being in the world. Incorporating, rather than dismissing secular values, it also means recognition that secular rights and freedoms of expression are a prerequisite to the renewal of spiritual enquiry. Mike took us through his own taxonomy of religion which he calls a baggy schemata and which cuts the cake of religion in different and interesting ways. We were then taken on a historical survey in which he covered the presecular up to mid 19th century, the secular 20th century and then went on to identify those movement which brought the spiritual dimension into all areas of life and living, which has become particularly obvious in the West in the last 20 years. In the secular world the language of religion and spirituality became completely absent as seen in the writings of Darwin, Freud and Marx, the architects of the secular mind but towards the end of the 20th century, writers like Zukav and Capra brought the idea of spirituality back via the language of the secular, physics. Mike pointed out that as the philosophers of the Enlightenment used physics to underscore a secular move forwards, now too has physics become a vehicle to explain a material world with concepts familiar to the spiritually inclined. Mike has identified 8 contexts in which the postsecular is relevant: (1) the new sciences of quantum mechanics, relativity and chaos (complexity) theory which challenge the deterministic, mechanistic and reductionist worldview. (2) the emerging field of consciousness studies (3) transpersonal psychology from Jung to Wilber (4) sections of Postmodern thinking including Heidegger and Levinas (5) sections of Christian theology, in particular the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ inspired by Postmodernism (6) the creative arts in the 20th century, for example artists from Brancusi to Bill Viola who have explored a wide range of conventional and unconventional spiritualities in their art (7) deep ecology and ‘ecosophy’; mystical approaches to Nature from Thoreau to Dillard and (8) New Age and new religious movements. Following this meeting, a new group for Postsecular Studies has been formed and will be coming together on the second Tuesday of the month for the next 7 months (at least) for discussions on the theme. If you wish to join, please contact either[email protected] or

[email protected]

April 2003

Chris Bache

Chris Bache (PhD) was one of the speakers at the Mystics and Scientists conference in Winchester, and he spoke to the London group the evening before. In his talk he expanded on the subject of Chapter 8 of his book Dark Night Early Dawn, ‘The Great Awakening,’ addressing the cycle of transformation which humanity is undergoing. He sees the emerging global crisis of sustainability as placing humanity under extreme pressure, making the choices we are presently facing fundamental to our future well-being. Following 20 years of work in nonordinary states of consciousness by means of sacred medicines and drawing upon the ecological literature, Chris anticipates that within the next 20-30 years, a global ecological crisis will take place which will threaten large portions of the world’s population. Chris draws upon Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic field theory, chaos theory, and near-death episode research to speculate on how this crisis might affect the collective unconscious of humanity, possibly triggering a transformation that he calls ‘species ego-death.’ Chris uses the understanding in physics of the behaviour of ‘far-from-equilibrium’ systems and non-linear dynamics to explore how the species mind as a mental field might be catapulted by this crisis into a higher level of self-organization. He speculates that as the crisis deepens, the field of the collective psyche may become increasingly pressurized and destabilized. Humanity may come to a bifurcation point in its evolution during which a small number of people may have a disproportionate influence on the outcome. Individuals operating at a higher level of consciousness, aligning themselves with humanity’s greatest good, may trigger a widespread shift in the population to a higher, post-egoic mode of consciousness, characterized by greater compassion, higher spiritual values, and greater tolerance and integrity.

March 2003

Stephen Karcher

Dr. Stephen Karcher has worked with the Yi Jing for 30 years and in his talk – Myths for Change (the title of his new book) he gave us an interesting presentation on what the Yi Jing, the Book of Change is; a bit of history, how one works with it and finally he gave us a real life example by doing a divination for a member of the audience. The Yi Jing is the oldest written text in the East, going back to around 1100BC. The job of the Yi Jing – or just Yi, for the initiated – is to provide symbols and these symbols connect the diviner’s heart-mind to the Dao – which can be understood as the ‘ongoing process of the real‘. Those symbols are designed to deepen the power of intuition and are not an allegorical system. They challenge the interface between fate and free will. The technique of divination is designed to bypass the ego and by quietening the heart-mind, which is the seat of will, motivation and passion, they give voice to the shen (spirits) and allow them to make choices. From a Jungian perspective, it establishes a creative dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious. Stephen reminded us that when Jung enquired of the Yi Jin – what are you? – he got hexagram 50 – the cauldron – as an answer, perhaps the most fortunate hexagram out of the 64. For further interpretation, see page 193 of the R. Wilhem translation! Stephen then showed us how the hexagrams are constituted, the nature of the moving lines, and how to divine these by various means. He then explained that no hexagram exists alone and by cross relating the various lines one creates others which can make the picture more extended and complete. Stephen then allowed the Yi itself to select a person out of the various people who wished to put a question and made a very interesting divination – showing in practice the way in which to use the Book of Change. If you wish to get in touch with Stephen, his email address is

[email protected]

March 2003

Amit Goswami

Amit Goswami, ex professor of Physics, gave a very interesting talk on the question ofScience within Consciousness . His message was that we can only understand quantum physics against the background of consciousness as the ground of all being. Mystics are well aware of this, and Amit explained how quantum physics is congruent with this understanding. In every way, creativity is central, and Amit contends that if the world were mathematical only, there just would be no creativity. Consciousness is creative and creativity is discontinuous, just as events are in the quantum world. He drew on Vendanta and Kabbalistic understanding and compared it with psycho-physical parallelism to show how we experience consciousness as it interacts with the physical world, (experienced as touch), the world of meaning (experienced as mind), with the vital body (experienced as feelings) and the archetypal world (experienced as intuition). Our consciousness is conditioned, therefore experienced as local, but we do have the potential of experiencing it non locally. Amit explained creativity as that which gives us the answers to a question when we ‘sleep on it’ or in quantum language, what we do when we keep the range of probabilities open – keeping the wave from collapsing. The greater the number of possibilities, the higher is creativity. The discontinuous nature of creativity is seen not only in our personal lives, but according to Amit, also in evolution. Species evolution is gradual and biological mutations are quantum leaps, creative moments which generate new forms. The whole question of physical and mental health and healing is of great interest to Amit and unfortunately we did not have time to go in great detail into the way he sees the question of healing developing. He noted that Eastern traditions, Chinese and Indian work actively with the vital and energetic body, which can be well understood within the model he presented. We shall have to wait to find out more when his new book, Integral Medicine , comes out.

February 2003

Paul Devereux

In his talk Sacred Sound and Vision in the Ancient World, author Paul Devereux took us around the globe by means of beautiful and interesting sacred places projected on a white wall. He likened prehistory to the unconscious mind, and history to waking consciousness: to visit the ruins of prehistoric sacred places was, he said, like recalling fragments of dreams. This was more than a metaphor, because ‘prehistory’ and ‘history’ are the products of differing modes of consciousness. The prehistoric mind had a cyclical sense of time as opposed to the historical-era linear sense. To indicate what cognitive archaeology was beginning to reveal, Paul looked at two aspects of prehistoric cognition he called ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘Visionary’. In ‘Dreamtime’ we looked at consciousness expressed through ‘simulacra’ in which prehistoric Man venerated natural structures which looked like figures, faces, creatures. We saw mountains that look like breasts in Ireland and Scotland, a rock in the shape of a cobra over the head of a pharaoh in Egypt, showing how the perception of natural forms shaped the iconography of dynastic Egypt. One slide showed an amazing fused stalactite-stalagmite in the shape of a tree deep inside a Mayan ritual cave. Under the ‘Visionary’ heading we were shown prehistoric rock art deriving from shamanistic visionary experiences, including images from America and South Africa depicting out-of-body experiences. Then Paul tantalised the audience with his findings concerning acoustics and magnetism in sacred environments. He spoke of research which found that acoustics in certain sacred places produce a primary resonant frequency between 110 and 119 Hz, and recent laboratory work shows that this can produce powerful brain rhythms that are associated with trance states. He briefly touched on his findings that in certain locations some rocks are magnetic. What effect would that have on visions of prehistoric mystical man? Again, laboratory experiments are indicating that such low-level magnetic variations can affect states of consciousness. Overall, the talk was about the mystical visions of those who sought transcendental meaning in the environment in which they lived. Prehistoric Man seemed to have had a technology of the mind which is well worth exploring as part of our own efforts to understand that which is so close yet so badly understood ‘ our own consciousness.

January 2003

Richard Milton

Richard Milton entitled his talk Darwin does not work here any more. He is a writer and journalist, writing on scientific matters and spent some twenty years studying the geology and paleontology of the British Isles. The ruling ideology of the life sciences for the past century he says, has been the doctrine that evolution is driven by blind mechanical forces - spontaneous genetic mutation coupled with natural selection. Richard pointed out that the scientific evidence is inadequate to support this theory and he quoted examples pointing to widespread inconsistencies and anomalies which simply undermine the credibility of the theory. The absence of transitional fossils made him question Darwin`s idea of gradual change. He challenges the radioactive dating techniques as there is no radioactive material in fossils. From salamanders to slime moulds, from cuckoos to giraffes we were taken on a tour of questions. In his view, biology has been hijacked by a powerful urban scientific myth, the Darwinist myth. Richard does not propose an alternative theory of evolution, but points out that what we have now is too fragmented, incomplete and selective in its approach. What he wishes and hopes for, is a science that will be willing to challenge sacred cows and research that will be more inclusive of purpose instead than randomness. For further details see

www.alternativescience.com

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