From Global Crisis to a New Civilization
In November, we heard from Hardin Tibbs, a management consultant who specialises in long term thinking, strategy development and scenario planning. Hardin helps corporations think, prepare and plan for the future considering technological trends and innovations in the context of the bigger picture, which necessarily includes the environment, as well as political and social development and trends. His writings on technology and the future have been influential in various political and academic forums. In his talk he focused on a framework of 50 years back and 50 years forward. We were presented a series of graphs and statistics showing the current dangerous situation we face on our beloved planet. The most impressive and worrying came right at the beginning, in a picture which shows the effect of exponential growth of an imaginary element, say water lilies in a pond which double in number every day. At the beginning the effect is so minimal as not to be felt or noticed. On the day before last however, the pond is half full…. This model shows the danger of the effects of pumping toxic and destructive elements into the air, soil and water resources which have only a limited capacity to absorb and deal positively with them. However, the same creative thinking from which the technology originated which created such devastating effect, can also bring forth the necessary technology to reverse this devastation. We were invited to consider the role of consciousness and perception in the way we frame reality and the effect a reframing would have. A shift in the current concept of reality which considers the material world as the guiding principle for our decision making will enable us to change our values. If our values change, then the technology we demand will change as a result. Perhaps the current turbulence worldwide might be a sign of this happening. Inshallah
The Social Motivation of C.G. Jung’s Critique of Scientific Rationalism
The October presentation was given by Roderick Main PhD. Roderick is Lecturer in Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex where he is a Scheme Director of the MA in Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies. Within Jungian studies, Roderick’s main area of interest is the theory of synchronicity and in this talk he expanded on the reasons why Jung was so critical of Western scientific rationalism, and why he saw in his theory of synchronicity a bridge towards what was for him, a more complete science. It warmed our hearts (mine anyway!) to know that Jung in fact would have been a committed member of the Network were he alive today, as our mission statement stands perfectly for what Jung himself was driven to explore ‘ a worldview beyond materialism. He was critical of contemporary science for its rationalistic one-sidedness as materialist, outward, radically intellectual, and generalist, leaving out the exceptional, inner experiences and wider aspects of thinking, including imagination. For Jung true science in a wider sense should include all these. The social consequences of such one sided scientific rationalism is seen in modernity in which mass mindedness results in current disorder of society, break with tradition, social sickness, meaninglessness etc. Large sections of the population are currently affected by a kind of psychosis which in itself can be ‘infectious’. Jung hoped to shift the nature of scientific thinking to encompass subjective experience and he found in synchronicity the element which would achieve such a shift. Synchronicity is the acausal connection through meaning between two events. Based on his observations of Chinese spirituality, specifically the I Ching, coupled with his discussions with Wolfgang Pauli, Jung saw in synchronicity the means to bring within the scientific framework, something which is part of human experience, and is individual, subjective, unique and unrepeatable, thus making science more holistic and complete. It was a fascinating presentation of thoughts developed in Roderick’s bookThe Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture (Brunner-Routledge 2004). His new book Revelations of Chance: Synchronicity as Spiritual Experience (Sunny) will be forthcoming in 2006.
Occultism and Psychiatry: implications in clinical practice
In September we had the pleasure to welcome Dr. Soumitra Basu, a psychiatrist from India who works in Calcutta and Pondicherry. Dr. Basu has been developing paradigms on psychology, psychotherapy and health based on the consciousness perspective that originates from Sri Aurobindo’s mystical insights. This states that in evolution supreme Consciousness ‘came down’ through a process of involution into unconsciousness moving then up into manifestation. The forces on this upwards movement manifest from the lowest to the highest powers. Whereas the higher powers are those of the light (gods and goddesses), the lower ones are dark and destructive. Unlike mysticism, which involves an emotional relationship with the divine, occultism is a technical manipulation of these dark forces and the corresponding dark sides of individuals. Psychiatric patients in India often seek the help of occultists and frequently find themselves depressed, having psychotic breakdowns which sometimes lead to suicide. We heard some interesting case histories to illustrate his point and when confronted with such patients, Dr. Basu will work within a framework which does not dismantle the patient’s belief structure. As well as pharmacotherapy, Dr. Basu seeks to counterbalance the occult influence by directing the patient to work with the forces of higher spiritual powers, using culturally accepted adjuncts to psychiatry, including positive worship and what he called ‘white magic’. With the interest of his patients in mind, Dr. Basu is at present involved in a project to build a hospital which in its architecture, shape, light and surroundings will replicate the healing spaces of ancient temples. This most unusual design from our Western perspective is drawn following a model of the development of consciousness itself and will serve as framework for amongst others, a program of personality development. An international team is involved in this experimental project which at the moment is still on the drawing board but when fully operational will herald a completely new paradigm in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.
Ten Dimensions: Towards a Theory of Everything
This month we had an insight into the theory that we might in fact be living in a ten dimensional spatial universe rather than in the three we know and manage. Prof Gwyn Hocking of Imperial College London, works in the field of physical chemistry and has for many years been researching the field after he came across and became fascinated by the work of Besant & Leadbeater who in 1895 described the existence of 10 spatial dimensions. In the process these two Victorians identified features of elementary particles which correspond with modern quark string theory which now also postulates 10 spatial dimensions. It was by way of ESP (extra sensory perception) that Besant and Leadbeater identified not only the smallest particles inside the proton (which later came to be called quarks) but also the fact that they are 3 in number. They ‘looked’ even further into the basic building blocks of the physical universe and ‘saw’ that each quark is composed of three further units (which has as yet not been substantiated by modern physics) which they called ‘Arnoo’ ‘ a Sanskrit word meaning ‘smalles particle of matter’. Besant and Leadbeater used their ‘third eye’ faculty for this investigation, a capability which as Gwyn pointed out, was well known in the ancient world in Egypt, India etc and could be said to have be implicated in Swedenborg’s ‘clairvoyance’ of Stockholm burning. We were further reminded that the tradition of acquiring information by means of the ‘third eye’ has its parallel usage in less esoteric forms as in the ‘remote viewing’ procedures used by the CIA during the cold war. We were taken on a tour of formulae, with long stops at Schrodinger and Euler’s equation, as well as other principles of Quantum Mechanics to show that Besant and Leadbeater’s proposals can also be gleaned at from the perspective of modern particle physics. The ‘Arnoo’ are said to be strings of bubbles coiled up over and again around themselves (an idea which might even be at the origin of String Theory). The authors’ books were set aide for many decades because of an inconsistency to which Gwyn found an elegant answer. To try and understand what this all means in practical terms, Gwyn tackled the fourth dimension considering our experience of length, breadth and depth and showed that the fourth dimension would be experienced as ‘withiness’. To explain this we were shown drawing of a ‘tesseract’ a two dimensional representation of what the fourth dimension would look like. It was a fascinating effort in peeping behind the curtains of the mystery of reality. His presentation plus picture of the tesseract are available to members (please logon via Member`s Circle) for downloading.
Approaching Death experiences and Models of Dying
This month we had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Peter Fenwick, the President of theScientific & Medical Network. Peter is a consultant neuropsychiatrist with honorary appointments at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, at Southampton Univertity and at Broadmoor Special Hospital. He has a lifelong interest in Consciousness and particularly in the process of dying and has pioneered many studies in this field. Many years ago a patient told him of his OBE experience during a particularly painful medical intervention and this sparked Peter’s interest in the whole area of out of body and also of near neath experiences. In this talk Peter discussed the scientific studies which led him to take these experiences as model for the dying process itself. When he first started looking at the phenomena, the field itself was very much ‘out of culture’ and scientists and funding organisations were reluctant to give it their attention. This situation has nevertheless changed and we heard about the people whose writings and studies have contributed to this change in which Peter has had no small role himself. We heard about he stages of the dying process and what happens when death is approaching. To our surprise, we were told that research shows that as many as 30% of people actually die consciously. Studies of patients and carer’s reports have revealed patterns in which death bed visions, experiences of light, coincidences etc occur in statistically significant numbers. The argument that the visions are hallucinations has been explained away as reports of confusional hallucinations and visions are discernibly different in quality. We saw videos in which people who have undergone near death and out of body experiences talk candidly and emotionally about them, supporting the experience of others as shown in research. On the other hand Peter addressed the hole that exists in neuroscience because we cannot get from brain processes to subjectivity as Consciousness is still a mystery for us. However, what he called ‘brain identity’ must fail if death bed timing is correct, if coincidences are real, if information can be acquired when out of body, if blind people can really see in near death experiences. Peter is heading a research group (Death Experience Research Group ‘ DERG) which is designing and setting up studies to look into this area.
On the 14th June Dr. Mike King kindly stood in for Dr. Nitin Trasi who was unable to give the talk originally planned. Mike is Director of the Centre for Postsecular Studies and his background and interests span science, art and the spiritual. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the SMN and is also well known for having published a number of challenging articles in Network Review in the past. In this presentation he set out to refute the theory expounded in Kuhn’s book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. In it Kuhn proposes that science evolves by means of revolutions, or ‘paradigm shifts’ in which old theories get discarded and replaced by new ones. By means of practical examples Mike showed however that this is not the case, Newtonian science being still used in present day technology although Einstein and Quantum Mechanics have given us new ways of understanding and working in the physical world. Mike proposes that although Kuhn was a physicist, his perspective is more like that of a philosopher, looking as he is for a generalised theory across the board, which is not the way of science, where each field has its own epistemology and methodology. Students in the humanities says Mike, are given their understanding of what science is from having to read virtually only this particular book and end up with an erroneous concept. Having made his case, Mike used it to discuss where the SMN, our own Network, should stand in relation to epistemology and methodology in the three fields of Art, Science and Spirituality. Having defended NOMA or ‘Non Overlapping Magisteria’ in past articles of the Review (suggesting that each of the three fields, Art, Science and Spirituality has its own epistemology and methodology and should not refer to that of any of the other fields), he has compromised a little and proposes SOMA or Slightly Overlapping Magisteria with the search for Truth being conducted using mainly but not only the particular methodology of the field. His views elicited an animated discussion with some people being enthusiastically in agreement whereas others disagreed just as intently. As expected, no consensus emerged and the Network is likely to continue to be what he charmingly described ‘a herd of cats’
Participation in Kosmos: both/and thinking in science and human experience
On May the 24th we heard Prof Chris Clarke ex professor of Applied Mathematics at Southampton University, now a visiting professor. Chris’ professional world revolved around the logic of mathematics, the analytical thinking of science and in his presentation he looked at the logical, as well as the complementary way of experiencing the world, that of participation and identification. He started by pointing to the paradox of the concomitant emotional identification and logical thinking which occurs when we read a novel or watch a movie. Being identified with a character means experiencing ‘with’ him/her. At the same time however, our logical mind ‘knows’ that the experience is vicarious, not real. Herein lies the paradox. Interestingly, in oral societies the deep sense of identification with the natural world is experienced regularly in traditional rituals and people perceive themselves as ‘being’ an animal or bird, without logic thinking denying the experience. This indicates the distinct difference between knowing by facts, or logic, and knowing by ‘being’. For this model Chris’ also takes inspiration from the dual role of Artemis, the Greek goddess, who is at the same time the hunter and protector of animals (participator) and when tired, becomes the choreographer of the gods (logic). We looked at the exaltation of logic from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to the present time and how this led to the all pervasive current need for ‘certainty’, responsible for the rise of fundamentalism and other problems. In science meanwhile, research shows that in any system described by quantum mechanics the relation between all the measurements are in fact logically inconsistent. Put it differently, QM talks of ‘context determined logic’. Chris consequently identifies an opportunity for embracing different ways of knowing by re-integrating the two parts of our being, the one marked by creativity and participation and the other by logic specifically the Aristotelian logic, now identified more like ‘context determined’ logic. By doing this he hopes we can rediscover what it is to be a human being. ‘Ways of Knowing: Science and Mysticism Today’ is the title of the new book edited by him.
The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt
In April Jeremy Naydler PhD spoke about The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt which actually includes the whole nature of Egyptian religion. This is not widely understood because, according to conventional Egyptology, the bulk of Egyptian religious literature should be regarded as funerary texts, reflecting beliefs about the soul’s journey after death. It is certainly true that Egyptian religion was very focused on death, but conventional Egyptology does not sufficiently appreciate that death was conceived not simply temporally but also spatially, in the sense that it was a ‘realm’ that existed alongside the physical realm. The Egyptians called it the Dwat. Within the Dwat there are spiritual forces and beings, including the spirits of the dead, that have a profound influence on life in the physical world. Because of this intimate interrelationship between the invisible and visible worlds, the Egyptians put much effort into acquiring knowledge of the Dwat. The so-called ‘funerary’ literature is the product of this effort. It describes, amongst other things, experiences that occur when the soul crosses the threshold of death. However, this crossing of the threshold of death and travelling into the Dwat was not restricted to those who had physically died: it was also a possibility for the living. The ‘funerary’ literature, therefore, could be seen to contain the mystical tradition of ancient Egypt. This becomes clear when its content is compared to that of other mystical traditions. Descriptions of the ascent of the soul to the stars, the encounter with spirits and gods in the heavenly regions, the experience of spiritual rebirth and union with the godhead, are all to be found in Egyptian ‘funerary’ texts, but are also to be found in mystical traditions worldwide. Jeremy therefore maintains that the time has come to reappraise the nature of Egyptian religion, so that its mystical dimension can be properly appreciated.
Is the Brain in the World or the World in the Brain?
Our speaker at the March meeting was Prof Max Velmans, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and author or editor of numerous books and papers on consciousness including his major work, ‘Understanding Consciousness’. In this meeting Max developed one of the themes of his book, how we make representations of the world. He took us through the landscape of dualistic and reductionist perspectives of understanding consciousness. Using simple diagrams he unpicked the conventional understanding of the phenomenology of perception. Using the example of a subject seeing an object, a person seeing a cat, we were led through the logic of dualistic model of perception and then looked at the reductionist nature of conventional science as it studies brain processes of perception. Weaknesses and strengths of both models were considered and it became clear that as much as brain sciences can investigate the nature of the brain and brain activity it cannot capture the qualia of experience. First person experience cannot be examined by third person observation. There is therefore something wrong with the nature of the debate. By means of pictures in which we watched as optical illusions create a perception which upon closer examination is not there, it became clear that the way we perceive the world relies to a great extent on our personal psychology as it interacts with the world. We live in a world of appearances and our interpretation of the world relies on contributions we make ourselves, often based on unconscious elements. So what we see and how we see it is psychological too. Experience is psycho-physical. This he calls ‘Reflexive Monism’ and explains how conscious experience is a three dimensional virtual reality, the result of an interrelationship between us, our subjective self, and the world.
Where are the Dead and what are they Doing?
In asking this question, Dr. Peter Moore, who is one of the conveners and a lecturer at the MA in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience at University of Kent, is not arguing a theory or proposing detailed answers. What he does, is to suggest that this question is a coherent one worthy of being asked. It is well known that this view goes against the grain both of current materialistic scepticism and of academic and also popular religious thinking. His argument is built question upon question. Either we survive death in some form or we do not. From this root alternative come two primary questions: does the idea of post-mortem existence make sense? And if it does, is there any evidence for such an existence? Peter deals with the difficulty of a disembodied existence which seems to be basic to the philosopher’s rejection of post-mortem existence. Against that Peter raises the question ‘ why is it assumed that post mortem existence would be incorporeal or disembodied? Being discarnate, is not the same as being disembodied. Then there is the question of the soul ‘ why should it be assumed that death consists in or entails the separation of the soul from the (continuing) body? Quoting Anthony Flew
unless I am my soul, survival makes no more sense than the survival of my appendix. Perhaps what leaves the body upon death is neither ‘mind’ nor ‘soul’ but our ‘real selves’. With this in mind, the question of ‘where are the dead and what are they doing?’ takes shape and we were invited to consider and explore various models of post-mortem existence. This presentation is part of a wider study and his paper is available on:
The Mystic Fire
Dr. David Goddard is a Teacher of the Western Esoteric Tradition and has written a number of books, manuals on the art of Alchemy. He started with an explanation of what Alchemy actually is and expanded on its Chinese equivalent, Taoism as well as the Science of the Sages of Tibbetan Buddhism. Alchemy in all these guises represents first hand experience of ‘accelerated evolution’. In the West Alchemy used metallurgy as a parallel in form and language to escape the tight control of the ecclesiastic authorities in the Middle Ages. To achieve gold through the transformation of metals is a challenging enterprise well worth keeping secret. This ‘gold’ is in fact personal spiritual achievement outside the control of religious leaders which given the circumstances at the time would not have been tolerated. Various metals are used as symbols, their properties representing equivalent human characteristic. For example Mercury is the oddest, a fluid metal which when in the form of droplets, becomes a mirror. This represents ultimate Consciousness, reflecting its surroundings. It is the One from which all else derives as stated by the ancient wisdom of the Perennial Philosophy. Each metal used in Alchemy will have a correspondence in human nature. David drew a parallel between esotericism and a TV cookery program in which one can see the effects, but cannot taste or smell the results. In order to understand the alchemical process, one is required to experience it first hand. David expanded on the way Alchemy uses The Mystic Fire to ‘fry the seeds of karma’. `Fried seeds’ will not sprout, therefore the karma is changed. This is achieved through meditation using imagery on the premise that the Unconscious works with images. As we know, dreams are our personal vocabulary of imagery and as Jung proposed, there is a deeper layer which holds our cultural and universal values. Esoteric traditions use an array of imaginal techniques to bring about change. David’s website is: