London Group – Meeting Reports 2010

November 2010

The Ghosts of Kusnacht: Jung and the Dead

Gary Lachman, is a prolific author who writes on the themes of consciousness, culture and western esoteric tradition. This evening he spoke about a particular aspect of his latest book Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings, Jung’s interest in death. It is well known that this interest ran in the family, his maternal grandfather Samuel Preiswerk, a preacher regularly communicated with his diseased first wife and even kept an empty chair for her at the dinner table, to the consternation of his second wife! Jung’s mother had mediumistic gifts so he grew up in an environment in which the dead were quite present. As a young boy he was fascinated with funerals and corpses and when his father was dying he was there observing life draining from the body. A couple of poltergeist experiences, the splitting of a table and that of a knife within a drawer in his house focused his interest even more in the paranormal and he engaged in spiritual sΓ©ances with his cousin Heli who had strong gifts in this direction. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on this experience, but his need to conform to science to maintain his credibility, led him to be less than genuine about his interest. In general this need to affirm his credibility, especially during the time he worked with Freud, prevented him to engage publicly in what privately fascinated him. After his break with Freud he experienced a psychotic breakdown during which he wrote (or channelled) the Twelve Sermons to the Dead. At this stage he was still not comfortable with the esoteric, and I was only following his near death experience when he suffered a heart attack after breaking his fibula in 1944 did he ‘came out of the closet’ and became open about this interest in the esoteric. In this experience he found himself floating above the planet watching a monolith which turned out to be a Hindu temple floating towards him. He knew that was the portal to the afterlife, but at the last minute he was told he had to return as his time had not yet come. Like other people who had the same experience, he felt annoyed as the pull towards the portal was too great. But as we know, he returned to live out his life and died on the numerologically interesting date of 6/6/61.

October 2010

Energy-consciousness duality: Parapsychology as a scientific mystery tradition

Dr. David Luke is senior lecturer in psychology at Greenwhich University and has a long standing interest in parapsychology, ESP and altered states of consciousness. He set the context of his presentation by explaining that philosophically he is a dualist and considers mind and body as distinct but participating in a two way causal relationship pointing to unity. To demonstrate this widely held view he pointed to similarities within Eastern and Western traditions both of which consider the union of consciousness and matter. One of the most ubiquitous symbols of this union of opposites is the superimposition of inverted triangles, the upturned one symbolising consciousness and the downturned, matter or energy. In Hinduism this symbolises the union of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (energy or matter) and in the West this symbol is used in a variety of traditions: in Judaism as the star of David, but also in Theosophy, Masonic and other esoteric traditions. This symbol appears also as Merkaba the union of the energetic principle and consciousness mentioned in Ezekiel to be found also in ancient Egypt where the union of Ka (life force) and Ba (consciousness) constituted the definition of life. In the West, the world of physics (matter) and the world of psychology (mind or consciousness) have no overlap and parapsychology is the attempt to address this lack. Parapsychology is the study of the direct interaction between mind and matter. It is defined as the scientific study of experiences which, if they are as they seem to be, are seen as being outside the realm of human capabilities as conceived by conventional scientists. This includes clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, mediumship etc. David explained some of the scientific studies in the area being conducted by himself and others, which he feels justifies parapsychology to be considered a mystical tradition with a scientific method.

Members can listen to this talk by accessing this page through the ‘Members’ Area’ portal and clicking on the link below.

October 2010

MAGICAL MINDSCAPES: How landscape was invested with meaning in the Ancient World

Paul Devereux, author and researcher is also a founding editor of the academic publication, Time & Mind ‘ The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture (Berg) and a research affiliate with the Royal College of Art. This evening’s talk carried the same title as the latest of Paul’s 26 books and his illustrated presentation showed how ancient civilisations imbued the landscape in which they lived with meaning. We saw beautiful pictures of mountains which were considered sacred and so were other geological formations such as caves which could be said to be stone age cathedrals, the resonance and darkness no doubt creating the mysterious atmosphere which facilitated a numinous experience. Some waterways were also considered sacred, and we have a contemporary example, the River Ganges in India. Another way of imputing meaning to the landscape was the interpretation of simulacra, and example of which are the Paps of Anu, mountains which look like breasts in Ireland, or the Buffalo Rock in the US. Looking for parallels in the human body, there were cultures which sought to identify the navel of the Earth to declare it sacred, as is the Omphalos or ‘navel stone’ in Greece, or the Cosmic Axis, which is what Mount Kailash in Tibet represents. Many of these places were pilgrimage destinations and the pilgrimage itself was sacred as its slow pace allowed the pilgrim to see details and interact with the unseen in the landscape. Paul explained and described pilgrimages such as Mt Sinai, Santiago de Compostela, Native American pilgrimages to Bold Mountain etc. The straight lines we see in deserts Paul suggested, may well have been lines people walked. We were left with the sense that those people living in a landscape imbued with meaning were able to impute meaning to their own lives, something which many of us have lost in the very different world in which we now live.

Early October 2010

French Cathedrals trip

On the morning of Friday, 1st of October, a group of 13 of us set off in three cars direction France via the Eurotunnel. We were going to spend the next 5 days on a circuit around Paris, to visit a total of six cathedrals, one castle and a Champagne producer, with David Lorimer and Clive Hicks as guides. We learned that most of the great French cathedrals are dedicated to Mary, virgin mother of Jesus and each portrays a different angle of the story with their beautiful stone carvings, which one can spend hours, days, weeks studying. Our first stop was the cathedral of St Quentin, where we heard the first of Clive Hicks’ presentation in which he explained some basic facts regarding the architecture of medieval cathedrals. It was our first encounter on this trip with that majestic style and the awe inspiring atmosphere of this space filled me personally with a sense of reverence and delight to be there. From St Quentin we moved to Laon where we arrived towards dusk. The motorway runs straight into Laon, and from afar one can see the imposing cathedral perched high on the lonely hill. It is impressive! We went up to explore it but it was wet, cold and getting dark so we came back the following morning and found it enveloped in the mist of the low clouds which gave it an eerie atmosphere. Although the basic elements are similar, each cathedral has its own message and we spent time looking at the details of the front elevation, its figures and expressions. The interior was likewise remarkable, the features exquisite! From Laon we moved to Reims, perhaps the most perfect example of the impressive ‘High Gothic’ architecture. We were amused by the ‘smiling angel’ and other figures at the front, and spent some time looking for the ‘Green Man’ which is somewhere among the stone carvings inside. After lunch we drove through beautiful champagne vineyards, to Hautvillers Abbey where, in a small country church some of us heard beautiful music sung in rehearsal for some upcoming event. The others were stuck in traffic but caught up with us fairly quickly and we drove to a champagne tasting at Tarlant where David gave an interesting talk on the production of champagne. Tasting the champagne was very nice too and some more than others, left laden with bottles! Our stop the following day was a memorable visit to the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, where we heard the sad story of its creator, Louis Nicolas Fouquet. The castle is absolutely splendid with its magnificent gardens and carriage museum. The weather, which had not been very cooperative up to now, changed and we were able go back in time as we strolled in the sunshine through the breathtaking gardens created by Andre Le NΓ΄tre, the landscape gardener who also designed the park and gardens of Versailles and Chantilly. The following day found us in Chartres, which was the highlight of the trip. Chartres can be described, discussed and explained, but it really needs to be experienced! There is so much to say but not enough space, so I just say that it was awe-inspiring! From Chartres we moved to Beauvais where we arrived at lunchtime and found the cathedral closed! We had not accounted for the French cherished ‘dejeuner’, so we moved to Amiens, another spectacular cathedral with wonderful stories recounted through figures over the porticos. From there it was back to Calais, and home. It was a wonderful trip, in the company of wonderful people in which we learned much, saw beautiful things and had the opportunity to be in truly inspirational places. If you wish to see pictures, please email me and I will send you the links.

September 2010

The Magical Play of the Creation According to Modern Physics

Dennis Blejer, MIT physicist and branch leader of the School of Practical Philosophy and Meditation in Boston took the audience, a group of non-physicist on an interesting tour of some of the most complexes ideas in physics making them accessible through very skilful explanations. Much within the physical reality in which we live is mysterious and physics seeks to understand these mysteries of the universe by discovering the laws that shape the world as we know it. Amongst others Dennis talked about the basic principles of Special and General Relativity theory, Black Holes and some of the theories of the Big Bang. To point out how mysterious are phenomena we take for granted he reminded us that although the effects of gravity are well known and studied by physics, its causes are an absolute mystery as are forces or energy fields – the constant interaction between the seen and the unseen in the physical world – which although studied and used by various technologies, are unknown as to their causes or origins. Water for instance, although we know its composition we again have no idea as to its origin.
He explained how mysterious are both light and time and managed to include Woody Allen’s unbeatable logic that ‘time is what God made so that everything wouldn’t happen at once’! As for Reality, he pointed out that ‘everything that can be observed, changes’ and as a student of Advaita Vedanta, a non-dual tradition, he stated that what changes cannot be real. We hope Dennis will come back to develop this latter perspective, which must count – from our human limited perspective – as the ultimate mystery.

Members can listen to the talk by accessing this page through the ‘Members’ Area’ portal and clicking on the link below.

July 2010

Ancient Techniques for the Modern World: an Introduction to Shamanism

Zoe Bran is a writer and has been a university lecturer but she now focuses exclusively on her practice of shamanism. She is involved in the practicalities of healing, counselling, psycho-pomping (helping people in the process of dying) as well as teaching. Zoe started by explaining to us that shamanism is the oldest and most widespread spiritual tradition and can be found in ancient as well as present times. She made an interesting connection with the Old Testament pointing out stories which could be understood within the context of shamanism. She gave some examples, which included Jacob’s dream of a ladder which can be clearly be associated with a journey to what in shamanism is understood as the Upper World. Jesus himself would fit well in this tradition as a shaman, a healer connected with Spirit performing what is seen as miracles. The word shamanism comes from Siberian Tunga and means ‘the one who sees into the true nature of things, beyond surface reality’. Seeing beyond surface reality is the enlightened state in many other mystical traditions. The shaman is understood to be able to leave his body and travel upwards towards the sky as well as downwards inside the ground. He uses his imagination to accomplish his deeds in helping others on their path, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Shamanism sees a person as spirit in a human body and interacting with other spirits is core to the tradition. What are Spirits? They are part of whatever the universe is made of and present themselves to us in specific forms to teach us something we need to know. Engaging with spirits is engaging with the divine for a particular purpose. A person in shamanism is understood to have two souls (soul is equal to spirit): the body soul and the free soul. It is with the free soul that the shaman journeys by means of his imagination and rather than words and understanding is achieved by means of experiences. The role of the shaman is to mediate between the seen and the unseen to restore balance and harmony. Interestingly, in this tradition there is no good or evil, only things that should not be there, and absence of what should be there.

Members can listen to this talk by accessing this page via the Members’ Area and clicking the link below.

June 2010

What is Truth?

In June, Christopher Titmuss, a former Buddhist monk, author of numerous books and Dharma teacher gave his talk the intriguing title ‘What is Truth?’. He started by asking the audience about their questions on the topic and proceeded to answer them by exploring the language we use figuring the word truth. With great clarity and focus, Christopher led us step by step to follow his thinking towards what turns out to be quite a simple insight. He started by pointing out the power of generalisations. Institutions, of which we are surrounded, have voices of authority which reflect and mirror their ethos. It is quite common that we attribute authority to these voices and accept what they say as truth. There is great danger in this! There is a difference between truth and a view and to avoid falling into an unquestioning conformist position we must remain vigilant about authority so we do not confuse view and truth. Christopher pointed out that even in the legal system, a view is frequently confused with truth. When looking closely we see that it is often about winning an argument, rather than teasing out the truth. In another area, that of conflict, the situation is even more entrenched: is it possible to free up the concept of truth from the language, motivation plus the need from both sides to win the argument? This led him to consider the problem of conflict which arises from the mindset that perceives differences as truth. Yet, there is no truth there ‘ only views. It is in the belief (or view) of a gap between us and them that the horror of violence can take place Christopher pointed out. He recalled the way his teacher in Thailand would start his talks, which went: dear brothers and sisters, in birth, ageing sickness and death! Birth, ageing, sickness and death, is that which we have in common! From a dharma perspective (teachings on the way things are) ‘ in the same way we change, views also undergo changes. A view at one point in time will undoubtedly change and this constant adaptation shows that what we take as truth at one point, will show up as not being so at a different stage. This goes for everything including science. So, authority must be questioned. Knowledge adapts and changes. So what of truth? How can we know truth from knowledge? Truth Christopher says, has a function. Truth is that which transforms. Truth moves and shows itself with some kind of break with the past. In this break, life opens up in some way. Truth is the transformative element in human existence. Different from knowledge and information, it is a shift and our own experience can confirm it. Sometimes it hits us from the outside ‘ perhaps something someone says ‘ other times it is an internal process. Art, music, theatre etc can wake us up ‘ transform us ‘ that is truth! The understanding is transforming ‘ not informing! That is the difference. When it transforms, it is truth, when it does not ‘ it is called a view! Truth when it transforms does not necessarily take us somewhere pleasant, sometimes the transformation is towards something painful! Nevertheless, every transformation brings with it a new beginning! The audience was deeply touched, and following a short dialogue the room fell silent!

Below is the link to Christopher Titmuss’ website and members can hear the talk by accessing this page via the Members’ Area and clicking the link below.

May 2010

The Four Levels of Interpretation: from Science to Mysticism

Dr. Angela Voss started life as a classical musician and then moved to the academic world where she wrote her PhD on the music of Marsilio Ficino. For the last four years Angela has been the director of the MA program on Cosmology and Divination at the University of Kent. She has a long standing interest in the methods and interpretation of knowledge that arises through magic and divination practices. Her presentation this evening was about different ways of knowing and levels of interpretation. Whereas today the consensus is that empirical scientific method is the only arbiter of truth in all areas of life, Angela examined the multi-layered ways in which the world was interpreted in the past, and shown that although not universally considered, they are still as relevant today as they were then. The ancient Greeks and early Christian Church understood that particular perception is required and specific methods applied to different ways of knowing. A good example, are the four levels of interpretation proposed by Origen of Alexandria (c. 185’254) for the understanding of sacred texts: the first and most basic is the literal level which reports facts. The life of Christ in this mode is understood as purely historical. The next level is the allegorical, which introduces symbolic interpretation, teasing out meaning behind the narrative. In this mode Christ’s journey is understood for its deeper metaphorical significance. The third level, the tropological, combines this understanding with action resulting in changes in the way life is lived. Christ’s example and teachings become transformative as they are taken into one’s own life. The fourth level is the anagogic or mystical knowing and Christ becomes known internally as revelation, and the person acquires spiritual insight into the nature of Reality. The major bridge is crossed from the first level ‘ the literal, to the second in which one thing is seen for another by the interpretation of the symbolic. Symbol is important because it brings the divine level down to sense perception through the power of imagination. Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) offers a simplified version by conflating the last three steps. He points to two ways of seeing the world which he called the eye of reason and the eye of revelation. Both are important, the eye of reason will facilitate scientific understanding and progress and the eye of revelation keeps us connected with the symbolic and spiritual reality. Arabi warned of the dangers of seeing the world in an imbalanced way for the eye of reason divorced from the eye of revelation will lead to a materialistic reductionist and superficial understanding disconnected from meaning and the eye of revelation divorced from the eye of reason, will lead to transgressions in the realms of the irrational. His views are eminently current as we consider the imbalance caused by the emphasis placed on the eye of reason which affords exclusive credibility to scientific explanations in all areas of life. Angela, and the audience in general agreed, that to be true to our human nature, rather than adopting a single perspective, we need to be aware of the validity of these multiple ways of knowing.

April 2010

The Call of the Cosmos and the Great Work of Alchemy

In April we welcomed an old friend of the SMN, retired Jungian analyst and author Anne Baring. In her illustrated and colourful presentation Anne tackled the Great Work of Alchemy and explained how this art, which goes back to pre Christian times, seeks to respond to the call of the Cosmos which we humans can feel from the depth of our being. Her own interest was started by a dream she had when she was young, in which a voice was crying out for help. Looking around she found the voice came from a stone! There and then she understood that this was spirit buried in matter and that she was being called to work on her own understanding of this phenomenon, then to teach and write. Alchemy is this process which seeks to reveal a hidden reality of the highest order and deals with fundamental questions such as who we are, what we are doing here and how to manifest the spirit of life. The Great Work of Alchemy aims to help us develop our own consciousness and to reconnect with the invisible soul of the Cosmos. It is a powerful process and during the psychotic breakdown in which he was flooded by unconscious material, Jung experienced it in full force and this enabled him to understand and then write about it. The reality described by Alchemy is very differently from the dead universe of modern scientific materialism. The Cosmos is seen as living, organic, a sacred whole. This perspective goes back to the civilizations of the Bronze Age when all life was spirit and man was a part of it. This was the early feminine, lunar era, the time of shamanic consciousness, in which man participated in the cosmos by living in a more instinctual way. This culture is symbolised by death and rebirth and its myths are connected with the life and death of the earth, the regeneration of the seasons. Although we have lost this lunar perspective in our rational mind, it still lives in our instinctual soul. The masculine, solar era starts around 2000 BC, with the beginning of writing. Then, a radical change of consciousness occurs, and the sun becomes the great symbolic image. This is a phase of separation of the ego, the conscious mind from nature. This created a split between the emergence of the conscious mind and the instincts. As a consequence, duality comes into being, and with it the split between good and evil. Lunar, the idea of oneness becomes lost and we start seeing God as external to ourselves. The key image becomes transcendence and the emphasis is on getting out of the world, out of the wheel of rebirth, and into the world to come. The body has to be controlled and subjugated. The work of alchemy is bringing luna (moon, the feminine) and sol (sun, masculine) back together towards a wholesome union. The vessel of the alchemist is his own psyche ‘ the prima materia – and our individual imagination is seen as the divine element, an implant of the Cosmic Imagination. This, the Anima Mundi is the root and matrix of our personal consciousness and the journey of the soul is to reconnect the conscious mind with instincts. The process from nigredo to rubedo is complete when the body of light after death is reunited with Unus Mundus.

Anne Baring

March 2010

C.G. Jung, Scientist , Mystic and Prophet

In this talk, Dr Roger Woolger, a Jungian analyst, life long student of world spiritual traditions and pioneer in Deep Memory Process (regression therapy) chose to explore the extraordinary inner experiences Jung had throughout his early life, which culminated in the inner turmoil which followed his break with Freud and psychoanalysis. This inner turmoil almost took him over the edge into madness, but Jung was able to keep one foot in sanity by drawing and writing about these experience in what later became the Red Book, which recently has been published and made available to the wider public. It was from this material that Roger drew for this evening’s presentation, in which we were shown a number of pictures, some of which were powerful representations of Jung’s journey into his own hell. The Red Book we were told, places psychology squarely within a spiritual framework although Jung himself would not use this word and called it transpersonal instead. All his mature psychology had its root in this period, the concept of archetypes, the insights into opposites, death/rebirth of hero, typology etc. Most important for him however was the realization that in his early psychoanalytical period he had betrayed his soul and that only by making this journey into the depth of own soul, could he redeemed it and rediscover his wholeness. Another interesting aspect which Roger highlighted was that as with his mother (who was a fully fledged medium), Jung identified two personalities in himself, one of which ‘ personality number two – had many of the characteristics of Goethe, who according to rumours, fathered an illegitimate son, CG Jung the elder, Jung’s grandfather. This possibility highlights parallels and correspondences between the two men, including the idea that Jung inherited Goethe’s unfinished involvement with the development of the German people with the tragic consequences in the 20th Century. A lot of Goethe’s relationship with the feminine can also be seen as being replayed in Jung’s life. Goethe’s work had without a question a deep influence on Jung, an example being Faust’s relationship with Mephisto which led Jung to understand that everybody has a relationship with the devil, which he came to call the ‘Shadow’ and which later became the seeds of modern psychology for him. There were many other interesting aspects of this presentation, and members can hear the talk by going through the Members’ Circle portal and clicking on the link below. Even though pictures are not available, the presentation is still worth listening to. The pictures are available at Roger Woolger’s website, which can be accessed by following the link below.

Roger Woolger

February 2010

Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves

In February Dr. James Le Fanu, a family doctor, author and regular columnist for the Telegraph, discussed the message of his new book with the title of this meeting. In his book James challenges the belief that science has delivered the promised knowledge and understanding it claims to have and he focuses on genetics and neuroscience to support his argument. From Darwin we get the idea that we are the consequence of a gratuitous evolutionary process. But James is not convinced. How can such a simple idea explain so much? For him the presumption of knowledge conceals our profound ignorance of the most elementary aspects of life and mind. James does not dispute the facts of evolution, or natural selection but he argues that those conclusions fall short of explaining many aspects which are taken for granted. He reminded us of Carl Popper’s statement ‘ theories that explain everything, end up not explaining anything in particular. James brought into focus two recent developments, the Genome, decoded in 2001 and neuroscience which through the development of MRIs can now observe the brain from the inside, thinking, reflecting, doing, in action. We had high expectation from the decoding of the Genome but In spite of all we learned, much remains unexplained. The diversity of form across Nature is a mystery, not explained either by the quality of genes, essentially similar across the range, or by quantity as the mm long worm and man have both about 20,000 genes. In another example we heard that the regulatory gene which gives the fly its compound eye, accounts for our camera eye. Genes clearly operate within the context of the environment in which they belong, a gene of a fly eye if transposed to a mouse will behave not as a fly eye gene, but as a mouse eye gene. Neither do genes account for changes in evolution, for example the anatomical changes in posture from primates to homo sapiens. Looking a neuroscience, another set of unanswered questions arise, in spite of the recent developments. For instance, with the help of modern technology we can see that the brain works as an integral whole, with the same neuronal circuits performing many different activities, but where are the switches that control these activities? In another example the picture our eyes see is fragmented into 30 or 40 different maps and then reintegrated for our understanding ‘ how is this done? Where is memory stored? How does electrical activity translates into qualia? How has language emerged? The 5 mysteries of mind, subjective experience, free will, memory, sense of imagination and sense of self, are even more inscrutable to science, yet for us personally they are no mystery, on the contrary, they are part of our every day lived experience! James concluded his presentation with the observation that the unbelievably exhilarating findings of science have expanded our intellectual horizons – by demonstrating how little we know!

Members can listen to this presentation by accessing this page via the Members’ Area portal and clicking the link below.

January 2010

The Case for a Cosmic Idealism: Seven Steps To Understanding The Universe as Mind and the Mind-Dependent Nature of Things

Our first talk in 2010 was given by Dr Oliver Robinson, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Greenwich, who was a director of the SMN and is now a consultant working for the us in various areas. This evening Olly put forward his argument for Cosmic Idealism, the view that Mind is universal and fundamental and that our minds are part of this Cosmic Mind or Consciousness. His talk was divided into two parts: first he gave us a historical overview of philosophies which place mind and idea as fundamental reality. Olly showed that the story of idealism (which should in fact be idea-ism), started thousands of years ago in India with the Vedas, and he went on to name various Western philosophers who throughout the ages developed models of understanding the world with mind as primary. In the present age this perspective becomes implicated also in physics. Against this background, Olly went on to propose his argument that the world is entirely dependent on mind. He defined mind as that which has the capacity to have ideas (concepts, categories, abstractions) and can perceive relationships between things. He presented his reasoning in a 7 step sequence in which he deconstructed both, the perception that objects exist on their own terms, independently of mind, and the distinction between subjective and objective. In the first three steps Olly showed that the meaning attributed to an object is dependent on mind, as is the perception of its physical qualities. The next two steps consider the abstract aspects of categories and concepts, change and motion of an object, all dependent on mind, with its abstracting ability for instance distinguishing past and future to understand change. Step 6 explains the use of mind to view an object as a result of the combination of its multiple parts into a singular whole. In his last step Olly concludes that based on the premises set out in his previous steps the following syllogism holds true: since objects and time exist stably and independently of human beings, and objects and all properties and motion of objects are dependent on mind, there follows that there must be some kind of mind beyond the human being in which objects and spacetime exist.

Members can listen to the presentation by accessing this page via the Members’ Area Portal and clicking the link below.