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Professor Bernard Carr:
‘Making Space and Time for Mind’
Wednesday, 8th May, 7 pm
There are indications from physics that consciousness is a fundamental rather than incidental feature of the Universe. A final theory of physics should therefore take account of it and incorporate mentality in some radically new way. A crucial clue as to the nature of such a theory may be that both the material and mental worlds involve some form of space, so the description ‘outer space’ and ‘inner space’ might be used in this context, which raises the question whether these spaces can be unified in some way. Another key ingredient of such a theory must be a proper understanding of time, since this is intimately connected with consciousness. Although time plays a profound role in modern physics, in particular being associated with a fourth dimension, the relationship between physical time and psychological time is still not understood. It is proposed that a resolution of the linked problems of space, time and consciousness requires a higher-dimensional extension of general relativity which unifies matter and mind and involves a hierarchy of times. This leads to a new psychophysical paradigm in which consciousness interacts with the universe on a hierarchy of levels, each associated with a different specious present. The implications of this picture for anomalous and mystical states of consciousness will be discussed.
Bernard Carr is Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London. His professional area of research is cosmology and includes such topics as the early universe, black holes, dark matter and the anthropic principle. He has recently edited a book entitled ‘Universe or Multiverse?’, based on a series of conferences sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. He has a long-standing interest in the relationship between science and spirituality and also in psychical research, which he sees as forming a bridge between them. He aims to extend physics to incorporate consciousness and associated mental, psychical and spiritual phenomena. His approach is mainly theoretical but emphasizes the experiential as well as experimental aspects of nature. He is a former President of the Society for Psychical Research and currently Chairman of the Scientific and Medical Network.
8 May 2013, 99 minutes.
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Open Sunday: ‘The Variety of Religious Experience’
Marianne Rankin of the Alister Hardy Trust led the meeting, discussing and sharing ‘The Variety of Religious Experience’.
Marianne Rankin is Director of Communications for the Alister Hardy Trust and Society for the Study of Spiritual Experience. She is a former Chair of the SSSE, which is a national organisation supporting the work of the Religious Experience Research Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter. The RERC holds an archive of over 6000 accounts of different types of spiritual experience.
For almost twenty years Marianne lived in South East Asia, mainly in Singapore, where she worked as a teacher, translator and interpreter, and freelance writer. On her return to U.K. she took a Master of Studies in the Study of Religion at Oxford University. She is the author of An Introduction to Religious and Spiritual Experience as well as having written on Dame Cicely Saunders, Founder of the Modern Hospice Movement. Marianne is also interested in Oriental Art, has given workshops on Chinese Brush Painting and illustrated Hal French’s Zen and the Art of Anything.
17 February 2013, 113 minutes.
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Open Sunday Meeting: Rupert Spira
‘Contemplations on the Nature of Experience II’
In this meeting Rupert explores the perennial non-dual understanding that lies at the heart of all the great religious and spiritual traditions such as Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana and Dzogchen Buddhism, Mystical Christianity, Sufism, Zen etc., as well as the western philosophical tradition of Parmenides, Plotinus and many others, and which is also the direct, ever-present reality of our own intimate experience. This is a contemporary, experiential approach involving silent meditation, guided meditation and dialogue, and requires no affiliation to any particular religious or spiritual tradition. All that is required is an interest in the essential nature of experience and in the longing for love, peace and happiness around which most of our lives revolve.
Professor Alan Williams
The Vision of Rumi: The Perspective of the Eye of the Heart in the Masnavi
Rumi’s Masnavi is the longest mystical poem in any language. This lecture is about how Rumi conveys to his audience his vision of the truth, not through philosophy and metaphysics, but through his poetry.
‘Vision’ has two main meanings in English, first ‘vision’ as the act and faculty of seeing – ‘vision’ in the active sense – and second ‘vision’ as something seen, in the passive sense – a revelation, dream or hallucination. This talk is about Rumi’s vision in the first sense. We see the world upside down, inside out – Rumi’s vision is one that has been adjusted and aligned by seeing through ‘the eye of the heart’ (Persian chashm-e del), which is directly focused on ḥaqq, the Truth – the term the Sufis use of God. Rumi diagnoses human nature as cross-eyed with self-obsession, the source of spiritual blindness: through the operation of the Masnavi he restores clear sight. The great poem of the Masnavi may thus be said to be visionary in the sense that, through the reading of it, the eye of the heart is opened.
Alan Williams is Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at Manchester University, and the author of a Penguin Classics translation of the first book of the Masnavi into blank verse (Spiritual Verses, Penguin, 2006). He has published several other books, including two scholarly editions and exegeses of Zoroastrian texts, the Pahlavi Rivāyat, (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences, Copenhagen, 1990) and the Persian Qeṣṣe-ye Sanjān (Brill,Leiden, 2009), and also an edition and translation, with Pari Azarm Motammedi, of the modern Persian poet, Shafi’i Kadkani, In the Mirror of the Stream (Sokhan, Tehran, 2008), and a collection of essays the Parsis and their Diaspora (Routledge, London, 2007). In 2007 Naxos Audiobooks brought out a 4-CD abridgement of his Masnavī translation, The Spiritual Verses, read by Anton Lesser. He is currently working on his next book, The Vision of Rumi, to be published by I.B. Tauris next year. Plans are in place to publish all the Masnavi in parallel Persian text and English translation.
4 November 2012, 66 minutes.
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Dr Rupert Sheldrake: The Science Delusion
Freeing the Spirit of Inquiry
The Science Delusion is the belief that science already understands everything, 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, 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? Sheldrake shows that the ‘scientific worldview’ is moribund. Increasingly expensive research is reaping diminishing returns. In the sceptical spirit of true scientific enquiry, Sheldrake turns the ten fundamental dogmas of science into questions, opening up startling new possibilities. The ‘laws of nature’ may be habits that change and evolve. Minds may extend far beyond brains. The total amount of matter and energy may be increasing. Children may inherit characteristics acquired by their parents. Memories may not be stored as traces in our brains. Mental causation may work from the future towards the past, while energetic causation works from the past towards the future. The Science Delusion will radically change your view of what is possible.
Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. 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, and from 2005-2010 the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge. His website is www.sheldrake.org
27 September 2012, 115 minutes.
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Brother Martin of Shantivanam: The Hindu-Christian Meeting Point
In the Integral Dynamic Monotheism
Nowadays it is common to divide spiritual tradiations into two categories: The Wisdom Tradition and The Prophetic Tradition. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism belong to the Wisdom Tradition. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai belong to the Prophetic Tradition. Each Tradition has a unique approach to the divine-human relationship. This talk makes a comparative study of Hindu Monotheism and Prophetic Monotheism and presents a vision of Jesus Christ integrating Hindu Monotheism and Prophetic Monotheism. The name we give to this understanding is The Integral Dynamic Monotheism. There is little obvious difference between Hindu Monotheism and the Vision of Jesus. Should these two visions come together, more than three billion people in the world are united. What an exciting thing to look for! Brother Martin demonstrates that the marriage of these two visions is possible.
Brother Martin was a close friend and disciple of Father Bede Griffiths, who, in 1968, arrived at the Saccidananda Ashram at Shantivanam in Tamil Nadu, where the Benedictine rule of life was practised in an ashram setting. Under his guidance it became a world famous centre, where it was possible to combine unique eastern insights and Christian wisdom. This has generated a spirituality that has a powerful and universal appeal. Bede's books, The Golden String, Return to the Centre and Marriage of East and West have become spiritual classics of our time. 20 years ago Father Bede spoke to a packed top studio at Colet House and we have been delighted to welcome Brother Martin several times since then. His accessible teaching enables an understanding of ‘the search for truth at the heart of all religions’ at a time when it has potentially never held so much relevance.
11 July 2012, 83 minutes.
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Dr Gino Yu: Science & Consciousness seminar
Dr Gino Yu worked with Peter Fenwick previously and is now looking at the effect of video game usage on consciousness. The seminar was open to anyone with a serious interest in consciousness and the use of new technology as a means of developing enhanced consciousness.
Tony Parsons: ‘The Open Secret’
The Open Secret message points to the possibility of there being a radically different perception of reality. It does not recognise any kind of spiritual authority or tradition. It attempts to describe the simple and effortless wonder of being which is beyond path, process or belief. It also reveals the way in which seeking for fulfilment can only reinforce the sense of continuously reaching out for something that has never been lost. The dynamic of this communication is essentially energetic, and this can nullify the mind’s need for ideas and answers and dissipate the contracted sense of the self and its fear of unconditional freedom.
Professor Chris Frith: ‘What is Consciousness For?’
A great deal of our behaviour occurs without our being aware of what we are doing or of the stimuli that elicit this behaviour. Why then do we have a vivid sense of having conscious control of our actions even though this is an illusion? What does consciousness add to our abilities? First, our sense of being in control of our actions is intimately related to the feeling of being responsible for our actions. Second, our experience of having chosen between different options enables us to explain and justify our behaviour to others. So what is the function of consciousness? My conclusion is that conscious representations are necessary for us to experience ourselves as agents and to recognise agency in others. Furthermore, consciousness is a critical component of our ability to share experiences with each other and create a cooperative society in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Consciousness is not a private world which can never be accessed by others. Rather it enables us to create a shared world.
Chris Frith is Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuro-imaging at University College London, Niels Bohr Visiting Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is one of the pioneers in applying brain imaging to the study of mental processes.
25 March 2012, 68 minutes.
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Alain Forget: ‘How to Get Out of this World Alive’
Alain Forget, a French philosopher working within the non-dualistic tradition, has developed a remarkably practical and rapid method that can usher in a more conscious life, liberated from fear and anxiety. This method, the 4Ds, which he presents in his forthcoming book, How To Get Out of this World Alive, dismantles the illusory guilt-generating foundations on which the sense of identity is built. As he has repeatedly demonstrated to his own students, it is only if the individual dismantles these mechanisms that he can move from making unconscious losing choices to making conscious winning choices.
The 4Ds is designed to send the student towards the deepest parts of himself. It is paradoxically by going to these depths that consciousness can raise itself, revealing the individual’s talents and his ability to make them manifest. Only if the individual can connect to a richer, happier and more abundant life can he surrender to a process of metaphysical enquiry that can, in turn, trigger awakening. This is the unconditioned freedom that the awakened Teachers of the great philosophic and religious traditions have been discussing for millennia.
12 March 2012, 93 minutes.
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Philip Marvin: ‘Conscious Art’
The invisible made visible
Is there such a thing as conscious art? If so, what are its characteristics and how does it differ from other art forms?
This subject will be explored across a wide area. Four eminent artists in distinct fields — Jeffery Courtney (Painter), Rosalind Wyatt (Calligraphy/Textiles), James D’Angelo (Composer and pianist), Rosemary Barnett (Sculpture) — will discuss their own practical understanding of this term and its implications. Philip Marvin, a Shakespeare specialist, who will be leading the day, will also consider Shakespeare’s art in this context, and specifically the magical sonnets, one of which will be examined in detail.
An artist is not a special kind of man,
but rather Man is a special kind of artist.
19 February 2012.
We have included only those parts for which visual appreciation is not essential.
Part 1 - Introduction - 44'00"
Part 3 - Calligraphy - 31'30"
Part 4 - Music - 37'40"
Part 5 - Poetry - 58'00"
Part 6a - Sculpture Introduction - 3'14"
Part 7 - Questions - 14'58"
Brother Martin of Shantivanam: ‘A New Story of Creation’
Brother Martin's subject this time focuses on a retelling of the creation story with the convergence of Hindu and Biblical cosmogony.
Brother Martin was a close friend and disciple of Father Bede Griffiths, who, in 1968, arrived at the Saccidananda Ashram at Shantivanam in Tamil Nadu, where the Benedictine rule of life was practised in an ashram setting. Under his guidance it became a world famous centre, where it was possible to combine unique eastern insights and Christian wisdom. This has generated a spirituality that has a powerful and universal appeal. Bede’s books, The Golden String, Return to the Centre and Marriage of East and West have become spiritual classics of our time. Father Bede spoke to a packed top studio at Colet House 20 years ago and we have been delighted to welcome Brother Martin several times since then. His accessible teaching enables an understanding of ‘the search for truth at the heart of all religions’ at a time when it has potentially never held so much relevance.
14 July 2011, 72 minutes.
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Rupert Spira: ‘Contemplations on the Nature of Experience’
Contemplations on the Nature of Experience with Rupert Spira in which we explore the perennial non-dual understanding that lies at
the heart of all great religious and spiritual traditions such as Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana and Dzogchen Buddhism, Mystical Christianity,
Sufism, Zen etc., as well as the Western philosophical tradition of Parmenides, Plotinus and many others, and which is also the direct,
ever-present reality of our own intimate experience. This is a contemporary, experiential approach involving silent meditation,
guided meditation and dialogue, and requires no affiliation to any particular religious or spiritual tradition.
All that is required is an interest in the essential nature of experience and in the longing for love, peace and happiness
around which most of our lives revolve.
19 June 2011, 120 minutes and 113 minutes.
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Dr Peter Fenwick: ‘Science, Spirituality and Unity’
For some time Western science has been looking closely at the mechanisms which underpin the construction of our world.
The picture that is emerging is that the brain is infinitely more plastic than we had ever thought, as there is now, for example,
evidence that the blind can feel with their visual cortex, and in certain cases can hear with their visual cortex.
The deaf can see with their auditory cortex. These concepts would have been very foreign only ten years ago.
This new found brain plasticity suggests that many of our old ideas about rigid and localised brain structures may have to alter. Even our ideas about a personal sense of self and its capacity for agency are coming closer to those of the Shankaracharya.
Spirituality has been shown to have a protective action, reducing illness and increasing longevity. Compassion is now central to our understanding of care for the sick. The unity of Advaita is the foundation of Colet House where there is a confluence of the streams from Gurdjieff, Mr Ouspensky, Dr Roles, Rumi and the Shankaracharya. Members of Colet have been very fortunate in being able to experience these different streams and to recognise that each leads to the mountain top and towards the Atman. Self development has always been central to the ethos of Colet and it is essential that we develop and maintain the right conditions for this to continue. So what should a school in the 21st century look like, how much of the teaching should now be informed by science and although the goal is clear can the path be made clearer.
Dr Peter Fenwick is Emeritus Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Maudsley Hospital and Honorary Consultant Neurophysiologist, St. Thomas’s Hospital. He is a President of the Scientific and Medical Network and President of the Horizon Foundation. A long-term member of the Study Society, he joined the Management Committee in 2010 and was elected Chairman in 2011.
Delivered at the 2011 AGM of the Study Society, 10 April 2011, 83 minutes.
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Philip Marvin: ‘The Awakening Art of Shakespeare’
A workshop on Shakespeare and Advaita
Shakespeare’s plays are consciously constructed vehicles through which we may come to a new understanding about ourselves.
Their enactment of an outer drama is simply a magnification and reflection of the inner drama governed by law and love which we all experience.
In this workshop we will explore The Tempest, the last play Shakespeare wrote, barring some later collaborations. Key scenes will be enacted followed up by in-depth study in groups. Emphasis will be laid on the different levels of meaning that may be discovered and the hidden life of the play which can only be accessed by hearing the sounds and experiencing the rhythms of language in the present moment.
Philip Marvin is currently completing an MA dissertation at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford and has run a very successful series of Day with Shakespeare seminars for the past ten years in which professional actors have performed and different study techniques have been experimented with. He has studied and attempted to apply the principles of Advaita philosophy over some 36 years. The inspiration behind the study of Shakespeare has always been the unity of the Self, the source of all great art and certainly the wellspring from which Shakespeare drew. It is to that eternal presence that his magical art may return the alert audience.
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Iain McGilchrist: ‘The Master and his Emissary’
In his remarkable and absorbing book, The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist argues that the two hemispheres have not only different specialities but different perspectives on the world. Making full use of the multi-faceted experimental research into the brain in the last two decades, he suggests that the left hemisphere’s main aim is self-interested manipulation, and it is narrowly-focussed, yet at the same time obsessed with theory at the expense of reality. It lacks empathy, construes our minds and bodies, as machines, and is unreasonably certain of itself. And it is in denial about its limitations. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, while having a much broader and more generous stance towards the world, lacks the necessary certainty to counter this onslaught. Traditionally the two hemispheres have worked together, but McGilchrist believes that in modern times the left hemisphere has grabbed more than its fair share of power, resulting in a society where self-obsession, greed and plodding rationality hold sway, at an enormous cost to human happiness and the world around us.
Iain McGilchrist is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and has three times been elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He intended to read theology and philosophy at Oxford, but was hi-jacked into reading English literature, and published Against Criticism in 1982. He retrained in medicine in order to understand better the ‘mind-body problem’, and has been a neuroimaging researcher at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital. He has mis-spent the last twenty years gestating this book, which relates the bihemispheric structure of the brain to the history of Western culture and its present predicament.
23 September 2010, 110 minutes.
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James Austin: ‘Zen-Brain Reflections: the Mechanism, Experience and Transformation.’
Jim Austin, an American Academic neurologist, found himself in Kyoto Japan over twenty years ago. Realising that Zen produced
personal transformation he set out to study the brain mechanisms which underpinned these changes. He worked with a teacher in Japan,
spending time in the Zendo and achieved his own Kensho experience. He is Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the University of Colorado
and has written three highly acclaimed books including Zen and the Brain, giving the physiological brain mechanisms of the Zen experience
and Zen-Brain Reflections, published in 2006, which moves rapidly from this neurological ground into the meaning, poetry and experience of Zen.
He has a profound understanding of the neurology through the personal transformation to the wider philosophical experiences of Zen.
Delivered at a joint meeting of the Study Society and the Scientific and Medical Network, 3 March 2010, 113 minutes.
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Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake in dialogue: ‘Science, Consciousness and Spirit’
The study of consciousness is now one of the most exciting areas of science, and one where the limits of materialistic thinking have become most apparent. It also opens the door to explore the deeper and more experiential dimensions of faith such as mysticism and compassion. In this dialogue Rupert and Matthew explore the frontiers of modern research and discuss how thinking about the nature of the mind can illuminate spiritual experience, and how spiritual experience can in turn illuminate our understanding of ourselves and of other forms of consciousness within the universe.
Delivered at a joint meeting of the Study Society and the Scientific and Medical Network, 6 April 2009, 120 minutes.
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Nigel Hamilton: ‘A Sufi Perspective: The role of dreams during the process of spiritual transformation’
21 January 2008, 78 minutes.
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John Clarke: ‘A Metaphysical Thirst’
19 November 2007, 74 minutes.
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Dr Denis Alexander: ‘Science and Faith in 2007 - Where are we now?’
11 January 2007, 60 minutes.
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