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Philosophy and Life

Recent writing and occasional thoughts on assorted matters.

  • Philosophy as Awakening: Stoics, Epicureans and others Sep 14, 2018 - Ancient philosophy is radically unlike modern philosophy, in ways that are fascinating and potentially life-changing. It's clear that pre-socratics such as Pythagoras were more like monks than professors, and Socrates set an agenda that Plato embraced as a remaking of the mysteries. But what of the Hellenistic schools who came next, the Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics and Cynics? In this second
  • New online guide to the imagination Sep 1, 2018 - My new online course with The Idler is The Idler Guide to the Imagination. It's available at half price until Monday 3rd September. It's a practical and passionate plea for an imaginative approach to life. - It shows how imagination connects to and opens on to reality. - It considers the insights of thinkers including Shakespeare and Einstein, Blake and
  • Understanding the ego Aug 28, 2018 - I've begun a new series of talks on inner life and seeing with the eye of the soul called How To See Spiritually. Previous talks have looked at why spirituality is important, soul, wonder, interiority, scepticism and parables. Now I turn to the ego. It’s common to hear that spiritual development walks hand in hand with the denial of the
  • Transcendence and ecstasy Aug 17, 2018 - The BBC Radio 3 Proms Plus conversation I had with Christopher Harding and Hette Howes on ecstatic states, that ranged from Plato to Catherine of Siena to Timothy Leary, is online as a podcast.
  • William Blake’s eternal vision Aug 13, 2018 - I wrote this piece for Christian Today, following the unveiling of the beautiful new gravestone for William Blake in Bunhill Fields. On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in a damp, London cemetery called Bunhill Fields for the unveiling of a gravestone. They’d heard about the event on the news or picked it up on social media. They were addressed by
  • Spiritual evolution Aug 11, 2018 - We live in an unprecedented age for spirituality. Spiritual practices that were originally confined to relatively isolated traditions are being used and investigated by numerous individuals and an increasing number of scientists. In this latest Sheldrake-Vernon dialogue, Rupert and I ask what this mass undertaking, from meditation to pilgrimage, might mean for the evolution of spiritual sight. How does science
  • The meaning of the selfie Aug 11, 2018 - I've a piece published in the Church Times on the selfie and its Christian origins. A taster: THE precursors to the selfie are part of what is now called art. Take the haunting Fayum mummy portraits: these naturalist likenesses, painted on the wooden panels of coffins, have been found across Egypt. They date from the turn of the first millennium.
  • Understanding parables Aug 4, 2018 - I've begun a new series of talks on inner life and seeing with the eye of the soul called How To See Spiritually. Previous talks have looked at why spirituality is important, soul, wonder, interiority and scepticism. Now I turn to parables. Wisdom traditions are full of parables and stories told by teachers and guides. But there’s a strong tendency,
  • How do I learn to see spiritually? Jul 26, 2018 - I very much enjoyed speaking with Kenny Primrose, of examinedlife.com. Our conversation focused on the question, How do I learn to see spiritually? It's online here and ranges over psychotherapy and music, poetry and Plato. A taster: "We don’t appreciate the inner life of things anymore, we appreciate very much their exterior life – which science reveals so amazingly, but
  • Why spiritual people avoid church Jul 22, 2018 - This article was originally published in the Church Times. I often give talks to people sociologists refer to as “nones” or “spiritual but not religious”. We meet at summer festivals or evening groups. And the reaction to a mention of “Christianity” or “Jesus” is striking. It’s as if I’d released a toxin. People spontaneously react as if in self-defence. I’ve

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