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Friday, July 22 2016

Philosophy Slam live!

Robert Rowland Smith and I took our philosophy slam to the Camden Comedy Club, where the audience, supercharged by the wonderful Pippa Evans, threw out words and ideas for us to riff on.

Click here to listen to what happened...

Monday, July 11 2016

Can there be a secular Buddhism?

Rupert Shedrake and I have published the latest in our Science Set Free podcasts, discussing the emergence of secular Buddhism.

Until relatively recently, Buddhism was a specialist interest in the west. Now, secular forms of Buddhism, in the shape of mindfulness meditation, are even available on the NHS. One of the leading advocates of secular forms of Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor, is in search of the historical Buddha, arguing that many of the beliefs of traditional Buddhists, such as reincarnation, are unnecessary accretions.

So we ask what is lost when Buddhism is stripped of its devotional and metaphysical elements? Might the historical Buddha be found? And can there really be a materialist form of Buddhism, which is nothing if not a training in that most materially inexplicable feature of existence, consciousness?

Thursday, June 2 2016

Why is there something not nothing?

Rupert Shedrake and I have published the latest in our Science Set Free podcasts, discussing why there is something not nothing.

This ancient question has resurfaced in modern science and atheism. The discovery of the Big Bang as a beginning for the universe in the 20th century was a complete surprise, igniting a debate about what caused everything, space and time, to spring into being. The hint that a cause beyond science is implied has been picked up by prominent atheists who have tried to supply scientific accounts of "nothing" from which the universe - or a multiverse - could emerge.

They don't achieve their goal and, though they reject it, philosophy can show why. And the question remains a fascinating one. We explore how the ancient discussion of the relationship between something and nothing can profoundly inform the contemporary debate.

Saturday, May 14 2016

What is the systemic view?

In this new series of podcasts, Abigail Peters and I have a third discussion, this time about what is meant by the systemic view.

We discuss concepts such as what it means not to be an individual but part of living networks - family, cultural, at work - and how we can find ourselves living in the service of these system, in ways that may or may not make for our flourishing. The podcast is on iTunes or can be listened to here.

For more information about forthcoming workshops do email, mail@markvernontherapy.com

Friday, April 29 2016

Cycles of civilisations

Rupert Shedrake and I have published the latest in our Science Set Free podcasts, discussing the rise and fall of civilisations.

So where is the west in this cycle? Can the widespread sense of pending crisis - be it economic, environmental or political - be understood in relation to the ideas of Oswald Spengler, Owen Barfield or David Fleming? And can signs of new vitality, vision and participation be found, as if the crisis may also be the birthpangs of a new spirituality and consciousness?

We explore how a sense of connection and disconnection, excitement and fear, can be traced back to the thought of Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. We ask where it's possible to discover soul.

Wednesday, February 24 2016

Conversations about Constellations - What happens in a workshop?

In this new series of podcasts, Abigail Peters and I have a second discussion, this time about what a constellations workshop looks like. We discuss concepts like representation and the field, and explore how what unfolds in a workshop can be understood as therapy. The podcast is on iTunes or can be listened to here.

Our next workshop is on Saturday 5th March.

Sunday, February 14 2016

Conversations about Constellations - What is Love?

In this first in a new series of podcasts, Abigail Peters and I talk about how love is understood in family constellations.

Love is understood as a flow of life in systemic therapy, which can be blocked when individuals become unconsciously confused by the ways in which the flow was hindered in their families. They can consciously experience that as difficulties in relationships, repeated patterns, and so on. The paradox is that seeing and acknowledging the system's difficulties with love frees the individual to receive the love that is there to resource them in their own life on-going. Download the conversation from iTunes here...

Our next workshop is on Saturday 5th March.

Saturday, September 12 2015

Beyond physicalism

We've published the latest discussion between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. They're available as podcasts or on iTunes.

There is a growing new mood in science. The grip that scientific materialism has had on the scientific imagination is beginning to loosen. This is the philosophy that all things in the natural world can be reduced to the material level. But it seems as if the many everyday experiences that individuals have, in particular being conscious, which can't be accounted for by physicalism are forcing the possibility of considering alternatives. In this dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon consider what might be happening, how such a shift would make a difference in areas from health to parapsychology, and what might happen next.

Thursday, July 30 2015

Eros and wisdom: some recent radio

A couple of recent BBC radio 4 programmes that might be of interest:

What Is Eros? Exploring Freud and Plato on our yearnings.

Start the Week. Talking about ancient philosophy and Alan Watts, with Tim Lott and others.

Friday, July 10 2015

Rupert Sheldrake in discussion: What the Greeks can teach us

We've published the latest discussion between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. They're available as podcasts or on iTunes.

We explore how the ideas and way of life of the Stoics, Platonists and others can help us today bridge supposed divides between science and spirituality. We also look at how Christianity adopted and developed older perceptions of reality and what this means for modern therapies and insights.

Our conversation is prompted by the publication of my new book, The Idler Guide to Ancient Philosophy.

Thursday, June 4 2015

The Atheist Experiment

We've published the latest discussion between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. They're available as podcasts or on iTunes.

In his book, Atheists: The Origin of the Species, Nick Spencer tells the story of atheism as one of protest and politics, rather than simply as an argument about the existence of God. In this Science Set Free podcast, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask what history can tell us about atheism as a way of life, as an account of being human, and what the future of atheism might bring.

Thursday, May 14 2015

Skeptiko interview on Christianity, Atheism and Rupert Sheldrake

It was a more robust discussion than I anticipated, though maybe what feels like discomforting aggression in England is but a bracing exchange in California. But here's my conversation with the host of the useful Skeptiko podcast, Alex Tsakiris.

Wednesday, March 18 2015

Seeking an Easter Experience

Or, how to know Easter in the heart as well as head.

A podcast - available on iTunes or here as a feed - in which I try to talk about how the liturgical drama of the Easter services, from Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, to Easter Sunday yields more insight than any doctrine or creed.

Friday, February 20 2015

Buddhism, mindfulness, therapy, politics

A podcast of our BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking programme, broadcast last Wednesday.

Rana Mitter discusses Buddhism in Western therapy and in Eastern politics with psychotherapist Mark Vernon, Rupert Gethin - Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol, Dr Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen expert in religion and politics in Contemporary Japan and Christopher Harding – Cultural historian of India and Japan.

Monday, December 15 2014

What happens when we die - conversations with Rupert Sheldrake

We've published the latest two discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. They're available as podcasts or on iTunes.

In the first, we discuss our postmortem experience by thinking about what we know of being alive. Might dreams tell us something about what happens when we die? Is the notion of the subtle body an indicator of life after death? How do the living relate to the dead, and how might the way we live our lives shape our experience after death?

In the second, we explore how the communication of science routinely exploits notions of wonder and beauty, and what this might tell us about how science opens onto wider dimensions of reality. Does science fiction similarly suggest that science is grappling with aspects of reality that it can't itself contain? Why is the experience of wonder and, further, the so-called supernatural so popular with the public? What is the hidden metaphysics embedded in popular science, and so perhaps in science itself...

Thursday, November 6 2014

New conversations with Rupert Sheldrake - anatheism and common prayer

We've published the latest two discussions between myself and Rupert Sheldrake. They're available as podcasts or on iTunes.

The first is on an anatheism, the notion that atheism is a phase that many people go through, as is widely recognised within spiritual traditions as a transition period in which ideas about God are discarded so that a deeper perception of the divine might emerge. We wonder whether the same thing happens at a cultural level and so whether contemporary atheism is itself a phase leading to more vital conceptions of God.

The second is on common prayer, that is, the value of spiritual practices undertaken with others. We ask what is lost when the so-called 'spiritual but not religious' generation assumes spiritual practice is an essentially individual pursuit, and what needs to happen in order for collective traditions to become accessible once more.

Friday, October 3 2014

New Science and Religion talks, Institute of Art and Ideas

How did consciousness arise? Is the universe rational? Is there a meaning to life? Once these questions were the domain of the sacred, but in the modern world, science offers very different answers to religion.

In this course, Dr Mark Vernon explores the common ground between these allegedly incompatible world views. But which can provide us with the best description of reality?

Part One: The Battleground. Vernon reveals the history of the science-religion conflict and its place in our culture.

Part Two: Alternatives to the Conflict. Can we think about science and religion differently and avoid the conflict altogether?

Part Three: Science and Consciousness. Vernon proposes a new model for solving the problem: does consciousness hold the key?

Tuesday, September 16 2014

BBC Beyond Belief - agnosticism

Agnosticism was the subject for this week's Beyond Belief, on BBC Radio 4.

I was trying to make the case for an agnostic spirit that is not just an option for some but actually part and parcel of the human condition and crucial for theists who want to undo their inevitable idols.

You can pursue the issue at book length too!

Monday, August 4 2014

God-shaped hole, discussion at Things Unseen

Is there a God-shaped hole at the heart of our post-Christian world?

Does it matter? Is it all potential gain, with freedom of expression and liberation from oppression at last possible? Or are there unforeseen losses, too? Has the decline in religious practice and ritual opened up a void now all too easily filled with consumerism, the social media, and a preoccupation with therapy and self-help? Indeed, with ‘oneself’?

Mark Dowd chairs a discussion on this controversial issue with Peter Stanford, Mark Vernon and Julian Baggini.

Thursday, July 31 2014

Civilisation in peril - three online recommendations

1. Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, talked to Jules Evans, producing a really very remarkable interview.

Our spiritual culture at the moment is so impoverished and primitive. People find it extraordinarily difficult to be serious about angels or discarnate energies.

It’s a very modern tragedy that religion has become ideas in the mind. That’s why western religion is so feeble.

But alas we do not have many places where one can go today to learn and practice contemplation – we are very needy.

We don’t seek illumination from the whole but from bits and pieces. This is one of the reasons why this civilization is in grave peril.

The real trouble with the Church is not that it has retrograde social attitudes, or hasn’t embraced the emancipation of women – it’s that it’s spiritual incredible. It’s just as shallow as the rest of us.

2. If you feel C.S. Lewis is a little too vanilla, try Malcolm Guite's exposition. Never again. He also understands Tolkein, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams like no other.

3. Roger Scruton talked at Theos last month, as usual making a number of penetrating remarks and comments. I particularly liked his distinction between sound and tone: science understands sound, but it has no purchase on tone - though the rise and fall, mood and intensity of a musical phrase is the very stuff of life for us.

Or his distinction between causes and reasons. Again, science understands causes but it has no purchase on reasons as a prompt to action, and yet most of the meaning we find in life is linked to this aspect of our agency. We lose touch with this dimension at our peril. And perhaps we are in peril...

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