1. Philosophy as Awakening – talks on ancient philosophy as a way of escaping the cave and seeing the Sun.
Philosophy as Awakening I
What is ancient philosophy? Who was Socrates? What is the heart of Plato’s teaching? In this talk, Mark Vernon argues that much modern philosophy has lost sight of its original impulses, which weren’t about tidying up logic but were, instead, aimed at a profound transformation of awareness. He examines the evolution of consciousness that led to the “Greek awakening”, the seminal significance of Socrates, and how philosophy might become a spiritual path once more.
Philosophy as Awakening II
Philosophy as a path towards an expanded awareness of oneself and reality continued to develop in the 4th century BCE, after the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Hellenistic schools of the Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics and Cynics each developed a way of life that was simultaneously both personally therapeutic and spiritually transformative, as Mark Vernon explores in his second talk on Philosophy as Awakening.
2. How To See Spiritually – a series of talks on inner life and seeing with the eye of the soul.
1 Why Spirituality?
We live with a worldview that is powerful materialistic in its orientation and has brought many benefits. But it has also lost sight of an awareness of reality that was palpable to our ancestors, that is the spiritual depth of things. In this talk, Mark Vernon considers the evolution of consciousness that has led to the need for new ways of engaging with the implicit and what doing so might involve.
The word “soul” is often argued over, even sneered at, and yet it captures the lived sense of reality that animates all things and makes us persons with character, desires and intuitions of more than what’s immediately measurable. In this talk, Mark Vernon argues that soul is better felt than closely defined by looking at how we spontaneously recognise it and can cultivate the capacity to do so, too.
It’s with wonder that all human enquiry begins, which is why science often provokes such profound experiences of amazement. But wonder needs to be developed if it is to become a launchpad for seeing spiritually. In this talk, Mark Vernon looks at what wonder meant to individuals who saw it as a gateway to perceptions of the material and spiritual dimensions of existence.
Inner life can be regarded as a form of background noise, the neural hiss of brains. The philosophy of behaviourism has encouraged many to dismiss it. And yet, a developed sense of inner life is crucial and fundamental to spiritual perception. In this talk, Mark Vernon shows how inner life has its own authority and is key to fuller consciousness.
Modern scepticism often aims at debunking and limiting awareness. But ancient scepticism was very different. It was a crucial part of deepening spiritual perception because the experience of doubt and uncertainty was seen to lie at the threshold of greater awareness. In this talk, Mark Vernon argues that scepticism needs to be reclaimed.
Wisdom traditions are full of parables and stories told by teachers and guides. But there’s a strong tendency, in the modern world, to interpret them as moral messages rather than as spiritual initiations. In this talk, Mark Vernon considers the parables of Jesus and the Buddha as aiming to open minds to another world that is already here.
It’s common to hear that spiritual development walks hand in hand with the denial of the ego. But we need our egos to be sane individuals, so something more subtle needs to be understood. In this talk, Mark Vernon argues that the real question is whether the ego is in service to itself or to that which is greater than itself, and so is able to support perceiving spiritually.
Spiritual adepts often attest to experiences of what is called the paranormal as their perception of reality develops. There’s also no doubt that occasions of coincidence and telepathy, alongside more dramatic spiritual encounters, are commonplace. In this talk, Mark Vernon asks about the significance of psi to seeing spiritually.
Spiritual perception can be defined as the ability to resonate more fully with reality, and thereby see the more that surrounds us. Who we are as persons therefore matters. In this talk, Mark Vernon explores how virtue traditions tackle the personal habits and characteristics that can constrain, or open, our receptivity to life. It’s not about doing the right thing, but rather about enabling perception.
Since the modern enlightenment, imagination has been downgraded to “mere fancy”. Though, as William Blake noted, “there is nothing now proven that was not once imagined”, and so this truth bearing faculty of spiritual perception must be reconsidered. In this talk, Mark Vernon examines how the imagination is invaluable when seeking to see spiritually.