The Day of the Dead, a discussion with Rupert Sheldrake

Most, perhaps all, cultures have moments of the year for fostering links with those who have died. In the western Christian world, the days of the dead are Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day.

In this Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask about the significance of this time. They take a lead from the Pixar film, Coco, which conveys this liminal zone with striking nuance and sophistication, and go on to ask about the meaning of praying for the dead, as well as relating to the legacy of ancestors in practices such as Constellations.

The links between the living and the dead, as explored by writers including Dante to CS Lewis, are also illuminating, as is psychedelic and near death experience research, which encounters hellish, purgatorial and paradisal states of mind. Ritual and wisdom can nurture healing, and a deeper sense of the meaning of this life as a preparation for more life, now and in the life to come.

For more dialogues between Rupert and Mark see:
https://www.sheldrake.org/audios/shel…

Talks

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Mark on The Sacred Podcast

I talk with Elizabeth Oldfield on The Sacred Podcast about breakdowns, the power of psychotherapy, the emergence of Christianity, the imagination, the future of science, sensing the divine. Amongst other things….

‘Ultimately what you want people to do is realise they are far bigger than they realise and to become more aligned with the biggest, most expansive and divine parts.’

‘The most powerful force around is actually the human psyche.’

‘Generally in our culture imagination is massively underplayed.’

Listen here.

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Pseudo-science, a discussion with Rupert Sheldrake

The accusation of pseudo-science is often made against those involved in the New Age, and sometimes rightly so. But as Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss in the latest episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, there is a lot more to the sneering and ridicule than meets the eye.

They explore how science itself might morph into pseudo-science, which is perhaps a reason that scientists can be so nervous of novel ideas. They look at the origins of science’s authority in the modern world, and the power of an impression of scientific rigour, whether or not justified. They discuss various disciplines in particular, from physics and biology, to economics, psychology and astrology.

We need to be able to discern what merits the label “scientific” and what does not, especially in a time of pandemic, ecological and political fear.

More discussions between myself and Rupert can be found online in various places including YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, and on our respective websites:
https://www.sheldrake.org/audios/sheldrake-vernon-dialogues

Talks

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Revelation, discussed with Rupert Sheldrake

World religions and inspired individuals alike say they are the recipients of divine revelation. But what might that mean?

In this new episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss the nature of revelation. They explore how revelation is a means of channelling and connecting with insight and intelligence in the domains of both religion and science. They ask how different revelations can be discerned and developed. The question of how revelation might be cultivated arises, as does the meaning of contemporary psychedelic revelations.

Then there is issue of how revelation relates to what it is to be human. Might we be co-creates with the life within which our life is embedded?

More discussions between myself and Rupert can be found online in various places including YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, and on our respective websites:
https://www.sheldrake.org/audios/sheldrake-vernon-dialogues

Talks

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The Four-Fold Vision of William Blake

The Four-Fold Imagination is an essay I’ve had published at Aeon.

The YouTube below is a complementary look at some of Blake’s images, conveying a felt sense of single vision, two-fold, three-fold and four-fold vision.

Do read and share the essay!

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The Meaning of Psi and other strange experiences

Did you know Albert Einstein advocated telepathy research or that Marie Curie attended seances?

In this edition of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss, The Flip, a new book by Jeffrey Kripal.

The title refers to the range of experiences, from precognitive dreams to NDEs, that “flip” individuals from a mechanistic and materialist worldview. They become much more open to possibilities such as panpsychism and idealism. Kripal’s contention is that flips are common and, were they talked about, they would change culture. But would they? The conversation ranges over the links between psychic phenomena and spiritual experiences, to whether there are better ways of discussing psi beyond the perennial issue of proof? Is panpsychism an adequate way forward? And what is the meaning of the flips that people undoubtedly have?

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Owen Barfield: Imagination and Spiritual Sight, Pt 3


Having considered the insights of William Blake and Carl Jung in the first two talks of this series, I now turn to those of Owen Barfield.

He presents the biggest possible story for the imagination, integrating it into nothing less than our creation and return to the divine. What is fascinating is that he arrived at this conclusion from his story of words – those vehicles of the imagination that not only enliven our everyday but can become fossils of consciousness when used to track how human experience has shifted across millennia.

In this talk I briefly introduce Owen Barfield before describing:
– How imagination plays a part in the human story
– How imagination plays a part in the cosmic story
– How various kinds of spiritual materialism deviate from this big picture
– What the “final participation” Barfield outlined might be like.

The talk ends with two heralds of this destiny, William Blake and Thomas Traherne, whose poetic words become prophetic, offering felt intimations of the inside of the whole world.

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Carl Jung: Imagination and Spiritual Sight, Pt 2

The power of the imagination runs all the way through the depth psychology of Carl Jung. It is liberates because it is not axiomatic or discursive but perceptive. It goes beyond reactions and settled patterns of behaviour, to discover a new worlds. But it needs fostering, discerning, trusting.

In this talk, I begin with the case of Albert Einstein, whose use of imagination resonates powerfully with Jung’s approach.
– I discuss Jung’s ideas, particularly how they differ from Freud’s.
– I examine key sources of imaginative life in the human psyche – dreams, active imagination and archetypes.
– I consider how the imagination might connect us with the inside of the whole world and the divine.

The talk was the second of three given at the Fintry Trust on 28th July, 2020.

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Awaking from the Meaning Crisis QnA

I spoke with the group that meets on Discord to discuss John Vervaeke’s work on awakening from the meaning crisis. Here’s a breakdown of the questions that came up.

1.42 Christianity, Owen Barfield and John Vervaeke
8.20 Owen Barfield’s take on Christianity
9.50 How do Plato’s views on virtue relate to his views on knowledge?
11.40 What’s going on in Plato’s dialogues?
14.05 What did Barfield open in your understanding of Plato?
16.35 What’s the best way of reading the dialogues?
19.30 What does Socrates mean when he says he knows he knows nothing?
26.30 What’s the link between aesthetics, knowledge and eros in knowing the world?
32.50 Why does the church decouple the spiritual, erotic and imagination?
37.10 Does the church focus too much on procedure rather than transformation?
40.30 What ecology of practices do you follow?
43.50 How do you view Tillich’s work in the light of Barfield’s world?
48.48 Is Barfield’s take on Christianity modernist, akin to CS Lewis?
52.20 What does the Logos represent in Lewis and Barfield?
54.27 How does Barfield’s view on the Logos relate to Platonic and Neoplatonic thought?
58.40 How can we know God’s life “reliably”, as you put it in your book?
1.02.40 How does propositional knowledge relate to participatory knowledge?

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William Blake: Imagination and Spiritual Sight, Pt 1


William Blake argued that the imagination is the key human faculty for knowing fourfold vision, life to the full, and our divine destiny. But he also knew it needed cultivating, training, discerning.

In this talk, I look at Blake’s images that can become part of such a training. I also describe the schema of Ulro, Generation, Beulah and Eden-Eternity, which can become a guide to help understand our own states of mind, as well as offering a path to imaginative freedom.

The talk was the first of three given at The Fintry Trust on 21st July, 2020.

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