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Einstein remarked that there was physics before Maxwell and physics after Maxwell, the difference being the introduction of field theory. So what difference did fields make and, more to the point, what are they? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon explore how electromagnetic, gravitational and quantum…
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The everyday stuff called matter turns out to be both more fascinating and stranger than we usually assume. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask just matter is, beginning with contemporary ideas from quantum physics, in which matter is frozen light, as the physicist David Bohm put it. They consider…
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There is much talk of a revival of Christianity amongst secular intellectuals, at least in my cultural bubble. That may or may not be sociological significant and church attendence figures stay in marked decline. But what interests me is not so much the numbers as the spirit of the renewed interest. What is the feel of the Christianity being discus…
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A couple of years back, Martin Shaw had a visionary experience that led him to Christianity. We talked about it as the Mossy face of Christ - https://youtu.be/8luN8bDDRBs?si=c7jHUt-Ih5xKlVWq So it was great to talk again about what's been happening. Which is much. The conversation ranges over what might be happening now with Christianity, Martin's …
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The makers of Seaspiracy and Cowspiracy are back. Christspiracy is another profoundly disturbing film detailing the industrial abuse of our animal kin. Expect more horrific carelessness and exploitation on a mass scale. Only this time, Kip Andersen and Kameron Waters not only go global but look back in time. “This is plausibly the most significant …
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Energy is a key organising principle in modern science, the conversation of energy being a grounding and universal law. But what is energy? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon examine the history of the idea and the word. In science, energy is a relatively recently notion, emerging in its current form…
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I talk again with Landon Loftin and Max Leyf about the genius insight of Owen Barfield. The Riddle of the Sphinx (Barfield Press) is a new collection of talks and essays about the great friend of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. We discuss Barfield's take on analysis and analogy, Darwinian and other kinds of evolution, the significance of Rudolf Stein, an…
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How can Christianity address the climate crisis? Isn’t the objectifying of nature and the drive to improve our lot a secular legacy of Christendom? And isn’t individual conversion more or less irrelevant in a time of systemic crisis? I was delighted to be sent an essay by Gunnar Gjermundsen that asks these questions and more. His insights are wide-…
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Western liturgies are obsessed with sin. "There is no health in us", or words to that effect, begin and end most services, particularly in Lent. Jesus's wilderness experience was actually about something else - practicing paradise, to use to the phrase of Douglas Christie. It's a time to reorientate attention, not wallow in guilt and re-embed shame…
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Isaac Newton is best known for his theory of gravity. And yet, the great scientist also insisted: "ye cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know.” In other words, notions like gravity, and force in general, are deeply mysterious phenomena. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask just what gravi…
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The rituals around death and dying are changing in the UK and across the developed world. Medical care advances, which is for the good, though can mean to a loss of other kinds of wisdom about this facet of life. People’s beliefs and convictions about death are also in a state of flux. The think tank, Theos, has extensively researched this changing…
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A conversation with actor, Jamie Robson, whom I met through the work of Rupert Spira. 00:00 Meeting through Rupert Spira 03:26 Nondualism and Christian mysticism 06:02 Nondualism and acting 15:00 Being and doing 19:40 Detachment and Meister Eckhart 26:48 Two modes of perception in Iain McGilchrist and others 32:43 Double vision and a re-enchanted w…
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Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK since the age of 4, Chine McDonald is well placed to explore love in different cultural contexts, and what happens when differences meet. We talked about how differences show up particularly in relation to the practicalities of loving, from house design to how people talk at funerals, as well as wider questions …
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Environmental degradation caused by technological progress is in the news almost everyday. So can any sense be made of an ancient intuition that human beings are not just part of nature but have a distinctive and positive role to play in nature? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss issues from …
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Christmas risks losing its meaning not only because of the commercial frenzy but because of the way it is talked about in churches. In this conversation, Russell Jefford talks about his discovery of the understanding of the incarnation conveyed in the writings of the early church fathers. They were unknown to him as an evangelical Christian and hav…
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“A worldview that understands indigeneity is a paradigm of regeneration, a worldview rooted in enduring values in what we call our original instructions, common themes of reciprocity, of gratitude, of responsibility, of generosity, of forgiveness, of humility, of courage, of sacrifice, and of course love. But these values are not just words, we nee…
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Clare Martin is co-director of the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, located in the heart of the City of London. In this conversation, we spoke about what love can look like in the public square, particularly in contexts of crisis and conflict, and how encounters between peoples can be designed so as to foster love as a resource …
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What is the role of love in public life? Can it have a place given the scrutiny faced by leaders and the processes of bureaucracies? Or is love what we need to face the huge challenges of today, from distrust of public institutions to the environmental crisis? Claire Gilbert is the author of several books, a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, has …
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Constellations, also called family systems, is a way of visualising the dynamics of love that operate in any group that has to do with creativity or life. A constellation workshop brings people together to look at predicaments with which people are wrestling, be they personal or organisational. The goal is to find a design that releases and acknowl…
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Do our minds reside solely inside our heads, or perhaps bodies? Or do they extend into the wider world, perhaps even reaching to the stars? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss the extended mind theory, taking a lead from recent work of Rupert’s on the sense of being stared at, and also the pro…
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Robin Dunbar is an Oxford evolutionary psychologist who has written extensively about friendship, amongst other things, not least in relation to “Dunbar’s Number”. We talked about what friendship is, and how it differs from other loves. We explored the varieties of friendship that people experience, and why metaphors such as “circles of friends” ar…
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Bishop Barron is another figure I think worth listening to, who spoke at ARC in London, alongside Jordan Peterson. Like Peterson, he simultaneously leaves me as wary as enthused. I’ve explained where that took me with Peterson in another short talk. Here’s where I’ve ended up in response to Barron, which interesting is also, in my view, with a rich…
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All in all, there is much to consider in Jordan Peterson’s latest passionate suggestions. I think he is right to present a vision of the human good coming from the future, thereby calling us and shaping a meaningful life now. The human self needs a sense of itself that exceeds an otherwise atomised, lonely individualism. However, in may view, Peter…
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Thinking carefully, not just apocalyptically, about AIs requires a combination of skills - technological, sociological, psychological, philosophical, organisational. So I was delighted to talk with Eve Poole, who is a rare individual capable of bringing all these elements into her work. Our central question was how to build AIs so as to design out …
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Churches are in decline, certainly in the western world. People tend not to think to turn to a priest for spiritual insight or advice. But is a lived relationship with the sacred and wisdom traditions denuded as organised religion disappears? In this Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon talk about religious institutions for g…
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Owen Barfield talked of an evolution of consciousness towards final participation. But what is that state or quality awareness? How does it relate to the life of Christ? How was it described by Rudolf Steiner? Can we see and know intimations of it now? In this second discussion with Landon Loftin and Max Leyf, we explore the ideas of freedom and in…
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Why do we love? Is love inevitably a foolhardy endeavour? Or does it lead to a knowledge of reality beyond reason? In this discussion, Robert Rowland Smith and Mark Vernon discuss the ideas of Freud and Lacan, Bowlby and Winnicott, who had differing ideas about the nature of love and where it leads. Is love the idealisation of another, which inevit…
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What golden thread might link these writers across the centuries? Why might each matter now? Taking a lead from Valentin’s book, Shakespeare and the Grace of Words, we explore how the finite and infinite meet in dialogue, analogy, play and contrary, arguing that Plato, Nicholas of Cusa, Shakespeare and William Blake directly address our times of cr…
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What is meant by the unconscious? Is it even a "thing"? Why does it seemingly originate with Freud? How useful is the concept? How can it be worked with? In this discussion, Robert Rowland Smith and Mark Vernon explore the history of this central notion in psychoanalysis. They look at the different articulations of it, particularly in Freud and Jun…
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Prayer, alongside meditation, is an integral part of religious traditions. God can be prayed to but also saints and angels. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert and Mark ask whether and why prayer is not widely discussed, how prayer can be practiced, and what prayer might be. They share personal practices of prayer and explore …
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Robert Rowland Smith and Mark Vernon discuss these two dynamics of projection. Transference and countertransference have become core to psychoanalysis, though Freud and others were initially very wary of them. So what are the limits to using the feelings that fill a therapy room? How can the set-up of the room itself affect such things? How can tra…
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AI can be understood by the many, not just the few. We don’t need to respond to technologist and media hype via fear and the call for another lockdown, this time on AI development. I hope ten points are illuminating. 1. The Turing test has been passed, but it never was a very good test to start with. 2. The AI industry thrives on the promise of tom…
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What exactly is narcissism? Why is it so debilitating and troubling? Must everyone face narcissistic impulses and needs? In this discussion, Robert Rowland Smith and Mark Vernon explore the origins of narcissism in ancient myth and contemporary psychoanalysis. They explore the variety of pathological narcissisms, how it can be treated and whether a…
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Owen Barfield was the friend of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. He championed the importance of imagination and poetry. But what can be missed is the transformative depth of his ideas. They can revolutionise our perception of everything. Landon Loftin and Max Leyf are the authors of What Barfield Thought: An Introduction to the Work of Owen Barfield. In …
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Terminal lucidity is the phenomenon of individuals who are dying receiving a surge of life, perhaps to say goodbye, as their death approaches. So what is the nature and meaning of such well-attested experiences? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon use Rupert's recent paper examining terminal lucidity …
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Safety, confidentiality and trust are key parts of psychotherapy. That almost goes without needing to be said. But what is enabled by these qualities of the frame? How do they open up less conscious thoughts and feelings? In this second conversation about psychotherapy, Robert Rowland Smith and Mark Vernon explore this space of real encounter, whic…
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The anxiety about AI has reached hysterical proportions. Luminaries are declaring that every last human being is at risk. Which suggests a panic not about the future, whatever it may bring, but about the present, and what has already been lost. What has vanished, for some, is a living sense of what it is to be human. As William Blake knew, when mac…
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William Blake was against the monarchy. But might his Georgian loathing of the homogenising, conforming tendency of tyrannical rule have been utterly transformed by the coronation that opens the Carolean era? My piece at The Idler, "The Marvellous Oddity of the Coronation" is here - https://www.idler.co.uk/article/the-marvellous-oddity-of-the-coron…
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Therapies of various kinds are routinely in the news. And there is much to be said for the ease with which people talk about mental ill-health. But psychotherapy, in particular, can also received critique. What works on the couch? How do different traditions and techniques foster change? And is all that can happen to us well viewed through the lens…
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Why do people offer praise and gain from it? Does God require, even demand praise? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert and Mark discuss what can be wrongly implied by praise and what it might mean as an immensely rich practice. Mark confesses to having been put off the notion, as if adulation were demanded by a divine narcissi…
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A review and discussion of Decoding Jung’s Metaphysics by Bernardo Kastrup, considering what’s conscious and unconscious, personal and collective, caused and evoked, and also asking about the tradition of German Idealism, within which Bernardo persuasively situates Jung.Av Mark Vernon
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There is a myth that science and religion are locked in conflicted. And it's a battle that science must win. The physicist, Carlo Rovelli, is an eloquent purveyor of the myth and uses the Ancient Greek philosopher, Anaximander, to perpetuate the confrontation. However, Rovelli has a problem. His case rests on a set of assumptions that look increasi…
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So you've bought into the great insights of Iain McGilchrist, as explored in The Master and His Emissary, and also, The Matter with Things. You understand that the key ability is “presencing the world” - comprehending, not merely calculating - experiencing, not merely modelling - attuning, not merely measuring - understanding, not merely manipulati…
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Objectivity has come to be regarded as a prime ingredient of reliable knowledge. But what is objectivity, how has it arisen, and is the notion in need of reform? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert and Mark consider the recent work of the philosopher, Richard Gunton. With colleagues, Richard examines older understandings of ob…
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Prince Harry is caught in a media storm. But within the mix of sympathy and loathing lie transatlantic differences in psychological and psychotherapeutic traditions. What is sometimes called Self Psychology plays a bigger role in the US, focusing on the healing potential of empathy, idealisation and narrative. This shapes therapeutic and cultural s…
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To celebrate the release of his new book, Spiritual Intelligence in Seven Steps, the Pari Center invited Mark Vernon, to talk about his new work with Beth Macy. They discuss the notions of spiritual intelligence, the spiritual commons, the Axial revolutions, the presence of suffering, and whether we are in a new Axial Age now. For more on Spiritual…
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Spiritual Intelligence In Seven Steps is my new book, released December 2022. This is a short thought on step one, which concerns the big history that we tell ourselves about ourselves. In short, the dominant big story is driven by a crude Darwinism that writes out spiritual intelligence, though there is good reason from the science to conclude tha…
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