The Sheldrake Vernon Dialogues
Summary: Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist and author. Together they discuss: consciousness, prayer, angels, science and spiritual practices, magic, dreams, hell, the unconscious, rituals, enlightenment, atheism, materialism, and more.
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- Artist: Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon
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Artificial intelligence is rarely out of the news. But what is it? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon take a lead from the breakthrough by Google in the prediction of protein folding, which Rupert has studied for decades. Whether this success reveals any deeper understanding of nature leads to a discussion of different types of intelligence, such as emotional and spiritual. They consider what is lost when AI dominates the imagination, and obscures aspects of reality that are embodied, and those that reach beyond, such as pure consciousness.
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.
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.
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-creators with the life within which our life is embedded?
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?
A new film, Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm – https://www.infinitepotential.com – has just been released for free online. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss its excellent telling of the dramatic life and revolutionary insights of this deep scientific thinker. Rupert first met Bohm in 1982 soon after the publication of his book A New Science of Life precipitated a negative reaction from the militant materialists; the editor of the leading scientific journal Nature tried to excommunicate him. Bohm had a similar experience forty years earlier with the quantum physics community. Mark and Rupert talk about what Bohm drew from Krishnamurti, and how the formalisms of quantum theory are influenced by psychological and spiritual perceptions. They also explore the ways in which Bohm’s notion of an implicate order resonates strongly with that of morphic fields, and discuss Bohm’s engagement with the ideas of Owen Barfield, about whom Mark has written. They highly recommend the film.
Cathedrals are increasingly welcoming novel explorations of their tremendous interiors. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss the powerful experiences that come with feeling free in sacred spaces. They look at how to access the sense of presence they hold, from lying on the ground to sitting in silence, noting that how you approach a building or shrine affects the spiritual qualities revealed. It’s also about the rediscovery of invocation and ritual, gesture and stance, and how they yield different dimensions of reality. This can happen without words, too, in subtle forms of search. The Coronavirus and lockdown only underlines the blessings received by visiting sacred places. They also ask how sacred places can be made at home.
Psychotherapies that work, though with no agreement about how they work, are becoming mainstream. For example, EMDR is widely used in the treatment of trauma. So what can be said about their efficacy and what, if anything, do they have to do with subtle energies, morphic resonance, quantum phenomena or even the soul? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon dialogues, Mark Vernon asks Rupert Sheldrake how his theory of morphogenetic fields might relate to various types of therapy and healing. They consider how certain explanations can appear “hand wavy” and how to be more discerning when discussing these things. It turns out that there is good evidence that a variety of such therapies work, but how they work is not understood. So arguably it is better to avoid pseudo-scientific explanations and let the treatments, and their efficacy, speak for themselves.
Climate change has become the climate crisis, even climate emergency. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake begins with an observation to Mark Vernon. He’s noticed how people are increasingly feeling the need to confess their carbon use and he wonders what that means. The thought develops into a conversation about living with the anxiety of our times where we can’t but help take part in eco-hostile activities. But maybe this is a necessary stage. Eco-confessions could help us to become more aware of our lives and the world around us. They might even be a crucial step towards the freedom required for us to re-envision the world and cosmos as enchanted if we can be less preoccupied with guilt and more open to renewed vitality and wonder.
Many today struggle to perceive spiritual reality. But might we be passing through a stage in the evolution of human awareness? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss a recent conference that addressed this question. It was inspired by the ideas of Owen Barfield, whom Mark has written about in his new book, A Secret History of Christianity. Barfield argued the task is not just to recover old ways of perceiving nature and the divine but requires a radical transformation of ourselves that can be troubling and even tragic. Rupert and Mark ask about the role of service and discerning the imagination in this process and how we might learn to relate afresh to consciousnesses and intelligences in the world around us. All the talks from the conference are available online at www.markvernon.com/evolving-consciousness
Aristotle called three a perfect number. We offer three cheers of praise. Christians envisage God as triune. In this new episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask why three is associated with completion, creativity, dynamism and divinity. Their discussion ranges over the patterns of three that are revealed in nature; the relationship between being, consciousness and bliss; the links between a third position and transformation in psychotherapy. The discussion was prompted a Cambridge University conference, New Trinitarian Ontologies, which featured leading theologians such as Rowan Williams and David Bentley Hart. Their talks can be found online - https://www.newtrinitarianontologies.com/
The origins of religion lie deep in the story of human evolution. But as Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss in this new episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, the scientific study of our encounter with other worlds is changing. It has been proposed that humans believe in gods because punishing presences keep individuals in check, but that's discredited. New research is turning back to an older idea that our ancestors developed the ability to enter altered states. It’s fascinating partly because new evidence puts spiritual questing in the driving seat of human evolution. It also takes us back to reflections made by Darwin that qualities like beauty are active right across the animal kingdom.
Big histories are big sellers. Noah Yuval Harari, David Christian and Felipe Fernández-Armesto are among the authors attempting to tell a deep story of the universe and humanity. In this episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask how they work and what’s at stake. Mark is particularly interested in this question as his new book, A Secret History of Christianity, adopts a different worldview to show how spirit and soul drive life. The conversation ranges over fascinating questions from the nature of information and emergence to what, given the current sense of crisis, we hope for the future.
The evidence for psi is dismissed by sceptics with increasingly dogmatic assertions. But that's no surprise because the data in support of phenomena from telepathy to pre-sentience is now openly discussed in leading science journals. The real question, at the forefront of research, is how these experiences can best be understood? In this episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss various possibilities. They draw on the proposals aired at a recent seminar attended by the leading theorists, including Rupert himself. They explore the ideas of practising physicists and biologists working the area, and move onto questions from the nature of time and consciousness to the philosophy of A.N. Whitehead.
The depth of the environmental crisis is becoming clearer. Social crises are around us, too. But do these realities stem from a deeper spiritual crisis? In this episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss whether we’ve become uncoupled from the foundations of life, which are not just biological and social but spiritual. They discuss how this loss shows itself in difficulties ranging from mental health to social cohesion. They ask how a society that doesn’t have a sense of the spiritual becomes unreal, as if our desires can be fulfilled solely in material ways. They explore how a spiritual crisis distorts the sense of being human, but how it also offers a prime opportunity to recover and regain an energising sense of what it means to be alive.