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.
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.
Anxiety about the natural world is high and with good reason. Surprisingly, perhaps, the earliest days of Christianity in the British Isles have something vital to teach us. In this episode of The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon take a lead from a new book, The Naked Hermit: A Journey Into the Heart of Celtic Britain, by Nick Mayhew-Smith. It makes several arresting claims. For example, the early missionaries, before the Synod of Whitby, engaged in a deep dialogue with the indigenous druids and pagans of these islands to forge a new engagement with the natural world under its Creator-God. They realised that in dark caves, icy waters, mountaintops and sacred groves, the divine could be found and that a lost paradise was scarcely a touch away. So what has this Celtic vision of life in all its fullness got to teach us today? Could Christianity regain the sense that nature shares the yearning for God? Might this ancient vision become a crucial resource for a time facing environmental degradation and possible collapse?
Many people today seek an expansion of mind through the use of psychedelics. So what other worlds, intelligences and entities are being encountered and sought in such experiences? In this Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss psychedelics and spiritual paths. They ask why they are of such interest now. They explore the effects they have and how these relate to other altered states of consciousness, from dreams and divine encounters to inspired visions. They ask how these experiences can be transformative, and whether they can be accessed in other ways. What dangers might be encountered, both psychological and spiritual, and what can be learnt from ancient mystery traditions and the ecstatic journeys charted by writers from Plato to Dante?
Millions of people around the world make pilgrimages. In a supposedly secular Europe, the spiritual practice is booming too. In this latest Sheldrake-Vernon dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss the revelatory experiences that people have when engaging with shrines and megaliths, temples and springs in this way. They talk about the evolutionary origins of pilgrimage and its roots in the living consciousness of places. They ask what it feels like to embrace these ancient pathways today and how anyone can very simply, very powerfully make pilgrimage an astonishingly expansive part of life.
Many wisdom traditions say that the physical body is just one order of embodiment in the natural world. Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss ‘ subtle bodies’ as dimensions of reality. They explore the terminology developed by Rudolf Steiner and ask how it relates to notions such as the dream body. They relate these ideas to those of Aristotle’s ancient notion of the soul, as well as Rupert’s own theories of morphic fields. The conversation ranges over the unconscious in psychotherapy, speculations in science about panpsychism, and phenomena such as angels.
Some preachers threaten hellfire, whilst others quench the flames with divine love. In this Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogue, following a suggestion of a regular listener, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask what sense can, today, be made of hell. Is it primarily a psychological state, in which people are locked up by distress? Is it a region of reality that some people, many people, or perhaps all people are at risk of traveling too? Does experience now shape the experience of the hereafter? How does the hell of the Greek and Judeo-Christian traditions relate to the hell realms charted in Eastern philosophies? And what does it have to do with purgatory, and with paradise?
We live in an unprecedented age for spirituality. Spiritual practices that were originally confined to relatively isolated traditions are being used and investigated by numerous individuals and an increasing number of scientists. In this latest Sheldrake-Vernon dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon ask what this mass undertaking, from meditation to pilgrimage, might mean for the evolution of spiritual sight. How does science illuminate spiritual practices, what’s new about the practices of today, and what role is played by other features of modern life, like a strong sense of the individual and the ego?
It’s clear that our world is profoundly shaped by machines, from motor cars to mobile phones. But what impact do they have upon our awareness? In the latest Sheldrake-Vernon dialogue, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss a fascinating new book, In The Shadow of The Machine by Jeremy Naydler. It’s a prehistory of the computer, tracking the way human consciousness evolved in order to conceive of a mechanised world. Sheldrake and Vernon ask what’s been gained and what’s been lost in this process, the ways in which our perception of life and consciousness has been moulded, and how human consciousness might evolve further as the machine metaphor itself "runs out of steam".