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Deep Cosmos: An inquiry into a panpsychic worldview

Deep Cosmos: An inquiry into a panpsychic worldview
Key Info: 
  • Be introduced to "communicative panpsychism" and the central practice of invocation
  • Take part in a co-operative inquiry, a form of inquiry in which all participants work together as both co-researchers and as co-subjects
  • Join distinctive theoretical perspectives with practical activities

With Peter Reason, Andreas Weber, Freya Mathews (via Skype) and Stephan Harding

Fee: 
£ 899.00
Course fees include private accommodation with shared bathroom and all vegetarian meals. Fee also includes any field trips, materials as well as all teaching sessions. The programme will run from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon.

This workshop is for all those—including writers, artists, activists, teachers, ecologists, scientists—who understand that the present ecological crisis has its roots in the alienation of modern humans from Earth of which we are a part; and who would like to play their part in developing and articulating perspectives and practices rooted in openness to the living presence of the more-than-human. The following paragraphs set out the orientation for this inquiry.

We live at a time of ecological catastrophe: climate change, the destruction of ecosystems, the sixth extinction of non-human species. At this time, some are called to activism on the streets, some to the development of new economic models, some to technological change. All these, and more, are necessary.

But what underpins the destructiveness of modern humans is the worldview through which we experience ourselves as separate from the world around us. We may allow the ‘higher animals’ some sentience, but beyond that we see a world of natural objects composed of inert matter, operating according to causal laws, with no subjectivity or intelligence, no intrinsic purpose or meaning. Humans, and humans alone, possess mind and subjectivity. The natural conclusion is that it is human destiny to control, manipulate and benefit from the material resources of the planet; increasingly powerful technologies amplify the effects of this perspective.

We believe that as well as all the activities seeking to make practical changes to our civilization, we also need a radical alteration of our lived experience, to feel ourselves directly as participants in the process of life on earth. This requires a different way of looking at the world; and new ways to integrate this into everyday living. Such an alternative is offered by communicative panpsychism, as outlined by ecophilosopher, Freya Mathews; the biology of wonder or “biopoetics”, as explained by biologist, Andreas Weber; and the animate Gaian perspective of ecologist Stephan Harding.

From a panpsychic perspective, the cosmos is One, a coherent field of mind/matter, that in its evolution differentiates into Many, self-realizing and self-reflexive beings. These beings, the community of subjects, reach out to each other in mutual contact and communication, co-creating a ‘poetic ecology’: the fundamental erotics of being touched by the world and touching it in return. For example, it is now widely accepted that trees in a forest are not just a collection of individuals but are in continual communication with each other and with the fungi that interpenetrate their roots.

In this relational ecological reality, a communicative order, an order of meaning, unfolds alongside the causal, material order. Of course, this doesn’t take place in human language: it is necessarily a poetic order, conveying meaning in image and metaphor, taking place not in words or concepts, but through material form in a language of things.

Modern humans are alienated from this poetic order: if we conceive the world as brute object it will only reveal itself as such. But if we invoke a living presence then we may receive a meaningful response—if we are open to it.

Early in the workshop Freya Mathews will present the orienting perspective of the inquiry which she calls ‘communicative panpsychism’ and the central practice of invocation. If we invoke the world as a living being intentionally (and sometimes tacitly) then the world may respond. Our invocation can be through loving presence and attunement, through song, prayer, pilgrimage, ceremony and festival; through the language of myth and archetype; for some, through the language of traditional religion. Our lives harbor possibilities of poetic manifestation far larger than those defined by the materialist terms of modern societies. The practice of invocation allows us to address the world directly in the hope that it may respond with gestures that demonstrate intimate attunement.

This workshop will take the form of co-operative inquiry, a form of inquiry pioneered by Peter Reason, in which all participants work together as both co-researchers and as co-subjects. Everyone is engaged in the design and management of the inquiry; everyone gets into the experience and action that is being explored; everyone is involved in making sense and drawing conclusions. Participants work together through cycles of action and reflection, developing their understanding and practice by engaging in what Peter has called an ‘extended epistemology’ of experiential, presentational, propositional and practical ways of knowing.

The workshop will be facilitated by Andreas Weber, Peter Reason and Stephan Harding with Freya Mathews joining via Skype for one or two sessions. They will guide the early stage of the inquiry, presenting their distinctive theoretical perspectives and suggesting practical activities as well as facilitating reflection; as the workshop proceeds decisions will increasingly be made collaboratively by the group as a whole.

The focus of our inquiry will be the River Dart and its creatures. We plan to engage in three cycles of inquiry: one with the fast-flowing stream high on Dartmoor; one where, as a mature river, it flows through the Dartington estate; and one in the tidal reaches. Stephan will be our local guide, introducing us to each place, its geology and natural history in the wider context of a living planet. Please note that this is an ambitious plan that we may need to adapt to circumstances.

The following readings are available online and provide an introduction to the perspective of the workshop

Freya Mathews. "On Desiring Nature." Indian Journal of Ecocriticism 3 (2010). 
Stephan Harding Interview 
Peter Reason (with John Heron). "The Practice of Co-operative Inquiry: Research with Rather Than on People." In Handbook of Action Research: The Concise Paperback Edition, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury, 144-54. London: Sage Publications, 2005. 
Andreas Weber. "Being Nature." Humans and Nature (2014).
Andreas Weber. "The Enlivenment Manifesto: Politics and Poetics in the Anthropocene." Kosmos  (2016). 

Participants should come prepared to spend significant time outside, possibly in inclement weather: bring warm clothes, waterproofs, walking boots, flask and whatever else will help make you comfortable in the English countryside in early spring.

*The Booking Deadline gives us an accurate idea of course participant numbers at approximately 6 weeks before the course is due to run, at which point we confirm the course, add additional time for people to book on or cancel the course. We encourage people to register early for courses as places are limited.

With Peter Reason, Andreas Weber, Freya Mathews (via Skype) and Stephan Harding
Peter Reason

Peter Reason

As Director of the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice at the University of Bath, Peter Reason was an international leader in the development of participative approaches to action research. In these forms of experiential inquiry all are co-researchers, contributing both to the thinking that forms the research and to the action that is its subject. Peter was also a founding faculty member of the pioneering Masters in Responsibility and Business Practice, addressing sustainability and justice in business; and led action research projects into the adoption of low carbon technologies in industry.

Since retiring from full time academic work, Peter has focused on writing books and articles that link the tradition of nature writing with the ecological crisis of our times, drawing on scientific, ecological, philosophical and spiritual sources. His books include Spindrift: A wilderness pilgrimage at sea, In Search of Grace: An ecological pilgrimage, and most recently (with artist Sarah Gillespie) On Presence: Essays | Drawings.

Peter is Professor Emeritus at the University of Bath, Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol, Contact: peterreason@me.com. On line at peterreason.eu; peterreason.net; onthewesternedge.wordpress.com; @peterreason.

 

Andreas Weber

Andreas Weber

Andreas Weber is a Berlin-based philosopher, biologist, and writer. He holds degrees in marine biology and cultural studies, and has collaborated with brain researcher and philosopher Francisco Varela. His books in English include: Enlivenment: Towards a Fundamental Shift in the Concepts of Nature, Culture and Politics (2013); The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science (2016); and Biopoetics: Towards an Existential Ecology (2016). Weber regularly contributes to major newspapers and magazines, such as National Geographic, GEO, and Die Zeit, and has won a number of awards for his writing. He teaches philosophy at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and at the University of Fine Arts, Berlin. Weber has two children, fifteen and seventeen. He lives in Berlin and Italy.

Freya Mathews

Freya Mathews

Freya Mathews is Adjunct Professor of Environmental Philosophy at Latrobe University, Australia. Her books include The Ecological Self (1991), Ecology and Democracy (editor) (1996), For Love of Matter: a Contemporary Panpsychism (2003), Journey to the Source of the Merri (2003), Reinhabiting Reality: towards a Recovery of Culture (2005), Without Animals Life is not Worth Living (2016) and Ardea: a philosophical novella (2016). She is the author of over eighty articles in the area of ecological philosophy. Her current special interests are in ecological civilization; indigenous (Australian and Chinese) perspectives on (so-called) sustainability and how these perspectives may be adapted to the context of contemporary global society; panpsychism and critique of the metaphysics of modernity; ecology and religion; and conservation ethics and rewilding in the context of the Anthropocene. In addition to her research activities she co-manages a private conservation estate in northern Victoria. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Dr Stephan Harding FLS

Stephan Harding

Stephan coordinated and lectured on the college’s MSc Holistic Science for nearly two decades, teaching on the core models of the programme, as well as on several short courses at the College.  He was born in Venezuela in 1953, and came to England at the age of six.  Since childhood Stephan has had a deep fascination with the natural world which led him to do a degree in Zoology at the University of Durham and then a doctorate on the behavioural ecology of the muntjac deer at Oxford University.  He later returned to Venezuela where he was a field assistant for the Smithsonian Institute, studying mammalian diversity in the rainforest and in the lowland plains. He also spent two years as Visiting Professor in Wildlife Management at the National University in Costa Rica.

In 1990 Stephan was one of the founding members of Schumacher College where he worked closely with James Lovelock, with whom he has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration.  They were jointly appointmed as founding chair holders of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo.  At Schumacher College Stephan has taught alongside many of the world’s leading ecological thinkers and activists, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, Brian Goodwin, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis.  He is now the Deep Ecology Fellow at Schumacher College.

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Residential accommodation for "Changing the Frame"  is at Higher Close, a 20 minute walk from Schumacher College. All meals will be provided at the college.

A place can not be guaranteed unless we receive your deposit or payment on your chosen course. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please do this before making your course application.
 

Short Course Bursaries create an opportunity for an individual to experience the powerful transformative learning by joining a course that assists the participant to inspire their wider community and benefits from the participant’s own unique contribution. It is our hope that our bursaries support a wide cross section of participation on our short course programme. The number of bursaries available is limited, competition is strong and funding is not always available for every short course. Please be aware that most bursaries are in the region of 10% – 20% of the course fee so please be prepared to raise funding from other sources.  A bursary award is not intended to cover travel or incidental expenses.

Applications are viewed on a case-by-case basis and we are unable to enter into discussions on any decisions. We generally have many more applications for bursaries than we have funding available. We can only offer one bursary per person per year and priority is given to those who have not attended the college or received a bursary before. To help us support as many people as possible, please only apply if you would be unable to attend the course without a bursary.

How to apply for a bursary

Six weeks before the course is due to start all bursary applications will be considered and responded to.  If successful you will be required to accept our Bursary Terms and Conditions.

Please answer the following:

  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
  2. How will your attendance on this course benefit the wider community?
  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?
     

Please be prepared to supply an appropriate reference in support of your application.

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