Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Living Waters: A Panpsychic Co-operative Inquiry with Water Bodies Worldwide (Online Course)

Living Waters: A Panpsychic Co-operative Inquiry with Water Bodies Worldwide (Online Course)

Key Info: 
  • What would it be like to live in a world of sentient beings rather than inert objects? Participate in a co-operative inquiry in which all participants work together as both co-researchers and as co-subjects

With Peter Reason, Andreas Weber, Freya Matthews, Stephan Harding

£ 380.00
This course will be conducted virtually, with meetings on Zoom, video presentations via YouTube, discussion threads, sharing via Dropbox or Google docs.
This course is full.

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.

This course will be an online co-operative inquiry process over six weeks using Zoom, Dropbox, Google docs and YouTube. We will focus on the subjective presence of Rivers in the vicinity of participants: if we invoke their living presence, address them as subjective persons, what manner of response might we receive?

We have chosen to focus of our inquiry on Rivers, recognizing their significance within ecosystems and their integration with the land and creatures around them; as well as the extent that they have been influenced for better and worse by human activities. Rivers include everything from mountain torrents through mature watercourse to tidal reaches; wild streams or industrialized waterways

Participants interested in this course

This co-operative inquiry 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. Our aspiration is to attract an international participation, and through this invoke the presence of Rivers round the world, establishing an active mode of communication with our Earth.


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. In this panpsychic inquiry, participants are both human and non-human. All are engaged in the design and management of the inquiry; all are involved in the experience and action that is being explored; all are 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.

In addition, there will be video inputs on the panpsychic perspective, co-operative inquiry, biopoetics, and animate Earth from the faculty which will provide frameworks for the inquiry process

After an initial phase for orientation and getting to know each other [week one], there will be five cycles of action and reflection [weeks two-six]. In each action phase, participants will explore their relationship their local River, invoking their living presence, and attending to the response (if any). Our invocation can be through loving presence and attunement, through song, prayer, pilgrimage, ceremony and festival; through the languages of myth, archetype and art; for some, through the language of traditional religion. Following this, in a reflection phase, participants will share their experience, seek to make sense together, and design the next cycle of engagement. Finally, there will be time for reflections, recapitulation and composing final conclusions.

Weekly Commitment

Detailed arrangements for online collaboration will be sent to participants if the course is confirmed. The minimal commitment to the course is: one encounter with the River each week; composing an account of the encounter; reading and commenting on one fellow participant’s account; participating in a Zoom reflection meeting facilitated by a lecturer

Participants must be prepared to spend significant time outside, possibly in inclement weather. They must make sure they have appropriate clothes, waterproofs, walking boots, flask and whatever else will help make them comfortable in their local climate.   Participants are responsible for undertaking their own individual risk assessment to ensure their health and safety.

Week one via Zoom: Orientation session for all course participants [the inquiry community]: Thursday 18 March 9.00-10.00pm [uk time]
Weeks two-six via Zoom: every Thursday evening 7.30pm-9.00pm* [uk time], meeting in groups of six [the inquiry groups] with one lecturer [Peter, Andreas, Freya]

*Inquiry groups will meet at a near local time [eg Europe, Americas, Australia] and the lecturers will make arrangements with participants accordingly.


The inquiry will be facilitated by Freya Mathews, Andreas Weber and Peter Reason.  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 during inquiry groups and by the group as a whole [inquiry community]—to the extent that this is possible on-line.  Stephan Harding will also be contributing to this course. 


Please click here to download the reading matter for this course (pdf).

This course is full.
With Peter Reason, Andreas Weber, Freya Matthews, 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. 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 has facilitated two co-operative inquiries exploring the panpsychic experience during 2020.

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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  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
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  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?

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