With Jonathan Horwitz, Zara Waldebäck, Stephan Harding, Karen Stead-Dexter, Merlin Sheldrake, Andy Letcher, Philip Franses and Robin Saltonstall
For the last 400 years or so we have been taught that nature is a mere machine, without consciousness, purpose or meaning. This view has led to a devastating destruction of life on earth. Today’s emerging science is turning this understanding on its head, revealing life as inherently intelligent, purposive and meaningfully communicative. According to this new science, there really is mind in nature.
In this course we foster and integrate direct experiences of mind in nature with rigorous intellectual enquiry based on an integration of shamanic practice with recent developments in science and philosophy. We begin with a week of shamanic practices lead by Jonathan Horowitz and Zara Waldebäck during which we encounter the soulful life of nature through carefully guided experiential processes both indoors and outdoors using the deep rhythms of the shamanic drum for opening pathways into the deep psyche of the world.
In week two, with Stephan Harding and Merlin Sheldrake, we explore how this ancient shamanic heritage has inspired and informed an unbroken lineage of panpsychist thought (which sees mind and matter as inseparable) beginning with the Orphic tradition, to key philosophers of ancient Greece to more recent versions of this understanding in thinkers such as Goethe, Bateson and Whitehead. We then explore how biology is gradually accumulating evidence that animals, plants, single-celled organisms and fungi are minds in nature, displaying traits such as feeling and intelligence similar in kind (but not necessarily in intensity) to these qualities in ourselves. We’ll spend an afternoon connecting with the inner lives of Karen Stead Dexter’s birds of prey, and end the week with an enquiry into the nature of primordial sound, and of how this can be seen as the basis of the mind aspect of nature.
In the last week, beginning with Andy Letcher, we use perspectives from the English Pagan tradition combined with short pilgrimages to particular sites around Schumacher College to experience how mind in nature can be found in the very landscapes that surround and enfold us. Then, with Philip Franses we look into his radical proposal for a new vessel for wholeness. Finally, with Robin Saltonstall, we ask how we can use our learning from the course in our daily lives to make a positive difference in the world.
This course is an elective on our postgraduate programme. It is open to external participants who would like to deeply explore this subject material and can join us for the whole three-week programme.
Stephan Harding is Programme Coordinator of the MSc in Holistic Science and resident Ecologist at Schumacher College teaching on the MSc core modules and on most short courses at the College. He holds a doctorate in behavioural ecology from Oxford University, and before coming to the college taught ecology at the National University in Costa Rica. He is a close associate of James Lovelock and an expert in the study of Gaia theory and deep ecology. He is the author of Animate Earth and Grow Small, Think Beautiful: Ideas for a Sustainable World from Schumacher College. Click here to read his full staff profile >>
Zara Waldebäck has been working with shamanism since 2005 and co-teaching workshops with Jonathan since 2010. Originally from Sweden, she spent 30 years in the UK, most of it as a writer and teacher specializing in creativity. She has 20 years experience as a screenwriter, filmmaker and university lecturer, and has run courses on shamanism for writers, presented papers on the shamanic journey as story, and written two books on screenwriting and creative practice. She has a deep interest in the role of story as a spiritual tool that helps us to hear life and connect to magic. She is a trained shamanic counsellor, and works regularly with place-specific ceremony and partnering with Nature for healing.
Philip worked with the late Brian Goodwin here at the College on the use of language as a tool for interpreting and drawing meaning from the world. He will show how all of life, from individual genes to humans themselves, make use of their ability to communicate with each other and the world around them to live grounded and meaningful lives. Philip Frances lectures on the MSc in Holistic Science as teacher of complexity. Click here to read his full staff profile >>
Dr Merlin Sheldrake graduated from Cambridge in biological sciences and history and philosophy of science. He recently completed his PhD on the ecology of fungal networks at Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where he conducted extensive fieldwork as a Smithsonian Research Fellow. He is a keen brewer and musician.
Dr Karen Stead-Dexter is an Energy Healer, Teacher, Environmentalist and passionate Falconer (Bird Whisperer). Academic work and Spiritual work, for a long time, were always kept separate but for Karen something was missing. Having spent the majority of her academic career learning the damage ‘we’ have done to the planet, the need to explore ancient ways of understanding our relationship with the Earth led her in to learn more of the ways of the Shaman. Karen now has a strong understanding of ancient healing modalities, bringing in Shamanic traditions of North America, South America and Celtic Shamanism. She runs a popular clinic in Somerset & East Devon for Energy Healing, Falconry at Trill Farm (East Devon), and runs regular Shamanic workshops in Energy Healing, Bird Spirit Medicine and Plant Spirit Medicine connecting people back to nature, back to who they really are and gets them to truly listen to the world around them.
A writer and a folk musician, Andy has a D.Phil in Ecology from Oxford University and a PhD in the Study of Religion from Winchester University. He is the author of the critically acclaimed 'Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom' and has published a range of articles and academic papers on subjects as diverse as psychedelics, paganism, bardism, environmental protest, fairies, shamanism and evolution. A modern day troubadour, he is the ex-frontman of Telling the Bees.
Robin holds a PhD in Integrative Health from UCSF. She has studied anatomy extensively with Leslie Kaminoff, Judith Lasseter, and Tias Little. A long time meditation practitioner, Robin’s special interest is to bring the wisdom of eastern and western healing traditions to the challenge of life transitions, especially those in midlife and beyond.