Myth and Ecology – The Mundus Imaginalis

Myth and Ecology – The Mundus Imaginalis


Please Note: The Myth and Ecology programme is not set to run in 2018 but is due to recommence in September 2019, with applications opening in October 2018. 

Further information on this programme will be released soon.  To receive information or register your interest in this programme sign up here

MA, PG Dip

The most powerful way to effect change in this world is to address the one that underpins it
– The Mundus Imaginalis

An invitation

A ship is setting sail from England.       
It’s a very old, very particular kind of ship.

It’s the magnificent, creaky timbered, curly roped, burgundy sail kind. You’ve seen bigger ships surely, and certainly more streamlined, but this one is hard to get over. It’s the kind that straightens your back and brings a tear to your eye as you shyly lift your gaze to its regal shape. This is the kind of ship that shouldn't exist anymore. 

Standing on the dock in the dusking light, you can hear singing carried over the waves, and excited laughter. Figures are calling to you from the deck, beckoning to you, calling to you in your old names. These are the names no one should know, the ancient names, how can this possibly be happening?

The evening moon is emerging from behind clouds. But let us lean forward, the captain is lifting her lantern: To all scholar-explorers and heretical investigators … there is something pressing to say, something urgent. This is an invitation.   We are setting sail to un-map the world.

Join us for this voyage … the world’s first postgraduate programme in Myth and Ecology – The Mundus Imaginalis.


In a time when every square inch of the globe seems to be neutered, quartered and googled, we intrepids are journeying out to glimpse the Otherworld that is secreted most wonderfully in this one - to peer into the steaming foliage and bright feathered world that still exists underneath the grid - whilst we still can. The hour is late.

This is an Otherworld that wriggles in your fist like the archaic trout of the smoky Thames and disappears (carrying all of Shakespeare in its scales) when we attempt to tell it what-it-is. This right-by-our-side Otherworld causes ink to slide off the page and evaporate when we produce the T-square too avidly.

We set sail to do nothing less ambitious than to court the mysteries: the small and gentle ones, the elaborate and complex gnashing teethed ones, the ones you glimpsed at the edge of your garden when you were little. We set sail to un-map our presumption that we know what the earth is.

When we un-map the world, we start the un-colonising of our own imagination and we move from personal fantasy to an imagination that is bigger than ourselves. We understand that psyches don’t only dwell within, we dwell amidst them, and their imagination help create our reality every day. When we un-map the world it starts to talk back to us, we begin to trail not trap. We start to witness not just thinking about the earth, but thoughts from the earth.

Our travels through the waters of time and place will bring us to people and traditions where the weaving of the human and non-human are at their most permeable, their most acute and most sophisticated. In the end, we will trade our tired maps for the best compass of all, the one that really matters - a truth north - what the Troubadours called ‘the educated heart’. It is time, as the poets say; ‘to think in ways we’ve never thought before’. It is time to trade comfort for shelter.

Make no mistake, study awaits. An un-gridded world reveals not just knowledge but wisdom, an un-mapped world will reveal not chaos but cosmos. With that wisdom, with that cosmos, comes tangible learning and focused application. Be prepared. This will be the most exacting journey. Take not one single step towards the gangplank without knowing that we take no passengers. So, here we stand on the dock. It is night, but the scholar-explorers are preparing to raise anchor. The captain leans forward with her lantern one more time, peers towards us and asks:
“Shall we go?”

Aboard The Ship

This is an immersive postgraduate programme that takes imagination seriously. It is led by mythologist Dr Martin Shaw who brings two decades of work as a wilderness rites-of-passage guide along with anthropologist Dr Carla Stang who brings her knowledge of different cultureA and phenomenological study, together they rove through mythology, anthropology, philosophy and poetics, often in the company of guest teachers.

This is a year-long programme where you will walk in and out of other centuries. It is a deep study of image, cosmology, storytelling, myth and lived experience that explore what is more than human. From Amazonia to Siberia, from the hermit and the troubadour to the Sufi and romantic faiths and traditions, it is a journey to study cultures that celebrate a world ensouled.

Students will explore western mythologies (many hidden or barely remembered), and the lived philosophy of the Mehinaku people of Amazonia. There will be the study of many other lifeworlds as well as an opportunity to learn how people in different times and places respond to an earthy consciousness of wonder. Such experiential study is how we will begin to tune our ear.

Within the beautiful setting of the Dartington Hall Estate and upon the wild moors of Devon, England, there is the chance to learn subtle and often secret knowledge - in a time when many of these secrets need to become public, need to be practiced and need to be lived. In doing so we encounter the wonder of ordinary reality and find that a dynamic relationship to what the neo-platonists called the ‘Anima Mundi’- is our natural state.

What are our aims and objectives? To be struck by lightning, to find our work, to roll up to our own lives. The standard will be high with scholarship and the experiential in either hand, with little distinction between them.  This course is validated by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

*Plans are currently underway to restore Foxhole, the site of the former Dartington Hall School, a short walk from the Old Postern.  Work is expected to be fully completed by 2021.  Students arriving for the academic year of 19/20 may study or stay in accommodation there.

In the academic year 2017-18 our guest contributors included:


Faculty Teachers

Martin Shaw

Martin is a mythologist, writer and teacher of wilderness rites-of-passage. Author of the Mythteller trilogy (A Branch From The Lightning Tree, Snowy Tower and Scatterlings), he founded the Oral Tradition course at Stanford University, and has contributed to Desmond Tutu’s leadership programme at Templeton College, Oxford. He is principal teacher at the Great Mother Conference in the U.S., and is a patron of the Earth Restoration charity. Awards include: Visiting Scholar to the British School in Rome and the Price, Bretherton, Elgood Award for outstanding achievement in painting. Recent collaborations have included “Lost Gods” with Mark Rylance and Paul Kingsnorth. Director of the Westcountry School of Myth in the UK,Martin lectures internationally and has a long standing interest in the folklore and cosmology of Tungus and Yakut culture.

Carla Stang

Carla received her first degree at the University of Sydney and was awarded the Frank Bell Memorial Prize for Anthropology for her studies there. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Since then she has held the position of Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and Associate Researcher at the University of Sydney. Carla’s work explores events of consciousness in different cultures, in particular those of ordinary reality, mysticism, ritual and the experience of landscape. Most of this research has focussed on the Tungus people of Siberia, and the Mehinaku Indians of the Upper Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon. Based on her fieldwork with the Mehinaku Carla wrote a book called “A Walk to the River in Amazonia” (Berghahn Press 2011).

Other Schumacher Faculty teaching on the programme

Stephan Harding FLS

Stephan coordinates the MSc Holistic Science. Stephan 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, and his scientific cast of mind 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 has been involved in ecological research, expedition and teaching in Zimbabwe, Peru, Venezuela and Costa Rica.

Stephan became a founder member of Schumacher College in 1990. The College’s first teacher was James Lovelock, with whom Stephan has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration that culminated in their joint appointment as chair holders of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo. Stephan lives on the College campus with his wife Julia Ponsonby and their son Oscar, and is the author of Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia published in 2006.

Jonathan Dawson  
Jonathan is a sustainability educator and activist formerly based at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, where he taught human ecology and applied sustainability studies.  He is a recent President of the Global Ecovillage Network and has published widely both on Eco villages and other sustainable community initiatives.

Jonathan has spent much of the last 20 years involved in development work in Africa and South Asia, as a researcher, author, project manager and consultant, working primarily in the field of small enterprise and community economic development. He has worked for clients as diverse as the World Bank, the United Nations and numerous bilateral development agencies and NGOs, including the organisation created by E.F. Schumacher, Intermediate Technology Development Group (recently renamed Practical Action). 

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