A Day on Consciousness - The Weekend University

Neuroscience, Panpsychism and Hallucinations; A full day of talks exploring the fascinating science of consciousness.

Right now, tens of billions of neurons are working together in your brain so that you can read these words.

How does this happen?

For the longest time, consciousness was life’s greatest mystery; something we thought we’d never understand.

Now, recent advances in neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry are beginning to shed some light on the inner workings of this mystery, and the findings are nothing less than astounding. 

In this series of talks, we’ll explore the fascinating science of consciousness; how it works, why it matters, and how understanding it can improve your everyday experience of reality. 

You’ll learn: 

  • Neuroscience, perception and hallucination; the latest cutting edge research in the neuroscience of consciousness, how consciousness emerges from the brain, and how changes to our brain can result in bizarre experiences of consciousness – Professor Anil Seth PhD
  • Matter and consciousness; the relationship between matter and consciousness – are they two things, or one? How necessary are brains to consciousness? And why do we have consciousness at all? – Dr Iain McGilchrist, PhD (via exclusive live video link) 
  • Panpsychism and consciousness; the growing evidence for a ‘conscious universe’, how the world ‘out there’, including our planet, sun and solar system, may be associated with some form of mind and self organising system – Dr Rupert Sheldrake, PhD

You’ll learn how these insights can deepen your own understanding of the world we live in, and enhance your everyday perception of reality.

Event Schedule:

  • 10:00am – 12:00pm: Matter and Consciousness – Dr Iain McGilchrist, PhD (via video link) 
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch break
  • 1:00pm – 3:00pm: Neuroscience, Perception and Hallucination – Professor Anil Seth, PhD
  • 3:00pm – 3:30pm: Afternoon break
  • 3:30pm – 5:00pm:  A Conscious Universe? – Dr Rupert Sheldrake, PhD
  • 5:20pm – 7:00pm: Attendee Social & Networking (Optional)

Full Day Pass: £38.25 + VAT + booking fee

Student Pass: £20.25 + VAT + booking fee


Sun 23 February 2020
09:30 – 17:00 BST

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23/02/2020 09:30 AM
23/02/2020 5:00 PM
Birkbeck, University of London, London
The Weekend University – A Day on Consciousness

Birkbeck, University of London,
Malet Street, Bloomsbury,
London, WC1E 7HX

Lectures & Speakers

Matter and Consciousness – Dr Iain McGilchrist (via video link)

It has become customary to talk about consciousness as the great unsolved problem of our age.  I argue that consciousness itself is not the problem; the problem is our customary mode of thinking.  I will outline the thesis of a new book, The Matter with Things, in which I suggest that, because of our allegiance to a certain model of the world, demonstrably associated with the left hemisphere of the brain, we misunderstand the fundamental nature of the world, and as a result run into predictable problems in trying to make sense of it.  

These problems are in evidence all around us in the modern West.  For the purposes of this talk I will focus on the relationship between matter and consciousness, and ask: are they two things or one?  Are they things at all? If they are different in what way? How necessary are brains to consciousness? And why do we have consciousness at all? 

Reading Recommendations:

Dr Iain McGilchrist - The Weekend University

Dr Iain McGilchrist is a Psychiatrist and Writer, who lives on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of North West Scotland. He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains. He was formerly a Consultant Psychiatrist of the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley NHS Trust in London, where he was Clinical Director of their southern sector Acute Mental Health Services.

Dr McGilchrist has published original research and contributed chapters to books on a wide range of subjects, as well as original articles in papers and journals, including the British Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times. He has taken part in many radio and TV programmes, documentaries, and numerous podcasts, and interviews on YouTube, among them dialogues with Jordan Peterson, David Fuller of Rebel Wisdom, and philosopher Tim Freke. His books include Against Criticism, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning, and Ways of Attending. He is currently working on his latest book: The Matter With Things, a book of epistemology and metaphysics, to be published by Penguin/Random House. You can keep up to date with his work at www.iainmcgilchrist.com.

Neuroscience, Perception and Hallucination – Professor Anil Seth

Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate your conscious experience. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.”

This talk will provide an insight into how consciousness emerges from the material brain, and how changes to our brain can result in bizarre experiences of consciousness. You’ll learn about the latest research in the new science of consciousness and how cutting-edge experiments in neuroscience are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms that give us our conscious experience in normal life, as well as in neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Reading Recommendations:

Professor Anil Seth - The Weekend University

Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and the Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, and a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Professor Seth is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness, sits on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project, and was President of the British Science Association Psychology Section in 2017.

He is the co-author of the ‘30 Second Brain’, and contributes regularly to a variety of media including New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC. His 2017 TED talk has been viewed more than 9 million times. Professor Seth’s research bridges neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has also worked extensively with playwrights, dancers and other artists to shape a truly humanistic view of consciousness and self. You can keep up to date with his work at www.anilseth.com.

A Conscious Universe? – Dr Rupert Sheldrake

The sciences are pointing toward a new sense of a living world.  The cosmos is like a developing organism, and so is our planet, Gaia. The laws of Nature may be more like habits.  Partly as a result of the ‘hard problem’ of finding space for human consciousness in the materialist worldview, there is there is a renewed interest in panpsychist philosophies, according to which some form of mind, experience or consciousness is associated with all self-organizing systems, including atoms, molecules and plants.  Maybe the sun is conscious, and so are other stars, and entire galaxies. If so, what about the mind of the universe as a whole? Rupert Sheldrake will explore some of the implications of this idea.

Reading Recommendations:

Dr Rupert Sheldrake - The Weekend University

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 85 scientific papers, and was named among the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize in 1963. Dr Sheldrake then studied philosophy and the history of science at Harvard before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1967. 

He is the author of 13 books, and in 2012 he published ‘The Science Delusion’. This book examines the ten dogmas of modern science, and shows how they can be turned into questions that open up new vistas of scientific possibility. It received the Book of the Year Award from the British Scientific and Medical Network. His most recent book: ‘Ways To Go Beyond, And Why They Work’ was published in 2019, and looks at seven spiritual practices that are personally transformative and have scientifically measurable effects. You can keep up to date with Rupert’s work on his website: www.sheldrake.org.

What TWU attendees are saying:

    positive review  The 'Day on Depth Psychology' event was extremely interesting - great speakers and fascinating content. A great reintroduction to Psychology and I will definitely be going again. Thanks to Niall for organising such a great event.

    Laura Guthrie Avatar Laura Guthrie
    January 28, 2019

    positive review  The Weekend University Holistic Change Summit was the most eclectic, engaging and useful online resource of any of it's kind. Truly a place for everyone, at any level, that is interested in human growth and humanity. Niall engages the speakers in a very personal way, and engages them in conversations that are unique to this Weekend University. 100%

    Cynthia Young Avatar Cynthia Young
    September 22, 2020

    positive review  very interesting lectures, thank you for organising!

    Babz Zacharuk Avatar Babz Zacharuk
    May 15, 2020
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