Ancient Wisdom & Modern Psychology - The Weekend University

A full day of talks putting ancient ideas to the test of modern scientific research.

What are dreams, and why do we have them?

When did human consciousness first emerge? And how has it evolved since?

Do early Buddhist descriptions of the mind, and of the human condition, make sense in light of modern science?

These are just some of the questions we’ll explore at this coming day on ‘Ancient Wisdom & Modern Psychology’ at The Weekend University.

In this series of talks, we’ll put ancient ideas to the test of modern science. Drawing on perspectives from neuroscience, philosophy and cognitive psychology, we’ll discuss dreams, consciousness, and mindfulness, and examine them in light of modern psychological research.

Attendees will learn:

  • How to understand your dreams; modern psychological theories of dreaming, from classical psychoanalysis (was Freud right after all?) to 21st Century Cognitive Neuroscience
  • The psychological effects of ancient buddhist practices; what the latest research reveals about the link between mindfulness and wellbeing
  • The evolution of consciousness; how the human experience has changed from the time of Socrates to Freud, the birth of philosophy, and the emergence of psychotherapy in the 20th Century.

You’ll leave with a clear understanding of how these ancient ideas, when paired with the latest psychological research, can benefit your own life, and your ability to help others.


The format will be similar to a TED event, but with in-depth lectures and focused on the theme of Ancient Wisdom and Modern Psychology.

  • 10:00am – 12:00pm: Session 1
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch break
  • 1:00pm – 3:00pm: Session 2
  • 3:00pm – 3:15pm: Afternoon break
  • 3:15pm – 5:00pm: Session 3
  • 5:20pm – 7:00pm: TWU Social & Networking (optional)

Full Day Pass: £43.71

Student: £22.15


Sun 26th August 2018
09:30 – 17:00 BST

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08/26/2018 09:30 AM
08/26/2018 5:00 PM
Birkbeck, University of London, London
The Weekend University – Ancient Wisdom & Modern Psychology

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

Lectures & Speakers

The Psychology of Dreaming – Dr Josie Malinowski, PhD

Human beings all across the world, and for all of recorded history, have been fascinated by what happens when we sleep. What are dreams, and why do we have them? These two most basic, fundamental questions about dreaming have been asked by religion, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience across the entire world throughout the ages – and yet we still don’t have a definitive answer.

This lecture will consider some modern psychological theories of dreaming, from classical psychoanalysis (was Freud right after all?) to 21st century cognitive neuroscience, to try and understand what dreaming is and why we do it, according to contemporary psychologists. You will learn about whether dreams are really a hotbed for your suppressed thoughts, the theory that dreams are “overnight therapy”, and whether we really do dream in metaphors and symbols.

Dr Josie Malinowski

Dr Josie Malinowski is an oneirologist (dream-researcher), oneironaut (dream-explorer), and lecturer in psychology at the University of East London. Her academic research interests are primarily within the fields of sleep and dreaming, altered states, and consciousness.

Her forthcoming book: The Psychology of Dreaming, will be published by Routledge next year. You can keep up to date with Josie’s work on

Mindfulness, Buddhism & Modern Psychology – Dr Steven Stanley, PhD

The United Kingdom arguably represents the leading front in the globalised therapeutic culture of ‘mindfulness’. Promoted predominantly as an effective therapeutic technique for the relief of stress, depression, and anxiety, mindfulness has moved rapidly from the Buddhist monasteries of Southeast Asia and into the mainstream of Western societies.

In this talk, Dr Steven Stanley, will discuss the multiple ways in which ‘mindfulness’ is made manifest across sectors of health, education, work, politics and spirituality, and analyse the mainstream turn to mindfulness against the background of cutting-edge work at the borderlands of psychology, religion, and spirituality.

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Psychology

Dr Steven Stanley is a critical psychologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, Wales. His academic background is in Psychology, and his research is focused on the therapeutic cultures of late modernity, with a particular focus on social studies of mindfulness.

Dr Stanley has a 20-year meditation practice, and has undertaken the two-year Committed Dharma Practitioner Programme at Gaia House, Devon, and Pāli Summer School at Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Oxford. Currently, he is collaborating internationally on a series of studies of mindfulness, meditation, and mind wandering. You can follow him on twitter @Dr_SteveStanley.

The Evolution of Consciousness – Dr Mark Vernon, PhD

It’s been noted that the human experience of life has changed over time, and that during an “axial age”, in the middle of the first millennium BCE, a consciousness that is akin to our own first began to emerge. It’s why, in the west, we feel that philosophy began with figures like Socrates who lived then.

So what are the features of this consciousness, what preceded it, and how has it evolved in the centuries since, particularly in the modern period during which it may have been shifting again?

This lecture will explore how the human experience has changed over time, and how this can account for the birth of philosophy, as we tend to think of it, and the emergence of psychotherapy in the 20th century.

Dr Mark Vernon - Ancient Wisdom & Modern Psychology

Dr Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster, psychotherapist and former Anglican priest, with an interest in Ancient Philosophy. His work focuses on the skills and insights that illuminate our inner lives. He contributes regularly to programmes on the BBC, comments and reviews for the national press, as well as giving talks and leading workshops.

Dr Vernon has degrees in physics and theology, and a PhD in Ancient Greek philosophy. He is a member of the teaching faculty at the School of Life, and works as a psychotherapist in private practice and at the Maudsley hospital. For more information, please see

What TWU attendees are saying:

    positive review  I was a bit worried about doing a whole day online but should not have had any concerns. I really can recommend The Weekend University. This particular day was brilliant and the speakers sublime. Niall is great at organising. I did have a few technical issues which related entirely from my end, but which I worked through successfully. We have the worst broadband provision in the country so if it worked for me I am sure it will work well everywhere else.

    Pascale Atkins Avatar Pascale Atkins
    April 27, 2020

    positive review  very interesting lectures, thank you for organising!

    Babz Zacharuk Avatar Babz Zacharuk
    May 15, 2020

    positive review  These Sunday sessions are so good! They are really well organised with nicely paced breaks so you don’t get content overload. I started going as I was/am thinking of studying psychology but my husband is now also coming along and some friends because they find the content really interesting. Even if you aren’t studying psychology or working in the field, the sessions can be very interesting and provide a stimulating and creative way to spend one Sunday a month.

    Leah Williamson Avatar Leah Williamson
    January 8, 2019
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The Weekend University seeks to guarantee an excellent learning experience. If you are not fully satisfied with the day, you will receive 100% of your money back, and we will cover the cost of your travel to and from the venue.