Have you ever felt you went beyond your ordinary self and felt connected to something bigger than you?
In a 2016 UK survey, over 84% of respondents (including atheists, agnostics, Christians, and Buddhists) said yes to this question.
Maybe part of our curiosity to understand more about how the Universe functions and constantly explore science stems from a deep, innate connection we feel with the ‘Whole’. For as long as humankind has existed, this curiosity to know the unknown has also existed. That is probably what prompts millions of people around the world to ask questions, seek answers, write, read, explore both science and spirituality. It is possible that there exist thousands of pages online, like Hill Wilson Star Map, and thousands of material offline, that constantly try to answer some of the most interesting and thought-provoking questions about the Universe and our place in it.
So what’s going on?
In this series of talks, we’ll explore the science and psychology of spirituality. We’ll put spiritual ideas to the test of psychological research, and discuss whether science really can offer solutions to some of life’s greatest mysteries.
This is an event for anyone who suspects, that in our rapid drive towards secularisation, we might be leaving something valuable behind.
If you go to a therapist with an emotional disorder today, you’re likely to be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness-therapy, which were inspired by the ancient philosophies of Stoicism and Buddhism.
What ideas and practices have modern psychotherapy taken from these ancient philosophies, and what has been left behind? What can empirical science measure, and what important aspects of spirituality cannot be quantified and measured?
In this talk, Jules Evans will explore how scientific data can support us on our spiritual paths, but how we still ultimately need some faith and a willingness to abide in uncertainty.
Jules Evans is Policy Director at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London and a leading researcher into ecstatic experience. He also runs the world’s biggest philosophy club, the London Philosophy Club, which has over 6,000 members. Jules’ first book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations was published in 19 countries and was selected by Matthew Syed as a Times Book of the Year. He has written for The Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Spectator and WIRED and is a BBC New Generation Thinker.
Despite the dominance of science and technology as forces that shape our lives, and the decline in religious attendance and affiliation in many Western countries, spirituality is becoming increasingly popular. Why is it that “spirituality-beyond-religion” is thriving in our time of science?
This talk presents an answer; it argues that science and spirituality have both separated from institutionalised religion over the modern era, to become independent yet overlapping domains of enquiry. The relationship between science and spirituality can be conceived dialectically via seven polarities. To embrace these polarities, and thus to integrate science and spirituality, brings about a “complex harmony” of head and heart, that is the basis for wisdom.
Dr Oliver Robinson is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich, and the course coordinator for Adult Development and Mental Health. His research focuses on how identity, wellbeing and mental health are affected by major life transitions, crises and ageing processes during adulthood. Dr Robinson’s work has gained attention from the New Scientist, The Guardian, BBC Radio 4, The Telegraph and The Times.
In an out-of-body experience (OBE), people feel as though they have left their physical body and can see the world from outside it. What are these experiences, and are they spiritual? As a 19 year-old psychology student, Susan Blackmore had an extraordinarily powerful OBE that lasted for hours and culminated in a mystical experience of transformation and oneness.
Her determination to understand what had happened led Susan to becoming a parapsychologist – a profession she later gave up, zen training, and decades of research into the nature of mind and consciousness. In this talk, Susan will explore the surprising science of out-of-body experiences, whether anything really leaves the body during an OBE, and their profound effect on our sense of self.
Sue Blackmore is a psychologist, lecturer and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She is a TED lecturer, blogs for the Guardian, and often appears on radio and television. The Meme Machine (1999) has been translated into 16 other languages; more recent books include Conversations on Consciousness (2005), Zen and the Art of Consciousness (2011), Seeing Myself: The new science of out-of-body experiences (2017) and a textbook Consciousness: An Introduction (3rd Ed 2018).
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