NB. All times shown are Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Friday 5th November

Session 1

9:30am     Introduction by David Lorimer

10:00am Dialogue between Dr Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock on the nature of consciousness and the limits of the materialist paradigm

11.15am      BREAK

11.45am     Dialogue between Dr Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock: Question and answer session with audience    

12:45pm LUNCH

Session 2 – Chair, Prof Oliver Robinson

2:00pm Experiential activity

2:30pm Dr Diane Hennacy Powell – Revisiting Rainman: The Radical Implications of Savant Syndrome

Savant syndrome is one of the greatest challenges for materialism’s neuro-centric model. Savants have extraordinary skills, such as a prodigious memory in which nothing is ever forgotten. Others know information, such as a foreign language or higher mathematics, but they lack a known exposure to it and/or lack the underlying basic skills, such as simple arithmetic. Savant syndrome differs from genius in that it arises in the setting of a handicap, such as congenital blindness or autism. It can also be acquired by suffering a head injury or being electrocuted. One of the most famous savants was Kim Peek, after whom the main character in the movie Rainman was depicted. He was known for having memorized over 12,000 books word-for-word, with a capacity to recite them backwards and forwards. Most assume he was autistic, but brain imaging showed that he had hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain”, and lacked the major connections between his brain’s two

3.30pm          Prof Jessica Utts – A Statistician’s Journey through Stargate, Psi, and Pseudoscience

To a statistician, science is the ability to learn from data and observation. Pseudoscience, on the other hand, is the practice of forming conclusions based on belief rather than evidence. As the statistician for the U.S. government’s Stargate program, Professor Utts began examining data from experiments in parapsychology in the late 1980s, and continued to do so throughout her academic research career. As she concluded in her review of the Stargate Program for the U.S. Congress, “Using the standards applied to any other area of science [that uses statistics], it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established.” Yet, throughout her career she has found that most scientists are actually pseudoscientists when forming conclusions about psi. Very few have actually examined the experimental data, preferring instead to rely on their unsubstantiated beliefs, whether for or against the existence of psychic abilities. In this talk, she will discuss how she reached the conclusion in her Stargate report, and why the pseudoscientists (as defined here) are hurting scientific progress across the spectrum, not just in parapsychology.  For instance, if information can be gained by means other than the five senses, can a study really be double-blind, or even single-blind? These are questions that should concern everyone who is interested in science.

4.30pm          Tea Break

4.50pm           Dialogue and Q & A

Saturday 6th November

Session 3 – Chair, Prof Bernard Carr

9:30am           Introduction to Alef Trust

10.00am         Prof Caroline Watt: From the Indian Rope Trick to Ganzfeld precognition: The work of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit

In this presentation, Caroline Watt highlights the pre-history, remit, and work of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit. From the outset, the first Koestler Professor, Robert Morris, promoted the study of what he called ‘what’s not psychic but looks like it’ alongside more traditional parapsychological research testing the psi hypothesis. This presentation gives examples of the KPU approach, with a whistle stop tour of research into eyewitness accounts of the Indian Rope Trick, the study of psychological factors that may contribute to precognitive dream experiences, and controlled laboratory research into precognition using the ganzfeld method.

11.00am        BREAK

11.15am         Prof Etzel Cardeña – A Review of the Experimental Evidence for Parapsychological Phenomena

Throughout history and up to the present, many people, some with impeccable scientific credentials, have reported events that seem to violate the common-sense view of time and space. Many of these accounts may be explained as mere coincidences, misrepresentations of the original event, or even fraud, but others strain such explanations, so experimental paradigms have been devised to test them in controlled settings. The experimental support for the hypothesis that individuals can be affected by events temporally or spatially distant (i. e., psi or parapsychological phenomena), without the mediation by the senses or inference, has been reviewed in major mainstream journals (e.g., American Psychologist, Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). This presentation will:

  1. present a summary of that evidence, discussing the strengths and limitations of the accumulated data; and
  2. address the strengths and weaknesses of criticisms of this area of research within the context of how research on other areas of science is discussed.

The study of psi phenomena has made considerable strides since the initial studies more than a century ago despite minuscule funding and strident hostility by some in academia (others, including more than 30 Nobel prizewinners have been supportive of this research).  The ongoing re-evaluation of the potential primacy of consciousness makes psi research an area that deserving of reasoned and informed consideration.

12.15pm        Experiential visualization meditation and breathing exercise

13:00pm        LUNCH

Session 4 – Chair, TBC     

2:00pm Introduction to Scientific and Medical Network

2.30pm         Prof Bruce Greyson – After: What Do Near-Death Experiences Mean for the Next Life – and for This Life?

In this webinar, Bruce Greyson will share some of his most important findings from a half century of near-death research, illustrating his data with captivating examples. He will discuss with us such issues as (1) challenges in researching NDEs; (2) establishing the reality of NDEs; (3) the most common features of the experience, including enhanced thinking and perception, the life review, and out-of-body experiences, highlighting features that are independent of cultural or religious beliefs; and (4) various models that have been proposed to explain NDEs, including the relationship of NDEs to mental illness, to various alterations in brain biology, and to psychological factors.

As startling as some of these findings are, however, Dr Greyson’s primary interest as a psychiatrist is in how NDEs dramatically transform experiencers. In this presentation, he will discuss changes in attitudes toward life and death, changes in spirituality, and changes in behaviour – both positive and challenging aftereffects.

Finally, he will discuss the implications of NDEs for (1) our understanding of mind and brain, including how consciousness can persist after brain activity has stopped; (2) our understanding of the possibility of post-mortem survival, including what NDEs say about God and about heaven and hell; and (3) our understanding of the relationship between biological and spiritual events and what that implies for what it means to be human. He will conclude the

3.30pm BREAK

4:00pm Bruce Greyson Q & A

5:00pm Dialogue session with Bruce Greyson, David Lorimer and Peter Fenwick

Sunday 7th November

Session 5 – Chair, Dr Athena Potari

9:30am Dr David Luke – DMT: Indigenous gateway to the soul and endogenous reality thermostat? 

N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), dubbed the ‘spirit molecule,’ is an extremely potent short acting psychedelic substance found endogenously in the human organism and occurring widely (possibly ubiquitously in many kingdoms) in nature, and has been theorised to account for numerous spontaneous exceptional experiences such as those occurring near or at death. The traditional indigenous use of DMT in the Amazonian visionary decoction, ayahuasca, known as the ‘vine of the dead,’ has a long history of shamanic use to transcend time and space and communicate with the spirits of nature. Most people experiencing a breakthrough dose of DMT report encounters with seemingly sentient, intelligent and independent entities, which typically convey a convincing sense of their reality, such that a recent survey found that of those having such encounters who reported being atheist before their experience, more than half reported that they were no longer atheist afterwards. This talk explores the intersection between the scientific, therapeutic, psychonautic, and shamanic exploration of the DMT realm and attempts to fuse these disparate and yet overlapping cosmologies.

10:30am BREAK

11:00am         Inner and Outer Journeys: An interview with Bruce Parry about his explorations of tribal cultures, psychedelics and the nature of consciousness

Bruce Parry is best known for his award-winning documentaries which followed him living with and learning from remote indigenous peoples around the world. Other series followed him visiting peoples struggling with the effects of globalisation and climate change and the part we all play in these events.  These experiences led him to leave the BBC and direct a feature documentary about humankind’s loss of connection to nature and the effect this is having globally. He has been deeply affected by his travels and is now trying to put into practice some of the lessons he learned over the years, especially influenced by the few remaining egalitarian tribes he has been lucky to meet. He currently lives in Wales.

12:00pm        Dialogue and Q&A with David Luke and Bruce Parry

12:45pm        LUNCH

Session 6 – Chair, Dr Peter Fenwick

2:00pm          Experiential meditation with Dr Peter Fenwick

2:30pm Dr Natalie L Dyer – Connected Across Time and Space through Universal Love 

Universal love is a conscious state of unity with others and the whole, which results from contact with the transpersonal/transcendental Self. It is an unconditional, nonjudgmental, and peaceful form of love. Universal love is a common theme emerging from spiritual and mystical experiences, psychedelic use, meditation, and energy medicine. Far from just a feel-good concept, universal love has scientific grounding and experientially transformative value. It is a scientifically validated construct associated with higher altruism, empathy, forgiveness, spiritual experience, compassion, positive mood, life meaning and satisfaction, and less narcissism, negative mood, anger, and aggression. Universal love is also a key component of the transformative power of near-death, psychedelic, and spiritual experiences. Most energy healing techniques also work through cultivating universal love and the experience of universal love is commonly experienced when receiving energy healing. Our emotional closeness with one another can determine the extent of influence on each other’s physiology from a distance. Is it possible that universal love is fundamental to the nature of reality? Is universal love a force that connects our consciousnesses into one? If so, how would this understanding about our nature transform society?

3:30pm BREAK

4:00pm Prof Marilyn Schlitz – Transpersonal Philosophy: Applying Self Transcendence to Our Post-Modern World

Transpersonal philosophy has broad implications for expanding our human potentials. Maslow’s motivational hierarchy of needs has been widely adopted in psychology, business, leadership, innovation, and technology. This turn is useful in helping people to manifest self-actualization, becoming the best they can be. Often overlooked in this multi-disciplinary integration of the transpersonal is the dimension of self-transcendence. Here we are invited to move beyond personal ego-identification. This expansive ideal can help us find new solutions to the deepest challenges we face as a civilization and as co-inhabitants of the living world. It beckons a worldview shift that speaks to interdependence and interconnection. It offers a way of transcending simple tribalism and the in-group/out-group mentality that epitomizes social conflict to one that celebrates pluralism and an expanded sense of the “we”. Moving beyond ego brings us into deep rapport with the natural world and the ways in which we are a whole system. And it offers a spiritual perspective that speaks to our engagement with the great unfolding mystery that embraces us all.

5:00pm Dialogue and Q & A

5:45pm Closing remarks – David Lorimer