hugh murdoch: Theosophy-Science Group Newsletter, September 2004, p3
A recent brochure provides an opportunity to give an inkling of the nature of this organisation. The brochure states on the title page as a major aim: “Challenging the Adequacy of Scientific Materialism as an Explanation of Reality”.
Some extracts from the brochure give an idea of the nature of the Network: “The Network was founded in 1973 as a cultural response to the promotion of an exclusively materialistic outlook and the consequent marginalisation of a spiritual perspective in scientific and medical education”. The members consist of scientists and medical doctors and others may join as associate members.
From the Focus and Operating Framework: “We question the presuppositions of contemporary science and medical thinking where they are limited by materialistic reasoning, and seek to go beyond purely objective methodologies to embrace more participatory approaches to reality. Many network members feel that the visible universe around us forms part of a larger reality. We therefore take seriously the possibility that spiritual experiences and paranormal phenomena may reveal this greater whole and that consciousness may extend beyond body and mind. We call for a truly open-minded approach to phenomena currently considered anomalous. … At the same time we seek to maintain rigorous standards of investigation and intellectual discernment”.
An annual Mystics and Scientists conference has been held every year since 1978, (initially by the Wrekin Trust). Speakers have included: David Bohm, Fred Hoyle, James Lovelock, Paul Davies, Bede Griffiths, Matthew Fox and many others. Selected talks were published in 1998 as: The Spirit of Science, (Floris Books; Edinburgh). A series of international conferences on Consciousness under the title Beyond the Brain was launched at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1995 in conjunction with the Institute of Noetic Science. “These meetings are now established as a leading event in the consciousness field and are attended by over 250 people”. Meetings were held at two-year intervals until 2001 with the 2001 conference addressing the question: ‘Does Individual Identity extend Beyond Birth and Death?’ A selection of talks from these conferences was published in 2001 with the title Thinking beyond the Brain — a Wider Science of Consciousness (Floris Books, Edinburgh). Contributors included Charles Tart, Peter Fenwick, Willis Harman and Ravi Ravindra.
More recently, a programme, Science, Consciousness and Ultimate Reality, supported by a grant from the Templeton Foundation, was held on the above subject. This programme involved public dialogues between prominent speakers at 12 UK universities, followed by a series of seminars and a two-day public conference at King’s College, Cambridge, spanning in all about 20 months, ending mid-2003. A book of the above title edited by David Lorimer, Director of the SMN, with selected articles based on the series of talks and discussions, has just been published (Imprint Academic; Exeter, UK and Charlottesville, USA, 2004). It may also be ordered from the SMN, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors are professors or senior research scientists in various scientific disciplines, including biochemistry, cosmology, neurophysiology, together with other academic disciplines such as transpersonal psychology, philosophy, and theology. They bring a wide range of expertise and approaches to this very interesting theme. Bernard Carr is a cosmologist who wrote a seminal paper with Astronomer Royal Martin Rees on the anthropic principle. Carr has been President of the Society for Psychical Research. Theosophists will feel at home with Ravi Ravindra’s article on “Yoga, Physics and Consciousness,” but even more so with an outstanding article by neurophysiologist, psychiatrist and chairman of the SMN, Peter Fenwick entitled “Neurophysiology, Consciousness and Ultimate Reality.” He believes consciousness is part of the whole, is non-local and survives death. These articles will bear further examination on another occasion.
Membership of the SMN is open to Scientists, Philosophers and Medical practitioners. There are well over 2000 members throughout the world. Anybody is welcome to join as an associate member. Furthermore many associated special interest, regional, or local Groups throughout the world include friends of members. The SMN is a very active organisation mainly in the UK, but is involved in a number of international conferences. For example, there is a forthcoming conference in Krakow, Poland, 29 to 31 October 2004, entitled: Towards New Renaissance: Human Values, Spirituality and the Future. The SMN operates other programmes including seminars, often in combination with other organisations. In some of these, Edi Bilimoria, a member of the English Section of the TS, has taken part on behalf of the Blavatsky Trust. It provides members with a comprehensive magazine three times a year and also a monthly email newsletter on forthcoming activities. In many respects, especially in the battle against materialism, the SMN is furthering the aims of the Theosophical Society and doing so towards a more academically minded constituency in a spirit of open inquiry.