Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist and author. Together they discuss: consciousness, prayer, angels, science and spiritual practices, magic, dreams, hell, the unconscious, rituals, enlightenment, atheism, materialism, and more.
Gnosticism Then and Now
The label “gnostic” is used to recommend and condemn. So what is, and what was, Gnosticism? This episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, with Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon, takes a lead from a series of fascinating essays exploring the ancient movement and its modern forms by the philosopher, David Bentley Hart. Gnosticism was originally a set of cosmologies which shared the sense that the created order was blocked from the celestial spheres by angelic and demonic powers. It was remarkably widespread amongst early Christians of all kinds. They turned to Christ, in the hope of redemption or escape. Nowadays, it is used in different ways, often to express a sense of yearning or hope. As Rupert and Mark discuss, Gnosticism may offer the promise of a re-enchanted cosmos, freed from the Archons of the machine and mammon. Properly understood, it might offer a key for our times.
What Can the West Learn from the East?
Meditation, yoga, vegetarianism. Eastern practices have become a feature of western life. But what do we learn from them? This episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, with Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon, is prompted by a sense that the western way of life is being challenged, if not facing a full-on crisis. As Rowan Williams puts it in his new book, Looking East In Winter, climate change and environmental degradation are leading to a sense of needing not a programme or an ideology but an epiphany, which might renew our perception of reality. They discuss how eastern Christianity, as well as traditions in India, are based on participating with life and on the cultivation of conscious. They ask how this relates to insights such as the Christian Trinity and movements such as romanticism, as well considering the emergence of mechanistic science, which itself arose from western religious perceptions.
Matters of Life and Death
Covid has brought the reality of death into the centre of our lives, but what can we learn about death in response? This episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, with Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon, is prompted by a sense that part of the anxiety arising from the pandemic is living in a culture that has forgotten how to know death in life. Rupert outlines some recent work on the role of death in plant life, and how that is not only of biological interest but can be spiritually resourcing. They discuss how wisdom traditions don’t dissolve death but understand it as a process that leads to more life, and therefore to be embraced and undergone. Both reflect on personal experiences of death and dying as well, in what they hope is a helpful as well as interesting conversation.
Animals That Talk
Why do matters as seemingly unconnected as children’s stories and shamanic encounters feature talking animals? This episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, with Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon, is prompted by the book, Roland In Moonlight by David Bentley Hart. It relates long conversations between the Eastern Orthodox philosopher and his pet dog, generating fascinating thoughts on all sorts of liminal experiences, from telepathy to panpsychism. How might a re-enchanted world appear to us in the future? What does that have to do with ancient perceptions and modern science? Rupert and Mark discuss matters from pets to symbiosis, and the way that the living world participates in divine life.
Billionaires, Brains and Belief
Could bliss be transmitted by a Happy Helmet? Are the fantasies of the super-wealthy secretly shaping our lives? In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon discuss a new novel, Double Blind, by Edward St Aubyn. It is a story of ideas, including issues previously explored in these dialogues, from the nature of consciousness and the revelations of psychedelics, to the missing heritability problem and the replication crisis. St Aubyn has richly addressed our moment with its environmental and existential concerns. His characters explore matters of paramount important as they effect real lives. His book invites us to ask ourselves about the worldviews we hold and the ways in which our imaginations reach out for tomorrow.
The discussion of alternative worldviews, from various forms of materialism to types of idealism, has exploded in recent years, and the notion of panpsychism is in the middle of the debate. In this episode of the Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Vernon explore the different types of panpsychism being proposed, from more conservative forms that are linked to materialism, to older types that have been advocated by figures from AN Whitehead to Aristotle. They ask about the place of time and space in different views of reality, and tease out the connections to consciousness and eternity. Models including emergence and information theory rise, as well as the role of the brain, as they wonder about the direction in which this rich conversation is heading.
Amazing and interesting
Two of the brightest, most intellectually honest and openly-minded people of our day discussing the best and most interesting topics... just amazing.
I would prefer much longer conversations. I am always bummed by the 30-minute limitation. It’s hardly enough for an adequate introduction to the topics. Long-form podcasts are the most popular right now for a good reason. We want more. More of the good stuff, more science, more research, more stories, more laughs, more unscripted goodness, more depth! Love it!
Provocative thought and healthy common sense
I only wish this podcast were lengthier and more often. Mark works well off of Rupert and both are endlessly fascinating to listen too! I immensely enjoy their deconstruction of scientific dogmas that are so rarely brought up. I really appreciate their realistic skepticism instead of the annoying and groundless “Shermer” brand of skeptical inquiry that is so common. I hope this podcast keeps on keeping on!!!
The best of the 88 (and counting) podcasts I subsribe to
I get a mild thrill whenever I see that a new Science Set Free episode has come through. It's a type of thrill that is rare among the many podcasts and other sources of information I consume (the only other example that comes to mind is when I see a new post has come through on Jules Evans's website).
If you are a curious person who seeks intellectual stimulation in all manner of far flung places, I strongly encourage you to give this podcast a try. It's hard to explain exactly what I find so compelling about it. Basically, there is a type of quiet lightning that happens when Rupert and Mark's minds come together, when assumptions (often unconscious) are revealed and challenged, when new visions are proferred, when science/intellect engages with intuition/poetry in a kind of dance. If I kept talking I'd be apt to drown it in superlatives. Just pick an episode, find a quiet place, and press play.