Rupert Sheldrake 2018 Science & Spiritual Practices:Temenos Academy
Hmm. Thank You Nik it's. Great to be here again, I love. The terminus Academy, and I think it's one of the most important, are. They're one of the smallest educational. Institutions, in our country. I'm. Talking, this evening on science. And spiritual, practices, and. This. May seem an, odd combination. But. We're. In a extreme, extremely. New situation. At the moment, where, this becomes unusually. Irrelevant. Recent. Surveys have shown that more than half the population of Britain described, themselves as, having no religion and, until. Recently there's probably no society, where most, people would have had no, religion, no unifying. Theme. To. To their existence. And. Yet. This doesn't mean that most people are atheists, atheists, in recent surveys are about 13%, of the population. The. Majority of people who say they have no religion, still, have an interest in spiritual, matters and often. Have spiritual, practices, a. Lot. Of people call themselves spiritual, but not religious. There. Has now been a lot of scientific, studies of the effect of religious, and spiritual, practices, in. 2012. The monumental, handbook. Of religion. And health. Came. Out, summarizing. Lot of, 2,800. Papers, published, on this subject since, the year 2001. There. Have been many peer-reviewed. Scientific, studies now. 4%. Of them showed harmful, effects of religion, those were mostly for people who were in states of great religious, conflict, who felt, exceptionally. Guilty and belonged, to religions, that made them feel even guiltier, but. The vast majority of these studies, showed, very, beneficial effects. People who had religious, and spiritual practices, in brief. Were, happier healthier, and lived, longer. And. There's. Not been a lot of studies, of specific. Spiritual. Practices, in. My book I discuss seven, different. Practices, and the, scientific research on them I also. Summarize. Simple. Ways in which anyone can try them for themselves. They. Are, meditation. Gratitude. Connecting. With the more than human world. Relating, to plants. Singing. Chanting. And music. Rituals. And. Pilgrimage. These. Are all spiritual. Practices, which are part of every, religion, but. They can also be a practice by people are not part of religion, we're in a new situation as, I said I. Can't. Talk about all of them this evening but. I'm going to talk a start first with gratitude, which. Is always a good place to begin. There. Have now been many studies by positive, psychologists.
On What, makes people happy in. The. Last 20 or 30 years there's been a rise of a new branch of psychology called, positive, psychology, and why. It's called that is because it's. Looking on the positive, side of things until. Then almost all psychology. Had been negative. Psychology, in the sense it was about what makes people miserable and. This is of course what psychotherapists. Deal with all the time so it's not surprising this, was the main focus for people like Freud. But. Positive, psychologists. Asked what makes people happy and. One. Of the things they found one, of their most convincing, results is that people who are grateful, are, much, happier, than those who aren't the. Opposite of being grateful is to take. Things for granted or, feel a sense of entitlement and. Complain. People. Who are grateful on. The, other hand give thanks for what they've got and they're. Measurably, happier. Critics of this work said well of course they're happier, you. Know they're of course they're grateful they're happier but they're grateful because they're happy and. But. They tried to find out whether they're happy, because they're grateful. So. They've done a whole series of experiments. Which. Are part of the literature, of positive, psychology, I'll just summarize one, of them there are lots of them but in one, of them they took groups. Of people and divided. Them into three groups at, random, one. Group were asked to write down all, the things that had upset them in the previous week the hassles a second. Wrote down a story, about something that happened in the previous week and the, third group wrote down the things for which they were grateful in the previous week. They. Tested, them at various periods afterwards, two people had done the gratefulness, exercise, were measurably, happier, than, those that, had done the other exercises. And, the. Gratefulness. Exercise, that had the greatest effect, was. Writing, a letter of thanks to, somebody who had helped you in your life that, you'd never properly acknowledged, and going. To that person and reading the letter to them people, who did that were measurably, happier, for two months afterwards. So. This, shows something that in, a sense proves the obvious, I mean my mother and my grandmother both said to me count your blessings, it turns out they were right that, this. Is a, practice, which has been part of every culture all. Religions. Have thanks. And gratitude as, part of their regular practice, many of the Psalms for example, in, the Jewish and Christian tradition, songs. Of praise and thanks, many. Hymns as things as. Songs. Of thanks. So. This has been known to many, people for a very very long time but. Now it's got the scientific, imprimatur. Of showing. That it has statistically. Significant. Effects. Now. Meditation. Is probably the most widespread. Spiritual. Practice, that's, emerged in the last 30, or 40 years. Meditation. Has always been part of religious. Traditions, in Hinduism. In, in. Christianity, in, contemplative. Prayer in monasteries, and convents. And. In. Sufism and in, other religious. Traditions as well. It. Became fashionable, in, the 1970s. And that's, when the scientific. Investigation. Of meditation, began, in. 1974. Dr., Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School. Started. Looking at the effects of meditation because a lot of his students were doing it mainly Transcendental. Meditation following. The Maharishi. And. He. Wanted to find out what was going on, he. Tried it himself he found it was really helpful, he. Did a lot of physiological. Tests people who meditated. Tended. To have lower levels of stress their, blood pressure dropped and it.
Evolved, What he called the, relaxation response. We. Have two sides, to our autonomic, or, unconscious. Nervous system the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic, nervous, system, now. The sympathetic, nervous system isn't, really to do with sympathy, it's, to do with fight, or flight reactions, to do with the heart beating faster, so you can run away or fight, but. Many people who suffer from chronic anxiety are, in a state of fear all the time and have an activation, of the sympathetic, nervous, system and. Benson. Showed that during, meditation. This. Was greatly reduced and the parasympathetic, nervous system, became, predominant, and, that's much more to do with relaxation. That's. Why he called it the relaxation response. He. Studied many other physiological. Aspects, of meditation, and looked. At the effects on it people who meditate tend, to sleep, better, have. Less stress in their lives they're. Less depressed, there's. Now many studies, that show meditation. Relieves depression or, protects, against it which is why you can now get prescriptions, for meditation on the NHS, because. It's been clinically, proven to, help. People with mild or moderate depression. It's, as effective or more effective, than, a course of Prozac or other antidepressants and, more, importantly, from the point of view of the NHS, it's cheaper, so. Meditation. Is now widely available. The. Other kind, that, was developed, in the 1970s, by, John kabat-zinn. Also, in Massachusetts. Also a medical man, was. Mindfulness, meditation based. On the Buddhist techniques, of the. Parson oh well. Bentsen. Worked with mantra, based meditation. Kabat-zinn, with, meditation. Based on observing, the breathing, or feelings and the body. Sensations. In the body without, a mantra, and these are the two kinds which are now so widely practiced, today. More. Than eighteen million people in America practice, meditation. It's. Taught, all over Britain to more, than a hundred members of parliament, meditate, regularly, at. Westminster, and. So. This is a very very widespread. Practice. How, many people here as a matter of interest meditate, or have meditated. Well. That's almost everybody, must, be at least 95, percent so. I don't need to tell you about meditation. Because you know about it from your own experience. But. The. There. Have now been Studies, on the brains of people through meditation regular, meditators, have different. Nervous. Connections, from those that don't certain, bits of the brain get bigger, or stronger not, surprising, really if you lift weights biceps, get bigger and if you meditate regularly. Connections. Between different areas of the brain get bigger. There are anatomical. As well as physiological differences. So. Here's. A spiritual, practices, very widespread. Most. People do it without really thinking about. What. It means but. In all the traditions, from which it came, the. Reason people did meditation. Was not so they could succeed better in life, and business, the reason or deal, with the stresses of modern Avenue. They, were doing it because they believed that by contacting. Or becoming aware of the ground of the, consciousness, of the ground of consciousness, in their own mind they were coming. Into. Contact with the ground of consciousness, of the whole universe, of everything, that, they in the Hindu formulation. Atman, is Brahman, the ultimate consciousness, is, reflected. In the minds of everyone every, conscious being, one. Common metaphor is it's like the the, moon reflected. In buckets of water every, bucket of water reflects, the moon differently, they, look as if they've got lots of different moons, but, they're all reflections of the, same one and that's. How they think of consciousness, and, so. Buddhists, and Hindus think, that meditation, connects, you to the ground of consciousness, itself, out. So do Sufis, and so to Christians. But. Many modern, atheists. Also. Meditate, Sam Harris for example, one of the new atheists, in author, of the, end of faith, he's a very militant, atheist. Has, now become. An ardent meditator, and is now giving online meditation. Courses. Susan, Blackmore one, of our prominent, public, atheists, is also a keen meditator, and. Advocates, it as a spiritual. Practice. The. Interesting, thing is that these both, of them call themselves secular. Buddhists, they. Reject, the, religion, of Buddhism they. Think the dalai lama's not. As good as secular buddhists because he stole two superstitious. Believes in reincarnation and. Things like that they. Think the meditation is just happening inside their head and is, like, a mental, gym inside, the brain and, it's all inside the head now, you can do meditation and, believe, that but.
The Real reason for it in the all these traditions, is much greater than that and I myself suspect, that people who start off as atheist, meditators, through their own experience, may, find themselves challenging. Their. Atheist. Worldview they, may find that it really doesn't work so well for them after a while because, their inexperience may, lead them beyond it. In. In. All religions, there's a practice, of rituals, and this is another spiritual. Practice. Every. Religion, and indeed almost all cultures have, rituals, and, one. Category, of rituals, are about the, nature, of the social group and the. Story that holds it together and. These. Rituals, reenact, the, stories, of origins, or the myths of origin. One. Example is the Jewish, Passover, ritual. When. The, 10th curse, was visited, on Egypt by God. Destroying. The firstborn, of the Egyptians and, of their cattle. The. Jewish people were passed over because Moses, told them to kill a lamb and smear, the blood on the doorway of their house and said. They were passed over and they. Escaped, the next day they began their historic, journey through the wilderness to the promised land and, this. Crucial, event in Jewish history is reenacted, every year in the Passover, festival, with. Lamb, and. Is. A crucial ritual. For Jewish people it identifies. Them as Jewish by doing it you become Jewish you become part of that tradition, and through, doing it connect back through, all those who've done it over the generations, to the original, Passover. The. Christian Holy Communion itself. A Passover, dinner in. The same way connects, its present participants, with each other with, all who've done it before right back to the first. Holy. Communion the, Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. The. American Thanksgiving, dinner a national, ritual, re-enacts. The Thanksgiving. Dinner of the original settlers in New England who, gave thanks for their surviving, their first year in the, new world and being. American. It has turkey as a key ingredient, American. Bird unknown, in Europe until people settled, in America. By. Taking part in it people affirm, their identity, as Americans, and connect with all those who've gone before, right back to the first Thanksgiving, dinner. Now. In many rituals, it's, believed, that for the ritual to work or, to be effective, it must be done in the right way the, same way it's been done before or very similar way and for. That reason many rituals involve, liturgical, languages. Ancient, languages, that, are no longer spoken like. Brahmin, accruals, in India involves, Sanskrit, the liturgy of the Russian. Orthodox Church involves. Old Slavonic the. Liturgy of the Coptic Church. Ancient. Egyptian, the only form in which it survives, today, people. Think that they have to be done the, same way in order to work why. Should that be. Well. The relevant, science, here is. The. Idea. Of morphic resonance this. Is my own hypothesis. And for. Those who are not familiar with it I'll give a very brief. Morphic. Resonance in, a nutshell summary. Morphic. Resonance is, the idea there's a kind of memory in nature, this. Is an unfamiliar, idea, in the West but it's completely, familiar, in, Hinduism, and Buddhism both, of which take memory, and nature for granted, so. In that sense it's more in accordance with Oriental. Philosophies than. Western philosophy. In. Its what wider sense this, hypothesis. Suggests, that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. Things. Happened the way they do because they happened that way before the, universe is not governed by eternal. Laws that were all laid, down at the moment of the Big Bang and have stayed the same ever since but, rather by evolving, habits, or regularities. There's. A kind of memory in each kind of thing each kind of thing has a collective, memory each. Kind of crystal, has a collective memory of all similar, crystals, in the past each. Rat, has a collective. Memory over turns into a collective, memory of all rats, in the past each. Spider, of a particular species, as it begins spinning its orb web. Tunes. Into the experience. And the, web design of all, its predecessors. Most. Much of inheritance, from the point-of-view is not carried in the genes is transmitted. By morphic, resonance on, the basis of similarity. Morphic. Resonance applies. To all self-organizing. Systems, it, doesn't apply to non self-organizing. Systems, like tables, chairs computers. And cars, those. Are put together in factories, but, crystals cells molecules. Plants, and animals flocks, of birds, ecosystems. Planets, galaxies, all organize, themselves and, I think all have a kind of collective memory. So. The key thing here is, that the. That. Is the similarity. I. Think. The most, radical aspect. Of morphic. Resonance is, the. Implications. For our own memories. What. I'm suggesting is, that all. Memory, works on the basis of morphic. Resonance. Except. For mechanical, kinds like computers. With hard, drives and so on. And. I think our own memory depends, on morphic resonance I, think, we resonate with.
Ourselves In the past when we remember, something in, other words I don't think our memories are stored inside our brains, that's. The conventional, materialist. View they. Must be in the brain where else could they be for most people it's just common sense they, must be in the brain but. More than a century of research. Trying, to find memories, in brains has been extraordinarily, unsuccessful. What. People have found is that certain patterns of activity, occurring brains when memories are laid down when they're, being. Formed, and similar. Patterns occur when they're being retrieved. But, in between they vanish, and. I think the reason they vanish is they're not there I think, they're not there anymore than the. Traces. Of what you watched on television last night are inside your television, set, I think, our brains are more like TV sense, than video recorders. Now. This in itself has a lot of implications for, spiritual, practices, because, if, your memories are stored in your brain then when you die they're all wiped out at one stroke that's the end that's, why materialists. Like. This argument. It refutes, all religious, beliefs about, a survival, of botany death at one stroke, memories. In the brain they're. Wiped out of death therefore, there's, no memory surviving, death no possibility. Of, survival. Of bodily death either through, reincarnation, which must involve a transfer, of memory or habit or in, purgatory, which must involve some kind of memory. Or. To. Take an extreme process infuse the last judgment where. You go to sleep and you wake up again to, and, appear. Before your, maker on the last day well if you've forgotten who you are and what you've done it would not be a very meaningful experience, if. All, these theories presuppose. The survival, of memory and. I'm. Suggesting that the, memories are not wiped out by the death of the brain because that's not where they're stored now, the question of whether they can be retrieved in some other way is another question it's an open question. But. It's, from the materialist, point of view it's not an open question it's a closed question. Now. Coming back to rituals, the. Point about rituals, is that people do them as similarly, as possible, because, they think that's the right way to connect. Across time with those who've done them before and. From. The point of view of morphic resonance that's, exactly, what's happening, the, more similarly, they're done to the way they've done before, the right words trance, phrases. Gestures, smells as a food, etc. The. More they'll tune in to those who've done them in the past there'll be literally, a presence, of the past through. The performance, of the ritual which is exactly what people think is happening, when they do these rituals, so. They make great sense from the point of view of morphic resonance now. This, of course is a controversial, theory, most. Of my scientific colleagues still. Believe in eternal, laws of nature, but. They do so not because. They've thought long, and hard about it usually, because they haven't, and. It's. Just a habit of thought. There's. Another kind of ritual I want to talk about which, is to, do with rites of passage. Many. Cultures have rites of passage particularly, for, adolescents. As they, pass from childhood, to adulthood and, many. Rights of passage involve. Trials. By ordeal people. Going to the edge of death and then. Coming back again many, of them involved the imagery, of death and, rebirth. In. Some, cultures, these rites of passage, particularly. Ones for boys are, ones that involve extreme, physical. Suffering. And challenge. Native. Americans, have vision quests, where people fast and go into the wilderness for days in great danger and. Some. Die. The, Mithraic, rituals. In the Roman period. Involved. Rites of passage which were brought, people close to death, the. Roman, Emperor Commodus was. A. Kind. Of Mithraic priest and, he insisted, on doing some of these initiations. Himself. Officiating. At them and he went too far he actually killed one. Aspirant. Mithraic. Person. Who was being initiated, they. Went, they go to the edge. Well. We know now a lot more than we did, before about near-death, experiences. As actual, experiences. These, have been widely studied in, medicine, because. Nowadays, so, many people who would have died in the past no.
Longer Die thanks, to coronary, resuscitation. Techniques, and modern, medicine so. Near-death, experiences, are now far more common than they ever were before and they've, been documented, and studied in great scientific, detail. When. People nearly. Died in a, near-death experience, they. Often find themselves floating, out of their body often, looking, down on their body and see nurses, and doctors working. On their body and then. They often find, themselves going through a long, dark, tunnel. And. Emerging. Into the light where they find themselves in a strata a state of love and bliss and often. Meet loved. Ones departed. Loved ones or, spiritual. Beings, or beings of, light. These. Are very well documented and, many people have rather similar, experiences. It's. Not just the experience, which is so important. And interesting for those who have them but, the effect it has on their life thereafter. Most. People who've had near-death experiences. Say that it's changed their life that. They've died, and they've been reborn and that. They've lost the fear of death and many, of them changed, the way they live they start doing more to help other people and. They, take, on a more spiritual, their life takes on a more spiritual, tone. Now. In, the. Light of this knowledge we now have about near-death experiences, looking. Back a, lot, of these initiation, rituals. Make much better sense. The. One that I think is. Thrown into sharp relief by, this is the. Central, initiation, ritual, in, the Christian, tradition namely. Baptism. John. The Baptist. Was. Extremely. Popular at, the time when in in in Palestine, and he baptized, people in the Jordan on quite, a large scale this was a mass movement. People. Showed, up at the Jordan John. Initiated. Them through baptism, he. Held them under the water and, they. Then later said they died and they'd been born again. Well. What. Was going on was, this just symbolic, of death. By drowning or. Was. It something rather more I. Personally. Think it was rather more why, have something just symbolic, when you can have the real thing and, it takes a couple of minutes longer and. And. It's. Far far more effective. So. I think he was a drowner and. And. I. I imagine, that people would queue up on the banks of the Jordan and and he'd probably had a team of helpers to help the resuscitation process. And one. After another would, be held under and then. They'd go off and I suppose, he'd say next please. He. Did it on a large scale Jesus, himself was, baptized, by John and it. Was a moment of, spiritual. Illumination for, Jesus's the very beginning, of his public ministry he straight after it he went into the wilderness for. Forty days of fasting a kind, of Vision Quest. So. This, was a fundamental right. Of passage, but. By to, divide, it blue second, or third century, in the early church, people. Had more or less given up baptism. By total immersion because people. Were no longer being converted, themselves. It was their children, who were born into Christian, families, and they wanted their babies protected, so infant, baptism through, the sprinkling, of water began, then. It was just symbolic. Interestingly. In, the ferment, of the Reformation, in the 16th century. One. Of the most radical Protestant, groups, were, the anabaptists. Anna means. Again the, anabaptists, were people who reinstated. Adult. Baptism by total immersion and, these, were people who were extremely, radical they, were a terrible problem for the authorities, in both Catholic, and Protestant, countries, they were persecuted. They. Were dismissed, as, enthusiasts. Which was a terrible turn of in Busan. Thews II Azzam means filled with God and they. Went round being, filled with God saying they died and they'd been born again and they'd seen the light and. This was an awful nuisance to the Anglican Church and, the Roman Church and they were persecuted. And many of them went to America, as a result well, there are a great many of them still. They. Gave rise to Mennonite. And Baptist, churches, which still exist today and, which still alone. Among most well, a few other Christian, denominations. Have baptism, by total immersion but they're the ones that preserved it I think.
That They rediscovered. The power of this in creation through. Death, and rebirth and of, course both a and John the Baptist were, doing this before. The days of health and safety little. Legislation. And also. Before the days of liability. Litigation and. They, may have lost a few but. These. It, was an incredibly, powerful rite, of passage and still, today it's the Baptist's, of all Christian, groups who once who go around talking, about being born again and seeing. The light and dying. And being, born again I, think, for many in that tradition, it's a real experience for many of the people probably. Today, they're. Much more careful about how long they hold them under and. But. There. Again is a ritual, a rite of passage where, I think modern science has some light to shed on it through studies. Of near-death experiences. Now. Singing, and chanting. A. Spiritual. Practice found in all traditions. And. They. Have powerful, effects on the. Mind and body my. Wife Joe Paris has been teaching, singing, and chanting in group contexts for decades. Now and has. Shown. I, think totally, convincingly, how people, from, any religious, tradition, or from none can. Learn and benefit from doing these practices. Chanting. Together brings, people into, resonance, with each other and if. They chant mantras, then. They, come into resonance with all those who've chanted them before mantras, are a way of tuning in by morphic resonance, to. All those who chanted, their phrase before this. Is something Jill explores, in her workshops, and, and. Gives, a direct experience, of. When. People sing together in choirs they. Often come. Into physiological. Synchrony, and this is something that dr. Guy Hayward who's here this evening who works with me uh, as. My postdoctoral, research, fellow who. Did, for his PhD, thesis, at Cambridge on, the physiological. And other, effects, of singing, in choirs. Many. People find that singing together is extremely beneficial. And. That's, why so many people join choirs and there's a resurgence, of, community, choirs, in, Britain, at the moment. And. Again this is something can be done in a religious context, as in church choirs, or. In. A secular context. As in community, choirs but. In both cases people, are singing and chanting together and coming into resonance with each. Other. The. Practice, of pilgrimage, is common. To all. Religious. Traditions Muslims. Go to Mecca or Medina, or Jerusalem or, to the shrines of Sufi Saints, Hindus. Go to Mount Kailash, or to the many temples, in India or to sacred, groves or holy. Rivers, like the Ganges. The. They. And Christians, in. The early Middle Ages when primary, to Jerusalem. But then a great, many other places, of Christian pilgrimage, grew up some. Of them were ancient sacred sites which, were Christianized. And. Became, part. Of the Christian tradition, others. Were places where saints, were. Buried, or who'd received visions or, where their relics were kept and, so. By, the Middle Ages the, whole of Europe was criss crossed with, pilgrimage, routes. England. Was as. As, were all other countries. And. These were enormous Liem portent. They. Were many. People didn't have holidays, in our present sense but, if they wanted to travel they went on pilgrimages. And this, is something that still happens in India I lived in India for seven years and one of the things that impressed. Me very much in India was how many pilgrims, were and how important, as practice, was for.
Those Who, went on them, and. These. Journeys. Were in India. Some went by train and, bus but many of the traditional, pilgrims go foot, and. These. Journeys are kind of transformative. Journeys, it's not just like going, for a walk there's, a goal a destination. To the pilgrimage, I went, on quite a few pilgrimages. In India, myself, and, one, of the things that I learned is that when you arrive at the sacred, place like a temple, you don't just go straight in you walk around it first in India. Clockwise, the, direction of the Sun to. Make at the center before you go in. Well. Here. In England, there. Were pilgrimages, to Canterbury. Chaucer's. Canterbury Tales is. A series. Of stories, told by pilgrims, on their way to Canterbury, from London around. 1380. There. Was a shrine of our lady of Walsingham, the Black Madonna in, Norfolk, Glastonbury. Abbey was a major place at pilgrimage, Hales Abbey in in, Gloucestershire. And many others. But. This all came to a halt, at, the Reformation. The. Reformers. Disapproved. Of pilgrimage. They. Were scholars, and they looked in the Bible to see if there was anything about Canterbury, or Walsingham, and of course there wasn't so. They thought these must just be pagan. Accretions, at, which in a way they were. So. They abolished pilgrimage. Thomas. Cromwell in, 1538. Issued, an injunction against. Pilgrimage, and pilgrims. Were barred from going to Canterbury, the, shrines were desecrated, the. Shrine of Our, Lady, of Walsingham, was desecrated the, jewels were confiscated. By the King and the, image, of the Black Madonna was dragged from it the shrine and burned in a public bonfire, this, was deeply, traumatic for, many people in England, and. Pilgrimage. Was also suppressed, in other, process in countries, like North Germany, and Scandinavia. This. I think left a great void in, the. Minds. Of the English and because. The. Urge to travel, is very deep in our nature we're. All descended, from hunter gatherers and, hunter-gatherers. Have to travel around the countryside. To. Follow the animals they're hunting and to find the fruits and other things they're gathering you, don't get. All this just arriving, all. Around you if you stay in one place so, all hunter-gatherers. Are no magic as the Sami. People are today who follow the herds of reindeer in, in, in the Arctic, and. As. The few remaining hunter-gatherer, societies. Still are the. Australian, Aborigines, as, they went on their annual rounds.
Sang. The songs of the places they visited the song lines. And. This, was just the way they lived so it's very deep in human, nature. When. Settled. Agriculture. Began, ten. Thousand years ago or so and in Britain only about five thousand years ago people. Settled. And with cultivating, animals and plants but, these urges. To go to holy places remained. And our, great. Megalithic. Sites. In Britain like Stonehenge and at Avebury were. Places were, not temples, at the centre of cities they, were places where people would have gone for, festivals, at, the summer solstice and at other times so. They weren't vast. Settlements. Like they were in Sumeria, and so on whether the Templar was at, the center of the city they. Were ceremonial. Centers, to which people went for festivals, and those migrations. The festivals were a kind of pilgrimage, the. Same happened in Athens where there was a pilgrimage, every seven years for the pan Athena, Festival on the Acropolis, where, colonists. From all the Athenian, colonists came back to Athens and the. Procession at. The end was a kind, of formalized, migration. Up to the Acropolis. So. These. These. Go very very deep these, patterns, in our nature and, when. The English were deprived, of, pilgrimages. It. Left a void which was replaced or partially. Replaced a few, generations later when, the invented. Tourism, and. I think tourism, is best seen as a form of secularized. Pilgrimage. Tourists. Still go to, the great temples, and cathedrals. And. Sacred, places of the world. When. They go to Egypt, they visit the temples and they go to Paris they go to Natura Dom when they come to London they go to Westminster Abbey, tourists. Are still going to the. Great sacred places but. When they get there they can't kneel down and say a prayer or light a candle because they're supposed, to be modern educated. People who have risen above all that kind of superstition. So. They have to pretend they're interested, in art history. So. Guides spring, up to tell them facts which, go in one ear and come out the other and, which. Isn't. Really why they're there at all so I, think. Actually even better than secular. Pilgrimage, I like the phrase of will Parsons, who with guy Hayward. Is a co-founder. Of the British, pilgrimage, trust he, calls it frustrated. Pilgrimage. And. I think one of the big paradigm, shifts, in the modern world is back, from tourism to, pilgrimage, there. Are already various, groups, leading. Pilgrimages. Rather. Than tours. And. I. Think all of us can. Can. Do something, in this way when we visit ancient. Sacred. Places, and, try, and make it a pilgrimage, so you at least give thanks for being there and pray when you're there it's. Easier in cathedrals, now because they will have candles. That you can light and candle racks where you can light them. So. It's particularly easy here in, Europe. To. Do that. So. I think this is a very. Big shift, that, any, one of us can make we. Can also make our journeys, into pilgrimages. I myself. When I visit a new city or town or, wherever. I am in, India in. Britain wherever, I. Try. To go at first as soon after, I arrived as I can to the sacred, place at the, in, India, to the main temple in. An English city to the Cathedral, or European. City in, a village to the parish church, and. Then. Light. A candle or say a prayer connect, with the sacred place first, making. Even ordinary journeys, into pilgrimages. It makes, a huge difference I, find if by connecting, with the sacred heart of a place and. It. Makes, a completely, different feeling of the relationship, to being there. Here. In London, many. People are not aware of the, great power spot at the very center of City. At. The very center of the English. State, which. Is in Westminster, Abbey the shrine of st., Edward the Confessor, who. Was for a while the patron saint of England before st. George took over. St.. Edward the Confessor, died in 1066. He. Was succeeded by Harold, and then was the Norman Conquest. The. Westminster, Abbey was built around his shrine by, King Henry the 3rd and the shrine is the centre of the Abbey it's, behind the high altar where. The monarchs are crowned. It's, the, doors, from how to enter, into the shrine the central, focus. Of the whole Abbey, where. The tomb of Edward. The Confessor, is, still there it was the one tomb which survived, the Reformation, the, bones are still in it and you. Can pray about that those niches you can big, enough to get into an eel you sort of burrow into this medieval tomb, and the, place we burrow in has hollowed out we're knees have gone for centuries it's.
Extraordinarily, Powerful, place, and, every. Year the, there. Is a pilgrimage, to, Westminster Abbey the Saints Day $0.04 Edwards around October, the 14th, on the nearest Saturday, there's. A National pilgrimage, the Abbey's closed to tourists, and at. Groups of pilgrims gave from all over this. Year our vicar, in Hampstead, a new, vicar. Announced. That he was going to go on this pilgrimage on, Saturday, October the 13th last year and just, asked if any would like with him and about 30 of us did I hadn't. Heard of this pilgrimage, before that, and. It was an amazing experience arriving. There were groups, of people on, foot converging. From all over London some, had come from further, afield than, just walk the last bit must. Have been about 2,000, people in the Abbey that morning and it went on all day and. There was a son Eucharist, with astonishing, music, and a really. Powerful occasion, and then anyone. Could file past the tomb and pray at the tomb have, had with the Confessor, there's, an amazing experience, and. Just. Getting to Westminster Abbey is an amazing experience another. Of the projects, I do with dr.. Guy Hayward is we. Have, a website called choral. Evensong org. Where, you can find the time of this wonderful service. That happens every, day in our cathedrals, throughout, the land in most, Cambridge colleges. Where. Every day there's 45. Minutes of exquisitely, beautiful singing. And chanting different. Music every day absolutely. Free 5:00 p.m. Westminster. Abbey or st. Paul's or, southern Cathedral. Well. There's. Been a remarkable, revival. Of pilgrimage, in Europe in the last few decades I think, it one reason for this is because so. Many people feel a kind of spiritual, void and they're on a spiritual, quest and, pilgrimage. Is an extraordinary, way, extraordinary. Direct way of expressing, a spiritual, quest you're literally, on a journey with. A sacred destination. And, when, you go with the intention, when. You reach the holy place of giving, thanks, or asking for some benefit, or a, blessing. Go. With an intention, it, makes it different from just going for a walk. The. Most famous pilgrimage in Europe is Santiago. De Compostela in, Spain and. That. Was, the biggest pilgrimage. In Europe in the Middle Ages but. It more or less fizzled, out in. The. 17th. 18th 19th. Trees partly. Because the. Number of pilgrims from Northern Europe dried up as a result of the Protestant, Reformation, then. At the French Revolution. Pilgrimage. Was banned in France the, in, 1793. During the reign of terror. They. Proclaimed, reason, the state religion and abolished, Christianity. Not, Redang became a temple, of Reason and. Monasteries. Was suppressed and se was pilgrimage, as in, the Russian Revolution. Following. The Bolshevik Revolution. There. Was an attempt to abolish Christianity. Entirely, and. Execute. Priests, or send them to Siberia, and suppress, all pilgrimage. Well. Although. There were all these attacks on pilgrimage. In. The 1980's a number of activists. In Spain tried. To restore, the pilgrimage, and they started, by building, up the infrastructure, in the Middle Ages the monasteries, provided, the infrastructure, where people could sleep and have meals.
On Their on their journey. So. They established, a series of places where pilgrim could sleep and eat on, the way to Santiago. In, 1987. When. These wendice infrastructure. Was in place and they had already been talking about it for several years about a thousand, people walked to, Santiago. Last. Year it was about 300, thousand. Lots. Of people go from all over Europe, all over the world many of them are atheists, or agnostics it's, not just devout Catholics, who do that do that pilgrimage. And. It's. Helped to trigger off this revival, of pilgrimage, which is going on all over Europe. Ten. Years ago the, great pilgrimage, in Norway from Oslo to Trondheim. Cathedral, whereas the shrine of st. Olaf the, patron saint in Norway that. Great, route, over the mountains, was reopened by the Crown Prince of Norway and it's, now become a major focus, of pilgrimage, for all Scandinavia. There's. A revival of pilgrimage, going on in many. Different countries, in Europe and here. In Britain the, British pilgrimage. Trust, is. Is. The main body, which is organizing, this revival. One. Of the things that's happening is to. Re-establish. A. Flagship. Root and iconic route from Winchester, or, Southampton, to Canterbury about, 18 days much. We're going over the South Downs through, extraordinary beautiful, countryside. And. Establishing. Places. Where people can stay and and. Get food and so on so that it's possible for us to have a kind of Camino, here, in England right, now anyone, who wants to do a long pilgrimage usually. Says oh I'm ascared to Spain but there's no need to go to Spain you, can do it here, and. On, the British pilgrimage, Trust website there. Is now a directory. Of more than 30 different, pilgrimage. Routes throughout. Britain which, anyone can do it's. Surprising, how many of there are. Last. Year somebody told me about one that I, actually went on myself. Which. Was too little. Getting in Huntingdon shareware, TS. Eliot, is the title, of one of the Four Quartets, named, after a community. They are founded in the 17th, century by Nicholas Ferrara and this. Was a local pilgrimage, led, by a priest from Peterborough. Cathedral about. 70, or 80 people on it went started, at the village church where George, Herbert used to be vicar the great 17th, century poet. Through. The through the lanes. And, villagers. To. Little getting itself as a wonderful pilgrimage, and. Wonderful. To be able to go on it, and. I. Myself have recently been doing. A series of pilgrimages. With my godson, I have a godson. Who's now aged 17, when, he was 14 I tried.
To Think what can I do with this young. Man for, his birthday and his birthday's in June. And. I didn't want to give him stuff because everyone's. Got too much stuff and I, try to avoid giving stuff now I give experiences. And so at. That stage guy, and girl were just starting. Up this new, pilgrimage, the exploring. The routes to Canterbury, so, I said to him well what I offer you for your birthday. Is. A pilgrimage to Canterbury, I said we walk the last eight miles or so we take a train to a small village called Chatham, and we walk through. The fields, and meadows and, orchards, and. Woods to. Canterbury, Cathedral I said, then we. Walk. Round the Cathedral circumambulated. We. Go in and like candles, and. Say. Our prayers for our intentions, then we have a cream tea. Then. We go to choral evensong and, then we come home on the high speed train would you like to do it and. I didn't know what he'd say but without hesitation, he said yes and we. Had a most blissful day, and then. It worked so well that the next year we. Went, to Ely Cathedral, we went to water beach on the train and walked the last eight or nine miles along the towpath of, the cam similar. Formula, shrine, of st. Harold reader cream, tea choral, evensong. Last. The, next year we did Lincoln. Walking. Along the Lincoln Ridge and the most recent one last June was Wells, Cathedral. Walking. Through the fields to that wonderful, Cathedral, of Wells since, there's at least 50, cathedrals, in britainís, could run and run as a as, a project and. I. Mentioned. This I did a. Talk. With the. Comedian, Russell Brand recently. For his podcast, which. Is on YouTube, and on his podcast site. He. Asked me to do this because Russell, Brand is now on a kind of spiritual, mission. He. Recovered. From heroin. Addiction, and alcohol. Addiction, and sex, addiction and several other addictions. With. The help of the 12-step, program, and he's recently written a book called recovery, freedom. From our addictions, and. Is now going around saying, with the whole of our society, has got stuck, in and, in this kind of materialist, way and there has to be a way out from, rediscovering. The spirit so he's become a kind of evangelist, for a spiritual, path. At. The end of our one-hour, discussion. I mentioned. The, pilgrimage, and going to Canterbury, and he was loved the idea going to country and having a cream tea and said engaged, choral evensong it said ended, up with me and choral work Russell Brand, decided. To go to choral evensong together, at Canterbury, following. A pilgrimage. Since, then, emails. Pour into my inbox I, get. Several, a week from. People say just heard your thing with Russell Brand can, I come too. So. If we do do it it could turn into quite a big event. Anyway. This. Is a. Spiritual. Practice again which is open, to everybody. And. In. Fact that's one of the key things of the British pilgrimage, trusted open, to all as one of their slogans, and, there are other big, slogan, is bring, your own beliefs. Because. The key thing here is that these. Spiritual, practices, are about experienced, they're not about doctrines, or about, dogmas, I myself. Think, doctrines, and a. Theology are, both interesting, and important. But. They're not where. You want to start I think that all religions, start from experience. Buddhism, started, from the enlightenment, of the Buddha sitting under a tree it didn't start from people. Studying texts, in a library. Christianity. Started from the, the. The great sense, of spiritual, opening, at his baptism by, Jesus and his subsequent life death and resurrection. Islam. Started with Muhammad, hearing. The, voice of God in, dictating, the Quran he was illiterate, and. The. Hindu Rishi's, the great seers. Arrived. At their insights through meditating, in caves in the Himalayas and elsewhere not, through studying books so. I think. All the great religious, traditions start from direct experience, and for. All of us the things that are most important, really are direct, experiences. And. That's, why these practices, are so important, because they enable us to connect. Or reconnect through. Direct experience. For those who don't have a religious, path then I think they provide a way into the, spiritual, dimension, for. Those who do. Regular. Churchgoers, who regularly worship synagogues, or mosques or, wherever. Then. I think looking, at them these, practices, in a new way in the light of what science, has to share about them can, enable us to appreciate them more and, they. Can become more, effective in our lives so. As, I said at the beginning I, think we're in an unprecedented, situation. We. Have access now to all the spiritual, practices, of the. Entire world has. Never before been that. That situation. We. Also have the situation where. Probably. More people than ever before are on spiritual, quests, before. People who had a spiritual, dimension to their life could, easily fit it into the.
Established, Religion in which they were brought up and in which they participated. But. So many people have now have lost their ancestral. Religious, roots they have to search, afresh. And these. Practices provide, a way of doing that. This. Is only a selection, of, seven. Spiritual, practices, there are many more. So. I wouldn't like to pretend this as all there is I'm writing, a sequel to this book at the moment which deals, with another seven spiritual. Practice and even then there's more in the, next volume. I'm talking, about prayer. Psychedelics. Because. For many people they're a kind of rite of passage today, for many young people and can. Play a spiritual, role in their lives sports. Which, i think is the most common way in which most people today reach. Spiritual. States though. It's not normally seen as a spiritual, practice at all but. As. A, friend of mine who was a rock climber said to me said, when I was really busy I couldn't, get any peace in my life I tried, meditating, my, mind was just too busy but, by the time I was 50 feet of a rock face I was completely in the present. So. And. Prayer. Fasting. And. Then. I'm. Planning. To end the book with you know lead, just leading better life because it's, one thing to have spiritual practices, or unless it, actually shines, forth in your life is leading, a better life then it's, really a kind of self-indulgence. Anyway. That's all I have time to summarize this evening and I. As. I say I think that, we live in an extremely exciting time. There's. Never been a time like this in. Which we can look at spiritual, practices, in this kind of way and I, think this is going to play an increasing, role in our, society in the years to come thank. You.