Spirit and Psyche

The aim of this module is to explore ancient and contemporary understandings of spirit and soul, introducing the student to the broad questions of a) the nature of human consciousness and its survival of death and b) communication with ‘the other’ often termed god, spirit, daimon or ancestor. The module aims to clarify the relationship between spiritual and psychological (depth and transpersonal) discourses, in the discussion of mediumship, channeling and ‘paranormal’ phenomena in general, and to examine initiatory traditions past and present in order to evaluate the nature and function of mystery rites in the ancient world and in 20th century occult circles. Finally the module aims to examine contemporary ‘new age’ literature in the fields of holistic science and consciousness studies, to ask how interdisciplinary academic study may move forward to develop new paradigms for the study of ‘impossible’ and extraordinary human experience. The broadening of human potential in terms of both ancient wisdom traditions and contemporary consciousness research has profound implications for the impact on social and global change in our time, and students are encouraged to think about these implications in their assignments.

Papers on this topic.

The UFO as Daimon by Simão Cortês


When I set out to write this essay I wanted to write an original answer to the question “what are UFOs” but a quick glance through the literature completely shattered my intentions. UFOs have been the focus of so much attention by such interesting researchers that it is hard to say anything innovative about them. There are all kinds of approaches, from literal to symbolic and it is hard to find something that has not been said. The fact that so many opinions are thrown around and not many authors try to build on each other’s work made me think that something that could be interesting to do in this essay would be to choose a specific perspective on what UFOs are and discuss it from a critical point of view. In order to be faithful to my original suspicions about UFOs, I wanted to look at an author that thought about the UFO phenomenon from a metaphysical perspective, particularly if it had Platonic undertones.


Read ‘The UFO as Daimon’

Discuss how Jeffrey Kripal's assertion that the "Human is Two and one", and its relevance for paranormal research by Carol Duncan

In making the assertion that the ‘human is two and one’, Jeffrey Kripal is presenting us with an invitation to look at our humanity from two different perspectives and reflect upon the relevance which these two ways of seeing might have for research into the paranormal. In discussing Kripal’s proposition, I start by taking an overview of this apparent paradox in terms of how it has been formulated and defined from classical times right through to current neuroscientific thinking. I then proceed, in the context of “two” in relation to “one”, to examine the various dualities encountered by the human being and consider how these might be reconciled with the concept of unity.


Continue reading:’ Jeffrey Kripal on ‘Two and One’

Spirit Possession in Shamanism by Stone Fitzgerald

The phenomena of spirit possession can be viewed and reviewed through the lens of differing fields of study including and most notably religious studies, psychology and anthropology. When reading in this area of research one would expect to encounter discourse giving examples from within the realms of the main world religions such as exorcism, or the more recent practices of the séance within the spiritualist churches. Here we will engage mainly with this phenomenon as presented through shamanic practices and within this conduct a study of the related context including physical space and ritual. Although there will not be a discussion around the use of the term shamanism, engaging in this particular account of spirit possession will undoubtedly highlight some of its core traits. This essay will argue that the consequential altered state of the shamanic practitioner when possessed can be understood as a cohabiting embodiment of specific imaginal entities. An argument will be made for apprehending spirit possession as a shift into an imaginal
mode leading to a relationship with distinct and autonomous entities. This will be supported by the work of Merete Demant Jakobsen’s study of shamanism, Robert Bosnak’s work on embodied imagination and James Hillman (particularly with regards to his notion of soul-making).

Continue reading Spirit Possession in Shamanism here

Waiting Until the World Speaks: Encountering ‘Wholeness’ with Goethean Science by Dani Hawkyard

When it comes to apprehending the natural world around us, do we really grasp it as it presents itself to us, in its completeness? German poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe would argue we do not – at least, not anymore – and I am inclined to agree with him.

Continue reading: ‘Waiting Until the World Speaks’

Close Encounters: what do reports of encounters with imaginal entities (angels, faerie etc.) imply about the nature of the human psyche? by Niara Martins de Souza

“Fix every wandering thought upon/That quarter where all thought is done:/Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?” (W.B. Yeats,1996, p.348).

Before talking about what are imaginal entities and what we can learn from encounters with them, I think that it is important to understand what we mean by psyche and, far from being exhaustive, what did psyche mean for Ancient Greek philosophers and the shift that its definition went through in the nineteenth century with advent of psychology and, more specifically, Carl Jung. The definition of psyche that I will be using in this essay in the second and third section is, however, strongly derived from James Hillman’s thought, which is psyche as soul and soul being something that “encompasses all human nature and more” (1988, p.151), that deals primarily with images, reflection, and reflexive insight (1991, p. 32) and is deliberately ambiguous (1988, p.46).

Continue reading ‘Close Encounters’


What do reports of encounters with imaginal entities (angels, faerie, etc.) imply about the nature of the human psyche? by Alice Winborn

“What isn’t there, in front of our eyes, is usually more real than what is.”
(Kingsley, 2001, p.33)

I would like to open this essay by drawing the reader’s attention to the above quotation, taken from Peter Kingsley’s, In the Dark Places of Wisdom. For it is something of this sentiment, this melancholic ache for what Kingsley describes as “the missingness [which] is too hard to bear” (2001, p.33), which I believe, pervades the being of modern man and which will lie at the heart of any attempt to answer the above question (if indeed any answer can be made). Despite the essentially slippery nature of this topic, I do not allow this to daunt me, rather, I feel now (and perhaps have always felt) eager to enter into the world of this arguably delightful subject matter. Indeed, it would seem that as I embark on the journey of this work, I am entering into a larger and more wonderful world, filled with enchanting creatures and “impossible” encounters that would seem to suggest, just as Kingsley’s words hint at, that things are not always quite what they seem, and moreover, that this vital mystery is an essential part of what it is to be human.


Continue reading: ‘What do reports of encounters with imaginal entities (angels, faerie, etc.) imply about the nature of the human psyche?’

Discussion of Jeffrey Kripal's assertion that the "Human is Two and one", and its relevance for paranormal research

Events of extraordinary characteristics have been part of the history of mankind since remote times. Kripal (2010, p. 253) claims that the paranormal is at the heart of religions and nowadays neuroscience wants to reduce it to a set of neurological processes. He argues that paranormal phenomena are worth studying, but if taken seriously, we are surrendering to the faith of religious tradition – therefore a third way needs to be found.

 Continue reading: ‘Discussion of Jeffrey Kripal’s assertion that the “Human is Two and one”, and its relevance for paranormal research’

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