Short Course

Ecology, Spirituality and the Paranormal:

Explorations in a World of Many Minds

With Dr Jack Hunter

Lecturer in the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and module lead for the MA in Ecology and Spirituality.

An online short course from the Sophia Centre and the Sophia Centre Press

In partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David

And the distance-learning MA degree in Ecology and Spirituality

The Sophia Centre short courses are part of the Sophia Centre’s academic and scholarly outreach programme. The short courses are open to everyone.

What is this course about?

Sophia Centre Short Course

This five-week course provides an in-depth introduction to the intersections of ecology, spirituality and the paranormal over the course of five live online seminars. The course will draw on disciplinary perspectives including anthropology, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology and consciousness studies.

You will be introduced to scientific and cultural perspectives on ecology, explore theoretical and experimental work on spirituality, religious experience and the paranormal, and be introduced to a range of models and frameworks for drawing together these strands, all with an aim to find ways of living better in a world of many minds.

We will look at the ideas of William James, Alister Hardy, Freya Mathews and Robin Wall Kimmerer amongst others.

This course will be of interest to those who wish to understand their place in the world, and to think more deeply about ecology, spirituality and extraordinary experience in a cross-cultural context.

It is more important than ever - at this time of global ecological crisis - to understand our entanglement with the wider ecosystem - and to appreciate the many different ways in which we exist in relationship with the natural world.

Key texts:

Jack Hunter, Ecology and Spirituality: A Brief Introduction. (Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press, 2023).

Jack Hunter, (ed.) Greening the Paranormal: Exploring the Ecology of Extraordinary Experience (Milton Keynes: August Night Books, 2019).

Schedule

Week 1: Introducing Ecologies (scientific and cultural models of ecological systems, and human relationships with them)

In the first week we will explore notions of ecology, both in terms of empirical science (the principles of ecology) and cultural models of the living environment. We will think about the ways in which the cultural models that human beings construct of the living world around them influence their behaviour and attitudes toward the environment.

Suggested Reading

Ecology and Spirituality, Chapter One - ‘What is Ecology?’

Jack Hunter, ‘Harmony and Ecology’ In N. Campion (ed.) The Harmony Debates: Exploring a Practical Philosophy for a Sustainable Future (Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press).

Week 2: Introducing Spiritualities (surveying perspectives and examples, what is spirituality?, how does it relate to religion?, personal spiritualities/cosmologies)

The second week focuses in on the topic of spirituality from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including religious studies, psychology, sociology and anthropology. We will consider how spirituality relates to religion, as well as to non-religious identities and personal cosmologies, and how beliefs influence behaviour.

Suggested Reading

Ecology and Spirituality, Chapter Two - ‘What is Spirituality?’

Greening the Paranormal, Introduction - ‘Part 1: Belief, Experience and Behaviour.’

Week 3: Introducing Spiritualities (surveying perspectives and examples, what is spirituality?, how does it relate to religion?, personal spiritualities/cosmologies)

Week 3 is an introduction to the complexities of the paranormal as a cross-cultural human experience. We will look at different definitions of the paranormal, and different ways in which it has been approached and investigated in anthropology, parapsychology and in the field of Fortean studies. We will consider the phenomenology of paranormal experiences - including high strangeness experiences - how they might be connected to other forms of extraordinary experience, and what they might tell us about the world.

Suggested Reading

Ecology and Spirituality, Chapter 7 - ‘Parapsychology and the Ecological Self.’

Jack Hunter, ‘Deep Weird: High Strangeness, Boggle Thresholds and Damned Data in Academic Research on Extraordinary Experience,’ Journal for the Study of Religious Experience, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2021).

Week 4: The Ecology of the Extraordinary (ecological motifs in the paranormal, what are the ecological strands in paranormal experience, and how might ecological models help to make sense of the paranormal?)

This week sees a return to the topic of ecology, exploring the ecological themes within accounts of paranormal experiences, including the role of non-human intelligence. We will also consider some of the ways in which models influenced by ecology (e.g. systems theory, complexity, organicism, etc.), can help us to make sense of extraordinary experiences in a way that more reductive approaches are unable to achieve.

Suggested Reading

Ecology and Spirituality, Chapter 5 - ‘The Non-Human’; Chapter 6 - ‘Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden.’

Greening the Paranormal Introduction - ‘Part 2: Ecology and Anomalistics’

Jack Hunter, ‘Religious Experience and Ecological Participation: Animism, Nature Connectedness and Fairies,’ De Numine: The Journal and Newsletter of the Alister Hardy Trust, No. 67, pp. 4-9.

Week 5: A World of Many Minds (models and frameworks, animisms, panpsychism, relational ontologies, new-materialism).

The final week is an exploration of different models (cultural/philosophical/scientific/spiritual) for making sense of what appears to be a ‘world of many minds.’ Perspectives from indigenous worldviews, animisms, panpsychism, relational ontology and new-materialism will all be considered as frameworks for understanding the world around us and our place within it.

Suggested Reading

Ecology and Spirituality, Chapter 9 - ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’; and 10 - ‘Organic Ontologies.’

Greening the Paranormal Introduction - ‘Part 4: Animism and Re-Connecting with Place.’

Jack Hunter, ‘A World of Many Minds: Toward a Post Green Vision of the Future,’ in Post Green: Literature, Culture and the Environment (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2023)

Delivery

The course is taught live online using Zoom and recorded in order to enable you to follow the seminars if you cannot attend live. Each seminar will have time for Q & A's. You will be able to access the recordings for personal revision until the end of October 2024

Moodle

All students will be able to log into the course page on Moodle where all the recordings of the lectures will be uploaded after each session. Also in this area are extensive support material plus a weekly discussion forum for additional questions or general comments.

Dates

The seminars will be held on Thursdays at 16:00 – 18:00 UK time (BST). There will be five seminars on 5th September, 12th September, 19th September, 26th September and 3rd October 2024.

Course Books

You can follow the lectures alone, but can also obtain your own copies of the key texts. You can purchase from your favourite bookshop or from Amazon (below)

Jack Hunter, Ecology and Spirituality: A Brief Introduction, Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press, 2023.

Buy in the UK

amazon.co.uk

Buy in the USA

amazon.com

Jack Hunter (ed.), Greening the Paranormal: Exploring the Ecology of Extraordinary Experience, Milton Keynes: August Night Books (2019)

Buy in the UK

amazon.co.uk

Buy in the USA

amazon.com

Bio

Sophia Centre Short Course

Jack Hunter, PhD., is an anthropologist exploring the borderlands of consciousness, religion, ecology and the paranormal. He is an Honorary Research Fellow with the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, and a tutor with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He teaches on the MA in Ecology and Spirituality and the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. He is also a tutor with the Alef Trust on their MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. He lives in the hills of Mid-Wales with his family.

Registration

The cost which covers all five lectures is £150.

Students and graduates of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David can enrol at the University rate of £120.

By registering I agree to follow the Sophia Project netiquette guide.

To register and pay, please click the link to www.eventbrite.com.

The acknowledgement of payment from Eventbrite will be sent to the email address that you have registered with Eventbrite. The day before the course starts, the link to join the seminar will also be sent to this address. If you wish the link to be sent to a different email address, please contact sophiacentre@sophia-project.net.

You should register by Eventbrite if possible but, if you can't, email Dr Nick Campion at n.campion@uwtsd.ac.uk and you can arrange to pay by cheque or bank transfer.

Terms and Conditions

Fees and Refunds – Fees must be paid in full before the commencement of the course. Refunds will be made if students withdraw from the course before it commences. There are no refunds after students log into the Course Moodle page, which is opened up two days before the course begins.

Forum conduct - All students are expected to follow the netiquette guide and be respectful of other students and the tutor in their forum posts. The course tutor will remove any postings they consider to be inappropriate. The course tutor also reserves the right to block a student from posting on the forums if the student disregards a request by the tutor to revise their forum conduct.

Zoom conduct – Students attending the Zoom lectures live are expected to be focused on these lectures and only use the chat box for question directed at the lecture material. Students who misuse the chat box will be removed from the lecture.

Technology – It is the student's responsibility to ensure that they have sufficient broadband and sufficient skills in operating their computer or tablet to enable them to engage with this online course.

Sophia Centre Short Courses are taught as part of our outreach programme from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. If you would like to take your studies further, you may apply for our unique, on-line, fully accredited Master's programme in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, the only academic programme in the world to look explore our relationship with the sky, and the history, philosophy and culture of astrology.



Welcome to the public outreach page of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, with information about studying with the University, as well as links to related conferences, classes, publications and events. To go straight to the Sophia Centre's University page please go here.

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