Event: Day Conference: Spirituality, Ecology and Consciousness.

Facilitators: Dr Elizabeth Drummond Young, Carey Morning; Prof Michael S Northcott; Mike Wilson.
Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Date: Saturday 5 December 2015.
Time: Registration: 9.30am-10am. Day Conference: 10am-5.15pm.
Event Description: The purpose of this conference is to:

1. learn about and explore aspects of Spirituality , Ecology and Consciousness;
2. provide a forum for networking among those who are interested in aspects of Spirituality , Ecology and Consciousness;
3. facilitate open and mutually respectful enquiry and communication among scholars and the wider public regarding aspects of Spirituality , Ecology and Consciousness.


9.30am-10am: Arrive and Registration.

10am-10.10am: Introduction.

10.10am-11.25am: Session 1: Mike Wilson

Participatory Spirituality: “A psyche the size of the Earth”


Drawing upon the work of transpersonal psychologists Jorge Ferrer, Michael Washburn, and others, this talk offers a view of spirituality as participatory rather than only about “me”, that is, spiritual experience as a co-created event arising out of an encounter with Other. This Other might be a person, presence, tree, place, animal, or work of art.  Consideration will also be given to the idea of an almost limitless expanding sense of self, and an innate longing for a widening of experience. Within this framework the talk will also look at the themes of sustainability, “inscendence” (Thomas Berry), and the idea of the extinction of species as also the extinction of experience.

Mike Wilson MTh MSc UKCP

Registered psychotherapist with a longstanding interest in the development and practical application of transpersonal psychology.

11.25am-11.45am: Break.

11.45am-1pm: Session 2: Professor Michael S Northcott

Human Ecology and Christian Ethics: Reflections on the Papal Encyclical Laudate Si


The papal encyclical Laudate Si marks an important stage in the turn of world religions towards the ecological crisis.  It lays particular emphasis on the interconnection between destruction of the environment and degradation of the lives of the poor, and indigenous people. This emphasis on the human element of the ecological crisis while criticised by some as anthropocentric represents a vital element often missing on secular environmentalism. Thus when the Scotsman John Muir persuaded President Roosevelt to create the first National Park in Yosemite the native people who lived there were evicted and made homeless. Similarly those who suggest the climate of the earth can increase safely to two degrees centigrade neglect the effects on the poor inhabitants of small island states of rising seas and stronger storms, and in continental coastal areas. Christian ethics has always laid special emphasis on care for the poor and the weak. Human ecology as represented in the papal encyclical rightly emphasises that correcting the current excessive influence of industrial humans on the earth system requires redistribution of power and wealth within human societies as well as between humans and other earthly inhabitants.

Professor Michael S Northcott

Michael Northcott's teaching and research is in the areas of Christian Ethics, ecology and religious ethics, and economy and ethics. He has published 12 books and over 70 academic papers.

1pm-2.15pm: Lunch Break.

2.15pm-3.30pm: Session 3: Dr Elizabeth Drummond Young

Creative Attention and loving the natural world


There is a strain in philosophy which urges ‘creative attention’ on a moral agent as a way of understanding, communicating with, and ultimately loving other people. (Weil, Murdoch, Nussbaum). This way of thinking stands in opposition to outcome based utilitarian theories where we are obliged to do something to bring about the best for the common good of others.  What if we were to apply this method to the natural world, our environment, rather than just to other people? Would we find that there is a deeper response to current ecological issues, rather than the deaf ears which are usually are turned to alarmist calls for action?

Certain mystical traditions already hint at this route. Interpretations of the Ignatian spirituality exercises and a critique of Carmelite mysticism both demonstrate the value of contemplation of place, where we understand ourselves in relation to our immediate surroundings and find transcendence through immanence. These traditions also recognise the tension between contemplating the world alone in solitude and coming together to serve other people, but a way of resolving this tension lies in understanding our place in the world, rather than having an enhanced image of the ‘self’ (as, say, a rational agent).  

Two major ideas in ecology are firstly that diversity will bring stability and secondly that understanding and supporting an organism’s role within a system will promote sustainability. My suggestion is that practising creative attention will reinforce both these points. 

Elizabeth Drummond Young MA MSc PhD

I run a course at the Open Studies department of Edinburgh on the Philosophy of Love and Friendship. I am interested in  philosophical aspects of the preciousness of the individual, love and sacrifice, the work of Raimond Gaita and that of the contemporary Catholic French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion. I am currently working on a book length project, why the Catholic Church should take romantic love seriously.

3.30pm-3.45pm: Break.

3.45pm-5.15pm: Session 4: Carey Morning

Belonging to everything


I’ll be leading a participatory reflection and ritual which will give us an opportunity to deepen into the wisdom of the day, and to embody and enact our sense of belonging to everything. Silence, stillness, sound, movement, candle, the winter season, the beauty that we make together. No previous experience required.

Carey Morning MsT BS MA

I am a long-time practitioner in the body, soul and spirit school of psychotherapy, working with individuals and couples, and leading integrative group retreats. I am fortunate to occasionally work as a director and as a celebrant and maker of ritual, all sacred stuff. My spiritual roots are in Earth and Christ, but enjoy spreading out beyond. For me it is all about inclusion and connection, widening and sweetening our embrace of who and what is inside of us, and who and what is outside of us. Painting, writing, mothering, meditating, doing qi gong, singing, sitting near swans, are other ways I have of flailing and groping my way towards the one Light, which I only sometimes remember isn’t somewhere else.

Spirituality, Ecology & Consciousness, Saturday 5 December 2015

Cost: Day Conference: £25/£20 (Concessions)/£10 (Students).

Contact: Neill Walker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 0131 331 4469.

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