Track: Inner Ecology, Collective Psyche and Social Transformation
“The Terrible Need for Metaphysics”: Answering Hillman’s Challenge through Whitehead
We are fragmented people. In the West, we are divided societally, as evidenced in our political polarization and the rise of hate groups, we are divided interpersonally as evidenced in increasing loneliness and isolation, and we are divided intrapersonally, as is evidenced by the exploding usage of antidepressants and the correlation between early adverse childhood experience and morbidity, mortality, and disability. If we are to move “Beyond Materialism – Towards Wholeness,” psychological theory and practice alone are not enough. Even James Hillman, notoriously averse to metaphysical speculation, recognized “the terrible need for metaphysics” after hearing David Bohm admit that physics had “released the world into its perishing” and acknowledging that the “physical threat of the end of the world results from a metaphysical catastrophe.” This will show how a generative synthesis of Whiteheadian and Jungian thought positively addresses the deleterious effects of a dualistic worldview, the fragmentary nature of human experience, the ability of humans to encounter a life-giving source of dynamism in their everyday lives, the inherent value of diversity and all beings, the validity of non-sensory experience, and the relationship of mind to body. Such synthetic work is necessary now because neither Whiteheadian thought nor Jungian thought alone are capable of achieving the widespread change that is required. As Hillman argues, we can no longer “decline to engage in metaphysics,” so we must supplement Jung with Whitehead. We cannot effect a change in the popular imagination with conceptual language alone, so we must supplement Whitehead with Jung. And we cannot achieve a transformation of consciousness simly through elegant theories, and so we must supplement Whitehead and Jung with an embodied, transformational praxis wherein one can encounter a primordial, transpersonal Reality that shows us that we matter, that we belong, and that we can experience positive change.
Track: New Horizons in Science and Cosmology
Workshop: Perceiving Body, Perceiving World: A Relational-Imaginal Theory of Dreaming
Rather than perpetuating the chasm between dreams-as-brain-generated or dreams-as-divine-messages, the presenter of this workshop will show how the bold epistemological claims of Alfred North Whitehead about perception and internal relations can expand our discussion of dreaming to include brain, body, world, and that transpersonal reality that some call “God.” Bridging the chasm with Whiteheadian thought allows us to accept Bulkeley’s claim that “dreaming is a primal wellspring of religious experience,” while rejecting both the view that dreams are somehow “delivered” into a sleeping person through supernatural agents and the notion that transpersonal reality must relate to us supernaturally. Neither current scientific nor religious approaches to dreams alone can provide an integrated theory to explain how dreams can be understood as embodied while still somehow capable of being perceived as guiding and healing encounters with a transpersonal reality. In constructing a relational-imaginal theory of dreaming, the workshop leader will show how dreaming can be understood as a natural function of a perceiving bodymind that 1) perceives the entire actual world and God with “vector feeling-tone” and 2) combines that emotionally-laden material with images generated through the influence of transpersonal reality. Such relational, emotional, and imaginal elements may then be transmitted via the vagus nerve to the brain where its capacities for exploration, association and metaphor, cognition, simulation, and adaptation can be put to use to advance learning, and emotional memory integration. If proven to be true, the implications of such a relational-imaginal theory of dreaming could be far-reaching; therefore, the workshop leader is interested in conducting a dialogue with participants that explores ways in which this relational-imaginal theory of dreaming can be tested.
Sheri D. Kling earned her PhD and MA in Religion from Claremont School of Theology and holds a master of theological studies from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her research includes integrating process theology/philosophy with Jungian thought and dream work as a spiritual practice to facilitate transformation and common flourishing. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and the American Teilhard Association. As a member of the leadership committee of the Mythic Imagination Institute, she helped organize the 2004 and 2006 Mythic Journeys conferences in Atlanta and served as senior producer. She is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, guitarist, and essayist, recently accepted a position at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and considers herself a “voice for transformation.”