Congratulations to Professor Emerita Rosemarie Anderson!

We at the Alef Trust would like to congratulation Rosemarie Anderson on her wonderful achievement in being awarded the Abraham Maslow Heritage Award! Rosemarie’s work in opening significant new methodological approaches has benefited not only those wishing to research transpersonal phenomena but also many in other branches of psychology. She has generously provided profound guidance to our students in their journeys into research in transpersonal psychology. Students frequently comment on the liberating value of the techniques that Rosemarie’s work has introduced—as if a window had been opened to allow fresh air in! Together with her esteemed colleague, William Braud, she has shown us the ways to bring a transpersonal perspective not only to the topics being researched but also to the ways in which we engage with the whole process of inquiry.

On a personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sense of privilege in being able to accompany Rosemarie on her most recent challenge, that of setting up The Sacred Science Circle. Rosemarie’s acute awareness of the sacred is palpable, and has been an inspiration to many. I view the challenge of recognising the ways in which our science can honour the sacred as one of the most pressing in our day. It is to Rosemarie’s credit that she has identified and formulated the need, and is continually finding ways to meet it. The Circle offers a valuable forum and resource for the growing number of scholars who similarly seek a relationship to the sacred through their research. The Circle is yet young, but I believe it will grow to fill this important niche, becoming a vibrant bridge connecting contemporary research with major strands in the great wisdom traditions.

Thanks for your valued contributions, Rosemarie!

Les Lancaster

Police Force Celebrates Spirituality!

It is November 2016. Following the vote for Brexit, racial tensions, discrimination and hate crimes in the UK are running high. During these volatile times we are heartened to see the efforts of Dyfed-Powys Police in Wales, working to unite the community and celebrate spiritual diversity. The event was supported by one of our MSc. students, Donna Thomas who told us the story:

This month, my organisation Dyfed-Powys Police, hosted an Interfaith Event to celebrate diversity across our Force area. It was a wonderful opportunity for people from all faiths to learn from one another and celebrate the tremendous amount we have in common, as well as raising awareness to assist officers in their roles.

I was invited to represent Spirituality. Having commenced the MSc. in Professional Development  (Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology) this provided an exciting chance for me to share what I had already learnt. The team at the Alef Trust were extremely supportive and the presentation that I developed invoked a lot of interest amongst the large multi-cultural audience.

Having recently completed a project on Near Death Experiences (working with the Scientific and Medical Network archives), I was able to share experiences during the event and hope to integrate learning further by developing a training package for hospital staff, highlighting the importance of validating experiences and providing spiritual support to the dying and their families.

I also want to expand on previous Police studies, exploring the role of a spiritual framework in buffering toxic experiences police officers encounter in the course of their duty.

I feel this demonstrates the real benefits of the MSc. in Professional Development (Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology) and how it can be positively applied in a practical way to help others.

Lucid Dreaming for Healing and Spiritual Awakening?

Lucid Dreaming for Healing and Spiritual Awakening?

In lucid dreaming the dreamers become conscious whilst they are dreaming. They are aware that they are in the midst of a dream, and some are also able to exert control over the content of the dream, shaping the environment and dream narrative at will. What may be the benefits of lucid dreaming? Can we all become lucid dreamers? And can we utilise lucid dreams for enhancing our skills, for healing, even spiritual awakening?

Alef Trust faculty member Tadas Stumbrys and colleague Daniel Erlacher just published the results of their new study on the applications of lucid dreams in the International Journal of Dream Research.

To view this open-access paper click here.

Tadas comments, “For what purposes do lucid dreamers use their lucid dreams and how this affects their mood after awakening? As in previous research, wish fulfilment came on top of the list (with the most positive effects on mood), but we have also explored some applications that were omitted in previous studies. For example, do you know that about 40% of lucid dreamers use their lucid dreams to heal themselves (either physically or psychologically) or to seek spiritual experiences? As our study shows, the more experienced lucid dreamers are, the more they are likely to use their lucid dreams for inner work. So lucid dreams are not just about having fun, right (despite how good it feels after awakening)?

Our Open Learning course in Lucid Dreaming starts next April … if you want to learn more about this fascinating topic, including how to achieve lucidity in dreams, then watch this space!

Beneath The Cracks: A Transpersonal View of UK Post-Referendum

Beneath the Cracks: A Transpersonal View of UK Post-Referendum

As we write, nearly two weeks after the referendum, there can be little doubt that the UK is facing challenging times. Yet any time of upheaval and crisis also yields opportunities for positive change. During this time of uncertainty, when so many diverse opinions are being aired, we ask what a   transpersonal perspective on recent events and the UK’s future might have to offer. Like the Platonic philosopher gazing beyond appearances, our interest lies in the patterns that may be discerned at a deeper level of meaning. At a time when fragmentation seems to loom at every horizon, adopting a transpersonal viewpoint may not only enable us to gain greater insight into the dynamics which continue to fuel the unfolding Brexit narrative, but it may enable us to envision a new kind of society, with a reformulated view of politics, governance, economics, and community development.

Let’s start by looking at what we mean by “transpersonal.” The term was initially coined to connote experiences and perspectives that go beyond the everyday sense of personal identity, the ego. In spiritual or mystical states, for example, or even in states of ‘flow’ associated with sport and exercise, it is common for people to experience this diminution of ego-centeredness. Occasionally, we can experience a more “oceanic” state, a sense of merging with a larger, more all-embracing – some would say divine – presence. In the context of this article, it is not so much the individual experience of transpersonal states that enlivens our thinking, but rather the connotation that beneath the surface play of individual actors and their machinations operates a deeper process that influences the course of events. Just as the individual conscious sphere of mind is predicated on a deeper personal unconscious process, so a transpersonal perspective holds that we are all interacting in our own distinctive ways with a deeper collective process, of which most are oblivious. For those of a religious bent, this might be equivalent to regarding God as being revealed through history. Whether or not it is viewed as a guiding process, the transpersonalist is in agreement with the theologian in holding that there is a potency of meaning behind world events, and moreover that we can take a co-constructive role in shaping our world by attuning ourselves to this deeper, collective intelligence.

The transpersonal perspective takes an evolutionary stance – and there is more to evolution than genes and biological structures. There is an evolution of consciousness, and, as with the evolution of species, this evolution is not continuous – to employ a contemporary metaphor, it proceeds via quantum jumps. One such quantum leap in the evolution of consciousness came in the Renaissance, for example. As Richard Tarnas has argued, that epoch saw the birth of the modern self. The factors that ushered in the change – geographical exploration, the invention of printing, the impact on Christian Europe of Islamic philosophy and Jewish mysticism, amongst others – are paralleled in our day by age-defining changes: space exploration bringing us images of the earth as a global whole, IT and the internet enabling dissemination beyond the wildest dreams of early printers and cementing our intellectual and emotional interconnectedness, and the impact of Eastern traditions giving rise to contemporary forms of spirituality. There is, accordingly, every reason to expect a quantum shift in consciousness today. Before giving our views on this shift in consciousness, let us examine UK post-Brexit referendum for the signs.

Let us start with the Labour movement. The situation will likely change tomorrow, but for the present Jeremy Corbin is refusing to stand down. Indeed, why should he go, given – as appears to be the case – he has the support of a majority of Labour party members?  The situation has come about due to the changes introduced under Ed Milliband’s leadership – moving from a collegiate electoral system to a one-member-one-vote system. Most crucially in the present context, Labour MPs and MEPs have been significantly disenfranchised. Their influence on the outcome of a leadership election has been reduced from a third to a matter of a few hundred out of tens of thousands. Notwithstanding the danger of an influx of members skewing the membership’s representativeness, this is democracy! Corbyn can continue in what so many pundits regard as an untenable position (having lost the confidence of most Labour MPs) because we are entering a time of ‘new politics’; and Corbynites claim that he is a new kind of leader. His style is gentler, he is uncomfortable in having to don the garb of the strident leader, his natural podium is not the adversarial dispatch box. He is not a ‘warrior leader.’ (The allusion in Cameron’s jibe, “For heaven’s sake man, go,” to Amery’s attack on Chamberlain – in turn drawing on Cromwell – becomes poignant in this context.)

We stress here that we are not making political points. Our motivation is to view events through the transpersonal lens. We are not wishing to indicate agreement or disagreement with Corbyn’s policies, nor with one or the other side regarding the referendum. Instead we ask: What is moving in that deeper, transpersonal process, and in which ways might it manifest in truly new kinds of politics and governance? The questions regarding our political processes are many: Do the old political party structures really still serve us? Why do we have widening gaps between politicians and their traditional support base? What kind of new governance could be more truly representative of who we are today, and what kind of structures and processes could better facilitate our growth towards who we envision ourselves to be? Again, our attention is drawn to what may be underlying these questions, in the deep, collective psyche.

First, however, a few further thoughts on Brexit to distil the issues. We hold that the fundamental issue revolves around the polarity of ‘self versus other’ and the role of boundaries. As long as we peddle the rhetoric of division and as long as we follow an adversarial style of politics, we create fragmentation and we promote insularity. Continuing to define ourselves through differentiation, we necessarily adopt a defensive stance to protect what defines us, and boundaries are of course crucial in this process. Right now across the UK we are witnessing people and parties and even entire cities and regions digging trenches to separate themselves from the ‘other’ who presents a threat to their way of life. Whether it be in terms of Scotland vs. the rest of the UK (or is it the rest of the UK minus Northern Island? … minus London? … minus Brighton and Hove???), the geography of tariffs, or the limits of sovereignty, the underlying questions concern our identity, what we identify with, and those boundary issues. In the months and years ahead do we continue to mould our identity through differentiation, as seems to have happened in the referendum: the wrinklies vs the young; the metropolitanites vs the ruralites; the true Brits (whatever that means) vs the new arrivals; the bankers vs the rest… and, perhaps the most poignant of all: the politicians vs the electorate? Can the critically-needed moves to unification come through more of the same … politics as normal, folks … it was just a hiccup? Or might it be that lasting unification will only grow from self-expansive identification with the deeper psyche, as we believe?

From our transpersonal perspective, we assert that the stance of ‘self versus other’ is fuelled by a deeper dynamic concerning differing levels of identity. There is a tension within every individual – predicated on the collective substratum – between the ego with its impetus to reinforce those boundaries that preserve it, on the one hand, and, on the other, the desire to merge with something larger; a tension, to put it in Jungian terms, between ‘ego and Self,’ with the former representing our everyday sense of ‘I’ and the latter expanding our identity by rooting it in the deeper collective process. As long as we hold onto our isolationist stance we are unable to expand our awareness and embrace the Self.

In peering beneath the surface we see a revealing parallel between Miliband initiating a change in the process for electing the Labour leader and Cameron calling the referendum. Both shift decision-making from the elite to grass-roots level, both are in accord with the paradigm shift towards global empowerment. Yet without deeper reform of the political system nurturing a shift from ego to Self, the changes are potent but probably only serve to enforce the existing differentiating and defensive patterns. The vote for Brexit was indeed a protest against the elite, the elite within UK and also the elite in the EU – a peasants’ revolt, as it has been called, except that there are no peasants today. Is a referendum the ultimate expression of democracy or an admission of defeat by the elected rulers? There’s a question that might keep Cameron and Miliband awake at night….

No … the real question concerns those empowered to vote, not whether or not we should be given the vote. That simple act of placing a cross … what is the ground from which it arises? A restricted territory with its imperative to build boundaries, or a common ground, home for the expansive Self?

Time to gather the threads: We claim that a transpersonal vision challenges us to reform our ego-centred notions of identity and boundaries. Take the boundaries between the UK’s political parties: they are hardly discernible today. Today, to be electable major parties must occupy the centre ground (this is, of course, one of the main reasons for turmoil in the Labour party – MPs know that they cannot woo the electorate if power resides in the skewed membership). Even the boundaries between constituencies are hopelessly out of date! Why do we continue with a fully constituency-based governance? (We note in passing that reform of the second House has given rise to a situation where its role as a balance to constituency-based governance has largely been compromised – but that is too long a story to go into here.) In our day there is no longer a need for such a dominant focus on location-centred representation. Surgeries can be held via online portals, and if someone feels strongly that they need a face-to-face meeting, travel is not difficult. At least half our elected house could be interest-, or cause-, based, not constituency based. Thereby we may also move on from party-based politics and shift into an age of governance focusing on values and causes we hold most dear. Imagine MPs who are entirely free from party lines and physical constituency constraints, who can honestly represent people from across the UK who share their vision?

We are not politicians, nor do we claim to have a grasp of the history of politics, so this last point about the style of governance is for others to address. Our point is that the crisis (actually, crises) we are witnessing represent a birthing of a new approach, one that understands ‘boundaries’ in a very different way. “Imagine” as John Lennon sang. Yes, he was the “dreamer” but we all need to wake up!

Mystics and prophets throughout the ages have envisioned a time when humanity embraces a different kind of consciousness, one that unites us rather than separates us; one that transcends boundaries. Maybe it is the birth pangs of that age which we are witnessing. And we have the choice – to revert to a bankrupt political frame or to flow with the new. One thing is certain beyond doubt: The new leaders that will be elected in the months to come must be motivated to heal divisions. We believe they will be able to do so only if they truly recognise the will beneath the surface of recent upheavals – to manifest a different face of consciousness.

A few years back we founded a non-profit community interest company, the Alef Trust, which offers online postgraduate education in the study of consciousness and transpersonal psychology. Our ‘client base’ is global; we have students from around the world. We use IT systems that are enabling us to build an online learning community. We have no doubt that such is the approach to learning that will grow in the years to come. The point of relevance here is that the kinds of challenges we face with our company at root all revolve around a lingering urge to separateness that we have to overcome. Yet the new vision is already taking hold. Alongside the tendency to fragment and isolate, we are witnessing global transcendence of borders, a deeper realisation of our interconnectedness in the information age. That reflects the Zeitgeit, the new world waiting to be fully realised, not just with head but also with heart.

The mature dimension in the referendum campaigns concerned whether the UK is better placed to take its place in this new age from within or from without the EU. Our point is that this question ramifies beyond economics and politics. It goes to the core of what it means to be human, touching on our ethical responsibilities and bringing into focus the consequences of our choices. Now that the UK finds itself re-defining its relationship with the EU, what should underpin this relationship: an ego-centred focus that prioritises only individual interests and concerns, or a Self-centred one that empowers us to evolve our individual identities and values within the global narrative? What might be the fundamental tenets of Self-oriented politics, economics and community development?



Dr. Brian Les Lancaster & Dr. Jessica Bockler, Alef Trust

Transpersonal Psychology Blossoms in Brazil

Transpersonal Psychology Blossoms in Brazil

From 4th – 7th September our directors Les Lancaster and Jessica Bockler attended and presented at the 9th International Transpersonal Conference organized by Alubrat (the Portuguese and Brazilian Association for Transpersonal Psychology), in partnership with the ITA (International Transpersonal Association), and many other transpersonal organisations from around the world. They gathered with 600 other delegates and speakers at the lively outskirts of Salvador, Brazil, to share their work and research and celebrate the “The Flowering of Consciousness.”

Les gave the opening presentation for the 4th Brazilian Research Colloquium in which he explored the variety of epistemological approaches in transpersonal psychology, and ways for us to develop as a unified discipline. In his capacity of President of the ITA, Les was also involved in the heartfelt opening ceremony featuring traditional music and blessings from some of Brazil’s leading spiritual and indigenous priests and teachers.

Jessica enjoyed facilitating a workshop on ‘creativity and mindfulness for health’ with 40 enthusiastic delegates who were keen to get up and play! The workshop featured a series of multi-modal exercises, combining spontaneous movement and musical improvisation with expressive writing and mindfulness practice.

The aim of this work is to enhance body awareness, to deepen one’s connection to the world beyond ‘I’ and to nurture the emergence of renewed meaning and purpose. Jessica has co-developed this work with her colleagues in Creative Alternatives, an ‘arts on prescription’ service in the North West of the United Kingdom, catering for adults experiencing stress, depression and anxiety, and offering them holistic treatment options as an alternative to medication.

Graduates 2015

We Celebrate the Achievements of our First Master’s Graduates!

We Celebrate the Achievements of our First Master’s Graduates!

On 17th July 2015 we accompanied our very first group of students to their graduation ceremony at Middlesex University in London. It was a tremendously satisfying moment, seeing some of our very first cohort of the MSc programme in ‘Professional Development: Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology’ complete their studies with us. We congratulate them on their achievement and we wish them all success and fulfillment on their onward journey. Others are following not far behind…!

Congratulations go to all those who graduated and also to Les Lancaster and Jessica Bockler for running such an innovative programme. The programme continues to attract a wide range of candidates from all over the world, enabling them to explore challenging and diverse thinking on the nature of consciousness and the transpersonal.” (The Professional Development Foundation)

Residential Summer Course 2015

Residential Summer Course 2015

From 6th -11th July this year we hosted our third annual residential summer course for our student community, exploring ‘Psyche and Sacred Space’.

The theme gave rise to rich experiential and expressive explorations: We intuitively conceptualise and model the psyche by drawing on spatial metaphors. Spatial representations of the mind are deeply embedded in language, and structural principles appear to have universal psychological meaning. The vertical axis represents principles of ascendence and descendence, the transcendent (above) and the immanent (below). It also expresses energetic and emotional ‘ups and downs’. Most spiritual and religious systems have a vertical reference point, such as the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah which connects the human with the divine sphere. In the human body the spine most strongly expresses principles of verticality, connecting physical base functions with the higher intellectual and spiritual dimensions of our being. The horizontal axis manifests in four directions (or two pairs of opposites: forward-backward and left-right) which each have distinctive meaning. The forward-backward dynamic revolves around progressive and regressive principles, our ego ideals versus our unconscious patterning. The left-right dynamic juxtaposes the ordered with the disordered, the rational with the intuitive, the objective with the subjective, and has found expression over recent years in the ways in which we relate to research into the two cerebral hemispheres. The centre point where the three axes intersect represents the core of our being which has been given many names – the higher, essential or authentic Self. Numerous wisdom and martial arts traditions refer to the centre point as the seat of our life energy. We project contents of the psyche onto the physical space which surrounds us. Psychic space and physical space are intimately entwined. Indeed, we might even suggest that conscious recognition of the psyche as manifest in space is the key feature that makes the space sacred or soulful. The ‘sacredness’ arises through the intent: consciousness of the centre, of the boundaries and of how we inhabit the space all contribute to the numinous quality.

We explored ‘Psyche and Sacred Space’ through discussion, as well as through spontaneous movement and expressive artwork, writing, drawing and creating masks. Our work and play were informed by The Watchword technique, a Jungian system of self-study which uses spatial metaphor in the investigation of the dynamics of the psyche.

One of our students, Christine, reflected on her journey through the residential with us:

“This was the second time the event had been held at Trigonos and, although it may not be geographically the most convenient spot, it is without doubt the right place for this gathering. The peace and beauty lend themselves to an opening of spirit and a deepening of soul. It is a shame that more people do not avail themselves of the opportunities presented by the ‘Trigonos experience’ so I am going to wax lyrical in the hope of encouraging rather more people to come along next year!

So, what did I enjoy? Firstly the opportunity to meet with others and to share so many conversations; in taught sessions, over coffee, over tea and cake over the most creative vegan and vegetarian food imaginable. If you want to learn about the possibilities of beans and vegetables Trigonos is the place!

The sessions themselves, led by Jessica and Les, provided an opportunity to engage with the transpersonal through experience and not just the written or spoken word. They challenged us to think, to learn and to explore in new ways. We danced and moved, balanced sticks, connected in pairs and as a group, explored notions of psyche and sacred space, learned about the ‘Watchword’ technique as a method for exploring the dynamics of self and personality and created a moving and beautiful ritual to embody the various elements of our weeks’ experience. There was a strong sense of a shared journey. The destination was open but there was never any doubt about the support along the way.

There was free time to be alone, to swim in the still lake and to walk. On Thursday we set out together into the hills and shared the warmth of the sun and the warmth of each other’s company. On Saturday we said our goodbyes having made new friends. Everyone connected with this programme is involved in something rather special but this residential provides the icing on the cake. A big thank you to Les and Jessica for their commitment and their work.”