Open Learning Course

Approaches to Consciousness

Start date: September 2023. Length of study: 15 weeks. Tuition: £850


The questions we raise below are at the core of your studies when you explore Approaches to Consciousness.


Consciousness is the essential spark of what it means to be human, yet so much about it remains mysterious. Contemporary neuroscientific research has advanced our grasp of many features of conscious processing, but has not answered the fundamental question regarding the basis of consciousness.

As the influential philosopher, John Hick puts it, consciousness is “the great elephant in the materialist’s room.” We need to recognise that the essence of consciousness may transcend the material basis of mind as generally understood.

Accordion Content
    1. Be guided through the many approaches to understanding consciousness that are at the forefront of research and scholarship today.
    2. Learn how current scientific theories connect to insights from a variety of spiritual and mystical traditions, as well as how the two seemingly disparate fields of science and spirituality might come together to create a “sacred science” of consciousness.
    3. Join with all students in our learning community in discussing the many issues raised by contemporary research into consciousness.
    4. Enjoy live webinars and interactive forums with the module leader, Dr. Bethany Butzer as well as the module tutors.
    5. Explore the science of consciousness via three main content sections:
      1) The Fundamentals, which includes an introduction to philosophical approaches to consciousness as well as considerations around how our beliefs about the nature of reality impact our perspectives on consciousness;
      2) Neuroscientific approaches to consciousness, including a consideration of potential links between neuroscience and mysticism;
      3) Spiritual and mystical approaches to consciousness, including debates over “pure consciousness” and perspectives from spiritual traditions such as Buddhism.

There are no formal entry requirements to join this course. Come and study purely for personal interest and enrichment … and get the same level access as our postgraduate students who will be studying alongside you!

Before the module begins, you will be provided with a reading list and introductory essay/glossary to help orient you to the course material. This module features 3 online discussion forums and several live webinars where you can interact with the module leader and tutors. In addition to extensive course materials, you will also receive support from the module leader and tutors in our unique collaborative learning environment.

Course Leader and Tutor Team

Bethany Butzer

Bethany Butzer, PhD

Assistant Director of the Alef Trust PhD Programme in Applied Transpersonal Psychology and Lecturer for the Alef Trust MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal Psychology.

Nick Boeving

Nick Boeving, PhD

Nick is a writer, editor, and transpersonal psychologist who is currently in his second year of a postdoctoral fellowship at The Stanford University Forgiveness Project.

Alef Trust Team - Matt Colborn

Matt Colborn, D.Phil

Matt holds an MSc. with Distinction in cognitive science from the University of Birmingham and a D.Phil in biology from the University of Sussex. His book “Pluralism and the Mind: Consciousness, Worldviews and the Limits of Science” was published in 2011 to favourable reviews.

Dr. Jack Hunter

Dr. Jack Hunter is an anthropologist exploring the borderlands of consciousness, religion, ecology and the paranormal.

Would you like to find out more?

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