Walton, Joan – Dr. Comments

On 11 Jul 2018, at 11:59, Joan Walton <[email protected]> wrote:


Hi David

Thank you for the report, and for the comments that others have left.  I have asked Lydia for a username and password to gain access to the website.
I think the report is excellent, and there is nothing in it with which I would disagree.  I think it provides a coherent and comprehensive challenge to the materialist scientific worldview that dominates our western culture, and the research that takes place within it, and creates a sound argument for ‘expanding science’.  
This whole area has been, as I think you know, a focus of my interest both academically and personally for a long time.  And it may be going on beyond this report itself, but as I said during the skype call on Sunday, my main interest is in methodology.  I am aware on reading your report, Harald, that you do include a consideration of methodology.  The section that I am responding to specifically here is the following:
“A methodological consequence would be that we would be initiating a program of systematic introspective knowledge. Part of this would be methods that are already being used in various pockets of science such as in deep ecology or the psychology of ecology, where methods of radical first person inquiry are used, or participatory types of research.”


My one reservation about what you have written, if I am understanding you correctly,  is that there appears to be an implication that a methodology will include ‘training and shaping consciousness’.  If that is what you are meaning, I would want to say that, in addition to this, there is considerable scope for exploring consciousness just by identifying what is currently going on in internal worlds, with no training necessarily being required.  I.e. consciousness as we experience it in daily living, not just consciousness as we might experience it at a deeper level after some training.
A considerable amount of work has been done on methodologies that include inner experience – I include references to 5 significant books at the end of this email.  Some time ago, I myself set up a 3 year co-operative inquiry into inner experiences of spirituality, and implications for daily living, in which both daily and exceptional experiences were included  as the focus of investigation: I included an account of this in my PhD thesis.
I think the main point I want to make here is that everyone experiences an inner life on a daily basis, and that daily experience holds a rich source of data for a project of this nature.  To use a small example:  Some years ago, a colleague and I initiated a one year collaborative inquiry with early years practitioners (not the most educated of practitioners but able to be very reflective about what is going on in their inner worlds); and one of the main conclusions they came to was that ‘Every Moment Counts’.  This was initially a finding in relation to their work with children:  if a practitioner came to work carrying the stresses of their home life with them, it could adversely affect their interactions with children, in that they could be less patient and even short tempered.  The child might then take that behaviour personally, and wonder what they had done wrong.   If repeated enough times,  the child’s self-image could be adversely affected, with potential long term implications. So being conscious in every present moment that what happens ‘in this moment’ will have either a positive or negative impact on that child which could have long term implications for how they perceive themselves and their lives, places a significance on what happens right here, right now.
I have spoken to some of these practitioners since the ending of that inquiry, and it is clear that the realisation that  ‘every moment counts’ has not just impacted on their professional lives, but on their personal lives as well.  One practitioner recently told me: “it has transformed how I view life and my relationships.  By keeping the idea that ‘every moment counts’ in my consciousness, it has enabled me to stay more calm and centred in difficult situations, and has gradually led  to me living a more peaceful life, with better and more meaningful relationships with my family and friends.  I’m now more happy and content with my life than I used to be”.
To summarise: I am very supportive of the idea of ‘first person inquiry and participatory types of research’, that Harald refers to in his report, and the PhD students I supervise are all involved in such methods.  My main point, though, is to say that I don’t think this needs just to be a ‘specialised’ form of research of the kind Alan Wallace does, with people prepared to engage in extensive meditative practices, for example (though of course that kind of research is of great value).  But in addition, as we all have access to ‘inner worlds’, there is an infinite source of data, just waiting for appropriate methods to identify how to systematically select, collate and analyse it.
I am attaching a paper I wrote last year, entitled: Action Research: A Methodology for Inquiring into Subjective Experience, which includes one perspective on this.  But there is a considerable amount of work going on into methodologies in the academic world which I think has relevance to this report, and its possible next phases.  David, I don’t know what potential there is for developing all of this within a ‘Part 2’ funding bid, but I would be interested in talking about it if it were felt to be relevant.
Best wishes