These are challenging times for our divided society and for those who are trying to shape a better one, but two noted author-philosophers want to help Ashlanders get a leg up on the task.
Under the title “Hacking Reality,” noted public interest lawyer Daniel Sheehan and spiritual philosopher Jean Houston will team up here Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13, to help enlighten both personal and societal “re-visioning.”
They will seek to draw each other and the Ashland community into a “conversation” about what the individual can do to feel positive about healing our politically fractured and environmentally troubled society, says Houston, the author of “The Hero and the Goddess.”
The event is subtitled, “The Nexus of Human Rights and Human Potential” because Sheehan has made a mark litigating in such conflicts as the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Three Mile Island, the Karen Silkwood Case and Standing Rock — and Houston found fame as a leader in the Human Potential Movement, re-visioning ancient myth as a self-discovery tool, creating the Foundation for Mind Research, consulting for UNICEF and advising then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
“Danny is very much the person to take on impossible legal situations, as part-saint and part-lawyer, engaging difficult civil rights cases and winning — while I take on the vision of ‘the Possible Human,’ that we can redeem these times and achieve the higher dream,” said Houston, an Ashland resident.
One of her best-selling books is “The Possible Human: A Course in Extending Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities.” It offers “access to hidden images, ideas, and sensory-based memories … for conscious creativity,” says its blurb.
Taking off from Houston’s “Hero and Goddess” material, which is based on an application of Homer’s “Odyssey” to modern times, Sheehan said the workshop-lectures will explore “masculine and feminine perspectives, in how the rational-linear political response of the masculine has gotten us in this present situation — and how her feminine-mystic spiritual perspective can temper and redirect it.”
Houston adds, “He and I have this conversation with the inner and outer world and how they come together in this time when the whole system is in transition … and how do we humans transform to live in it cooperatively and realize our full potential?”
The conclave, she says, will address the fact that we are in “hothouse times, when, as Yeats wrote, ‘things fall apart … anarchy is loosed upon the world … the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’ This seems to be the state of the world now.”
Her talks are titled, “Meeting the Dragon of Change: A Journey to New Personal and Collective Strength” and “Decoding Opportunity Within Chaos.”
Sheehan, in a phone interview, said he will outline the masculine perspective as it’s playing out today and “on-the-ground steps available to us to move to a higher resolution. I will point how it relates to feminine, mystical, spiritual perception, in raising individual and collective consciousness, from a metaphysical perspective.”
To grapple with today’s dynamics, Sheehan said, people might understand that when the Cold War ended in 1991, reactionary, imperialistic forces picked up where they left off in 1914, when World War I started, and have emerged now as transnational corporations free to pursue maximum profit with little responsibility for their impact on climate.
The countervailing forces in our society, Sheehan says, have been about empowering women, creation of a personal spirituality and the rise of the Chautauqua movement, which fostered a broad range of liberal arts and the progressive movement. This peaked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but all these energies, he said, have faded in recent decades and must be revived, inclusive of a feminine spirituality, if our society is to get back into a healthy balance.
Houston said her teachings and those of Sheehan’s complement each other. “Mine are about training people to grow. We either grow or we perish. His is: how do we work in the world in impossible times?”
Houston, author of more than 30 books, faulted the media philosophy, “If it bleeds, it leads,” noting it causes people to lose imagination and “allow the real estate of their minds to become cluttered. I’m going to talk about the necessity of an intentional hygiene of the mind. How do you tap into deeper resources, new ways of being, thinking and doing?”
Many game-changing energies are afoot now, but a big key is that “You see women rising all over the world to full partnership with men — and there’s a terrible backlash, but that’s not stopping it … I think it is the biggest change in human history, (combined with) climate change. We’re going to see a real turnaround. It’s not going to get worse, well, maybe for a little while, but you have half the human race rising … in government, spirituality, everywhere … It can be fearful, but you don’t change the practice of thousands of years in a day.”
The event sponsor, Ashland’s Metaphysical Library, notes, “This rare opportunity to engage with these legendary thought-leaders in intimate and audience-engaged sessions beginning Friday night with a meet-and-greet reception followed by the moderated dialogue and an audience Q&A. On Saturday you are invited to take a deep-dive into these topics with small groups at the Intensive workshops, further exploring effective strategies for change and learning the art of becoming a social activist.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event begins at 7:30 Friday, Oct. 12, at the Music Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University, 405 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. Admission is $35, or $20 for students with student ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, see rvml.org.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.