Living Waters

A panpsychic co-operative inquiry with water bodies worldwide


Tuesday 8 March 2022 – Tuesday 26 April 2022

Includes weekly seminars on Tuesdays at 12.00 noon UK time (90 mins), plus weekly inquiry groups with one faculty facilitator on Thursdays


Peter Reason, Andreas Weber, Stephan Harding, Sandra Wooltorton, plus contribution from Freya Matthews


Online course


£399.00 (or £150 deposit, with the outstanding balance payable at the booking deadline specifed below). Short Course bursaries are available – find out more here.


22 February 2022

About this course

A panpsychic view starts from the understanding that all things, including the Earth itself, are integral to the fabric of the living cosmos, all of the same sentient cloth. Mind is a fundamental aspect of matter just as matter is a fundamental aspect of mind: we are part of a world that has depth as well as structure, meaning as well as form. In Thomas Berry’s words, this is a community of subjects, not a collection of objects. We will explore this perspective through an on-line co-operative inquiry with Rivers* in the vicinity of participants: if we invoke their living presence, address them as subjective persons, what manner of response might we receive?

*Rivers include everything from mountain torrents through mature watercourse to tidal reaches; underground flows, wild streams or industrialized waterways.

full course details

We live at a time of ecological catastrophe: climate change, the destruction of ecosystems, the sixth extinction of non-human species and pandemics. At this time, some are called to activism on the streets, some to the development of new economic models, some to technological change. All these, and more, are necessary.

But what underpins the destructiveness of modern humans—those socialized into the industrial growth society—is the worldview through which we experience ourselves as separate from the world around us. We may allow the ‘higher animals’ some sentience, but beyond that the world of natural objects is seen as composed of inert matter, operating according to causal laws, with no subjectivity or intelligence, no intrinsic purpose or meaning. In this view humans, and humans alone, possess mind and subjectivity. The natural conclusion is that it is human destiny to control, manipulate and benefit from the material resources of the planet; increasingly powerful technologies amplify the effects of this perspective.

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We believe that as well as all the activities seeking to make practical changes to our civilization, we also need a radical alteration of our lived experience, to feel ourselves directly as participants in the process of life on earth. This requires a different way of looking at the world; and new ways to integrate this into everyday living. Such an alternative is offered by living cosmos panpsychism, as outlined by ecophilosopher, Freya Mathews; the biology of wonder or “biopoetics”, as explained by biologist, Andreas Weber; the animate Gaian perspective of ecologist Stephan Harding; and biocultural stewardship articulated by Sandra Wooltorton.

From a panpsychic perspective, the cosmos is One, a coherent field of mind/matter, that in its evolution differentiates into Many, self-realizing and self-reflexive beings. These beings, the community of subjects, reach out to each other in mutual contact and communication, co-creating a ‘poetic ecology’: the fundamental erotics of being touched by the world and touching it in return. For example, it is now widely accepted that trees in a forest are not just a collection of individuals but are in continual communication with each other and with the fungi that interpenetrate their roots.

In this relational ecological reality, a communicative order, an order of meaning, unfolds alongside the causal, material order. Of course, this doesn’t take place in human language: it is necessarily a poetic order, conveying meaning in image and metaphor, taking place not in words or concepts, but through material form in a language of things.

Modern humans are alienated from this poetic order: if we conceive the world as brute object it will only reveal itself as such. But if we invoke a living presence then we may receive a meaningful response—if we are open to it.

This course will be an online co-operative inquiry process over seven weeks (one week’s orientation plus six further sessions) using Google Classroom, Zoom, and YouTube. We will focus on the subjective presence of Rivers in the vicinity of participants: if we invoke their living presence, address them as subjective persons, what manner of response might we receive?

We have chosen to focus our inquiry on Rivers, recognizing their significance within ecosystems and their integration with the land and creatures around them; as well as the extent that they have been influenced for better and worse by human activities. Rivers include everything from mountain torrents through mature watercourse to tidal reaches; wild streams or industrialized waterways.

who is this course for?

This co-operative inquiry is for all those—including writers, artists, activists, teachers, ecologists, scientists—who understand that the present ecological crisis has its roots in the alienation of the business-as-usual lifeway from Earth of which we are a part. It is for those of us who wish to play their part in developing and articulating perspectives and practices rooted in openness to the living presence of the more-than-human. Our aspiration is to attract an international participation, and through this invoke the presence of Rivers round the world, establishing an active mode of communication with our Earth. This inquiry workshop is part of planetary-wide stream of inquiry activities engaging with bodies of water.


This workshop will take the form of co-operative inquiry, a form of inquiry pioneered by Peter Reason, in which all participants work together as both co-inquirers and as co-subjects. In this panpsychic inquiry, participants are both human and other-than-human. All are engaged in the design and management of the inquiry; all are involved in the experience and action that is being explored; all are involved in making sense and drawing conclusions. Participants will develop their understanding and practice by engaging in what Peter has called an ‘extended epistemology’ of experiential, presentational, propositional and practical ways of knowing.

In addition, there will be video inputs on the panpsychic perspective, co-operative inquiry, biopoetics, animate Earth and biocultural stewardship from the faculty which will provide frameworks for the inquiry process.

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In each action phase, participants will explore their relationship with their local River, invoking their living presence, and attending to the response (if any). Our invocation can be through loving presence and attunement, through song, prayer, pilgrimage, ceremony and festival; through the languages of myth, archetype and art; for some, through the language of traditional religion. Following this, in a reflection phase, participants will share their experience, seek to make sense together, and design the next cycle of engagement. Finally, there will be time for reflections, recapitulation and composing final conclusions.

In addition to the inquiry groups there will be weekly seminars for all participants. Faculty members will each expand on their particular perspective and engage in discussion with participants. There will also be two seminars in which participants will work in the whole community to identify and draw out shared themes. To further facilitate exchange across inquiry groups, participants will be partnered with one or two of their fellows from another group.

Weekly Commitment

Detailed arrangements for online collaboration will be sent to participants if the course is confirmed. The minimal commitment to the course is: one encounter with the River each week; composing and posting an account of the encounter; reading and commenting on one fellow participant’s account; participating in a Zoom reflection meeting facilitated by a lecturer; contributing to community discussions.

Participants must be prepared to spend significant time outside, possibly in inclement weather. They must make sure they have appropriate clothes, waterproofs, walking boots, flask and whatever else will help make them comfortable in their local climate. Participants are responsible for undertaking their own individual risk assessment to ensure their health and safety.

reading list

The following readings are available online and provide an introduction to the perspective of the workshop.

Freya Mathews. “On Desiring Nature.” Indian Journal of Ecocriticism 3 (2010).

Stephan Harding Interview

Peter Reason (with John Heron). “The Practice of Co-operative Inquiry: Research with Rather Than on People.” In Handbook of Action Research: The Concise Paperback Edition, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury, 144-54. London: Sage Publications, 2005.

Andreas Weber. “Being Nature.” Humans and Nature (2014).

Andreas Weber. “The Enlivenment Manifesto: Politics and Poetics in the Anthropocene.” Kosmos  (2016).

Wooltorton, S., Poelina, A., Collard, L., Horwitz, P., Harben, S., & Palmer, D. (2020). Becoming family with place. Resurgence & ecologist, 322(September/October), 34-35. Retrieved from

The following readings explore the perspective of the workshop in more depth.

Stephan Harding, Animate Earth. Foxhole, Dartington: Green Books, 2009.

Freya Mathews, “Living Cosmos Panpsychism” in William Seager (ed), Routledge Handbook on Panpsychism, Routledge, New York, 2019.

Freya Mathews, “Panpsychism: Position Statement”, “First Response” and “Second Response” (3 separate chapters) in Graham Oppy and Nicholas Trakakis (eds), Inter-religious Philosophical Dialogues, Routledge, 2017.

Freya Mathews, “Invoking the Real: from the Specular to the Ontopoetic” in Arran Gare and Wayne Hudson (eds), For a New Naturalism, Telos Press, New York, 2017

Freya Mathews, “The World Hidden within the World: a Conversation on Ontopoetics”, The Trumpeter 23, 1, 2007

Freya Mathews, For Love of Matter: A Contemporary Panpsychism, SUNY Press, Albany, 2003

Freya Mathews. “The Merri Creek: To the Source of the Given.” In Reinhabiting Reality: Towards a Recovery of Culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005.

Peter Reason and John Heron. A Short Guide to Co-operative Inquiry (1998).

Reason, Peter and Sarah Riley. “Cooperative Inquiry: An Action Research Practice.” In Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods, edited by Jonathan Smith. London: Sage Publications, 2015.

Peter Reason (with John Heron). “Extending Epistemology with Co-Operative Inquiry.” In Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury, 366-80. London: Sage Publications, 2008.

Peter Reason (with Hilary Bradbury). “Inquiry and Participation in Search of a World Worthy of Human Aspiration.” In Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury, 1-14. London: Sage Publications, 2001.

Peter Reason (with Jacqueline Kurio). “Voicing Rivers through Ontopoetics: A Co-Operative Inquiry.” River Research and Applications, Special Issue: Voicing Rivers (2021).

Weber, Andreas. Matter and Desire. An Erotic Ecology. White River Junction: Chelsea Green, 2017.

Weber, Andreas. Biology of Wonder. Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Press.

Weber, Andreas. Enlivenment. A Poetics for the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019. (pdf of the original 2013 version: [ADD WEB LINK].

Weber, Andreas. Nourishing Community in Pandemic Times. Heinrich Boell Foundation India, 2020, [ADD WEB LINK WHEN PUBLISHED]

Weber, Andreas. “Family Tree”. The Nature of Cities, 2020 [ADD WEB LINK WHEN PUBLISHED]

Weber, Andreas. Sharing Life. Animism as Ecopolitical Practice. Berlin: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 2020, in preparation.

Poelina, A., Wooltorton, S., Harben, S., Collard, L., Horwitz, P., & Palmer, D. (2020). Feeling and hearing Country. PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature(15), 6-15. Retrieved from

Wooltorton, S., Poelina, A., & Collard, L. (2021). River relationships: For the love of rivers. River Research and Applications, Special Issue: Voicing Rivers (Early view). doi:10.1002/rra.3854 –

RiverOfLife, M., Unamen Shipu, R. R., Poelina, A., Wooltorton, S., Guimond, L., & Sioui Durand, G. (2021). Hearing, voicing and healing: Rivers as culturally located and connected. River Research and Applications(Special Issue: Voicing Rivers). doi:10.1002/rra.3843 –

Wooltorton, S., Collard, L., & Horwitz, P. (2019). Living water: groundwater and wetlands in Gnangara, Noongar boodjar. PAN: Philosophy, activism, nature(14), 5-23. Retrieved from

Wooltorton, S., Collard, L., & Horwitz, P. (2017). The Land Still Speaks. Ni, Katitj! PAN: Philosophy, activism, nature(13), 2-15. Retrieved from:


Sandra Wooltorton

Sandra Wooltorton

Sandra Wooltorton is from Noongar Boodjar, also known as southwest Western Australia, and she works as a Senior Research Fellow at the Nulungu Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame Australia, in Yawuru Country around Broome in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. She acknowledges Noongar traditional owners, and Aboriginal custodians in Australia and elsewhere. She is a geographer, educator and transdisciplinary researcher with a deep interest in ecological philosophy. Samples of her recent collaborative articles are Feeling and Hearing Country (2019); Hearing, Voicing and Healing: Rivers as Culturally Located and Connected (2021); The Land Still Speaks: Ni, Katitj (2017) and River Relationships: For the Love of Rivers (2021).
Stephan Harding

Stephan Harding

In 1990 Stephan was one of the founding members of Schumacher College where he worked closely with James Lovelock, with whom he has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration. Stephan coordinated and lectured on the college’s MSc Holistic Science for nearly two decades, teaching on the core models of the programme, as well as on several short courses at the College. They were jointly appointmed as founding chair holders of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo. At Schumacher College Stephan has taught alongside many of the world’s leading ecological thinkers and activists, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, Brian Goodwin, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. He is now the Deep Ecology Fellow at Schumacher College.

Peter Reason

Peter Reason

As Director of the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice at the University of Bath, Peter Reason was an international leader in the development of participative approaches to action research. In these forms of experiential inquiry all are co-researchers, contributing both to the thinking that forms the research and to the action that is its subject. Since retiring from full time academic work, Peter has focused on writing books and articles that link the tradition of nature writing with the ecological crisis of our times, drawing on scientific, ecological, philosophical and spiritual sources. His books include Spindrift: A wilderness pilgrimage at sea, In Search of Grace: An ecological pilgrimage, and most recently (with artist Sarah Gillespie) On Presence: Essays | Drawings.

Peter has facilitated two co-operative inquiries exploring the panpsychic experience during 2020.

Andreas Weber

Andreas Weber

Andreas Weber is a Berlin-based philosopher, biologist, and writer. He holds degrees in marine biology and cultural studies, and has collaborated with brain researcher and philosopher Francisco Varela. His books in English include: Enlivenment: Towards a Fundamental Shift in the Concepts of Nature, Culture and Politics (2013); The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science (2016); and Biopoetics: Towards an Existential Ecology (2016). Weber regularly contributes to major newspapers and magazines, such as National Geographic, GEO, and Die Zeit, and has won a number of awards for his writing. He teaches philosophy at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and at the University of Fine Arts, Berlin. Weber has two children, fifteen and seventeen. He lives in Berlin and Italy.

Freya Mathews

Freya Mathews

Freya Mathews is Adjunct Professor of Environmental Philosophy at Latrobe University, Australia. Her books include The Ecological Self (1991), Ecology and Democracy (editor) (1996), For Love of Matter: a Contemporary Panpsychism (2003), Journey to the Source of the Merri (2003), Reinhabiting Reality: towards a Recovery of Culture (2005), Without Animals Life is not Worth Living (2016) and Ardea: a philosophical novella (2016). She is the author of over eighty articles in the area of ecological philosophy. Her current special interests are in ecological civilization; indigenous (Australian and Chinese) perspectives on (so-called) sustainability and how these perspectives may be adapted to the context of contemporary global society; panpsychism and critique of the metaphysics of modernity; ecology and religion; and conservation ethics and rewilding in the context of the Anthropocene. In addition to her research activities she co-manages a private conservation estate in northern Victoria. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

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