Towards an Ecology of the Imagination - Faerie Hill, Consciousness and the Microchip

Digital futures this week with and by Alastair McIntosh

Abstract for Alastair's talk

For the past five years Alastair McIntosh has been working on his next book, Poacher’s Pilgrimage, which picks up from Gregory Bateson’s sense of “ecology of mind” and, in the course of a twelve day pilgrimage through his home island of Lewis and Harris, explores an ecology of the imagination through the lens of God, war and the traditional cosmology of the sìthean or faerie hill. This sharing will be a preview of some of the ideas that he has developed from that experience. An exploration of consciousness and its relationship to material reality, of the poetics of perception; and reflections on how such actual reality, experienced amongst trying conditions of sun, wind, rain, cold and fog, and heartwarming encounters of “real people in a real place”, sit with respect to virtual reality and the microchip. Put another way, might Marvin Minsky have missed a trick where he suggested that religion is “a contagious mental disease…. The brain has a need to believe it knows a reason for things" (Lederman, Portraits of Great American Scientists). Might he not have considered unpacking that apparent need, that wiring for apparent teleology, for patterns of meaning?


Alastair McIntosh is the author of books including Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power (Aurum 2001), Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (Birlinn 2008) and Island Spirituality (Islands Book Trust 2013). A regular broadcaster on Radio Scotland’s Thought for the Day and Radio 4’s Prayer for the Day, he holds or has held honorary fellowship or professorial positions at the universities of Ulster, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Edinburgh (School of Divinity). His work has been described by George Monbiot as “world-changing,” by the Bishop of Liverpool as “life-changing,” and by Thom Yorke of Radiohead as “truly mental.”

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