Stewart Brand, Harry Hollins, WIT, E. F. Schumacher 1974 Conference
Brother David Steindl-Rast, Saul Mendlovitz, WIT 1974 Conference
Artist Haydn Stubbing, Poet Wendell Berry, Tany Berry and Yvonne Hagen, 1977
Mary Catherine Bateson and Francisco Varela at the "Mind and Nature" Conference at Lindisfarne, Southampton, NY, 1977.
Lindisfarne in Manhattan from 1976 to 1979, corner of Sixth Avenue and 20th Street
The 1988 Lindisfarne Fellows Meeting at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. From left to right: Nena Thurman, Robert Thurman, Hilary Thompson lecturing, W. I. Thompson, Sandy Lovelock, and James Lovelock.
Paul Winter at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Dean James Parks Morton
Lindisfarne Mountain Retreat
Lindisfarne Fellows House
For Tapes and on-line audio recordings of the Lindisfarne
Conferences in Southampton and Manhattan, New York,
The Lindisfarne Association was founded by the American writer William Irwin Thompson in New York City in December of 1972. Inspired in 1967 by Michael Murphy's work in bringing Eastern philosophy and Western psychology together in the establishment of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, Professor Thompson returned to his teaching position at M.I.T. and sought for new ways to broaden the humanities by exploring the mystical roots of Western science and by bringing meditation into the thinking of philosophy and the practice of science and art. During this period of the war in Viet Nam, M.I.T., however, was more interested in extending its approach in engineering into the behavioral sciences and the postindustrial management of natural resources and preindustrial cultures. Professor Thompson resigned from the Institute, moved to Canada, and began to work on new ways of teaching the humanities at the newly created York University in Toronto. At the Couchiching Conference in Ontario in 1969, Thompson met Ivan Illich and was deeply impressed by his vision of challenging the dominance of the university through the establishment of "the counterfoil institution." From 1970 to 1972, Thompson traveled around the world in search of models of counterfoil institutions that could provide alternatives to the bureaucratic postindustrial university: centers such as Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti in Arizona, Sri Aurobindo and Mira Richard's ("the Mother") Auroville in India, C.F. von Weizsaeker's Research Foundation for Eastern Wisdom and Western Science in Starnberg, Germany, and the Findhorn Community in Scotland.
At the instigation of Gene Fairly, Lindisfarne was established in New York, rather than Toronto, and Emily Sellon, the editor of New York's Main Currents in Modern Thought, served with Thompson and Fairly as the founding Board of Directors of the Lindisfarne Association. Through the efforts of Nancy Wilson Ross, author of Three Ways of Asian Wisdom and a former student of the Bauhaus in Germany, Thompson's writings and lectures were brought to the attention of Laurance S. Rockefeller and Sydney and Jean Lanier, and they assisted in the establishment of a facility on Long Island in 1973. With the encouragement of Nancy Wilson Ross and Dean James P. Morton, Lindisfarne began its activities in a working relationship with the Zen Center in San Francisco and the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and this helped Lindisfarne's work to be ecumenical and national from the start.
Although Dean Morton offered to house the educational program of Lindisfarne at the Cathedral from the very beginning of activities in 1973, Dr. Thompson felt that a more contemplative and communal mode of study and reflection was needed to differentiate Lindisfarne from the church and the university, so Lindisfarne was established in a rural setting on Long Island. From 1973 to 1977, a resident staff lived communally on a thirteen acre facility at Fishcove in the township of Southampton, but provided an educational program for the Greater New York area through seminars, residential courses, and summer conferences. Many of the pioneers of "the alternative movement," well-known thinkers such as Gregory Bateson and E. F. Schumacher became Lindisfarne Fellows or Scholars-in-Residence and helped through their presence and publications to outline the shape of the new ecological consciousness. Lindisfarne 's scholarship from this period is, perhaps, best summed up in the book Earth's Answer: Explorations of Planetary Culture at the Lindisfarne Conferences. (New York, Harper & Row, 1977).
From 1976 to 1979, Lindisfarne maintained a teaching center in Manhattan in an Episcopal landmark church at Sixth Avenue and Twentieth Street. Here the work of the Association became the operation of an urban educational institute with Scholars-in- Residence, evening classes, public lectures, concerts, exhibitions, and poetry readings. Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan was more of an intellectual mind jazz club, a headier version of the Village Vanguard in which Grotowski riffed on theatre, Haydn Stubbing exhibited his paintings (see http://www.englandgallery.com/artist_work.php?mainId=28&groupId=none&_p=8&_gnum=8&media=Paintings), and http://fencer.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/the-art-of-nh-stubbing/) and Robert Bly read his Rumi translations. With the guidance of Richard Falk and Saul Mendlovitz and their World Order Models Project, Lindisfarne held a seminar on World Order and had many of their members come to give talks. Elaine Pagels lectured on Gnostic Christianity, Robert McDermott lectured on Sri Aurobindo, and Gary Snyder and Paul Winter did poetry and Jazz on Snyder's Pulitzer Prize winning Turtle Island. Thanks to Paul Winter, Lindisfarne had an American bald eagle as artist-in-residence while the two of them were performing Common Ground uptown at Carnegie Hall.
The scholarship from this period is still available in the books based on live talks given at Lindisfarne: works such as Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature, Francisco Varela's Principles of Biological Autonomy, Keith Critchlow's Islamic Patterns, Kathleen Raine's The Human Face of God: Blake's Book of Job, John Michell's Megalithomania, Warren Kenton's The Kabbalistic Tradition, John and Nancy Todd's Tomorrow is Our Permanent Address, and William Irwin Thompson's Darkness and Scattered Light and The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light. In addition to this program of lectures by Scholars-in-Residence, Lindisfarne sponsored a program in the arts in which Jerzy Grotowski from Poland discussed his work in metatheatre, and Andre Gregory explored patterns of consciousness with the quantum physicist David Finkelstein and presented the material that became his film, My Dinner with Andre. Hilary Harris presented cinematic visions of the city of New York as organism, footage that has since become well known in Godfrey Reggio's film, Koyanisquaatsi. Paul Winter began the series of solstice and equinox concerts that still continues at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the Harmonic Choir presented some of the very first of their recitals of Hoomi singing. Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Samuel Menashe, Kathleen Raine, and Gary Snyder gave poetry readings; however, in spite of this non-stop three year concert of ideas, visions, performances, and classes, the cost of maintaining four buildings in downtown Manhattan was too great for an alternative institution to bear. During the period of economic recession and "stagflation," all of Lindisfarne's applications to New York foundations for $250,000 to restore the historical Landmark Church and continue its educational program were declined. In a fitting expression of the new culture of New York in the eighties, the Church was later transformed, with an expenditure of over two and a half million dollars, into a fashionable, punk, sacrilegious discotheque in which the gliteratti gyrated on the altar of "Limelight" and stretch limos lined the littered streets that the members of Lindisfarne used to sweep after evening meditation. "Reversal is the movement of the Tao," say the old Chinese sages, and so the culture of the materialistic eighties was the reversal of the spiritual seventies. So for the eighties and nineties, Lindisfarne presented its programs at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine under the sponsorship of "the Green Dean," Rev. James Morton.
Lindisfarne returned the Church and its facility in Southampton to the holders of leases and mortgages and the residential staff of eighteen people broke up into three groups, one moving to Massachusetts to set up the Lindisfarne Press,(See http://www.lindisfarne.org/) the second going off to Colorado to establish a solar village in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Crestone, and the third joining the contemplative community of Zen Center in San Francisco. To continue the work of the conferences, Lindisfarne donated the small building fund it had been able to raise to Zen Center so that it could begin a fund-raising campaign to build a guest house to complete its Wheelwright Conference Center. This facility was completed and is now called the Lindisfarne Guest House and is dedicated to the memory of Gregory Bateson, who died at Zen Center on July 4, 1980. http://www.sfzc.org/ggf/display.asp?catid=3,162&pageid=359
At the invitation of Hanne and Maurice Strong, Beatrice and William Thompson moved to Crestone in 1979 and began the project of building a Lindisfarne Institute for conferences and summer schools, and encouraging the residents of Crestone to take advantage of their environment to build a solar village. (Thompson had written on "The Meta-Industrial Village" in his 1978 book Darkness and Scattered Light: Four Talks on the Future.) To demonstrate the possibilities of the new alternative movement, Thompson organized a conference on the solar village in the town hall of Crestone and invited the green architects David Bergmark, Paolo Soleri, John Todd, Sim Van der Ryn, Sean Wellesley Miller, and Malcolm Wells to meet with other leaders of the alternative movement such as Amory and Hunter Lovins,Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, David Orr, Gary Snyder, and Nancy Jack Todd, along with all the other Lindisfarne Fellows to inspire the local residents of the San Luis Valley and explore ways to develop the Lindisfarne campus. Thompson chose Sim Van der Ryn to design the Lindisfarne Fellows House and Keith Critchlow to design the dome for the circular chapel that Thompson had designed to serve as Lindisfarne's interfaith meditation chapel. Through Hanne Strong's leadership, Crestone began to move in the direction of becoming a sanctuary for traditional contemplative lineages, and her Manitou Foundation began to make land grants to a Roman Catholic Carmelite Hermitage, two Yogic ashrams, and several Buddhist centers. In 1988, Thompson accepted the fact that Crestone was too remote and costly in travel expenses to import faculty for summer conferences and schools, but was, as Hanne Strong recognized, ideal for contemplative retreats. With this in mind, Lindisfarne donated its eighty acre campus to the Crestone Mountain Zen Center, and Hanne Strong and her Manitou Foundation energized the stalled Solar Village project that Lindisfarne had instigated in 1979, and this project continues under her leadership to this day.
With the establishment of the Crestone Mountain Zen Center by Lindisfarne's Board of Directors at a meeting at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 1988, (http://dharmasangha.org/) Lindisfarne's focus returned to a teaching program at the Cathedral (1988-1996) and annual conferences with the Lindisfarne Fellows at different locations in the United States and Europe. From 1985 to 1988, Lindisfarne directed a Program for Biology, Cognition, and Ethics at the Cathedral that explored the political and cultural implications of the Gaia Hypothesis and the implications of Buddhist psychology and meditational practice for European phenomenology and American cognitive science. This program was focused at CREA at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and on the research and writings of Evan Thompson and Francisco Varela. Through the efforts of William Irwin Thompson and Francisco Varela, several conferences were held in the United States and Europe. The publications resulting from this Program are:
Gaia, A Way of Knowing: Political Implications of the New Biology, Ed. William Thompson (Lindisfarne Press, Great Barrington, Mass., 1987).
Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth and Science, William Irwin Thompson (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1989).
Gaia Two, Emergence: The New Science of Becoming Ed. William Irwin Thompson, (Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, New York, 1991).
The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch (M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1991).
The American Replacement of Nature, William Irwin Thompson (Doubleday/Currency Books, New York, 1991).
Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception, Evan Thompson, Routledge, London, 1995.
Coming into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness, William Irwin Thompson, (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1996 & 1998).
Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, Evan Thompson (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007).
The role of Lindisfarne was to initiate an impulse in culture but not to try to own or institutionalize it. For example, Lindisfarne established a contemplative retreat with meditation and classes in hatha yoga, Tai Chi Chuan, and philosophy in the Hamptons in 1973. (People thought this cultural project quite weird at the time.) In Manhattan from 1976-1979, Lindisfarne set up a program on Buddhism and Cognitive Science with lectures by Nechung Rinpoche, Robert Thurman, and Francisco Varela. When New Age retreats began to become commercially successful themed hotels and spas, Lindisfarne shifted away from serving as a retreat center to set up a School for Sacred Architecture in Crestone in 1980. When programs on sacred architecture became sponsored by the Prince of Wales, and when a program on Buddhism and cognitive science became sponsored by the Dalai Lama, there was no reason any longer to continue Lindisfarne's two programs in these areas, so it moved to less public horizons of culture in subjects such as a Gaia Politique, interdisciplinary approaches to complex dynamical systems, and artistic explorations of Wissenskunst.
Now that the ecological and contemplative approaches to cultural transformation that Lindisfarne helped to initiate in the early seventies are fully implanted in American culture and exist as programs at several colleges and universities, as well as at several traditional religious centers, such as the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the initiatory programs of the Association are fading away with the graying generation of the seventies. The Lindisfarne Association as a formal not-for-profit corporation (501(c)3) with its institutional structure of Directors, Officers, Fellows, and Students, was formally dissolved in 2009 by the IRS due to lack of donational activity. The Lindisfarne Fellows--a completely informal circle of friends meeting once a year--continued to meet up to 2012 as a creative group intrested in energizing one another's works and creative projects.