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At the Pari Center our areas of specialization stem from the interests and work of F. David Peat, our founder. For those who visited the Pari Center during David’s lifetime, or who encountered David at one of the many talks he gave or the books he wrote, it was apparent that he had multi and diverse interests. In continuing this tradition, we offer a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to learning that links science, the arts, ethics, community and the sacred.
David Peat was a longtime friend and colleague of physicist-philosopher David Bohm. Their conversations on the foundations of quantum theory, philosophy, language, consciousness, the role of mathematics and art, lasted until Bohm’s death in 1992. The two physicists co-authored Science, Order and Creativity and Peat wrote the biography Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm. He also co-wrote the script for the Bohm Infinite Potential documentary which is based on the biography. David Bohm’s work permeates everything we do here in Pari and, over the years, the Pari Center has held a number of major events that have focused on Bohm’s work. In the summer of 2021, we will feature a two-part Beyond Bohm online programme featuring scientists, philosophers, artists, indigenous people and those engaged in Bohmian dialogue, discussing Bohm’s legacy, his continuing influence, and how his work will be perceived in the future.
On October 22, 1959, David Peat, a 21-year-old undergraduate. watched a BBC television programme from the Face to Face series in which John Freeman, who interviewed some of the leading thinkers and figures of the time, talked with Carl Jung. When Jung spoke of the ‘collective unconscious’ shared by all humanity and which gives structure to the archetypes, this resonated strongly with Peat, who felt that this was the way he experienced the world. The programme initiated a lifelong interest in Jung’s work and ideas. Peat would go on to write two books on Jung’s concept of Synchronicity: Synchronicity: The Bridge between Matter and Mind in 1987, and his final book Synchronicity: The Marriage of Matter and Psyche in 2014.
The 1980s saw the beginning of a relationship between David Peat and the indigenous people of North America—and later South Africa—that lasted until his death. He sat in circles in tipis, participated in pipe ceremonies, and was invited to the Blackfoot reserve during the Sun Dance. The First Nations’ people bestowed a great honour on David by presenting him with a Talking Feather at a native ceremony in Banff, Alberta. ‘I was learning about a different worldview that in many ways was congenial to myself as a physicist,’ said Peat who went on to write Blackfoot Physics. He organized a meeting of western scientists and native elders sponsored by the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo and it was there that David Bohm for the first time met people whose verb-dominated language and worldview of flux struck Bohm as very close to his own reality of the enfolding and unfolding of matter and thought.
The origin of Gentle Action dates back to 1989 when David Peat was invited to give the keynote address to the Royal Society of Canada. This led to their report The Cost of Inaction. Peat’s 1989 address explored implications inherent in chaos theory for public policy and was followed by study papers for the Foresight Group of the Science Council of Canada. Gentle action operates by observing the entire dynamics of a situation. It proposes that new organizational structures can arise that are more flexible, sensitive and organic. It fosters an environment in which natural creativity and human talents can flower. It encourages openness, transformation and sensitive awareness. Peat believed that the first step towards transformation lies in an act of ‘creative suspension’ and ‘alert watchfulness.’ This leads to action that has the effect of making manifest the internal dynamics, rigidities, fixed positions, unexamined paradigms, interconnections and lines and levels of communication within the organization and the individual. David Peat’s Gentle Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World was published in 2008.
Our modern world, David Peat believed, is characterized by a desire for a reconnection to the sacred. He felt that we have a deep thirst for something that will transcend our daily lives. Quantum theory and chaos theory point to a new universe, a participatory universe, a space where the sacred has its home, a cosmos in which science seeks ever more subtle levels of matter and consciousness, one where art and science have become two ways of perceiving the same reality. The Pari Center became a member of SPES—the European forum for Spirituality in Economic and Social Life—and is a three-time winner of the Metanexus Prize ‘for organizational excellence, creative programming and spirited commitment to fostering the constructive engagement of science and religion.’ Peat saw the Pari Center as a vehicle for expressing that earlier vision of tolerance, compassion, mutual understanding and the desire to learn and study side by side that was created by Jews, Christians and Arabs between the 9th and 13th centuries.
‘Pari is a tiny spark, one amongst many, that we hope will illuminate our world,’ wrote David Peat. The maxim of the Center comes from the writer Carlo Levi who said that ‘the future has an ancient heart.’ It is particularly appropriate to consider our common future from within a place that stretches back over three thousand years and a community that was established at least eight centuries ago at a time when nature, beauty and the sacred were seen as one. The Pari Center was created in this medieval village as a place of tranquillity where people can come together to think and talk about values, meaning, the impact of the new paradigms of science, and the directions societies are taking. Our gatherings not only help the economy of the village they bring new faces, new cultures, new languages to a place that is still, even in the 21stcentury, off the beaten track.