University of the Trees

Guiding Images, Ethos & Principles

University of the Trees guiding images and principles were used or developed in the incubation period at CCANW. They include the following and continue to guide the UOT’s work today.

  • A tree knows how to be a tree. Unlike a tree, human beings do not unfold according to plan. We have to develop our capacities to become truly human. We, the most difficult of all earth’s creatures, are just at the beginning of our development.
  • Responsibility needs to become an Ability-to-Respond.
  • We need ‘instruments of consciousness’ instead of ‘objects of attention’.
  • Activating the Inner Field, Warmth Work, and the Field of Commitment.
  • ‘Working with Questions’ and ‘Making Social Honey’.
  • Developing ‘New Organs of Perception’, and ‘New Eyes for the World’.
  • Strengthening and nourishing the ‘Social Mycelium’.
  • Strengthening and deepening the humanosphere, to counter the cold thought of a disconnected technosphere.
  • Exploring the role of imagination in transformation.
  • Connecting personal change, social change, system change.
  • Redefining ‘the aesthetic’ as all that enlivens us, in contrast to ‘the anesthetic’ or numbness.
  • The ecological crisis is an opportunity for consciousness, and a response-able and connected humanosphere.

In keeping with these guiding images, UOT emphasises forms of first-person enquiry and aesthetic strategies for transformation inspired by Goethean methodology, forms of contemplative practice and phenomenological enquiry. It is a crucible for experiments across disciplinary borders and world views.

Although still embryonic and growing slowly like a tree, I describe this alternative, mobile university of the trees (bees, seas, streets) as ‘the oldest university in the world’. A press release from 2010 describes UOT as having existed for all time, wherever human beings do not look away. It is invoked and made visible wherever humans are:

  • a) willing to stop, to reconsider, to ‘see what they see’ and to ‘think about what they think’; and
  • b) to commit to finding ways to live together on the planet without causing unnecessary suffering to each other and all life forms.

Press Release for UOT in Oxford 2010

It is a university that comes to life when human beings come to their senses, exploring their interconnectedness through experiential and embodied learning, the re-schooling of their senses, and developing what Goethe calls ‘new organs of perception’. Such embodied knowing increases our ability-to-respond and to shift from responsibility as duty to responsibility that arises, answering a call.

© Shelley Sacks.

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Instruments of Consciousness

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