First Letter to Tony Blair

Author: Kevin R. D. Shepherd


This epistle to Tony Blair, dated April 2006, was effectively the covering letter for two lengthy documents which the author circulated in booklet form. This gesture was not appreciated at the time by many academic recipients who failed to respond in any way. Cambridge and Oxford universities were major cases in point. However, some academics did respond; interest has since increased in that sector. Significantly, a number of other eminent persons also replied,  compensating for the indifference to public concerns found elsewhere. The detail in both of the booklets was fairly substantial,  much or all of this unknown to most readers.

The First Letter is the shortest of several related epistles showing on this website. This letter states the grievance against the inclusion, by David Lorimer, of Grof Transpersonal Training (Inc.) in conferences and promotions of the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN). Stanislav Grof was the innovator of psychedelic "psychotherapy." My grievance was a consequence of the lobby for LSD "neoshamanism" attaching to Grof therapy figureheads, along with drawbacks involved in the commercial hyperventilation called Holotropic Breathwork, a trademark therapy devised by Grof at Esalen.

The First Letter also refers to the Prince of Wales, being concerned to separate this personage from association with Grof therapy, in the wake of confusions attending a pro-royalist book authored by David Lorimer. Grof therapy has promoted MDMA and LSD, both of these drugs being illegal. I am not myself a royalist, being Irish-English; my paternal forbears were strongly resistant to the Conservative British colonial activity. My deceased English mother was directly involved in the SMN issue, herself being more royalist by inclination. Unlike her, I never joined any "new age" organisations. In my own view, the populace in various countries are at the mercy of commercial trends inadequately monitored by those in power. The frequent excuses for recreational drug use, racism, and other less cognised social problems should not pass uncontested.

The Extension to the First Letter complains at the influx of dubious concepts and practices in the general "new age" circuits, an influx associated with the phrase "Mind, Body, Spirit," which has gained an increasingly commercial and irresponsible orientation. The two booklets enclosed were Letter to BBC Radio and Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer.

The Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the First Letter and enclosures by delegating these to the Department for Education and Skills, which failed to give any further reply.  However, the issues concerned have not been lost in other directions. Interest in these matters is escalating. Tony Blair proved disappointing in this respect. A point in his favour is that, in 1997, he acknowledged the British failure to relieve the Great Famine in Ireland, an event consigned to virtual obscurity by English Conservatives for several generations. In relation to this issue, Blair was accused of moral vacuousness by a BBC presenter in 2012, indication of the confusions about morality in contemporary society.


First Letter to Tony Blair

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 10 Downing Street, LONDON SW1A 2AA

15th April 2006

Dear Tony  Blair,

I am enclosing for your perusal a copy of my Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer. This relates to the University for Spirit Forum (USF) which Lorimer is promoting, and with the objective of achieving UK government sanction as an educational body. He has gained the subscription of many "new age" fringe organisations, including the influential Findhorn Foundation, who are much in question.

The fact that Lorimer has authored the book Radical Prince (relating to HRH the Prince of Wales), and is associated with the Scientific and Medical Network (also in question), is no reason to endorse his project. There are strong grounds for objection to the ideology and tactics involved (which are not the same as those of Prince Charles, it should here be stressed). Critics deem misleading such USF promotional phrases as "centralised resource for linking existing programmes in mainstream education." That surely means fringe education.

The aims of education are very much at issue here. For instance, Lorimer has promoted at Cambridge the controversial figure of Dr. S. [Stanislav] Grof, whose Holotropic Breathwork therapy (or opportunism) was officially suspended (in 1993) at the Findhorn Foundation via the Scottish Charities Office (whose strong recommendation was adamantly repeated two years later in 1995, blocking an appeal of the FF to resume HB). Grof’s appearance at Cambridge in 1995 (under SMN auspices) was a disastrous signal of approval to countercultural trends which practised his therapy in defiance of medical warnings.

More recently, Lorimer has elsewhere promoted Grof’s protégé Christopher Bache, who is a professor of religion and not a medic. Any support for Grof and Bache can be viewed in the light of a setback to public health, even if the partisan manages to avoid direct sponsorship of LSD therapy and MDMA therapy, these being Grofian creations which are considered dangerous by American scientists (and the erratic publishing policy of SUNY Press is here in contention). Lorimer has enthusiastically described Bache’s book on Grofian therapy as five star reading; such published statements can cause grave confusion. Critics fear that the spread of illegal drugs and controversial hyperventilation will be assisted by the entrepreneurial tactics of Lorimer and the hazardous nonjudgmentalism of the new "University" which he is furthering.

Lorimer and the SMN (Scientific and Medical Network) are known for favouring "alternative science." They have fallen into the trap (set by American counterculture) of regarding Grof’s perinatal theory as being relevant. In his edited book Thinking beyond the Brain (2001), Lorimer refers (p. 8) to Grof’s pro-LSD exegesis Beyond the Brain as "a landmark book," even using the title to designate a conference series. American scientists like Professor Scott Lilienfeld and the consumer health advocate E. P. Curry have contested the Grof scenario and MDMA therapy in the face of popular media sentiments (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 15, 18, 126). Brain complexities are ignored by Grof and other commercial operators. Paranormal factors are also mistreated.

The subject of near-death experience (NDE), currently the subject of medical review, has been widely appropriated by alternative therapists. The distinguished psychiatrist Dr. Peter Fenwick is probably the most salient SMN exponent; his refined version of NDE has unfortunately failed to deliver due critique of Grof and related distortions. Dr. Fenwick is not a Grofian, but Lorimer’s recent support for Bache has revived memories of the disastrous "beyond the brain" profile awarded to Grof at Cambridge. Mainstream education in Britain is still innocent of the confusions, and will hopefully negotiate these safely.

The Letter of Complaint details some of the treatment administered to an objector against Grofian therapy, especially by the Findhorn Foundation. Strong cautions are surely necessary in relation to any "alternative" organisation which does not demonstrate integrity. Propaganda is no substitute, even if dignified by NGO status, and even if laced with the convenient strategy of nonjudgmentalism (i.e., "we must not criticise, because this merely represents the projection of our own shortcomings onto others"). Conscience means nothing in such quarters, as only objectors are blamed.


Thank  you  for  reading  these  lines.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin  R. D. Shepherd


P.S.  In extension of the above reference to the Prince of Wales, I feel obliged to mention the concern that confusion could arise between his projects and the USF in view of the associations created by Lorimer’s book. Many of the USF subscribers do not seem to be very analytical, and might easily associate the Prince with the USF. That would be a misconception on their part, a factor implied by the following statement from Sir Michael Peat: "I should make it clear that Radical Prince was a book written independently by David Lorimer and was not written in association with the Prince of Wales or his Office" (letter of Sir Michael Peat to Kate Thomas dated 21st June, 2005).



The Letter to BBC Radio (also enclosed) was written after the Letter of Complaint. The issues involved may likewise be of more widespread interest. Hence the booklet format to assist scrutiny. The printing of two booklets has entailed a delay in the deadline for posting. The new letter is in response to a discussion on BBC radio about the "new spirituality." That subject, now widely promoted, has drawbacks of a degree sufficient to invite strong critical comment, and can be analysed in a very different way to the enthusiast patter about "holistic" and "energies" and "healing." These are commercial words, not in-depth descriptions. The commerce involved in Mind-Body-Spirit is an affliction for viable education, including components such as love spells, crystal lore, "self-empowerment," regression therapy, witchcraft rituals, and Tantric sex. Unhealthy dimensions of the craze for magic link with some crime-related occurrences. Magic often appeals to drug users, and the scope for confusion is unlimited. Many young people are caught in the trap set by lax publishing standards.

I have elsewhere drawn attention to such factors as the questionable (and widely read) suggestion arising in Aleister Crowley’s (Tantric) sexual magic about raping and murdering a young girl (Pointed Observations, p. 357 note 3). Crowley is said to have decided against this extremism (though he boasted of wife torture), and became a heroin addict. Yet he is a hero of new age "spirituality," with an underground influence in Britain perhaps similar to (if less concerted than) that of Grof in America.

A branch of the Ottakars chain (in Britain) refused to stock a work by a local author which opposed Grof, Crowley, LSD, MDMA, cocaine, and related factors. That annotated book was dismissed as being "too academic." Yet the same shop was stocking books like The Element Encyclopaedia of 5000 Spells (see Citizen Initiative publishing statement, pp. 1, 6–7). In certain lamentable respects, the book trade is encouraging a reversion to medieval standards. Magic is only one of the many setbacks visible. The commercially oriented "new spirituality" prefers sensation, fantasy, and workshop hype to relevant research. Magazines in this category exhibit ads for entities and organisations who spread superstition and confusion. Media failure in reporting "new spirituality" has been alarming.

A pervasive trend is that of "workshops," principally deriving from the Esalen Institute in California since the 1960s. The very misleading formats involved have been markedly exploitive, and fixated upon alternative therapy. Extensions have included doubtful commercial varieties of "shamanism." The drug advocates Stanislav Grof and Ralph Metzner were active at Esalen, with the former achieving the star role. The counterculture has produced confusions like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). A satellite workshop centre in Britain is the Findhorn Foundation, whose NGO status has been confused with spiritual transformation.

Copyright © 2020 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved. Page uploaded August 2007, last modified November 2020.