Martin Treacy: about me

I was born on the Wirral peninsula, in 1960 ­ just about the same time as the Beatles were starting off on the other side of the river Mersey, in Liverpool. I lived in an old village called Bebington, mentioned in the Domesday book, long since subsumed into the Wirral suburbs, but a very pleasant place to live, with a great library built when I was ten (which I loved exploring), and fields just a few minutes walk
away. A few minutes in the other direction is the model village of Port Sunlight, created by the Victorian philanthropist Lord Leverhulme. My first school was St Johns Junior, and then I was lucky enough at the age of ten to get a scholarship to one of the leading Direct Grant schools in the area, St Anselm's College. This was run by the Christian Brothers, a teaching order similar to the Jesuits. I think I was subliminally quite influenced by the headmaster and many of the teachers being monks; in fact effectively it was part of a small monastery, with the monks stopping to pray whenever the Angelus bell sounded, even if it was in the middle of a lesson.

 
At one point, when I was about twelve, I thought I wanted to become a monk myself (echoes of my later focus on spirituality), though within a few years the excellent academic education the school offered (together with my extensive reading of philosophers such as Bertrand Russell) had pretty much turned me into an atheist. I certainly didn't believe in anything spiritual or psychic, viewing such things as the province of those too weak emotionally to accept the reality of death. 


Death was a key concern at that point in my life. I had had a strong religious faith as a young child ( I used to experience the presence of a Guardian Angel, which as Catholics we were taught we all had ­ I didn't realise it was unusual to actually experience it!). However, once I lost this, I had a kind of existential awakening when I was about fifteen. I can still remember it clearly: I was walking the family dog Timmy over some local fields when between one step and the next I realised I was going to die one day. Of course, everyone knows this intellectually, but this became an emotional reality to me, just at that moment. I felt that without some kind of life after death, everything was meaningless, and life was essentially empty of any lasting significance. This created a deep unhappiness, which was at the core of my being (despite many happy moments on the surface) for the next six years. Without
realising it, I was having a classic existential crisis (I only realised the similarities when I started reading existential writers as part of my psychology degree in my early thirties). 


As almost a conscious substitute for religion, I turned to physics, with its sense of symmetry, unity, and indeed aesthetic beauty (it may be hard for those not at home with mathematics to relate to this, but equations can be give rise to intense aesthetic feelings!). Between the ages of sixteen and twenty­ one, physics was my great passion. Although I wasn't a naturally gifted mathematician, I had a good intuitive grasp of physics, and worked hard at it, which saw me through to quite a decent level of training. Although I was only mediocre at science in my O-Levels at age 16 (by the quite high standards of St Anselms, anyway), I decided to do science A­levels. In my first year in the sixth form, something just happened, and I shot from being mediocre to being the strongest science student in my year. My teachers suggested I apply to Oxford, and I took the Oxford entrance exam at seventeen,
six months before my A-­Levels, in the November of 1977. The interviews were in December, and gruelling they were too! But the happy result that Christmas was the letter offering me a place at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, to read physics. 


My undergraduate years were intense and rich, and I made some good friends (one of whom is still one of my closest friends today). In terms of my spiritual development, probably the most significant factor was the death of my father from Lung Cancer about half way through my degree. This naturally deepened even further the sense of existential emptiness and meaninglessness I felt, despite many
enjoyable and satisfying experiences on the surface. I now feel that this period in my life was an essential preparation for the spiritual path I was to follow later. That it was vital that I experienced the emptiness at the heart of the twentieth century, at the heart of our modern secular culture, which seeks all too often for happiness in terms of external events, things, people rather than at the mystical core of our being (and once you're in touch with that, then outer events, and especially relationships with other people, become profoundly meaningful).


After completing my undergraduate degree, I moved to Wolfson college (one of Oxford's postgraduate colleges) and started research in the Atmospheric Physics department, which went a long way towards satisfying my childhood interest in Space Science! As well as research into the Earth's atmosphere (the Ozone layer and the Stratosphere were both discovered by this department, in the 1920's), we had extensive experience collabarating with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA, in building remote-­sensing satellite instruments for planetary research. While I was at the department, in the early to mid 1980's, we had instruments being designed for the Galileo mission to Jupiter. Other instruments had been sent on a NASA mission to examine the planetary atmosphere of Venus (the Pioneer mission). It was a great thrill for me to go in early on a Sunday morning for Satellite Operations, contacting NASA personnel at the Goddard Space Flight centre to arrange the transfer of satellite data. 


My own research was experimentally based, working on development of a satellite infra­red remote wind sensor designed to examine the Earth's stratosphere. In 1983 I was the winner of the Johnson Memorial Prize, an Oxford University research essay prize.


However, while I gained a great deal from my four years working in the department, in my time there I found myself moving away from physics and towards my present fascination with the study of consciousness. I had a powerful spiritual awakening, a few months after joining the Atmospheric Physics Department, and found myself spending more and more of my time and energy on exploring spiritual disciplines such as Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism etc.. As well as reading just
as much as I could get hold of from Oxford's excellent Inner Bookshop (as well as drawing on the resources of the Bodleian library at the University), I plunged into an extensive exploration of meditation and altered states of consciousness, trying to explore experientially what I was reading about. 


I originally started my spiritual exploration in order to become a better squash player! I was a very keen squash player at the time, frequently playing and practising on the Wolfson college courts. I came across a book called The Inner Game of Tennis, by Tim Gallwey, which describes a kind of Zen approach to sport. I started meditating, and trying to bring the state of consciousness I found in meditation into my squash matches. Not only did I become a significantly better player, but more importantly I found my concern was shifting away from winning or losing, towards what I was learning about myself as a result of the altered states of being I was experiencing. This rapidly became a passion for me, and I realized that I had found what my life's work was to be. Even more importantly, all the existential concerns of my younger self simply dissolved in the light of some of the spiritual
experiences I was having. In one of them, after a period of intensive meditation (about 16 hours per day for ten days) I seemed to lose the sense of being fundamentally separate from the rest of the Universe. I was still aware that I existed, as a body and a mind. But at a much more fundamental level I felt intimately connected with everything, that there was no such thing as 'separation', really. Although the full depth of that state of consciousness faded, I've never really lost the way it left me with a wholly different way of relating to everything around me (especially to living beings, people in particular).  All this happened essentially within my first year of joining the Atmospheric Physics department. Although I continued with my research there (with diminishing enthusiasm), eventually I decided to
leave physics. I decided I would just follow wherever my intuition took me, trusting that if I was true to the deepest part of myself, the Universe would look after me, would teach me what I needed to learn, and would also lead me to wherever I could make the best contribution to the planet. I've pretty much lived that way ever since! It's certainly a very different way of Being than my earlier, very rational
very controlled, very conventional and 'safe' way of life. Also a little scary at first, as of course I had no idea how I was going to make a living, or for that matter what I was going to do (the 'standard' options either becoming a monk or a priest, or becoming an academic lecturer in Eastern Philosophy ­ didn't feel right for me). However, somewhat to the surprise of the more conventional parts of me (which are
still there somewhere!), everything has always turned out fine, in fact MUCH better than I could have personally imagined, though sometimes via most circuitous routes! My college at Oxford, Wolfson, most kindly allowed me to stay on as a member, while I pursued my unusual self­-taught curriculum, 'learning the ways of the Force'. I will always be grateful for the nurturing 'womb' of the staff and my friends at Wolfson, for those last nine years of my time in Oxford, initially as a physicist, for the last five years a free spirit and apprentice yogi; a 'Monk without a Monastery', as my friend Stephan Harding once described me.


Towards the end of this time in Oxford, I had a powerful intuition to do an Open University course. I had no idea why (as I thought I had left the conventional academic life far behind), but I'd learnt by then to follow strong intuitions, even if I didn't understand them logically. After doing my first year foundation course, I realised I could qualify as a psychologist, and had a feeling that maybe that
would be a good route to integrate my studies of eastern philosophy, with the Western culture I was living in. 


And so it's turned out to be: ­ despite very limited study time, I managed to get a First class degree, then a scholarship to the Open University to do research in transpersonal psychology (which is, very roughly, the psychology of spiritual experience). Soon after I arrived at the OU, I was able to help co­-found the Transpersonal Section of the British Psychological Society (the professional body for psychologists in Britain), together with my colleagues and good friends Ingrid Slack and the late Professor David Fontana. The Section has been going for twenty years now, and plays an important role in providing a focus for academic psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and others with an interest in the transpersonal. The annual conference, in particular, is always a powerful experience.

As well as my research in transpersonal psychology, I also help to write and teach psychology courses for the OU ­ I am most associated with contributing towards the Social Psychology course D317 (more recently the new version DD307), but was also one of the authors of a CD­ROM for the Introduction to Psychology course DSE212. I recently completed twenty years teaching for the OU, and currently teach on the social sciences foundation module as well as many of the modules on the psychology degree. 

In 2006 I was awarded my PhD for my research on integrating Eastern and Western approaches to personal growth. Since then, I have completed a  a BSc. degree in Religious Studies, Sociology, and Political Science (First Class honours) and a postgraduate diploma in Religious Studies (with Distinction). It helps if you can take courses free working for the Open University!  Broadening my academic background in Religious Studies is a natural development  of my existing longstanding focus on spiritual transformation. It has helped me develop my understanding of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions (my existing background is more based upon the Far Eastern traditions of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism). 

In 2006 I became a Chartered Psychologist, and several years later a Chartered Scientist; and in 2013 an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. In 2017 I was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

I have had a long interest in complementary therapies, in particular the Bach Flower Remedies, which I have been exploring since the early 1990s. In 2018 I completed my training as a Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner, training at the Bach Centre in Sotwell in Oxfordshire, where Dr Bach lived for the final stages of his life (and where he discovered the last 19 of his 38 remedies; many of the plants relating to the remedies are grown in the garden there). In addition to being available for consultations relating to the Bach remedies (either in person in Cardigan, or via Skype), I also have an interest in exploring the underlying basis of the remedies, and their relationship with contemporary scientific models (something I did touch briefly upon in my PhD thesis). 

I currently live in Cardigan, West Wales (just two miles from the sea, which is very important to me - most of my life I've lived within a mile or two of the sea, except for my time in the centre of England in Oxford and Milton Keynes, where I lived next to a river and on a canalboat respectively! ). You can see many of the photos I've taken of this area in the 'Gallery' section of this website.I love the combination of the bustle of the small market town and the fact that within two minutes from my house I can be in the countryside, walking along the River Teifi listening to curlews at dusk, or walking up alongside a stream falling steeply down the Teifi valley, and within ten minutes walk being high enough to see the Teifi estuary merge into the Irish Sea. 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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© Martin Treacy