THE seemingly uneasy relationship between psychology and spiritualism, the sound sleep of young children, and the transformation of human relationships due to enhanced technology are just a few of the topics set for this year's Capilano University lecture series.
The brainchild of Capilano psychology professor Leonard George, the robust exchange of ideas began in North Vancouver three years ago.
"This is a volunteer effort of people displaying their expertise and interests," said Robert Campbell, dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences at Capilano. "People aren't getting paid to do this. We provide a little organizational money and some expense money, but that's about it."
Campbell is scheduled to kick-off the speaker series by introducing George's lecture on Jan. 15 at the Lynn Valley Main Library in North Vancouver.
The lecture is the fruit of George's apprenticeship at an enclave of upstate New York spiritualists whose practices are the wellspring for an entire religion, according to George.
A single question propelled the professor across the continent, according to George. "When a medium says that he or she is in contact with the soul of the dearly departed, what is that medium actually experiencing?" he said.
The lecture, entitled The Medium's Apprentice: A Psychologist Explores Spiritualism From the Inside, deals with the tension between personal and empirical evidence.
"Proof to a spiritualist is not the same thing as proof to a scientist," Leonard said.
While not completely swayed, Leonard said he was touched by both the kindness and sincerity of the spiritualists he encountered.
"They have nothing to do with trickery," he said. "I'm not a spiritualist, I didn't convert, but that doesn't mean that I can't see value in what they're doing."
While the practice of speaking to a soul on another plane of existence is not something Leonard endorses, he said he couldn't wholly dismiss it because of the effect on many practitioners of spiritualism.
"They believe that they have proof of the continuity of life after the grave," he noted. "It seems to make them much nicer people."
Leonard is also slotted to serve as presenter when communications instructor Ted Hamilton looks at technology and humanity through the filter of art.
Using Pieter Bruegel the elder's painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus as a jumping-off point, Hamilton is set to reveal intriguing parables from the fates of mythical creatures.
For Hamilton, Icarus is the embodiment of the inappropriate use of technology.
Using the waxen wings crafted by his father, Daedalus, Icarus flew too close to the sun and plummeted to earth as his wings melted in the heat. While the bold strokes of the story are provocative, Hamilton is intrigued by the characters who might go unnoticed on first glance.
"To tell you the truth, I'm less interested in Icarus than I am in his dad," Hamilton said.
Fearing his nephew might surpass him as the greatest inventor of the age, one myth holds that Daedalus killed his nephew, luring him to the edge of the cliff and then forcing him to choose between his life and preserving a great invention.
The notion of the next great invention and the preservation of life being perceived as a dilemma is fascinating for Hamilton.
Hamilton's 30-minute lecture is scheduled for May 14 at the North Vancouver City Library on 14th Street.
Other speakers are scheduled to focus on environmental stewardship and the question of whether creativity can be taught.
For Campbell, the lectures are a way to bring the university to the North Shore.
"Usually the majority of the people in the audience are not from Capilano University. We certainly invite our own staff and faculty and students to come . . . but we get a broad range of people from the community," he said.