As part of his Evolutionary Enlightenment Teachings the spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen in an article “A Collective Emergence” speaks about what others have called “Circle Being” (Otto Scharmer), “Community Building (Scott Peck), “Circle of the Heart” etc.
Andrew Cohen is talking, of course, about what happens within the framework of a certain context — that is, people sitting together in a circle and relating to each other most of all verbally. This is an important distinction to make as the path taken into the process Andrew is speaking about plays, of course, an important role in how the “collective emergence” then will communicate/commune with and between us. As a person who is experienced using the way Andrew and his students are exploring the emergent collective (see: hieros gamos) but most of all experienced using quite a different method (I call it “Dynamic Presencing“) for exploring this emergent I think it important to explore his ideas about this phenomenon.
Andrew sets the stage by stating what consciousness is, “the intersubjective field that we all share.” I come from the point of view that there is a mystery between us that shows up in our individual consciousness, and then, when the process comes to fruition, steeps the individual in a more encompassing and all embracing consciousness. The “between-us” is a mystery, though, and taking it to actually be consciousness is premature and probably mistaken. We’ll come back to that in a while.
Andrew then says, “You should begin to ask yourself: What is it that captivates your attention?” But why should we ask this question; from my and other’s experience, there are many other interesting questions to ask to get the process going. And, by the way, I don’t think there is much respect for the participants and their authentic questions in Andrews should.
He then goes on to tell us what we will discover if we are “authentically engaging with the process”. But why pose a question or start an inquiry if you already know the answer? And again, I don’t think it is showing much respect to the emergent between-us or the people participating in the inquiry when we’re told what we’ll find if we authentically engage; there is a value judgment implicit in this statement, it says that any other outcome isn’t authentic. If we go for authenticity of all participants than it cannot be up to one person to judge who is, and who is not authentic in the process, rather it requires a much more open view and way of questioning.
He is right, surely and beautifully so, when he says, that ‘here’ we are oriented radically different in our relating to others, as we are primarily relating within the intersubjective consciousness itself. But then he again tells us what will happen to the concepts we may be exploring (the ones he said we should be exploring to begin with), that is, these concepts become secondary. But what if it is our concept to explore what actually is between us? What if we are relating to each other what is our individual take on the emergent “being”, Â the “circle being” as some explorers call it?
He says, “The concepts are just what you use to manipulate the field.” But this concept, Â the concept of manipulation, is flawed already. To sit together in a round of people “to engage directly with the development of consciousness” as the “intersubjective field” is already a manipulation if we take Andrew by his word, because this too is a concept.
I’m not using Andrews’s concepts when I configure a constellation for inquiring into the mystery between-us through Dynamic Presencing. I have another concept, the concept of non-verbal kinestheticÂ inquiryÂ that mostly I use. Or I have the concept that ‘in the end’ we’ll be arriving at experiencing the “Circle Being” first hand.
The point I’m getting at: There is no way to not manipulate the field, as the very way we constellate ourselves (for instance by sitting in a circle and talking / being silent) is already manipulating, or if you don’t think the term is applicable, how we constellate the field is already based on certain concepts, or at the very least incorporating a particular set of concepts (and not others).
I very much like when then he says, “You find that you are one step ahead of even what you understand, and you discover that you are spontaneously acting and responding from a much more intuitive dimension of yourself.”
Yes, in all the ways that I have explored the mystery between-us so far, and I do that in many different ways nowadays (Dynamic Presencing, Circles of the Heart, heart-to-heart-dialogues, but also very much in ordinary life when meeting with any person, more and more there is this element even if not made explicit; matter of fact: it is great to inquire into the between-us without making that an explicit point of the meeting), Â there is this element of coming from a deeper dimension of ‘myself’, or, using the language of voice-dialogue: A more loving-enlightened personality is called upon and relating.
I’m critical about his use of the ego-concept which I’ll talk about later, but I really object to his idea that by this process “our attention gradually moves from being focused only on the individual to becoming attuned to the collective, until finally it is drawn directly to the field of consciousness itself.”
I object because he does not distinguish between “the field of consciousness” and “attuned to the collective”. It shows that he believes that the ‘between-us’, which basically is the mystery we are exploring, is “a field of consciousness” whereas I’m sure that consciousness is blissfully included but the between-us is much more encompassing than consciousness. It is certainly not a field of … (whatever you want to put on the dots).
For us, of course, it turns up, Â it appears, manifests in consciousness very much, blissfully so as everyone who has been there will most likely say, but it’s a world of difference to then take the field to be consciousness into which then “our attention” is “finally drawn”. There is no finality whatsoever in this process as far as I can see, and even if it were, being very much at the beginning of this exploration it is way too early to state such finalities. I can understand, though, that Andrew would make such a statement as this concept of “the field of consciousness” fits with the ‘evolutionary enlightenment’ that is his main business.
Andrew, in his appraisal of the phenomena he encounters in the process as he is practicing it, turns ethical and moral, saying, “This [honor and uphold the higher level] is the moral imperative inherent in the evolutionary process at the leading edge. If the individual feels obligated to sustain his or her highest attainment, which has occurred in an intersubjective context, then individual transformation becomes the only moral response to the collective emergence.”
He obviously likes to be “leading edge” which probably fits well with his personality-type. He also likes “evolutionary process”, particularly because he obviously thinks he already knows where it’s going. I am not so certain; I’m still taking the questions serious, not wanting to rush into answers that don’t come out of the process itself, also reflecting on what instruments and procedures we use in the process and how these determine the between-us that then emerges.
In a process in which the between-us moves to the foreground of our awareness in such a way that it becomes almost tangible to all who are present and participating, what we experience is of high value to the individual, and most likely it will be honored and upheld, if a supporting structure in the person and their surrounding has been somewhat established. What happens more often though, alas, is that it takes many dives into these spiritual or mystical realms before a person finds suitable structures to to sustain the value gained, and turn it into a way of life.
But how do you “sustain his or her own highest attainment, which has occurred in an intersubjective context?”, which is Andrews’s moral imperative, if, as he says himself, “In an ideal world, each individual would spontaneously feel…”
He apparently himself knows that we do not live in an ideal world, so his imperative is not a reality here in this imperfect world we live in.
So when Andrew goes on to tell us why this process will demand that everyone partaking in it transforms, and that this “moral obligation is not imposed from without; it is spontaneously generated within each individual by the intersubjectively revealed higher potential itself,” he is stating the obvious.
Whoever has dipped into the ocean of spiritual delight by whatever means, be it through the ministries of what emerges between-us under certain circumstances or be it through some meditation, catharsis or meta-noia, will feel obliged to transform towards being more in alignment with what has disclosed itself. And this is always generated within each individual, always, because that is also the one that then transforms the individual.
This could only be a surprise to a guru like Andrew who still believes that the Master or the Enlightened somehow effect people’s transformations from ‘outside’ (that actually there is no inside and outside or subject and object is another matter I have discussed elsewhere). So here goes Andrew, “Could there be a greater challenge for the ego? And yet it’s not coming from an external authority.” And we all can know that Andrew sees himself as great, and at times even physically violent, challenger of the ego (whatever that means beyond being the repository of everything one doesn’t like, or what stops one from being/becoming enlightened; the ego being the most abused term in present day spirituality — nobody likes it, everyone believes it must be gotten rid of; it is the arch-enemy of the spiritual; but is it?).
A realistic process of inquiry into the mystery between-us is not centered around concepts that Andrew holds most dearly: “Evolutionary Enlightenment”, “the true teacher” or “Authentic Self” — nevertheless, of course, it is perfectly legitimate to inquire into the between-us like that, surely what emerges there can provide participating individuals with deep insights into what these questions mean for them and the living field. But it is not really opening up to the possibilities of, nor does it show much respect for, the between-us if one already acts as if one knows what the answers to these concepts or questions will be, and from everything he writes here, it is clear that Andrew thinks he does.
If there is one thing the between-us is not, it is the guru-principle. Learning occurs, even very deep and transforming learning. I know for it is this very living field that has been decisive in my migration from being some kind of guru / spiritual teacher myself to being a companion and a friend for some, moving away from vertical spiritual concepts to relational ones; this is what opening up to the mystery between-us has done in my life.