Open Source Spirituality & The Emerging Spiritual Commons

Over at the P2P Foundations blog we are having a conversation about the principles of open source spirituality instigated by Michel Bauwens. In the course of this conversation some things have become clear to me and I hope to show here a draft of what an Open Source Spirituality could be, and how that could lead to something that might be called Spiritual Commons.

According to the Wikipedia, Open source is a development methodology, which offers practical accessibility to a product’s source (goods and knowledge)… The open source model of operation and decision making allows concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities, and differs from the more closed, centralized models of development.” And for spirituality Wikipedia offers us this meaning, Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit, a concept closely tied to religious belief and faith, a transcendent reality, and one or more deities. Spiritual matters are thus those matters regarding humankind’s ultimate nature and purpose, not only as material biological organisms, but as beings with a unique relationship to that which is perceived to be beyond both time and the material world.”

The aim of an Open Source Spirituality (OSS) is the aim of any spirituality, to develop a relationship to what can be called our ultimate nature and purpose, our deepest root, or the ever-present origin (TEPO) as John Heron calls it in his longer critique of what gave rise to the above mentioned conversation. So if we follow the Wikipedia’s open source definition and take the product to mean spirituality then in order to move towards an OSS a “practical accessibility to its source” is required. Which means that we need to first get clear on what exactly is our personal spirituality’s source code. If I were a practicing Buddhist, for instance, my source code would encompass the 4 Noble Truths, awakening from the “sleep of ignorance”, the Noble Eightfold Path, and what is most important, what I personally believe and act according to.

So taking a First Step in OSS entails to figure out and openly state what is the Spiritual Source Code (SSC) that the person participating in this endeavor is using.That in itself might already be a challenge, as different people have different talents, and for some it might be hard to verbalize and/or state their spiritual source code in written form to be shared in the Emerging Spiritual Commons (ESC), but there are other ways: a movie of a dance that expresses it, for instance, or a mind map, or a sculpture, or a hyper-textual mesh-work or whatever might be possible in this regard.

Taking John Heron’s ideas into account I would think the purpose of Open Source Spirituality to be “to support an Emerging Spiritual Commons.” I moreover envision this ESC to be composed of people practicing their basic beliefs – what John Heron calls Code 1: one’s basic beliefs and practices. The principles that guide the emergence of the spiritual commons, it’s Prime Directive can therefor not be about the “content” of some Code 1; it’s Prime Directive must be about the socio-cultural ecology needed to create enough trust amongst participants so that they can be open about both the content of their Code 1 and share how they practice it.

The Prime Directive of the ESC is in all likelihood also an expression of the insight that any real-life practice of spiritual principles (sense-co-creating, meaning-guiding principles) is worth sharing and learning from. Since the Prime Directive helps to co-create the ecology that fosters flourishing relationships between people implementing their Code 1, and since creating an ecology is a process of/in mutuality, most likely the Prime Directive incorporates encouraging people to find out and live according to what is true and authentic for them, and to share this in an atmosphere of deep respect.
I refrain from formulating the Prime Directive so that it is wide enough to take in anybody of ‘good will’, and at the same time I write what it is about to indicate where its boundaries might be.

To ‘open source’ something means to put it into a language that is shared with a larger group of peers who can than contribute to this ‘project’ as they please. So certainly any Open Source Spirituality worth this name needs to co-create a “Meta-Code A” which ensures maximum flexibility and ‘space’ for different Code 1’s. Meta-Code A would be an incarnation of the Prime Directive as guiding principle of research and expression.
And even though there is the Prime Directive it is also clear that, paraphrasing John Heron, “it is neither a prescription, nor even a recommendation, for any other node or person, but a contribution to the commons pool of experiential data, which others may find of interest. Then it is simply up to them whether or not they integrate in any way any part of it or the whole of it, within their own Code 1.”

Within the Emerging Spiritual Commons there would be a “library”, as a participant in the conversation, Simon, suggested; a library that functions as the main “memory” or maybe even as the DNA of Open Source Spirituality over time.

To conclude, I couldn’t agree more with John Heron, when he says, “This allows for varying degrees and kinds of hybridization, cross-fertilization, between different nodes.” He seems to be using the terminology of nodes within a network where I would prefer terms coming from the idea of constellations and ecology – all phenomena come in constellations or patterns within an ecology of influences.

And finally it seems important to realize that even using the terms “Open Source” in connection with “Spirituality” is already a language of concepts influenced by recent developments in ‘net-culture’.

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