Collective Intelligence & Cyberspace

One of the people that introduced me to the concept of Collective Intelligence was Pierre Levy with his wonderful book Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. That book gave me a deep insight into the historical dimensions of cyberspace, how we came here, if you like. It’s deep and clear thinking has helped me much in developing my own understanding of how we are embedded in a larger wave of development and what is possible. But since the book was published 1997 a lot has happened, so I was happy that my friend Jascha Rohr tweeted about this much more recent presentation of his ideas as a “slide-share”.

What I like about it – and it will take much more time to digest – is that it indicates a new language that could link the software processes of cyberspace and the human collective intelligence. The slide show is quite helpful for placing recent developments in a larger perspective, to look at how collective consciousness might come about, and to in the end learn something about the language that might bridge machine-language and normal human tongues: the Information Economy Metalanguage (IEML); a part that’s truly challenging at this moment for me to understand. Some of my readers will understand this much better than I do, but hey, that’s what Collective Intelligence is all about – I do not need to understand everything 🙂

Body, Soul and Spirit 1: Modes of being alive

This is the very first installment of what I hope will become a Body, Soul and Spirit series of posts that will meander around most of the topics that keep fascinating me since a while.

Starting with a meeting with a great and lovely man in Basel, Switzerland who remembers a long line of incarnations in a, for me, absolutely credible way and context, I’ve started to reconsider most – and in the end probably all – of my convictions connected with body, soul, spirit, consciousness, life and what, who and why we are. (In my hippie-days Death used to be a more or less constant companion, and now s/he is in a new way, faced with the endingness of individual life a couple of times recently. This surely also plays a role: a renewed fascination with each night’s fading of awareness and the life of dreams, and the reappearance of more or less the same person in consciousness upon waking up…)

I will not be very philosophical, in the usual sense of that word, about this, even though I’m in love (philo) with wisdom (Sophia). This inquiry is also very personal, anecdotal and hopefully at times poetical. I might also rave and be full of pathos for something or other… we’ll see. What’ll be my guide, or should I say guides?, are my fascinations with what appears in the theater of what it is to be ‘me’. I could, of course, also call it the arena or the clearing – that space in which matters, things, imaginations, illusions and the real alight; what we ordinarily call consciousness, that mode of being alife that ever eludes our grip of understanding; trying to understand consciousness is as if the eye were trying to see itself, when the best it can do is see itself reflected in a mirror.

Modes of being alive

Being conscious, aware; being taken; in a pensive mood, reflecting on important and not so important, but urgent matters; reverie; witnessing, choiceless awareness; in the flow, totally immersed in sensual immediacy… many of the possible modes of being alive, and some of them mutually exclusive. When, for instance, I’m in a reflective mode – and mood, as often I am these days – I can’t really witness being reflective more than generally, can’t reflect and be choicelessly aware and without judgement at the same time. Isn’t reflecting closely considering a matter, the way the soul participates in life for instance, and looking what this means, what are the concepts being nourished on soul and what are relevant experiences, and what have interesting persons said about this matter? Witnessing this reflection I wouldn’t follow one thread or another but rather I’d let them all unfold as they please as, also, sensations of breath come up and unfold and whatever else unfolds or pops up in consciousness. Witnessing is mostly passive, and only active in extracting oneself from being caught up in any of the phenomena that are witnessed.

adi_da_samraj2Certainly, when in a deeply enlightened mode of awareness, everything can be done or not done – but then there is no witness, no anyone, and, really it is so beyond anything that means something to me as human that I’m not really interested in ‘getting there’ again. Also, those that are supposed to be there – claiming it for themselves or others claiming it on their behalf, the followers or disciples – do not have any characteristics that seems truly valuable; on the contrary, there seems to be an atmosphere of megalomania around them, an air of absolute altitude, an assumed divinity that unpacks as utterly undesirable social context. The unresolved power-issues around that mode of aliveness in our day and age – enlightened teachers abusing their students – are such that however true and beautiful that mode is from the inside of it, it is best left alone.

On the other side of the spectrum, or so it seems, is flow, a mode of being alive that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made popular; flow as total immersion into what you’re doing. In sports it’s been called ‘being in the zone’. Witnessing could be said to be transcendent to everything that appears and flow as being totally immanent – you’re totally in it. You can witness the flow of events but then you’re not in the flow because being in the flow collapses any kind of witnessing as activity that plays a role, even though there is a particular kind of awareness available. But it’s more that the awareness of it is part of the flow as a whole than that the flow would happen within consciousness. For me this happens in dancing with closed eyes, easily, or in something called body-flow, where the body can just do what it feels like doing… It’s mostly a very sensual experience, being in a physical sensing mode.

Seems I had to do some explaining to come to the main dish I’m serving here which is that these modes of being alive are in a very large sense mutually exclusive. We are polymorphs, being with many (poly) forms (morphe) and – something I might pursuit at a later time – maybe there is really no unity below all this; although there is the idea that “Isness” – a German term coming from Meister Eckhart, “Istigkeit” – would describe that essential unity, something Mister Tolle calls The Power of Now. Nevertheless we cannot both be in the flow and witnessing at the same time. We could do that in a team, with a third friend then reflecting on what we’re doing, you in the flow, me being choicelessly aware of all this. Which brings me to another very mysterious mode of being that I’ve been blessed to participate in at times: the mode of we-fullness, as I keep calling it, the mode of being with others in such a way that you are deeply convinced and experience yourself to partake of a collective being, the ‘circle-being’ , the first inkling of a collective consciousness, I think, the becoming aware as a living multi-personal field.

foodBack to the main dish. As we do not eat hors d’oevre, main dish and dessert all at once, as that would maybe not taste so great, or at least very different from tasting them separately, so this goes for the modes of being alive. The “One Taste” (Ken Wilber’s diary-like book on being in non-dual mode most of the time) is really a “special taste”, a “particular taste” that some people like and evangelize about; but it is neither superior to other tastes, unless you like it, of course, nor is it the basic essence of all other dishes. The commonality is that it’s all food, but that doesn’t make it one, dish.

Honoring all meals and dishes we are served by life and psyche, by being and soul, by the gods and whoever else cooks them (including all the cooks inside of us) means neither reducing them to the recipes nor to their essential ingredients but eating them with mouth, nose and everything else, actually tasting the meals and the company we eat them in.

Emperors_New_Clothes

We’re polymorphs, able to take on many forms – or maybe it’s forms that take us on; it’s voices that speak us, maybe the voice of the enlightened spirit, the pensive wizard, the flowing joy, the heroic responsible person, the mystic poet and so endless on. There is no need, whatsoever, to become monotheistic about diversity, to call on our unity, to invoke our oneness, to go for the One that keeps it all together. That, as it reveals itself to me more and more obviously, is the naked emperor whose new clothes of the unity of his realm really do not amount to anything but the ego’s (or hero’s) vanity. Yes, in a certain mode of being alive I have experienced an all-pervading oneness, an ecstatic experience par excellence. But it is only in reflection that I can turn this into the essential or absolute or superior or ‘real’ (maybe even with capital letters); a reflection I’ve followed for most of my life. But not so anymore as I’ve come to honor the multitude of meals and cooks, all feeding the soul.

And this post, quite obviously, has been created in a reflective mode of being.

Ecstasy at the Gates of Ecological Hell

CHINA ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION RECYCLINGEvery evening, when time for reflection and contemplation comes, desperation sets in. And it’s getting worse every day, ever since I’m in the loop of ecology and world change activists’ free-style mail groups. I think it started for real after reading some of the posts on “preparing for civilization’s collapse” – that friend Dave Pollard links to at times. – Anyway, I’m desperate, getting more desperate by the day.

So here they are, all my world change friends. Brilliant, active, moved by concern for planet, society, living creatures in suffering everywhere – some of them singing their final farewell songs as they go extinct. We all know this, anybody that can afford to stay connected through media – which is everybody that is creating her/his part of the challenge we face… We all know in our marrow, and it’s saddening our soul in its depths, we’re on a path of death and destruction. We’re well on our way to oblivion, and to waste go all the wonderful flowers of civilization everywhere on this planet. We all know this song, and many of us care – more and more people feeling concerned, and some act, and some cry, and some prepare for civilization’s collapse.

I’m in the loop, as I said, I’m getting around 10 emails per day that diagnose the disaster and offer ways to deal with it; some are bleak, others urgent calls, again others more positive. But all of us could read all day and all night about this and never come to the end of the sounds of alarm and requiems of loss and a few signals of hope. We could work all day and all of the night and never even come close to answering the tiniest fractions of the calls…

CHINA-ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-TRANSPORT-AUTOThere are a thousand great plans that promise to help. There are a million fantastic, creative voices. Leaders, activists, spiritual and post-metaphysical women and men all over the planet. We’re all shouting and pointing in a thousand different directions. “Let’s go!” we say, “We need to be on our way! It’s urgent.” And we’re right, aren’t we?! So, “Let’s unite!” — And hundreds of banners are raised in the field and shouts go out to “Rally here! Unite! We’re in this together!”
But what is this?
Authentic chaos has broken loose, and all the well meaning attempts to take the lead only create more confusion and chaos.

I know, I need to face this – too long have I avoided seeing the obvious. Too long have I thought that if we would all just use this tool or that, align ourselves along these lines or those, all would be well. And now I see, even though we do – we do our very, very best – it’s still authentic chaos, confusion and running around, getting more desperate all the time. Despair constricts my throat. Tears well up. There’s nothing I can do anymore. There’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing, really we can do at all to end this descent into a chaotic hell, where everybody really does their best and nothing gets done…

paul_damato_03And I see – we’re being broken. Those of us, allowing ourselves to see this – we break, and mourn… in our heart a requiem wells up for all our individual possibilities, our creativity, our brilliance, what each and everyone of us could think of and do. I accept.

This is what always happens when the second phase ends and the third phase unfolds in a process I know so very well – it has several names, depending whom you ask, but in the fifth phase of it “collective consciousness” is born, the circle-being, the “critter in the middle”.

And now I’m filled with elation, all of a sudden I’m in ecstasy: All our individual plotting and planning must run its course until it comes to an end, our own brilliance and knowing what’s best – even if we’re absolutely sure it is so. Everything we can think of and do as separate individuals must be shown and experienced to be insufficient to the challenge, and then from our collective unconsciousness it can emerge, collective consciousness!

And I’m elated today as I was ecstatic last night: It all falls into place, our ecological and social crisis, the impossibility to get the willing on one page or even in one book, our evolution as a species… It’s clear what some of us need to do to help us all transform to the next phase of human life and civilization on Earth.

___________

The process I allude to could be called “awakening in collective consciousness”. It has played an important role in my development from being a traditional (be it non-conventional) guru or ‘spiritual teacher’. I’ve written about it some years ago when I experimented with it to arrive at “authentic community“. Then and there, when we had passed through the fourth phase somebody put it very succinctly, “It appears as if we are one body with many heads and arms and legs.” Collective consciousness had taken us in. Not swallowed us but rather everyone of us had become a living, vibrant member of something tangible that embraced and transcended us – something experienced by everyone in the room.

From what I’ve learnt since it is unmistakable when it’s there – when you’re still asking yourself, “Is this it?” you can be sure it’s not. You do not need any special training to discern it, it’s “in your face”, and you sense, feel and know it immediately, no matter what you believe, how much meditation or philosophy you’ve done or haven’t done – and it doesn’t matter if you’re spiritual inclined or not, either.
You might think about it differently, you might draw different conclusions from experiencing and being embedded in this collective awareness, but the very ‘fact’ of it is as unmistakable as waking up in the morning and knowing that you are…

Collective-Consciousness-Sadness-GaiaAs many others I’m convinced that we’re going through a momentous evolutionary period and the ecological hell we’re collectively creating on this planet is that face of reality that has become impossible to ignore. Yet a deeper aspect of reality seems to be that in and through humanity an evolution towards collective consciousness is possible. There are many good reasons to think so, here I only want to mention the evolutionary pressure the ecological predicament exposes us to.

Our planet’s ecology is an amazingly complex affair and it involves many strands of influences that dynamically interact. Not only the web of life is extremely complex, also the web of human politics is so, and if we take some other webs interacting with this, the very idea that any number of brilliant individuals might rise to the challenge is hilarious. The web of life is out of control, and our human influence is pushing it towards an ecological hell. And again, there is no way to get that under control. But, and here is my personal hope after last night’s elation, evolution is already formulating an answer – self-organizing some of us into testing grounds for the emergence of a collective intelligence, which might be complex enough to rise to the challenge we face.

I’ll end this post with indicating what I’ve learnt in the Circles I facilitated. The process that clearly is conducive to the emergence of collective consciousness can be shown to have seven phases:

  1. Recognition that the “old ways” don’t work
    In the first phase people are usually kind and polite to each other. This phase comes to an end once it is generally understood that artificial kindness and civilized responses don’t work, and that a deeper authenticity is a minimum requirement on the way forward.
  2. Chaos
    People authentically struggle to come to good results; discerning & acknowledging what is “really going on”, trying to work things out. Alliances are wrought, leaders work with persuasion, ‘acting as if’ counterfeit ‘collective awareness’ is tried and fails, everything in the book and more is used to try to mend, fix or heal the situation. Yet, collective consciousness is not achieved. This phase usually lasts longest of all phases but is finally overcome as more and more people give up trying to realize it their way or by following others and confess their failure in getting ‘things under control’ or ‘making collective consciousness’ happen.
  3. Mourning, brokenness
    In this phase a sense of utter failure often appears; we can’t do anything to make it happen. Sometimes people cry. Often people move back to the second phase trying to mend and heal the ones who accept their brokenness and inability to ‘do it’. A sense of gloom can become quite strong. Yet, when enough people are letting go of their ideas, interpretations, theories, opinions of what needs to happen and allow themselves to be with “I don’t know”, with their helplessness, the next phase gels.
  4. Silence, turning point
    Slowly the mourning over failure, the feeling of defeat is replaced with a sense of peace, the peace that comes with accepting ‘things as they are’. As more and more people start to listen to simply being together in peace, to this ‘silent center’ we all share… something emerges that after a while is clearly perceived, sensed, felt, known by everybody as it gets deeper and stronger. And then it is utterly and unmistakingly clear…
  5. Collective Consciousness is discovered
    Elation even ecstasy is felt, “We are one body and mind with many heads.” A sense of celebration pervades the room. We finally know what it is! Conversations are of an amazing deep and authentic kindness, everything that formerly was a matter of morals or learnt behavior becomes fluid and natural.
  6. Living Field Zone – What do WE want?
    If the collective has enough time and space to go on beyond the celebration of our embodied consciousness and unity it can look into its collective desire and what WE want. Very complex matters are seen as beautiful challenges and people very easily find their role and resources to act upon the collective desire.
  7. Realization
    In this phase the immediate sense of collective consciousness moves to the background as what one has decided to engage in as member of that collective moves to the foreground.

These link to what I’ve written about the general topic of the Living Field, Community and Collective Consciousness – I would hope that you would put your links around this topic in your comments. Thank you.