A wonderful way to start the new year – providing a very inspiring and interesting text by Henry Corbin (below a quote, further below a longer text). It has been dawning on me that regarding imagination as a reality opens up a whole new perspective to look at the Living Field, Soul and Spirit…
If you don’t want to read the whole treatise in the window below (in another translation from French also to be found here), the following excerpted paragraphs sum up some of the essential thoughts in it (my highlights):
…alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the “imaginary.”
I have proposed the Latin term mundus imaginalis for it, because we are obliged to avoid any confusion between what is here the object of imaginative or imaginal perception and what we ordinarily call the imaginary. This is so because the current attitude is to oppose the real to the imaginary as though to the unreal, the utopian, as it is to confused symbol with allegory, to confuse the exegesis of the spiritual sense with an allegorical interpretation.
…the appearance of an Image having the quality of a symbol is a primary phenomenon (UrphÃ¤nomen), unconditional and irreducible, the appearance of something that cannot manifest itself otherwise to the world where we are.
If we do not have available a cosmology whose schema can include, as does the one that belongs to our traditional philosophers, the plurality of universes in ascensional order, our Imagination will remain unbalanced, its recurrent conjunctions with the will to power will be an endless source of horrors. We will be continually searching for a new discipline of the Imagination, and we will have great difficulty in finding it as long as we persist in seeing in it only a certain way of keeping our distance with regard to what we call the real, and in order to exert an influence on that real.
For instead of the image being elevated to the level of a world that would be proper to it, instead of it appearing invested with a symbolic function,leading to an internal sense, there is above all a reduction of the image to the level of sensory perception pure and simple, and thus a definitive degradation of the image. Should it not be said, therefore, that the more successful this reduction is, the more the sense of the imaginal is lost, and the more we are condemned to producing only the imaginary?
…is it not precisely this postulate of the objectivity of the imaginal world that is suggested to us, or imposed on us, by certain forms or certain symbolic emblems (hermetic, kabbalistic; or mandalas) that have the quality of effecting a magic display of mental images, such that they assume an objective reality?
I’m working at my next blog entry and it will, among other things, take Corbin’s perspective a bit further…
Imagine sitting in a circle with 20 people or so. Imagine going through a deep process that lets you pass from artificial community, where everybody is nice and friendly but not very authentic, to the authentic struggle for leadership and what’s next. The first step from polite to being more true, governed by the powerful drive for real healing and community, where alliances form to get everybody to do ‘the right thing’ – in short the charismatic, idealistic and beautiful chaos between well-meaning spiritual beings. But we’re not getting it together as we all have a good cause not easily given up, knowing the right way for ourselves and others. And more groupings happen and negotiations start, and haggling and trying to get everybody on one page; only it never works out and there is no way back to friendly superficiality.
Maybe somebody starts to cry and express sadness at our fragmentation. And the fixers and healers and dealers get new fuel. Maybe someone gets angry at all the haggling and conflict about what’s the right thing to do and all the efforts at healing and bridging gaps. Maybe someone even says they hate it when people comfort each other, and say that it’s alright when its not. And maybe a wave of protest rises against the voice saying, “Look at how we can’t even get it together, how should the world?”
As we go round and round in circles trying to heal, fix, organize, manage, try to get everyone to change, or to accept the way things are, or be this way or that, or at least do something… its all to no avail. The chaos persists; but since it’s part of a process and not ‘in the wild of the world’ its a civilized sort of chaos in which this fundamentally discordant incoherence persists. And therefor its’s easier to to see that this is so.
As more and more persons come to this realization and see that not one of us, not even in a coalition of the best and brightest, can make us cohere into true community, and as this understanding sinks in slowly the voices die down and a depressed silence sets in.
As the silence thickens and deepens it, after a while, looses some of its sense of failure and depression. A feeling of “just so” might spread, spiced with seeing the beauty of people just sitting in a circle. Doing nothing, saying nothing and not knowing what’s next, or where to go from here.
And now imagine a first voice speaking up in celebration of this, of us here, just the way we are, without a clue and a solution, but here. And after a deep appreciative silence in which you can almost feel everyone tasting the truth of what has just been said a second voice might say, “In a strange way I feel you are all part of a greater ‘us’.” Another pause where everyone just cherishes these words. And now, “I feel that we’re one body with 21 heads and 42 arms and legs…” We now can all feel something bigger gel. The the coherence takes, deep community is manifest and the Circle Being wakes up in the living field of all of us who are present…
I’ve facilitated many such “Circles of the Heart” – a happening that has many names: U-process, community building, gestalt-energy process, Edge of Emergence, collective wisdom, whatever. I know this process has been experienced by tens if not hundreds or even thousands of thousands people on this planet. It is real. It is risky cause it is out of anybody’s control. And the Hieros Gamos – the Divine Marriage – can be more or less intense, depending on the circumstances, the context and the nature of the facilitation, but it is definite evidence for an Intelligence that manifests between us.
Now imagine someone telling you that you are not really a fixed person, there is not just one but there are many voices that manifest in this one person that we all call “me”. Imagine that it is much more than just a metaphor and that you’re really a different person under the shower, than with your lover in the warm and intimate night, or with your boss in her office, or with the police officer giving you a speeding ticket, or with your children when your playing hide and seek and so endless on.
Imagine that what we call ego, what everyone of us calls “I, myself” is just that one voice that claims much of the goodies of the others and disclaims most of the nasties. And now imagine that with what you ordinarily take to be yourself you go through a process where you get to be many of these other voices in ‘you’ quite intensely for a while. So imagine you are the inner child for a while, and then maybe the controller, and after that the critic and the protector and the healer-fixer and the seeker and the ‘awed one’ and the ‘shiny one’ and the divine and so on. And every time you embody a voice you notice, really, that the voice enlivens you in a particular way. Again and again.
Imagine you’ve gone through this process a couple of times. You’ve gotten to know some voices very well, your favorites. And some who are not your favorites but nevertheless they often sound through you, you are them and they are you. And through this process you come to know them much better. You also find some hidden voices, and then some more. And after a while, maybe you ask yourself, “Who of all these voices is the real me?”
It may not be easy to accept, but imagine you now know for a fact that the different voices all have a different answer to that. And now as this is sinking in you look at the question – Who am I? – and find that what you’ve always called your “self” is just one of the voices that sounds through you. And now imagine, as you’re studying the different ones that you are, or maybe more correct, that are you, you find that what the quantum physicists say about the measurement problem – that the observer is always influencing the outcome of any measurement s/he makes – is also true for awareness. When you study a voice in action it changes; you know it does because you remember that when you’re not aware of “the voice that’s speaking now” (maybe the ‘curious reader’ or the ‘thoughtful seeker’ or ‘critical thinker’ or whatever) it simply follows its own internal pilot but once you’re aware, something essential changes.
I believe “awareness” or “consciousness” is one of the voices – or call them archetypes – that can be you and me, and to a certain extend us. So when this influences the “being in the world” of any voice it is changed irrevocably. Awareness can be very dominant, much like love or hate or passion – and just like these it is out of control. You cannot decide to be conscious, or more conscious, unless you’re conscious already. And so it seems to be with most, if not all of our voices or sub-personalities, or demons, or archetypes, or whatever you want to call this. So when you are investigating these voices, it’s the investigator that is looking at these ‘others’. And when you enter a process like this (I used to do guided tours through our voices with the title, “Enlightenment guaranteed”, and for some minutes at least it worked out every time) you first act ‘as if’ you’re the inner child, for instance. But then, after a while and with the help of the others, you truly become it… And there you are, investigator, child, guardian, dominator, manipulator, hero, honorable one, teacher, student, critic, madman, wanderer, simply being here, healer, meditator, enlightened mind, cosmic heart, transcendent navigator.
And now imagine that you start to consider the possibility that as the persons in the Circle of the Heart went through a cycle with some definable stages – artificial community, chaos, depression/sadness, silence, coherence and celebrating the polymorphic togetherness of Circle Being – that all your ‘inner voices’ go through a similar process in life. Imagine that you’re lucky and things work out; imagine that you’re blessed and grace showers on you; imagine the Moirae spin that destiny for you; imagine that you’ve chosen that fate and the We that is Me coheres in your inner ecology, time and again…
It seems that some things are conducive to such happenings. Many of the voices that are me are convinced that as a human species we need more and more of this if we are to thrive instead of fading away in fragments in a more or less catastrophic way. So imagine with me, if you like, how more and more our inner voices find both, authentic expression – able to offer a genuine contribution to all of you – and the grace to fall silent genuinely, sadly maybe or depressed, because all is done and to no avail. And how out of that silence emerges ….
I’ve been having fierce debates with neo-liberal conservatives recently, people that keep up the faith that the climate catastrophe is just ‘leftist propaganda’, that the recent and still going financial-turned-economic disaster is caused by big government, or by Marxists or similar. At the same time a report was published by the United Nations Environment Programme that climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges (here), which hardly anybody believes they will – unless We The People force them to; and are you willing to bet, say 25% of your year’s salary that We The People will force them? Ah, right, you probably won’t.
In the mean time some wonderfully willing and amazingly well-connected people embark on a journey to change all that; I think it’s a couple of Million world-wide. Good people. Wonderful people. We would all love to hug them. And then we go into the next super-market and buy…. ah well, we didn’t make much money last months so we cannot afford any fancy stuff, we need to buy the cheaper things; not produced sustainably or ecologically.
We would love to do the good thing, but what choice do we have given our income?
On another note, but connected – bear with me -, Â just a week ago I met an amazing person, a man who remembers being in the crowd around Jesus… got crucified himself. And the way he talks about this in conversations is so very low key, and at the same time with such certainty, that it has made me reconsider some of my base assumptions which doubt reincarnation to contemplating what it would mean if the soul is indeed eternal, coming back again and again to the planet – for whatever may be the reason for this; if indeed it has a reason.
My new friend is not an airy, fairy New Age person – he made his first million by the age of 24 – and he’s also not the slick marketer of any esoteric stuff either. He’s smart, has a very good working intuition, is also quite down to Earth and with an intelligent heart. Can’t just dismiss his stuff off hand. And he reminded me of some very interesting material I unearthed years ago where reincarnation would be the simplest, most plausible explanation (some BBC stuff published years before the archaeological proof of the memory someone had from a previous life; the content of that memory not being recorded anywhere before).
Maybe all this stuff strikes an emotional chord… Almost a year ago one simple question changed my whole relational life – and started me on a deep emotional experiment. In January this year my father died. Recently the other grandfather of my son died. Last weekend a former student from the time I used to be an enlightened teacher, died of cancer – a woman the age of my girlfriend; one of the students I loved for her rebelliousness, for really wanting to know.
What is going on in the world at large and in my own life’s context seems to be about life and death, and on the grand scale it concerns the whole of humankind – and from how I respond emotionally to the active ignorance of much of the elites I take it that I’ve started to take the inactivity and the downright denial – except maybe in some lip-service of no real consequence to ‘doing something about it’ – personal.
If I still were an enlightened teacher I could easily transcend all of this; “I am not the body, I am not my thoughts and concepts and beliefs; not this, not that; net-neti.” I would simply stay with “Now”. And in a way this still holds true. There is a private way out. It’s effective. Just ask, “Is this true? Can I really know it is true?”, and since an honest answer will always transport you to the transparent Here and Now, the Still Point at the Center of Everything, and since remaining there for a while will let you taste non-dual presence, this private way out still works. I can take it. And so can you. But for whatever reason this isn’t really satisfactory to me anymore – meaning, “I don’t wanna go there, really.” Maybe this whole enlightenment thing is a much too private paradise – utterly real when there, and always good for a shot of transcendent joys. But then, really, I think the dice have fallen and the choice is… “I’m here to incarnate – become and truly be flesh, be fallibly human, be pretty much like many others; probably like you in most respects.”
That is how I keep on arriving time and again on the scene of desperate humanity, of molested humanity, of experiencing-lots-of-atrocities humanity; a bit of an activist, maybe. My contribution are concepts and practices around “collaboration ecology”, teachable experiences around “embodied collective consciousness”, and practical and implementable insights into the “living field“. And over the last couple of years through the Web and its social communities I’ve been embedded in networks and ‘meshworks’ (which I’m very much co-creating at this moment in time with Gaiaspace; that’s a disclosure, I think). And increasingly the most divine question that a friend of mine heard from Gods mouth on Mount Shasta seems to be, “So what?”
Humanity at the beginning of the 21st Century is coming to know and understand it’s suffering. Some of this state of affairs has been predicted by many, me included: The financial collapse (caused by, basically, unbridled egotism and greed), the climatological disaster (only we thought it wouldn’t come so fast), societal break-down (the neo-liberal and conservative break-down into myopic pubescence in the US is just one visible sign of that), and I could go on and on singing the apocalyptic blues.
This is the demons we face, the shadows that humanity must incorporate instead of polluting the whole cosmic environment with it.
What have we done to the earth?
What have we done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered
And ripped her
And bit her
Stuck her with knives
In the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
(Jim Morrison/The Doors, “When the Music’s over” [I exchanged ‘they’ with ‘we’])
Maybe I’m too much entrenched in German history, the apocalypse we as a people (even though father was in the Resistance) brought upon the people of Europe and the world in World War II. Maybe the tears I cried in the Spanish Synagogue in Prague over the atrocities the Germans committed in Theresienstadt were not mine to cry, and Rabbi LÃ¶w’s laughter I heard in my soul when I prayed for forgiveness for my people’s monstrosities at his grave seemed to tell me that much. Maybe also, lying on the ground of one of the major battlegrounds, not being able to stop sobbing for hours has shown me that mourning over our collective murder, pillage, rape, plundering, imprisoning and hurting each other and much of nature is needed.
We cannot fix this. We cannot undo the damage we’ve done to each other. The European people and nations have massacred the North- and South-American inhabitants, we have enslaved Millions of Africans – to just name some non-Germanic monstrosities that have shaped the world many of us profit from – this is the shadowy past, and its consequences are what we experience today – the sins of our fathers and all the generations that have come before. Are those that profit from a crime and do nothing to stop the criminal behavior not also guilty?
The egotistical, anti-social behavior of our elites that have led to the ecological and societal disaster we witness (and that we all are part of and support by much what we do day to day) has to be faced, and we have to do what is natural when seeing all of that – mourn, and see that what we need is a true metanoia, a change of heart, a change of our core… and mourn, for this true transformation is not something we can make happen. It’s out of our hands. We cannot fix it.
We cannot fix this as we are. We cannot fix this with the systems that have supported the disaster in the first place. We need to simply face our enormous shadow, a shadow that has built up in centuries of denial and turning a blind eye. Yes, maybe, it is overwhelming. Yes, I would also love to squirm out under the weight of it and point a finger at those that are much more guilty, the captains of industry, reckless bankers, compromising politicians, inhumane bureaucracies. And as I said in the very beginning of this blog, there are those that are extremely resistant to any kind of change that would profit any larger group than their clan or political tribe. But those of us who can face this, be assured, that is what we need to do.
We need to forgive before any kind of real healing can happen. And then, having faced how we’ve become as we are as humanity at this day and age, having forgiven ourselves by the powers of our very core-nature, Beauty happens – I know, it happens again and again when I face the shadow, when I’ve mourned the unfixable past, when I’ve felt the loss of so many good, beautiful and true people, when I’ve looked our “fair sister” in the face disfigured by humanity… and she smiles on me.
And then I “hear a very gentle sound” beyond what Jim Morrison could hear, beyond wanting the world, and wanting it Now!
The very gentle sound I hear are the beginnings of a new symphony, an emerging culture that is being born in the midst of humanities mournful and painful labor. And since it is a global being, a world-soul emerging from the womb of our defeat, a humanity like it has never before existed in history, we cannot say anything about it. We can state our hope, we can say that we expect a society that will look much closer to a non-egoic paradise than the most enlightened societies that have ever existed on Earth before. But we can neither hasten this birth nor can we stop the labor.
Knowing this the dark age of ecological disaster, societal challenge and financial-economic debacle all of a sudden doesn’t need anybody fixing it. It needs open hearts and minds doing and being what they’re called to be and do. We need humans courageously facing life as it unfolds in the flesh, in the body, in our societies so that they can lend a hand, an eye, a foot where they see a real need. We need people waking up to their embeddedness in the webs life has been weaving in and around them. We need people to hear the calling to be alive, now, wherever we are, just exactly the way we are – and having faced, and whenever it appears facing again, our individual and collective shadows we open to the incarnating emergent humanity and what it brings.
Listening with the heart in the immediacy of music’s presence and its melodious flow [“A Fine Frenzy” & “Sigur RÃ³s” while writing this blog post], every question is an answer as it dances into being and sometimes also into action. Then, “How to be”, or “What to do”, is not a question but a feeling-focus within the living mystery of awareness. Choices are made intuitively without appearing in the mind’s “I” – right and wrong are not considered.
Yet when we reflect on this and try to embed our behavior within our sense-making at large, what is natural to us needs unpacking and unraveling. At least in communication and collaborative meaning-creation. So let’s have a go.
(In the video: Sigur RÃ³s – GlÃ³sÃ¡li)
Our ethics and mores are those guidelines, the deep symphonic structures as it were, that steer how we are and what we do in our streaming-moment life. Dave Pollard, whom I had an inspiring conversation with the other day, touching on these matters, says, “We do what we must, then we do what is easy and finally what is fun.” I don’t really know if I agree with this sequence as I haven’t been studying it in real life very much, but it seems clear to me that we indeed do what we must, and what we must is most likely determined by our true ethics, the moral that we have – partly in spite of ourselves; which means, well, we do what we must. So really, the ethical powers forcing us to do just that are stronger than our own power of decision, or we’d go for the easy way or for the fun. Most likely.
Maybe what some call instincts are just these powerful ethics… But you don’t think that our instincts are ethical, do you? You would want to reserve ethics for some loftier rules?
Consider this: Ethics is really all about what is right and what is wrong, how to be and what to do. And aren’t instincts just those forces which compel us to do so? Fixed, imprinted action patterns that move us in the right direction? If you believe that instincts are real – which is open to debate afaik – than certainly survival and, consequentially, procreation (which is what instincts are concerned with officially) are right. They, and some luck and whatever else, have helped us to still be around on Mothership Earth.
Ah! You say, “Not every form of survival and certainly not every fashion of procreation is right, and instincts don’t care.” Well, now you force me to disclose that I’m very certain that we’re a bit more free than the theory of instincts allows. I believe that there is some freedom of movement on every level of life; even bacteria moving towards food and away from danger have some degree of freedom in the paths they take… we’ll come back to this later, I think.Right now we’re concerned with human beings, right?
When considering how to be and what to do for you and me, for human beings, it seems our choices and the forces that determine these are based on one of two possible ways to think about what we “must” do and what is right, and consequentially what is wrong. Most of us, even if we don’t do much thinking about this (which I don’t usually), we derive what is really the right thing to do from some transcendent source, a source beyond us – if not divine then similarly lofty, some higher authority. You will see how much you are ‘married’ to this way of thinking when I say that all real ethics emerges from the body, from nature, from what you are as a bodily living, breathing being. And to derive what is right, good, beautiful, true from some transcendent or disembodied source is, frankly, part of the the disaster that is upon us ecologically, economically and also socially. [So now how do you feel, what do you think?]
What we are and what we do is part of a larger context. I’ve been contemplating the folk wisdom “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” In my last blog entry I expanded this to a more specific, “A living whole is exponentially more than the sum of its members.” And since we are members of a larger whole, a society, we should expand it even more to “A living field whole is incomparably more than the sum of its wholes”.
Living wholes determine what is right, good and beautiful, or to use Dave’s terms, what we must, what is easy and what is fun, for all its parts and members. So clearly, our society and the groups we belong to – families, clans, other groups – have very particular “ideas” about that. I put “ideas” in parenthesis here because these are often not obvious or conscious to a family’s or group’s members. They might even deny that they have these ideas – to them, when pointed out, they would be simply part of reality, like the air we breathe. But we can know them as ideas nevertheless, these forces constellating a living field.
A group’s ethics is sensed immediately by all its members. When you deviate you feel uncomfortable and when you go against it you feel very uncomfortable. (Not that we necessarily feel comfortable with what we must do or be, but that is a different. We do what we must if we want to belong for longer, because if we don’t we risk being cast out, which is much more uncomfortable than any discomfort we might presently be experiencing by being who we have to be and doing what we must.) Our conscience is really the a ‘proximo-meter’, the instrument that by the strength of certain feelings tells us the degree of belonging to our group. Conscience, far from being a transcendent or divinely given something, is a finely tuned sense of the super-social animal we are. What, for instance, instantly causes a bad conscience in your family might not even activate in your chosen group of heart-friends…
The result of our historical cultural development so far has, despite everything I’ve so far suggested, led to the situation that transcendent ‘laws’ that tell us what we should do are part and parcel of every groups ethics. These moral rules have usually been created by some greater authority, traditionally by a religious entity through the mouth of its prophets and/or mystics. This can be a deity, several deities or more recently in history also some lofty concepts brought to that group or society by scientists, philosophers or other experts on transcendent content (Jesus, Mother Kali, Immanuel Kant, Ken Wilber, Albert Einstein, to name a few). You know these are transcendent ideas when you can easily get away with paying lip-service; actually often, if you really practice them and put them into real-world behavior you get into trouble and become really uncomfortable as you are pushed towards the perimeter of the group and are threatened to be cast out.
Real ethics are always embodied ethics, they express in how the whole is and what the whole does in everyday life, transcendent ethics are disembodied and lip-served only. Real ethics are practices, transcendent ethics are mostly theories of what is right and true, their real-world consequences are caused by the debates, the struggle, the fights (and sometimes wars) between their adherents as to which is the right theory and doctrine. Surely, some tenets of transcendent ethics are actually embodied by groups and put to (rigorous at times) practice. But that is, I would venture, because it meshes so well with a previous and prior embodied ethics in the first place.
It seems to me that any whole’s prime directive of its real ethics is connected with its existence and duration, with its sustainability to use a modern word. You’ll only call this egotism if you believe in the economic version of Darwinism; you know, the one that relates all evolution-value to ownership (my genes, my turf), to separate being, to competition for scarce resources and what derives from that. But if you really understand that at the very root every living whole is first of all metabolic, which means that it turns what is outside into ‘building blocks’ of itself and gives away some of itself to the outside, you see that that “egoic Darwinism” is real rubbish (gibberish coming from a elite-group of alpha-males and those that lick up to it).
A whole’s metabolic relationship with its ecology – the whereabouts it is embedded in – means: the whole changes its ecology by being around for a longer time. So the prime directive of a living whole by it’s very nature is not egoic but altruistic: it will ‘want’ to change the ecology such that all others except direct enemies will flourish, simply because then it flourishes also. Any living whole is nourished by other wholes, and in turn it’s feeding other beings that feed other wholes that feed other beings and so on. This is living nature bootstrapping itself towards greater and more diverse wholes by metabolic relationships since a couple of billion years on this Mothership, and I’m sure all over this Cosmos. The thrivability of any living whole is contributing to the thrivability of life as a whole – which, en passant, explains beautifully the richness and diversity and creativity of life…
As strange as it may seems, a real ethics, one that helps you and me, takes its clue from exactly this – from living wholes prime directive, “Keep on thriving”, and from the simple fact that we are metabolic by nature.Consider, for a moment your body. It’s an amazing and large ecology of uncountable collaborating and also symbiotic species. In our intestines countless micro-organisms help break down the food we ingested with their own metabolism; we actually live from their ‘waste’; on our skins countless micro-organisms keeping us covered well with their metabolic acts…
So what is our body’s ethics? How to be this amazing wonder of collaboration between a large number of different cells plus countless micro-critters that live inside and on us, this immense ecology that forms the living whole that is you and me, and what to do?
My guess would be, to let go of the hold of transcendent ideas and disembodied theories us, and helping our friends and neighbors to see them for what they truly are useful for: marvelous playthings and clever tools wherever their use is appropriate. And also to simply be our feeling and take the emotionally intelligent way. In the 21st Century, it seems to me, we are learning to trust the inherent wisdom of whole living beings as intrinsic members of living ecological wholes. We’re letting go into the music of life that reveals its beauty in its flow in time.
In recent weeks I’ve been contemplating the living field and how it operates.
In “The Living Field, Participatory Design & Collaboration Ecology” one of the important points was, apart from taking a close look at what kinds of fields we are dealing with and some other matters, that processes like participatory design and community building are very much linked into the living field and are really an expression of it.
In “The Living Field & the Art of Living” I looked much more at what it reveals and how to constellate a living field in such a way that art emerges, the epiphany of beauty.
These last couple of days my contemplations went more into how we are connected within the living field, sparked of by some writings and tweets that were implicitly based on the assumption that there really is a division or separation between subject and object, as for instance in the thoughts so brilliantly put together by Robert Kegan where he says that human development mainly proceeds by matters becoming an object that previously were part of the subject. A fear, for instance, that we are not aware of and that rules our life as part of our identity, as part of the subject, and by becoming aware of it it becomes an object that we have some distance from and that therefor we can think about. This assumption is also behind Ken Wilber’s idea of the evolutionary “transcend and include” movement of consciousness. (I’m aware that I cannot do justice to the subtle thinking behind all this, but for my purposes what I just said is enough).
Our thinking about almost everything, as shown in the above examples, is very much rooted in the assumed dichotomy between subject and object.We are never shown to be fuzzily sobjective or ubjective, which – I’m sure – is almost always the case…
When I tried to ‘open source’ my own basic spiritual conviction about two years ago I came up with the following statement (this is the current version: v4.1), “Consciousness – upon close inspection – is not located in the head or in any other place. It is part of being bodily alive. Individual consciousness emerges within a living field of being known and experienced by ‘others.’ Upon appreciative self-reflection and we-full co-inspection, consciousness appears to be continually and dynamically self-organizing as relational presence in natural, social, personal, spatio-dynamic and spiritual ecologies.”
As you can see from this statement a disembodied universal consciousness separate from appearance does not make sense to me; people and things do not appear in consciousness, as planets, suns and comets appear in space, for instance, but everyone and everything arises with some kind of consciousness (at least for us; can’t speak for a cat, a tree or a stone). An example for what I mean is how the letter A arises in the black background (illustration on the left). The background is only background by grace of the letter arising ‘in front’ of it and the other way around.
That individual consciousness emerges within a living field of being known and experienced by others originally dawned on me – even though I wouldn’t have expressed it like I do now – when I was present at the birth of my son. The way mother and child looked at each other right after birth was an almost tangible field. (There is a small time window when the newly born baby does actually focus very clearly; since birth complications led to me seeing him first I know what this deep unwavering gaze looks like and does to you.) Mother is melting into baby and baby into mother…
When all is normal, the child’s consciousness emerges in the field that mother, and later father and young one form. It is almost as if in this small and then ever expanding group/situation the living field itself grows into consciousness and the individual being. The child – and of course the ‘others’ – are each intelligent nodes, attractors, vortexes expressing, and partially localizing this living field consciousness. And, of course, non of the participating beings organizes the consciousness for the others – what emerges comes about within the field they all form.
Individual consciousness, self-reflection etc. is the living field extending into the endless depth that forms in that region of experience that we call ‘inside’. The localized consciousness, the I, the ego is one of the great evolutionary ‘inventions’ helping us to grow the cultures we are embedded in…
I keep using the living field metaphor because it allows me to think of subject and object without doing away with the whole concept of the actual existence of a subject and an object, like in Advaita or Neo-Advaita or in similar spiritual – usually patriarchal – traditions. There is nothing illusory about subject and object, but neither is it real in the sense a table or computer screen are real, rather subject and object appear within the relational or ‘relative’ field that we happen to find ourselves in, the foundational reality of being/becoming. As an individual we may be intrinsically attached to a particular body but our person, our individuality and consciousness are a localized expression of what we are embedded in: a larger whole, a whole that we cannot be separated from. This whole is what I keep referring to as ‘living field’, a wholeness in which there is indeed an I and You as much as there is a he, she, and us and a they and it; not as things, not as objects or subjects really but as poles of the living field, the multi-polar field brimming with aliveness. So in a meeting with another person I and You immediately form a more or less coherent ‘bubble’ in the living field in which the two main poles are, well, You and I. And this also goes for I and it, us and them, and so endlessly on – multi-polar situations in flux.
What then is the multi-polar living field ‘made of’? What keeps the poles in such dynamic situations related in just the way they are? How are these constellations constituting themselves dynamically?
By resonance (or the relative or obvious lack thereof).
We all intuitively know what resonance is (scientific explanations; a java-applet of resonances in a string).
It is thrilling when first you discover that phenomenon, or so it was to me as a kid. Me holding a big guitar on my lap and someone playing on a piano – the guitar’s body was vibrating! Oh the thrill of it. Couldn’t get enough! Sheer magic at work, not the magic of stories, but a magic I could feel with my whole body!
As I was contemplating all of this Helen (As tempting as it is to draw lines between synchronicity and resonance, I’ll leave that for another time.) tweeted this quote by Edgar Mitchell, “Resonance is nature’s way of transferring information.”
At first glance this feels right, and the quote was rightly retweeted a couple of times, but then… Contemplating on resonance, speaking of “transferring informations” seems severely limited. That idea is still very much married to ‘something’, information, going from one ‘place’ to the ‘other’. Resonance as I intuit it, and as these ideas on the living field seem to demand, is more akin to a dance. When dancing, is one partner transferring information to the other? Well, yes, one could say that they are but that doesn’t make too much sense, does it? A dance is not about transferring information (well, most of the time – when I was younger I wanted to transfer, often, that I was fancying the girl I was dancing with…).
But I don’t think resonance is about transferring information, again most of the time; it seems much more that information transference is a side-effect. Resonance, like a dance, is about enjoyment and expression, it is not really about anything but itself – it is its own meaning and expresses it in its movement.Â Someone once told me that Isadora Duncan, the famous dancer from the beginning of the last century, upon being asked by a reporter what her dance meant, said, “If I could say it I wouldn’t dance it.”
Just so it seems to me that it is the living field that is in-forming, constellating, dynamically shaping the rhythms and sounds of all that it encompasses. A living field than is a resonant field and is not accessible as an object, as one would be able to do if one were a subject. It is the personal resonance that allows us to be ‘informed’ by the other. It is my resonance with you, and your resonance with me that forms and is in turn formed by the quality of the field and the consciousness that emerges between us.
But, one might ask, “Doesn’t that mean that it is the resonance in or as the subject that this is about?” – thereby expressing that really I have gained nothing by using this kind of language and these ideas. Doesn’t an outside source (you, he, she, it, they, the situation) set up a vibration that I, then, resound with?
Resonance, in the classical sense that believes in separate entities, already is not a one-way affair. As soon as I begin to resonate I feed this vibration back to where it came from and strengthen that vibration. And so, even if the old separative concepts were true, properly looking I’d say that the ‘sound-field’ as a whole is the most relevant information in this situation. So it just takes a small switch in our understanding to see the living field as foundational; what’s between us as a much more meaningful influence than the poles, the subject and object. Or to put it another way, You cannot reduce the living field to the sum of its participating beings and entities.
If you look at the above illustration: Is A (the + pole) transferring information to B (the – pole)? Or do we see a graphic rendering of a resounding field? And what about the center of the picture, or any other place, where there is ‘nobody’ right now – but could potentially be?
Most likely we all see a whole resonant field here, a highly coherent region within the larger living field. We see dancing, a graph of a dance we can derive information from, if we like, depending on where we happen to position ourselves or where we are localized. And yes, surely we might be able to determine what started this coherent field; someone who has seen its birth and history might be able to answer that question.
But it’s surely much more relevant how this sounds, how to tune into it in such a way that the field is enhanced and an ever increasing richness of overtones and undertones can emerge. And more important than the separation between the two subjects or objects A and B is their resounding connectedness and the meaning of this that can unfold as a fractal in the participating poles to resonate as a much larger whole…
There are many avenues of contemplation and highways of wholesome action that a resonant living field opens. Reducing all this to subject and object certainly is possible and yields (lots of?) empiric knowledge. Yet I believe we hear the first verse of a melody, nay the first movement of a symphony of the highly coherent resounding field of aliveness from the polyphonic future… and it’s wind lift us up, as we’re learning to fly into its unknown skies.
Physics has discussed fields for quite some time but the term can very well be used in the context of the noosphere, our ‘inner’ landscape, the dimension inside and between living beings. Then there is the so called ‘knowing field,’a concept to explain the remarkable phenomena that happen in family-constellations; these phenomena are also explained using theÂ ‘morphogenetic field’ theory as popularized by Rupert Sheldrake.Shall I mention the “Buddha-field”, a realm existing in the primordial universe outside of space time, produced by the Buddha’s merit? Hmmm, maybe. But surely I’ll acknowledge the ‘energy-field’ Â as I have been using the term in the “energy-work” I do since 1987, a term that later, upon leaving my role as a guru behind I’ve dropped to use “dynamic presencing” instead because it is a method, really, a way to create a greatly coherent region within the Living Fieldthat connects, informs and enlivens living beings.
A field in physics is an intrinsic part of each point in space-time; we could say it informs that point and/or expresses it’s forces or properties and how it interacts with other points in space-time. A physical field can be measured by the proper gadgets.
A knowing field, as we encounter it in systemic constellations can not be measured with physical gadgets because it is not a physical property as we know them at this moment in history. But whoever has participated in a constellation and ‘all of a sudden’ knew things about the person s/he was representing will attest to its informative reality. Having both facilitated and participated in hundreds of systemic constellations I can affirm, “The knowing field is as real as the understanding you get by reading this constellation of letters, these paragraphs.” In some way a well facilitated constellation makes implicit knowledge, emotions, tendencies etc. explicit – deep, often transforming understanding surfaces through the dynamically located presence of representatives in a constellation.
The morphogenetic field [derived from Greek: morphe=form, and genese=create] as Rupert Sheldrake uses the term is also not (yet?) measurable by any means we know of but it gives us an elegant explanation of what helps form such sophisticated ‘things’ as plants or bodies. Genes act upon fields, which then act upon the developing organism, goes the thought. Ever since Sheldrake has experimented and written elequently about these fields they also are taken to be essentially non-local, and the theory also can explain why after, for instance, a substance has crystallized for the first time in one laboratory the next crystallization in a different laboratory far away happens both in a similar way and a tidbit faster; as if the field informs the substance of the ‘best way’ to form a crystal. In a very interesting way it is Plato’s theory of forms all over again.
With the Buddha-field we explicitly enter the dimension of spirituality. In essence, similar to a morphogenetic field, a Buddha-field would inform the aspirants on the Buddhist path by surfacing as enlightening experience or insight within the inner ecology of mind, the personal noosphere. A Buddha-field would differ from, for instance, a “Christ-field” as what it causes to surface in the inner ecology has different forms and different associations attached to these, but both fields (and other such as the “Aura” or “Subtle body field“, for instance) are surely part of the “Spirit-field” as it unfolds within and between conscious beings.
The Living Field that I have been accessing for the first time some 35 years ago but more systematically and consciously the last 25 years mostly through dynamic presencing and systemic constellations, and in the last 5+ years increasingly with circles of the heart and spontaneously in other contexts as well… the Living Field, in my view embraces all non-physical fields mentioned above in as much as they express within and between living beings. It surfaces as meaning, inner depth, beauty, healing, empowerment, solidarity, mutuality, to name but a few way that it comes to light. If we consider the effects a coherent living field can have on participation, engagement and collaboration and its consequences in social or financial benefits we might even arrive at quantifiable effects and eventually measurements in the future.
Most if not all of us have experiences of the living field. Remember the last time you were talking with someone and time faded away? You got so involved in the conversation, being absorbed in both listening and speaking, following the thread of the conversation, open, authentic, in full sympathy-mode… It was a “silver hour”. And when you remember it you don’t necessarily remember the exact content of that conversation; but it’s spirit still turns you on when you think about it. This is what a coherent living field can feel like.
As human beings we are super-social animals. The Living Field has evolved with and through all our ways of being together, and feeds back into it. We all know it immediately; it feels good, nourishing. It is most likely the main cause of the happiness a rich social life brings – and the suffering a lonely, disconnected life causes. It is connected with our emotions and most likely our highest ethical values that guide our every day actions (giving us ‘negative’ feelings when we do not move in the direction our ‘highest values’ indicate). We could regard the life-orienting values as ‘attractors’ in the living field, and because we are super-social we can very easily feel what moves the person we meet. A resonance in the living field between people creates some coherence that strengthens that particular constellation of values. A “silver hour” then is an event when a good conversation moves into higher and higher resonance: values are aligning, meaning is apparent and shared on the fly, empathic flows meander into blissful estuaries.
The Living Field spans the whole spectrum from the experience of being one with a Supreme Being, or Nature to the instant spark of sympathy upon seeing a stranger, from communication with disembodied entities to sitting in a circle with friends, from intuiting where the person sitting opposite you comes from to inspired teamwork. Yet, for the purposes of this post I refer to the Living Filed most of all in the practical context of participative design and the ecology fostering collaboration.
I have worked a lot on the concept but most of all on the practise of Collaboration Ecology in these last 2 years, co-creating social networking software and practices for community managers, community builders or whatever you want to call these new professionals serving the community and giving it a strong voice in the top-management of a social network. Getting to know Jascha Rohr recently and discovering how close our ideas on many of these issues come I’ve come to understand many of the principles underlying the creation of an ecology of collaboration as participatory design.
Imagine you have to create something that will be used by many people. Let’s, for example take the product to be a little park in a new neighborhood. Ordinarily the local government calls on some expert park planners or landscape architects, lets them draft some plans, presents these plans to the population through some bureaucratic procedure and then decides what it’s going to be. It then has this plan implemented by a company making the cheapest offer on tender. After a very long time, usually some years, the park is finalized and within a year or two it looks quite ugly because the city doesn’t have enough money to keep it in a beautiful state (if indeed it was that in the beginning), and since it’s not theirs but the government’s park the citizens do not take care.
Now imagine you involve many people from this neighborhood by using a process of participatory design. This means the citizens, maybe supported by a professional or two, don’t get to vote on 2 or 3 plans but actually collaboratively create the plan themselves in a participatory process. Because the facilitators of the participatory design process know of the power of a coherent living field they take much care for it to unfold its power; they create the beginnings of an ecology of collaboration. Making the plans within a coherent living field deepens the connection between people so that it is often amazing how fast and smooth the collection of ideas and wishes and the deciding on what is best for the common good goes. Obviously such a process turns all participants into stakeholders of the end-result, the park. And since it is not just communal property but has turned into a common good the likelihood that it will be received and kept beautiful for decades by the neighborhood is great. Actually it is most likely that it will be a focus of a coherent living field in the neighborhood much beyond clear psychological and social factors introduced by the participatory design process.
Grassroot-movements, since their first big bloom in the Sixties, have grown so much that this way of organizing is very much a standard among “concerned citizens”. When grassroot-movements have to deal with more traditional power structures (businesses, governmental organisations, etc.) the top-down approach of these organisations and the bottom-up structures of grassroot-organisations can cause very challenging situations.
Yet, looking at a situation like this as a living field that could well do with some more resonance allows us to look for ways that both types of organizations can connect maybe more harmonious. This is exactly, what a Collaboration Ecologist does – he’ll be looking for some kind of process that everybody would be willing to engage in, a process that would bring everybody together for some hours so that a sense of “We’re in this together” can unfold. From the point of view of the living field this means that a higher coherence and first level alignment of forces within the field can happen.
One of the first steps of a collaboration ecologist will always be to create a process (involving as many stakeholders as possible) where everybody will listen to each other and deepen their understanding of a) what ‘we’ are talking about and b) who is involved. Next this is deepened and reflected upon. If this is done by talented people and there aren’t too many ‘prickly plants’ in the collaboration ecology a coherent living field starts to form. If this can be pointed out a quantum jump towards community and mutual understanding can happen that greatly enhaces the richness and will very fast lead to strong results of “what we’re talking about.” Whoever has participated in a process like this that led to a high coherence in the living field will be deeply touched by the experience and motivated to engage much more strongly.
Knowing about, but most of all having been immersed knowingly in the living field lots of times helps. And at the same time the challenge for the facilitator of these participatory processes remains the same: You need to put yourself at a point where you are willing to change, willing to surrender to what emerges in the process itself, trusting that what human beings – often almost in spite of themselves – tend towards is strengthening the resonance of a living field. Understanding this and helping to orient the field towards practical collaboration is the fine art.
I see participatory design and it’s implementation as something that naturally emerges from a coherent living field that is looked at with the purpose to create an optimum ecology for collaboration.
Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field — I’ll meet you there. ~ Jelaluddin Rumi
Helen wrote in her blog “Why the next Buddha will be a collective.” I hope to show with this article where I am coming from in this regard so that in the time to come we can have beautiful dialogues, trialogues or any other -logues to help this meme propagate.
I guess, for me it all started in earnest when in the summer of 2005 one of my trainees asked, “What about we?” I guess, he asked that because I was using my own path and experience as a template for the spiritual journey, as most spiritual teachers do. Because that’s what I felt myself to be at that time, a spiritual teacher. And, being steeped in a guru culture, my role was centered around having a ‘working relationship’ with the divine, by whatever name you want to call it, and my teaching and methods were congruent with that. (I won’t go into the aspect of the “teaching beyond words and scripture” that also is very much a part of this; some of how I looked at these matters you find here.)
The question really struck me, and so I started to read a lot of Martin Buber, and what he had to say about the possible quality of true relationship moved me deeply.
Wer in der Beziehung steht, nimmt an einer Wirklichkeit teil, das heiÃŸt: an einem Sein, das nicht bloÃŸ an ihm und nicht bloÃŸ auÃŸer ihm ist. Alle Wirklichkeit ist ein Wirken, an dem ich teilnehme, ohne es mir eignen zu kÃ¶nnen. Wo keine Teilnahme ist, ist keine Wirklichkeit. Wo Selbstzueignung ist, ist keine Wirklichkeit. Die Teilnahme ist umso vollkommener, je unmittelbarer die BerÃ¼hrung des Du ist.
Das Ich ist wirklich durch seine Teilnahme an der Wirklichkeit. Es wird umso wirklicher, je vollkommener die Teilnahme ist.
Being in relationship one participates in reality, that means, one participates in a being that is not only one’s inner being nor is it the being outside of one. All reality is a becoming-real in which I participate without my being able to take possession of it. Without participation there is no reality. Where there is a taking into possession to oneself there is no reality. The more perfect the participation the more immediate is the touching of the thou.
The I is real through its participation with and in reality. And it becomes more real the more perfect the participation is.
(My translation of Martin Buber: Das Dialogische Prinzip – Ich und Du – Seite 65-66)
Over time starting to understand what Martin Buber is indicating I left behind my formal conviction that was very much founded on experiences interpreted through Eastern philosophy and spirituality. “Thou artThat” (Vedanta)… “I and the world are one” (Upanishads)… “I am is all there is” (Advaita). And I was moved to explore in all manners possible to me, what is between us.
During the winter seminar of the same year I went for a walk in a wooded valley nearby. The afternoon sun was coloring the snow golden white, the gurgling streamlet hid underneath a thin layer of ice and a deep blue sky spanned over the wonderful silence, when all of a sudden I saw a flock of finches, sparrows, stock doves and a rusty brown bird with a many-colored tail that is very common here. Different birds in one flock settling in a couple of trees and starting a game, it seemed, flying from branch to branch and tree to tree: a fink jumped-flew onto a branch on which a dove was sitting who then flew to a branch on which one of the brown birds was sitting and so on. And it seemed to have a rhythm: the birds in a game I used to play as a child called “BÃ¤umchen wechsle dich” – a delightful jumping and a flying all over.
I had never seen anything like it or heard of it before, yet this experience befitted my development of the period very well. It isn’t important what species of bird I am with – what matters is engaging with what is between us, “Can we find a common game?” I wrote in my diary. Because then we can play with all species of birds in the trees of life. You show yourself as the sparrow or the dove you are, as the crane or the eagle or any other bird you find yourself to be, and you are taking the other birds just the way they are… and then something new, unknown, a never before seen or experienced game begins. Whatever song you sing let’s hear it, and listen to our melody, because without both the game, our joyous, delightful, mutual game cannot happen.
That spring and summer I was in trouble because I started to see that I couldn’t go on with my old way of teaching in which I was the one that “has it”, and the people coming to me didn’t – or where not conscious of it. Not, that I didn’t feel connected anymore to the deep sources of life and being, not that there were no more Satori’s or deep mystical states – quite the contrary many of my days were spent in a very juicy sense of lightness, as if bubbles of champagne were coursing through my veins. But it was what I and others made out of this that was the trouble. It was the ‘vertical spirituality’ in the patriarchal mode that I became wary of. It reminded me very much of feudalism, a social structure that I didn’t want to be part of anymore.
And as my opposition was growing (the article linked above was written in that period; you can see how very critical it is) so was my insight into what I came to call the emerging archetype of the “between us”. There is the huge P2P movement, Wikipedia, open source programming, sharing economy, distributed research, Web 2.0 & 3.0, etc.; the Internet has opened a huge gate towards the culture of collaboration in the production of knowledge and understanding but also of products and services.
I also came in touch with spiritual teachings and philosophies that are deep and and encompassing, thorough and practical and sophisticated as well, which apparently are not in need of the ‘vertical stance’ (John Heron‘s participatory spirituality, Jorge Ferrer‘s revisioning of transpersonal psychology, Alan Rayner’s inclusionality, Samuel Bonder‘s wakening down in mutuality… to name but a few).
I also saw that many of the methods I was using already for quite some time – dynamic presencing for instance – could be regarded very much as an expression of the spirit between us, the “We” (whenever I am alluding to the emerging archetype of the “between us”, which is also “the spirit between us” I will from now on be using We with capital W). And as I realized this the methods changed to incorporate this understanding. I started to realize that my real art is creating an atmosphere and situations in which the We can appear and start to move and even incorporate each and every one of us. The beauty of course is that this understanding meshes with another insight that came out of facilitating “Enlightenement guaranteed ;-)” events, a method that has become famous through Genpo Roshi who calls it “Big Mind”. Suffice it to say here that this method uses voices or sub-personalities as the main gate to understand how the human mind works. So there is not only the We between the many persons outside of us but inside of us as well. These ideas evolved into an understanding that I will sketch in more detail below.
Then in autumn and winter 2006 I went through a deep existential crisis which touched all aspects of my life, heart and mind – to put it in the metaphor I met the senex, Saturn, and it took quite some time before I could discover the We and allow it to unfold between us. But as spring dawned and with it my old friend Jupiter it was as if I started to hear a symphony – many different melodies coming together. And if I put it in language, this is how it sounds…
At this moment of our history we are on a critical path starting to leave an old view behind. If I am to sketch the perspectives of this view in a few broad strokes I would say it is basically one of centralism. It reminds me of what I think went on at the time when Kepler revolutionized the astronomical place of earth and sun. Before him most people, even the most intelligent ones, believed the earth was the center of the cosmos. But now he showed that the sun was at the center. It took a few hundred years for us then to realize that this is really not so, this cosmos does not have a center (more about this metaphor it in this article). So instead of our sun being at center we are now faced with innumerable stars and their relationships – constellations and configurations. So as beautiful as the sun might be around which I turn, and as enlightening the sun might be around which you turn, we are discovering that if we do not find the We (the movement and nourishment in our relationships and what happens or doesn’t happen in it) between us this universe starts falling apart into discrete stars and galaxies which are separated by huge stretches of empty space.
So it is very beautiful and makes deep sense that obviously this space is not empty at all; it is flowing over with the We that embraces all. And as I said, the We is making itself felt, understood, intuited all over this globe and is manifesting in many different ways – as people wanting to cooperate, to collaborate, to be in community and communion, seeing that the time of heroes (central suns) is definitely over, the time for the saviors and lone leaders that could set things right again. The world and its problems have become so complex that we can only hope to find adequate answers in “circles”of very different people where we can meet eye to eye and heart to heart – in a sort of collective leadership maybe. And this is underfoot already on a worldwide scale. The place here would not suffice to mention all the initiatives that are going on all over the world. Yet, this is one aspect of We manifesting.
Another aspect is the sense of spiritual or soul families or clans finding each other again across countries and continents. It is as if we have chosen ages ago to come together in this critical time on the planet to be midwives to what is wanting to emerge. What ever may be the case we do recognize each other and there is an immediate connection beyond words, even beyond understanding; all we do is accept it.
A third aspect manifests through what has been called the Circle Being, manifesting as a higher order of being together with an incredible coherence that draws in the individuals participating. This certainly is We, being highly coherent. (Helen has written about it here, and I have also reported a very strong experience here). The “between us” can also come into being in what has been called “a silver moment” or in German Sternstunde, “stellar hour”. In the Bible it has been alluded to – and much misinterpreted as only applying to the divine person of Jesus – as, “Where two or three are gathered in My Name there am I am in their midst.” (Matth. 18:20)
A fourth aspect is the insight that our very consciousness itself can best be regarded as plural and not singular as a traditional mysticism has it. In the individual this shows itself as sub-personalities or the many voices that speak in us – for instance the ego, the inner child, the judge, the saboteur, the seeker, the achiever, the non-seeking mind, the inner master, the higher self etc.. So looking at our individual consciousness or psyche as a “we” rather than as an “I” would pave the way for a “circle being” to manifest inside the mind of the individual. This to me at this moment is one of the most interesting aspect of the emerging archetype.
It seems obvious that the “inner We” does not dissolve individuality, I or ego; it rather enhances its possibilities and functionality, because as the so far dominant ego realizes its embeddedness it can let go much easier of its compulsory need to control, and become part of the conductorless orchestra of the “inner We” tuning in to the “larger We” dawning on all of mankind and even, so I think, all beings and what we now still call derogatively ‘dead matter’.
This allows us to regard the emerging We as a scalable, fractal phenomenon on many and maybe even all levels. Contemplating all of this I come to the understanding that I am called – as are many others – to support and nourish these dynamic constellations of individuals and voices to configure themselves so that the transformation that is necessary for the health of the planet and its inhabitants is facilitated optimally.
An archetype is emerging – the archetype of a participatory, integral and pluralistic spiritual culture.
People all over the world — caring about the life on and of this planet, and experiencing themselves as embedded in continually expanding networks and environments — are seeking genuine, open and constructive dialogue and mutual support in their work towards a better world and spiritual wholeness: one planet on which all beings are at home.
Until very recently in our history values and practices have been mostly generated in vertical structures, and this is especially true regarding life-guiding or value-generating structures of learning, practice and daily life, the structures of spirituality and religion. Whereas in many ways the Internet has provided ways and means to transcend and surmount ‘verticality’ and promotes a co-creative, participatory and pluralistic approach to all kinds of matters and processes (P2P, Wikipedia, open source programming, sharing economy, conscious capitalism, distributed research, Web 2.0 & 3.0 etc.) this approach seems to be missing very much in spirituality and religion.
Also the spirituality that is now on the increase in business, psychology, politics, and numerous other fields of human endeavor is almost entirely ‘vertical’ in teaching and structure, being founded mostly on what is often called perennial philosophy. This philosophy acertains that the material world is the shadow of a higher reality, that spirituality and religion (re)establish the link between the human soul and this higher and ultimate reality, and that the Ultimate Reality, whatever name it is given, is the Absolute (principle/space) from which all existence originates and to which all will return.
Even the post-60ies, or ‘modern’ spirituality – after freeing itself from ego- and intrinsically ethnocentric views, from materialism and scientific reductionism – is still enthralled by the perennial philosophy and happily believes itself to aspire to, be informed or blessed by, and basically move around a singular Transcendent Sun common to all faiths, creeds, mysticisms and spiritual paths and practices.
This spirituality seems to resonate with the situation in astronomy when we believed that our sun was the center of the universe.
We have had to learn, though, that obviously this universe does not have a center at all or, to put it differently and just as true, the universal center is everywhere. And yet, when it comes to our spirituality we are very reluctant to take serious what we have learnt from studying the heavens astronomically. We object to the image that there are numerous Transcendent Suns around which meaning, understanding, love, devotion and divine, true and valid mystic experience revolves. And even then, surrendering one’s defenses against this understanding, one still would love to salvage some of perennial philosophy’s tenets by believing these Suns to turn around a common Center. And indeed, it seems that some Suns do; for instance the Suns of most Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths turn around the Monotheistic Galactic Center. Yet, other Suns do not turn that way, they participate in and form other constellations in different Galaxies of our local cluster.
The present day spiritual explorer, teacher and finder is having to face a huge challenge – to come to grips with the undeniable non-centeredness of the cosmos, the plurality of suns and galaxies, the undoing of all ‘cosmic justifications’ for vertical structure and certainties. This might be as scary for us as it wasn’t when it was possible anymore to reasonably doubt Kepler’s, Copernicus’ and Newton’s discoveries. The beautiful certainties of old are evaporating, and with it what gave purpose and meaning to life. All of a sudden we find ourselves in an endlessly open universe that doesn’t turn around us or around what we hold sacred anymore. The One Transcendent Sun setting and a multitude of Stars lighting up the mysterious darkness we now find ourselves in.
This is the challenge: seeing that there are no pre-given and objective constellations in the skies anywhere, and wholeheartedly facing and embracing this freedom; moving from a bi-directional, vertical understanding of the Highest and Lowest towards an omnidirectional, participatory, co-created, radically pluralistic reality.
It dawns on us, a cosmos with innumerable Suns around which a multitude of constellations of experience, understanding, faith and meaning are configured and brought forth, all participating in the dynamic matrix of the mystery we call reality
Formerly embedded in what I’ve been calling “vertical spirituality” it was a personal existential/spiritual crisis which made me realize what I’ve tried to sketch above. Since then I have come in touch with numerous people all over the world moving in this general direction. This in turn has convinced me that, indeed, what is emerging at this time and age is more than a personal revelation. It is an archetype emerging, the archetype of a pluralistic, polycentric, participatory spirituality which is surfacing in many ways, reckognized and not yet reckognized, and being explored with numerous methods which mostly are still very much experimental.
Now, after the the crisis has led me into these truly awesome and beautiful whereabouts, exploring the consequences of such a sea-change in understanding, living, feeling and teaching, I have started assembling material for a book that I hope to write – a portrait of the emerging archetype and how it translates into action, teaching and community all over the world.
Hopefully the book-project in due time will also become a web-plattform for people wishing to communicate what is emerging here, and finally an Academy that will provide an institution where teachers can learn, where students can connect, where all of us can study and learn from each other what richness this emergence offers to us and all of mankind.