Into the Polyverse

My twitter-stream has many tweets like these:

ColinUdeLewis “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” James Allen

WilliamHarryman “95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself.” — Brian Tracy

bfederman A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe. Gita

Good advise, wise words, wonderful and inspirational stuff reflecting, I think, some of what goes on in the larger ‘community’ of world-change agents, spiritually savvy geeks, integralites etc. that I feel part of. Contemplating these and many similar tweets I was inspired to put this statement on twitter:

We might be moving from transpersonal to multipersonal, from transcendence to polysemous diversity, from individual to distinctively plural

Nurturegirls response got me interested to see where this spontaneous tweet takes me when I unwrap what this means for me. So here we go…


With “transpersonal” I’m refering to Transpersonal Psychology which put Spirit and metaphysics back into Western psychology. The dean of Integral, Ken Wilber, has expanded it to a much larger system which he calls Integral Psychology – which, in turn, is part of his much larger Theory of Everything. People who have been following this blog probably know that I am critical of Wilber’s views, and most of all his vertical spirituality with an Absolute or Non-dual at it’s pinnacle, implicitly downgrading whatever is ‘below’ – but that’s a different conversation I don’t feel like getting into now except for my tweet’s topic of trancendence, the movement that rises forever up the (spiraling) vertical axis, going beyond body, mind, matter, and endlessly on until it has gone beyond everyone and everything… this is what we’re moving away from and towards polysemous diversity; which I will come to a bit further down.

Vertical spirituality used to be my orientation since I was 14 years old when I first read about yoga and silence (1967) right until the very day I was finally enlightened 33 years later; yep, you’re not supposed to say that, but bear with me. Actually I call this happening Grand Disillusionment because it was basically nilling everything I thought meant anything before this happened. But, silly me, this level-change was just the end of a strand that had been in development since my very young years fuelled by the kind of thought-food one gets as a hippie becoming meditator becoming deep seeker becoming spiritual teacher becoming guru and then, finally, dropping out of that whole game altogether.

You see, my whole journey was fueled by the conviction that a single self or Self actually exists. But the idea of being or having a self/Self is really a nest of meaning and reasoning that very much reflects our cultures’ need for capable individuals (from latin, “non-dividable”) that have a permanence and consistency that can be relied upon and that can be (made to be) responsible. And our type of meaning-making needs a center around which it revolves and to whom it refers, so there you are

This is very sketchy, and much more can be said about the self/Self, its sources and status – maybe another time; for I also want to mention two basic perspectives in Western, and maybe Eastern, culture:
The ‘scientific’ view which is basically saying that ‘out there’ beyond our skin, and even inside of it, there is just accidental matter that we, our mind and consciousness, project onto. So, for instance, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; it is not a feature of a flower or a sunset or a person or the galaxy. The same, obviously, goes for truth and everything else. All of this is “in the mind” and not “out there”. (That there are laws governing energy-matter that are objective and not projected is an interesting conondrum most empiricists carefully avoid; this doesn’t take away the basic conviction, though, that really matter is absolutely devoid of spirit, essence or whatever else you can project on it.)
The other perspective is formed by the ‘absolute truth’ that people, things and even processes have an essence, a soul, a spirit in and of themselves. This is taken to mean that beauty is not really, or only in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is actually part of being a flower, a sunset, a person or galaxy. In this view the beauty in us resonates or in some other manner communicates with the beauty out there – we recognize truth, beauty, the Good or God that is there already whether we know it or not. We find it, it is not projected at all.

These perspectives seem very contrary but they have something in common, the idea of a subject, “in here” and an object “out there” – the idea of a singular “me” and plural “other” or “you”. (An idea that Ken Wilber and his Integralites have expanded to a quadriga, “I, we, they, it” – the 4 quadrants). This subject-object orientation system is so pervasive and seems so natural that we do not often question it. No, and aren’t there enough beautiful and deeply meaningful systems of thinking, spiritual practises and day to day life that show subject and object, I and other, inside and outside to be really real and truly true?

2006-03-17-59To unhinge this a little bit and come to a proximation of what polysemous diversity might allude to let’s look at some experiences we probably share.
Remember your last “silver moment.” You were talking with a friend maybe, or even a stranger, and you forgot all about the time and everything else; the flow of the conversation was so wonderful, you even forgot yourself. And now, as you remember this, you might not recall what exactly you were talking about but you do remember the ‘spirit’ of it, the breath, the “silver in the air” or however you want to characterize it.
Do you remember a critical moment in your life with several people involved? Maybe an accident, a fire, a thunderstorm out in the wilds or something similar? How everybody just acted in unison, nobody being in charge, really, but everything got done in no time at all?
Or do you remember a great moment in sports when your team was suddenly “in the zone” and acted as a unity, unstoppable?

What is characteristic of these moments or times is that there is no self-awareness, no individual consciousness to speak of – you’re present, you’re aware of everything that goes on but in no way as a self or self-aware. There is, rather, a polyphony sounding around a melody common to all participating voices, sometimes taking in even some of the more perceptive spectators as in sports. This, I would say, is a very natural way to be; acutually I think this is the way we often are, only we don’t notice it because the flow is not sparkling so bright as in our “silver moments”.

Does the transpersonal, evolutionary view help us understand this or, and that’s what we’re approaching here, help us turn into artists of polysemous diverse ecologies of being-together? It does, and doesn’t.
It does in that we have co-evolved as aligned (tuned in) groups of humans. To be synchronised with others is wonderfully adaptive and helps along the continued survival mightily – from multicellular beings to swarming insects, flocks of birds, fish-swarms and herds, the same pattern has been used in nature countless times. So it’s not really amazing that such highly complex beings as humans are polyphoniously connected – a great diversity of voices ‘swarm-creating’ meaning, stories, understandings and yes, identities.
And it doesn’t, because the individualistic view that is part of the fundamentals of transpersonal psychology and vertical spiritualities or religions is operating with the assumption that we are a single subject, residing somehow in a skin-encapsuled cell-ensemble, in the head maybe or the heart.

We are also biased towards clear – simple, singular – meanings. Meaning should not be ambiguous or, since that term is often used in a negative sense, polysemous. This basic assumption has taken progressively hold of our collective psyche since the birth of modern science. But we only need to look at children or people who haven’t (been able to) loose their imaginative powers to see what rich meanings things can have. Who would insist to a child that a heap of sand cannot be a mountain in which dwarfs dig for gold?

If these ideas about ‘swarm-creation’ are right than meanings continually flow-emerge between us, in the polyphony of voices and forces that we are embedded in – the so-called internal ones and the external ones. When we experience a “silver hour” with friends diverse meanings flow polysemously between us, and it is the very flow in which we delight. Were one of us to single out a meaning and individualise it, that would be the end of the silver in the hour…

Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe the silver hour to be better than other not so silvery hour. Rather it’s hinting at an evolutionary possibility for human-kind that I see dawning. The subject-object orientation isn’t wrong or illusory, the transpersonal and integral view that proposes a vertical path of transcendence is a beautifully valid orientation – it is the individualized version of being human. We’ve worked very hard as a species to differentiate enough so that we can actually regard ourselves as seperate individuals with rights and responsibilities. Yet this is no end but rather the stage for the next step, where we use what is natural to us – silver houring – develop it into an art and use it to adapt to the challenges we now face in the exponentially complexifying realities we live in. Being an individual with a transpersonal, trancendent agenda was perfect in the much lesser complex times before massive globalisation, the ‘good old times’.
2006-03-17-60But now we’re in realities were two airplanes hitting the WTC can cause worldwide mourning or were political choices in the US can cause a global financial break-down, for instance. That all is one is not a spiritual statement anymore, it’s stating the obvious. The interconnectedness that goes with this has transformed, though. In a less complex world only a decade or two ago interconnectedness did at most linearly influence other beings, systems or processes; now interconnectedness means is a massive, uncontrollable, exponentially influential process. In this situation meaning is always polysemous, diverse and complex.

Individuals can’t handle this. Teams like we’ve known them in all kinds of organisations cannot find real solutions. Clear meanings cannot connect multifaceted challenges comprising multiple unknowns with the people and resources needed for the emergence of adequate solutions. We need coherently self-organising collaborative and collective intelligences to adapt to this situation. The technical means are either here already or on the verge of becoming available.

The ‘imaginal cells‘ are realizing who they are and starting to align with each other all over the world. You are one of them. So happy we’re connecting…

We are the next Buddha

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 heißt: an einem Sein, das nicht bloß an ihm und nicht bloß außer ihm ist. Alle Wirklichkeit ist ein Wirken, an dem ich teilnehme, ohne es mir eignen zu können. Wo keine Teilnahme ist, ist keine Wirklichkeit. Wo Selbstzueignung ist, ist keine Wirklichkeit. Die Teilnahme ist umso vollkommener, je unmittelbarer die Berührung 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 art That” (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 “Bäumchen 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.