rkm website: http://cyberjournal.org
West Coast tour: re/ consciousness & social transformation
As usual with these tours, I seem to be the one who gained the most from it. For me, it led to a fundamental shift in perspective. I think people got something useful from our conversations and events, but I don’t think any other big shifts emerged.
The tour was in fact an experiment, the latest in a long series, in search of the holy grail of social transformation. The purpose of the experiment was to test the ideas in the Transformation Project proposal, which was my best theory at the time. As it turned out, I didn’t get anywhere with those ideas. Instead I came away with an understanding of why the proposal is unrealistic, given the nature of popular consciousness as it is today.
It was in writing the previous posting (above) that this new understanding finally gelled. The posting too was an experiment, trying a different way of responding to people’s ideas. My assessment of Amy’s ideas about consciousness-raising was that they were very important, but not relevant to social transformation. Normally, my response would have been an argument, aimed at demonstrating this irrelevance. The new experiment was to respond differently, to start with her ideas and see where they might lead.
They led, it turns out, to a profound shift in my own perspective on social transformation. I now see change-oriented activist movements in an entirely different light. I see them as imaginal cells, doing exactly what they should be doing – developing visions and ideas and programs for evolving to a better society. They are creating ‘fields of morphic resonance’ around new ways of thinking about society, and new ways of seeing the world. Before, I said movements ‘aren’t working’ to bring about change; now I see they are working very well, on their part of the problem. I now see the larger problem context from a new perspective – the perspective of ‘public consciousness’.
As I suggested in the posting, we can think of public consciousness as being the mind of the social organism. A mind with many currents of thought (fields of morphic resonance) flying around, but a mind with no overall coherence of thought. If we were to diagnose this ‘mind’ from a psychological point of view, we’d have to say it suffers from a kind of schizophrenia. It is being pulled in many contradictory directions by competing sub-personalities – a condition we might call ‘multiple personality disorder’. An obvious example would be Republicans vs. Democrats in the USA, or pro-lifers vs. freedom-of-choicers.
When activists try to promote new visions in the public mind, it is like telling someone how they can fix their life, someone who is suffering from this disabling condition. Rational inputs cannot be dealt with; our someone is lost in the turmoil of internal confusion. One more competing sub-personality (the imaginal-cell activists) only adds to the noise – as long as the condition remains untreated.
In personal disorders of this kind, the different sub-personalities may not be aware of one another, as we’ve seen portrayed in popular films, such as All About Eve, Fight Club, and A Beautiful Mind. In our social disorder, the sub-personalities are not in communication with one another. They exist as separate morphic fields, and to the extent the fields interact, negative interference patterns are generated (‘the other’seen as adversary, or even as deranged). To avoid the negative, people avoid serious conversations with ‘the other’ thus maintaining the separation of the fields.
This new perspective leads to a shift in my own line of research. What I want to understand is how we can get the sub-personalities to talk to one another, and what kind of conversations could move toward wholeness and coherence, in the mind of our social organism.
I now have a keen interest in certain kinds of initiatives, such as Conversation Cafes, Richard Flyer’s work with Conscious Community, and the City Repair project in Portland Oregon. These are initiatives aimed at bringing people into inclusive conversations, building mutual understanding, and identifying common concerns and aspirations. We might say they are seeking to generate a ‘wholeness’ morphic field. What successes are these initiatives experiencing, and what obstacles are they encountering? What lessons can be learned? How can we do even more to generate a ‘wholeness field’, to move toward social coherence?
My experiment, responding to Amy in a new way, turned out to be very successful, as regards advancing my own understanding. Instead of arguing with her, seeing her as ‘the other’ as regards strategic thinking, I began my response by opening myself to her morphic field around consciousness. And, with some irony, that ultimately led to my new perspective, a perspective that is all about people opening themselves to the morphic fields of ‘the others’ around them. In Amy’s language, I was perhaps hit by a ‘wave of meaning’, that resonated at the level of my response as well as at the level of my strategic thinking.
So, besides a new strategic perspective, I find myself with a new approach to responses. How much better it would have been with Foster, if I had begun by getting in tune with his morphic field around the principles of personal autonomy and ‘do no harm’. I do in fact resonate quite positively with those principles, and we could have had a very productive conversation exploring together where those ideas lead. Instead I focused my attention on where we differed in our perspectives.
Let me say more about ‘waves of meaning’, because in retrospect I can see that one of those pervaded my whole tour. Amy introduces the wave concept, as a way of looking at the phenomenon of serendipity. A ‘wave of meaning’ causes events to line up in a pattern that expresses that meaning. It’s a model that offers an explanation for why ‘throwing the coins’ so often leads you to the very I Ching hexagram that is most useful to you.
The wave of meaning that pervaded my tour was all about this new perspective, around opening up communication and working toward wholeness. Regardless of my intentions going into an event, the events always turned out to be expressions of this wave of meaning.
In Victoria, for example, we invited a diverse collection of activists to spend a day in a DF session, exploring how we could work toward building a better world. The DF didn’t really work very well with that group, and we didn’t really get into the advertised topic. Instead, the activists were excited about being with fellow activists they didn’t know, and who were doing different things.
They wanted to share stories and ideas, rather than explore a pre-assigned topic. A wholeness morphic field was building in the group, but at the time I saw it as a distraction from the agenda I had in mind. I was trapped in my own morphic field, unable to appreciate the wave of meaning that was expressing itself in the group.
In Nanaimo the experience was very similar, with an incoming agenda and process that turned out to be irrelevant, and a strong expression from the group that what they really wanted was to get to know one another at a deeper level, and on a more ongoing basis. Once again, the ‘wholeness wave of meaning’ was expressing itself very clearly. In this case I was able to get in tune with it, as I saw my role as neutral facilitator, but still I wasn’t appreciating what the wave was trying to tell me.
The same basic experience also happened in an event in Ashland, and following my talk at IONS, and in various of my personal conversations. I was awash in this wave of meaning time after time on the tour, but still hadn’t woken up to it. The wave had to hit me again, guiding my response to Amy, before it finally got through to me.
There’s a notion in the Sufi tradition, that if you are sincerely and diligently pursuing your right path, the universe will come to your assistance. Others might talk about intervention from a higher consciousness, or help from a guardian angel, or your lucky stars. My path is in search of social transformation, and I feel that I’ve been helped along the way by a string of serendipitous events, by a wave of meaning whose source remains in the realm of mystery.