After a powerful first day at the September 2015 InClaritas retreat in Seattle, the following visual came to me as a way of understanding the essence of both InClaritas and Sourcing the Way (the strategic consulting company co-founded by Maria Bäck and myself).
In a flash I saw that group processes and deliberations, especially in matters of governance, typically involve a considerable amount of people “bumping up against” one another, on multiple levels. At the same time, I saw that much of this friction and conflict could be eliminated through awareness cultivation practices, and furthermore that doing so would unlock a group’s potential for collective flow and even genius.
A beautiful thing about people is that we have the freedom to encounter one another in so many ways. We can literally bump into one another physically; and we are constantly interacting mentally, energetically, and (subtler still) vibrationally. While a little friction amongst individuals can be generative, difficulty can also arise when group members are unaware of the inner workings of their own being and of the collective being.
For instance, when individuals are oriented around mental concepts (which is typical!), our perceptions and interactions are filtered through and distorted by these constructs. No matter how helpful our concepts may be, group interactions inevitably reveal the limitations of our mental models and frameworks. Obviously, people conceptualize the world quite differently, and it’s easier to see this when two or more are gathered.
We feel uncomfortable when our ideas about things, especially how they should be, don’t match up with the ideas of others. When there is attachment to one’s own ideas and perspectives and a discounting of the ideas and perspectives of others, this discomfort can easily erupt into conflict. However, when there is greater awareness, both self-awareness and group-awareness, then differing points of view become extremely useful guides to a deeper, collective wisdom that’s waiting to be discovered.
To summarize what could easily be a much longer discussion: When there is greater awareness within a group, the members are less attached to their ideas. Being less attached to their ideas, group members can offer what they think and feel as contributions into the larger whole. Additionally, having practiced self-awareness, group members’ sense of self has expanded to include “others.” Thus the ideas of another are not viewed as threats, but rather are seen to be as valid as one’s own.
Rooted in awareness, these are some of the conditions for collective wisdom, which InClaritas and Sourcing the Way are seeding and cultivating in diverse groups and organizations. Both InClaritas and Sourcing the Way do this by introducing awareness practices that enable individuals to sense more deeply into themselves and their relationships with others in their group, as well as with the group as a whole. The results are visually represented in the above diagram, which we will now explore in detail.
On the left side of the diagram we have the “before” scenario: Thick “veils” of mentality, physicality, energy, and vibration, corresponding to lesser degrees of individual self-awareness and group awareness, interfere with the ability of group members to perceive clearly, interact cleanly, and discover their deeper collective wisdom. On the right side we have the “after” scenario: Thinner veils, corresponding to greater individual and group awareness, may still be present; however, these are sufficiently transparent as to present no obstacles to deeper understanding.
The vee-shaped lines that connect people illustrate where people are actually engaging with and getting to know one another. Are they able to meet only through concepts? Are they able to connect physically, energetically, vibrationally? All of these are examples of mediated knowing. When the veils are thick, it is difficult to get to know anyone or anything deeply. Thus, on the left side the connecting lines rarely touch the deepest layer, whereas on the right side the veils offer little if any resistance to deeper knowing.
So what is the deepest layer, “Information (as such)”? When we peel back the layers of our being – using whatever psychological, spiritual, and scientifically acceptable tools we may have at our disposal – we discover that ultimately all of manifestation is information. For example, contemporary physicists have discovered that information is even more fundamental than energy. This information is organized into time, space, matter, energy, and primordial vibration, but the informational “background of being” is beyond all of these.
To truly know the background or basis of manifestation is to have direct access to the raw information of experienced reality, i.e. the information as such, unmediated by the various layers of organization. We may call this direct knowing, or gnosis. When an individual has cultivated some capacity for gnosis, the totality of the world becomes a laboratory for investigation through inner sciences and technologies. However, when such individuals come together in a group, there is the even greater possibility of “group gnosis.”
In group gnosis, each individual accesses the raw information available to them and contributes their insights to form an emergent, collective understanding of a given situation. It is as if each person has a few jigsaw puzzle pieces that can be assembled to form a clear picture of the whole. Since the individual pieces are part of the same whole, there is no need for one to be better than another. And since the people involved are not attached to what has emerged through them, the pieces can be shifted around, egolessly, until they fit together.
In a deliberative context, once the whole picture is made visible to the group, the optimal course of action typically becomes obvious. And if there is no obvious course of action, then most likely it is not yet time to act. In my experience, gnosis applies even in the most complex situations. Indeed, in complex situations gnosis and group gnosis have consistently proven themselves to be the most reliable guides. When the veils are thick, we get lost in our own misconceptions and misperceptions of complexity. However, when we can go straight to the underlying information, even the most complex tangles become tractable.
When self-awareness and group awareness have been cultivated to the level of gnosis, then governance – whether of one’s own life, the life of an organization, or the life of a country – can consciously serve the whole. Such governance is characterized by deep wisdom, flow, inspiration, and a genius that is so surprising it simply must be experienced in order to believe what is possible when people come together in clarity. This is the next level of governance, and this is what InClaritas and Sourcing the Way are committed to delivering.