David Graeber and David Wengrow spent ten years writing The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Everything. The book is based on a dialogue between them about human history. The breakthrough came when they moved away from European thinkers and focused on the perspectives of indigenous thinkers. The prevalent view of history has almost nothing to do with facts. The process was far messier, and far less unidirectional, than anyone has guessed.
The ultimate question of human history is our equal opportunity to contribute to decisions about how to live together. Our future depends on our capacity to create something new together. A society in which wealth cannot be freely transformed to power, where people’s lives have intrinsic value. We need to rediscover the freedoms that make us human.
Graeber and Wengrow treat our ancestors as people who are imaginative, intelligent, and innovative. They find that the realities of early human life were far more complex than many theorists have assumed. The results is an enriched human history.
Graeber and Wengrow argue that indigenous Americans developed a very strong critical view of their invaders’ lack of freedom. Everything in the Great Lakes region operated to ensure that no one’s will would be sugjugated to that of anyone else.
Native Americans who observed the French society from up close noticed how wealth was converted into power over others, how power over things was directly translated to power over other human beings. In today’s world, a very small percentage of the population control the fates of almost everyone else, and they do it in an increasingly disastrous fashion. To understand how this situation came about we need to approach the evidence of the human past with an open mind.
Human beings have self-consciously experimented with different social possibilities from the very beginning, or at least as far back as we can trace such things. Human societies, who lived mainly from wild resources, were not confined to small bands before the advent of farming. Agriculture, in turn, didn’t mean the inception of private property. Many were relatively free of ranks and hierarchies. A surprising number of the earliest cities had no need of authoritarian rulers, ambitious politicians, or bossy administrators.
Archaeological evidence that is piling up suggest that our remote ancestors moved back and forth between alternative social arrangements. They allowed the rise of authoritarian structures during certain seasons and then dismantled them. They built monuments and closed them down.
The social order was highly flexible. It made it possible to step outside any given structure and reflect. Our early ancestors might have been considerably more politically self-conscious than we are today. They self-consciously organized themselves in such a way that arbitrary power and domination could not emerge.
The transition from living mainly on wild resources to a life based on farming took 3 000 years. People switched between modes of food production, much like they switched between their social structures. The first farmers were reluctant farmers. They understood the implications of agriculture and avoided any major commitment to it.
Settlements with tens of thousands of inhabitants make their first appearance 6 000 years ago. First they appeared in isolation and then they multiplied on almost every continent. The particular mode of production depended largely on where the cities happened to be. Almost everywhere we find built spaces in harmonious and beautiful patterns.
There were institutions which ensured that people had a significant hand in government. Early Buddhist communities where meticulous in their demands for all to gather together in order to reach unanimous decisions. Entire cities were governed in the same way. Democracy, as we have come to know it, is a game of winners and losers. The workings of a council, or an assembly, in an ancient city, which collectively deliberated on common problems, was very different.
Archaeological evidence shows that this was a surprisingly common pattern. A dramatic increase in the scale of organized human settlement didn’t result in a concentration of wealth or power in the hands of a ruling elite. Inhabitants enjoyed a standard of living that is rarely achieved in any period of urban history, including our own. The claim that there is a connection between the origin of cities and the rise of stratified states looks increasingly hollow.
Graeber and Wengrow propose that control of violence, control of information, and individual charisma are three possible bases of social power. Access to violence, information, and charisma enables social domination. Usually, they all coexist to some degree. The threat of violence is the most dependable.
What is both striking and revealing is how in Roman legal theory the potential for arbitrary violence was inserted in domestic life and the most intimate social relations. Household and empire shared a common model of subordination. Children were to be submissive to their parents, wives to husbands, and subjects to rulers. The superior party could exercise violence with impunity when considered appropriate. Rome took the entanglement of violence and care to extremes. Violence was assumed to be bound up with love and affection. Its legacy is still with us and shapes our most basic values and concepts of social structure.
The book is an eyeopener. I like very much how David Graeber and David Wengrow challenges our habitual ways of looking at the past. They have done an extraordinary job in questioning what once appeared as unassailable axioms. The book is full of thought-provoking questions. What does it say about our time that we don’t have a terminology to adequately describe the cities which lacked the expected administrative hierarchy and authoritarian rule? We have been asked to believe that we suddenly cannot organize ourselves once our numbers expand above a certain threshold. The truth is that we could have been living under radically different conceptions of what human society is about. Mass enslavement, genocide, prison camps, patriarchy, family violence, wage labor never had to happen. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Gentle Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World by F. David Peat is a book about moving from policies, plans and imposed solutions to more intelligent and harmonious action that evolves out of the context itself.1 This involves creative suspension of action, with the aim of developing a clearer perception of the situation, and then creating a basis for action that is more sensitive, flexible and creative. Out of these will flow a more appropriate, harmonious, and gentle action.2
The Desire for Control
When we objectify nature, society, and organizations, and view them as a machine, albeit a very complicated machine, it leaves no room for intrinsic values. It is a quantitative approach that gives no account of qualities.3 Although this mechanistic approach is profoundly wrong, our organizations retain a simple faith in prediction and control.4
…if, at its deepest level, the world is not mechanical, while our strategies and plans continue to be predicated upon a mechanical perspective, then we are bound to get into serious trouble.5
Perceiving and valuing in inappropriate ways has brought us to the crises that we now face.6 The mechanical approach acts to oversimplify and fragment situations to the point where it leaves out what is most important. Models, calculations, and predictions lures us into the false impression that we know what we are doing.7 The objectification has had the effect of neglecting intrinsic values, weakening our relationship to nature and to each other. It has enhanced the tendency to dominate, control, and exploit the world.8 We need to replace our traditional approaches with gentle action.9
…there is a pervading tendency within organizations to view the world in mechanistic ways and to desire certainty, predictability and control.10
Natural and social systems are far more complex than we may have first considered. Some of them are so complex that there will always be a degree of missing information in their description. There will always be elements of these system that escape us no matter how much data we collect.11 In some situations we just have to accept uncertainty and that is a very uncomfortable situation for many organizations.12
When organizations feel control slipping from their grasp, their natural reaction is to exert even more control. This results in a spiral of control literally out of control.13 There is no end to our will to dominate nature and force it to serve our own ends.14 We need to live in harmony with nature rather than seeking to control her. We need to live as partners rather than as master and slave. And we need to combine our own intelligence and sensitivity with the innate intelligence and sensitivity of the natural world.15
…it is generally true that when matter, or energy, or money, or information flow through a system, that system will begin to organize itself spontaneously. It will develop a physical structure, a pattern of behavior and a distinct identity, but without anyone having imposed this from outside.16
It is easy for people to accept simple solutions that accord with their own prejudices, and does not force them to confront a major change in attitude. It is also easy to adopt a solution, based on a simple but conventient argument.17 Situations are complex and our perceptions are influenced by our backgrounds and the context in which we experience events.18
From Rigidity to Flexibility
A helthy organization is able to adjust to sudden changes. A rigid organization, however, continues to function as before until it meets change in inappropirate ways. There are many ways in which rigidity is reinforced—a series of policies and mission statements, a hierarchy in which those below have been conditioned not to question orders from above, an organization where information cannot flow vertically and horizontally.19
Organizations have both formal and informal structures. Its formal structure involves its CEO, board, managers, and so on. But an organization also has an informal structure in which valuable exhanges are made. An organization remains flexible to the extent to which exchanges take place, and the extent to which senior management is part of this process.20
The spectrum from rigidity to flexibility not only operates within an organization but also at the level of the individual.21 Simply repeating a formula will not do, there must be internal flexibility and engagement. When we engage a work we must also take the responsibility of bringing it alive, of making it new.22
…our ability to judge a situation, or make an intervention, is going to depend on the way we “see” that situation. The more we are aware of our own prejudices, the more we can give attention to the context in which we are doing that seeing, the more unbiased the information we will be able to take in.23
Alfred North Whitehead spoke of prehension, as if the mind reaches out like a hand to touch, or even grab at, the world. Part of this function is the ability to make a detailed analysis of a situation. Another function of the seeks meaning and places the details of a situation within their wider context.24 Likewise, Carl Jung wrote of what he called our rational functions, thinking and feeling. Thinking allows us to analyze a certain decision, while feeling tells us what it means to us, and what value it has.25
Creative Suspension & Gentle Action
Creative suspension is the voluntary act to suspend, if only for a moment, our immediate reaction.26 It is related to other approaches whereby unexamined assumptions and rigidities are brought into awareness.27 By means of a very active awareness it may be possible to detect unexamined presuppositions, fixed values and conditioned responses. The idea is to permit the full human potential and creativity to thrive. It would enable people to relate to each other in more harmonious ways, and human needs and intrinsic values to be acknowledged.28
A traditional organization has a hierarchy of control and rules of procedure. By contrast, a self-organized operation doesn’t begin with presetablished set of rules, but emerge in a creative way out of the flow of information, material, money, and staff.29 A rigid organization has rules, procedures and hierarchical structures imposed from above or from outside.30 Change arises from openness to different possibilities and opportunities, and from the inherent creativity within the organization.31Creative suspension is the ground out of which something new can grow.32
Gentle action is a sort of action that harmonizes with nature and society, that does not desire to dominate and control, but seeks balance and harmony, and is based on respect for nature and society. In place of relatively mechanical, hierarchical and rule-bound organizations there is something more organic in nature.33
Successful organizations of the future will have more open and organic structures. … They will draw naturally upon the creativity of their employees and, in turn, employees will be self-directed and more satisfied by the exercise of their natural creativity and initiative within a caring environment. … New forms of leadership will respect the initiative and autonomy of others so that each person brings their best abilities to a particular task. … And as the particular challenge of a given situation changes, so too the internal structure of the organization will transform and particular individuals will be free to adopt new roles. As a result enhanced and more effective communications will take place in these new organizations.34
When an organization engages in creative suspension this will allow its own natural creativity, and the skills of its employees to come to fore.35 It may not be the CEO but an ordinary employee who possesses a key piece of knowledge. It may be his or her knowledge, combined with the knowledge of others, that keeps an organization in operation.36
One approach to creative suspension is Bohmian dialogue, in which a group of thirty to forty persons meet with no leader or program. The group does not have a specific goal or aim, but simply deals with whatever comes up during the dialogue itself. All of us hold onto some fixed nonnegotiable positions. However, in a dialogue circle there will always be people who occupy intermediary positions. Such people can moderate the dialogue.37 The idea is not to persuade a person to change his or her belief, but rather to allow everything to slow down. In other words, to allow people to suspend their normal reactions for a moment. As this happens, people become less rigid, and more creative and flexible in their responses.38
One sensitivity that goes along with creative suspension is a deeper knowing of when the time is right to act.39 Most of us are slaves to mechanical time, yet time is very much determined by the sun, the seasons and other rhythms.40
Creative suspension doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather involves a special quality of listening. The point is to suspend judgment so that people can become open to a new and deeper way of listening, both within and without. This allows people to examine all their assumptions, principles, and values.41
Gentle action that doesn’t embody trust, honesty, and ethics is empty. We must therefore discover just where intrinsic values stand in our lives.42 Trust, honesty, and ethics breed loyalty. It is important to believe in the inherent value of our work.43
I appreciate that the book doesn’t contain Seven Steps to Gentle Action. If F. David Peat had taken this route he would simply have done the very thing that he has critized from the very beginning—standing outside of a system and making up rules for action.44 We need to replace fixed process approaches and also take into account the overall context of a situation.45
…we must always be respectful of the situations in which we find ourselves, we must tread softly… We must learn to listen…so that our actions may be more gentle and more creative.46
Taoist philosophy has its wu-wei, acting without taking action. Water runs downhill and the earth circles the sun. Likewise, we can go with the flow in gentle action. If each one of us can make a tiny ripple—and if these ripples begin to interact in a coherent way, the wave we create can become very powerful.47 I like the book very much!
Notes 1. F. David Peat, Gentle Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World, p. 16. 2. Ibid., pp. 16–17. 3. Ibid., p. 23. 4. Ibid.. 5. Ibid.. 6. Ibid., p. 24. 7. Ibid.. 8. Ibid.. 9. Ibid., p. 25. 10. Ibid., p. 27. 11. Ibid., p. 29. 12. Ibid.. 13. Ibid., p. 30. 14. Ibid.. 15. Ibid., p. 31. 16. Ibid., p. 32. 17. Ibid., p. 58. 18. Ibid., p. 69. 19. Ibid., pp. 73–74. 20. Ibid., p. 74. 21. Ibid., p. 79. 22. Ibid., p. 80. 23. Ibid., p. 82. 24. Ibid., p. 84. 25. Ibid.. 26. Ibid., p. 87. 27. Ibid., p. 88. 28. Ibid., p. 89. 29. Ibid.. 30. Ibid., p. 90. 31. Ibid.. 32. Ibid., p. 91. 33. Ibid., p. 92. 34. Ibid., p. 95. 35. Ibid., p. 96. 36. Ibid., p. 97. 37. Ibid.. 38. Ibid., p. 98. 39. Ibid., p. 99. 40. Ibid.. 41. Ibid., p. 102. 42. Ibid., p. 105. 43. Ibid., p. 124. 44. Ibid., p. 167. 45. Ibid., p. 168. 46. Ibid., pp. 171–72. 47. Ibid., p. 172.
LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven by Christopher Bache is a book which has two titles. The outer title, LSD and the Mind of the Universe, describes what the book is about. The inner title, Diamonds from Heaven, refers to the “Diamond Light” at “the center of the mind of the universe”.
At the end of the 1970s Christopher Bache made a decision that change the course of his life. Between 1979 and 1999, he took LSD 73 times in carefully planned sessions. Bache did this to “explore mind and the mind of the universe as deeply and systematically” as he could. This book is what happened on those 73 days.
As a professor of religious studies, it was primarily the capacity of psychedelics to open us to the deeper landscape of consciousness that interested Bache. He worked as a philosopher to see what LSD might teach him about the universe. Christopher Bache used Stanislav Grof’s methods for working therapeutically with LSD to explore his own consciousness. This journey lasted 20 years.
Given legal issues, it was only in 2019, twenty years after his experiments ended and after retiring from his position as a university professor, that Christopher Bache finally is free to discuss his psychedelic work.
Christopher Bache came to this work as “an atheistically inclined agnostic”. He had studied his “way out of religion altogether. Bache concluded in his dissertation on “the logic of religious metaphor” that “our finite language simply does not allow us to speak with precision about the infinite”.
The book starts with a description of how Christopher Bache worked with LSD. He decided to lay a strong foundation for how the work was done. When Bache took LSD, he entered a space where he was protected from all interruptions, wearing eyeshades and headphones. The music was carefully selected—”gentle music as the drug comes on, powerful evocative music as it builds momentum, expansive music for the peak hours, and gentle music for the long, slow return”. A sitter, Christopher Bache’s wife, took care of the safety.
The core of the protocol was to allow unconscious patterns to emerge and to completely surrender to the experience. Christopher Bache writes that the “same patterns will keep showing up in a variety of forms until a climax of expression is reached—some inner gestalt is consciously realized or some reservoir of expression is reached—and then they will spontaneously resolve themselves”. The psyche is then free to flow into more expansive states of awareness. If this is repeated many, deeper patterns emerge and new experiences open. It takes time to recognize the logic and structure of the larger whole.
Christopher Bache moved systematically back and forth between amplified states of consciousness and ordinary consciousness, where the experiences could be documented and evaluated. There are two keys to doing this: 1) We must have “the courage to confront whatever negative experiences” we may have. 2) For enduring change, we must also “create a container for holding our experiences” between the sessions. The experiences must be integrated, not only in our minds, but also “into our physical, emotional, and social being”. Mind-opening states are also body-opening states.
Christopher Bache worked at 500–600 mcg. Bache learned to work at these high levels, but “strongly caution” anyone to work with doses this high. It is advisable to stay within doses of 50–200 mcg. This leaves more of “one’s psychological equipment intact”, making it easier to assimilate sessions. In hindsight, Christopher Bache thinks he pushed himself harder than was necessary and perhaps than was wise. The choice to work with high doses had “enormous consequences for what unfolded”.
All his life, Christopher Bache, has had a desire all his life to understand how our universe works. In his sessions, Bache experienced things that completely reframed his understanding of existence. He entered into a “love affair” with “the fabric of existence itself”. Bache thinks of it as “the generative intelligence of our universe, the Mind of the Cosmos—…beyond all categories of He or She yet infinitely more than any It”. There is an “energetic momentum” that builds over time and drives you through breakthroughs. It took Christopher Bache years to build sufficient energy to enter the levels of reality that he entered later in his work.
While “set and setting” has been much discussed in the literature, less attention has been paid to “systematic recall” after a session. Making “an accurate record of each session” can be challenging. Memory tends to fade if steps are not taken to record the experiences. Preserving the memory of the experiences lays a stronger foundation for the next session.
Part of Christopher Bache’s protocol was to write a detailed account of every session within 24 hours. Bache learned not to wait. Recording each session required writing at the very limits of his understanding. Language had repeatedly to be stretched. By listening to the music used in the session, Christopher Bache found that he was able to “reenter the edges” of his experience. Recall and comprehension improved with repetition.
The heart of the book comes from Christopher Bache’s 400 pages of session accounts. It is the primary text which “comes before all subsequent interpretation and reflection”. Bache didn’t want to oversimplify the complexity of each session, but needed to consolidate what took place. There was “a marked difference between the content of the peak hours of a session and the content of its beginning and ending hours”.
The book is primarily a cosmological narrative. It is when one “enters the ocean of the deep psyche that the larger and more philosophically interesting story begins to emerge”. “Being taken into great depth one step at a time” allowed the cognitive faculties to stabilize at each level before moving into the next. “Different levels of reality operate by different rules.” If an experience is lifted out of its context, its meaning is reduced.
Exploring Consciousness with Consciousness
Consciousness is used to explore consciousness, which means that “a fascinating dance takes place between the mind doing the exploring and the larger mind being explored”. Everything seen and learned is “shaped in subtle ways by what we are at the moment of contact”. Every encounter is participatory. Our being evokes what is experienced. The more “conditioning we have let go of”, the more “open-ended and far-reaching are the experiences that present themselves”.
When the mind is dropped into the infinite ocean of experiential possibilities it “acts as a seed crystal that catalyzes a certain set of experiences from its infinite potential”. As we are healed and transformed by these experiences, “the seed crystal of our mind is changed”, and still deeper experiences are then catalyzed in subsequent sessions. Each session tends to pick up where the previous session stopped. “Sometimes there is a very tight continuity between sessions, sometimes it is broader”. “An LSD session grinds slow but it grinds fine.”
The story Christopher Bache tells in the book is “a story of entering progressively deeper states of consciousness and through these states experiencing progressively deeper levels of reality”. Each level has “its distinctive characteristics and dynamics”. Bache thinks of them as “platforms of experience”. Over the years, he was systematically moved from one platform to the next.
In the end, Christopher Bache thinks he “drilled deep”, penetrating many levels of the universe, but “certainly not experiencing the complete territory associated with any of them”. Furthermore, in a participatory universe, each of us will experience it somewhat differently. Bache is not interested in “championing one cosmological map over another”.
The story Christopher Bache is telling in his book is “not a story of escape into transcendence but one of deepening sacred presence on Earth”. It is about “awakening even more completely inside physical existence and participating in its continuing self-emergence”. We are not exploring a universe “out there”, but are rather “pulling states of higher awareness into our physical being”.
Christopher Bache writes that he might make mistakes in telling his story, but “pledge to give an honest account of what took place” in his sessions. Some of the “suffering” in his journey comes from his “personal decision” to push himself as hard as he did.
Death & Rebirth
In the context of a psychedelic session, pain is something that has to be embraced. Pain is an ally in the work. “Confronting our personal shadow is always challenging work”. In order to understand the deeper suffering that emerges in psychedelic work, it is necessary to understand death and rebirth. Death as “the agonizing loss of everything we know to be real and true”.
“Death comes in many shapes and sizes.” If we want to experience the deeper currents of the universe, we must sooner or later surrender everything we know. “As we are now, we are too small to engage these vast dimensions of existence.” “In deep psychedelic work, one learns by becoming.” To do this, “our smaller sense of self must cease to be the container of our experience”. “Giving up everything is simply the price of inheriting everything else.”
Each step into the universe is a step into more intense energy. “Deeper states of consciousness are higher states of energy.” This means that to have “stable experience of a given level of reality, one must acclimate to its energy.” There is “a certain suffering inherent in repeatedly shedding our psychological skin in order to enter more deeply into the universe”. Working with LSD triggers an accelerated process that gives “quicker access to these realities, but there is a price to be paid for this”. The price is the intensification of tearing the skin away. Christopher Bache doesn’t wish anyone to undergo some of what he went through.
“LSD unleashes such dramatically different states of awareness” that it is necessary to learn how to work with it. “Not only do our minds have to adjust to the expanded capacities LSD awakens, so do our bodies.” When working with LSD doses this high, Bache quickly crossed the boundary of birth and death. “We get here by being born; we leave by dying.” “In order to enter what lies beyond space-time awareness, we must first break through the membrane of our physical consciousness.” This stage lasted ten sessions.
Christopher Bache was not able to control what happened. He could not even control his self-memory. The absolute surrender that this required jarred him deeply. “The pattern of crisis followed by resolution would repeat itself in many subsequent sessions.” Music helped Bache to surrender more completely into the psychedelic state and the alternating positive and negative experiences. Although prepared, he was surprised by how violent they were. Bache became familiar with vomiting. He describes it as “the body’s way of throwing off large quantities of physiological stress”.
“As the negative experiences continued to build over the next several sessions, so did the positive experiences that emerged during the ecstatic portion of the sessions.” In one session, Christopher Bache “experienced life as a living fabric of interwoven intelligences—atomic, molecular, cellular, human, societal, and planetary”. This was an early taste of “the deeper experiences of Oneness that would follow later”.
Experience & Reflection
Christopher Bache shares one particular experience from this period because it speaks to the rational for his book as a whole:
“I looked at all the disciplines of knowledge I had taken in and saw that many of their conflicts derived from their selectivity. As I surveyed the evolution of Western thought, I was repeatedly struck by its fragmentary nature and the vehemence with which the fragments had been defended as the whole. I knew that my own work shared these limitations.
Going further, I then saw that a purely intellectual approach to philosophy would produce only limited results. I saw that the path I was on represented a fundamentally different approach to philosophy. On this path, experience is first expanded, then critical reflection clarifies and evaluates. … My life was about forging a new path forward in philosophy.”
The experiences tend to become older and more basic the deeper you move. At the center is a core experience, or set of experiences, that represents “the seed experience around which later experiences cluster”. Our unresolved and unintegrated experiences are always there, “below the surface and out of view shaping in subtle ways how we experience the world”. Systematically engaging “traumatic material” can remove its “influence from the individual’s behavior”.
Christopher Bache takes the reader deep into his suffering. The experiences went into “a vast ocean of fury and pain”. The encounter with the “ocean of suffering” lasted 14 sessions. “How you meet these experiences makes all the difference in how they live in you afterward.” Completion is key. When the suffering has reached its peak and found its resolution, it is followed by an experience of peace. These experiences were so consistent that Christopher Bache felt a deep logic operating in the sessions.
Our personal unconscious organizes its “memories into clusters of experience” that “share a common emotional theme”. The collective unconscious organizes its “vast store of memories” in a similar way. Whatever took place in Christopher Bache’s sessions was part of a larger pattern. The “collective suffering” returned until it completely saturated Bache experience. Bache felt that if he rejected the suffering, he would be turning his back on humanity, on life itself.
Each time Christopher Bache emerged from the suffering, he entered “a domain where the rules of time had changed”. “Inside space-time, we divide our experience into past, present, and future.” Inside this other domain, the “rules of linear time have been suspended”. It “is a shift into a different order of time”, which Christopher Bache calls “Deep Time”. This field of experience encompassed Bache’s entire life. Bache has come to believe that there are “many layers to the tissue of time in the cosmos”. As one moves to the limits of space-time, the rules of time change.
Christopher Bache experienced his life as a completed whole, from beginning to end. Through all experiences, “there flowed a deep sense that the circumstance of our lives were being shaped by forces beyond our immediate awareness”. Our well-being lays in “trusting these circumstances”, responding “as deeply” as we can. The energy “set in motion” through our choices come to “constitute history”. History has “a momentum so large that it must complete itself into tomorrow.” We can’t grasp “the deeper significance of events and the full consequences of the choices” without the larger context.
We can’t explain how our thoughts and feelings emerge in the moment. Christopher Bache thinks that we need to move beyond our fixation on matter and to “a more complex phenomenology of consciousness and a more subtle, multidimensional metaphysics”. Learning in the psychedelic states takes place “layer by layer, piece by piece”. You can stop anywhere, but more will be given if you continue. The point is to learn.
Christopher Bache developed “an inner knowing” that the experiences were “authentic” and “trustworthy”. Bache writes:
“I have often wished that I had advance training in physics and astronomy, for then I might have been able to retain more of what I was shown… The content…was extraordinarily sophisticated and technical.”
In his sessions, Christopher Bache opened up to a “deeper reality” that he felt responsible for structuring his present life. He experienced “the distilled essence” of his entire life and felt that these experiences were important “to ground” him. “It felt like an infinite intelligence was educating me, reminding me of things forgotten long ago but now in need of being remembered.”
As Christopher Bache “spiraled deeper session by session” into what he perceived as “the mind of the universe, certain themes began to repeat themselves in progressively more complex forms”. The full picture didn’t become clear until the sequence of sessions were finished. The story of “our collective evolution became a recurring theme” in Bache’s work. He encountered an intentionality expressing itself in the unfolding universe. Over time this story became the “meta-framework” for his entire journey.
The conclusion Christopher Bache came to after great struggle was that the “collective episodes” in his sessions were aimed at the “transformation of the collective psyche as a whole”. Just as trauma can block the healthy functioning of the individual, “similar blockages occur at the collective level”.
If the “conscious engagement of unresolved pain can bring therapeutic relief at the personal level”, the same may occur at the collective level. It seems as an individual can tap into and “facilitate a healing of some portion of the collective psyche”. The individual “dissolves into preexisting fields of collective unconsciousness”.
Christopher Bache sees “death and rebirth as a cycle that repeats many times” as we move into “deeper levels of consciousness”. Death and rebirth repeats itself in “different forms at different levels of consciousness”. It represents a progressive process, a movement whose dynamics are collective.
Deeper Order of Reality
The collective suffering did end for Christopher Bache and a new phase of the journey began. An enormous field of energy had been freed in “healing the ocean of suffering” that moved Bache to new experiential boundaries. He entered a “deeper order of reality”, which required “new concept and new ways of thinking”. “What happened in the ocean of suffering became the energetic foundation for everything that followed.”
Christopher Bache experienced the “deeper order of reality” as the “bridge between the physical universe and the source of existence”. It is the “seed reality of space-time”. There are many intermediate levels on the way to “manifesting physical reality”. In following the “flow of existence” back into the “deeper order of reality”, Christopher Bache had to cease to exist as a human being. This larger “I” was “above” human experience. This “state of consciousness” was “beyond the human species-mind”.
“Being closer to the source of existence…, this level of reality is much more energetically powerful than space-time.” Christopher Bache had to learn to “sustain these high levels of energy”. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to remember his experiences. This was particularly challenging and required practice. Bache experienced “vast living dynamic forces embodying higher orders of intentionality and power and operating on a different order of time”. All moving, all alive.
“The majesty and scale of the intelligence” Christopher Bache was witnessing had “no malicious or manipulative intent”. The encounter with the “Living Forces” of this “deeper order of reality” was extremely challenging for Bache. As his “awareness stabilized at this level”, Bache experienced humanity as a “single organism with intelligent networks running through it”. These “collective networks” didn’t negate each individual’s agency.
Christopher Bache kept witnessing “patterns of connectivity” that weave our minds and bodies into “larger wholes”. Bache experienced “our individual minds as nodes” in the network of the collective mind, each of us mirroring “ selective themes of this larger consciousness”. He saw that “we all carry within us pieces of the physical diseases of our time and that by healing our individual bodies we contribute energetically to healing the collective body of humanity in a larger time frame”. The human body is learning how to be healthy in a changing environment.
Christopher Bache thinks that “thoughtforms are genuinely potent forces in the collective psyche”. “Thoughts repeated frequently by large numbers of people and invested with deep emotions generate a kind of living imprint on the collective psyche”. Bache found himself moving beyond the images and beliefs that human history has imprinted on the collective psyche. Cultural forms fell away as “Nature” invited Bache to see it afresh. “All forms…are intermediaries to that which lies beyond form.”
Being moved into a deeper level of reality is also a shift into a higher energetic state. Our reality can be destroyed, but our deeper essence always reemerges. When this process reaches so deep that the structure of our life as we have known it dissolves, a crisis is reached where the old “collapses and we are carried forward into a new level of reality”. When this happens, we “become a different kind of being with new capacities and success to new categories of experience”. There is a continuity of awareness (what is remembered), but a discontinuity of capacity (what can be experienced).
The Web of Life
There are simultaneous truths reflecting “the complex fabric of existence”. Christopher Bache experienced physical existence as “an unbroken tissue”. The “Mind” that coordinates our individual has a logic that “subsumes our individual perspectives”. When physical reality dissolves, the reality of “individual psyches” disappear. There is no distinction between individuals. The web of life operates in a unified manner. This shift form “individual” to “collective” intention expanded Bache’s understanding.
One of the challenges of entering intense states of consciousness is “learning how to learn” from experiences that “redefine the possible”. The experiential contexts are so extreme that Christopher Bache had to “learn a new way of learning”. He learned to bracket his assumptions. “Anything you believe is true, you may discover is false.” The “unthinkable” may turn out to be natural. “Anything you believe you are, you may discover you are not”.
After Christopher Bache’s exploration of “our collective being” followed “a high point” of the journey that “brought a new understanding and a deeper intimacy with life”. With repetition, Bache “became more familiar with the territory and absorbed its patterns and rules”. There were no separate “things”. Life was the “harmonious expression of a unified whole rippling through life”. “Oneness expressed itself in diversity without itself falling into diversity.” The underlying energy “brings everything into existence, keeps everything alive, and reabsorbs everything at the end”.
From deep within the experiences, Christopher Bache felt that his entire person derived from the collective human field, “like pinching a tightly woven tablecloth and twisting it to a standing shape”. When the separate self dissolves, the “Oneness of life” rises spontaneously in awareness. The falling away of the concerns of Bache’s private life made it easier for him to “regather other layers of energy”. And, while he gathered “wave upon wave of energy”, he entered into “quieter and quieter levels of existence”.
Christopher Bache’s discoveries were not only an “intellectual exercise” but a series of “experiential realizations”. Our creative capacity is enormous. Our capacity for creating destruction and pain is also enormous. No limit is placed on our learning. Bache felt himself returning to a “condition of undivided wholeness within himself”. The experience was “both personal and collective”. It felt like a “ball of intertwined threads” spreading itself into the “fiber of the collective unconscious”.
The world is whole within itself. And “the logic of wholeness is different from the logic of a world in pieces”. “Oneness is a core truth of life,…but…there are many levels to it…” Christopher Bache had to “twist language” to convey his experience that there are “degrees of Oneness, orders of magnitude within Oneness”.
“Experience always trumps intellectual analysis”. And yet, Christopher Bache felt a responsibility to make sense of his experiences. Some parts may need no analysis at all, while other parts may be helped by being examined. This is especially true of how Bache’s sessions were touching the lives of his students.
Fields of Consciousness
The experiences described in Christopher Bache’s book took place in his home, but a series of experiences also surfaced in his classroom. They became so significant that Bache wrote another book about them, The Living Classroom. It was as if by entering into “communion with the deeper fabric of life”, the “threads of that fabric were being activated in the physical world”.
The synchronicities became more frequent as Christopher Bache entered deeper levels of consciousness. What triggered these effects was not what Bache was “doing”, but what he had “become”. There was a “spontaneous energetic resonance” between him and his students, which was “underneath the exchange of ideas”. These activations became so prominent that Christopher Bache had to pay close attention to them. They showed how “the connective tissue of consciousness works in group settings”.
States of consciousness are “contagious”. “When one person begins to throw off layers of the psychological conditioning…, surrounding people will necessarily be affected.”
Fields of consciousness emerge that “reflect the intention and activity” of the group. “The better focused the group’s intention and the longer such activity goes on, the stronger these fields will become.” Christopher Bache began teaching within a new pedagogical “paradigm” that honored the “innate connectivity of consciousness and the existence of localized fields of learning”.
Christopher Bache thinks the most important chapter of his book is the one which speaks of “our children and our children’s children”. “It speaks of a crossroads humanity is coming to” that will “change us at the deepest levels of our being”. Everyone knows the challenges humanity is facing. “The growing consensus appears to be that we have postponed taking action too many times on too many fronts”. We have “repeatedly failed to heed the ecological warnings and rein our rapacious greed”.
The vision that emerged in Christopher Bache’s sessions is that humanity is approaching a “profound shift” in the “human psyche”, but the old must be emptied before the new can emerge. It will begin with a time “of intense anguish, of loss of control and breakdown” that will “last generations”.
Christopher Bache’s excursions into “personal Deep Time” seemed to pave the way for his excursions into “collective Deep Time”. “The order and design of evolving life is not something that is imposed from without”. “It is a restless churning to become more that burns within life.” Everything that has gone before needs to make room for “new organizational patterns”. The “unified field” of the “entire human family” liberates “new orders of self-expression”.
Christopher Bache saw that our “scientific knowledge about the origin of life” is deeply incomplete. “The depth of our ignorance is shown in our conviction that the universe is assembling itself by accident.” Evolution is no accident but a creative act. Bache was drawn into a “superordinate level of reality that exposed a deeper organizational pattern”.
The cooperation of the parts with the whole is extraordinary. Christopher Bache experienced evolution as the “systematic growth of a single organism”. “Nothing in our theological or philosophical systems does justice to the facts.” “When an organism is called on from within” it must purge the “residue of its past” in order to “lay the foundation for a more refined level of operation”. The poisons of humanity’s past are brought forward in us. This century is a watershed. The future will not look like the present.
The “collective convulsions” Christopher Bache entered were driven by a “global ecological crisis”. It took Bache inside the “collective psyche’s experience” of this crisis. “It was like being able to experience a thunderstorm in its totality, with every drop registering individually and the patterns of the storm as a whole simultaneously.” “Like people living on an island who gradually become aware that a hurricane is overtaking them, humanity was gradually waking up in the alarm to events that had overtaken them.” Life as known was shattered at its core.
Though many died, many still survived, and new social units formed. “Everywhere new social institutions sprang into being”, “new ways of thinking,” and “new values”. “Every aspect of our lives was marked by new priorities, new perceptions of the good, new truths.” These new social forms spread among the survivors like a contagion, and “creativity between the “cycle of creativity between the individual and the group spiraled”.
A Unified Psychic Field
“For psychedelics to have their deepest impact”, we must “place them in dialogue with other fields of learning where possible”. For this reason, Christopher Bache unpacked the following assertions in Dark Night, Early Dawn:
The species-mind is a unified psychic field.
This field will be driven into a far-from-equilibrium state by the global ecological crisis.
In this state, the species-mind will exhibit accelerated change, heightened creativity, and higher self-organization.
The “human psyche will come alive at a new levels” under the “pressure of the extreme conditions of our future”. Christopher Bache believes that it is “vital to understand the structural role that the collective psyche will play”.
Christopher Bache believes that “the global systems crisis taking place in the world outside us is deeply connected to the evolutionary metamorphosis taking place inside us”. While the “long and sustained crisis puts enormous pressure on our social institutions to change”, it also puts “pressure on our individual psyches to change and adapt”. Bache doesn’t believe that “we can grow the planet into a greater whole as long as we remain psychologically fragmented ourselves”. We need to “rise above our narrow self-interests and make the political and moral choices that will create a world that works for all”.
The “Light” is waiting for us as we move “deep into the Universe”. Christopher Bache discovered that the “universe floats in an Ocean of Radiance”. He writes:
“As one moves into still deeper levels of transpersonal experience, once encounters fields nested within fields of light. Each step beyond matter, beyond the soul, beyond the collective psyche, and beyond archetypal reality takes us deeper into a living ecology of light.”
In Christopher Bache’s experience, “there are many gradations of light”. As one moves deeper into the universe, the quality of light changes. “It becomes clearer, more intense, and more luminous”. When Bache uses the phrase “Diamond Light” to describe the “singularly intense dimension of light” that captivated him completely. “Its clarity was so overwhelming, its energy so pure that returning to it” became his sole focus.
The strongest pattern in Christopher Bache’s final sessions was a series of personal healings. Eventually, Bache learned that it was his “personal wounding in life” that had allowed him to “connect with the wounds of humanity in the ocean of suffering”. His “personal pain” was an “energetic bridge” between his individual and the collective psyche. Had his “personal wounds” been healed first, “the bridge to the collective psyche might not have been formed”.
Slowly Christopher Bache came to realize that “something was intentionally guiding the integration” of the extreme states into his “embodied awareness”. He was “being fed these states as quickly as” he could manage them. Bache also realized that his system was “accumulating and storing energy across multiple sessions”. There was an “energetic momentum” building across the sessions. “Each new initiation into a deeper level of reality was being underwritten” by years of work.
A shift also took place in the “structural flow” of his experience. In earlier sessions Christopher Bache experience had been “one of expanding outward”. In the later sessions he experienced himself being at the “center of an enormous field of energy and light”. Finally, Bache understood that “no matter how deeply” one enters into Cosmos, there are “always deeper dimensions still”.
There is no final endpoint to this journey. There are many degrees of “Oneness” and even “Formlessness”. And there are “more dimensions of Light” than one can explore in a lifetime. “We are truly children waking in the arms of an infinite cosmos.” This is also why Christopher Bache would be gentler with himself if he were “starting this journey over again”.
I have taken in and processed some of the book’s content by writing this review, but there is so much more to unpack that I need to read the book again several times. The “Mind of the Universe” is such a broad and deep topic that there are many more questions than answers. It is a very personal and brutally honest story of an explorer deeply wounded by the beauty he found. I warmly recommend this book. Christopher Bache is a very good writer and a pleasure to read.
Detta är en recension av Gina Gustavssons bok. Låt mig klargöra redan från början att jag inte hade skrivit denna recension om jag inte tyckte att boken är väldigt bra.
Innan pandemin visste jag ingenting om Folkhälsomyndigheten (FoHM). Om jag i något sammanhang hade hört talas om expertmyndigheten så kom jag i vart fall inte ihåg det. Min första minnesbild av myndigheten är från den 2 mars 2020 när generaldirektör Johan Carlson säger att en promille av befolkningen kan bli smittad av det nya coronaviruset, samtidigt som resten av världen talade om tiotals procent. Ett av Carlsons argument var att Sverige ju är så glesbefolkat. Ja, men nästan ingen bor ju i glesbygden, tänkte jag. Min andra minnesbild är från den 7 mars 2020 när Johan Carlson nedlåtande avfärdar myndighetens kritiker med att de har lika stor träffsäkerhet som “Enok Sarri när han tittade i fiskmagar och spådde sommarvädret, ungefär” (Gustavsson, Du stolta, du fria, s. 145).
Det jag framförallt uppskattar i boken är att Gina Gustavsson ger perspektiv på det som hände under pandemin. Jag uppskattar också Gina Gustavssons intellektuella skärpa och precision i användningen av språket. Det ger en känsla av befrielse att läsa en författare som är klar i tanken, har förmåga att uttrycka sig väl och har respekt för ords betydelse.
Om det är något jag särskilt vill lyfta fram innehållsmässigt ur boken är att vi “måste…sluta blanda ihop yta med innehåll” (s. 341). Gina Gustavsson skriver att:
“I pandemin syntes detta i hur [Anders] Tegnell ansågs ödmjuk, trots att han i princip aldrig erkände att han haft fel. Men han bar skrynkliga skjortor och cyklade på en oväxlad cykel. …att [Lena] Einhorn citerade forskningsstudier tolkades som att hon var verklighetsfrånvänd och fast i det akademiska elfenbenstornet, snarare än ödmjuk nog att läsa på och inte skjuta från höften.” (s. 341)
En annan sak som jag vill lyfta fram är att det är viktigt att avveckla den blinda tilliten och oron för oro. Det är, så vitt Gina Gustavsson vet, “bara i Sverige som orosdämpning gjordes till en explicit del av strategin för att hantera coronaviruset” (s. 306). Gina Gustavsson noterar att:
“…i Norge hade man snarare gjort tvärtom. Man hade aktivt försökt appellera till befolkningens känslor, inklusive oro, för att motivera dem att vara försiktig i pandemin. … Men i Sverige kopplades oro hastigt till brist på tillit, konspirationsteorier och ren galenskap. Kritik mot svenska myndigheter eller coronastrategin som sådan bortförklarades också gärna med att kritiker mådde dåligt…” (s 306)
Jag delar Gina Gustavssons förvåning över att “kritiker av den svenska strategin borde tåla att anklagas för konspirationsteorier, för att vara ute efter forskningsmedel, för att vara hot mot Sverige eller att sprida hat” (s. 332). För det är som Gina Gustavsson mycket riktigt påpekar att:
“Den blinda…tilliten gör inte demokratin bättre, myndigheterna mer ansvarsfulla eller de värnlösa säkrare” (s. 337)
Det är tvärtom så att de viktigaste demokratiska uppgifterna “består i att tänka själva, ta ställning till och kritiskt granska och debattera den politik som förs” (s. 328-29). Gina Gustavsson betonar att:
“Det är också viktigt att statsanställda tjänstemän skiljer hård men saklig kritik från personpåhopp och personhpåhopp från hot. Det misslyckades dessvärre FoHM:s företrädare med att göra gång på gång under pandemin.” (s. 331)
Om ingen får ifrågasätta så får inkompetensen härja fritt, tänker jag. Det är varken bra för demokratin, Sverigebilden eller folkhälsan. Det finns mycket mer som är väl värt att lyfta fram ur boken, men det är bättre att du läser den själv. Boken rekommenderas varmt!
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler is an international bestseller which was first published in 1993. This is a review of the edition from 1999. Ricardo Semler writes in the new introduction that Maverick is “a reminder that age-old truths about human nature, respect and integrity can be powerful allies of success”. Here’s a summary of the book together with my impressions.
Ricardo Semler sees his role primarily as a catalyst. Success, for him, is to “create an environment where others make decisions”. It’s about having absolute trust in the workers, or partners, as he prefers to call them.
Ricardo Semler was “shocked by the oppression” he found when he first started working at Semco. His father was a “traditionalist”, who treated employees “paternalistically”, and often induced “fear”. Ricardo Semler couldn’t help but think that the company could be run differently without “counting everything” and “regulating everyone”, without “all those numbers and all those rules”. The first thing he did when he took over the company from his father was to “strip away the blind, irrational authoritarianism”. It gave the workers the possibility to govern and manage themselves.
The partners typically work in teams, or clusters, with responsibility for a complete product. This gives them more control and makes the products better. Everyone is encouraged to mix with everyone else. Nearly all have mastered several jobs. Twelve layers of management were replaced by a new structure based on three concentric circles.
There was a deep split between those who believed in law and order above all else, and those who felt that people can overcome any obstacles if they are “motivated by a sense of involvement”. Ricardo Semler tried all “prepackaged ideas” and “techniques” that he could find, but he couldn’t make them work. After a while, he realized that the company’s problems went deeper than he had realized. There was “a lifelessness, a lack of enthusiasm, a malaise” that had to change.
Ricardo Semler started by eliminating the “most visible symbols of corporate oppression”. He didn’t want to have “a company at which you don’t trust the people with whom you work”. Democracy needs to be exercised with “conviction” and without “exception”, and it begins with “little things”. “Small changes eventually led to larger ones”. Teams “formed spontaneously” as the “winds of democracy swept through”. The strength of these teams were their diversity. They didn’t have a “formal head”. People who showed the greatest capacity to lead got the job. The groups were held together by mutual respect instead of “boxes on an organizational chart that guaranteed power”. Once a team had made a decision, it stayed decided. No approval was required. It was a spontaneous process. People participated only if they wanted to.
Ricardo Semler believes 20 percent of the managers were sympathetic to his efforts to make the workplace more democratic, and that another 20 percent laughed heartily at it, considering him a rebel with an inheritance. Ricardo Semler wants people to “think, innovate, and act as human beings whenever possible”. His experience is that people perform best when they know almost everyone around them.
Participation is infinitely more complex to practice than conventional management. Most managers prefer traditional methods, but no one can expect involvement and partnership to flourish without openness and truthfulness. Companies must clearly and consistently demonstrate fairness. Fairness is like quality, “it takes years to build up but collapses over a single incident”. People must always be able to say what’s on their minds. And all company communications must be absolutely honest. Power and respect cannot be imposed.
Ricardo Semler thinks that too many are too quick to jump on the latest managerial fads and fashions. He is flattered by all the companies that have tried to imitate Semco, but it also makes him nervous. Semco still has a long way to go. And even if Semco was perfect, no one should set out to copy it. People must have the freedom to determine their own ways.
Ricardo Semler mentions at the end of the book that most businesses today still are organized in much the same way as they were 400 years ago, with stultifying results. No company can be successful, in the long run, if profit is its primary goal. Successful companies will be those that put quality of all life first. “Do this and the rest—quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all—will follow.” At the heart of it all is trust!
Maverick doesn’t provide a model to be copied. Maverick is an invitation to put quality of all life first—and in so doing, create a more humane, trusting, and life-affirming workplace. This is an excellent book!
Jenny Quillien identifies patterns that enable thought in her book Clever Digs: How Workspaces Can Enable Thought. Quillien focuses on thinking, but doesn’t address spaces for aliveness (Christopher Alexander’s “quality without a name“). I assume that places that support a sense of aliveness also are good for thinking — especially creative thinking. Patterns can be identified after the fact, but how do you connect them to ensure a profound result?
Biopoetics: Towards an Existential Ecology by Andreas Weber connects our human experience with a scientific understanding of life. A major limitation of conventional scientific objectivity is the exclusion of the first-person subjective perspective. Rational thinking has omitted the rationality of the living body.
Andreas Weber proposes an existential poetics for living systems: 1) Perception and communication always means to be touched on a bodily level. 2) To be touched means to be entangled. 3) Every relationship is a mutual transformation. The world speaks to itself through living relations. In perceiving we participate in the world. And through communication we tranform the world.
Poetic creativity is the ability to know something through participation. We need to understand life as a deeply sense-creating phenomenon. Organisms live in existential, felt realities, which they experience through their selves. Life is operating on meaning.
All living beings are concerned with their survival, and hence, with value, with what is good and bad. Feeling is a physical factor. This is the foundation from which an explanation of life can start. Organisms bring forth themselves physically. They continuously generate and specify their own organization. This is described by the term autopoiesis, which literally means self-creation.
Andreas Weber builds a unifying frame for the emerging new biology. The challenge is to reintroduce felt aliveness in our picture of the world after two hundred years of Enlightenment thinking. Weber activates a new language. He contrasts techne with poiesis. Techne means analysis and replication. Poiesis, on the other hand, means creative self-realization. Techne is cause-and-effect and control. Poiesis is inner goal-directedness and self-expression.
Living beings bring forth themselves. They retain their integrity in the face of changes in the environment. A living being exists as a self-identical structure in time and space, although it is not materially identical with itself. An organism decides and chooses according to its needs. It realizes itself anew in every moment. It is free because it shows an intention to stay alive.
Organisms behave as a whole. They are free by necessity. They interpret and do not obey. A machine is dependent on causal order. An organism, on the other hand, is not causally determined. It is enfolded in its ecosystem and continuously recreates itself. Its behavior expresses the overall situation. Meaning is one of its fundamental dimensions of existence. And the background in bringing forth meaning is always existential.
Empirical objectivity, which we are so familiar with, can be enlarged with an empirical subjectivity. All living beings have a shared condition of feeling and experience. Andreas Weber writes that subjectivity is the principle of organic behavior and becomes visible in its form. Form is related to what an organism feels. Feeling is turned toward the world. Meaning is sensually experienced expression.
Life celebrates itself in living. Life always has to confirm its existence to assure its continuation. A living being is an embodied subject which can make choices. Life is matter and meaning intertwined. All living beings articulate themselves as wholes through feeling. Living beings enfold matter through their metabolism. Their matter at no moment remains one and the same. They change to maintain themselves.
The organic mode of existence is feeling rather than calculation. The ability to feel our and other’s needs is fundamental. Embodied subjectivity holds a living being together. Value guides an organism’s self-maintenance. Our bodies bring forth subjective reality. Life happens in between mind and matter. Genes and soma interact in mutual transformation.
Intention, concerns of a living subject, is logically inevitable. It cannot be circumvented, and neither be calculated away. Life is non-computable. Meaning-making requires a body. Embodied logical contradiction manifests as a need. Need allows autonomy to come into the picture. The unity which an organism creates is a micro version of the larger whole. Contradictions enhance one another through mutal transformations.
Purpose is always felt. It is the basic experience of being alive. There is an embodied logics which, at the same time, is inclusive and contradictory. The basic experience of the whole is to realize oneself as purpose. Living beings bring forth wholeness. They are self-sustained wholes.
Form is both a necessity and a constraint. It both enables and makes dependent. Individual existence means to be whole in a larger whole. Metabolism is the transformation of the whole into self, and of self into the world. It is the world passing through self as self.
Living reality is a logics of dialogue. It is necessarily dynamic. Dialogics is a process based on renegotiations of relationship. Encounters are experienced as meanings. A subject experiences itself as an inside with an outside. Every touch is to be touched. Every seeing might mean to be seen. Perception is a meaningful space in between. Bodies continuously transform themselves in living relationships.
Organisms participate in one another. Organisms need others and the whole in order to be. Being an organism means sharing, and sharing is change in relationship with others. Together they form commons.
Being a body is an irreducible experience. Having feelings and (non-verbal) interactions are empirical facts. They are lived dimensions that are shared among all living beings. We are, on an empirical biological level, part of a living cosmos, which is subject to a general principle of life. We are all supported by life itself.
The causal-mechanical approach as a whole is mistaken. Reality is meaning-centered, open to creative change, and continuously bringing forth agents with subjective experiences. We are entagled in the creative aliveness of nature, and as a culture we must honor this aliveness.
We have to drop the separation of inside and outside. There is a deep entanglement between the individual and the world, which makes both inseparable. Entanglement is the way we come into being. Feeling is the existential experience of meaning. It is the basic experience of being interconnected and separate. To live is to be self and other and the same time.
Andreas Weber writes in Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science that the more technology allows us to study life, the stronger the evidence of life’s complexity and intelligence becomes. For two hundred years, biology made no major efforts to answer what life really is. Most biologists assumed organisms to be tiny machines. Today, this belief is shaken.
Organisms are not machines assembled from discrete pieces, but unities held together by feeling what is good or bad for them. 1) All living bodies are bodies of feeling. 2) The wish to live is visible in the living body of each being. 3) Only in the mirror of other life, in the eyes of the other, can we unlock the depths in ourselves.
Feeling and experience guide ecological functioning. Organisms are feeling, sentient systems that interpret their environments. Biology is discovering that even the simplest organisms act according to values. Every living being is connected to reality through the experience of being alive. It is what defines an organism.
The new biology currently finds itself in a situation comparable to that of physics hundred years ago. It views feeling as the primary explanation of all life processes. Feeling is the inner experience of meaning. The subjectivity of a living organism is an objective reality in its own right. Value and feeling are at the center of a scientific description of living organisms. This is radical and not, yet, readily understood.
We experience the world primarily with our senses and bodies. Our need to be connected, to be seen, to be loved, spring forth from our bodily existence We are part of a web of meaningful inter-penetrations of being. Without experiencing natural beauty and real connectedness to a living world, we end up lifeless and deformed.
Andreas Weber writes that the conceptual framework we have invented to understand organisms is the deeper reason for our environmental catastrophe. We are extinguishing life because we have blinded ourselves to it. We treat it cruelly because we believe it to be machinery. Centuries of humanitarian and ecological disasters lie behind us, and bigger ones lie ahead. How we understand life itself will decide our future.
Andreas Weber argues that we share a rich common ground with all other living beings. He writes about nature, not as an object, but as a subject of living experience. Feeling and value are crucial in the phenomenon of life. Weber has spent his life searching for life’s nameless “something”. Life literally creates itself. Organisms do anything to ensure their continued existence. The desire to live is primary. Everything that lives wants more life. The wish to live is visible. We are entangled with others.
Andreas Weber proposes that the that world is governed by poetic ecology. Matter forms mutually transformative bonds and relationships. It is creative without centralized control. Objects assemble themselves into more complex forms of their own volition. Poetic ecology restores humanness, without sacrificing the otherness of other beings. It connects deep human experiences with a scientific understanding of life. The world is vibrant with feeling.
Living beings are autonomous to a certain degree. They act as a whole and not as parts obeying external laws. There are no governing orders, only signs of meaning. All levels of biological existence have the ability to arrange matter into desired configurations. The body knows through acting on what is good. What matters most for all organisms is to act in a way that makes sense. Organisms continuously maintain themselves as a whole. They strive to regenerate, grow and maintain their boundaries against internal fluctuations and external disturbances.
Andreas Weber emphasizes that it is profoundly misleading to compare an organism to a machine. Machines do not bring forth themselves. They have no active interests. They do not resist being switched off. Organisms, on the other hand, struggle to perpetuate their own existence. To be alive means to maintain one’s own body, and to have an active self-interest in one’s own circumstances. A living being is deeply invested in preserving its particular form and in its freedom to act. Every organism chooses and decides. Organisms have to be free out of necessity.
Feeling is the common language of all living beings. It resides in the coherence of the body. The body reacts to the expression of another body because it feels its meaning and seeks to understand the consequences for its own coherence. Experience is mediated through feeling. In the depth of felt experience, everything is an integrated whole.
Our connection with other beings happen on a deep level. These deep principles cannot be verbalized. They can only be experienced. Andreas Weber writes that amidst our elaborate concepts lingers a gigantic blank spot. We underestimate and misjudge everything that cannot speak with words — until some decades ago, even children. We systematically deny what we can know, what we can experience through our bodies. Feeling comes before form. All organisms are connected in a meshwork of experiences which is existentially real.
Every experience has been a source of suspicion since the birth of modern science two hundred years ago. It goes back to Descartes’ idea that sensory experiences are not reliable from a scientific standpoint. And it is an example of our reliance on rational calculation, which makes today’s loss of life possible.
We are living in a biosphere whose depth and extension we cannot grasp, and which is continuously regenerating itself and us. The biosphere of our blue planet is one single interwoven system. With the plentitude of life disappearing, we lose a dimension which is beyond any calculation. All life is a meshwork, where everything depends on everything, and all move through the movement of all. The value of life is immeasurable because it is all there is. If the biosphere dies, we can no longer exist. At the end of all calculations, the value of life is infinitely high.
Living reality depends on a balance between autonomy and relatedness. Feeling alive, or enlivened, is a way to experience whether relationships are healthy or not. It is embedded in all life and is part of the relational structure of the world. By the experience of enlivenment we are able to evaluate the life-giving potential of any situation.
Andreas Weber pursues an ambitious goal with Matter & Desire: An Erotic Ecology. He investigates the principles of reality that we experience and are part of through a science of the heart. It became clear to Weber that we need to completely rethink how we understand life and its significance. It also means that we have understood very little, or have forgotten very much, about life.
Andreas Weber describes being in the world as an erotic encounter. It’s an encounter of meaning through contact, and of being oneself through the significance of others. Weber sees ecology as a relational system, and love as an ecological process.
Andreas Weber writes that 1) to love, we must understand life; 2) to be able to love, we must be able to be alive; and 3) to allow oneself to be fully alive is to love oneself and the world, which is alive. We are currently neglecting this because our efforts to understand the world are directed away from the experience of being alive, from aliveness.
Life is the creative transition from controlled situations to openings that cannot be controlled. Being in tune with life lies between following principles and improvising. Every life-form is an unbroken chain of self-organization. The world is a symphony of relationships between participants that are changed by the interaction.
After two hundred years of trying to bring about Enlightenment, we have put the Earth in a position more precarious than it has been in for the past two hundred million years. It could be that the planet is not suffering from an environmental crisis, but from a shortage of our love. Love is the inside of aliveness.
Enlivenment: Towards a fundamental shift in the concepts of nature, culture and politics by Andreas Weber is an e-book published by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung which can be downloade here. Andreas Weber sees Enlivenment as a way to move beyond Enlightenment.
Enlivenment is a way to acknowledge the deeply creative processes embodied in all living organisms. It complements the rational thinking of the Enlightenment. Weber writes that rational thinking is an ideology that focuses on dead matter. It has no way of comprehending lived experience. We have forgotten what life means. It is a logical outcome of our rational culture.
Andreas Weber argues that lived experience and embodied meaning are key factors that cannot be excluded from a scientific picture of the biosphere. The experience of being alive connects us to all living organisms. Enlivenment is a set of deep ordering principles for how to perceive and act. It seeks to advance our freedom to be alive-in connectedness.
Feeling our needs and having them satisfied is directly related to our aliveness. All living beings are subject to the same natural dynamics. Sentience and felt expression is the way living beings exist. Meaning and expressiveness are deeply rooted in nature. Nature is a relational network between living beings who have individual interests to stay alive, grow, and unfold. Science must take these lived dimensions into account.
If we are convinced that we have to describe reality as non-living, life and living processes become highly problematic. If we see the biosphere as non-living, this will inevitably lead to a lack of concern toward life and indifference to lived experience. Seeing reality as a living process literally changes everything. This opens up a new view of the organic world in which organisms play a creative role.
The simplest organism displays the intention to maintain itself. An organism is a subject with a body. It expresses the conditions under which living processes take place. The experience of being alive and full of life is a fundamental component of reality. The desire for lived experience and to become one’s own full self is a fundamental part of reality.
Andreas Weber argues that nature is a commons. He mentions that self-organized communities of people are inventing their own forms of governance. Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, found that local freedom is a critical factor. Local freedom is necessary for the cohesion of the encompassing whole. Project that are sustainable long-term always satisfies the commoners in multi-dimensional ways.
Andreas Weber also refers to Manfred Max-Neef’s Matrix of Human Needs. Meeting needs and building community are combined in commoning. Weber is influenced by Christopher Alexander and describes commons as centers of aliveness. We all share lived experiences. We all know how it feels to be alive in the world. This is the deepest knowledge that we can access.
Living beings perceive value and meaning from within, and they manifest their desire to stay alive. Being a body and having feelings is an irreducible fact and experience. The key point is that all living beings share the experience of a meaningful core self that is concerned with what happens to it and strive to keep itself alive.
Many of our current difficulties is because we have built an entire civilization upon a flawed foundation. The world is inherently creative and alive. We need to be carefully observant of felt life. This is the switch from Enlightenment to Enlivenment.