Article By: Anna Magee
New patterns, forms, ways of being are emerging in all the different disciplines that make up our human existence. These patterns are found to replicate themselves in every area of life – from the smallest organism, to the outer reaches of the cosmology. With this comes new possibilities for collective spiritual practice. Anna Magee explores what this may look like.
How may we make any sense of, or take any direction from the apparent chaos that currently reigns in all areas of our human domain? From our political, financial and academic institutions to our individual personal and family relationships, there are ‘climate’ changes that appear to threaten all. At the same time however there has been a steady emergence of teachings and observations from science and the humanities over the last 30 or so years that seem to serve our possible transition into a new paradigm and consciousness. Rather like the proverbial frog sitting in a pan of water, we are becoming dimly aware that the temperature is rising – there may be time to jump, but only if we really wake up to the fact.
The work of biologists Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief, 2008) and Rupert Sheldrake (A New Science of Life,1987) illuminate a new way of understanding the organizing and evolutionary principles in Nature that may help us take that leap. Lipton describes how the simplest living organism, a single cell, exists within an environment that supports its life – it has the same basic capacities as all living things: feed, excrete, grow, reproduce, respond – just like more complex organisms, for instance man. Complex organisms may be viewed as being communities of single cells working in cooperation for greater levels of adaptivity within the supporting environment. The mechanisms for such organization and cooperation, may be understood with the help of Sheldrake’s Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance and the evolutionary principle of ‘Formative Causation’ by which information about form and behaviour for systems (living things) may be passed across space and time in consonance with other similar communities with a similar resonance (for instance animals of the same species).
The important principles here are that communities co-operate, utilise and communicate the information that supports life within the context of the environment upon which it depends.
If we can envisage living organisms, including ourselves, as systems or ‘communities of common interest’ it makes it easier to scale up (or down) and see how we exist also within a variety of systems: family, local community, workplace, social/economic, religious, cultural, national, ethnic, human, mammalian, animal, biological-life-on-earth, solar system etc – rather like those postcards I once addressed as a young child which began with the name of my family and ended up with: ‘The Universe’!
From a biological point of view once more, when a single cell within a system ‘forgets’ that it belongs to and depends upon the organism within which it lives and begins to grow and reproduce rapidly out of alignment with the morphic field, information and the balance of sustainability of the whole, then what we call ‘Cancer’ develops. In this situation the tumour may ‘flourish’ for a while but ultimately it is at the expense of the environment or organism upon which it depends and thus both may perish. In human systems our recent history demonstrates how a social or commercial organisations’ drive to succeed at the expense of competitors and of available resources may result in an initial ‘flourishing’ but ultimately cannot be sustained. Joel Magnuson’s article on the ‘Society, Education and Business’ section of EastWest Interconnect demonstrates this quite clearly at a global level. It is no surprise that Cancer is still one of the greatest killers at the current time.
The pathological consequences of ‘Not Belonging’
Just as a single cell ‘forgets’ that it is part of a larger whole, and cancer develops, so the pathological consequences of a sense of ‘Not Belonging’ to a system can be seen in another phenomenon of epidemic proportions at this time: addiction to chemicals . The individuals that I encounter and work with as a therapist in drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities all seem to share a sense of being dislocated from their families and from society. Whether this feeling arises as a consequence of, or as a pre-cursor to, developing a dependence on a chemical is not always clear, but a great many report having ‘always’ felt that they did not fit in and in the absence of a felt connection to the resource of their family or cultural roots, they may substitute the anaesthetic of drugs or alcohol. On a systemic scale many displaced indigenous peoples become particularly susceptible to alcoholism and drug addiction when their connection to the cultural context or environmental and spiritual resources (homeland) becomes lost to them. A pathological systemic parallel of the individual experience of an addiction to ‘altered states’ induced by chemicals is the kind of mass psychosis that fuelled the financial over-borrowing ‘have it now’ economy of recent years.
Bert Hellinger (Love’s Hidden Symmetry 1998) has developed some important new insights into how what we call ‘conscience’ is in practice a mechanism for binding us into a particular group or system. We can experience the feeling of guilt when we behave, or even think about behaving, in a way that is contra to the values of a system to which we belong; of course we can belong in a variety of systems and so the same behaviour that is frowned upon in one may be approved of in another. On a larger scale this insight helps us to an understanding of how atrocities can be committed by one group against another with a completely clear conscience – often with a sense of moral justification, therefore the feeling of guilt or innocence has little to do with any objective morality. Bert Hellinger also describes various levels of these conscience boundaries: the Personal Conscience – binds us to our immediate family system and is felt directly; Systemic Conscience – guides the ‘shape’ or form of the whole system, re-creating patterns through generations from earlier ‘fates’; and a wider Conscience of The Greater Whole – less immediately experienced or witnessed but nevertheless a Field that contains ‘all systems’. At each level it becomes possible to experience a certain ‘field energy’ that has a dynamic influence and effect on all those belonging within it. This is what Sheldrake refers to as Morphic Fields, and in the Systemic Constellations work that has evolved from Bert Hellinger’s teaching and practice it becomes the ‘Informing Field’.
Developing an energetic awareness of the whole
So an interconnected way of understanding our human condition is to understand ourselves as existing within energetic fields that are full of information about form and order, and that we ourselves are equally dynamic ‘field-boundaried communities’ of information-carrying cells, reflexively participating and interacting in all else. This is the starting point of an awareness of the energetic interconnection of our inner space and outer experiencing of the world. Lipton’s understanding that the success of an organism’s evolution from simple to more complex structures depends on co-operation and specialization highlights the fact that information is of paramount importance so that cells can accurately adapt and replicate in harmony with the survival of the whole and in balance with available sustaining resources. ‘Eco-system’ is a biological phrase that describes the delicate inter-play of a variety of species whose lives are supported by and supportive of each other and of the whole. Of course climatic and other conditions will at times be more or less favourable for each species, but each has a role and remains a part of the natural history of the evolution of the whole. Standing back and observing in this way we can have an interested and even compassionate attitude towards the fluctuating fortunes of individuals and species on such documentaries as ‘The Natural World’, but of course when the species in question is our own we may struggle to have either objectivity or compassion.
Hellinger has done some important work on the issues of victims and perpetrators, and rather controversially has demonstrated the importance of accepting the ‘place’ of the perpetrator in a system (family or culture) he sees that they are too caught up in events and influences that are beyond them – although this does not absolve them from the responsibility for their actions, nor protect them from their consequences. Of course many Eastern wisdom traditions and religions have teachings that encourage us to look beyond the immediate reactivity to any situation or event towards a larger context in which it may be better understood. Hellinger says: “Everything that is, has the right to be”(seminar, London April 2008). There is a calmness that arises from this perspective – the friction of experiencing is greatly reduced when we accept things exactly as they are. His stance as a facilitator of the ‘constellation’ method of systemic inquiry is one of ‘kindliness to the system’ rather than taking a position in support of one aspect such as a ‘victim’. In this way all have an equal right to belong regardless of their particular fate, and the living and the dead are represented equally since this field energy is not constrained by time. Life is not seen as being greater than death in this perspective – both are in the service of each other and of something beyond, this Hellinger refers to as the ‘Spirit Mind’.
A further, and for me deeply profound and important insight that Bert Hellinger has emphasized is the idea that the ‘feminine’ (Mother archetype) is of great importance in the service of Life. This may sound rather obvious, but in fact several thousand years have passed since either ‘civilized man’ or indigenous peoples actually honoured the Goddess. Minoan artifacts bear witness to such recognition. However although other traditions that have survived into modern times do have goddesses in their pantheons – nowhere on planet Earth does this currently translate into a cultural reverence of the Feminine. I say this with great caution because of the unfortunate experiences of ‘Feminism’ – a reaction away from the patriarchal and hierarchical systems that have dominated all cultures, but one that actually replicated and mirrored the very oppressive and dismissive attitude it sought to dispel. In archetypal terms once more, Hellinger proposes that: ‘The Masculine serves the Feminine, and the Feminine follows the Masculine’ (Hellinger, 2001). A very rapid consideration of the current and historically recent (and not-so-recent) past will reveal a situation where in practice the Feminine serves the Masculine AND the Feminine follows the Masculine; this is what we call a patriarchal society. Moving away from any arising reaction to this observation we can begin to give a space in which it may be realized just how intuitively logical the first premise is in terms of the service of Life – a beautiful dance in which the masculine energy is directed towards serving, protecting and providing for the feminine capacity to nurture life and the feminine energy, reciprocating, follows this lead and intention also in the service of something greater than either gender: mutual respect and co-operation.
Honouring the system: developing spiritual practice
Following these ideas as a spiritual practice has the same kind of problems and pitfalls as all other kinds of practice – the very human tendency towards distraction and abstraction for instance. However the image of a series of interrelated and interpenetrating energy fields, or ‘worlds’, from macro (universe) to micro (sub-atomic) – that we are part of and participate in, is a paradigm that has its roots in the distant past and may well come to bear the fruit of a new consciousness in the future.
In the early part of the 20th century G.I Gurdjieff (1950)( Armenian mystic and teacher developed a cosmology and a ‘system for the harmonious development of mankind’ which has continued to be taught and practised by groups wordwide and is called ‘The work of self-remembering’. Ideas that Gurdjieff brought into the West from his long studies and research into esoteric Eastern wisdom traditions have continued to be developed in other ways including the use of the ‘Ennegram’– (a geometric symbol representing a dynamic interrelated energetic system illuminating facets and types of personality structure and also directions and patterns for change or growth). Modern-day spiritual teachings and methods such as the Diamond Approach based around the writings of Almaas all lead towards utilizing the practice of developing Presence with a sense of serving an individual and collective evolution of consciousness.
Gurdjieff’s central tenet was to ‘re-member yourself’ by bringing awareness into the body and to work at not being ‘identified’ with thoughts or emotions.. He described energy ‘centres’ of feeling, thinking and moving (body) viewing the ‘self’ as a mechanical system of automatic reactions actually incapable of holding any such awareness for more than brief moments. Once a follower of this system has discovered for themselves that they are completely unable to ‘self-remember’ and that they return habitually to what Gurdjieff called ‘sleep’ (normal consciousness), they may begin the work of creating conditions in which their wish to awaken can be repeatedly stimulated, co-operation with others with similar intention is essential for this aim.
The notion of ‘coming back to oneself’ with this efforting towards ‘waking up’has a much deeper implication than individual presence or ‘being’. When we accept that our consciousness is seamlessly interconnected with all other consciousness and that the energetic information fields described by Lipton and Sheldrake include us, then we may fully participate in an organismic movement (Hellinger’s ‘movement of the Spirit Mind’) that goes beyond any individual human intention towards an unknown destination, which remains a greater mystery.
When we allow ourselves to come into contact with our own energetic experiencing, through the vibrational field of our bodies and sense impressions, we may begin to perceive certain influences that resonate with ‘the truth’ for us in that moment. We may become attentive to and aware of these body energies and the interplay of them with the environment, as well as noticing the effect of certain internal conditions such as thought patterns and underlying beliefs on our overall energetic integrity. This is the basis of Kinesiology, Cranio-sacral therapy, Sound healing, Thought Field Therapy and many other holistic practices that recognize the healing effect of ‘coming into alignment’ within a particular energy field. Creating conditions that allow us to resonate with a felt sense of the truth of this alignment (things coming into order or the ‘right place’) and attending to this resonance becomes the basis of a systemic spiritual praxis. Such a sense of truth can lead us back to our sense of ‘belonging’ which is the heritage of every human being.
G.I Gurdjieff (1963) Meetings with Remarkable Men; Routledge &Keegan Paul Ltd London
G.I Gurdjieff (1964) Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson E.P. Dutton &Co Inc. USA
Hellinger ,B( 2001) Supporting Love,
Hellinger, B (1998) Love’s Hidden Symmetry . Zeig, Tucker &Co, Inc. Arizona.
Lipton, B (2005) The Biology of Belief Hay House Inc. USA
Sheldrake, R (1981) A New Science of Life, Hutchinson. UK
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