We-Space III: Eros and Evolution

Eros and Psyche

What is increasingly common among a global sampling of practitioners is that ingenuity, skill, intelligence, fearlessness and chance are conspiring in group settings to dissolve psychological barriers, heal social isolation, conditioning and the colonizing effect of modern society to access ever deeper levels of authenticity. Here, the creation of more complex mutual agreements reveal the workings of collective intelligence and push the frontier of inter-subjectivity. This is growing up.

The working definitions of We-Space and its relationship to psychological development, group process or “spiritual evolution” differ depending on who’s talking. These differences seem to depend on the complexity and depth of psychological and linguistic agreements arising among participants or whether the inter-subjective space moves from the relative space of familiar psychological content into an entirely different (absolute) spiritual or philosophical context.

So far I have not encountered a uniform clarity or critical attention paid to the specific question of whether the spiritual context of We-Space is intrinsic or not. Again, depending on who’s talking, one might hear a casual reference to it as a pre-existing (absolute) condition–already true–in which every human or, for that matter, sentient relationship is already “cooking,” so to speak. Others might make equally casual references to the term as a general reference to deliberately fine tuned qualities of attention, presence and consciousness in group situations creating something not previously existent. This is what I would call “improving samsara.” It’s important to examine the language we use and carefully choose words to describe what we mean by the term We-Space as it is language itself that keeps us in the linguistic prison of separation. The question is, what is it about these inter-subjective experiences that advances human consciousness or evolution? Is it recovering existing nature or is it something new?

Why does this even matter? In pre-egoic primitive or tribal cultures, the social matrix in which subjects with limited interiority (sense of self or individuality) lived was already inter-subjective. Today’s mass culture both demands and facilitates that we become increasingly individualized. That sense of self is perpetually reinforced; we are driven to satisfy the appetites of individuality (whether artificially induced, useful or even healthy) to such a degree that the inter-subjective matrix has been actively suppressed. Collectivism in any form is anathema to libertarian and corporate ideologues.

To be conscious meant that two or more people were privy to some item of knowledge not available to others outside the privileged circle. In this sense, “consciousness” is similar to “conspire” (to “breathe with” others).  ——De Quincey, p. 149

Inter-subjectivity in its simplest form is an agreement between people, from the most superficial to the most profound, even to the metaphysical–or even to ignore it altogether. The very term implies interaction from the position of one’s own subjective experience with the subjective experience of another. In a sense, inter-subjective presupposes a mutual affirmation of each other as “others,” as objects separate from one’s self.

That we can now refer casually, after a century, to the metaphysical potentials of the inter-subjective field is evidence of an evolutionary turn toward re-acquaintance with the root definition of consciousness: “knowing with” or “breathing together.” In exploring the full depth of group agreements, I am not regarding We-Space as a synonym for generic inter-subjectivity. At a neuro-psychological level, entering inter-subjective space may activate mirror neurons as simulations are formed in our own minds about what is being simulated in other’s minds. Further on, engaging in dyadic or small group simulations bring us to higher levels and more complex agreements about reality, coherence, what phenomena are important and why.

I am applying the term We-Space to a more specific quality of inter-subjectivity in which the context shifts from psychological to spiritual or philosophical, waking up. This is the inter-subjective frontier (entering absolute space in which “I” is less defined), bearing fruit either by plodding steps or great leaps toward non-conceptual, unitary awareness. We are not creating a field of collective intelligence. We are discovering it anew; it is the true context of the agreements by which we live.

Spirit is not in the I, but between I and You– Martin Buber, 1970, I and Thou, p. 89).

In a growing number of circumstances, with an increasing number of adept leaders, it is apparent that still deeper, trans-egoic levels of engagement (a temporary abatement of the super-ego) are possible and, as we assimilate their meaning and potential, learning how to access them is increasingly necessary. To suggest that these qualities of attention are inherent is an easy reach.

This also matters because the momentum of communal engagement is pushing the frontier of the definition of “human nature.” Evoking We-Space is not a quirk, an easily dismissed popular phenomenon artfully constructed by self-interested entrepreneurs. It is a blossoming, increasingly elaborate and significant deep-dive into our true nature in parallel with the solitary orientation and practices of contemplative traditions.

Practitioners in this field may be tempted to say that I am jumping the gun, that practice precedes theory. Perhaps they are justified. Yet ironically, suggesting the exploration of inter-subjective space is a practice lacking a fully formed theoretical foundation is to overlook myth, psychology and modern philosophy.

At the mythic level, cultivating inter-subjective space is an entirely erotic adventure in the most comprehensive sense. Eros is an impulse to move toward, to unite, create and discover. It is ongoing, never absent. It is not conceptual, rational, linear, exclusive or limited. One might say it’s a universal character of sentience, a longing for connection and belonging. It’s not solely a human trait or source of action. It is life living itself, driven by a uniform and unchanging principle. Eros doesn’t know about ego or practicality, about individual conditioning, trauma, psychological or physical wounds. It can be denied and ignored, but it cannot be turned off. It is adaptable to every circumstance and always creatively responding to any limits being placed upon it.

The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.—Thomas Berry

The perpetual longing for union arises from an equally perpetual differentiation of matter and consciousness. From that differentiation arises subjectivity.  Thomas Berry defined differentiation, subjectivity (“differentiation-integration”-Wilbur) and communion (“transcendence and inclusion”-Wilbur) as the constant and cyclic primordial intentions of evolution, infinite spontaneous acts of creation, the continuous distinctive separation of entities: the erotic principle, longing for creation and longing for union.

If we were taking about human beings, we would be calling differentiation the assumption (reification) of unique identity, followed by a self-awareness and orientation (interiority) that characterizes subjectivity, the realization of self, self as distinct from other. In Buddhism this is regarded as a fundamental confusion: the root of suffering. When we engage in We-Space practices, we are addressing and unraveling  human suffering. By assisting each other in eliminating successive filters from our view, we approach a collective version of the absolute view.

People initially entering group process, whether it is Circling, HeartIQ, the Evolutionary Collective or perhaps especially the space of Surrendered Leadership, may have no clue what to expect. What may initially happen, a first stage, is the revelation of differentiation in the deep dive into one’s own interiority, the elaboration of the diversity of individuals engaged in the process. But as the character of the process cycles deeper and further toward We-Space, the dynamic of differentiation can become exquisitely poignant in moments of dissolution. The evolutionary process itself emerges and participants may find themselves both completely present (in a trans-egoic state) as well as being in awe of that presence in self and others.

We-Space then becomes a condition of standing fully within the paradox of differentiation and subjectivity, experiencing a unique creation of one’s own identity, while simultaneously having a transcendent experience of all “others” as subjects, virtually undifferentiated from and fully connected with oneself. For a group of diverse subjects initially experiencing others as objects to undergo a transformation of group consciousness such that all objects disappear into a continuum of subjects is what Thomas Berry would call communion.

According to De Quincey’s most radical definition of intersubjectivity, the mutual structural coupling of already existing experiencing subjects, where the interiorities of the participating subjects are interdependently shaped by their interaction, the co-creation of the space is based on the relationships of the participants, co-emergence and co-arising move into a condition of inter-subjectivity preceding subjectivity.

We-Space communion is a shift from the psychological context of co-creating subjects to one in which the primary relationship is with the group. Interiority emerges from group process, not vice versa. The group becomes an organism. —shifting from “I am creating you” to “you are creating me” to an entirely different context: an agreement that neither is creating the other, that both are in creation in a context yet to be named, fully plumbed or understood.

The primordially erotic nature of such differentiation, subjectivity and communion never abates. Dissonance, conflict or irritation might precipitate a temporary (and necessary) recapitulation of “self” as a conscious or unconscious act of differentiation. The quality of leadership—or surrendered leadership—in this context determines how the condition of  union evolves further.

Does inter-subjectivity actually create individual subjectivities, is it ontologically primary, or does inter-subjectivity presuppose already existing centers of subjectivity?

–De Quincey

As I inferred above, Quincey is postulating that the most advanced states of inter-subjectivity call into question whether subjects come before or after the inter-subjective experience. In this state, there is no clarity about the ontological relationship between the whole and the part (Am I creating you? Are you creating me? Are we both being created by something that is neither you nor me?).

In Vajrayana Buddhism, there is no uncertainty about this question. All subjects appear spontaneously from the primary (erotic?) communion of dependent co-arising within a timeless ground that arises without cause and has no characteristics. It is neither subjective nor inter-subjective, nor indeed, anything at all. This is a somewhat modified definition of the Basic Space of Phenomena — the substrate of consciousness underlying the entire matrix of dependent co-emergence. Here, inter-subjectivity pre-exists all subjects. Things do not “exist” on their own.

The magic of discovering something new always trumps the security of existing knowledge.– SeanWilkinson, Circling Europe

Thus, We-Space is (becoming) a practical definition we may apply to a shift from subjects cultivating a high degree of agreement based on physical and linguistic signals to a shared (non-conceptual) condition in which the ontological relationship between subjects and the inter-subjective space is much less clear. In this communal space, subjects inevitably do experience interiority, yet it becomes a much less reified condition, arising and disappearing more spontaneously as one’s attachment to the idea of a distinct–and fixed–identity softens. In this space, reification/interiority appears with increasing subtlety, as subjectivity enters a natural and organic ongoing flow of differentiation, in which releasing into a less differentiated communal experience becomes far more accessible.

Similarly, the primary (erotic) motivations of evolution are all operating in this condition of We-Space in simultaneous, integral non-linear fashion, each moment a transition into and through the other conditions. We-Space could be called a primary experience of evolution. Its unitary character is its spiritual dimension.

There is something about the nature of consciousness, it seems, that requires the presence of the “other” as another subject that can acknowledge my being. (When I experience myself being experienced by you, my experience of myself—and of you—is profoundly enriched, and, in some encounters, even “transformed.”) Quincey, p.148

Everything exists in relationship. Consciousness is the communal experience of “knowing with” others. Inter-subjectivity exists independent of and precedes subjectivity. We-Space is a (still emerging) collective version of reality sought by individual spiritual practitioners for centuries, the emptiness of self. In that sense, perhaps we can be clear: “we” comes before “I.” We is already true.

 

 

We-Space II: Supernormal States

Signs of intersubjective entry into the We-Space Sangha.

The yoga of intersubjectivity in all its forms is yielding information and learning at new levels of consciousness and in new configurations of field phenomena. If an individual awakening process is any guide to the nature of collective awakening experience, we would have to consider including the possibility that the nature of intersubjective space mirrors and eventually yields phenomena and capacities similar to those arising from concentrated and prolonged personal practice. The recognition and interpretation of such phenomena as nyams or even supernormal perceptual states might well also yield a database of experience, though great care must be taken to avoid regarding these states themselves as fruition.

First, so much of the lingo of We-Space exploration is about presence: mindful presence, radical presence, etc. The moment we assign a label to presence as a state, as soon as “presence” becomes a capacity or skill, it is reified. Any concept of presence (referencing  time) that doesn’t regard time as merely another form of perception or that presumes the existence of an identifiable basic unit is flawed, or is at least a captive of flawed linguistics.

There is no such thing as a unit of time in any absolute sense. Since that is the case, we must define “presence” as resembling something more like absence. That is, an un-reified vastly spacious awareness that has loosened attachment to and is no longer in the tight grip of a specific identity: one so expansive that “embodiment” implies a limitation, so permeable that emotional states, the ambient phenomena of a group process, no longer  impede the flow of authentic connection. Temporarily at least, one is so completely “here” that time stands still. At the same time, no one is home. Similar to the conditions of advanced meditative practice, the ego has been rendered quiescent. One remains in a non-conceptual state. There is nothing to reify.

Woody Allen once famously said, “Time is nature’s way of preventing everything from happening all at once.” From the dualistic view in which subject and object exist, we can only imagine “everything” as discrete events, jumbled together without order, arising in random fashion, crowding each other out, competing for “space” in the arising and disappearing chaos of phenomena, all competing for attention. The dualistic view is  that this competition appears as the constant arising of sense perception, the evaluation of that perception, becoming thoughts in relation to the timing of “events” that we perceive or imagine to exist.

But awakened mind is not just another unconventional and unfamiliar form of time in which “events” occur. There is no sequence of events. There are no events. It is time-less. There are no discrete moments. There is no present, no past, no future; no procession from one thing to another. There is only what is-now-which is changing constantly.

The term beginningless time is a conception arising from within our limited view of reality, our conditioned view, intrinsically based in time. Normally, we are not capable of another view. The reality of awakening mind lives outside of time. It permeates the construction we call time and it is not time bound at all. Then again, neither is it other than time. Wherever you are standing, you do not do so for “moments”—or for any single moment. You are standing there in and with your entire life, without beginning or end; you may imagine yourself to be in a discrete “event,” yet you are not separate from any other event.

The discipline we apply to the development of attention, to resting in a quality of effortlessness in our daily existence and to the attention we bring to the activity of mind all seems to be limited by the reality of samsara itself, the fundamental limitations to which we are helplessly subject. That limitation is time. And…it is also timeless.

The more we awaken, the more we learn about the terms of samsara and our condition, the more we might come to regard our predicament as a perpetual purgatory, which is in every instant both timeless, with all events happening simultaneously, and a time bound condition over which we seem to have little if any control. Any collective process identifying as a vehicle of awakening, in particular the Surrendered Leadership experience of Circling Europe, will, if the right conditions are cultivated, eventually test the grip of the conventional experience of time. To the extent that a group might experience an altered experience of time, it would have to be regarded as a supernormal state.

A second feature of supernormal collective activity might manifest as transient clairvoyance (sensing a future event) or clairsentience (experiencing someone else’s reality in the past, present or future). Functional telepathy might also be a general way of categorizing supernormal phenomena arising from long-term intentional co-creative practice. Knowing what someone else is thinking, anticipating an appearance, a communication, an unusual ideation, simultaneous events or any phenomena occurring between participants separated by great distance

These states might appear to individuals or small groups, anything up to and including the entire group having a common experience, simultaneously experiencing an emotion or sharing a vision, a visitation, a premonition or gaining intuitive insight into the nature and process of an individual or the group as a whole. Such events might appear as dreams, waking images, bodily sensations or powerful emotions. Recognizing such possibilities will be important conditioning mitigating reflexive discounting or disregard for transient states. Sharing information about such phenomena has the potential to further elevate the level of coherence that is already emerging.

Progress resulting from collective We-Space practices may appear in many and unexpected forms. Cultivating the subtle capacities of our interior life that relate to our mental, emotional, intuitive and spiritual landscape and how we perceive one another—cultivating a grounded and rooted relational capacity is the foundation of every viable We-Space. But it all comes fraught with the same caveats that might apply to the results of any solitary practice. Any group declaring its purpose to be a group awakening beyond the existing limits of grip process is already inciting perceptual bias and unwarranted expectations that will may guarantee failure or at least delay.

There will be a natural tendency of any group detecting signs of collective “awakening,” however they may have arisen, to conceptualize the incubation process, codifying the pathway and limiting the essential open curiosity that probably led to such events in the first place. Such efforts can also become conceptual digressions from what may have been an entirely spontaneous process that may require much more investigation before adopting a formula for its reproduction. In short, there is no linear formula. The more trying, the less arrival. The more looking, the less finding.  Experiences of group opening, especially supernormal states, are created by resonance, not by conceptual practice.

 

The proper response to the emergence of unusual collective phenomena is to remain on the path that got you where you are, not to digress or fall into conceptual traps with it, focusing on a future that doesn’t exist. Focus must remain in the present, which also doesn’t exist, but it’s all we’ve got. These admonitions would apply to individual practice as much as to a group.
The fact that episodes of unexpected collective non-dual consciousness have occurred is a sign that something unusual can indeed happen among groups of people who have sufficiently whittled away at the influence of ego-centered control strategies and entered into powerful practices to sharpen their perceptual skills, feeling everything and rejecting nothing with an attentive and open and exploratory mind.
The technologies that serve as a platform for such collective emergence are gathering quickly. They appear to converge toward traditional tantric practice that regards the present moment as the engine of awakening. Everything becomes a doorway into deeper connection and an enhancement of We-Space. The transcendent is always intrinsic to the prosaic, however ecstatic or painful it may be. It is there in every moment, whether in the experience of deep feeling, exposing the root of suffering, acknowledging the presence and inevitability of death, struggling with resistance or guarding or transparency.
The evolved We-Space is not only one in which the individuals can give presence to the transcendent but also one in which all the barriers and and blocks that individuals construct can be named and seen and forgiven. Learning to recognize the glimmers of fruition in every bump, ever obstacle, every personal and interpersonal challenge is to realize the unity of ground, path and fruition ever more skillfully and completely, bringing us closer to the full expression of the We-Space Sangha.