I never know what I will be called to blog about next. When I woke up this morning, I could not have guessed that I would (again) be dedicating the evening to something that wasn’t on my to-do list.
Yesterday I was privileged to be invited into an e-mail exchange between members of a group of friends that was so overwhelmingly rich and juicy that it has sparked off fantastic and complex inquiries in me. I realise that I am party to many such conversations, all about seemingly different subjects, but with underlying similarities that are starting to snag at my attention. So what is it that these collective inquiries have in common? Having spent yesterday evening in deep conversation with Duri about knowledge ecology and the sacred work of knowledge gardening, I am called to apply the patterns I learned from him to the exploration of the theme at hand.
First of all: Who are the people engaging in these conversations? Not all of them know each other or are known to each other, but they seem to be part of a growing number of PATTERN COHORTs. I googled the term “pattern cohort” to no avail. Hmmm. Google didn’t find it for me, but I sense that it’s something that exists. So how to define it? A group of individuals coalescing around a powerful calling question. Many of these conversations are taking place in cyberspace, among groups that are networked across the globe. Many individuals are active in several networks, thus functioning as nodal connectors, cross-fertilising the multiple conversations in which they are engaged. Occasionally, individual members of these dispersed networks manage to make it into the same physical space, for retreats, conferences… any excuse. They have great parties and the time they spend together tends to be transformative, turboing the individuals to ever greater depths of wisdom and heights of consciousness. Bonds are strengthened and the quality of the inquiries and conversations is powerfully augmented.
Inquiring into the “What?” of these conversations, it would seem at first sight to be “human evolution”. There is overwhelming evidence that the evolution of consciousness is marching on, moving from collective living, where the individual was totally embedded in the life patterns of the collective; through a gradual, often painful, process of individuation, with the emphasis on the will and sovereignty of the individual; to what is emerging in our time: a conscious return to collectivism where individuated, or self-actualised, individuals voluntarily – and temporarily – pool their consciousness in a search for the elusive collective intelligence which can help us to overcome the stupendous challenges now facing us as a species as a consequence of how our developmental trajectory has manifested on the physical plane thus far. (Thich Nhat Hanh: “The Next Buddha will be a collective.”)”
A deeper inspection brought me to the insight that this conversation is also about the relation of the individuals/parts to the whole. First came the whole in which the parts are unaware, then came the parts awakening to their individuality in the whole, and now we have some of the individual parts awakening as the whole… So human evolution has something to do with human consciousness awakening first to itself, then to its own evolution and to a recognition and finally an embodied experience of the ways in which we are organically part of a larger whole. As we enter this new stage of individual/collective awakening, individuals are being increasingly called to practice the new life-form composed of groups of individuated individuals merging their collective intelligence as the circle being. Since these groups tend to coalesce around a fascination to explore a specific pattern among the many patterns arising in the universe, this could be another definition of the “pattern cohort”.
Meanwhile, as human consciousness gets down and intimate, the story of the Kosmos is also unfolding elsewhere. The Great Story is being told by many voices: it starts off with the big bang and progresses in mind-blowing beauty and complexity to land us where we find ourselves today. Some examples of these stories are:
From the cosmic altitude of 13 billion years and counting, watching these glorious patterns unfold, we can see the emergence of this phenomenon of collective intelligence as a fractal of the unified field.
And so we have, in this global conversation, an array of different views, ranging from the fractal perspective to the cosmic perspective, and even the Kosmic perspective (in the Wilberian sense*). Sometimes there are tensions between these perspectives, with one camp fighting for the supremacy of their perspective over the other. But for me – as for a growing number of others – wholeness is approached only when we can simultaneously hold the paradoxical perspectives at both ends of the spectrum.
So what are the individual practices that people engage in to facilitate their entry through the eye of the needle into this collective I-thou space between us? That is an inquiry worth engaging in, and I would invite you to bring your experience to this space by posting comments.
Some approaches that I am aware of are:
How (and why) do these cohorts form?
Morel Fourman writes: “We can learn from nature about building the New Civilisation. Here is a quotation from my friend the evolution biologist Elisabet Sahtouris: “I like to use the metaphor of the butterfly. In metamorphosis, within the body of the caterpillar little things that biologists call imaginal discs or imaginal cells begin to crop up in the body of the caterpillar. They aren’t recognized by the immune system so the caterpillar’s immune system wipes them out as they pop up. It isn’t until they begin to link forces and join up with each other that they get stronger and are able to resist the onslaught of the immune system, until the immune system itself breaks down and the imaginal cells form the body of the butterfly. I think that is a beautiful metaphor for what is happening in our times. The old body is going into meltdown while the new one develops. It isn’t that you end one thing and then start another. So everybody engaged in recycling, in alternative projects, in communal living, in developing healthier systems for themselves and each other is engaged in building the new world while the old one collapses. Its collapse is inevitable. There is no way around that.”
Morel talks of soul families: “The soul family – a global community of people sharing a deep sense of purpose in service – is beginning to connect. This soul family carries the blueprint and is here to steward creation of a new form of civilisation. This new form of civilisation mirrors the most divine aspects of human consciousness in the larger systems and structures of human community and society, at every level from global to individual. The great experiment and adventure which the soul family serve is to create a civilisation which reflects timeless values of love, cooperation, stewardship, a society which fulfils the promise in the words “as above, so below”.” Again the fractal.
Personally, I like the metaphor of making pancake batter. If you just throw all of the ingredients together, you get a dreadful lumpy mess, with little islands of unpalatable dry flour breaking on the tongue. Instead, make a well in the flour and drop the eggs in the middle. Then slowly stir the eggs, gradually drawing in the flour from around the edges. As the mixture thickens, add the liquid to thin it out. The result is a silky smooth, light and delicious batter. And so it is with souls. It takes a field to host a field, so first we coalesce with the like-minded spirits among those we know. Once the field of trust and purpose are strongly present in the initial circle, we can throw out the call and draw in others who resonate with it. There is an intent in making batter that isn’t present in slime mould. And now that the Kosmos is slowly awakening to itself, conscious intent has a crucial role to play. We become co-creators of our destiny, and so bringing our sustained collective attention to bear on what matters to us is the sine qua non of building the golden age we all yearn for.
This is what we see happening in the world today. Like rain drops on a flat lake, the calls of the different cohorts are rippling out and touching each other, setting up interference patterns which move on out to the edges of the universe and then head back on in again to the centre, which is everywhere. This describes how I keep landing up in these conversations…
In my conversations with Duri, I learn more about the technical aspects of all this, particularly of how conversations intermingle and the impact that can have, in terms of evolutionary intelligence. The generative memes of one dialogue may travel and interact with other generative memes. In Duri’s words, they are “pregnant packets of evolutionary intelligence flowing through the nodes of the field that we are when we attune ourselves to it in full engagement”.
Just as one imaginal cell awakens another one to experience their exquisite resonance, the words from one conversation can touch on something else. Duri has a favourite drawing which evokes this phenomenon, which he doodled, inspired by an generative dialogue with Toke Møller. When you look at the sketch, rest your eyes on the small spheres where the spirals connect.
What is the meaning of what we are doing?
Barbara Marx Hubbard puts it nicely: “The larger social structures are proving to be inadequate to solve the problems they’re creating. New social innovations are emerging everywhere, but they are not sufficiently connected or empowered. So right now, any effort that we can make to connect and create greater synergy and participation in this awakening process is probably the most important thing we can do.”
So what does this “synergistic co-arising of evolutionary learning communities” (another word for pattern cohorts?) mean? A wasted opportunity, unless we can find ways of connecting our circles to create creating and discover new patterns of consciousness.
The thing about memes…
Duri again, this time bringing in understandings from the field of neuroscience (where would I be without Duri?!): we can learn from the role of neurons’ firing in memory formation. Memories that enable new learning to stick are created in the collective mind “when clusters of hundreds or thousands neurons fire in a unique pattern.” (quoting from the Mature Mind, by Gene Cohen). Dr. Cohen also says, “The more often a particular pattern is stimulated, the more sensitive and permanent are the connections between the neurons in the pattern. This process of memory formation is summarised by the phrase ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’.”
And when these firing, wiring neurons are embedded in grey matter scattered all across the planet, you’d better thank the awesome potential of our technological platforms that can catalyse such widespread awakening (Ken Carey in The Third Millennium).
And so, we come full circle, to the collective practices that we awakening pattern cohorts are learning to engage in. If these new experiences, these temporary states of collective consciousness are to take root in the human psyche and lead to the next stage of our social evolution, this will call for “the sustained attention of groups on the tip of the wave to evolutionary dialogues, learning journeys into the future that wants to come into being through our loving attention to the “magic in the middle” as the late Finn Voldtofte used to talk about it.
“The co-arising spirals are a metaphor for more than our individual connecting (and letting ourselves be transformed by the connection); they also portray a dynamics of how our various communities of transformational practice may link into a blanket of bodhisanghas of increasing complexity, compassion, and competence” (Duri).
I think it important to state, in closing, that all this isn’t a fancy theory. It’s a synchronistic, collective attempt by awakening human beings to describe and explain our lived experience. What I have evoked here is actually happening, all over the world. What you are reading about here is an incipient attempt to hold space for the awakening collective Buddhas of the golden age to see themselves in the contexts in which they operate. To glean insight into how all of their collective purposes are subsumed into some emerging transcendent intention that will only become clear when each collective can join with the others to bring their sustained attention to bear in a sacred act of collective inquiry.
What was that about fractals….?
* “Kosmos” is an old Pythagorean term, which means the entire universe in all its many dimensions-physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. “Cosmos” today usually means just the physical universe or physical dimension. So we might say the Kosmos includes the physiosphere, or cosmos; the biosphere, or life; the noosphere, or mind, all of which are radiant manifestations of pure Emptiness, and are not other to that Emptiness.
One of the catastrophes of modernity is that the Kosmos is no longer a fundamental reality to us; only the cosmos is. In other words, what is “real” is just the world of scientific materialism, the world of “flatland,” the flat and faded view of the modern and postmodern world, where the cosmos alone is real. – taken from the Kosmos according to Ken Wilber, published in the Shambala Sun, September 1996.