This time, my story starts with a poem.
Unless – by Sarah Whiteley
Unless we engage our authentic selves, we cannot live the future now
Unless we engage our fullness, we cannot take the leap individually and call in collectively
Unless we tremble collectively, we cannot presence the new
Unless we take a leap together, we cannot access and live the next level of our humanity
Unless we are willing to hold the space open long enough for our collective clarity to emerge, we cannot shift our systems and behaviour for the better
Unless we fuse the streams of practice and inquiry, we cannot see what else is possible and be prepared to meet our chaos
Unless we acknowledge our collective identify, we cannot co-create our real work
Unless we unlearn our complicatedness, we cannot find the simplicity of the next elegant step
Unless we share our new insights immediately, we do not serve evolution
Unless we live through our collective identity, we cannot become whole
A story of living wholeness
When I read Sarah’s extraordinary poem, it dropped through my system like a stone through a wet paper bag. I came across it in an account of a Guardian’s gathering at the place Axladitsa-Avatakia on Mt Pelion in Greece – a place I have grown to love on the three occasions I have spent time there. It is a place of natural beauty, stewarded in wisdom, respect and deep intention by two women, Maria Scordialos and Sarah Whiteley, and a widening global circle of guardians and friends.
The harvest of the gathering – in itself an exercise in collective authorship by Maria, Sarah and Ria Baeck – maps out, between the lines, the story of the birthing of the collective entity known as Axladitsa – with its different streams and its growing field of ever more tangible living wholeness. As the gathered guardians inquired into their work – from the initial seed articulation of ‘continuous collective inquiry as a state of living human evolution’ – they named the Turquoise practice (in Spiral Dynamics parlance) of hosting new collective entities into being.
I have been intuiting and experimenting with the notion of collective entities for a number of years, since writing ‘Why the next Buddha will be a collective”. But what does this mean? What does it involve? Most specifically, it involves “hosting the fusion of different practices and practitioners, by coming together at continuous collective inquiry points – moments of coming together to invite others into the collective inquiry“. There are many forms for this: intensives, short periods, online spaces in real time and not, etc. Gatherings hosted in this way are not ‘workshops’ – commoditised learning or experience packaged and delivered to customers/consumers. The same experience is never offered twice.
How the collective entity is born
The core of the entity is the question in the middle – the strange attractor, the ruckle in the subtle kosmic field that worms its way through to the senses of those fated to respond to the call – the theme of inquiry, which morphs, matures and deepens over time.
The way the seed is sown has been beautifully described in the ‘five breaths’ model developed by the Art of Hosting community to describe how gatherings are designed, but the way the seed is quickened has a mystery to it that is not so easy to describe. Chris Corrigan talks about the threshold of longing – “At some point, something happens and you get a spark, an undeniable sense that your deepest passion lies in a certain direction. When you become aware of this you cross a threshold of longing and become aware of a longing that previously you did not know you had. Once a person crosses the threshold of longing there is a tender period of sensing and sitting that to me is the birth of the call. The call does not appear fully formed in a flash of insight, but rather lingers in the heart for a while, turned over in the mind, weighed against realities and competing attention grabbers. You might forget that call, or you might gently nurture it, speaking of it quietly to others, listening through the cynicism and skepticism and finding the partners of possibility. Once that call is fully fledged then the first breath opens and the birth of the callers happens”.
The hosting team gathers around the call, and the inquiry then extends to those who join the gathering. It continues with the process of harvesting – whatever form that takes – and the conversation continues, rippling outward, with whoever participates, either virtually or in person.
The collective entity, then, is not made up of a specific, finite group of individuals. If its DNA lies in the theme of the inquiry, its metabolism is the individual and collective practices that enable men and women to join the collective inquiry. To join the circle is to offer ourselves up to a larger purpose for the duration of our participation and to allow ourselves to be used by the mystery – our bodies and minds as sensing organs of the whole, and our lineages, biographies and knowledge as resources, filters and facets of diversity through which the future bubbling up in the middle, called by the shared focus and consciously-held intent, can find unique expression.
Living consciously in complexity – collectively
And what would be the function of these collective entities that are starting to emerge, here and there across the planet, at this time? They seem unconnected, but in reality there is a potent and pregnant mycelium under the surface of the manifest realm, the primal soup of future potential that is spawning ‘circle beings’ wherever the conditions are propitious. And the season is here.
These entities meet the evolutionary imperative to shift humanity towards the greater interconnection – with ourselves and with our mother Earth in all her dimensions – to enable us to better live in the complexity we are immersed in. “To live this we will need to open to perspectives, systems, identities, etc. that are also of this nature. In order to give birth to collective beings, we will need to be able to face the diversity and complexity of this form of circle, so that we do not return back to our fragmentation and disintegration. To live in complexity, we are called to collect our diverse intelligence – mind, heart and will, (Otto Scharmer) – and not just individually but together. The practice of fusion involves a complex journey of unlearning and letting go of our complicatedness – in order to find the simplicity of the elegant next step. We realised as we spoke that when living consciously in a system of chaos (which is essentially a living system) we need only know one next step, which allows one to live in the present moment continuously. We then wondered – what if the elegant next step was informed through a collective being – how much more present could we be to life to ensure that the next step we take is a wise one?”
Nature’s guidance is everywhere – if we have the eyes to see
The story told by these three women seamlessly wove in the wisdom of the place and the contribution of nature. As they sat writing their harvest on their last day together, they watched a group of ants carrying a lizard’s tail that had been separated from its owner four days previously by Mia the cat. They saw in this scene an illustration of the kind of emergence that is involved in the birth of a collective being – with a life and a will of its own. “No one is in charge – they are all in charge – a collective being is carrying this tail against all odds. It would be impossible for this to take place if they were not working as one entity with a collective will. The difference between us, humans and ants, is that we have the ability to be conscious of being part of a collective entity.
“At first it seems that creating these collective entities is a way out of a pattern of hopelessness, because it offers a solution – however, we realised that this is beyond hopelessness – it seems to us that creating these collective beings is simply the next step of human evolution. It is an expression of our next level of complexity as a human species.
So as impossible as it seems that these ants can move this lizard’s tail through the grass and up the slope to their home – we too can do it – one elegant step at a time.”