Just as we were starting to prepare for the gathering, Ria came upon the work of Australian eco-philosopher Freya Mathews, in particular her work on ontopoetics, which she defines as the ‘poetic structure of being’.
This is what I wrote in my journal at the time:
“What Freya writes about is stunningly aligned with my own recent experiences and the general direction we are moving in with Women Moving the edge.
She starts by describing a gathering she attended at a 5-day place of power gathering in Australia. The Symposium, she says “unfolded via a logic of synchronicities. A set of initial conditions had been put in place to provide the framework but the event was, within that container, largely self-determining: what happened at one moment suggested what should happen at the next, and the structure of the entire event was highly recursive: each happening or offering fed back into, and inflected, everything else that was happening… The upshot was that a complex and elaborate poetic invocation took shape organically in the course of the five days, and this seemed to elicit a complex and elaborate poetic response from the world.”
She speaks of a “coming alive of the world, a flow of configurations of circumstances along axes of meaning”. Daoism evokes “the ceaseless flow of energy into meaningful but ever-unfolding patterns … in an underlying flow. These patterns form and re-form under the influence of the patterns forming and re-forming around them. This is … an order of mutual arising, a symbiosis in which no particular form or pattern can emerge independently of the forms or patterns resolving and dissolving all around it. Moreover, when the Ten Thousand Things are left to arise spontaneously in this way, under the mutual influences of one another, the universe assumes its own proper pattern or form – it follows its proper course.”
Trained Daoist practitioners, apparently, through various Daoist arts, could reliably detect this invisible movement in things and adapt their activity to it. This is possible if your cosmology is one that does not draw absolute distinctions between the internal and external aspects of things, accepting reality as “irreducibly psychophysical” in character – “a forever changing and unfolding pattern of movement that is as much psychic as physical.”
Freya’s inquiry leads her to wonder whether “if one somehow managed to slip under the psychic skin of the world and ‘enter’ its subjectivity, one would experience the ‘outside’ as ‘inside’. If one stepped inside the world, in this sense, the trees and grass and rivers would no longer appear as external to oneself. They – along with oneself – would now be experienced as internal to the psyche of the world.”
Reading this really brought me up short, because it describes so faithfully and intimately my own experience as it has unfolded in recent months. Particularly that feeling of being awake and alive inside the psyche of the cosmos.
So, of course, a number of questions arise. Firstly, how do we learn how do do this? How do we “slip under the subject-object membrane” in this way? Secondly – what on earth does it mean?!
In answer to the first question, Freya writes “One has only to surrender one’s subject/object mind-set – where this encompasses all discursive thinking (discursive meaning ‘marked by analytical reasoning’) – and relinquish one’s discursive goals and ends, in order to be borne along on its fast current. When this occurs, a path begins to open up in the midst of the phenomena.”
Yes, I think… like it did when I decided to follow the call of the land that brought us to Dorpsstraat.
And then we move on to the question of what it means: “the path that opens up when the phenomena are perceived under their internal aspect is not plotted by the laws of physics. It is plotted by this inner principle of psychic process. Being psychic, this process is not only energic but essentially imbued with meaning. The path, in fact, is plotted by meaning. That is to say, the path that opens for me amongst the phenomena is a path appointed by meaning, meaning which is uniquely apposite for me; it is a meaning uniquely referenced to the key significances of my own life.” This is why, I suppose, the nearer we get to the significances of our soul, the deeper and more numinous and alive becomes the path that opens up amongst the phenomena.
So learning to tread this path that opens up as we walk it – provided we learn to do so – will always bear fruit, because the responsiveness of the kosmos is always present. “Those of us who have stepped straight out of the materialist context of modern civilization can’t feel it or see it. We bring all the clutter of our possessions with us into country, and what we see around us is mediated by the meanings of these, and all our other, internalised, possessions. So we pass through the landscape not noticing, not feeling, caught up in our own thoughts rather than being open to the intricately activated presence around us.” What an expression! “Intrincately activated presence”. Ahhhhhhhhhh!
“To experience the world from within is to experience it as a field of communicative meaning, meaning that draws us from one encounter to another.” Two key elements here: first is the importance of learning to be alive to one’s experience in the NOW. The other is the term ‘encounter’. Meaningful encounters: meaning is found in relationships – the world itself, under its inner, psychic aspect, “is the only thing of true worth because it is the thing that brings us to life, that ushers us into a state of numinous streaming and meaning… to find the world hidden within the world is to experience an opening of the ordinary world into poetic significance.”
Freya Mathews calls her view of reality ‘Panpsychism’, meaning that the manifest world, as described by physics, is the outward appearance of an inner field of ‘subjectivity’ (in an expanded sense of subjectivity). Reality, then, is “both a unity and a manifold of differentiation, a One and a Many”. Echoing my own powerful intuition: “As a locus of subjectivity and conativity (a will to realise itself and increase its own existance) in its own right, the universe is capable of and actively seeks communicative engagement with its finite modes (‘the Many’).”
Freya then goes on to state that she believes that, in addition to practices that lead to the “suspension of discursive thought and an alignment with the flow of energetic streaming”, we can enter and activate the poetic order “by invocation, particularly invocation in narrative form… i.e. by story, told, or better still enacted, with invocational intent. By interweaving our stories, we create a field that encapsulates the poetic terms of reference for the world’s own poetic interjections.”“
And yes, the world showed up and danced with us during our gathering at Nieuwenhoven. In many, many, forms. Some simple examples…
- Flight tracks in the sky repeated symbols in Ursula’s cards.
- Nancy recounted a powerful dream that contained a frog as one of its key elements. And straight after, Elena encountered a frog when walking the land.
- Every time something of particular significance – in that synchronistic sort of way – was spoken in our circle, the donkey in the field beyond the reedbeds began to bray. Every time I looked out the window after such incidents, it was standing directly by the fence, at the closest spot to us, looking in our direction.