For the past 17 months I have been running an on-line experimental adult learning course called The Magellan Courses. This experiment in self-organizing co-creative education was the basis of my presentation paper for the ITC 2013 Conference. Here is an excerpt talking about some of the meta-design lessons we learned:
Over the course of our first year, we learned some valuable lessons for designing emergent systems for catalyzing transformative education. I now see the process of transformation as the crystallization of insights into a newly composed whole, which entails the whole “organism” – self, spirit and soul. The role of the designer is to “seed the field” with opportunities for individuals to gain insight. It is not the designer’s role to steer individuals to any particular insight, or to mine the individual’s own intuition of what is leaning into their own horizon. Sometimes an insight or intuition can seem to be off track, or seem to take the student in the “wrong direction” – but emergent design requires that we drop the notion of “wrong direction” and allow the inherent genius of the co-creative, adaptive process to be generative of the process. To design for co-creative emergent process, means to discover, by trial and error if necessary, the minimum elegant structure for insight-generation. Since this can lead to periods of intense chaos, a community of trust must be developed and maintained through a deep and intimate fabric of mutual fellowship, which includes respect and reciprocity (see the description above). A crucial component of trust is theory-practice consistency; and so it is important to be on the lookout for means-ends conflicts, since they are the way theory-practice inconsistencies show up in community. It is also crucial that we don’t have prior assumptions about what community health or process looks like, or what the “we-space” is supposed to feel like, or how the transpersonal should express itself in a collective endeavor. This is why the metaphor of the Magellan journey is so apt – we cannot expect our usual navigation devices will give us useful answers. In fact, one of the key characteristics of emergent co-creative systems is that the experiences are not reproducible or formulaic – they are uniquely particularized expressions of the universal, arising from causal generativity. To design for emergent transformation, requires designing from causal generative states of awareness. This takes the form of what I call “ritualized inquiry” combined with a deep sensitivity to what is latent and wants to emerge – a sensitivity which arises in the core spaces of one-self(s) as universalized creative energy. It is here, in the fluid flow of causal energetic fields generating fields of self-other-worlds as arising inter-faces, that the designer must live.
I had the advantage of giving my presentation on the last period of the final day of the conference. The central theme of the conference was meta-theory. I myself engage in a lot of meta-theorizing. But I wanted to make the distinction between taking meta-theory to be a privileged means to a higher truth, and meta-theorizing as a valuable exercise in attaining crucial insight. For example, in the pre-conference workshop I offered on Generative Process Analytics, we used the meta-theory to elicit insights into narrative biases, the rich complexity of systems thinking, and a new appreciation for Darwin’s challenge to imagine a new generative process to explain the inter-relationship between speciation, variation, inheritance and descent.
I also want to make the distinction between complexity that grows in the meta-theoretical direction– with its increasing epistemic sophistication, along with (perhaps?) a correspondingly decreasing realness– and the notion of elegant complexity. Earlier in the week, at a symposium of Integral meta-theorists and meta-Realists, the philosopher Roy Bhaskar mentioned that Arne Nass noted that nature is complex — and yet we receive nature as nourishing, coherent and grounding — which is different than our messy complexes about nature — from social to scientific attempts to re-present her through storied meaning or empirical truthiness. Edgar Morin was also at the conference, and I think he has a good handle on this notion of elegant complexity — as you can see from this re-cap of Morin’s key note.
In fact, given the nature of dialectical mind, and its ravenous appetite for synthetic reasoning, I might even suspect that epistemic complexity is a sign that we are reasoning in the wrong direction, away from the key insight that would solve the problem or inquiry at hand, by delivering a cascade of solutions, that, once revealed, seem rather obvious — simple, but rich, in other words, elegant.
The Integral Theory Conference is a very large umbrella for complex thinking — this year made even larger with the inclusion of Bhaskar’s meta-Reality and Morin’s Complex Thought. The integral community-wit-large offers a rich kaleidoscope of talented theoreticians. But there is also something quite fascinating going on in the integral community. It seems to me that the key frame that Integral Theory offers is the discipline and art of life-practice. Mostly I want to talk here about the different traditions the community offers that aim to facilitate insight in various modes and methods.
By no means an exhaustive list, I will mention what are most salient for me right now:
- AQAL- Ken WIlber’s meta-theoretical tool for facilitation insight into perspective taking and methodological pluralism
- GTC – Pacific Integral’s Generating Transformative Change program designed to facilitate higher levels of awareness
- Collective Presencing – Ria Baeck’s on-going research into the relational processes of group wisdom and creativity
- EN Collective Meditation – Enlightened-Next’s (Andrew Cohen) group meditation practice designed for emergent mind
- Action Inquiry – Bill Torbert’s framework for self-other transformation and collaborative leadership
- ICS – Integral Collaborative Service – A collaborative software project designed to harvest collective engagement
- Bright Young Integral People – primarily 20-30 year olds who seem to have natural abilities for mindfulness, awareness and insight, who have browsed around and/or invested in several modes and disciplines, who are already committed to life practice, and who we should really be paying attention to.
Given these reflections, I have an idea made into an action plan. I am inviting a pair of people from each of these seven traditions to a collaborative symposium called In-sighting Emergent Capacities. The central attractor for such an assemblage would be:
In conventional individual meditation at the level of insight meditation, the kind of insights that a person has crystallizes out (or dissovles) much of the confusion, illusion and error that was limiting his choice field for solving problems. This is experienced as increasing degrees of freedom, and when integrated with ordinary experience, allows the person to fulfill more of her life’s purpose.Today, the scale and complexity at which we need to design solutions to problems, requires the coordinated (collaborative, collective) alignment of many individuals.
The hypothesis is that here is a kind of “collective alignment” that is very similar to the individual experience of insight, which we might say, is the progressive elimination of limiting structures, habits, pathological patterns, internalized shadow, collective shadow, etc… in order to reach the free and spontaneous energetic inter-being of an intimate collective. The experiment is to see if and when a group can achieve collectively, this state of which is both shared and share-able, where the possibility for insight is heightened, then are we able to function collaboratively in as much a more effective way, analogous to the effects of insight meditation on the individual and the individual’s life-projects.
Over the next month I will be organizing a funding campaign for the symposium. Stay tuned.