From feudal to participatory spirituality

We are starting a discussion in our Ning community site, about what should be the formal principles of an open, participatory, commons-oriented spiritual search and practice. It’s inspired by a draft of principles proposed by Lawrence Wollersheim.

Please join us and tell us what you think about them.

For a background, there is also a very good text by Mushin, on “The basics of a Truly 21st century spirituality“. After stating his premises, and before arriving at some important conclusions, Mushin gives the following analysis of what is wrong or insufficient with the older ‘vertical’ spiritual paths.

Here is what he writes:

Present day spirituality is mostly (actually almost entirely, but not quite) structured vertically – like a pyramid: at the top are the realized, enlightened, etc. and at the bottom are the (very) unenlightened masses; the goal/aim of a spiritual life is to get as close to the top of the pyramid as possible, and once you ‘made it’ help those below to rise.

Almost all of the vehicles (organisations) of spirituality do have a ‘feudalistic’ organisational structure where the (enlightened) person at the top is both worldly and spiritual leader and decider; usually advised by a ‘court’ of ‘far advanced’ students/disciples.

This is the basic ‘reason’ why real collaboration between the ‘spiritual stars’ (as I called them in some of these comments) will not happen, just as it is hard to imagine Kings and Queens coming to a realistic collaboration – they put their kingdom at risk.

Because of the feudalistic and often authoritarian social structure of spiritual groups and movements – however benign they flesh out their activities in the world – no real dialogue can happen, and true dialogue is the basis of authentic collaboration. True dialogue is only possible if we reckognize each other as deeply and intrinsically equal; and if it is to become real collaboration in any sense that I can see (I’m not talking about cooperation which can also happen in vertical social relationships) we not only need to trust, honor and be utterly open to each other, we must also be willing to be convinced by the other and change our behaviour according to our (now reformed) convictions.”

If this is true, then, what do we need to do now?


All of this together has led me to let go of those paths and move on what I’ve called cooperative spirituality in the beginning to drop that term in favor of pluralistic spirituality, it is similar to what John Heron has named Participatory Spirituality or what can even be called P2P-spirituality.

* It’s basic governance structure is the circle of equal and unique individuals.

* It’s teaching structure is ‘mutual apprenticeship’.

* It’s practise is – when done with others – consentual and ‘we-full’.

* It’s practise from an individuals perspective is guided by non-judgemental openness and a ‘holding of the space’, an intense presence, so that who and what is can unfold its authentic way of being.”

For an idea of how such a circle may work in practice, see this testimony on Organisational Life 2.0 by Helen Titchen Beetch.

4 Comments From feudal to participatory spirituality

  1. Avatardonald

    Sounds like Quaker meeting.

    When you say spirituality, do you mean something that involves some version of god or a divine? Or do you mean more like a philosophy of daily experience?

  2. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    I guess this one is for Mushin to answer. My own would be: our relationship to the totality of being, our ability to extend our circle of care. This can include, but doesn’t have to, a specific acceptance of the divine in one of its many forms.

    So, regarding your question, it is both, though totally immanent and atheistic spiritualities are totally legitimate.

  3. AvatarMushin J. Schilling

    Hi Donald,

    have never been in a Quaker meeting but maybe they are like this…

    Spirituality in my view doesn’t necessarily require the notion of some divinity or god. Actually I do quite fine without 🙂 most of the time. Nevertheless on occasion I am in states of awareness which can sensibly only be rendered using a word like “divine.”
    The trouble starts when one starts interpreting these very real (sometimes even ‘more than real’) experiences with the tool-set our traditions offer us; and even more trouble starts when then taking these interpretations as ‘authorized’ by some Higher Being.

    So my best take would be, “Spirituality is being pre-occupied with spirit. And according to Wikipedia the English word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath” (compare spiritus asper), but also “soul, courage, vigor”, ultimately from a PIE root *(s)peis- (to blow). In the Vulgate, the Latin word translates Greek (??????), pneuma (Hebrew (???) ruah), as opposed to anima, translating psykh?. The word was loaned into Middle English via Old French.”

  4. Pingback: Love, Truth, Beauty, Pluralistic Spirituality · links for 2008-06-20

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