P2P Spirituality Interview

New Digital South, a seemingly South-Asian oriented e-government site, though located in Sweden, has conducted an extensive interview which covers the topics that are familiar to the readers of this blog. Interviewer was Bimah Shah. The site has 8 other interviews which you can find here.

But there were a number of original questions regarding the intersection between peer to peer and spirituality, which I’m reproducing here.

Here’s some general info on the New Digital South initiative:

New Digital South is a reaction to lack of free practical information related to the Digital Domain on the Internet. Knowledge is a big business where one has to pay to access quality information. On top of that, majority of them do not seem to provide pragmatic answers to the difficulties faced by developing countries. The main purpose of the website is to present uncensored information from the researchers and practioners who have excellent experience. Contrary to the usual practice, where authors derive conclusion, we only try and extract information in bits and pieces and let readers derive conclusion that is best suited for their respective environment. ”

Interview excerpts:

5: You also wrote an essay titled “The next Buddha will be a collective: spiritual expression in the peer to peer era.” Can you briefly shed some light into this concept?

Traditional religions are born in a particular social situation, and take on the social organization that is dominant in their society, which in the past has been based on patriarchal and other social values. But self-aggregation also works for spiritual practice, i.e. you can associate with other spiritual searchers, agree on a methodology for cooperative inquiry, and build a open and common spiritual collective intelligence based on the experiences of the group. Again this can be both an alternative, and a complement to traditional spiritual practice, and we can expect many hybrid formats to emerge, which I describe in that essay.

An important point is that traditional approaches are based on an idea of spiritual scarcity, i.e. salvation or enlightenment is seen as dependent on a specific path or belief, which gives the power of allocation to a spiritual hierarchy. Here also the idea of abundance creates new forms that do not accept this type of control. Peer to peer is based on the principle of equipotentiality.

This means that everyone can potentially cooperate in a project, that no authority can pre-judge the ability to cooperate, but that the quality of cooperation is then judged by the community of peers, i.e. through Communal Validation. In equipotential projects, participants self-select themselves to the module to which they feel able to contribute.

Let me share a quote by Jorge Ferrer: equipotential participants, he writes, are “equals in the sense of their being both superior and inferior to themselves in varying skills and areas of endeavor (intellectually, emotionally, artistically, mechanically, interpersonally, and so forth), but with none of those skills being absolutely higher or better than others. It is important to experience human equality from this perspective to avoid trivializing our encounter with others as being merely equal.”

(Source: http://www.estel.es/EmbodiedParticipationInTheMystery,%201espace.doc)

6: You also talked about the new forms religion taking in and through the internet. Can you please tell us more?

Let me cite two examples. (I mention others, such as the internet-based ‘chaos religions’ in the essay you are referring to).

The first is by Mushin, a spiritual master who may have been the first to change his own behavior from ‘teacher’ to spiritual facilitator and mentor. Here is how he expresses the discovery of the we, as part of the story of his conversion towards a leader concerned with helping others achieve autonomy-within-cooperation :

“So it is very beautiful and makes deep sense that obviously this space is not empty at all; it is flowing over with the We that embraces all. And as I said, the We is making itself felt, understood, intuited all over this globe and is manifesting in many different ways – as people wanting to cooperate, to collaborate, to be in community and communion, seeing that the time of heroes (central suns) is definitely over, the time for the saviors and lone leaders that could set things right again. The world and its problems have become so complex that we can only hope to find adequate answers in “circles “of very different people where we can meet eye to eye and heart to heart – in a sort of collective leadership maybe. And this is underfoot already on a worldwide scale. The place here would not suffice to mention all the initiatives that are going on all over the world. Yet, this is one aspect of We manifesting.

Another aspect is the sense of spiritual or soul families or clans finding each other again across countries and continents. It is as if we have chosen ages ago to come together in this critical time on the planet to be midwives to what is wanting to emerge. Whatever may be the case we do recognize each other and there is an immediate connection beyond words, even beyond understanding; all we do is accept it.

A third aspect manifests through what has been called the Circle Being, manifesting as a higher order of being together with an incredible coherence that draws in the individuals participating. This certainly is We, being highly coherent.”

Here’s a second example, which refers to a new breed of spiritual facilitation, referring to the collective intelligence of the group, rather than to the expertise of a particular spiritual master:

As the consciousness of relationality and the collective We field has gained currency, so have tools and practices been developed which allow individuals to grow within it. Some of the better known are Bohmian Dialogue, John Heron’s and Barbara Langton’s cooperative inquiry, Steven Wirth’s Contemplative Dialogue, Almaas’ dyadic and triadic inquiry, etc … These stand in contrasts with the individual spiritual growth approaches that mostly ignored the relational and collective fields.

To illustrate just one of this new breed of group-based facilitation techniques, here is a description of Bohmian Dialogue by Bruce Alderman:

“In Bohmian dialogue, one strives to be mindful of the movement of thought in several dimensions simultaneously: as the subjective thoughts and “felts” that arise at any given moment; as the objective manifestation of sensations and contractions in the body; as the gestures and body language of members in the group; as the particular content of the discussion at hand; as the patterns of interaction and conflict that emerge over time (not only in one session, but over multiple sessions); as the conventions and rules which may inhibit the flow of dialogue; and so on. In the beginning, this is a rather difficult practice. But one approaches it simply: starting from a position of open listening and letting dialogue unfold in the space of awareness that the group establishes. Certain deeply held beliefs, presuppositions, “unwritten rules,” fears and insecurities, and so on, will gradually make themselves manifest through this process, as perceptions of individuals in the group fail to line up and various conflicts emerge. These implicit beliefs, these forms of psychological and cultural conditioning, are not readily apparent in the practice of solitary meditation; but in Bohmian contemplative dialogue, particularly if it is sustained over a period of days or weeks, these patterns will emerge over time in the intersubjective field and can be cognized and processed by the group as a whole (or privately by individuals after a particular session has concluded)

Bohm contends (and I can confirm) that sustained practice of this form of dialogue, particularly if certain ground rules are followed, can lead not only to the emergence of insight for individuals in the group, but to a sort of collective intelligence that manifests in between participants – a creative flow of awareness and inspiration that can guide the group to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and communion. The unconscious conventions and habits of thought, the conditioning which usually drives our reactions and our social negotiations, opens onto a living field of responsive intelligence – in Bohm’s terms, the birth of group intelligence out of the largely unconscious field of “group think.”

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