Spiritual expression in the peer to peer era (3): some current trends

Last part of the exploration, after the theory, some practical expressions of what we have indicated the two previous days. At the bottom of these examples, you will find my conclusions of the exploration so far.

The following is not aimed to be a comprehensive review of religious-spiritual trends that are influenced by the 3 paradigms explained above, but rather, a sampling of some recent trends that are related.

1. Commons-oriented approaches

Note for example how John Heron also specifically integrates the p2p concept of the commons in his spiritual world view, through his recognition of and call for a Global Integral-Spiritual Commons: “By “integral spirituality” I mean, at the very least, a spirituality that is manifest in full embodiment, in relationship and interconnectedness, in mutuality and sharing, in autonomous creativity, and in full access to multidimensional meanings. By “global commons” I mean a worldwide space to which anyone on the planet has rights of access, and which is a worldwide forum for communication between everyone who claims their rights of access. The cyberspace of the internet is such a global commons. Cyberspace itself is fully embodied in the dynamic relation between humans and the planetary network of computers; it is a space generated by interconnectedness; it is premised on the full and unfettered mutuality of sharing information; it is an unlimited space for the expression of autonomous creativity; and its provides access for all to a vast range of multidimensional meanings. It is in this sense that I call the internet, i.e. cyberspace, a global integral-spiritual commons. It has the properties and potential of an integral-spiritual space. The fact that such a space can be used for vulgar or corrupt purposes does not, in my view, detract from its inherent integral-spiritual status, in the same way that the spiritual status of free will is not in any way undermined by the abuse of free will. It is precisely that continuity of status, whatever we do with the gift, that sooner or later calls us to a liberating and creative use of the gift.”

2. Working the we field through peer circles

Mushin is one of the spiritual teachers who has expressed these insights spiritually, first of all by changing his own behavior from ‘teacher’ to spiritual facilitor 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.”

3. The development of intersubjective facilitation

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.”

4. Chaos religions on the internet

Remi Sussan, the author of a book on posthuman utopias , is also very knowledgeable about the new forms that religion is taking in and through the internet, and notes the following:

“During the last two decades has appeared a new trend of occultism that, in many ways reverse common characteristics of the traditional esoteric doctrines. Occultism emphasizes secrecy, the new occultists will do everything in the open; occultism is based on hierarchical systems, grades; new occultists will laugh at hierarchy, prefer disorder to order; occultism claim to be a wisdom coming from an distant past, a theologia prisca; new occultists don’t hesitate to assume their modernity, and blur the frontier between religion and imagination by using images coming from the pop culture: Mr Spock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or even bugs Bunny.

Known under the various names of “chaos magick”, pop magic, postmodern magic, this current is in fact the deconstruction of traditional esoteric thought. It is also one of the first egalitarian, non-authoritarian spiritual movements. The emphasis put on “chaos” in this movement tends to prove that it is not only hierarchical spirituality that is questioned, but really the very notion of “order”.

One of the latest manifestations of that trend is the Ultraculture movement, promoted by Jason Louv of Disinfo.com:

It is “a cultural movement based around the mass interest in magic and the concordent need to apply it to improving our thoroughly disturbed world.

Ultraculture specifically means two things:

“It is the name of a social networking system. Specifically, the idea behind “Ultraculture” is to apply the Indymedia model to magic, and establish open city-based “scenes” based around mailing lists and web pages where people can link up with people in their area interested in magic, esotericism, consciousness evolution, etc., discuss it in terms of how it applies to both their own experiences and their communities, and then determine their level of activity and involvement within that growing network.

Ultraculture is NOT another magical order, group or hierarchy, nor is it just another discussion forum; in this capacity it is only a social connecting system on both a local and global scale. Occultism has traditionally been the pursuit of the “Outsider” figure; Ultraculture then aims to situate magic more firmly as an activity of communities.”

5. Open Source Religions

Here is another form of contemporary expression, that considers spiritual knowledge to be the collective property of humanity, hence needing to be available in ‘open source’ form, and that can be freely and co-creatively modified and adopted by various individuals and communities.

The Wikipedia notes that “Open source religions attempt to employ open source methodologies in the creation of religious belief systems. As such, their systems of beliefs are created through a continuous process of refinement and dialogue among the believers themselves. In comparison to traditional religions – which are considered authoritarian, hierarchical, and change resistant – they emphasize participation, self-determination, decentralization, and evolution. Followers see themselves as part of a more generalized open source movement, which does not limit itself to software, but applies the same principles to other organized, group efforts to create human artifacts.”

The cited article gives a few examples, including the less than successful attempt by Douglass Rushkoff to create a process for an Open Source Judaism.

Conclusion: Towards a contributory spirituality

The examples above show that the 3 paradigm shifts, although emerging at this stage, are letting themselves be felt through contemporary spiritual practices. It suggests a new approach to spirituality which I would like to call a contributory spirituality. This approach would consider that each tradition is a set of injunctions set from within a specific framework, and which can disclose different facets of reality. This framework may be influenced by a set of values (patriarchy, exclusive truth doctrines, etc…), which might be rejected today, but also contains psycho-spiritual practices which disclose particular truths about our relationship with the universe. Discovering spiritual truth then, requires at least a partial exposure to these differential methods of truth discovery, within a comparative framework, but it also requires intersubjective feedback, so it is a quest that cannot be undertaken alone, but along with others on the same path. Tradition is thereby not rejected, but critically experienced and evaluated. The modern spiritual practicioner can hold himself beholden to such a particular tradition, but need not feel confined to it. He/she can create spiritual inquiry circles that approach the different traditions with an open mind, experience them individually and collectively, and where the different individual experiences can be exchanged. In this way, a new collective body of spiritual experiences is created, which is continuously co-created by the inquiring spiritual communities and individuals. The outcome of that process will be a co-created reality that is unpredictable and will create new, as yet unpredictable spiritual formats. But one thing is sure: it will be an open, participatory, approach leading to a commons of spiritual knowledge, from which all humanity can draw from.

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