The next Buddha will be a collective, part two

Yesterday’s contribution by Mushin was based on an earlier contribution by Helen in her Zaadz blog (a platform I normally dislike because of its explicit endorsement of capitalism) and I would like to reproduce some significant excerpts of her thoughts on the matter above.

After describing the emergence of pattern cohorts, affinity groups working around certain questions, she gives an overview of human evolution, citing Thich Nhat Hanh, trying to pinpoint the specific characteristic of the peer to peer era, and I can wholly agree with this formulation:

“There is overwhelming evidence that the evolution of consciousness is marching on, moving from collective living, where the individual was totally embedded in the life patterns of the collective; through a gradual, often painful, process of individuation, with the emphasis on the will and sovereignty of the individual; to what is emerging in our time: a conscious return to collectivism where individuated, or self-actualised, individuals voluntarily – and temporarily – pool their consciousness in a search for the elusive collective intelligence which can help us to overcome the stupendous challenges now facing us as a species as a consequence of how our developmental trajectory has manifested on the physical plane thus far. (Thich Nhat Hanh: “The Next Buddha will be a collective.”)”

This is very congruent with the views I expressed myself in the manuscript on P2P:

“This articulation, based on a autonomous self in a society which he himself creates through the social contract, has been changing in postmodernity. Simondon, a French philosopher of technology with an important posthumous following in the French-speaking world, has argued that what was typical for modernity was to ‘extract the individual dimension’ of every aspect of reality, of things/processes that are also always-already related . And what is needed to renew thought, he argued, was not to go back to premodern wholism, but to systematically build on the proposition that ‘everything is related’, while retaining the achievements of modern thought, i.e. the equally important centrality of individuality. Thus individuality then comes to be seen as constituted by relations , from relations.

This proposition, that the individual is now seen as always-already part of various social fields, as a singular composite being, no longer in need of socialization, but rather in need of individuation, seems to be one of the main achievements of what could be called ‘postmodern thought’. Atomistic individualism is rejected in favor of the view of a relational self , a new balance between individual agency and collective communion.

In my opinion, as a necessary complement and advance to postmodern thought, it is necessary to take a third step, i.e. not to be content with both a recognition of individuality, and its foundation in relationality, but to also recognize the level of the collective, i.e. the field in which the relationships occur.

If we only see relationships, we forget about the whole, which is society itself (and its sub-fields). Society is more than just the sum of its “relationship parts”. Society sets up a ‘protocol’, in which these relationships can occur, it forms the agents in their subjectivity, and consists of norms which enable or disable certain type of relationships. Thus we have agents, relationships, and fields. Finally, if we want to integrate the subjective element of human intentionality, it is necessary to introduce a fourth element: the object of the sociality.

Indeed, human agents never just ‘relate’ in the abstract, agents always relate around an object, in a concrete fashion. Swarming insects do not seem to have such an object, they just follow instructions and signals, without a view of the whole, but mammals do. For example, bands of wolves congregate around the object of the prey. It is the object that energizes the relationships, that mobilizes the action. Humans can have more abstract objects, that are located in a temporal future, as an object of desire. We perform the object in our minds, and activate ourselves to realize them individually or collectively. P2P projects organize themselves around such common project, and my own Peer to Peer theory is an attempt to create an object that can inspire social and political change.

In summary, for a comprehensive view of the collective, it is now customary to distinguish 1) the totality of relations; 2) the field in which these relations operate, up to the macro-field of society itself, which establishes the ‘protocol’ of what is possible and not; 3) the object of the relationship (“object-oriented sociality”), i.e. the pre-formed ideal which inspires the common action. That sociality is ‘object-oriented’ is an important antidote to any ‘flatland’, i.e. ‘merely objective’ network theory, on which many failed social networking experiments are based. This idea that the field of relations is the only important dimension of reality, while forgetting human intentionality . What we need is a subjective-objective approach to networks.

In conclusion, this turn to the collective that the emergence of peer to peer represent does not in any way present a loss of individuality, even of individualism. Rather it ‘transcends and includes’ individualism and collectivism in a new unity, which I would like to call ‘cooperative individualism’. The cooperativity is not necessarily intentional (i.e. the result of conscious altruism), but constitutive of our being, and the best applications of P2P, are based on this idea. Similar to Adam Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, the best designed collaborative systems take advantage of the self-interest of the users, turning it into collective benefit.”

Helen’s own conclusion about the current stage she formules thus:

“human evolution has something to do with human consciousness awakening first to itself, then to its own evolution and to a recognition and finally an embodied experience of the ways in which we are organically part of a larger whole. As we enter this new stage of individual/collective awakening, individuals are being increasingly called to practice the new life-form composed of groups of individuated individuals merging their collective intelligence as the circle being.”

This concept of the Circle Being seems to confirm my own hypothesis of the separate existence of the collective field:

“This is maybe a little harder to grasp than the individual joy of participating, but if a merely individualised worldview is disregarded for a moment it makes sense to speak of the joy and exhilaration of the field – that in the engaging of the shared there is something that is beyond the one and the other person, something between these persons to which it makes sense that we can ascribe experiences of joy and exhilaration.”

Change Dynamics

Helen goes on to reflect on the change dynamics, and again I find congruence. She cites the view of Elisabeth Sahtouris:

“I like to use the metaphor of the butterfly. In metamorphosis, within the body of the caterpillar little things that biologists call imaginal discs or imaginal cells begin to crop up in the body of the caterpillar. They aren’t recognized by the immune system so the caterpillar’s immune system wipes them out as they pop up. It isn’t until they begin to link forces and join up with each other that they get stronger and are able to resist the onslaught of the immune system, until the immune system itself breaks down and the imaginal cells form the body of the butterfly. I think that is a beautiful metaphor for what is happening in our times. The old body is going into meltdown while the new one develops. It isn’t that you end one thing and then start another. So everybody engaged in recycling, in alternative projects, in communal living, in developing healthier systems for themselves and each other is engaged in building the new world while the old one collapses. Its collapse is inevitable. There is no way around that.”

She then cites Barbara Marx Hubbard:

“The larger social structures are proving to be inadequate to solve the problems they”re creating. New social innovations are emerging everywhere, but they are not sufficiently connected or empowered. So right now, any effort that we can make to connect and create greater synergy and participation in this awakening process is probably the most important thing we can do.”

This is exactly what we are trying to do at the P2P Foundation, it’s nice to find soulmates.

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