Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Global Consciousness / Personal Awareness Worldview


MOTTOES: What is truly valuable is not the past, nor the future, but in the drama and depth of the present moment. ...Remember: Be here now! ...Go within. ... Find your true nature. ... Become who you are. ...

TIME: the 1960s and 70s (with roots in the perennial spiritual traditions)

PLACE: USA and Western Europe

PIONEERS AND HEROES: Fritz Perls (founder of Gestalt Therapy), Michael Murphy (founder of Esalen Growth Institute), Charlotte Selver (sensory awareness teacher), Ida Rolf (body work), Matthias Alexander and Moshe Feldenkris (postural and structural awareness), Paul Goodman (social critic), Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass and Daisetz Suzuki (popularizers and translators of Eastern Traditions: Yoga, Zen, Taoism)...

MYTHIC FIGURE: the Buddha, the historical figure of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as 'the fully enlightened one', the awakened, a fully conscious and compassionate being

IMAGE/FEELING/FLAVOR: the entire cosmos is alive and sensitive had we but the consciousness to perceive it... the non-realization of this truth - of the fact that everyone and everything feels - brings untold misery (the manifold lines of karma, or the consequences of ignorant/unkind action)... the world is an intricate "mandala" or astral diagram of uniquely appropriate correspondences... the world is like a vast necklace of interconnected gems - simultaneously reflecting and being reflected ("Indra's Net")

QUOTES: "If you walk, walk. If you run, run. But above all, don't wobble!" (Zen)
"If you can drink a cup of tea correctly, you can do anything well." (Gurdjieff)
"By drinking a cup of green tea I helped stop the war." (Said during the Viet Nam War)
"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." (Slogan during the Viet Nam War protests)

LIFE MAXIMS: Trust your deeper (native, intuitive) wisdom... Live your deep truth... Maintain a 'beginner's mind'... Be faithful to the process and the product will be fine... We all are always on the journey, with the deep uncertainty that entails... Stay attentive, alert and invincibly kind ("ahimsa")...

SOME CONTEMPORARY ADVOCATES AND CHAMPIONS: Thich Nhat Hanh, Ken Wilber, Jon Kabat-Zinn... Parker Palmer, Gay Hendricks, Theordore Roszak, R.G. Siu


NATURE/REALITY/METAPHYSICS: Nature is the vast interconnected texture of pure energy ... it is sheer vibratory energy, radio frequencies, astral correspondences... consciousness is nature becoming aware of itself... 'things' are not permanent substances but are inherently temporal, that is, temporary configurations or patterns of energy... Nature is an integral totality, a resonant whole (versus a discrete collection of atomic entities and/or a dualistic type system - e. g . MATTER-SPIRIT, MIND-BODY, FACTS-VALUES). Knowledge is not the same as understanding. Understand any one thing through and through and you understand the whole. A central NO-THING-NESS is both resident in things and, at the same time, far beyond individual things, acting as a kind of cosmic lure to evolution. Freedom is not guaranteed nor are achievements of any sort permanent. Nonetheless there is deep satisfaction in service and "returning home" to our true nature, in working and being in harmony with the underlying cosmic process (the Tao, Enlightenment, the Dharma). Right action puts us in harmony with all things.

SURD/PRINCIPLE OF ANTI-ORDER/SOURCE OF ERROR: the fact that all beings are necessarily limited. Individual selfhood is necessary and yet it is the source of endless problems and conflicting desires. Einstein referred to the self as a kind of cosmic 'optical illusion'. We see all through the 'I'. Individuality, or seemingly being a separate thing, is what Alan Watts, following Buddhism, called 'ignore-ance'. This condition is not so much the not having of knowledge, but rather the state of ignoring, being oblivious or unconscious of other beings. This congenital "blindness" is the root of our problems.

To be an individual entity means to develop an individual consciousness (ego, identity), which means in effect to systematically overlook the value of other things. When we are not aware of all the factors that compose us and affect us, we act as if we 'knew it all' or can do it all ourselves - we are thus ego-centric or ego-bound. Breaking out of the shell of that attitude, rejoining our deeper harmony and harkening to our life mission or destiny-work is 'enlightenment'. In transcending the 'me-and-mine' syndrome we become fully free.

THE MIND: In this worldview there are two kinds of "mind". The first is the mind we are all familiar with - conscious thinking or overt mental activity. The other is the deep seed of ENLIGHTENMENT within us - that which inexorably draws us to full functioning, full freedom, and the full realization (flowering) of what we are. So it is therefore important to distinguish the ceaseless mental flow of feelings, reactions and judgments that makes up our ordinary consciousness, from the non-discursive, silently aware and non-judgmental witnessing that is at the heart of the meditative/contemplative and spiritual traditions.

PRIMARY DISCIPLINE OR INSTRUMENT: the practice of meditation or mindful awareness; the use of some activity like pottery or sports as a meditative vehicle

ESSENTIAL COSMIC DYNAMIC: growth and becoming in two dimensions: outward, the chronological development and ripening of entities; and inward, the growth of interiority, sentiency and consciousness

IDEAL PERSON: a whole person, one who is integral, fully functioning and free... one who is living an intentional or dedicated life, while nonetheless 'dancing with chaos'... an enlightened sage... one whose life exemplifies service to the community...

IDEAL SOCIETY: a true community of equals, each making contributions in a non-egoistic way... a healed planet... a sense of global oneness with an endlessly creative menu of delicious "flavors" (e.g. of ethnic and national identities)...

Core Disciplines and Historical Curricula

The core disciplines of this worldview are those of relaxation, concentration and meditation. They all involve a deliberate withdrawal from ordinary activities (e. g. the ascetic practices of the shaman) in order to experience the ecstasy (the powerful rush of going beyond oneself) of communion with higher or cosmic or sacred power(s). This is the taproot of all religious traditions: , the communication with an invisible realm that ultimately gives life to, orders and guides everyday activities. Cultivating a deep quiet and a dedicated listening are the perennial prerequisites to opening to this realm or being(s) that both sustains and transforms our world. It is the adventure of the true hero, fighting the inner dragons; it is the path to wisdom.

There have been many echoes of this primordial religious tradition throughout the centuries. In the West, Plato may have been the heir not only of the iconoclastic Socrates but also of the 'mystery' traditions of Egypt and the mathematic-religious brotherhood of Pythagoras. Esoteric traditions, which stressed the notion of a 'secret knowledge' of ultimate things, sometimes converged, sometimes clashed, with established religions. Trailblazers in Far Eastern cultures like the Buddha, Confucius and Lao-Tzu stressed the importance of self-knowledge in arriving at the ultimate truth. The idea was that determinedly examining one's own experience brought deeper understanding than exhaustive knowledge of an "external" universe. In the West monastic communities spawned both world renowned scholars and scientists, and at the same time, preserved the tradition of "inner" contemplative knowledge and living.

There were the cosmopolitan universities of the ancient world. There were the religiously imbued universities of the medieval world. The latter became stigmatized by the term 'scholastic', meaning given over to excessively verbal argumentation. Western science became a breath of fresh air. And the tradition of science eventually spawned the counter tradition of Romanticism. Science in the modern era threatened to swallow up the entire universe by translating it into Newtonian mathematics. Descartes had divided up the world dualistically into two classes of beings: thinking conscious beings and the external extended world that was material, machine-like, and susceptible to mathematic treatment.
Poets like William Blake and William Wordsworth through their poetry tried to validate the importance of sensibility, feeling and the inner life.

The curricula of both primary schools and universities mirrored the above tendencies. Religious instruction slowly and eventually gave way to the primacy of scientific instruction. The nineteenth century became the highwater mark of rigorous historical scholarship and an increasing emphasis on scientific and industrial training. Romantic pedagogues like Rousseau, Froebel and Pestalozzi rebelled, defending the special genius and rights of the child. Montessori and Dewey continued this tradition. Ironies abounded. The German Herbart devised a truly dynamic psychology of consciousness only to have it metamorphize into a straitjacket pedagogy. German scientist par excellence Gustav Fechner, founder of 'psychophysics', became an advocate of a 'living cosmos'. William James was both a scientist and fearless investigator of consciousness. Rudolf Steiner, founder of the so-called Waldorf Schools, was part of a theosophist movement in the late 19th /early 20th century that called into question the reigning scientism of the time.

In the twentieth century the Romantic tradition has morphed into phenomenology, existentialism, process metaphysics, holism, the counter-cultural movement, and the assimilation of the Eastern wisdom traditions. American humanistic psychology bloomed with gestalt and somatic therapies and the entire human potential movement. The new curricula of consciousness and personal transformation was pursued in 'growth' institutes like Esalen in California. The discipline and practice of meditation had come to the West. There was a new context and frame for curricular development: new goals and priorities.


STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT / DIVISIONS OF SCHOOLING: people develop in a myriad of ways, at all rates and rhythms depending on life circumstance and experience, individual aptitudes and modalities... the lockstep pattern of schooling, so friendly to industrial needs and narrow economic requirements, does little justice to the flowering of human potentials, let alone to the unfoldment of our deeper nature...

STUDENT: a multi-petalled, multi-dimensional organism; a spiritual embryo

TEACHER: guide, facilitator and catalyst

TEXT: any compressed expression; any cultural icon or "shard" of meaning; the expressive physiognomy of faces, gestures, persons, relationships, situations, events, artworks, etc.; any configuration of signs requiring interpretation

MAIN AVENUE OF LEARNING: A student asked a zen master what was the essence of the Dharma (the path to enlightenment in Buddhism). The master responded "attention". The student continued, 'Is that all?' The master replied, 'Attention means attention.' The student persisted, 'And what does that mean?' The master: 'Attention means attention means attention!' Attention and awareness are the golden keys.

Myth, dreams and mis-takes often represent deeper structures of the psyche that we unaware of or deny with our conscious minds. Emotions are 'intelligent'.

Electronic networks and potentials become organic plasticity, which in turn are overshadowed by the "bandwiths" or frequences or channels of our almost boundless intuitive wisdom. There are an indefinite number of intelligences, terrestial and celestial. To be a true individual (a unified creature, an integral being) is to be open to and to embody many types of knowing. Integrity is multipotentiality.

The main question of learning for humans is not how we learn, but why we stop learning! What are the things that impede, obstruct, sabotage and constrain us?...

CENTRAL ACT(S) OF LEARNING: energy, passion,excitement; decision and choice; daring, boldness; persistence and determination; patience and peacefulness; reflectiveness

ELEMENTARY SKILLS: "the psychic abc's"; befriending ourselves; learning how to use our own organic 'bio-computers'; developing TRUST enough in basic relationships to feel safe in exploring; being in harmony and thus being able to work with ourselves; for every learning-desire there is a potential teacher/guide waiting, an appropriate syllabus unfolding, and a learning community gladly supporting...

SCHOOL: a sensitive and stimulating environment; a challenging environment (which can be anywhere); a voluntary association or intentional community with access to resources

STANDARDS: supportive feedback loops formed and refined in any process of learning; the demands of situations that need transforming; the impossible to fully articulate sense-of-rightness ("there are rules but no one rule"); everything one must take into account...

There are five sources of standards, five authorities to which we must harken: self, work assignment, partners or relationships, defining mission, and the sacred dimension of experience. Ultimately, judgments of "pass", "fail" and "excel" make reference to one of these measures which are present in any activity.

EVALUATION: initial estimate, interim feedback, and finally the sense of closure (satisfaction) that attends any complete experience and/or contribution to a cause (John Dewey) [Cf. STANDARDS]; evaluation means estimating, making a judgment which means constantly assessing the rightness or wrongness of an activity, getting rid of premature kinds of judgment to come to a deeply strong authentic self-determining measure of quality; a cybernetic hit or miss in the archery of experience...

Reading, Writing and Centering

READING: We are always scanning our environment in accord with dominant or dominating values, desires and expectations. We constantly interpret things as signs of what we wish to have or avoid. We are thus constantly composing/creating our world(s). We read facial-tones, body-language and situation-tones. We "edit" our very thoughts and feelings in the same way. We are always trying to make sense of ourselves and our environment. We are thus always 'making meaning', seeing how things fit into a larger picture, the picture that gives smaller actions and events meaning. It is always larger patterns that give smaller events meaning--- and smaller events, if they become highly charged, change larger patterns. This is the "hermeneutic circle", the feedback character, the confirming/disconfirming nature of events...

Thus reading is, first of all, the more or less automatic flow of reponses within the context of a larger pattern (stereotype, image, gestalt, cognitive-schemata, story-line, narrative, or worldview). The larger pattern either gets confirmed or there is dissonance, disturbance, disorder experienced. The dissonance itself is then folded into the larger picture or model or narrative - dismissed or denied - or else culminates in a crisis.

Secondly, reading is a stopping, a pausing, a being-stuck or struck, a conscious dallying or lingering with fascination. The automatic flow stops and there is an opening to or encounter with an 'other'. That is, there is the entertainment of something new, new information pours in voluntarily or involuntarily. Reading is scanning, rereading, multiple readings. Sometimes there is great struggling with resistances. Often there is not a linear but a circuitous path as the entity struggles and gasps for meaning in a sensitive apprehension (fear or hope). Understanding a person or a text is in principle the same: cues and clues are sought in the physiognomy, travelling through layers, probing the delicate texture of expression... Sometimes realization, insight, genuine meeting occurs... sometimes with a great burst of feeling... sometimes with quiet understanding...

Finally, in this spiral process of reading there is hopefully the integration of these inward and outward movements, of transforming and being transformed. The success of reading is the achievement of a new context for confirmation and problems, gaps and happinesses.

WRITING: Just as with reading, reading is rereading, writing is rewriting. It is the process of revising and the journey of revisioning. Also as with reading, writing follows the rhythm of flow and focus, of reevaluation, recollection and reflecting. It moves fast and slow, from 'breezegraphs' to 'writing with one's blood'. Like M. Jourdain in Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, we are always speaking the language of concentration without realizing it. Concentration is moving, focused energy. We 'pour' ourselves lightly, mediumly or intensely into things. We immerse ourselves in, we summarily deny and dismiss, we stand dazed and dumbfounded. Writing reflects our involvement.

MATHEMATICS: In the Third Worldview mathematics is a distinctive modality of intelligence, a sensitivity to certain dimensions of form. As such it is part of the revelation of beauty, displaying hidden orders, complexities and harmonies. But what it shares with every other modality or way of thinking (like art or engineering or politics) is that it is a way of framing unknowns. In the Third Worldview every situation is inherently incomplete and harboring many unknowns. Mathematics is surely the discovery and tabulation of interesting patterns. But it is more like creative-intuitive thinking in general, the becoming comfortable with unknowns, learning to be flexible and fluid, learning to be playful and open. Fear is the great constrictor of learning and knowing how to acknowledge and work with our mind-states, especially the negative ones, is a kind of primitive or meditative mathematics. As we learn this meta-art of dealing with our own consciousness, of deconstricting ourselves, we open up our own problem-solving abilities and access our native resources. We learn how-to-learn. Mathematics, as all the other arts and sciences, eventually leads to an appreciation and use of our 'beginner's mind' or 'don't-know mind'. It's not a matter of information but of reverencing and delighting in our native faculties. When we learn the arts of self-trust and fluidity, we become much better critics when critical evaluation is required. Mathematics is the art putting the horse before the cart.

CENTERING: Awareness-based pedagogy always refers to a base-state of awareness, whatever the activity. It is the integrating factor in an 'integral' or 'holistic' education. Just as Aristotle recognized four coordinates or "causes" of any activity (efficient, formal, material and final), awareness-based pedagogy notes at least five nodes/centers/focal or reference points in every activity: self/agent, partners/relationships, work/assignment, mission/value, and finally the creative source that transcends yet gives meaning to all enterprises, large and small - the Center, our cosmic solidarity, identity or progenitor.

Centering, like concentration (of energies and/or attention), is a natural, albeit often unconscious, part of all creative processes. Frequently we are so enmeshed into the objective or situational requirements of the creative process (getting the answer or working toward a satisfactory resolution) that we are quite unaware of this pregnant (and impartial) pausing, this being still and attentive, this sensitive and receptive listening. This stage in the creative process is made the centerpiece and constant companion of all endeavors in awareness-based pedagogy. It is the "fourth R". The art of conscious centering, of mindful awareness of feeling-states and situation-tones, this meditative practice of listening, allows us to access our 'higher' power(s) and/or deeper wisdom. It grounds and leavens every activity. It opens the possibilities of our deeper nature. It is the deep present forever asking "what is truly happening?"

Summary, appraisals and directions

IN SUM, the worldview of global consciousness and its attendant awareness-based pedagogy hinges on a pivotal paradox: to go deeply within, to attain a high degree of self awareness (familiarity with one's 'inner' feelings and states, sometimes quite subtle) is to simultaneously gain a sense of global identification and a solidarity with all creatures.
Self-consciousness is the experience of strain and anxiety. Self-awareness is the peaceful practice of slowly realizing what one has in common with all other creatures (e.g. the Buddha said no creature likes to suffer) to the enlightened point that there is no "other", that all creatures deserve reverence and respect. While the path to enlightenment is arduous (sometimes terribly so!), the promise of full liberation holds out the prospect of being truly at home with ourselves and in the universe. The practice of meditation, the path to self-knowledge, is the key to this fertile dissatisfaction and possible delight in all creatures. Enlightenment is the path of stewardship and service in the community of all creatures. We don't know where the cosmos begins or ends off.

WEAKNESSES, CRITICISMS, PROBLEMS: fuzzy-headed, utopian dreaming, guru-worshipping, lack of critical judgment, mystification... tending to neglect hard-headed realities... wallowing in feel-good, exaggerated self-esteem strategies... warm and fuzzy, completely lacking in intellectual or practical rigor... neglect of real problems by escape into a vague and nebulous 'within'... relies on the dubious faculty of intuition, which can have a thousand contradictory meanings... sometimes comforting but of no significance, let alone admitting of scientific verification... an outmoded path to nowhere... incomprehensible jargon... wild, undisciplined (and sometimes dangerous!) imaginings... generates true believers and blind followers... tendency toward otherworldliness...

STRENGTHS: individual empowerment; global and compassionate perspective...

FUTURE DIRECTIONS, PROMISING RESEARCH, VISION OF SUCCESS: a new framework and context for curriculum work; a new cosmic-community paradigm for understanding the universe; a sense of mission and purpose regarding the healing/saving of the planet for the "seventh generation" and the rehabilitation of the earth; the unioning of sensuous and spiritual values (e. g. revaluing the body); the rediscovery of the deeper mystical and contemplative springs of traditional religions; the earth, properly cared for, is a paradise; the present is always the 'coming of the millenium', the right or propitious time (the "kairos"), the needful time...

Select Bibliography

Romantic Poets: Blake, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Novalis, Holderlin, etc.

Philosophical Poets: Goethe, Fechner, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

Romantic Pedagogists: Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Steiner, Montessori

Philosophers: Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution; John Dewey, Experience and Nature; Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality; Martin Heidegger, Being and Time; Martin Buber, I and Thou; Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be

American Psychology: William James, The Principles of Psychology, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Essays in Radical Empiricism and a Pluralistic Universe; Fritz Perls (et al.), Gestalt Therapy; Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person; Rollo May, Love and Will; Charles Brooks, Sensory Awareness

Culture Critics: Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd; Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman; Theodore Roszak, The Making of the Counter Culture;
Sam Keen, Inward Bound and The Passionate Life; Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Consciousness: Ken Wilber, No Boundary (Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth), The Spectrum of Consciousness, and Up From Eden

Meditation: Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
Seung Sahn, Only Don't Know
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

Awareness-Based Pedagogy: Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Mary Richards, Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person
Denise McCluggage, The Centered Skier
Margy Emerson, A Potter's Notes on Tai Chi Chuan
Gay Hendricks, The Centering Book(s) [series]
Parker Palmer, To Know As We Are Known
J. & M. Levy, The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation

Planetary Politics: Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity
Theodore Roszak, Person/Planet
Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality

Epistemology/Theory of Knowledge: Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation
R. G. Siu, The Tao of Science

Cosmology: Rosemary Ruether, Gaia and God
S. Nicholson & B. Rosen, Gaia's Hidden Life
Douglas Harding, On Having No Head and The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth; Gustav Fechner, The Zend Avesta