On the eve of the British referendum on membership of the European Union, at last some clarity emerges for me. I have been torn on this question, but in my meditation this morning, this insight dropped in.
I have often used the concepts of pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional but not in the sense that Lawrence Kohlberg originally used them. I have found them useful to describe the dynamics of a society. There is a conventional level where the mainstream resides and that we basically educate people to accept as the norm. In most industrialised societies that is essentially a world-centric modern mindset with increasing amounts of post-modern (Orange-Green in Spiral Dynamics value systems). Pre-conventional is centred in a more ethno-centric mindset (Red-Blue value systems) and is critical of conventional because it feels threatened in its national or ethnic identity by the increasing engagement with people who have other identities. Post-conventional is centred more in post-modern and integral worldviews (Green-Yellow value systems) and is critical of conventional primarily due to the institutionalisation of free-market capitalism that has plundered the planet and exploited the people for never-satiated economic growth.
Herein lies my confusion of the past weeks. I have a post-conventional critique of the EU that sees it embodying the centralisation of an economic paradigm that is inherently destructive – colonising space for local economic innovation and self-reliance. What I really want to see change is that paradigm and system – and the EU is the perfect target. However, if I were to vote for the UK to leave the EU, I would be assuming that a UK outside of the EU would be more likely to adopt a post-conventional approach than if it remained. Much as I would like that to be true, unfortunately I don’t believe it is so. The predominant pro-Brexit voices are from the pre-conventional ethno-centric mindset, and are likely to dominate UK politics for years to come should they win.
Which means I would vote for the UK to remain in the EU, for all my current misgivings, as it is currently the system that holds the greatest potential for the development of a post-conventional, integral praxis. Environmental issues for example are trans-national by their nature, and need to be handled in a trans-national space. The EU does have the opportunity and power to ban Monsanto’s killer herbicide Glyphosate, for example – something which is far better achieved in a trans-national policy arena that national. So for now I vote to remain – and continue to do what we can to make sure the right kind of decisions are taken at the level of the EU, and build the economic, ecological and social alternatives that will ultimately make the current conventional system obsolete.
#FeelTheBern really captures it. Listening to him this morning, seeing the standing ovation, feeling how he was genuinely moved by that, seeing Clinton’s uneasy smile, frustrated by not being able to donate to his campaign living outside the US and reduced to liking and sharing Facebook posts, I decided to try and share what I feel is going on.
I “felt the Bern” first during Jeremy Corbyn‘s campaign to become the new leader of the Labour Party in the UK. He had been written off in advance as being too radical, an old white man openly Socialist and a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament supporter. The young people poured in to hear him speak. Why? He spoke a truth many of us have been feeling. For too long we have been disenfranchised by an expertocracy (economic, financial, political, health, education etc) telling us to leave it to them as they know better. Politics has become all about surface media displays with the differences between mainstream parties becoming increasingly blurred as our felt sense of our society becomes increasingly alarmed, depressed and disturbed. In our gut we have been feeling that things are fundamentally headed in the wrong direction and yet none of our mainstream political leaders have been giving voice to that (the Green Party has of course been voicing this for many years which is maybe why at last in the UK it is growing so rapidly). Until that is Corbyn and Sanders showed up.
They have started to question some of the fundamentals that no-one else has dared to touch, probably because no-one really has the alternative fully worked out yet. But it needs to be named and made explicit as it is so alive in so many of us. We will work out the alternative as we go, because everything we need already exists.
It’s so simple when you name it. If we have an economic system that doesn’t enable people to do the work that needs to be done in the world, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that fails to honour everyone’s contribution in a fair way, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that plunders and destroys the very planet that we live off and are part of, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that treats potentially creative human beings like dumb passive consumers, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that drives us to exploit and destabilise other countries and peoples to feed an insatiable engine of never-ending growth, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that thrives when people get sick and purchase ever more expensive treatments that ultimately make them more vulnerable to disease later, then the economic system is broken. If we have an economic system that turns our schools and colleges into factories to feed an inhuman and out-of-control money-making system, then the economic system is broken.
We created this economic system. A tiny elite now benefit from it and will fight tooth and nail to keep it in place. However we don’t have to accept it. Corbyn and Sanders are attractors for a movement that is demanding that our political leaders take back control of an economic system that is way beyond its sell-by date. But that movement also knows that if the establishment fails to allow change at the political level, we will continue with ever more commitment and vigour to build a new system that makes the old one obsolete – a system so different, that before they know it, it will be beyond their grasp and control. A system that enables people to contribute their talents to co-creating a world that we feel in our guts is a world worthy of us, as amazing creations of this beautiful planet we live on.
Note: this blog is a draft of a booklet that I hope to see published one day. I also have a version with some more explanatory text in each section.
This book is dedicated to Hans Andeweg and Rijk Bols, who have pioneered the field of ECOtherapy (now called ECOIntention), as well as to those people present and future who embark on this sacred work.
The inspiration and much of the content of this book comes from the writings and work of Hans Andeweg, in particular Scheppend Leven (2011) – due out in English soon as The Universe Likes a Happy Ending. I have filtered the concepts through my own experience to come up with the twelve principles.
About the Author
Peter Merry is a leader and social entrepreneur who has spent most of his adult life in an ongoing quest for how to be of greatest service to the transition towards a more life-affirming future for people and the planet we inhabit.
On that journey he has been a theatre director and actor, a teacher of English in Paris and northern Ghana, an environmental activist and International Co-ordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales, a MSc student in Human Ecology, an international youth trainer, co-founder of the business Engage!, an organisational development consultant, public speaker, founder and Chair of the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands, PhD student with and Director of the Wisdom University in Europe, husband and father of three boys. In the energetic realm, he has trained in clairvoyancy and geomancy, and is currently completing the four year vocational training in systemic energy tuning with the Center for ECOtherapy.
He lives in the ecological neighbourhood Eva Lanxmeer, in Culemborg, the Netherlands, with his Dutch wife and three children.
As we stand on the edge of a new era, with old beliefs, institutions and values crumbling around us, a new realisation is dawning in the minds of many. This is not just an upgrade of our current civilisation. This is a new starting point. From this point on, the foundational assumptions of our civilisation change.
I have just started up a new website for people to be able to follow my thinking about volution – www.volutiontheory.net. Initially I will be posting the elements of my PhD dissertation as it emerges and would love your comments and suggestions. Eventually I hope it will become a home for reflections and stories about volution and its implications.
This blog will continue to host other reflections and merry-making.
Intro note: I actually wrote this back in 2000 when we were establishing Engage! InterAct. I came across it just now and was struck by how relevant it is to the work I am now doing with Ubiquity – nearly 15 years on! Gosh I was smart back then – I wonder what happened…
I recently received two emails that triggered some reflection in me. One was from my Ubiquity colleague Dr. Will Taegel, Dean of the Wisdom School, who carries deep indigenous knowing as well as modern scientific perspectives. The other was from an Irish woman Anne Marie who had listened to this interview I gave about my upcoming book called The Pain and the Promise.
Will wrote to us about his perspective on the US Thanksgiving celebration. Here are some of his words:
I will follow the lead of the United American Indians of New England who in 1970 reframed this holiday to include a Day of Mourning. I will utilize Saturday as a day of fasting and mourning for the policy of extermination directed toward American Indians by the United States government. Over 600 formal treaties were broken along the trail of tears and dashed USA integrity. To this day we harbor a terrible national secret of systematic extermination, a denial that grinds at our innards. Until we face this secret our nation will continue as dysfunctional.
When I read it first it resonated with me as I recognized his perspective but it didn’t move me beyond that. A couple of days later I received the mail from Anne Marie. Here is an extract:
I have pondered today about why I was so stuck with my pain and come to the possibility that it is because, with access to racial memory, I am indigenous in my Ancestral lineage back to Neolithic times, colonised and then post modern. The colonised journey in the middle annihilated the indigenous self belief and the trust in what had gone before, and even with those parts restored the interface with the post modern is terrifying. A stranger in a strange land.
I worked with Joanna Macey 13 years ago at Findhorn in a Deep time workshop. We did the Truth Circle accessing the power where the pain is and that is when I was opened to it. Joanna moved on to an evening of celebration and lifting of spirits afterwards. I and two others could not lift. We were all three, women and the other two were South American Indian and Australian part aborigine. I am Irish.
[After listening to your interview] I feel healed just because another human being knows it too and can face the pain of the split and it’s consequences. It feels a joy now to go on and release it. Do you mind if I say thanks in Irish; Go raibh mile maith agut – just because it means there are a thousand goodnesses with you.
Her mail touched something deep in me. As I contemplated my reaction, I began to get a sense of where it was coming from. As primarily an Englishman (I also have ⅛ Irish and ⅛ Scottish blood), I have had to deal with what it means to embrace the identity of a nation that has created much suffering for others in the past – the colonial violence overseas as well as the oppression closer to home in Scotland and Ireland. I worked through much of this with my Irish friend Gavan and during my MSc in Human Ecology in Edinburgh many years back. In that period I found my peace by identifying with those movements in England that had resisted the enclosures and disempowerment – such as the Levellers, Quakers and Diggers – and by my commitment to work for a just and sustainable world today.
So what was touching me in Anne Marie’s mail? As I probed, I found that what moved me most was her words of thanks in Irish. It felt like something systemic was being healed in me through that. That set off a thought process.
The thought that started to form was the following: could it be that peoples who damage other peoples’ relationship to their land, their collective identity and core sense of belonging also have their own foundational belonging-system repressed which in turn is what enables them to continue to undermine that of others? (This relates to the “purple” energy dynamic, for other Spiral Dynamics geeks).
You see how this relates to Will’s points now. The implications would be that the oppressor nations are so damaged in their foundational energetic of belonging, which is what provides rest and relaxation in the embrace of the Mother, that they flee into a restless ungrounded pursuit to fill a deep hole in their own sense of themselves. That pursuit involves the ruthless exploitation of the external world around them in a desperate quest to quench a thirst that ultimately can only be satisfied through a healing of their own internal collective cultural trauma, in relationship with the place which is their natural home. Anne Marie, in a follow-up mail, wrote “That is what made them so frightening, there were no natural limits to what they would or could do. They were not in their bodies and their hearts were frozen.”
I have seen this reciprocal dynamic demonstrated explicitly at individual level during one of Lynne McTaggart’s events. She had a Russian scientist with her who was able to show the energy fields of two people on screens. When one person got angry at the other you saw the anger energy leave one person and hit the other, shaking their energy bodies. At the same time you saw how the same negative effect took place in the fields of the person expressing the anger. You literally do to yourself what you do to the other.
It is the “great” nations that have built empires and repressed native peoples in the process (e.g. England-Ireland, USA-native Americans, China-Tibet) who seem to have most lost touch with nature and the basic principles of life and are fueling our collective planetary demise. These nations and peoples – and there are many more than I have mentioned – need to acknowledge our past oppressive roles, apologize, and ask what we can do to heal any pain. At the same time we need to reconnect to the land that hosts us and ask for support in our own collective healing. For by harming others at their roots we have been made rootless and restless ourselves – a numbness that has allowed us to wreak the havoc that we have on this planet that is our home. Now we need to heal our relationship to those we oppressed and to that we repressed in ourselves, to be able to navigate our uncertain future with dignity, integrity and grace.
Books that helped me on this journey: The World Turned Upside Down, by Christopher Hill; The Progressive Patriot, by Billy Bragg
Here is a recording of an interview that Barbara Marx Hubbard did with me for her Shift Network course on Generation One. It was lots of fun and great to have Barbara asking the questions and holding space.
The question of why there is so much suffering in major transitions is really quite simple. It is caused by a combination of people from the old order clinging on desperately to what is ready to be released and people from the new order passionately obsessed with forming the new without honoring the foundations of the past that the new has emerged from. When we hold on to what is ready to be released we are afraid of losing what we know. When we obsessively push ahead with the new we are afraid of being pulled back into the old. Both responses are based on a lack of wholeness ourselves. Both are running away from something, one the inevitability of renewal and the other the embrace of the good in the old.
So all we need to do is be ready to release that which is longer fit for purpose while honoring the past for what it has given us, and integrating the foundation stones of the path we have walked so far. This is the difference between an ecstatic birth and a traumatic birth. Which we choose is up to us.
From Evolution to Volution – the implications of cosmic geometry (cosmometry) on our understanding of life and the human story.
This is based on a paper submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for my PhD in Wisdom Studies at Wisdom University, following the course Fundamentals of Cosmometry, lead by Marshall Lefferts with guests.
The images of torus, jitterbug and vector equilibrium used with thanks to Marshall Lefferts.
The idea that we as humanity have evolved in a linear process over time is probably one of the most widely accepted ideas across the human species. There is debate between more religious fundamentalist perspectives and more scientific-rational perspectives about exactly when it all began (eg a few thousand years ago versus 14 billion years ago), but they all agree on the idea that since that beginning we have been evolving through historical time with a past, present and future. Indeed, even our most popular philosophers and spiritual teachers tend to promote an evolutionary perspective (Wilber (1996), Cohen (2011), Laszlo (1996)). In my own book (Merry 2009) I adopted and connected these various evolutionary theories.
However, over the last year or so, I have come to question this perspective, and the cosmometry retreat has strengthened my belief that there is a more adequate perspective on our human reality that better reflects the fundamental dynamics of life. This paper attempts to explore the broader perspective and apply it to our human story. Continue reading →