Many people exposed to Re-inventing or Teal Organizations, Integral Theory, and/or Spiral Dynamics love the concepts but struggle to work out how to apply the theory in practice. Dr Peter Merry has been applying them to organizations for nearly 20 years. In this short course he shares his understanding of the theories as well as his framings for and experiences of organizational design and development. His experience covers corporations, government and NGOs.
The Live Online version of this course includes 4 hour-long live sessions with Peter Merry, every Friday at 16.00 CET.
By the end of the microcourse, you should be able to:
explain how Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics can be applied to organizations
use the theories to inform your conversations with colleagues and clients in organizations
analyze the current situation and dynamics in an organization from an integral evolutionary perspective
explain how change works in organizational cultures and systems
design interventions in organizations informed by an integral evolutionary approach
The program includes:
– 10 videos
– downloadable pdfs of the slides used
– 4 live interactive webinars with Peter Merry (Live participants)
– links to extra resources
– quiz for you to check how much you have understood and what you need to take another look at
– group discussions and short assignments with interaction and feedback for those in the immersive version
– access to a private online group only for participants in this course (for Live participants includes interaction with Peter Merry)
– about 3 hours of work per week
Peter Merry, PhD is the Chief Innovation Officer at Ubiquity University, Founder of the Centre of Human Emergence Netherlands, and a Founding Partner of Engage!. His experience includes facilitating integral change processes in multinational organizations, in government ministries and in mutli-stakeholder initiatives with global stakeholders. He has also spent many years in the not-for-profit sector. He is a recognized expert in the field of energetics and evolutionary systems dynamics and Spiral Dynamics Integral in particular. His books include “Evolutionary Leadership”,“Why Work?“ and “Leading from the Field“ (forthcoming). He has a PhD with Ubiquity’s Wisdom School in Volution Theory.
If you are interested in developing yourself in a highly interactive, well resourced programme about how people can work together more satisfactorily with like-minded inquisitive, open people then this course led by Peter Merry is for you. (Course Participant – Andy)
This is a deep dive into the volution philosophy, recorded originally as part of Integral European Conference 2020. Peter takes people on a journey through the emergence of volution, the core aspects of the theory and its implications for the world of today.
This is a section that I wrote as part of my PhD on volution that had been brewing in me for a while. I was puzzled why in the world of energetics some people talked about nature spirits, devas, angels etc, others about energetic functions, and others about their inner experience of energy in clairvoyance / clairsentience. It dawned on me that it had to do with three fundamental perspectives – I, We and It. (See here for the references.)
From a volutionary perspective, between the undifferentiated oneness and the personified I-ness, or the wholeness and the “partness” of a system, there is a large range of dynamics that go on in the relative space. People use many different languages to describe the work they do and the theories that underpin it. To help clarify the relationships between these different practices and frameworks, I will refer to three main perspectives that end up creating different languages and cultures in this area, so we have a code for deciphering the various ways of describing the same context. These perspectives are based on the three persons – 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person. The 1st person is the “I” and is the subjective experience and perspective. The 2nd person I will refer to as “We” (in the tradition of Ken Wilber 1995), because it is really about the interaction between “I” and “You” in a “We” space. The 3rd person is the “It” and the apparently objective perspective on something.
Here are some examples of the way these show up in theories and practices around energy and information. In a third person perspective one would talk about energetic functions, the way information and energy works, similar to the way I have described volution above. It is all seen as a system with different elements and processes that interconnect. Richard Leviton (2005, 2007) describes the various functions that he encounters at specific physical sites on the planet – such as connecting different sites and functions to each other, channelling information into matter, protecting certain areas, providing access to certain informational realms. Hans Andeweg (2009, 2011) describes specific parameters of a system, such as orgone (life energy), oranur (stressed energy), dor (blocked energy) – these last three coming from the work of Wilhelm Reich – grounding, bovis (integration of concept and realization) and POA (Percentage of Organization and Adaptation). In Andeweg’s ECOintention practice, these parameters are measured and used to influence the kind interventions that are made. The third person perspective tends to focus on making pro-active interventions – such as healing a place in Leviton’s work or balancing an organization in Andeweg’s work.
In a second person perspective, one would talk not about functions but about other entities or beings that one interacts with – nature spirits, angels and devas, for example. Leviton (2005, 2007) links the functions he describes to certain entities, such as gnomes, angels and dragons which you engage with when looking to activate certain functions (Merry 2011b). Small Wright (1997) describes ways to work with devas, nature spirits and angels to help co-create a reality that connects your intentions with what is best for life as a whole. She also assigns certain functions to the different entities. The second person perspective tends to focus more on co-creativity with other beings and aspects of life.
In a first person perspective one would talk more about the inner experience one is having. This is seen more often in receptive practices where the task is to pick up information intuitively from various channels. In Leviton’s workshops, for example, he has people focus on certain locations and report what they feel. Although people may use slightly different language, there is usually a common theme. Gnomes for example create quite a different felt experience than fairies or sylphs. Andeweg also has people feel different energetic qualities and then compare notes inter-subjectively, as part of his four year vocational training in ECOintention. The first person perspective tends to focus more on receptive practices.
Different people and different schools tend to have different preferences for the three perspectives. One will talk in more “objective” third person terms about the functions of an energetic system, and may get irritated by “new-age waffle” about angels and fairies. Others may feel more comfortable with a second person perspective in the realms of beings and entities, and find the third person too cool, heady and disconnected. Still others may say it’s all subjective anyway and you just have to feel it in your own body-mind, a first person perspective. More often than not, people and schools combine these perspectives to some extent, as we have seen in the examples above. However, it is important to be able to see them as different yet complementary perspectives on the same reality, and it is in that spirit that I will go into more detail on some practices below that are exploring how to access a fuller spectrum of the volutionary process.
The First Person “I” – Receptivity, deepening ourselves, acting on ourselves
“Can you coax your mind from its wandering / and keep to the original oneness?” the Tao te Ching asks (Lao Tzu, 1999). This points to the place of inner stillness from which we can access field intelligence. The field is a field of information and potential energy, as described in quantum physics. The moment that we observe this “quantum” field with our cognitive mind, the potential wave form becomes a coherent wave form, meaning that we can never actually access the quantum potential state with our cognition (Talbot 1991). This is why we need to still our analytical mind and light up our more intuitive senses to be able to access this field (Andeweg 2009). When our attention is focused on the world of things around us, we are paying attention to the disorder and amplifying it in our experience. To generate more order in our experience we need to go inside and pay attention to the generative reality. Greater presence creates greater order, allowing life to close the loops of the cycles between order and disorder more quickly, integrating action and awareness, or doing and being, in more rapid feedback loops. The Tao te Ching is essentially a guide to accessing that inner state of being present.
This concept has been popularised in the world of organisational development in recent years by the work of Joseph Jaworski, Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and Betty Sue Flowers, as what they call “presencing” (Senge et al, 2004). It is what Scharmer calls the “blind spot of leadership”, that ability to find inner stillness and deep knowing that guides us to take wise and better informed decisions.
In Ervin Laszlo’s understanding of what he calls the Akashic Field (Laszlo 2004), there is a field that holds all the information that has ever existed and information of the dynamic potentiality of future possibilities. We can access any knowledge we want by attuning ourselves to this field and asking clearly what we want to know. To do this however requires that we activate our intuitive dimension and quiet our rational mind.
The rational mind does have a role in working with information gathered from an energetic field. Information from a field can come to us in many different forms. Sometimes in words, but also in images, feelings or other sensations. Each individual needs to work out what their intuitive language is, and what different sensations actually tell us. This is where the rational mind comes in. Energy has many different qualities and functions, and to be able to interpret, communicate about and work with energy, we need to be able to discern those diverse qualities. Working with a shared conceptual framework of energetic terms, such as that developed by Hans Andeweg in his ECOintention practice (Andeweg 2009), enables us to work together in the energetic domain, exchanging our experiences and drawing conclusions.
It is important first to access the sensation through intuition and only after that engage the analytical mind to discern, translate and communicate the experience. This was one of the main lessons learned by Dr Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne in their 28 years of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (Jahn & Dunne 2005). They emphasised how important it was to apply their analytical filters only after all the subjective intuitive data had been completely relayed.
Serena Roney-Dougal (2010) lists out the conditions she discovered in her research that enhanced people’s success in accessing information fields. They include:
Quieting of the analytical mind
Openness (don’t sensor any impression that comes in)
These are first-person qualities that create the conditions for someone to be able to receive information more accurately from the informational fields. There are many practices in the realm of personal development that help people to develop these qualities, most of which involve some level of directing your attention to your inner experience and noticing and accepting the busyness of the mind and the world outside while not getting caught up in it.
The Second Person “We” – Co-creativity, en-acting with others
Working with attention and intention is one of the main ways people can co-create with life. The first part of this section explores how that can look when working with other people, and the second explores more examples of co-creating with other entities.
The formative force of life, the force that shapes our material reality, comes out of a process of giving something attention from the heart and bringing in creative intention from the higher mind (Andeweg 2009). If a leader is sensing well from the field, then they have an intuition about which general direction the community is destined to go in its journey to contributing the piece of the puzzle that it holds. With that general direction in mind, it is possible to co-create with life to bring it into form, through the conscious use of intention. In this sense, “leadership” is very much grounded in a perspective of co-creation, a continual cycle of sensing and acting.
In his most recent work, The Universe Loves a Happy Ending (Andeweg 2016, 207-215), Hans Andeweg names ten principles for leading an organisation or looking after a piece of land in resonance with the energetic architecture of that system:
1. Check whether your conviction is free and independent – are you really the steward of the entity you lead or are you dependent on others?
2. Develop inner tranquility
3. Become conscious of the whole – having your awareness on all the different parts of the system that you are leading
4. Have a sense of what is happening – a heart-felt connection to the experiences of the people and other life forms in your system
5. Put your wheel in the spotlight and practice Tonglen – a practice of holding your system in the light of love in your heart, including any pain that may be present
6. Affirm and visualise your goals – paying regular attention to your goals, and visualising their realisation
7. Use knowledge and expertise – knowing about the content of what is being worked on in your system
8. Go with the flow – understanding and working with energetic time (such as that described in sacred calendars like that of the Maya, or other fractal systems such as the Elliott timewave)
9. Transform your burdened past – being aware of what traumas from the past may be holding the system back from manifesting its purpose and releasing the energy that is held there
10. Be here now, consciously and with joy – don’t take yourself too seriously…
An important area to explore in the co-creative qualities is that of working with tensions and seeming polarities. The information fields often show themselves to us through creative tensions. As the intention that we hold as leaders for our system meets the current reality, tensions emerge that invite us towards greater wholeness and coherence. Those tensions can be in the field of relationships between the people in our systems, or around material issues. I like to think of these three architectures in our living systems:
As we start to align ourselves with the informational and energetic fields, our relational and material architectures are called to come into resonance with them. That is likely to create tensions in our organisational systems which we need to learn to work creatively with. Practices such as Holacracy’s Integrative Decision Making (Robertson 2015) is one example of how people in organisations can treat tensions as information from the field, and work with that information in such a way that it can be of greatest service to the organisational entity that they are leading. The ability for a leader and community to be able to work creatively with tensions is critical, particularly in the increasingly complex and challenging times we live in. In holding a tension open, we keep the probability waves open, and invite in information and insights from the informational fields to literally in-form how we transcend them.
The remainder of this section of the second person “We” looks at co-creation with non-human elements of life. The best example I have encountered of this is Machaelle Small Wright’s work on “Co-creative Science” (Small Wright 1997). Small Wright has developed a practice that she trialled with a garden, inspired by work at the Findhorneco-village in Scotland, that involves explicit collaboration with entities in the angelic, devic and nature spirit realms.
I described the Perelandra process in the previous Section. In the co-creative process, different players have different roles. The humans set the intention and vision. This is related to the longer-term human transformation process that is held by an angelic family she calls the White Brotherhood. Together, the humans and the White Brotherhood are focused on holding an intention for the future so that life moves in that general direction, the e-volutionary process. On the other hand, there are the devas who hold the blueprint of how to implement such an intention in this reality for the greatest benefit of all life, and Pan and the nature spirits who are responsible for pulling all the pieces together – the in-volutionary process. Small Wright developed a set of protocols for interacting with these partners to help develop a physical garden or an organisational project (a “soil-less garden”), as well as to support healing processes (the Medical Assistance Program).
The Third Person “It” – Active, acting on third-party systems
This perspective is maybe the one most popularised due to people’s natural tendency in the scientific-rational mindset to orient through the third person. Although the framing of the examples of practices below is in the third person, as we shall see, they include first person and second person practices.
The practice that I am most familiar with is that of ECOintention, developed by Hans Andeweg and Rijk Bols (Andeweg 2009, 2016). This practice was originally known as ECOtherapy and grew out of resonance therapy, which itself emerged from radionics, that was developed in the 1920s at Stanford University in California. All three methods use treatments (or “balancing”) at a distance through a map or photograph. I choose this one to focus on not only due to my experience of it, but also due to the 20 years of application and the related research they have done around it. From the various practices I am aware of, it is one of the most developed and researched in terms of impact on larger scale systems such as natural parks and organizations. Towards the end of the section I will mention some other practices in this area.
The different methods that developed into ECOintention have become increasingly less technical with each step. In radionics only radionic equipment was used. In resonance therapy symbols and fractals (mathematical images and formulae) were added. An ECOintention practitioner doesn’t use radionic equipment at all, but has a self-assembled energetic toolkit with colours, crystals, homeopathic treatments, Bach flower remedies, symbols and an orgone beamer. What is also important in ECOintention is that the owner, manager or guardian of the project is intensely involved in the balancing process. That is neither the case in radionics nor in resonance therapy. [The PhD goes into more detail on ECOintention in this section]. Other practices with similar intentions are well documented by Currivan (2005, 2017), Hardy (2008), Radin (2013) and Roney-Dougal (2010).
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 →
Currently I am working on a new book that explores a key concept that Ken Wilber develops in Up from Eden around the split that took place between the Typhon and Solar Ego phases, and how when “the Great Mother is repressed, the Great Goddess is concealed” – with all the implications for our current condition and the transition we are in.
I sit with a couple of questions: what was it about the life conditions in Europe that meant that the ego went the way it did, fixating on the static mind, and separating out nature from history, rather than transcending and including? Ken suggests that this form of development needn’t be the case, that the ego could develop in ways that do transcend and include Typhon, the body, the earth etc. Why did it go the way it did over here, laying the foundation for the industrialised world as we know it?
See my post on the Pain and the Promise for more background and/or read that section of Up from Eden.
For the past year, we at the Dutch Center for Human Emergence’s School of Synnervation have been researching into the qualities and expressions of what in Spiral Dynamics is known as the Turquoise / Holistic value system. The impulse for this came as we reached the limits of our existing coping mechanisms and had a sense that this is what was needed next – for us and others in the world. For this project we experimented with an Integral research framework and process, which the report also describes.
We remind people that this is just the start of an inquiry, not a final proclamation of an absolute truth ;-). It’ll be interesting to see what putting this out there will generate. If the initial announcement that we were doing this in the Integral Institute LinkedIn group is anything to go by, many creative (and not-so-creative) sparks may fly! Bring it on!
Since 2000 I have immersed myself in Integral theory and practice, starting with the works of Ken Wilber, following all the Spiral Dynamics Integral trainings, then starting to apply it to organisational and societal change processes as a self-proclaimed “Evolutionary Change Facilitator”. Through our company Engage! we have engaged organisations from multinational corporations through to small NGOs, school and local communities. In that process I have of course come to learn of and respect many others out there who are thinking and working from an Integral perspective, whether they use that title or not.
From around 2005, I started coming across and slowly exploring the world of sacred geometry and energy in its broadest sense. The books started to fill up the shelves. Then last summer (2007), following a trip to Avebury in the south of England (the location of the biggest stone circle on the planet and said to be the planet’s belly-button to the galaxy), I felt a strong call to give this all more explicit attention, particularly the field of earth energy. I knew that know I had start tuning in to what this all meant and what its implications were for me, my life and my work.
However, my agenda was full for the next four months, so I decided to keep it empty from February this year (2008), and explore what this new phase had to offer. As ever, when one creates space and holds a certain vibration around it, things started to move – rapidly. Without going into details of the journey here, I feel I now a fairly good sense of the basics of sacred geometry and energetics. As well as the books, I have spent time with Marko Pogacnik and Richard Leviton, and will be spending a few days with Drunvalo Melchizedekin September. This August I attended the first Integral Theory in Action conference, and coming back felt a strong need to see if I could connect up these two worlds. Wilber doesn’t explicitly mention sacred geometry in any of his works, as far as I can see. This is what this paper is about. We’ll see where it goes…
Holons and Holarchies
The essence of the relationship seems to lie in the concept of holons and holarchies, as originally developed by Arthur Koestler and taken up by Wilber. In its core, it is about parts and wholes. The definition of a holon is something that is a part and whole, and the assumption is that everything is a holon – so everything is both a whole in its own right and part of a bigger whole. Holons then arrange themselves in holarchies, examples being atoms-molecules-cells-multicellular organisms, or letters-words-sentences-paragraphs. So each new level transcends and includes previous levels. This also happens in interior dimensions, where new levels of individual and collective development also transcend and include previous levels.
BOX ON HOLONS ETC
Sacred geometry seems to me to be in its core about the relationship between parts and wholes. In the world of matter and nature, many studies have been carried out into these relationships. One of the seminal works in this area was The Power of Limits, Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture (Doczi, 1981). Doczi looks for example at plants, crafts, calendars, animals and philosophies, and discovers the same essential proportional harmonies. He coins a term to describe the pattern that he finds – “dinergy, the energy-creating process that transforms discrepancies into harmonies by allowing differences to complement each other” (p3). This is a perfect definition of an Integral process, and could well be used to describe what Wilber has done in his great body of work over the years.
In the physical world, these part-whole relationships are easy to measure. The basic composition of “dinergic” relationships is the “golden section, a uniquely reciprocal relationship between two unequal parts of a whole, in which the small part stands in the same proportion to the large part as the large part stands to the whole” (p2). The relationship is known in mathematics as Phi, an irrational number with no end (close to 5/8). This relationship manifests in a “golden rectangle” (also known as a Pythagorean rectangle) of 5×8 proportions, it creates a certain spiralling form and plays out in the Fibonnaci series of numbers. When organic matter grows, it grows according to these proportions. Doczi reports on many studies that show how people naturally prefer forms in which the parts are in this nature of relationship with each other.
BOX ON PHI ETC
So I believe that what we have in the golden mean is a mathematical description of the most adequate relationship between parts in a greater whole. In Integral language, this would mean the most ideal proportions in a holarchy. Now, as we can see in Box 2, the Phi number gets more subtle and precise as we move down the Fibonnaci sequence, and never ends. My postulate would be that this is a description of the growing depth and span of a holarchy. So the more levels of holon that transcend and include previous holons in a holarchy, the more refined and naturally supportive of life the relationships between the parts and wholes in the holarchy become. And as we know, it’s turtles all the way up and down…
Integral theory postulates that as a new level of holon emerges it re-arranges the relationships on the levels below, making the holons at that level more functional and bringing them closer to their true purpose and identity, thus enabling them to both be more refined and “agentic”, as well as contributing more effectively to the greater whole, and more “communal”. This would fit the idea of the parts and wholes coming into a more life-supporting relationship with each other, closer to Phi.
To take a simple example – when cells are transcended and included by the container of a molecule, they re-arrange themselves into more specific functions, held by the molecule. They go through another major transformation into greater differentiation and functionality as a cell container emerges to wrap around the molecules, and the same happens to the molecules. And a next step of greater integration and differentiation occurs as the multi-cellular organism emerges.
Implications and Investigations
So what? Great question.
There are many further tracks I could take this, making links into the various dimensions of sacred geometry such as the platonic solids, flower of life, energy generation, and looking at that that all tells us about the dynamics of holarchies. However for now I would just like to put this postulate out there and see what feedback it generates.
I have also primarily focused on the exterior perspectives above, as that is where most of the research and writing around sacred geometry has happened. I have a hunch that the same thing works in the interior dimensions (individual holarchies of development, and collective holarchies of fields of relationship). Maybe one day we will actually be able to measure the different energy fields that emerge as these interior fields develop – in fact, we probably already can. Then we could explore whether the resonance of those holarchy fields also matches a golden section proportion – without of course reducing the interior experience to an exterior number.
Why is this relevant to Integral theory? It will add a currently missing dimension, namely a more specific understanding of the dynamics and relationships between parts and wholes in a holarchy.
Why is this relevant to Sacred Geometry? It will locate this wisdom in a well-developed, broader theoretical field, and enable it to see its place in the bigger whole – releasing it by limiting it. This will contribute to taking it beyond what is often perceived to be a new-agey and vague esoteric domain, into a more rigorous and embracing intellectual as well as experiential dialogue – giving it more credence and sharpening our understanding in the process.
So – let me know what you think so far, any connections you see with existing writings, and any questions you think it would be cool to explore.