A couple of years ago I had the privilege to spend an afternoon with Ken Wilber and a relatively small group in his Denver loft. Ken talked in detail about the variety of problems the world faces. And he made the point—and he’s not the only one who has—that the magnitude and complexity of these problems can’t be addressed by the same consciousness that has created them. He talked about the relatively recent entrance of integral consciousness in humanity. You might call integral consciousness, or any level of consciousness across the developmental spectrum, a platform from which people see and respond to life. Integral consciousness is, among other things, a deeper and more expansive stage of awareness that can look back with discernment across earlier and often problematic stages of human consciousness and see possibilities for integration and alignment. This is why this new worldview appearing in humanity is so valuable in our deeply turbulent times of transformative passage.
Ken said that, barring nuclear catastrophe, he saw how those who exercised this broader view could decisively influence the successful transformation of planetary human life. Some studies suggest that tipping points occur when seven percent of a population adopts a new idea or paradigm, and it could be less when that population holds the desire to act with large scale vision and naturally sees key leverage points. At one point in his talk, Ken looked around the room and said, in effect, “We’re the ones who have come to respond to the moment. Might as well accept it.”
You don’t have to accept everything Ken Wilber says to value the development of consciousness, to accept the idea that there are whole new platforms for human perception from which people grow and act far more effectively. Which brings up the question: are there accelerators for the growth of consciousness in these years of peril and possibility? There appear to be. One of the most powerful is participation in conscious, integral collectives. These collectives can be organized for specific work, in which work and reflective learning occur, or they can be organized directly for growth and learning, in which greater clarity about possible work to do or how to work often arises.
These collectives – communities, organizations, practice groups - offer an intriguing area for exploration and development. Generally in these collectives, people not only explore the subject matter of their interest, but in the process develop deepened levels of intimacy and awareness that allow them to express their deeper selves into a receptive group and the world. In so doing, members bring light to long held doubts, while also admitting or discovering heightened capacities and surprising possibilities for service. In GTC cohorts, which are examples of conscious collectives, participants evolve in a transformative way, stepping beyond existing frameworks to settle themselves in a planetary context and also experience insights beyond the ego from the domain of spirit. Participants realize greater impact in their worlds of action.
Recently, Pacific Integral was a co-sponsor for Next Step Integral’s five-day “Integral Community Seminar: Evolving the We.” Participants explored humanity’s evolutionary context, the journey from stardust to self-aware species in crisis. They also considered the self as an effect and an instrument of evolution and—getting to the main point—participants considered and practiced the self-aware collective as an evolutionary form. In a collective, more views, capacities, and possibilities come on line when the individuals who are its constituents can learn (teach themselves) to work in an aligned flow.
Often, in the practices at the Community Seminar, there was a deepened quietness, which not only invited profound reflection, but revealed the sense of a field, the “we-ness” of people together. This “we” sense is one of the important characteristics of a maturing collective, a marker of intimacy and possibility that people can begin to embody and return to. In the “we” recurring over time, trust deepens further. More of what’s been held is articulated: the individual grows beyond previous bounds, the collective strengthens, and there is evolution in an upward virtuous process as the “I” speaks itself in the “we” and the “we” grows from the deepened “I’s.”
When cast in the context of our human unfolding and this moment of evolutionary quickening, this practice, this sense of being together, deepened at the Community Seminar. There was a feeling of being resonant with Life and open to an engaged and exciting alignment with an emerging global transformation. As one participant blogged:
All of us finding our place as a part of a deeply aware and vibrantly alive We. A We where each individual is so transparent that attention and awareness can be intentionally placed where it is most impactful in creating a future that is almost unimaginable, a future that feeds and nourishes us in ways that we deeply yearn for, and almost cannot recognize.
We can hold this larger view and potential. We can experiment with forms that allow its further flowering and transformative impact. In evolving collective life, we can develop trust with one another, bring light to our shadows, move beyond the confines of our ego, claim our greater capacities, and experience ourselves in an aligned flow of service that draws upon existing and evolving collective capacities, which can then be applied with resolve and compassion in the journey of our planetary life.