The harvest of Collective Alchemy practice as a portal to the Via Creativa

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In recent months, I have been engaging with the full arc of the harvest of our Collective Alchemy journey from April 2020 to December 2021. Looking back, we are seeing that period as ‘phase 2’ of the action research that Collective Alchemy has been since its beginnings back in August 2017. Part of the joy of having a written harvest of our practice is that we get to engage with it creatively after the fact. What I offer here is only one thread; every person who chooses to engage with it will do so in their way, and draw out their own thread. What a tapestry we could weave!

Harvesting in real time is a way of honouring what is being voiced, a witnessing of the gems brought to the surface. After the event, it becomes an artefact, a trail that others can tune into, weave into, be part of, even if they were not present at the time. In Collective Alchemy, the very existence of the harvest throws the time paradox into relief: what role does the past play in the practice of sourcing from the present? As I engage with the harvest, bringing ‘then’ into ‘now’, the experience is of an active multilayering. It is only in re-visiting the road we have travelled that we can see just how poetic and prophetic is our practice, at its core. In a new time, in different circumstances, it continues to shower us with its gifts.

My first step in engaging with this harvest was to bring together in one document (that grew into 3 from sheer volume!) the full sequence of invitation/harvest for each of the fortnightly open calls: cutting, pasting and, above all, re-reading everything that had issued forth from our collective practice and been processed through me over that extended time. From that initial reading, my bodies (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) are still humming with the imprint of density and intensity, depth and complexity, and sheer beauty, of the vast landscape we first evoked and then traversed, together.

My next step has been to systematically comb through the text, sifting out patterns, insights, threads, imagery. Grouping, sense-making, gleaning. Depositing the gems into an ever-more intricate (and unwieldy!) mind map, and sundry other documents. The more I have engaged in the process, the greater my gratitude that we (initially Sarah and I, then the other practitioners who joined the co-sensing process) paid such rigorous attention to the contextual framing at every step. I stand amazed at the coherent artefact that has emerged from our creative practice ground.

Another important part of the process has been sharing what I’m finding with Sarah, who knows how to bear consummate witness to my musings and draw forth more depths. (She also gets turned on by mind maps!!) There is an open invitation to all practitioners to join calls to mull over the harvest. Although I am far from finished with this process, there are already some insights that I’m burning to share. As the title suggests, they concern the Via Creativa, which also happens to be the focus of inquiry opening up as we journey onwards.

We’ve been on the Via Creativa all along!

The most glaring insight, hidden in plain sight all along, is that our entire journey so far has unfolded on the Via Creativa that has always seemed so elusive, resonating back to us through time from some undetermined future. That Via Creativa has been the broader path we have not seen, as it holds the interwoven threads of the and the that we found ourselves treading already back at the outset. The Dual Path might be what we’ve been playing with, but the journey has been essentially, inexorably creative: weaving the harvest, together, pulling out of thin air strands of wisdom, humanity, depth, insight, imagery, beauty. None of what has transpired has come from a ‘head space’. There has been no strategic forethought. And yet we (the individuals making up the collective that this harvest reflects) have together offered in the building blocks of our knowledge, our cognition, our lived experience and our different gifts and specialities that brought forth the narrative thread which drew the practice field into its journey, and that has brought it forward, step by step, laying down the track just in front of the train. In that respect, we’ve been on the Via Creativa all along, we just weren’t seeing it.

Or… well… I have been intuiting it, just not articulating it. That’s why I’ve been harvesting for all these many months. Despite the slog of it and the constant questioning of “why bother?”, I’ve always sensed its beauty and potential. And because every last molecule of it has been processed through my body and consciousness at depth, I’ve also been metabolising the journey in a very intimate way. In retrospect, it’s not for nothing that I was able to write the invitations with such ease, wave after wave: I’d been holding that unfolding narrative thread on behalf of the collective. Part of my desire now, in leaning into the harvest of the completed phase, is to find a way of feeding it back into the collective, to nourish and inspire our ongoing creativity.

The frequency of play—life as art, for its own sake

Observing how we have been playing with the rich imagery of the Tarot over the months, I can see real depths to the way we creatively engage those archetypal energies in our practice. Those images, invested with multivalent, numinous energy, issue from the psychic realm of Gebser’s mythic consciousness structure, also known as the noosphere, the 4th dimension, the archetypal realm, the collective unconscious… In the mythic era, archetypal forms were in some ways taken as given: portents, messages from the gods. Nowadays, they need not be taken as given; they can be understood as offered, or invited. When we draw the cards, for example, we’re inviting the cosmos to play, and the cards, in offering what they offer, are reciprocating the invitation. We dedicated an entire to this form of archetypal seeing—and it was a joy! A small (conditioned) utilitarian voice in my head whispers: “but what’s this good for?” The voice of my eternal and infinite multidimensional self replies: it is an art form for it’s own sake, which is good for our health and our thriving—a collective social art form; a modeling of an outrageously pluriversal future where all of life’s diversity can burgeon and thrive, radically free to be just itself. It’s like creating a beautiful mandala in sand, but in this case, while the experience of the weaving evaporates, what is woven remains available as a cosmic artefact, like the tarot, that can invoke more play as others encounter it on other occasions. The harvests are poetry. It might not rhyme but every line is received and sensed through the body and shaped as a pearl on the string. Poetry, creative play, this is what life is, when we recognise that the universe unfolds on the Via Creativa. When we re-member the privilege of embodied experience in a dimension of physical form. We have the choice to live it on the dual path of Positiva and Negativa, and to zoom out/in/up/down and re-member that we came here to play.

No individual without collective/no collective without individual

I am by no means the only individual to have offered in a harvest from our Collective Alchemy practice. There has been some stunning visual harvesting from Viola, Jenny, Julia, Ineke, Louise and Pieter. Hugo also pitched in to help with the harvest of our session on archetypal seeing. Others have also created invitations to practice. All of it is collectively sourced, and always it comes into form after passing through the creative process of an individual. It’s sourced and inspired through the collective and expressed through an individual. Indeed, any expression of a collective can only ever be manifested through the bodies of the individuals that constitute it. And no individual can express anything that was not in some way first generated in the collective.

It is important to remember that ‘collective’ does not mean ‘consensus’ or ‘homogeneous’. A rich collective is one where each individual is engaging creatively with the collective process and then expressing it out into the world, and back into the collective, through their own sense-making, gifts, and aesthetic, thereby enriching (and being enriched by) the collective process. As the future of humanity on the other side of the era shift unfolds, explicitly and intentionally, on the Via Creativa, I can envision the social process, fractally at every level from local to global, as a culture that embodies as an ongoing conversational dance of collective alignment through real-time collective sensemaking that everyone participates in and contributes to… whereby everybody knows what everybody knows, and then each individual goes out and acts in the world in resonance with that knowing. Their creation is informed by the fullest possible perspective and the deepest possible belonging, and yet it comes through each person’s unique expression, which is more likely through this process to be aligned with the good of the whole, just as the interests of the whole are clearly best served by the thriving of each unique individual. It’s fractal. The collective process supports the creative process of the individual. Sharing this writing out into the world through the Collective Alchemy blog—articulating what I am learning from what we are learning, so that we can learn from what I have learned—is my way of contributing to the social field. I am seeing the Collective Alchemy practice field calling in the participation of the individuals, by weaving threads of their life experience into the tapestry, which is transmuted into art. If we can engage with that notion, in a way that feeds back through individual practitioners the capacity to experience their lives as creative play—in freedom, sovereignty, and joy—and to embody and model that in their various contexts, that would be quite something!

Time freedom

Many of the artefacts on the Collective Alchemy website express a timeless quality. Sourced from the present at specific space/time coordinates, they nevertheless reflect aspects of human experience and potential in an archetypal way. Sensing the generativity of the field’s intent, through the filter of two years of experience of collective practice, telescoped through intensive bouts of re-reading and processing the harvest, I’m seeing an indescribable, unlooked-for power in this practice. Two years on, we have quite a well-developed description of the core process… which was already described in the Practice Guide, which was sourced by applying the core process to itself! It is like a tree unfurling from a seed that has held its essence from the outset, with our attention and practice providing the conditions for it to germinate. Is this because ‘the founders’ have made everything in their own image, and the collective has had no say? Or/and is it the fruit of the practice, as expressed through the individuals who gave time, care, attention to make something beautiful that can travel? Knowing that none of it would have been possible without others showing up and offering what they did. Speaking personally, this field is offering me a generous playground for my own creativity.

Our action research is showing us that this process holds water in ways we didn’t expect and never set out to prove. Collective Alchemy—initially recognised as a practice for the era shift—is promising to emerge from this harvesting exercise as as a viable practice for after the era shift: a practice for easing us into a life together consciously lived in/on the Via Creativa. It might have started with an individual back in 2017, but as the new era dawns, it promises to start with the collective practice, feeding into the lives of the individual practitioners the power to draw those around them into their playground. Practicing on the Via Creativa means showing up in our individual lives, inspired by our collective practice, in a way that models the playground, not the slave compound. In many of the different collective fields in which I practice, the dynamic of collective play is becoming ever more present. The important insight is that this collective play will be not just something one does in one’s spare time to recover from the toxicity of reality, but how we together generate a free and joyful reality that has always been the birthright of all humans.

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