The insights presented below are offered as an example of what a Collective Alchemy journey can produce. They were birthed from the harvest of all the plenary encounters of the first Collective Alchemy journey (19 in all). As we sifted through the content,77We used mind mapping as a sense-making tool (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map). This distilling and pressurising process is what brought forth these insights in this form. our criteria for surfacing insights was the question: what has life, depth, value and generative relevance for our times? The touchstone for recognising insights was our own bodies and lives, responding through our practice of sourcing from the present. This process unfolded within the accelerating turbulence of global current affairs, and our insights reflect this.
The insights presented here relate specifically to the civilisation shift and the relevance of Collective Alchemy in that context.78The insights about the Collective Alchemy process itself have been integrated into the rest of the text as relevant. They are the fruit of collective sourcing and sense-making through the filter of our lived experience of practice. We are seeking not to generalise about the nature of our times, but to illuminate our understanding as practitioners of how else it is possible to live through these times.
Features of the Shift
In terms of the Great Turning (Macy), the Great Return (Taegel) or the transition from the Solar to the Stellar era (Baring), the core relational dynamics of the shift are expressed in the move away from the vertical power-over dynamic (patriarchy/dominator hierarchy) to the horizontal power-with (co-creation, peer-to-peer); the core attentional dynamics can be seen in a growing shift from human-centric to Earth-centric awareness. Both of these shifts are liberating human potential and creativity to reshape our world. In alchemical terms, our best contribution is to abet these shifts through the choices we make as these dynamics manifest in our lives. We give some examples below.
Rebalancing the masculine and feminine
Like drawing back the string of a bow to launch an arrow, gaining the momentum to punch through the calcified energy of patriarchy requires us to draw deeply from the ‘feminine’ ways of knowing through embodiment, intuition, sensing, feeling, etc.79Baeck, R. (2018). Link It is probably no accident that the travellers on this journey were all women,80Four men began the journey but stepped out for different reasons. or that so many features of the Collective Alchemy practice rely heavily on these feminine ways of knowing. ‘Unplugging’81Rene, L. (2009). Unplugging the Patriarchy, A mystical journey into the heart of a new age. the patriarchal patterns in our conditioning requires humanity to reclaim the feminine ways, amidst the (still) predominantly ‘masculine’ mode of navigating the world through reason and logic. It is natural that this has started with women. Birthing the Stellar consciousness and culture calls us to recognise and affirm both the ‘Sacred Masculine’ and the ‘Sacred Feminine’.82Baring, A (2013). The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul, p. 457-488.
Emergence of Integral consciousness83For a theoretic grounding in Integral consciousness, see Gebser (1985). Ever-Present Origin. For a helpful summary, see: Mahood Jr., E. Link ,84Baeck, R. & Titchen Beeth, H. (2013). Collective Presencing: Embracing a New Paradigm. Link
In our experience of practicing Collective Alchemy, we have identified many features of Integral consciousness:
• Access to features of the prior modes of consciousness (archaic, magic and mythic structures) in the experiential here and now. Specifically, working with energetic resonance (archaic), working with intention and manifestation (magical), intentionally attending to archetypal aspects and soul work85For example, Tarot: Ryan, M & Matthews, J. (2011). The Wild Wood Tarot, Wherein wisdom resides. Golodnoff, U. (2013). Tarot ABC; and planetary movements (archetypal cosmology): Link (mythical), seeing patterns, making meaning (mental).86The further we go back to earlier structures in the depths of our pre-history, the more our correspondences become intuitive.
• Time — recognising and accessing different qualities of time87 Segall (2012). Minding Time in an Archetypal Cosmos - Archai Journal (the journal of archetypal cosmology) Issue 5, Saturn and the Theoretical Foundations of an Emerging Discipline, p. 57.as appropriate (chronos, kairos, aion); sourcing from the present: we sense elements from future and past in the present because past and future are latent in the present. This is the presencing (Gebser calls it ‘presentiating’) of time as an emergent practice welling up from Origin.88The source from which all consciousness wells, and where all potential is latently present.
• Verition — we have already mentioned the aspect of discerning the truth as a consciousness practice for alchemists. What Gebser calls ‘verition’ “occurs on the basis of the integration of archaic presentiment, magical attunement […], mythical symbolisation, and mental-rational systematisation in the integrative act of arational systasis.”89Mahood Jr., E. Link We see this hallmark of Integral consciousness erupting in the public sphere as the call for and movement toward transparency. In the face of falsehood and confusion, truth becomes the touchstone, and naming the truth liberates the collective into the potential for coherent action (e.g. Extinction Rebellion).
• Navigating hyper-complexity — in contrast with the ‘predict and control’ approach favoured by mental/rational consciousness, Integral consciousness experiences both high presence and focus, mastery and surrender, holding the One and the Many simultaneously in a continual scanning, tracking, cultivating, weaving, sensing, realigning, balancing, letting go, letting come as needed in the present moment (as embedded in the local, global, cosmic context).90‘Sphere intelligence’, a term used in ‘wayfinding’ (a navigational practice from Polynesia) characterised by recognising multiple ways of knowing, roundedness and holism, resonates with the symbol attributed by Gebser to Integral consciousness: the transparent moving sphere. Spiller, C, Barclay-Kerr, H & Panoho Huia, J. (2015). Wayfinding Leadership, Ground-breaking Wisdom for Developing Leaders.
• Beyond dualities (either/or) to integrated spectra — from an evolutionary perspective, our thought processes are starting to rise out of dualism: while we can still think in terms of spectra, there is something happening in our embodiment as a species that is moving beyond dualism. An example is gender liquidity: people are identifying along a spectrum, rather than as either male or female. Similarly, One / Many is not a duality, when we understand that the ‘Many’ are within the ‘One’. It then becomes possible to take the perspective of either, as well as holding them both in consciousness as an integrated whole. The delineation between subject and object, too, is being released. Such spectra include:
• sovereignty<->interdependence — the mature individual is both grounded in the self and fully aware of their interdependence and embeddedness in all of life,
• individual<->collective — developing individual sovereignty allows the collective to come into its full potential,
• structure<->flow — there are times when things need to solidify and times when they do not: structures can be released into flow whenever they no longer serve a generative purpose. We are seeking the minimal optimal structures that serve our purposes. Holding this as a collective practice dispenses with the need for ossified social structures in an ever-evolving universe
• dark<->light — holding, embodying and navigating the dark, the light and the greys in between, recognising the gifts of all of them: conscious embrace of Soul (dark/ Underworld), Spirit (light/Higher Realms), and Waking Consciousness (Middle World).
Collective consciousness and conscious collectives
Collective practices can protect a group’s self-reflexive consciousness (as a conscious collective) from being short- circuited by ‘mob instinct’ in turbulent times.91Titchen Beeth, H. (2018). Presence at the Edge of our Practice: Humanity Waking Up, Link Moreover, negotiating hyper-complexity requires the active participation of multiple perspectives. Many of the experiments in collectivity popping up everywhere these days are already transcending previous attempts at being collective (communism, socialism, fascism, etc.). Collective Alchemy practices have a unique contribution to make because of their grounding in the deep and the subtle. They have ramifications at many levels: personal, interpersonal, transpersonal and beyond.
• Personal — working with the protection mechanisms, personality patterns and underlying trauma of the individual ego that get in the way of harmonious collective practice: unconscious projections, expectations, judgement, fear. Developing personal resilience in the face of turbulence and uncertainty is essential in the shift. To work generatively in a collective, we must be willing to go through ego death after ego death.92We use ‘ego death’ here as a metaphor for the perceived threat to self when we release old patterns and identifications.
• Interpersonal — the increasing turbulence in the world calls for building group resilience, hence the importance of personal, inner work so that the group can stay together and steady through thick and thin.93Baeck, R. (2019). When ‘bringing your whole self to work’ and ‘taking care of each other’ starts to erode the business.Link Furthermore, the personal work of building capacity to operate in the transpersonal space is eased and accelerated by the holding in a group, which acts as the collective container for transformation. The interpersonal space is also where our shadow and blind spots become available for inspection. There is awareness of relationship as a phenomenon in itself, not just a series of interactions between two individuals over time, but a third element: a field between them. Transparency shows up here, too, as an important practice: radical honesty and the readiness to address tensions and vulnerabilities as they arise. This is what generates the intimacy and trust needed to work together in complexity.
• Transpersonal — transpersonal collective practice is needed to build our capacity for collective sense-making in service of prototyping new ways of living with each other and with Earth and finding meaningful action amidst increasing cognitive dissonance.94Link This goes beyond the field of humanity into collectively making our consciousness available to the planet as she negotiates massive pollution , biodiversity loss and climate disturbance.
Humanity’s place of belonging in the whole
We are called to reweave ourselves back into nature so we can take up our place again on the hoop of life,95McCabe, P. The Earth Talks: Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Link in the council of all beings.96Macy, J. Link As the structures previously affording identity, safety and belonging begin to crumble, the feeling of what is a secure home is becoming transient and being reworked. Allegiance is expanding beyond social class, profession, ethnicity, etc., to embrace a spectrum encompassing sovereign self, humanity, Earth and Cosmos. This is the nomadic life mode of our forebears come full circle but at a higher level: another spectrum, embracing existential need (refugees) and lifestyle choice (intentional nomads).
As the prospect of collapse and extinction looms ever larger, humanity is awakening to a real, practical, existential dilemma: we are locked into a system with its own inescapable, inexorable, cancerous growth-logic that is devouring our habitat. It touches every aspect of our lives in civilisation and we cannot live outside it. It is in us and in our conditioning. Part of the inner conflict at play in humanity is that we are deeply hard-wired as individuals to be held in the social fabric: we are seduced by the longing to be held by, and to belong to, our tribe. Now that the capitalist system is global, there is no way to live outside it and still survive. When seen in these terms, civilisational collapse seems the only way through to any alternative. Herein lies the importance of learning how to co-creatively problem-solve, how to co- regulate emotional melt-down, how to collectively engage with potentially destructive chaos in generative ways. These are the kinds of capacities that Collective Alchemy is designed to build. Given the extremities now facing us,97Particularly climate change, but also the looming impacts of untenable social inequality and destructive economic habits. if we don’t change as a collective, none of us will make it. This is a clear sign of the birth canal we are in as humanity. There is no escape: we either emerge as a mature species or not at all.98“We are moving from an era of natural consequences to an era of natural birthing”, Taegel (2012). The Mother Tongue, Intimacy in the Eco-field. However, we are already seeing the emergence of creative collective responses: the mass hysteria and violence that we can expect to erupt when people realise that what they always believed to be true is false, can be contained and channelled through intentional collective ‘holding’. An example of this is the holding field for non-violence offered by the Extinction Rebellion movement, as embodied in their principles.99Link Given that this rite of passage will entail collective ego death — where all mental constructs have to fall away so we can engage directly and creatively with the physical reality of life on Earth — such collective holding practices will need to evolve and spread: humanity is giving birth to itself.
Entrainment100By ‘entrainment’ we mean when a field of lesser coherence is drawn into resonance with a stronger field. as a player in the shift
If we accept that consciousness is a field phenomenon, then we can see the business-as-usual that is driving towards extinction as a massive, eddy-like gravity well in which most human consciousness is trapped. However, we are currently seeing a proliferation of groups and movements, popping up like mushrooms all around the world, in all walks of life and economic sectors, that are already embodying different aspects of the civilisational shift. Each group or movement is collectively sourcing its insight and action (by whatever practices) from the ‘new mycelium’ – the DNA of the shift that has already happened ‘behind the veil’. Part of this new mycelium is the blueprint for the emerging mutation of human consciousness called ‘Integral’. It is this mycelium that is producing the ‘mushrooms’, which are in turn acting as attractor fields, drawing in more and more people awakening from the trance of mainstream conditioning, as the collective cognitive dissonance grows. The truth of our global predicament is coming out, and an ever-growing mass of individuals is drawing their own conclusions and seeking alternative niches with which to align, adding mass and impetus to these different attractors as they join. Some of these attractor fields are still operating within the materialistic worldview, in closer orbit to the mainstream (acting as initial stepping stones101For example, conscious capitalism.), while others are further out into ‘deep space’, less clearly supported by empirical science. Collective Alchemy resides in this deep space. Therefore, just as the outer planets exert a clearer and more potent influence on the collective psyche than the inner ones, its practices have the potential for a deeper and more thorough (and instantaneous102“Things don’t take time, they take alignment.” Time of the Sixth Sun: Dreaming Ourselves Awake (2019) (Movie)) transformation than practices that restrict themselves to superficial behaviours.
Principles for Navigating the Shift:
These principles, too, were distilled from the plenary encounters of the first Collective Alchemy journey:
• Act local, feel global, think cosmic.103Currivan, J: Link
• Place mind in service of heart.
• Act from connection — to other humans, the more than human, Gaia.
• Seek community.
• Live kaleidoscopically and intentionally — allow your worldview (and actions) to shift in response to every new piece of information.
• Practice self-organisation — e.g. principles and values of Extinction Rebellion.
• Invoke sacred space and enact emergent ritual.
• Participate in the co-enactment and co-evolution of culture.
Fields for Potential Future Inquiry
As Collective Alchemy leaves the womb and goes out into the world, the following questions104All these questions were sourced using collective alchemy practice. hold potential as seeds for future collective alchemical inquiry:
Questions relating to the civilisation shift
• What does it mean to be thriving in a time of surviving?
• How do we navigate life in the shadow of extinction?
• How do we meet and metabolise the potential foreshortening of all life as a real possibility? And what becomes possible when we do?
• What are the practices that will manifest the next civilisation? What conditions will support humanity to go through ego- death?
• How do we birth potent elders to serve in the transition?
• How do we learn from our children in this transition? What do they have to teach us?
• What does it mean to hold the highest potential of the whole and how do we do it together?
• How do we hospice down mega-structures like nation states, colonialism and profiteering?
• How might extreme uncertainty and even chaos be a catalyst for human consciousness to burst through and break free of layers of illusion and resistance?
• How do we re-attune to the bearing capacity of our Mother?
• How do we build our collective capacity to engage with and metabolise epochal energies and continue offering our best?
Questions relating to group and social processes
• What becomes possible when people come together in alignment and coherence?
• How to work with polarisation?
• How to work with intensity?
• What does collective sense-making look like at the level of humanity?
Questions relating to the evolution of consciousness
• Knowing that consciousness is evolving in and through us, how do we surrender to the process at the same time as we experience it, observe it and will it?
• How do we collectively participate in the evolution of consciousness?
• How do we develop our capacity to discern the truth?
You Are Invited
If you feel the call to practice Collective Alchemy please contact: