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FETZER INSTITUTE MANIFESTO
COLLECTIVE WISDOM INITIATIVE
We believe there exists a field of collective consciousness — often seen and expressed through metaphor — that is real and influential, yet invisible. When we come into alignment with this field, there is a deeper understanding of our connection with others, with life, and with a source of collective wisdom. We are calling into awareness this field of collective consciousness and invite you to join us in building this discipline of collective wisdom, its study and practice.
Living in a time of deep divisions and polarization, we declare our basic nature and capacity to live with wholeness, reverence, and beauty as guiding principles of human affairs and organization. We believe that the foundation for these principles can be found within each of us and in an understanding that we are interconnected in incalculably mysterious ways. In each of us lives a way of knowing that far exceeds mental constructs alone. And in each group or society, there is a way of knowing that exceeds the knowledge of any one person or any one group. It is our shared work, therefore, to perceive the existence of and to develop our inherent aptitude for collective wisdom. We are conductors and conduits of a collective knowing. What is calling us?
Collective wisdom is informed by a deep comprehension of interconnection and a subtle penetration into mystery. As a discipline, collective wisdom encompasses knowledge of conscious and unconscious forces in human groups as well as realms that include earth, plants, planets, rivers, birds, animals, ancestors and spirit. We therefore affirm that our capacity for wisdom increases through identification with the whole, with the entire human species as well as the earth system and cosmos. How are we being guided through the collective realm?
Collective wisdom is forged in the crucible of life and grounded in daily life situations. Honoring both doing and being, we seek practical ways for joining social action and introspective knowledge in the world. We seek wisdom emerging from relationship - relationships that already exist in our families, communities, and organizations. How do we encounter these relationships? Guided by inner revelation, personal experience, deep listening and caring for others, collective wisdom is honed with others and tested in action.
Wisdom, discernible through the collective, includes an understanding of both the light and the dark—creative and destructive ecstatic energies, birth and death, pleasure and pain—the sub strata and higher order that inform consciousness and our world. We stand alert, therefore, as we come together in groups to the shadows cast by our deeds, to understand our own projections and perceptions of opponents, and to seek a deeper understanding of the whole. Just as a good architectural design is alignment with function, beauty, and its larger environment, wisdom is alignment with all the forces of reality.
The investigation of group and collective consciousness requires a partnership of both scientific processes and wisdom traditions - a quest for knowledge, understanding and comprehension. For when these strands are woven as one, we are better able to perceive what binds things together, to grasp at deeper levels a potential that involves each of us in an attraction and instinct for life.
We commit ourselves, our energies and our hearts, to create and facilitate spaces for collective wisdom to arise. We are calling together, in spirit and action, guardians of that opening through which differences are honored as differences but also revealed as aspects of a larger knowing. The fruits of collective wisdom are a firmer grasp of how we need each other and how to act together.
We know that people in groups can consciously generate collective wisdom and that individuals can cultivate their capacity to receive, to hear and to amplify wisdom in the communities they are called to serve. By coming together in groups to consciously generate collective wisdom, we believe we have the potential to heal conflicts that seem impossible to heal; embrace with compassion polarities and paradoxes that tear the fabric of our psyches and communities; and cultivate our capacities to love and forgive in groups splintered and polarized. We come together as artists, educators, mystics, practical idealists, scholars, activists, and especially pragmatists, bringing forward some of our own light and seeking to do together what is not possible alone.
In late 2000, the Fetzer Institute supported a program to investigate group and collective consciousness. How was it that groups at times tapped into a collective intelligence far beyond what one would expect? Out of this early study over 60 men and women were interviewed and hundreds more were brought into conversation about their diverse work with groups. They described their experience with a groups capacity for a spiritual intelligence and conscious action, a movement of the whole which we came to call collective wisdom. The result of this first study is described in a small spiral bound book, Centered on the Edge: Mapping a Field of Collective Intelligence and Spiritual Wisdom.
From the seed planted by this first work, Fetzer supported further research into mapping the field, leading to this website, www.collectivewisdominitiative.org, which is now beginning to bring together strands from an infinite web . In the years that we have been studying this phenomenon, we have become aware of the scope and diversity of people acting in this group field. Our task was to further make visible the people, ideas, processes, and actions that bring this field to life. From Labyrinth walks to World Cafes to Pioneers of Change to stakeholder engagement strategies to chaordic principles, we found vitality in experimentation with group configurations. From process activists to social healers to elders to business consultants to leaders in organizations, we found people in roles from various traditions and institutions exploring underlying principles involving living systems and social renewal. From indigenous traditions as well as laboratory research and qualitative studies, we found scholars, scientists, and philosophers pursuing a deeper understanding of dialogue, appreciative inquiry, resonance, coherence, and collective consciousness in groups and society.
Over the past few years, we have commissioned more than a dozen seed papers to "scatter" generative ideas and to elicit new questions, provocative questions involving the function of sound and vibration in groups, dream states, the role of ecstatic forces in consciousness, the formation of inner images, and the evolution of communities of freedom. It is not only what we have done in beginning to map this field, but what we have become as an attractor that has marked our work. We have attempted to portray an unfinished vision that needs the contribution of artists, scientists, group facilitators, philosophers, workshop leaders, elders and social activists. And in the midst of this journey, a core group of us felt stirred to put forward a call and a declaration of intent. Although we cannot possibly capture the rich array of practices, concepts, and traditions that comprise this field, we believe it time to place a marker of what we have seen thus far, and to invite others to join us in this collective voyage of discovery.
Credits & Acknowledgments
Primary authors, Alan Briskin and Carol Frenier, have worked in concert to evolve this Declaration of Intent and its Call with their thinking partners in the Collective Wisdom Initiative, Tom Callanan and Sheryl Erickson.
Feedback and reflections in refining the declaration have been offered by: Lauren Artress, Chris Bache, Eric Best, Juanita Brown, Michael Cecil, Arthur Colman, FireHawk, Tom Hurley, Glenna Gerard, Julie Glover, Jon Jenkins, Prasad Kaipa, Amy Lenzo, Renee Levi, Monica Manning, Roger Nelson, Mark Nepo, Michele and Ocean Robbins, John Ott, Pele Rouge, Karen Speerstra, Bill Veltrop and Anne West.