The End of the Mental Age: an article in German “evolve” magazine.

I have been meaning to post this for a little while–an article that the German magazine ‘evolve’ asked me to write a short summary of my thesis for an edition on We Space practices. Here’s my original copy in English– I feel like it’s a pretty good two-page introduction to what I find most important today in terms of We Space and the Integral Age, at least as it relates to my research project. Enjoy! (And if you’re interesed, here’s their website and Facebook fanpage. Give them a Like!)

 

“In a surreally familiar moment of revelation, it became clear: I was sitting with a person, a radical center of intelligent experience—of life! A person with their own unique experience entirely separate from mine, and yet who was also wholly this same living, this same sentience that I was—something which also became clarified at that moment. We were awareness, and we were awake to that. Obvious, perfectly so: this awareness, this sentience, this intelligence, this living—this was the very stuff that everything was made of—this was all that there was, had been, or would ever be—and we were that.

So began my exploration into We Space and the radical potentials of intersubjectivity. This was about six years ago now, right about the time when We Space was becoming something of a buzzword in Integral/Evolutionary circles. That term ‘We Space’ reflected so clearly that experience. And yet the term was also being used for all kinds of apparently qualitatively different experiences of intersubjectivity, many of which with no apparent relation to the profound and total transparency of the self-other boundary, and the creation of the sense of a collective beingness that I had experienced as sacred. At one extreme, it was being used to mean simply a heart-felt gathering—like a Christmas party for a yoga studio. Was there any connection here? Just what had I experienced? Was there anyone else who had experienced this—or who were actually practicing it?

I was in the first year of a Master’s program in Integral Theory at JFK University in California, and as I began to think about the final project that would be due at the end of the third and final year, it slowly dawned on me that I would undertake a research project on We Space. And so I began a two-year long research project to try and clarify this question and articulate a response to it: What is We Space? I read, I thought, I interviewed participants and especially facilitators of We Space practices formally and informally, and I threw myself into practice—moving to the Bay Area in California to be closer to several practice groups, joining different groups, even undergoing a half-year training in one particularly foundational method. I wrote up my findings as I, We, All: Intersubjectivity and We Space, Post-Metaphysics, and Human Becoming. To my knowledge this is still the only formal research of its type.

One of my core findings was that We Spaces can be thought of as existing on a spectrum. In short: Subtle We Spaces primarily involve practices of personal interconnection, exploring personal self-construction, healing, development, and purpose, as well as creating and deepening relationship. Causal We Space, while engaging the above, is focused more on ‘deep listening,’ ‘the space in-between,’ an exploration of awareness itself, rather than the objects of awareness, and the beginnings of a transpersonal group identity. Awakened We Space occurs as an inflection point, where a group identification with the living, unique We of the constellation of individuals present moves from an implicit felt-sense into an awake, self-reflexive identity. It was a glimpse of this space that triggered my own pursuit of We Space. If stable in the group, this We Being can even speak through the individuals’ voices, and place its attention on practical and organizational concerns in the act of world-making, world-dreaming. This is not an exclusive way to think about We Spaces, but is helpful, I find, in clarifying group and individual experience and intention in what can otherwise be a rather amorphous and dissonant experience, which can lead to a greater understanding and the cohesion fundamental for exploration of the deeper levels of this.

But the real heart of what came out of the project—and how this understanding has continued to develop in the past two years, is the following: We Space cannot be understood in its radical potential apart from the emergence of what Jean Gebser called the Integral phase of human consciousness—something separate, though related, to the emergence of the higher stages of personal ego development, those with a causal self-sense (in Integralese, Turquoise and above). We Space is potentially genuinely radical, and difficult to understand through abstraction, as it involves the transparency of our ability to organize reality abstractly, and the de-coupling of our abstract objects of cognition from our locating reality in these objects. The most basic of these reality-locations, the differences between I and You (or more generally, I and not-I), what is real and what is not, and between nothingness, infinitude, and unity, become our creative tools in this Integral space, rather than delineating (and so limiting) the possibilities of our world-making.

These boundaries, or what I call reality-locations, underly the very senses of self that we take to be basic, and so constitute our world-making: our being-as-the-world-together arises from these identifications prior to conceptual thought and experience. Our crises today, external crises of systemic collapse, and internal crises of meaning-making, themselves stem from this underlying way of organizing human reality which Gebser called the Mental. Our resolutions to these crises can therefore not be limited to the Mental, and We Space is what we call the capacity that is emerging as we realize the wholeness of human and universal identity, something beyond the Mental—tracing the same movement of the realization of the emptiness, of the creative nature of these boundaries, in post-conventional relationship.

I have only seen the following in small pockets, and yet am aware of both the possibility and necessity of it: as we are awakening to an identity as creativity, as wholeness, as living, as intelligence, we are taking into our own hands a collective capacity for world-making that has its closest analog in lucid dreaming. While this can all seem serious, and it certainly is felt with an unmatched urgency—this is not only about our survival, about our managing our current existential collective crises. It is about harnessing the greatest tool that we have, the pinnacle of our evolution—our ability to abstract—and liberating it from attachment to its source: our identity as individual egos. We are cutting the umbilical cord: the dynamic potential of our minds, our ability to intentionally create a world, we have only ever seen up to today as a fetus.”