Emergence of Integrative Processes in a Self-reflective Assembly
- / -
Printed in Transnational Associations, 1978, 5, pp. 271-276 [PDF version].
See also: A Congress that Dared the Unthinkable: report on the First New Age Congress (Florence, 1978)
and Introductory statement reproduced from the congress programme
At a congress with rather unusual characteristics the organising group decided to stand back and thus oblige the
participants in plenary to make the quantum leap in attitude from being there to be
served passively by the organising group to being, making and evolving the Congress
themselves as a conscious whole. The consequences of this dramatic decision and the
processes which were elaborated in plenary are described here
Self-reflective plenary: unity
This section reports on the consequences of the decision by the organising group to
'stand back' and allow the Congress to take care of itself. On the morning of
the fifth day, participants gathered in a plenary session for a discussion which lasted
some nine hours. The early hours of the discussion were filled with exchanges and
complaints, often bitter and emotional
One major theme was whether the Congress should be tightly structured with a
significant proportion of the time given to lectures by the key resource people, and with
much of the remainder devoted to workshops by other resource people. A strong response to
this was that it amounted to a 'consumer' approach - denying the importance of
participants as resource persons in their own right, and reinforcing conventional
structures which it was the purpose of the Congress to call into question. The point was
whether the participants had come for a safe, low-risk, pre-packaged
('super-market' ) experience which was often available in their home towns, in
books or at other events or whether they had come to work collectively towards new
approaches, however painful the experience.
International congresses have always been recognised as intimately related to travel
and tourism. The point has however never been made that since the congress program items
themselves - panels, presentations, etc. - constitute packaged 'trips'
(to use the jargon of the alternative culture) for participants, then the conventional
congress can itself be conceived as a collection of intellectual and emotional tours
amongst which participants are free to choose. A congress may thus be seen to be related
to the packaged tour industry both in reality and metaphorically.
During this session, for the first time, people stopped holding back critical comments
in public. Things that needed to be said were said and the responses, often very moving,
resulted in integration of the group rather than fragmentation. There emerged a sense of
shared reality even if that reality was painful. It became less appropriate for a
participant to stress his or her personal wants and frustrations rather than those of the
group as a whole, or some significant part thereof.
The session itself was held under considerable pressure from those who believed that
'talking' itself was a sterile activity and a waste of time. Frequent proposals
were made to have lectures or workshops, to switch to an alternative mode of expression
(e.g. dancing), or to counteract the analytical divisiveness by affective displays or
meditation. One response to these was they amounted to 'cop-outs' and an
inability to face up to the collective reality and the tensions inherent in it. Another,
in the case of workshops, was that they fragmented the group as a whole and prevented it
from coming to any understanding of its raison d'etre or how its action could
be improved. Handling differences by dividing into smaller groups is a standard practice
in society. It results in mutual alienation and the inter-group conflict with which the
Congress was concerned in attempting to reflect a greater whole. Another response, in the
case of alternative modes of expression, was each such mode alienated some of the
participants without responding to the problems of the whole. The paradox, that the
'talking' mode was equally alienating to many, was also recognised as part of
the Congress reality.
Another theme was that of responsibility, given that the organising group had
eliminated themselves as authority figures providing a packaged experience to be consumed
by participants. Every proposal that this or that should be done was met by the questions:
'Is there consensus ?' and 'How do we as a group propose to go about it
The Congress was increasingly forced to be aware of itself as a whole and to take
responsibility for itself as a whole including such matters as manning the registration
desk. The argument that the real business of the participants was to obtain or share
insights in workshops or lectures was strongly countered by the point that the real
challenge was in the nature and activity of the whole in the light of whatever
participants had already learnt from such partial experiences on past occasions.
Postponing such a collective awareness was viewed as avoiding the challenge.
By this time it was remarked that the group as a whole at last constituted a
'We' rather than a bundle of 'I's'.The group was prepared to
ask what 'we' wanted and why 'we' were there. It was recognised that
the Congress was now on unknown territory since no diverse international gathering of such
size had placed itself at risk in this way before. There is of course much
experience of the behaviour of small groups (~15 people) in unstructured
situations, since this is an integral part of sensitivity training, encounter groups, and
the like, in which many of those present were quite experienced.
The group felt it had to feel its way forward, improvising at each stage, to see
whether anything creative could emerge from the process. For some experienced
congressgoers this was an excitingly unique experience.
The sense of immediacy and moment-by-moment reality provided a 'collective central
space' an eye in the hurricane from which the Congress processes could be sensed. To
the extent that the space was a vacuum of non-action, there was great pressure to fill it
with any kind of activity.
The nine hour session terminated without however taking responsibility for the
following day and without a sense of the possible evolution of the Congress. For some this
continued refusal to confront the collective reality - despite what had been achieved
represented merely a further stage in the process.
Reaction and premature synthesis
The tension of collective self-awareness and the 'space' which it created
could not be maintained. On the sixth day, as a reaction, the program was tightly and
conventionally scheduled (by a small group which took this role upon itself without the
general consent) lectures in the morning and early afternoon, followed by workshops.
Response to the above from the focal person of that group: 'It was imperative that
we demonstrate something larger than 'good feeling' and 'we-ness' to
have resulted from the previous day. I don't deny that we thereby removed some of the
creative tension from the plenary, nor that it grasped hungrily for something resembling a
programme by which to constitute itself, short of achieving the same objective itself
- in the course of which it could have extended its sense of 'we-ness'. But
I feel that given the prevailing state of affairs, general mood, etc. there was a good
chance of total disintegration occasioned by the general unwieldiness of the plenary mode
of functioning. I also felt that it was important to clear the air of expectations,
resentment and frustration, so we could get on to dealing with higher orders of
substantive integration - which is what I feel began to happen two days later'
The workshops were however held in the same large room to avoid the sense of
fragmentation, and then reported back together as a plenary assembly. The sessions were a
relief to many who felt that a meaningful synthesis had been achieved between structure
and process. The general atmosphere was very positive. The workshops contributed to this
sentiment until the report-back procedure highlighted how unearth-shaking were the insights
which emerged despite the assembled expertise and how the problem of interrelating them
meaningfully and usefully remained to be confronted. It was then agreed that the
experimental approach of the previous day should be continued in plenary.
Despite the consensus of the previous day, a small group again took the initiative to
schedule (the Sunday) with a morning plenary session of meditative celebration, poetry
reading and Renaissance dance. After a short period this was abruptly broken up by a
series of protests which re-opened the issues which had been raised on the fifth day. A
very powerful debate ensued with many eloquent speeches.
The first point made was that whatever its aesthetic, inspirational or celebratory
appeal, the proposed program reinforced attitudes which had already been proved inadequate
to the challenge of the times. As such it was in many respects a hindrance in that most of
what could be learnt from such activities had already been learnt. A second point was that
time spent collectively in respectfully absorbing further inspiration, or insightful
information, diverted attention and effort from actually engaging in transformative
activity. As has been said before, collectively we know most of what we need to know
except how to act collectively in more appropriate ways. Any focus on how things could or
should be done, on why they should be done or on the beauties of action appropriately
performed, merely prevents the group concerned from confronting itself in the
here-and-now. It postpones all activity, if any, to the elsewhere and elsewhen.
The point was also made by some that they were there to work together collectively and
not simply to consume the products of New Age initiatives. The contrast was made between
the Congress as a supermarket for participant-consumers and the Congress as a worksite for
the construction of a cathedral, whose nature had still to emerge.
Counter-arguments were made that the individual of today is a crippled being requiring
care, that generations are required for anything significant to be achieved, and that
significant social transformation could anyway only be achieved through personal
transformation. These views were forcefully rejected (with the aid of three deleted
expletives) as 'cop-outs' justifying collective inaction by those present and as
placing self-inhibiting limits on the creative ability of the Congress.
The session had now come to a point of explosive desperation not knowing how to
reconcile the fundamental polarities of plenary vs small group format and intellectual (a
talk' ) vs experiential action, in the light of what had been discussed.
Such is the lack of creative self-confidence, there is a widespread belief that such
polarities cannot be reconciled. A proposal was however accepted to attempt, in a plenary
session on the following day, to apply a small-group counselling technique to the plenary
group in an effort to heal the group creatively.
Self-reflective plenary: harmony in diversity
There exists a wide variety of techniques to promote individual transformation within
groups of from 5-15 people. A great deal is known about the behaviour of small groups.
Very little is known about groups of more than 25 people, and yet groups of this size are
frequently encountered in meetings of all kinds (Lionel Kreeger (Ed). The Large Group;
dynamics and therapy. Constable, 1975 (summarises current understanding but
with apparently little relevance to a conference-type situation)).
Often larger groups (such as the Congress) fragment naturally into smaller groups
having some shared characteristic or affinity. Such smaller Groups each acquire their own
'personality' within the larger group and the interaction between such smaller
groups creates many problems and creative possibilities within the larger group. The
unexplored question is whether any of the small group techniques can be used within a
large group to promote the transformation of its constituent smaller groups (namely small
group transformation replaces the usual goal of individual transformation and the group
consciousness -- see box -- sought is an awareness of the larger
group as a whole).
One small group technique, itself a synthesis of methods used in China and the USA, was
adapted as follows by the plenary session after some discussion.
Round 1: Some 24 smaller groups were distinguished as contributing significantly
to the dynamics of the larger group. Provisional labels were made out with identifying key
terms (see box). These were laid out in a circle within the
concentric circles of participant chairs. Participants were asked to determine with which
groups they felt some special affinity:
- A participant could well be part of several such groups.
- Possibly some preliminary exercise could have been used to duce the number of labelled
groups (e.g. to 5-15, corresponding to the viable number of individuals in small group
- The labels could have been located in relation to the chairs in which each small group
was located, provided that participants could move from group to group during the process.
- Each affinity group is often aware of its members as a result of prior interaction
within the Congress framework. A refinement would encourage use of the original technique
with the individuals of each small group either prior to or following this process.
- Each small group could collectively re-assess its identity as symbolized by the terms on
the label. Ideally the label should be revised, possibly to include negatively loaded
descriptors as its negative characteristics are highlighted by the process in the larger
group. Labels may not be necessary, however.
Those identifying with each group in turn were then asked to stand up and a
spokesperson for the affinity group was asked:
- What were the special qualities of that affinity group and what did it contribute
to the larger group as a whole ?
- What were the major challenge areas of the affinity group to improve its
contribution to the larger group as a whole ?
Other members of the affinity group could supplement the responses to these questions.
This process gave all concerned a better awareness of the distinct contributions made
by each affinity group and encouraged each group to clarify the nature of its
This Round was successfully completed by the plenary group. It was clear that some of
the affinity groups were not especially aware of their shortcomings. Some of them also
considered themselves as the a most important' of the affinity groups.
Round II: The exercise is repeated in a second round in which a spokesperson for
each affinity group informs each other group of how they are each perceived by the
spokesperson's group. In other words the spokesperson answers the above two questions
for each other affinity group, identifying the qualities and shortcomings of each.
This process gives each affinity group a greater awareness of which of its qualities
are appreciated within the larger group. It also exposes it, gently, to feedback on the
matters on which it is insensitive (and to which it is never likely to be exposed under
normal circumstances). It helps to clear many of the blockages to inter-group interaction
within the larger group. And it does it by providing a supportive context for exchanges
which in a larger group are conventionally at the primitive level of 'Our group the
best... Your group very bad' (as had already been experienced in plenary exchanges.
There was unfortunately no time to undertake this round within the plenary session
although it would, seemingly, have provided the needed breakthrough to a new level of
integration within the larger group one which would be respectful of diversity. The
patterns of appreciative and problematic interactions could usefully be represented on a
large wall chart open to annotation by participants.
Round III: Further rounds were envisaged in which affinity groups exchanged
roles to enable them to obtain a greater understanding of the domain in which each other
group operated. (In the case of individuals, one form of this technique is known as
Round IV: Some of the above affinity groups, which are most evident in the
initial dynamics may, after several rounds, prove to be somewhat superficial. The exercise
can then be repeated with new affinity groups considered to be more fundamental or more
relevant to the collective purpose of the whole as it emerges. At this stage the pattern
of tensions between the affinity groups becomes a collective reality which can be worked
with to stabilize disequilibria and unfocused exchanges within the larger whole.
This procedure represents a compromise both between small and plenary group processes
and between verbal, analytical and experiential processes. Experiential skills previously
only applied to small groups are applied both within the affinity groups and within the
larger whole in this way feeding back specialised expertise normally restricted to small
groups. Ideally the attempt could be made to apply a wide variety of small group skills to
the larger whole with the object of progressively transforming the relationships between
affinity groups within it. Answering the direct question of what any affinity group
contributes to the plenary group ensures a collectively focused awareness of the varied
nature of such contributions and their special relevance to the dynamics of the whole.
This eliminates the triviality of token contributions normally characteristic of small
group feedback to a plenary body unable and unwilling to integrate such input in any
meaningful manner. The plenary group in this way engages in a 'self-healing'
process (which, as it was expressed at the Congress, 'helps to get the crap out'
It is well-recognized in psychotherapy that the ability to permit and to handle
negative feedback is an essential indicator of the maturity of any individual and equally
of any group. By permitting such feedback the process facilitates the maturation of the
affinity groups (effectively 'sub-personalities' of the larger whole according
to the terminology of transpersonal psychology) and of the larger whole.
A great deal of creative energy emerges from an appropriate stance in response to
negativity or, more precisely, in responding appropriate stance in response to negativity
ting tendency. And essentially this is what the process achieves, namely a dynamic
equilibrium between a variety of polar opposites a balance of dualities which defines a
central space or position from which the group can act creatively, with focused energy, as
an integrated self-reflective whole.
A deliberate effort was made by the initial organising group to use the occasion of the
Congress to bring into focus the interrelationships between a number of unique and
little-known conceptual models. These 'universal' models are characterised by
the wide range of phenomena which they attempt to encompass and the manner in which they
draw insights from a broad range of disciplines, often including natural and social
sciences and even arts as well as sciences. Some of the originators of such models were
present at the Congress, two were directly represented, and others were collectively
represented by people working on the interrelationships and isomorphisms between such
models (a preoccupation which, unfortunately, the model-builders themselves usually do not
share for obvious reasons). The last occasion on which such a synthesis was attempted was
in 1969-1971 in association with some members of the Society for General Systems Research.
The models were presented in lectures and workshops and their synthesis is partly
documented in the Congress film.
The significance of this initiative is that:
- the Congress provided a forum within which such syntheses could be presented,
- it ensured a unique confrontation between such intellectual approaches and the
affective, artistic, spiritual and experiential approaches hitherto characteristic of the a
New Age movement', and
- applications of two of the models were used to provide integrative guidelines for the
Congress process itself, thus linking theory to social reality.
A congress of this kind is many things to many people. Many descriptions, evaluations,
explanations and interpretations can be projected on to it -- and this document may be
more selective and biased than others. Only the future may be able to tell, from the
consequences of the Congress, what weight
to give to particular factors. But having participated in the event and its processes, a
significant number of experienced meeting-goers now recognize that many conventional
meetings are a sterile, unproductive bore in comparison. Summarizing its unique
achievements, the following may be noted:
- Individuals of a very wide range of preoccupations and persuasions (both famous and
otherwise) were brought together, by-passed their usual lack of mutual credibility, and
worked together in a mutually beneficial manner. A unique 'space' was thus
provided for incompatible elements to interact-integratively.
- The organisation of the Congress was self-consistent in responding within itself to the
issues raised by the need for new social structures. The Congress was self-organized,
participant-run and staffed. Elitism was severely restricted by the Congress processes
without destroying orderly process. Participants were prepared to place everything at risk
in order to ensure the emergence of more appropriate modes of organization. The Congress
demonstrated that such modes can emerge with direct consequences for the smooth
organisation of its own processes.
- Resource people, and those anxious to structure other people's awareness, were
placed on the defensive. They were obliged to seek ways of making their contribution to
the whole without distorting the collective process for the purposes of individual
ego-nourishment. A new mode of congress behaviour was clarified.
- A core group of people, who had personally risked most, were taken by the process they
initiated through a very rapid process of transformation as a group. Many other
participants reported significant personal transformation. The value of the process, as a
'complete experience', whether personally or collectively, is itself adequate
justification for holding the Congress.
- What was achieved was done with a derisory amount of funding and a preponderance of
quite 'ordinary people' . Ironically, it could probably not have been achieved
with generous funding or with 'better qualified' or a 'more effective'
individuals. (It was the well-armoured dinosaurs that failed to survive the evolutionary
crisis, not the mammals scurrying between their feet).
- A triple synthesis was effected (with joy): (a) in physically gathering together and
blending harmoniously a uniquely diverse group (point 1), (b) in engaging experimentally
in a process it originated which brought into focus and balanced the dualistic forces
within the group, thus opening the way to structured development of large group collective
self-awareness, and (c) in interrelating a variety of conceptual models and demonstrating
their use in the Congress own processes.
- A creative impetus was established in many of those most centrally involved whose
consequences may well be evident shortly in a variety of forms, notably innovative social
As a contrast to its successes, the failures were mainly associated with the time taken
to benefit from the preliminary stages of the Congress process and with resistance to that
process. Had less time been spent on the early difficulties' the Congress would have
had more time to build on the point of balance it reached in its closing period. Fewer
people would have been unnecessarily hurt. In addition, part of the synthesis achieved was
implicit rather than explicit because of the time factor. The challenge raised by the
Congress is how to build on its achievement -- given that part of its success derived from
the variety of opposing tendencies represented (as a result of the confusion surrounding
it prior to the event).
Could such an event be repeated, how, and by whom - given that part of its success
also derived from the ability of the organisers to terminate their responsibility?
Finally, the real test of a Congress on social transformation is its ability to
transform its own structures and processes using itself as a laboratory and to provide
meaningful personal transformation for those who participate.
Failing which the Congress resembles the preacher in the following tale:
'In a small Welsh village the preach great length on the evils of alcohol
consumption. The preacher himself, however, was often to be seen incapacitated by alcohol
although none of the village adults dared to comment. One little boy did ask about the
seeming inconsistency, however. The preacher responded: 'My boy it is very simple. I
am a signpost but not the way'.
Many Congresses produce splendid signposts (recommendations, declarations, reports etc.)
Maybe this Congress established a way.
Speculative Postscript: Where's the Cathedral?
It was suggested above that a purpose of the Congress was
to build a cathedra/ (rather than to function as a supermarket). If it was a success where
one may ask is the cathedral? Although one can always find what one wants to find) the
following argument does open up some interesting lines of speculation.
What is a cathedral ? The gothic cathedrals were conceived as an enclosed space to
facilitate human transformation within the community. The architectural elements were
selected and harmoniously blended in order to catalyze this process in whatever manner people wished to respond to it.
The design deliberated incorporated and interrelated features corresponding to stages
in that process. Typically such cathedrals had two towers at the entrance as an
indication of the necessary balance between the primary dualities. And the space
itself was defined between the pairs of pillars corresponding to secondary dualities and
lit at each level by refraction through corresponding images. Within the entrance
lay a large circular labyrinth lit by a rose window of the same dimension.
So what has this to do with the Congress ? It has often been stated in other words that
the many factions and schools of thought that make up society (the 'pillars of
society') act in relation to one another and to the whole as though they were all
lost in a complex labyrinth. The congress process conducted such diverse groups through
such a labyrinth as through the dance positions of a roundelay or a ritual circular
movement. This psycho-social or behavioural movement, by-passing ego-centrism gave a sense
of the plenary as a self-reflective unity - as does the
dance implicitly. But unless there is further progress, insights as to any corresponding
physical or social architecture lack precision and are limited to gross structures with
few axes of symmetry if any. Social unity is only provided organically at occasional
communal celebrations and is poorly reflected in permanent structures. The energies of the
society are essentially dispersed and unfocused.
The plenary group did however progress to a new level namely one in which it
consciously recognized its unity through its diversity and through the harmony of the
interplay between the opposing tendencies - with; the consequent influx of creative
energy associated with the focal point of balance. This stabilized
understanding of behaviour in the labyrinth. The rose window and its relation to the
labyrinth beautifully illustrates this level of perception
and the manner in which it clarifies the nature of the transformative space. The
corresponding physical or social architecture is carefully engineered - in terms of
planes and axes symmetry -- to reflect an overriding uni-directional or
uni-functional perspective. This gives both an articulated sense of community and
the sophisticated hierarchies by which it may be ordered - both date from the time of
The significance and interrelationship of forms in general, including the labyrinth and
the rose window, are explored in a film, shown at the Congress, by Keith Critchlow and
Lawrence Moor under a grant from the UK Arts Council (distributed by Concord Films
Although the organic, wholistic circle is beautifully blended architecturally into the
rational square (e.g. the gothic arch), this is only achieved by the skillful use of
compression between structural members. The structure as a whole is dependent on the
external overriding tensional force of gravity (or authority) to prevent it falling apart.
It is not structurally self-dependent and its elements lack the freedom of tensional
interplay which would permit the structure to respond appropriately to forces (or shocks)
from any direction. Such structures are 'natural' only to a limited degree
because they fail to make use of constructional principles inherent in plants and animals,
namely the appropriate balance between structural tension and compression an animal can be
rotated flexibly into any position without falling apart, but not a cathedral, or social
organisations built on the same hierarchical principles. 'Class One of all
history's domes is comprised of the hundreds of millenniums of old upside-down baskets
which include the later evolution of baskets into boats and the re-upside-downing, once
more, of boats to form the roofs of community meeting places and its later derivative the
cathedral' (R Buckminster Fuller. Ideas and Integrities. Prentice Hall, 1963.)
Also active at the Congress however, were those working on isomorphic conceptual models
and the synthesis they represent. At least two of these give rise to two-dimensional
structures which were a focus for group activity. The question then is, are there new
kinds of structure which can be used as a basis for new kinds of architecture, whether
physical or social ? To be superior to conventional architecture, they need to:
- require fewer materials
- be easier to construct
- be more stable under a wider range of forces be more isomorphic with corresponding
conceptual structures of philosophic and social significance
- correspond more closely to the harmonies and economies of natural structure.
One set of structures presented, which fulfils these conditions, is known under the
name 'tensegrity structures' . They are best known through their architectural
application in geodesic domes, although as usually seen they disguise the important
principles underlying their design which are relevant to this argument and to the
elaboration of corresponding social structures.
Returning to the Congress, aside from the limitations of the rose window perception
already mentioned, the problem is that the interplay between the factional tendencies is
obviously much more complex than can be adequately represented in a two-dimensional
display Such complexity can only be 'captured' in a structure of matching
complexity which does justice to the variety of interaction patterns. Tensegrity
structures lend themselves admirably to this.
Briefly, their advantages include:
- an elegant relationship between tension and compression elements,
- a more elegant solution to the relationship between the spherical and the linear,
- omnidirectional stability, and
- multiple axes and planes of symmetry.
Translating these advantages into psycho-social terms:
- the interacting tendencies in a large group (for example) are balanced much more
- the transformative space defined between the dualities is now focused at the centre of a
sphere (rather than between rows of vertical pillars), whose shape is maintained by the
dualities and by the network of forces which hold them in symmetrical relationship to one
another, however they are oriented.
- order is inherent and not externally imposed.
- duality is balanced and transcended in structure which lend themselves to rational
analysis whilst exemplifying the wholistic dimension by progressions through a complete
scale of such structures.
- symbols of appropriate psycho-cultural significance can be associated with them and as
such they can be understood as precisely designed aerials tapping into archetypal
The key question is whether these clues can be used in practice to design new kinds of
psycho-social structures which are more adequate to the needs of the times. A tensegrity
structure could, for example, have been used to clarify the harmony within the plenary's
diversity and to facilitate understanding of how energy could be moved, focused and used
within the Congress in response to different initiatives. .
As to the cathedral the Congress did not build one for they have largely served their
function and a new type of structure is urgently required. The Congress d id however
create a central transformative space analogous to that in cathedrals and it did bring
into focus the nature and significance of some new structures perhaps best illustrated by
a microorganism of the order radiolaria (above), or by the concept of nested tensegrity
structures. This establishes a basis from which the reality of the corresponding
psycho-social structures can be explored. A first step towards exploring this possibility
is described elsewhere (and in an article in this issue).
From Group Consciousness to Conscious Groups
It is useful to distinguish between:
- the awareness individuals may have of the group of other individuals with whom they
interact, namely 'group consciousness', and
- an awareness by a group as a whole of itself and its activities, namely 'conscious
The first is necessary to enable individuals to respond appropriately to each other
within a group. The second arises when the individuals are collectively and simultaneously
aware of the pattern of those interactions between the group members.
Little is known about conscious groups and what they could achieve. There are clues in
the statements of members of a football team who are instinctively aware of one
another's movements. The same may be said of an integrated dance troupe. But such
examples are purely physical. How would it be to participate in a group which was
physically, emotionally and mentally attuned ? Statements from members of some
commune-type groups suggest that they are moving in that direction.
When learning to ride a bicycle, we have to deliberately correct excessive responses in
order to maintain balance - until such correctional moves are made instinctively.
In a conscious group, excessive responses resulting in energy disequilibrium are also
smoothly corrected by an integrated response within the group - whereas this would
normally only be achieved through a series of sporadic procedures, characterised by a
heated mix of rational and irrational argument and expression, leading to changes of an
almost spastic quality.
Consider the clues implicit in the following description of an experiment in
'Correspondences are based on the principle of mutual psychological reactions and
attempt to 'join' the four participants with each other and to make them
increasingly dependent on each other. There are four levels:
- The musical material is entirely fixed, but the choice of instruments is left open.
- Each musician possesses only incomplete instructions. In order to be able to play, each
musician must search for missing material in the performance of the neighbour (pitches
from the first, length from the second, etc.) and react to it in different ways: imitate,
adapt himself to it (if need be further develop), do the opposite, become disinterested or
something else (something 'unheard of').
- The composed material is completely substituted by the description of the possibility
arising from the reactions of the performers to their neighbours.
- On the last level, it is left up to the performers whether to cease playing or to
continue; for not even the selection of reactions is now necessary' (Vinko Globokar.
Drama and Correspondences. Harmonia Mundi 20 21803-1. Comment on recording).
A sign of the emergence of a conscious group - from the point of view of anyone
involved - is that each is moved to act in the right way at the right time, although
there does not appear to be any central coordinating agent or any explicit design. The
actions of the whole are very much greater than can be comprehended from the individual
actions. How each awareness interpenetrates the others is not yet clear. The
'eyes' do not understand how they are related to the 'feet' or the
'hands', and the right and left 'feet' do not understand how their
movements harmonize through their opposition to each other (a yin-yang cycle) to move the
body forward. A similar situation arises early in the growth of a child.
The prime characteristic of a conscious group is its awareness of itself and its place
and rhythm in the scheme of things. Within itself it mirrors an awareness of how its
environment is organised. Each action on the environment is paralleled by an equivalent
displacement of energies within itself. There is a 'magical sympathy' between
the outer and the inner worlds. It is through this inner / outer attunement that the group
is able to increase considerably the amount and range of energies that it can handle and
focus in order to transform itself and its environment as it evolves into a greater
Participation in a conscious congress would be a dramatically uplifting experience. But
how are we to allow our instruments to respond in their respective ways to the tune which
enfolds us ? And how would it be if such a congress interlinked a number of conscious
groups, each attuned to a particular aspect of the whole ?
Affinity Groups at the Congress
- Original organising group
- Structure-oriented group (i.e. favouring adherence to a predetermined programme,
with emphasis on lectures and workshops by key resource People)
- Process-oriented group (i.e. favouring flexibility, with emphasis on all
participants as resource people)
- 'Super-class' resource people (i.e. those who participated with the
intention of giving a lecture)
- 'Middle-class' resource people (i.e. those who participated with the
intention of giving a workshop)
- Lecture attenders (i.e. those specially in favour of lectures by key resource
- Workshop attenders (i.e. those specially in favour of workshops)
- Detached observers (i.e. those uncommitted to the ends of the Congress)
- Floaters (i.e. those drawn to a variety of experiences)
- Movie makers (i.e. the group producing the film on the Congress)
- Visionary instigators (i.e. the group concerned to ensure that something new and
significant emerged from the Congress)
- Psychotherapists and the like (i.e. those concerned with personal and spiritual
development through some form of counselling)
- Movement, dance and performer group (i.e. those oriented towards non-verbal
expression and its personal significance for group integration)
- Whole-earth, organic food health group
- Meditator group
- Intellectual modellers (i.e. those intent on the possibilities and fruits of
- Non-anglophone group (i.e. those who were handicapped by an inadequate knowledge
- 'American' group (i.e. 31 participants travelling as a group and
isolated in a distant hotel)
- Kitchen voluntary worker group
- North-American Indian group (i.e. those wanting the Congress to act in response
to the native American crisis)
- 'Action-now' group (i.e. those wanting to act immediately and to stop
- 'Here-and-now' group (i.e. those impressed by the immediacy and
'rightness' of the present and the lack of pressure to act)
- Artists and visualisers
- Educator group