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1980

University of Earth: Meta-organization for Post-Crisis Action

PART I: BACKGROUND

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See Document overview. [See also website for University of Earth (2007)]



INTENT 

The University is concerned with the development of purpose in a time of turbulence. From this follows a preoccupation with the design of patterns and processes whereby such purpose may be furthered. 

Given the nature of this intent, any such definition is both a limitation and a distortion and is necessarily superficial. The University works with ways of moving beyond such limitations and distortions in order to embody significance more effectively in activities of immediate relevance to the development of society. 

Although it is valuable to leave the central intent underdefined, or open to continual redefinition, further understanding of it can be conveyed through a set of key terms. 

Maturity: The development of a progressively more mature mode of action is a core preoccupation. Ways of transcending and using disagreement are sought, whilst recognizing the valuable function of such divisive processes. Fashionable problems and short-term methods are seen in a broader context, whilst cultivating a spontaneous sense of the immediate significance of the present. An elitist form of maturity is avoided by developing a creative attitude toward the function of ignorance. 

Empowering force: The mode of operation is such as to cultivate a reservoir of energy whereby a wide variety of actions can be empowered, thus countering the pervasive sense of individual and collective impotence. Action is however primarily indirect, taking full advantage of the energy expended by opposing forces. 

Post-crisis: Work is primarily designed to be relevant to post-crisis conditions, in contrast to the widespread efforts at minor adaptation of existing structures. This requires both a long-term concern for cultural survival and the development of preparedness for a "mid-wife" function in the immediate future. 

Action oriented: Research is carried out with the intention of developing "blueprints" for action or to enable better modes of action to be generated. Priorities are such that little research is carried out purely for its own sake. 

Enrichment: Effort is directed toward countering the progressive impoverishment and homogenization of the psycho-cultural system. Diversity is cultivated so that the qualitative value of the parts to the whole can be readily appreciated. 

Quality: There is a central concern with the cultivation of quality and the design of a context within which such quality can be appreciated and enhanced. The essentially nameless quality cultivated encompasses both material and non-material dimensions, but especially the simpler and more fundamental qualities which are normally eroded, rather than embodied, in elitist contexts and "centres of excellence". 

Metaphor: The use of metaphor is to be fully explored as one of the few accessible ways of by-passing inherent delays in the processes of explanation, communication and education. Such delays are considered a major obstacle to significanttransformation of psycho-social systems. By cultivating the poetic dimension, metaphor is also to be used as a means of counter-balancing the sterilizing and de-humanizing effects of rational explanation. This is viewed as enhancing a vital feel for the organic relatedness of experience and as a stimulus to both imagination and creativity. 

Patterns that connect: Exploration of the nature of the patterns that connect a wide variety of phenomena is a central concern. This extends beyond conventional approaches to integration, interdisciplinarity, and general systems. It includes "enwholement", its representation, and its comprehension, especially when transcending the contradictions of incompatible patterns or different modes of perception. 

Vision: The development of more creative approaches to envisioning possible future designs of the psycho-social system is a major preoccupation. Importance is attached to making such approaches widely accessible, relating them to innovation procedures, experimenting with them, and providing a more creative context for the conflict between alternative visions. 

Paradigm transformation: Special attention is given to ways of facilitating the process of transforming the paradigms which determine basic attitudes towards experience. Such transformation extends beyond modification of the relationship of an ideal observer to rational frameworks. It encompasses collectivities of developing human beings for whom rational observation is but one condition in a pattern of ways of relating to experience. The emergence and decay of dogmas is viewed as an unavoidable process to which a careful relationship must be established. 

Counterpoint: Effort is directed toward complementing conventional "positive" approaches by cultivating a more creative understanding of "negative" approaches. In the same spirit, careful attention is given to any domain which is neglected or considered irrelevant. Deliberate attempts are made to "rehabilitate" the significance of whatever has been rejected in this way. This attitude extends to hidden assumptions and the ugly realities of the enterprise itself viewed as constituting its "shadow". 

Adversary awareness: Part of the tone of the initiative derives from the collective stance taken in opposition to an "adversary" whose image is progressively clarified. This approach is used as a way of focusing resources and attention. Efforts are especially directed to responding to the ability of the adversary to obscure or deflect understanding and purpose, and to erode configurations of resources. Ways of creatively redefining the context within which the adversary is perceived are an ongoing concern. Efforts are made to "internalize" the significance of adversaries, to explore the resulting dynamics as a means of transcending them, and to adopt a creative approach to scapegoat generation. 

Demonstration: Whenever possible, progress in understanding is applied experimentally in the form of innovations to the University as a collective enterprise and a community. The University is considered as its own laboratory, as well as an effective model of problems and conditions in wider society. Ifinnovations cannot be successfully and harmoniously implemented there, it is unlikely that they would prove significant elsewhere. 

Commitment: The degree of individual and collective commitment introduces a quite distinctive quality. The University is an environment congenial to highly self-motivated individuals and it encourages the redefinition of such commitment. There is a collective appreciation of the risks and sacrifices associated with the work as well as the possible benefits. 

Strategic approach: Emphasis is on developing a sense of strategy as a discipline by which the optimum use of resources is determined. In particular means are developed to transcend or avoid initiatives which have already been extensively explored and proven to be of only limited effectiveness. In elaborating strategies, the resources considered are not restricted by a narrow concept of relevance. This is broadened to justify the functions of as many features of the psycho-social system as is feasible. 

Constraints: In envisaging research and designing action strategies, special attention is given to the need for constraints, limits or self-discipline. Constraints, including death itself, are seen as a vital means of giving form to freedom. They are not simply regretted and eliminated as unwelcome impositions, but are viewed as a creative challenge which helps to structure any psycho-social design and to articulate its unique quality. 

Process orientation: The development of progressively more process oriented approaches is necessary if change is to be adequately understood. Ways are sought to work with ongoing processes rather than disrupting them unnecessarily by new structures or initiating new processes which create unnecessary patterns of discord. Psycho-social design is thus based as much on the present patterns of striving for desired conditions as on structures which may eventually result in the fulfilment of those desires. 

Configurative indirection: Much of the work responds to contradictions in the psycho-social system and in the efforts to improve it. Any creative response implies the possibility of some emergent synthesis which would transcend such limitations rather than simply favouring a particular model or method. It is suspected that the nature of the synthesis is such that its paradoxical quality cannot be completely embodied in simple forms. Emphasis is therefore given to indirect approaches. Configurations of competing forms, or patterns of resonance between alternative modes, are explored as ways of expressing the dynamics of subtler levels of synthesis in a manner significant for psycho-social design. 

Global transformation: Given the nature of the global problematique, research is necessarily designed to facilitate transformation of the psycho-social system as a whole. Such transformation is perceived as respecting cultural diversity rather than requiring either homogenization of methods oruniversal consensus on goals, values, and desirable forms of organization. 

Human development: Redefining the significance of human development is a central concern and directly or indirectly much of the work is designed to facilitate such development processes. The emphasis is as much on the personal development and maturation of the individual as on the development of the family or social context within which this can best occur. Interest encompasses the vital importance of the challenging obstacles and hardships necessary for significant human development and is thus not limited to furthering this process under ideal conditions. 

Mystery: Care is taken to avoid those involved taking the enterprise or themselves too seriously. There are factors and dimensions which cannot be satisfactorily encompassed by current responses to experience, as the future must necessarily make apparent, unless major advances in comprehension are to be denied. The impact of these factors on the present can only be adequately encountered by cultivating a sense of mystery, awe, paradox and humour. 

DEVELOPMENTAL PHASES - AN OUTLINE 

The University emerged organically through a number of phases. A review of these provides important insights into the organization of the University as an evolving process. 

Contact phase: The many international events of recent decades resulted in interactions between people with overlapping patterns of concern. Even when concerns were not shared, the inadequacies of international response to world-wide problems of different types established an ongoing field of discourse. Key people experienced intense frustrations at their inability to act with any degree of effectiveness. Many became bitter and cynical, whilst others were forced to seek other modes of action. In some there developed a recognition that calamitous social upheaval was inevitable and the need was to develop a more effective capacity to respond to the post-crisis opportunity. Frustration was aggravated by the recognition of many in authority who, in private, acknowledged their eagerness for new approaches but claimed that their hands were tied by short-term politics of their respective government, corporate, academic or religious establishments. Such contacts clarified a central difficulty, namely the vulnerability in public arenas of many of the insights which seemed to be relevant to an understanding of ways of moving into a more fruitful social condition. The "noise level" and consequent distortion made effective exploration of these insights virtually impossible in arenas characterized by political, academic or religious factionalism, despite the validity of the views expressed. 

Network emergence phase: As a result of such contacts, networks of people emerged sharing these preoccupations, exchanging relevant documents, and meeting informally. In this network phase there was considerable discussion of how to initiate a more effective response. 

Invisible college phase: The network phase led to a greater degree of informal organization. Meetings of those involved were deliberately planned. The preoccupations of the group were openly discussed in symposia within the framework of other meetings under whatever guise was appropriate. This "piggy-back" technique was extensively used, especially in order to give public expression to the issues. Deliberate efforts were made to influence agendas of international meetings and programmes to make them more sensitive to the concerns identified. 

Seed funding phase: With the increase in the degree of organization, funds were placed at the disposal of the group. In many cases this took the form of allowing the group to determine the allocation of funds set aside by an organization for unspecified work in a particular area. The group also obtained access to "end-of-the-year" funds unspent within particular agency programmes. Where members of the group had access to unallocated funds, it became increasingly possible to make them available to projects of the group, whether or not it was possible to justify such expenditure openly to the agencies concerned. The amounts were often small but were important as seed funding. In this phase, the group also became the recipient of several large amounts of money, partly from private trusts and partly from sympathetic Arab governments. In addition the group was given effective control of several large estates. 

Commitment phase: The previous phase increased considerably the group's sense of purpose and strength. It also gave rise to extremely disruptive debate over future strategy. The point at issue was whether the group should continue to function as a basically informal network or whether its concerns called for full-time commitment within a more highly organized framework. Many claimed that the number of people prepared to make such a commitment had reached the necessary critical threshold to justify this step. Others claimed that such a step would jeopardize effectiveness and make the group vulnerable to dynamics which had not proven controllable in other settings. As a result of this "first revolution", it was finally decided to function in two modes, one being informal, indirectly involved, and only partially informed. The other would explore the route involving a higher degree of organization and commitment. 

Experimental phase: Those committed to a higher degree of organization and dedication then engaged in a period of intense review of the possibilities for organization and action. This quickly shifted into an experimental phase which focused initially on resource management. Individuals allocate control of their personal resources under a variety of contractual arrangements inspired by recent innovations in unit trusts, estate management, social security, life insurance, and cooperatives. These arrangements were viewed as provisional and subject to redefinition within more satisfactory frameworks as these emerged from experiment. 

Contract phase: The group was then in a position to initiate contracts with people, whether within the group or outside it. These were contracts for specific tasks in the light of its concerns. This phase opened up new possibilities for makingcreative contact with the large numbers of highly skilled people who were either in frustrating job situations or had become unemployed. Systematic "talent spotting" was initiated. Suitable people were offered funds for work done on either a full or a part-time basis, but without necessarily giving more information on the effective source of the funding than was evident from the public image of the channel employed. A new style of "contract management" was developed, somewhat inspired by the techniques of grants directors, literary agents and managers of professional sportsmen and entertainers. This phase rapidly raised new problems of resource management and questions of responsibility in relation to the pool of talent "activated" in this way. New planning tools were devised as a result and an internal code of ethics was formulated to permit progressive clarification of the constraints within which it was important to work. 

Information system phase: Up to this point the organizational infrastructure had been limited to secretarial, legal and accounting work based on the postal services, face-to-face meetings and the circulation of documents. With the increasing accessibility of data networks, a system of procedures was designed to permit the increasingly rapid circulation of information, using telex and mail only where necessary. The basic policy of limiting knowledge of the scope of the system was further defined. In this way people could receive or contribute information without necessarily being aware of the range of contacts the system served. In the simplest case, for example, arrangements might simply be made for a person to be placed on a mailing list for a particular periodical. In other cases documents received might be reproduced for distribution to selected lists of people. 

Organization design - phase I: The control of several estates raised the question as to what extent the group should develop its physical base. On an experimental basis members of the group met together in a residential environment under the guise of international conferences or summer institutes. This raised for the first time the question of how participants functioned as a social group. This led to the "second revolution". At issue was the question whether the group should acquire the dimensions of a community or should limit itself to the organized pursuit of programmes. Many felt that this was an important challenge which would enrich the whole enterprise. Others felt that this would raise the usual problems in "alternative communities", which had proved remarkably difficult to solve satisfactorily. It was claimed that operational effectiveness would be severely reduced. As before, the decision was made to continue in two parallel modes with interactions as and when appropriate. Considerable effort was invested in the question of organizational design. This was several disrupted by a "third revolution" initiated by those who felt that the community should be permanently established in one or more physical locations. The conflict was "resolved" by the same parallel mode procedure. 

Community experiment phase: The group made use of the estates it controlled to established physical bases which were rapidly developed into communities. Arrangements were left flexible in that some people came for more or less extensive visits,depending on work and/or holiday considerations. The communities proved ideal for sabbatical leaves and academic holiday periods, for example. They could also be used for conferences and to some extent as locations to which outsiders under contract could be invited when appropriate. In this phase, the whole question of working lifestyle was explored with much enthusiasm. The physical infrastructure was considerably developed as more people committed themselves to the community mode and resources were organized to that end. The significance of the community dimension was deliberately diminished for those not involved in it. 

Crisis of crises: The enforced contact between people brought to a head another range of problems which it had previously been possible to handle rationally or to treat as minor irritants in the work of group: 

This complex of interrelated problems fortunately did not split the community into factions. Its effect was to divide people within themselves - an extremely painful experience for many, even though some suggested that the crises could be usefully perceived as a series of conceptual barriers to be overcome and as metaphors for one another. As a "fourth revolution", it was essentially "internalized", but it left many people in a state of despair. The crisis provoked the search for a more fundamental point of reference upon which the organization design could be more effectively based. 

Organization design - phase II: In this phase the basis for the current design was first elaborated taking into account the new dimensions. The design lost its purely "rational" emphasis and acquired more elusive characteristics which made it richer and more organic on paper . The design was as much art as science. The problem was how to give operational significance to this vision. 

Rebirth phase: Although a new design was available and viewed by most people to be adequate, if not very attractive, the whole enterprise was viewed with increasing apathy. A sense of sterility set in. It was at this point that several groups within the community were drawn into a dramatic conflict sparked off by a totally trivial incident. The conflict developed so many thematic dimensions that it took on archetypal proportions through the manner in which most individuals found their own essential story woven into the drama in some way. The conflict evolved to a traumatic climax which coincided by chance with a tragic incident involving one of the groups. This touched people deeply. The incident was "absorbed" into the drama and in fact opened up a totally new perspective which changed the whole style and mind-set of the community. It was a "fifth revolution" through which the University first developed an integrating mythology. In effect this strange combination of circumstances became the necessary catalyst via which the new design was finally adapted and used. The sequence of events, and the interpretation of their significance, remains however a mystery for all concerned. 

Consolidation phase: The transformation set the stage for a period of expansion and consolidation. The sense of identity as a community developed and the current name was adopted as part of the internal articulation of its self-image. Few of these developments have however been communicated outside the community, given the desire to maintain a very low profile. It is in this phase that the operational significance of the organization emerged as a kind of "conceptual holding company" with a role somewhat analogous to that of financial holding companies. The analogy is unsatisfactory in that it is more an attitude or process than a "concept", and this is "held" in the sense of maintaining the interrelationship between the facets through which the central process may be understood. And of course, it is more a company of people in the traditional sense than a profit-making enterprise. Despite these reservations, it does work from "havens" through an extensive network of affiliated groups which contribute in different ways to the significance of the whole. 

INSPIRATION 

The intent and programme of the University can be formulated fairly unambiguously in conventional language. This leaves implicit the essential inspiration of the University and of those who participate in its work. At one level there may indeed be said to be a shared belief in most of the values put forward publicly in recent years as essential to the quality of life in a just world society of the future. But from another level, the uncritical acceptance of these values as absolutes is considered to be itself extremely dangerous. There is a price at which the cost of "peace" and "plenty" is unacceptable, for example. In this sense the University is not founded on an explicit set of values, especially since both the origin and the future emergence of new values are themselves of vital significance to human development. Rather it takes its stance on a ground facing the dilemma of responding to the conflicting values which hold sway in the world at large both now and in an unpredictable future. 

The life of the University is essentially a creative response to this dilemma. Some of those who participate find ways of resolving the conflict through the inspiration of conventional world religions. Some have elaborated alternative frameworks of essentially spiritual inspiration. Others experiment with sophisticated frameworks inspired by advances in the understanding of physics and consciousness. Many make use of experiential exercises, whether in isolation or in groups, to reinforce the non-intellectual dimensions of their inspiration. But for most participants the existential challenge of the dilemma is an important dimension of their personal lives. This is a source of inspiration reflected in many ways in the University's activities. Underlying this dilemma, and fundamental as the keystone of the University's existence, is a shared sense of some larger whole of which life on this planet is a part. In one way or another the various programme initiatives seek greater understanding of its significance for the resolution of value conflicts in the world. But as an ultimate source of inspiration, it necessarily escapes any explicit description and remainsessentially nameless. 

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES 

The organizational design of the University is a major guarantee of its viability. The design process is not only unfinished, it is essentially a continuing process. This means that the structure of the University is not fixed in a permanent manner but is in a state of flux in relation to domains of different degrees of invariance. In effect, rather than defining a structure which is expected to resist attempts to modify it until the crises the University faces force such changes, the redesign process has been incorporated as a primary feature of the design itself. Instead of simply adapting to circumstances, the redesign process can anticipate them creatively. In a complex organization, this approach also avoids the many transitional difficulties associated with the interface in conventional practices between the incoming new order and the old order being phased out. 

The organizational requirements of the University at any one time emerge from very close attention to the creative process as a key link in a number of cyclic processes. These include processes of conceptual differentiation, integration and eventual disintegration. A basic difficulty which has been to a large extent resolved is that of harnessing the "fission" energy associated with creative divisiveness and territoriality. It is this that usually forces creative people apart as a consequence of their work and temperament and engenders a new pattern of conceptual differentiation calling for an isomorphic organizational support. 

The challenge has been to ensure that organization is responsive to creative insight, but with a healthy measure of restraint. The conventional use of the administrative veto as a restraining mechanism is avoided in favour of a flexible, dynamic technique. The principle of this has been borrowed from the eastern martial arts. The approach is simply to allow the organizational redesign process to be so immediately responsive to the creative process that, unless the latter is sufficiently mature to have internalized its own restraining process, its energy is simply dissipated. The organizational context thus achieves necessary restraint by "hyper-non-resistance". 

With the continuing initiation of new organizational patterns in response to successful creativity, has emerged the problem of the macro-organization of the University. The building-block approach to organization resulting in "organization charts" or "matrices" has been avoided as essentially mechanistic, when a more organic structure is required. One image of the present approach is that of interference patterns from different sources of creativity resulting in "standing wave" forms of organizational invariance. Another image is that of stable ecosystems resulting from the interference patterns of the population dynamics of different species. In both cases significant changes may modify the pattern elements with any shift to a new phase. 

This process of self-organization is itself subject to observation and interference in the light of strategic considerations for the University as a whole. The problem is naturally to ensure that the configuration of preoccupations and insights defines some new level of significance. Considerable use is therefore made of "balancing images" which provoke participants into reflecting on how the different concerns can be complemented in order to give a more dynamic thrust to the whole. This is effectively a holistic counterpart to the conventional "environmental impact statement" in that it calls for the identification and expression of new "impacts" which will increase the maturity of the whole. The balancing images are of concern to all as a kind of "global weather chart" of the University's condition. Whilst the content is naturally linked at the computer data level, the graphic displays of it vary considerably. For artists, balance is explored through aesthetic imagery, for example, whereas those with a religious orientation often prefer mandala-type imagery. One of the surprises of the University has been the value of theological insights in distinguishing subtle levels and aspects of balance within the whole, especially the qualities of "energy" that can usefully be interrelated. 

Of special concern are the process implications once a balanced whole has been brought into being. Such an achievement is not considered as an end in itself to be passively observed. As a whole it invites and invokes an entirely new kind of collective response through the attention it engenders and brings into focus. One image of this is that of the possibility of nuclear fusion once a plasma is contained within an appropriate container. Another is that of a many-petalled flower open to the process of fertilization. Related to this image is that of the culminating process in tantric yoga symbolized by sexual union. This is the process culminating in conception at a new level of significance and energizing the subsequent phase of creativity. 

For a new concept to be effectively brought to maturation, the design problem is to provide an appropriate container for the "gestation" period and different kinds of container for the "post-natal" and subsequent periods. Considerable attention has been given to managing the transitions between such contexts. The same is true for the process whereby the concept and any organizational support finally loses its significance and disintegrates. Because of its cyclic significance, great care is given to the "death" of concepts, whether or not they may re-emerge in a new form. 

To make the above processes possible, the University has to be maintained in a condition of organizational "health". Given its aims, conventional indicators such as financial ratios are totally inadequate. It has been found that by treating the University as an organism, attention to its biological processes ensures a richer and more sensitive approach to operating "tone". Surprisingly enough a pattern of specific actions has been usefully associated with organizational "cleanliness" and "nutrition". Even such concepts as "information vitamins" and "roughage" have proved extremely valuable. Although "exercise" is of well-known significance in military preparedness, anentirely different style of exercise has been developed for the University. This is not based on pre-work collective callisthenics as practised in some factories, but rather on switching between a wide range of organizational patterns or configurations appropriate to different circumstances. Using the language of hatha yoga, these are called asanas. In a similar spirit, other "yogas" are also practised. In this way importance is attached to the organizational "respiratory" cycle and the possibility of various "breathing exercises". Given this mind-set, some organizational problems are also perceived as "diseases" which lend themselves to "medical" remedies, including a form of "acupuncture". 

Unfortunately, the very fluidity of the University's organization makes it difficult to give precision to any extensively used description of it. This fluidity would not prove viable if it were not complemented by a high degree of discipline, much of which is fortunately "sub-conscious" in that it is encoded into computer-based information processing patterns. It is the computer support which facilitates the process of transition between very different operating modes. In fact the University's organization is increasingly characterized by the pattern of alternation between different modes or structural configurations rather than by any particular one. It has become a "resonance hybrid", to use a chemical term, in that there is relatively rapid switching between extremes. Some of these might be characterized, in over-simplified political jargon, as imperialist, communist, fascist, socialist, anarchist, or their variants. 

IMAGE AND SYMBOL MANAGEMENT

As a child of the 20th century, the University has from the beginning devoted special attention to the image it generates and especially to its self-image. But rather than being concerned to develop one carefully designed image, a completely different policy has been adopted. Every encouragement is given to the generation of alternative images of the University so that at any one time twenty or more images may be actively used as a medium through which to interpret its structure and processes. 

Images are viewed creatively as a way of integrating a diversity of structures, processes and concerns which may otherwise easily be seen as fragmented, if not unrelated. They are used to cast a different, often playful, light on daily events which puts them into meaningful perspective and opposes the overdevelopment of bureaucratic attitudes. 

The images current at any one time are very important to the actual processes whereby the development of the University is guided. As in conventional politics, metaphor is important to the discussion of policy options. The images in use are a rich source of metaphor which has thus in a way been "internalized" in contrast with normal practices and in the use of political cartoons. Discussion of policy options may thus be made entirelyin terms of one or more metaphors based on such images. In practice this bears some resemblance to the use of different languages during an international conference. Factions may well be identified with particular metaphors. 

The images favoured at any one time or by different factions vary a great deal. They may include: 

Such images have demonstrated their value at introducing a delicate sense of organizational balance as well as a collective sense of focus. Their use is thus important as a more or less serious source of inspiration, in "recharging" motivation, and in releasing organizational frustration. 

The ease with which new images emerge and spread throughout the university in response to new conditions (or their absence) has proved of value as a communication mechanism, especially as a creative counterpart to rumour. In some cases they can be clearly seen as establishing "energy pathways" important to the health of the university. 

Because of its importance and vitality there has been much hesitation in engaging in anything close to "image management". Informal groups do however meet to discuss deliberately the propagation of a new image as a way of reinforcing a favoured trend or correcting an unwelcome one. This results in a very healthy clash of images which at times arouses much competitive interest, somewhat in the spirit of Hesse's renowned "Glass BeadGame" (or even the proliferating "Dungeons and Dragons"). There is much interest in discovering a new image which can describe more helpfully the nature of the university and its activities. This sort of development is recognized and valued as reflecting a new stage in the collective integration of the initiative as a whole. 

Given the present policy of avoiding direct interaction with public opinion, the problem of an external image is limited to that of interaction with those who are only indirectly involved in the University and thus only aware of its scope in a more limited way. 

PARTICIPATION AND SELECTION 

No change is planned for the immediate future in the policy whereby people and groups come to participate in the work of the University. From its inception this has been based on personal contact and recommendation, often as a consequence of views expressed publicly, especially in documents, articles or the media. 

A principal concern in building up the number of those involved has been that of ensuring both adequate balance and significant dynamism. This may also be seen as a compromise between structure and process. Clearly an appropriate lack of balance is vital to the forward momentum of the University, whereas inappropriate dynamics can only lead to its fragmentation. Increasing participation has therefore come to be viewed both as a problem of improving the psycho-social "gene pool" and as a challenge in designing a richer psycho-social "ecosystem". Much time has been invested in determining the varieties of people which can best enhance the work of the University and the order in which their "insertion" would be most fruitful. This ideal is of course very much subject to the availability of suitable people, but especially to the opportunities of unforeseen contacts with people of unexpected quality. This continues to be an exercise in serendipity and synchronicity. 

The main challenge in this process is that of identifying people whose qualities will constitute a creative irritant to some of those already participating. But for such an irritant to be usefully creative, it must provoke an irrational rejection on the part of those to be stimulated in this way. As might be expected many difficulties have had to be overcome in reaching an understanding of how this may best be accomplished in the interests of all concerned. Fortunately, the manipulative dimension of this process is now seen against a much broader context. Through the use of dramatic and ecological metaphors, for example, participants have come to accept the need for what are now recognized as occasional doses of "preventive medicine" to ensure the healthy tone of the University. The reactions which individuals experience to the arrival of counter-acting qualities usually lead to welcome breakthroughs in their own personal development - but this is never an easy process and involves much painful adjustment. This approach has so far prevented the University from falling victim to the Scylla and Charybdis of enthusiastic flabbiness or procedural sterility. 

By its very nature the University is of course committed to ensuring the participation of individuals who enrich its interdisciplinary approach. Experience has shown however that it is neither the disciplinary expertise nor the interdisciplinary commitment which is of greatest importance. The healthy tone of the University is in large part dependent on the ability of individuals to use their respective pre-logical biases or "energies" to better effect in relation to those of others. Participants have to be able to "dance" with each other (even if they perceive each other as belonging to very different species functioning in very different media). Developing procedures to detect such abilities, often latent, constituted an important phase in the University's development. What had to be discovered was the range of possible "energies" which needed to be expressed through one or more individuals in a healthy collective enterprise. Clarification of this issue is felt to have provided a guarantee of the University's viability and its ability to respond appropriately to changing conditions and crises. By moving beyond the conventional notion of expertise, a totally new dimension has been introduced into organization design. 

The University has of course a global orientation which must necessarily be reflected in the origins of the participants selected. The conventional trap of selection by nationality has been avoided in favour of ensuring a good representation of different cultures. In practice this means, for example, that "European technocrats" may include Indians with that mind-set and "Buddhist" may include Norwegians. There is considerable emphasis on a suitable balance between language groups as well as a certain multi-lingual capacity. The strengths and weaknesses of different cultures are borne in mind in striving for a creative, stimulating balance in representation. 

Two additional factors are of prime importance in selecting participants. The first, fairly obviously, is a degree of long-term self-motivation sometimes described as a "sacred fire" or a "divine obsession". Without this the energy balance of the University would be totally distorted. In fact without it, participants would have great difficulty in relating to the University's activities and opportunities. The second factor is a certain maturity of spirit or presence. This is vital for subtle reasons connected with the overall integration of the University's activity, the evolution of its long-term objective, and its ability to avoid spastic responses to short-term issues. Whilst these two qualities are desirable, they do not constitute a rigid requirement, in fact the challenge of their absence may in some cases be considered a useful stimulant to other participants, especially when the qualities are perceived as latent. Occasional "errors" in selection are viewed as an important randomizing element. For related reasons, people are sometimes selected to fulfil a jester role and prevent the University from entombing itself in pomposity and self-admiration. The ability to enjoy the University and its activities entails, fortunately, a certain talent for appreciating and responding to their humorous aspects, of which there are many. 

FEATURE 

ORDERS OF COMPREHENSION 

The processes within the University are such that concepts of its nature and organization are continually being revised. But, as with many conventional organizations (including universities), all aspects of the University are not equally comprehensible to all participants at the same time. Nor are they necessarily understood in the same way. A virtue is made of this organic articulation of comprehension of the University as a whole, in marked contrast to conventional responses to this reality. 

It is accepted that the University is divided into shifting domains of comprehensibility which overlap in complex patterns. This occurs in a "horizontal" dimension in relation to the spread of initiatives and in a "vertical" dimension in relation to both the degree of their integration and the fundamental strategies which they serve. 

With experience the boundaries of an individual's domain of comprehensibility extend naturally. The rate at which this occurs is highly dependent on the personal growth of the participant. It is not so much a question of information, for that is usually readily available. Rather it is a question of the individual's ability to integrate that information within a meaningful stable pattern, thus extending the domain. Left-hemisphere acquisition of information must necessarily be matched by right-hemisphere configurative understanding. In such circumstances important structural and process features of the University may well go unrecognized by many participants. Furthermore, the boundaries of the University itself are necessarily perceived differently by different groups of participants. 

In such a context there is a heightened awareness of the quality of communication between participants and the manner in which people consequently cohere in one or more "orders of comprehension". These are relatively stable patterns, but usually with a slowly changing population. The direction in which people move in drifting into other patterns is followed with great interest, because the general direction of movement supposedly defines the higher orders of comprehension. The difficulty is that such patterns appear progressively more evanescent and elusive since they are not reinforced by any visible formal structures. 

Communication between participants is simplest when there is extensive overlap between their domains. It tends to be more challenging and fruitful, but in different ways, when the overlap is minimal, when one domain completely encompasses another, or is instead encompassed by it. This condition continually raises questions as to how the University is to be comprehended as a whole, how to communicate with those who do so, or whether in fact any such comprehension is possible. In escaping total comprehensibility, the University becomes itself an intriguing mystery calling in different ways to the sense of mystery in each participant. 

VIGILANCE AND SHADOW SENSITIVITY 

More than in most universities, participants are vulnerable to the enchantments of the intellectual process in a delightful context. Despite the experiential dimensions stressed, there is a continuing danger of the University becoming trapped in an essentially passive, observer-relationship to the world at large. Detachment of this kind is recognized as depriving participants of a vital energizing force for social action. 

However positively the intentions of the programme initiatives are formulated, in the light of underlying inspiration, action in the world is little more than a superficial exercise unless there is some enemy to be opposed. Considerable care and attention are therefore devoted to achieving a measure of shared understanding of the nature of the enemy to which the University is opposed. This enemy is perceived as the underlying cause of the deteriorating conditions in the world. Despite the many manifestations of its activity, the enemy's nature and organization pose a continuing challenge. This challenge is heightened by the recognition that in actively opposing the enemy, the University is provoking a response in kind. 

Vigilance is therefore an important dimension of University activity. In its simplest form this is directed towards problems of physical security. An important element in this is secrecy concerning the University's existence and locations. This calls for a special compact amongst participants, and raises exceptional difficulties in managing the selection process. It also calls for special measures of containment on the rare occasions when the compact is broken. 

Much of the problem of vigilance arises from the subtler manifestations of the enemy's activity, especially the emergence and spread of distracting and de-motivating attitudes with all that follows. This is no longer a problem of physical security since, like environmental pollution, the vectors for the spread of such "disease" are many and respect few boundaries. Participants at the University are not necessarily immune. 

The greatest dangers come indeed from the penetration of the enemy's influence into an individual's psychic make-up. It then feeds on any repressed functions (forming the individual's "shadow" side) and is in turn fed by them. Vigilance thus becomes an important personal exercise for participants - one in which they are each obliged to confront effectively their own shadow and evolve some creative working relationship with it. In effect, just as participants learn to "dance" with one another, so they are expected to dance with their shadows and thus exert some control upon them by transforming the significance of the encounter. 

Participants shadow sensitivity is considered vital training for collective confrontation of the enemy. It develops subtle skills in handling fluid, unclear conditions from which the enemy can easily benefit. As in the eastern martial arts, such training reveals new ways of relating to the enemy as well as the enemy's intimate relationship to oneself. A key discovery is therefore the technique of using the enemy's own energy to acquire control over the situation. 

The enemy is very much the counterpart to the fundamental inspiration of the University. They have features in common, especially in terms of current capacity to comprehend their natures. Thus the enemy is not simply an artificial creation for internal propaganda purposes, although as such it does serve a well-recognized role of mobilizing and focusing attention. Nor is the enemy simply an ongoing collective thought experiment with interesting results. In confronting whatever they comprehend of the enemy, individually and collectively, participants feel that they are placing themselves at risk in a very real sense. This existential risk, heightened by the possibility of death, introduces special meaning into the University rarely encountered in academic environments. 

SELF-REFLEXIVENESS 

Fundamental to attitudes within the University is the manner in which the nature of the University affects those attitudes. The conventional approach of assuming that it is an organizational instrument effectively insulating the users from their preoccupations, whilst allowing the latter to be acted upon "objectively", is viewed as inadequate. 

The act of creating and maintaining the University asserts a basic distinction which reveals the position and nature of the "observers" as much as it engenders a field of "observables", thus rendering elusive the relation between them. In finding the world as it is, it is usual to forget all that was done to do so. But when this act is traced back to its origin, the observers find themselves in a mirror-to-mirror relationship to the world. 

These concerns are important within the University because of the tendency of the observing process to render impotent the observer. Observers distinguish themselves precisely by distinguishing what they are apparently not, namely the world. The union of the two is vital to any process of creative change. That union is viewed as having an autonomous structure whereby each such negative engenders a distinction leading to its own negation in a ceaseless circular process which is a traditional symbol of creation. 

Ways are therefore continually sought to enter this process rather than assume that it can be frozen or segmented. One approach used is to consider the University itself as very much a metaphor of the reality it faces. This provides a useful bond which can be fruitfully explored. It faces participants with the recognition that the University must itself be "healed" if its role as physician to the world is to become significant. Work on the University thus provides insights into the problems of healing the world. And, of course, the University constitutes the most readily acceptable laboratory within which remedies can be studied. Success with one engenders the attitudes which make success with the other possible. 

The circularity of this self-reflexive process is intimately bound up with the nature of paradox. In a sense the Universitycan be viewed as a manifested paradox and participants are encouraged to respond to it in this light. In the language of Zen, participants work with a collective "koan". The shared recognition of this central paradox has consequently become an important catalyst in bridging between otherwise separate realities. 

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