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August 1978

Reflections on Development of the Mental Focus

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Notes on aspects of the vision for a centre with this concern, produced for Mankind 2000, partly in response to an audiotape by David Spangler on the subject.


Aspects of a Vision: preliminary formulation of some principles

1. Synthesis: The emphasis should be placed on synthesis and on the whole from which all things may be conceived as emanating and to which all things return. Knowledge of the parts is valuable but primarily as exemplifying, through their interrelationship, the different aspects of the whole. Specialisation in which the link back to the whole is lost should be avoided until the link can be maintained.

2. Grounding of the mental focus: The mental forms should be conceived and pursued as Integrated and grounded within the physical, relational and spiritual domains - which it affects and by which it is affected. The emphasis should be on redefining the human being within a larger context and freeing the human being to function within that context.

3. Discrimination and responsibility: The mental focus should be used to make, extend and preserve distinctions wherever appropriate - in order to clarify awareness of the range of energies represented and their functions. This dualistic activity must be constantly balanced by a responsibility to Inter- link the domains distinguished within a larger whole whose nature is then redefined.

4. Blending of "incompatible" disciplines: Efforts should be made to blend the many disciplines of the mind in the light of the harmonies and analogies between them - irrespective of superficial obstacles to Interrelating disciplines having a mathematical, technical, historical, behavioural, artistic or other orientation.

5. Accumulation and re-organization of knowledge: Efforts must be made to accumulate learning on topics of prime interest in order to ensure continuity, to avoid past errors, and to benefit from past insights. However such knowledge is stored, attention must constantly be given to re-ordering it in order to highlight new levels of synthesis and to render them more widely accessible. This process should help to redefine continually the nature and purpose of the mental focus and the structure appropriate to it.

6. Allocation of resources: The mental focus should help to identify key areas to which resources and effort can best be allocated - whether in response to problems or to anchor new levels of synthesis. This is the basis for appropriate strategy.

7. Relating aspects of the mental focus: None of the major concerns such as education, research or application development should be pursued alone or in isolation from the others. The mental focus is common to all of them and constitutes the creative level through which they are interlinked, renewed anddeveloped.

8. Creative response to opposition: All dualistic activity encounters and is constrained by its opposite which may appear negative, critical, hostile or . Any mentally-oriented activity should be developed so that it can and appropriately and bring out a new level of synthesis from the engagementwith its opposite (of the Eastern martial arts). Such sensitivity is necessary for understanding of the cycles and processes fundamental to synthesis, for awareness of patterns of interpersonal interaction, for appropriate self-criticism, and to knowledge of oneself.

Suggestions for implementations: first steps

1. Create group to clarify the direction to be followed in general terms; to seek, receive, store and process advice and suggestions.

2. Arange one or more short workshops to discuss and clarify the initiative.

3. Clarify guidelines by which to relate to external advisers, experts and others whose knowledge may be in some way relevant.

4. Identify possible advisers and individuals whose activities are in tune with the proposed initiative.

5. Seek advice on the nature of a significant programme, directions to be avoided, and individuals who might be associated with the initiative.

6. Identify other initiatives and proposals; consider their special insights and integrate any which are relevant; consider to what extent duplication of initiatives undertaken by others is justified.

7. Identify books, documents and articles which help to clarify the direction to be followed, the methods which could be employed, the content of any programme and a vision for the Initiative as a whole (as the activity develops these could usefully be Incorporated into an annotated bibliography - a guide to the literature on synthesis).

8. Clarify guidelines for selecting programmes and projects. (One possibility is to develop a "community impact statement" to make explicit any advantages or disadvantages to the community.)

9. Arrange (simultaneous) experimental groups (e.g. for 1 to 3 month periods) on: research projects, education projects, and application development projects.

10. Consider results of the above steps especially in terms of feedback from those who are indifferent or opposed to the initiative.

11. Identify possible future developments: programmes, processes, buildings, communication networks, etc.

Guidelines for relating to external advice: preliminary suggestions

1. Make clear to those advising or consulted the nature of the principles governing the initiative.

2. Remain sensitive to the possibility that the comments of those opposed or indifferent to the initiative may be as useful as the praise of those in favour of it. (A special group could be created to filter negative criticism for any underlying insights .)

3. Ininviting or receiving advice an awareness should be developed of where the particular insights fit in, of the assumptions on which they are based, of the time frame within which they are of importance, etc. (Advice which cannot be related to existing concerns should either be ignored as irrelevant or programmes should be modified to take account of its importance - but the decision should be consciously taken in the light of an explicit conceptual framework.)

4. In Inviting or receiving advice an awareness should be developed of the person's tendency:

5. In inviting or receiving advice there is an opportunity to Influence the adviser in exchange for the influence received. In which case care should be taken:

Different modes of mental focus: preliminary notes

It is vital to recognize that the mental focus is expressed through a number of distinct modes. These have not been clearly identified and distinguished, They complement each other, however, and it is through exploring their patterns ofinteraction that new levels of synthesis emerge.

An early priority should be to identify (if only approximately for working purposes) the complete range of mental modes of expression. This knowledge would ensure hat any programme does not give excessive emphasis to a particular mode, thus distorting efforts towards synthesis. In identifying these modes attention should be given to the strengths and limitations of each, its special contribution to the whole, and the kinds of topics or projects it tends to favour or avoid.

Nature of the activity: some possible clues

1. Clues in fiction: Efforts have been made in fiction to envision the kind of wholistic mentally-oriented activity which could take place, and the synthesis of Intellectual, cultural, aestetic, and spiritual factors which redefine the Individual in a larger context. One well-known example is Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. Another is the Game Players of Zan by Both identify a special richness and the nature and limitation of the psycho-social environment in which the activity takes place.

2. Clues in history: The two outstanding examples are perhaps the academies of Pythagoras in Sicily and of Ficino in Florence. Both blended scientific and aesthetic concerns, tempered with an orientation towards the spiritual development of the individual. It is also useful to note how each "university" has failed to measure up to the vision of many of those associated with its foundation.

3. Current initiatives: There have been many projects and institutes which respond to the vision and express aspects of it. Examples include:

To these must be added a number of international colleges and universities outside the conventional mode, a number of journals which are the focus for synthesis-related concerns, and a number of periodic meetings at which such matters are discussed. It is probable that there are many Initiatives which are deliberately not publicized.

4. Conclusion: To clarify understanding of how to respond to the vision,it would be useful to establish a list of criteria (e.g. based on the identified principles) by which to "filter" the above examples in the light of energies which they express well or fall to express.

Nature of the activity

1. Research and creativity aspects:A suitable building is required in a suitable location. This should house a sufficient number of researchers so that they are stimulated by each others presence and complementary preoccupations. Alternative activities should be available to counterbalance the mental focus (and possibly contribute to the finance of the enterprise). The atmosphere, facilities, decor and library should encourage synthesis and excellence. Care should be taken with representations of synthesis which may be Inter- preted as constituting premature closure or over-emphasis on one mode - these may alienate potential associates. Every effort should be made to represent the relationships between the concerns of those working there at a given time,in any previous period, or in a planned future period - as well as the relationships to those not working there but whose work is also building towards a synthesis. Any sense of fragmentation must be avoided.

Researchers might be Invited for a period of days, weeks, months or years, according to the sense of need. Some would assist as advisers - although such assistance could also be provided by mail, telex or dialogue through data networks. Researchers may be self-funded (possibly with the aid of an external foundation), provided with food and accommodation, or with an adequate allowance.

Founds for the research enterprise may be obtained (a) from external grants and subsidies, (b) research under contract, or (c) as income from books or subscriptions to a journal containing research reports, (d) as income resulting from the educational and application development programmes, or (e) from speakers fees at external conferences. Note however that the main costs are working space, accommodation and food.

2. Application and practical innovation aspects: The concern here is with the use of knowledge to develop practical devices and catalytic aids. This covers Invention of new devices and development of existing concepts. Typical examples are: energy conversing devices, educational aids and games, building modules design, food production systems (e.g. in restricted areas), alternative technologies of all kinds, facilitative electronic devices, community oriented computer software, etc. The environment should obviously encourage inventiveness in its early fragile stages. But efforts should be made to ensure appropriate interactions between people who have complementary skills and can benefit from each others assistance in furthering their projects. In brief it should attract the inventive genius and "tinkerer" who need not necessarily have a research orientation, as outlined above. The complementarity with the research orientation should be brought out in every way possible.

Again innovation might be invited for a period of days, weeks, months or years, according to the sense of need. Funding could be undertaken as for research. However thus is the additional possibility of patent royalties and actual sale of products (e.g. educational aids).

3. Education aspects: As an educational environment, the purpose of the centre is to be a place to learn - as opposed to a place at which to be taught. The ideal educational environment has frequently been described. The stress here could well be to avoid focussing on any particular branches of learning and rather to emphasize their synthesis and interrelationship. Specialized knowledge can be obtained in many places; interdisciplinarity and synthesis at this time have no educational focus. The aim could well be to help individuals each to fund the best way to learn for themselves and to provide them with all the assistance required. No particular mode of learning would be emphasized, leaving the individual to orient towards discussion groups, library, lectures, videotape, etc. Ideally the environment would prove attractive to individuals with considerable specialized knowledge in some areas but desiring to overcome a sense of fragmentation through lack of any interdisciplinary basis.

Both through the research and application aspects, work would be undertaken to compress integrative perspectives into formats which can be easily communicated (e.g. special charts, videotapes, models, etc.). Hopefully some of those working in this area would have special interpersonal skills to assist people to overcome educational blockages and release creativity. Not only should the research and application focus feed into education, but the educational focus should lead people into research and innovation of they are so Inclined - the education should be a challenge to discover what new action is possible.

Again the funding arrangements can be as before, possibly emphasizing a residential period rather than specific courses and programmes. It is the environment which should allow the individual to discover in what directions to explore - and encourage such exploration. Educational materials can also be prepared for sale (videotapes, books, aids, etc.).

At some stage there would be an advantage in broadening the base to provide an environment for gifted children, creative children on holiday from conventional schooling, etc. This would also broaden the funding. It is vital however to avoid being manoeuvered into prostituting the qualities available to respond to a market demand because of a perceived need for Increased funds.

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