Reflections on Development of the Mental Focus
- / -
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.
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
activity must be constantly balanced by a responsibility to Inter-
link the domains distinguished within a larger whole whose nature is then
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.
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
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
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,
appropriate self-criticism, and to knowledge of oneself.
Suggestions for implementations: first steps
Create group to clarify the
direction to be followed in
general terms; to
seek, receive, store and process advice and
Arange one or more short
workshops to discuss and clarify the initiative.
Clarify guidelines by which to
relate to external advisers, experts and
others whose knowledge may be in some way relevant.
Identify possible advisers and individuals whose activities are in tune
with the proposed initiative.
Seek advice on the nature of a
significant programme, directions to be
avoided, and individuals who might be
associated with the initiative.
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.
Identify books, documents and articles which help to clarify the
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
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,
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
4. In Inviting or receiving advice an awareness should be developed of
the person's tendency:
to exclude consideration of certain factors (whether explicitly or Implicitly)
to promote a particular perspective, theory or school of thought
to use an "immature" or insensitive personal style from whose
effects some will need to be protected,irrespective of the value of the
to produce advice which is irresponsible or manipulative.
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
to involve the person in awareness of a larger context (for which the
advice is relevant)
to avoid "benevolent manipulation" of that person
to create a setting in which the person can choose other modes through
which Insights can be conveyed.
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:
Maharishi International (and European) Research University (Switzerland)
Lindisfarne (New York)
International Peace Research Institute (Oslo)
Society for General Systems Research (Washington DC)
Center for Augmenting Human Intellect (PaloAlto)
Center for Integrative Education (New York)
New Alchemy Institute
Center for Interdisciplinary Synthesis (Ghent project)
Interdisciplinary programme for Unesco's Division of Philosophy
International Society for General Semantics (Lakewood, USA)
International Academy of Manternach (Luxembourg)
Artorga Research Group (Southampton, UK)
World Institute Council (New York)
Eranos Foundation (Switzerland)
Centre international de Synthese (Paris)
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
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.
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
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
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).
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
specialized knowledge in some areas but desiring
to overcome a sense
of fragmentation through lack of any
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
schooling, etc. This would also
broaden the funding. It is vital
avoid being manoeuvered into prostituting the
qualities available to respond
to a market demand because of a perceived need for Increased funds.