Meeting Thoughts, Visions and Speculations
a destructured congress
- / -
Notes for the 1st New Age Congress (Florence, February 1978). Published in: Transnational
Associations 31, 1979, 9, pp. 429-435 [PDF version]
A Congress that Dared the Unthinkable: report on the First New Age Congress]
A. Facilitative guidelines
B. If the congress appears too over-structured
C. If the congress appears too unstructured
Tao in large groups
A congress as a meditation
Mapping who's where?
Rediscovering the wheel I: Types of person and congress processes
Redscovering the wheel II: Congress communication - why, what
and for whom?
A. Facilitative guidelines
is your congress, You are making it happen. How it evolves depends on choices
you make from moment to moment and from day to day. Not choosing is also a
are others here with very different priorities, expectations and
contributions. Are you sure you know what they bring and how it relates to
where you are and where you would like to be ? Are you sure you are making it
easier for them to know how your energies and concerns relate to theirs ?
3. Each has something important to contribute. But few of us are particularly
skilled at doing so. Are you sure you are not over-stressing what you feel
to be most valuable - at the expense of other themes ? Who is going to give
you the helpful feedback you need ? Will you appreciate it when it is given
congress may at some time appear too unstructured to you. Check the symptoms
and suggestions listed below. Remember that some people feel oppressed and
constrained by order and procedure - they have had too much of it and it has not taken them
where they believe they want to go. They tend to feel that nothing meaningful
is happening. They prefer more spontaneity. They may have a point of which you
are not aware,
congress may at some time appear too over-structured to you. Check the symptoms
and suggestions listed below. Remember that some people are not as secure and
independent as you are. In addition they find that a fair degree of structure
takes them where they believe they want to go, and lack of it takes them
nowhere. Maybe they have a point of which you are not aware. Process is not
can you balance your preferences against those of others without tearing the
congress apart ? What
is your creative response to this dilemma? Remember that how you respond to the
congress situation is probably an intensified model of how you respond to the
outside world. Maybe you can learn from your own frustrations.
of more or less structure should ideally compensate and balance each other - that is how the
congress "breathes". The whole problem
is to ensure that it alternates in a smooth manner between the two extremes,
rather than being blocked at one extreme or being subject to other irregular or
exaggerated rhythms. (It is a manifestation of the group yinyang cycle, with
all its problems and potentials - how can we become collectively aware of the tao of the
congress situation ?)
8. This congress is not just an occasion on which to focus on how transformation
can be brought about elsewhere and sometime in the future. The congress here-and-now
and as a whole is a powerful transformation process in its own right. To the
extent that we are aware of it, and of how we function in it. we can obtain
many insights of significance to us personally and collectively, and for the
world around us. Its power as a transformation process depends directly on
our ability to enter, through ourselves, into the harmony of the congress
processes - whether in their structured or unstructured forms.
you become aware of the congress process, you will quickly be able to improve
upon this set of notes. Wherever you are coming from, you have your own unique
insight which can facilitate the congress process.
Document distributed at the New Age Congress, Florence, February 1978 (see
review in Transnational Associations. 1978, 5. pp. 266-270).
B. If the congress appears too over-structured
seems to be wrapped up in a pre-planned timetable which governs your behaviour
for the whole day - and
no one seems to want to know how you feel about the timetable.
feel you spend your time listening passively to a specialist on this, or
someone skilled at that - and you can only express yourself in a workshop at a
scheduled time, according to someone's special method.
you meet seems to talk only about the events on the programme - and you are
starting to feel "programmed" by those events.
feel your head is under pressure, your body is uncomfortable and basically you
just don't feel free. You need air.
congress is starting to feel less like fun and more like drudgery. You feel
under pressure not to miss the next event in case it constitutes an important
breakthrough. You feel under pressure to "achieve something".
6. The speakers mostly seem to be on ego-trips (and you don't feel you ought
to be responding this way, because they are very eminent persons). But they
appear to be consuming your time and energy.
organizers seem to be more concerned that the speakers and workshop leaders
should have their place in the sun than they are with how you feel about it all
seem to be some really nice people around but you never get a good chance to
meet or talk with them.
for a walk outside - visit
the town -either by yourself
or with someone who also looks as though a view of the outside world would make
more sense. Rebel a little - it may lead you into something really creative.
talking over coffee, instead of feeling under pressure to participate in the
next event on the programme. There will be others.
3. If a speaker or a group is boring you, then leave the room. Take a walk,
meditate, have a coffee. Maybe there congress. Just what do you
really want out of it ?
4. If you find yourself talking to a few people who are exploring the same
thing as you are, then see whether there is something you want to do together
- maybe others would like to join you. Find out how to communicate your interest
to them - with or without the help of the organizers. Make a space for yourself.
to any of the focal persons and ask them how they can help you to do whatever
you think that you are there to do. Make some constructive suggestions. Maybe
they can introduce you-to someone going the same way. If they cannot, then ask
them why not. That is part of their function. Maybe they need some feedback in
order to be able to modify the programme.
someone looks interesting or says something that strikes a responsive note in
you. then make contact with the person in whatever manner is appropriate. Its
communication between participants which is the essence of a congress, not
communication at participants for the glory of the speakers and organizers.
someone really does seem to be making an exaggerated use of everyone's time,
then suggest that all those interested carry on (then or later), whilst
allowing others to break off. You have the right to say this, whereas the
organizers may feel obliged to be less direct to eminent persons.
C. If the congress appears too unstructured
one appears to have a clear idea of what is going on now or what is going to
happen at some later time. The written programme is ignored and unforeseen
events suddenly come into being - planned events are cancelled or postponed.
organizers do not appear to have control of the situation and are unconcerned
by this. Worse still, there seem to be several groups of organizers without a
clear relationship between them.
participants do not behave as is normally expected. They fail to attend the
principal events and instead organize their own activities. This distracts
other participants and affects the focus of the congress,
4. Nothing seems to be achieved - everything is treated superficially, even
humorously. The groups refuse to focus their activities on substantial products.
There is no effort to reach conclusions or recommendations. No one is preparing
a report and there is therefore no adequate record of what has occurred and
of any insights which have emerged.
respect is not shown to eminent speakers who have made the effort to come and
share their insights, experience and understanding. Their time is wasted.
participants seem to be more concerned with whether they are enjoying
themselves than they are with the success of the congress as a whole. They are
unappreciative of the efforts and interests of the organizers.
group as a whole is too tolerant of initiatives of individuals to change the
orientation of events - even
when this seems to be felt as undesirable by the majority.
constructive, explicit suggestions to the organizers or to the group in which
you are participating. Justify the need for greater order, respect for an
agenda, and use of a well-defined procedure.
casually to stragglers that they should participate in or support an event
which is about to start.
any initiative to produce minutes or a report. Volunteer to assist the
rapporteur, or take the position yourself.
comments to speakers to compensate for any casual handling they may have
received from the group with which they were involved.
5. Focalize the activities of a group to carry out a particular task or activity
which sufficient participants find of interest. Invite one of the key resource
persons to speak to the group. Arrange for several such meetings.
Tao in large groups
1. Just as in the case of a person, a large group of people is very unsettled
if faced with a situation in which nothing is required or laid on. It is very
threatening - for attention is then given in a manner which disturbs many
conventional perspectives. Strange energies are released.
2. In order not to be faced with such an embarrassing confrontation, the
space is filled with activities as a focus for attention. This simultaneously
eases the tension and blocks out the patterns of energy associated with it.
Clearly focal activities are required in a large group -if only to give expression
to some of these patterns of energy - because we are not yet able to bear
the collective attention to unstructured activity and silence for more than
a few moments. We do not know how to handle such situations.
3. We tend each to have different perfe-rences for turning our backs on collective
silence. Some possibilities are:
Listening to an inspiring speaker, who may even tell us about the importance
of some aspects of silence and the need for awareness of it.
- Dance, music and song, which may give beautiful outward expression to some
of the patterns and textures of energy sensed in that silence.
- Discussion, encounter and dialogue about ideas, feelings, projects and
10,000 other important matters which are all more or less harmonious and complete
reflections of some of the patterns encountered in that silence. Some may
even attempt to give concrete form to very comprehensive patterns - as a better
foundation for social organization.
- Group meditation or prayer, supported by techniques and procedures which
may be deliberately designed to orient and align us with that silence.
Each of these sets up a context which encourages us to believe that the silence
is something that we can have access to by doing something -by making an effort
according to an advocated procedure. By orienting ourselves to the advice
of enlightened persons, we avoid taking responsibility, simultaneously blocking
out any sense of our own degree of enlightenment. In this way we are protected
by a subtle attitudinal barrier from the energies of silence. Like the dog
chasing its tail, such activities keep us very busy and we have a continuing
sense of accomplishment.
4. The above remarks are not meant as a criticism of the value of the various
activities in which we engage. Such activities are absolutely necessary to
give expression to whatever we sense in silence - we apparently have no other
means of giving form to our environment and of transforming it to reflect
greater harmony. On the other hand, when we collectively flee from exposure
to the tensions of that silence, by filling our congress timetable with a
multitude of activities to absorb our attention and to release us from that
tension - then we diminish the value of those activities and of the congress
as a whole. The quality of the energy is then less than it might have been.
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub; It is the centre hole that makes
Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
(Lao Tzu, Tao The Ching. Random Books, 1972).
5. The question then is one of balance. How much of the challenge of collective
silence can we usefully take before needing to balance it by giving appropriate
form to whatever it conveys and by using the transforming process to absorb
the energies released ?
6. What does this mean in practice ? A congress usually has to have an opening
ceremony by which it relates itself to the temporal powers which have given
it space and brought it into being. This may have to be followed by one or
more programme events to satisfy a sensed need for an immediate justification
for the existence of the congress. Neither of these is vital, and prolonging
the series of events of the second kind constitutes a deliberate avoidance
of the moment of challenge - particularly if it is immediately followed by
fragmentation into smaller groups to explore special interests. The more such
events there are before the moment of challenge, the more the congress is
defined and determined by such events rather than by what emerges from a collective
confrontation with silence. In such a way, the congress becomes embedded in
predictability and the participants are programmed by pre-planned events.
There is no risk - everything is secure because no fundamental change can
occur. From the organizers point of view, only what was planned in the past
will occur in the present - the synergistic potential of the moment is blocked
out in favour of linear extensions of what already exists. From the participants
point of view, they will only be exposed to what appears in the printed programme.
They will not be challenged by the totally unexpected and will not be expected
to call any of their beliefs into question or to test them to any degree.
Although informed and entertained, they will leave the congress as they came
- safely untransformed.
7. What could constitute a confrontation with silence and the tensions to
which it gives rise? Consider how the following situation might evolve. All
the participants gather together in the meeting room at the appointed time.
But no structure or agenda is available, nor is there anyone who takes responsibility
for the sessions according to some preconceived notion of any desirable procedure
or outcome. Will the result be chaotic ? That depends on whether one considers
one's fellow participants to be irresponsible sheep in the absence of a leader
or of any agreed agenda. (A similar situation arises in unstructured small
groups - and there is now a lot of experience of how to handle them as an
experience. This needs to be developed for larger groups.)
8. Suppose that the gathering of people can be thought of as a rich collection
of energies of which the participants can become aware. This awareness may
emerge if a deliberate effort is made not to fill the space with inspired
speeches, proposals, music, discussion or other events, including structured
meditations. If people do not have such forms and crutches as a focus for
their awareness, tensions will emerge to fill the vacuum. People will become
nervous, irritated and embarrassed, whether at their own situation or the
response of others -they wifl want something to happen. They will want somebody
to make it happen. They will want to confront real problems and to avoid wasting
time. Some will answer this call and will make proposals and comments -whether
critical or ingeniously constructive. Can the group collectively respond by
consciously allowing such happenings (like riding a wave) and yet seek to
sense beyond this level of manifestation ?
9. It is a meditation, for there is pressure to be aware of the underlying
process - and yet it is not, since there may be vigorous discussion between
those representing different energies. It is a direct response to the here-and-now.
It can be very threatening to all concerned - to the participants, who do
not know what is happening or why they are there; to the speakers, who believe
that the time could be better spent in sharing their insights; and to the
organizers, who justifiably feel called to respond to expectations and to
protect the framework of the congress. But it is precisely by placing themselves
at risk, individually and collectively, that the group can bring forth more
appropriate forms and energies than would be possible if all conformed to
pre-established procedures which are never called into question - even when
such timetables include "spontaneous happening periods".
(With apologies to A N Whitehead:
"To be dangerous is the business of a congress for the future" and
"The major advances in civilization are processes that all
but wreck the society in which they occur").
10. In fact each well-intentioned effort to structure the period is a subtle
way of closing off the response to the here-and-now by substituting an excellent
form of doing or achieving something real. People will align themselves with
the proposals that reflect their own personality biases -there will be increasing
pressure to break up into small groups to pursue such special activities which
reinforce and legitimates the pre-existing biases. The longer the group as
a whole stays together, the greater such pressures will become. The tensions
will increase - possibly quite dramaticaly as superficial levels are seen
for what they are. Can the tensions be channelled appropriately ? What response
will each kind of tension call forth as the energies of the group play off
against each other and bring out new levels of harmonies ? How will the various
levels of "negativity" get handled, contained and transformed?
11. In this way the congress becomes its own live laboratory, cutting to
the essence of the many issues raised by the process of collective human transformation
and blended consciousness. Where will it lead ? That depends on how much energy
the group can contain and transform. Why should it lead anywhere ? Because
collectively the group probably contains (like a hologram) most of the resources
and skills needed to take it wherever it collectively wants to be. The real
question is why we are afraid to dare ? To what do we wish to avoid being
exposed -especialy when we "know" the answer is "ourselves". Why do we
have so little genuine confidence in each other or the power of the moment
? Why do we always seek to be by engaging in anything which distracts us from
the joys and agonies of direct confrontation with being ?
each special interest group defines itself through the interplay and build up
of tensions, to the point where it felt it had to break away and do something,
this would be a measure of the whole group's ability to contain the energies
it represented. However, any special activity would then be sensed as having
been born (or torn) organically from the energies of the whole. The sense of
the whole encountered in the dramas of such birthing processes would be
retained by all throughout the congress - whether or not any attempt was made to collectively
re-enter the sense of the whole.
13. In this way the "congress programme"is born from the crucible of collective
interaction and structured as a dramatic response to the interplay of energies
sensed in that context. It will contain intellectual emotional, physical,
spiritual and other components - but their relation to one another will be
more real and meaningful than if they had simply been inserted into a schedule
of congress events by an organizing committee (however sensitive the members
the ultimate value of this approach is that individual congress events can come
to be seen as punctuating the continuing and underlying creative silence from
which they are born - rather
than assuming that awareness of that silence necessarily emerges through
engaging in one or more of those activities.
the congress is not able to penetrate to this sense of the whole, then it has
failed to demonstrate a level of awareness significant for wider social
transformation - it
is the preparedness for collective risk which is the pre-condition of
fundamental change. Without it we are only able to point a finger in the
direction we believe we ought to go.
is of course the paradox that the above points lay out the programme or
procedure for yet another trip - in following this suggestion, you are therefore lured
away from your own centre in exactly the manner which it is hoped could be
avoided. How can you overcome this paradox, other than by ignoring this
A congress as a meditation
person can be conceived as a scattered jumble of thoughts, emotions and
activities. An early stage of meditation aims to introduce increasing harmony
into this jumble. Central themes emerge, each with their own rhythms - and eventually each
of these separate themes is blended into an even larger theme. This is the process
of attunement or alignment.
congress can also be conceived as a scattered jumble of thoughts, emotions and
advanced and protected by different coalitions of participants. One aim of a
congress could be to introduce increasing harmony into this jumble. The
problems and processes of doing so are surprisingly similar to those of
personal attunement, although at a different level.
first concern is the physical well-being of the entity. Does it suffer from any
illnesses; is it diseased in any way; has it been appropriately nourished; is
its posture well-balanced ? (There are many parallels between the illnesses of a
person and the "illnesses" of a large group).
4. A second concern is with the psycho-motor coordination of the entity.
Is its breathing deep and regular, or shallow and a-rhythmic ? Can it alternate
smoothly between yin and yang, between passivity and activity, etc ? Or is
it stuck in some particular mode or condition. Are there exercises it should
perform to ensure that all elements are appropriately related: breathing
exercises, bio-energetics, postures, Tai Chi, etc. (What are the postures
a congress could usefully hold to improve its energy flows ? What would the
Tai Chi movements of a congress be - what energies are to be sensed as moving
and where? Do collective ritual and liturgy offer any clues?) Should the two
major factions engage in some enquivalent of Aikido in order to sense the
nature of their opponent within themselves - and to reaffirm the dynamic nature
of the whole of which they are together an expression ? (Maybe that is what
they do anyway, but unconsciously and without a sense of relationship ?)
third concern is with the appropriate control and expression of emotions-Are
there emotions which are repressed into the unconscious or whose expression is
being blocked ? From
what do they arise and to what do they lead ? How can these energies be
brought to flow naturally within the entity? How can they be channelled and
transformed ? Should
we be looking for an application of acupuncture to the entity ?
fourth concern is with the appropriate organization of concepts. Are they
adequately integrated into a significant synthesis ? Are there fundamental
contradictions or inconsistencies ? Can the challenge and paradox of duality be overcome
to provide a re-interpretation and re-configuration of the entity's
relationship to its larger environment (the Knower versus the Known). What
images can be used as a guide to helpful reflections ?
7. Once the above matters have been attended to - to the extent possible
- the nature of the whole, as comprehended beyond the verbal framework, is
the focus of attention. Is this period appropriately safeguarded and are its
fruits appropriately used to nourish the life of the entity ?
whole jumble of events of a congress is thus but a surface manifestation of an
entity struggling to be. The confusion arises from the efforts of the parts and
factions selfishly to control the whole according to their various perspectives
(as "sub-personalities"). But this very
selfishness is a necessary process in the development of the self-awareness of
the parts prior to relating harmoniously to the other parts in order to be able
to express the whole. The challenge is to have a sufficiently strong vision of
the nature of the whole to ensure that the preliminary stages of alignment - with all the "likes"and "dislikes" - do not absorb the
attention of the participants so completely that the entity as a whole does
not get a chance to come to maturity in the time available.
its maturity, as a conscious meditation, the congress constitutes a chalice
into which energies can be focused and through which they can flow. This is
not just a beautiful image and our difficulty in comprehending its real nature
is well-matched by our difficulty in reaching and attaining this level of
consciously integrated focus. (Such synthesis is to analysis just as fusion is
to fission -
do not yet have access to fusion energy, despite much research on the required
configuration to bring it about).
Mapping who's where?
is widespread familiarity with city maps, road maps, maps of conti-ments and
maps of the world. Most people know, and have to know, how to find their way
from one place to another using maps - even if they have never been there before.
the Middle Ages, few people knew anything about maps. In fact they had the
status of secret documents whose dissemination could be dangerous to national
and trading interests. Furthermore, they were always drawn with the country's
capital city at the centre, and everything else at the periphery - out to where "monsters", "dangerous tribes" and "unknown dangers" were marked. And of
course the Earth was flat in those days - if one went too far in any direction one would "fall off". We find this level
of understanding quaint and amusing.
many ways, however, the mental maps each uses to locate and interrelate the
multitude of groups, schools of thought, and belief systems, bear a strong
resemblance to the Middle Age maps. Our own group is of course centrally
located - or so we believe.
The maps we use show groups whose interests are in some way related to our own - they are marked as
neighbouring locations at varying distances, according to the degree of
difference we feel from them. (Maybe communications are good and we have highways
marked to such locations; or maybe they are not so good and we have mountain
ranges with difficult passes, periodically closed by bad weather.) Further away
of course are
the groups of which we are only slightly aware and who engage in practices which
we view with disfavour or even suspicion and hostility - particularly if their
attractiveness or impact has an effect on our own traditions and undermines
the influence of our own local aristocracy. Or maybe such groups attempt aggressively
to extend their feudal domains to include our own territory. And of course,
even further away on other continents, are groups known only by hearsay, which
engage is absolutely abominable and barbarous practices - and beyond them is
the perimeter of our psycho-social world.
are "flat-earthers". If we travel too
far in any direction away from the benign civilization from which we each come,
we believe we will encounter dangers which will place our very being at risk.
it is time to try and interrelate our various local maps in order to produce a
map of this world. Maybe we should also attempt to portray on it adequately the
locations of groups which engage in activities which are really distant from
our own. Which is the group most distant in preoccupation from our own ? What does "distant" mean ? Where do we need to
mark distinctions by mountain ranges, by deserts, by seas or by oceans ? Where is it hot,
cold, wet or dry, and how do conditions change with the seasons? Why are
"mountain people" suspicious
of "plains people"? Why are we
suspicious of people who dwell in hotter, colder, wetter or dryer climates ?
it not peculiar that we cannot see over the horizont? Could it be that our psychosocial world is in fact
round and not flat ? Is
there any truth behind the tunny tales brought by long-distance travellers ? How would we react
to anyone claiming to have travelled "around the world" ? Would they be condemned as
heretics and insane -by
whom and why ? How
would we navigate around the world - what compass would prevent us travelling in circles
and getting lost ?
is not a complicated exercise for a diverse group to attempt to outline such a
map from the reports of all the travellers present at a congress. It would only
be rough, but it could quickly be improved upon. It could be printed on the
surface of a globe. As such it would be of immense help to those who would like
to travel and benefit from experiences in other parts. Such a globe is a
powerful symbol in its own right, Maybe there are whole New Worlds to be
discovered, (And hopefully we will not attempt to colonize, convert or
exterminate the natives).
if our world is round, is it stationary with respect to whatever is beyond it ? Is there a "sun" we
all see but to which we each give a different name ? Are there some regions where
the sun's light is diffused through a thick cloud cover, or regions of permanent
darkness where the sun never rises ? Does the sun "rise" everyday, or is it our world which moves with respect
to the sun ?
there other suns with other worlds ?
Rediscovering the wheel I: Types of person and congress
distinct personality types are represented at a congress - and the wider the appeal of
the theme of the congress, the more marked the differences between the types.
each personality type is associated a particular form of behaviour (with its
special weaknesses and strengths) which may well reinforce specific aspects or
tendencies in the congress process. We are not very sensitive to this
fact we each tend to respond to the behaviour of other types in a rather
simplistic (dua-listic) manner determined by the type to which we ourselves
3. Each personality type reflects an aspect of the whole. This is fairly
obvious. Less obvious is the function performed by each type within the whole.
So that within the context of a congress, each group of personality types
contributes in some unique way to the life and activity of the congress. At
the same time, however, an aspect of each such contribution may well be to
restrain, to stimulate or to transform the contribution of one of the other
groups present. Any such activity may be undertaken as an automatic reaction
(perhaps provoked by a righteous perception of "irresponsible", "stimulating" of "depressing" behaviour on the part of the other) or as a conscious
exercise in handling or transforming energies,
4. The difficulty lies in comprehending the nature and validity of the role
of each type - and thereby being able to determine where conscious support
or restraint is desirable to facilitate the evolution of the whole. We tend
to view the activity of other types in relation to our own central focus -
a kind of "flat earth"mentality, rather than an awareness of "functional
round-ness". We cannot see over the horizon created by the viewpoint to which
5. There are some clues to the range of personality types, and in each case
there is some indication of their likely weaknesses and strengths. It is however
less clear which types tend to interact with which other types, now, and under
what circumstances Such ranges may contain differing numbers of types, for
example: intuition, thinking, feeling, sensation (Jugian). Even larger numbers
may be obtained from other symbol systems or by the elaboration of those above.
6. However many types one chooses to distinguish, the difficulty remains
to render the interplay between them meaningful in the context of the congress
as a whole. We usually focus our attention on one type (our own) and its relationship
to another (whether of attraction or opposition), rather than attempting to
comprehend how the different types interweave to celebrate the whole.
7. It would be useful to try to determine what energies there are and how
they are interrelated - how are energies passed between personalities of different
types; what transformation does each attempt, and how are the dynamics ordered
? (How is the ball of Chi energy passed around a highly diverse group ?)
8. Only when we have a clearer understanding of these dynamics can a congress
convert from being a "two-cylinder, duality engine" to being a "twelve-cylinder,
multi-stroke engine" - with all the power for movement that that implies.
9. Only when a congress becomes an exercise in collective self-awareness will
it be able to develop fully its self-healing potential. That is to say that
congresses will always face the challenge of handling the energies of strong,
partially "blocked" personalities (and who is not partially blocked
?). But until the collective group awareness can respond appropriately to
such blockages, such challenge may significantly disturb the evolution of
Redscovering the wheel II: Congress communication - why,
what and for whom?
congress is a nexus of communications. It is a communication event. A congress
powerfully concentrates and partially recorders the communications which occur
naturally between the people who happen to be drawn by the event. When such
enhanced communication is stabilized at a new level, transformation of the
group is achieved.
means many things to many people - and each tends to view the priorities of others with
little appreciation. Consequently the effectiveness of each is undermined and
the evolution of the whole is severely impeded. Care must therefore be taken at
a congress that the right mix of communication processes occur -and that there is an awareness
of the strengths and limitations of each.
3. "Communication at" takes place when a resource person, namely a person
with relatively greater experience of a topic, informs many people concerning
the topic. This process may be assisted by microphone/loudspeaker,
interpretation, and other audio-visual systems. It is very efficient if the
resource person avoids ego-tripping. Its limitation is that it necessitates
organizing the participants as a passive captive audience thus unable to engage
in the variety of other activities to which they may be strongly drawn. It is a
large consumer of people's attention time.
4. "Communication between" takes place when each participant has sufficient
time and space to interact with others so that there is a meaningful exchange
which allows the communication to evolve for all concerned. The communication
may be based on an interplay of ideas (discussion groups), of affectivity
(encounter groups) or of physical movements (dance). The process (which may
be assisted by audio-visual systems) is successful provided that there is
a degree of shared commitment, otherwise it may lack depth or focus. This
limitation is increased if an appropriate balance is not found between ideas,
affectivity and physical movement - and there is seldom consensus among participants
as to where that balance point should be.
5. "Festive communication" takes place when the emphasis is placed on the enjoyment of
participants and the fun and celebration of being - as opposed to the previous
situation where the emphasis is on achieving something, if only greater
understanding. Its limitations lie mainly in the distractive power of its very
attractiveness, which may upset the blance between the other forms of
6. "Communication to" takes place when the priority is placed on recording
an event or reporting on it in order to involve others (in distant places
or at later times) in the significance of what is occurring. Use is necessarily
made of audio-visual recording equipment. This process is vital in order to
multiply the impact of the energies assembled and released, and to provide
access to others who were unable to participate. Its limitation is that it
is very often treated as an end in itself and consequently interrupts or distrubs
the communication process of a congress - to the point of turning the event
into a staged production for consumption elsewhere and elsewhen, but not in
the here-and-now. The media product becomes an image of what the organizers
would have liked to have happened and hope their constituencies will believe
did happen. By its very nature, it may only focus on superficial, recordable
7. "Communication for" takes place when the concern is to integrate what is
communicated into some common information framework in order to facilitate or
improve future social action or social change. The priority is therefore on
operationalizing the information for policy, management or similar purposes.
It may even involve use of computers and data networks. This process is vital
as a means of anchoring complex insights so that they may be effectively
shared and used to effect change. Its limitation is that it requires a
detachment from the meaning of the information handled which may in fact obscure
that meaning and prevent the information from being used in the manner
intended. The operational attitude may even constitute a barrier to the
collection and discussion of that information at the congress.
8. "Attunement" takes place when participants draw together to commune
in silence with whatever they sense -within or beyond themselves - as guiding
their actions, it is a vital process to ensure that a degree of creative harmony
pervades the congress and interrelates whatever incompatibilities appear to
emerge. Its limitation lies in a tendency to use it as a panacea for all ills
and a substitute for any other form of communication - especially those involving
concrete action or a response to opposition.