Coming into being: how the inquiry group began
The text below is the whole of Chapter 20 from Heron, J., Sacred Science: Person-centred Inquiry into the Spiritual and the Subtle, Ross-on-Wye, PCCS Books, 1998.
Report status: A story. Place and year:New Zealand, 1994-1997.Spiritual focus: Celebrating through improvised charismatic sound and movement our individual and interactive coming into being. Subtle focus: Exploring the range of subtle phenomena that support and enhance this celebration. Social focus: Affirming a group nucleus of holonomic spiritual activity and sustaining it within prevailing culture; injecting individual transpersonal activities into everyday culture; and creating a sub-culture of people intentionally inquiring into this kind of transpersonal social transformation.
In late 1993, some months after the Scott’s Landing event described in Chapter 13, I distributed flyer among interested persons in New Zealand. It proposed, for February through April, 1994, a four day journey of opening, a co-operative inquiry into transpersonal activities in everyday life, a training for co-operative inquiry initiators, and the start of an ongoing seed group. It presented these events as aspects of a self-generating culture. No fees were to be charged.
The three workshops all took place, and the second of them, about transpersonal activity in everyday life, has already been described in detail in Chapter 15. They proved to be links in a chain of events which started at Scott’s Landing in March 1993, Chapter 13.
Eight people who had been at Scott’s Landing met each month thereafter to check in with each other and share significant life events. They joined the transpersonal activities in everyday life inquiry, February to April 1994, and, enlarged by new members from that, continued on as a self-directing peer group after it closed and I had returned to Italy. This was the ongoing seed group, anticipated in the flyer. It continued to meet regularly throughout the southern winter of 1994-5, sharing personal and transpersonal experiences in a spirit of inquiry.
When I returned to New Zealand in early November 1994 I joined this ongoing group and we elected, over the summer of 1994-5, to focus our inquiry on the process of coming into being now. Each person adopted an idiosyncratic approach to this, choosing some of form of mantra, meditation, affirmation, inner opening, centering, postural alignment, continuous attunement, way of being present, ritual process, which attended to their continuous coming into being now.
The theme adopted by the group was coming into being, affirming and celebrating this each day and observing the impact of this within our ordinary life. Over the years this has become a regular and powerful way of beginning my day and also a way of affirming myself within something new I am stepping into within ordinary life. So as a tool, a skill, I might say ‘I affirm my coming into being in this world as a competent, skilful and balanced mediator and adjudicator’, then tune in and evoke higher beings with these qualities and at the same time broaden my awareness with my eyes, to beyond this world, expand out the back and sides of my head, and feel into and breath in these qualities. (Barbara Langton)
We met every two weeks. The form of the meeting was variable, but usually contained these elements, including informal discussion of any of them:
· Settling in, and attuning to each other with hand contact, toning, mind-emptying and mutual resonance.
· This increasingly led over, after an early meeting in which we gave ourselves permission to become charismatically disinhibited, into an extended phase of improvised movement and toning. This was a slow, sacred, sinuous, interactive dance, with expressive gestures of the arms and hands, which established a potent field of subtle energy and spiritual presence. It was simultaneously empowered by co-ordinated harmonies of toning, with successive waves of crescendo and diminuendo. This combination seemed to well up out of our own coming to being now and to be both an expression and a celebration of it. It appeared to me to be marked by four phenomena:
· A sense of numinous presence in our midst, as if each was open to and expressive of immanent spiritual life within each and every other, and between all.
· A participative awareness of divine powers, archetypal energies of creation.
· A participative awareness of unseen presences, refracting these powers.
· Precision of beginning and ending: both the lift off and the closure of the process were exactly timed, the qualitative shift of subtle energy being noted by all. They were not ours to command, but a matter of our co-operative openness and attunement to wider reaches of being and the movement of the spirit within.
· Each person shared their experience, over the previous three weeks, of using their way of attending to coming into being now, and the impact of this on their everyday life.
· Each person made a statement about how they intended to proceed for the next three weeks, whether using the same procedure, some modification of it, or some new procedure, or both.
· An act of closure, perhaps hand contact and silent attunement.
The experience of the coming into being inquiry that lead into the formation of the wavy group was very strong for me. I remember at the time describing it as a spiritual awakening. The fortnightly participation in the group, linked by the daily practice of presencing, the experience of coming into being at every moment, at a daily morning meditation session, and throughout the day at random moments, seemed to open up a field that held me in a state of flow in relation to the world around me and the day to day work and relating I was engaged in. I had a strong sense of being held by something greater than me, a sense of spiritual family, or a class of friends who were learning together, that was very often with me during the day and while asleep. It was a felt presence of the other people involved as a container, or field of activity.
The outcome in my life was a heightened sense of participating in an unfolding nature of being human in the world. The access into this awareness was assisted by the presence of, participation in, the field of inquiry held in place by myself and co-inquirers. (Rex McCann)
Because of its characteristic sinuous sacred dance, this group became known among its members as the wavy group. It met early one evening for the autumn equinox, in March1995, at the bottom of the grass-covered crater within the summit of One Tree Hill in the centre of Auckland. As some fifteen of us gathered, we spread far apart over the grass, deep in the crater, and stood scattered and silent for a while. Then, as if suddenly called, we moved slowly into the centre and entranced ourselves with moving and toning, until the equinoctial hour had had its expressive say.
The more formal inquiry phase, of planning and reporting back on individual practices used between group sessions, ended in April. The group continued to meet regularly throughout the southern winter and spring of 1995-6, to wave and weave together and otherwise interact.
A consistent core group continues to meet fortnightly for some personal sharing and then what for me is the rich, deep, sometimes mysterious emergence of a varying mixture of toning, waving, stomping, growling, sounding instruments, silent attunement, co-creating and speaking out of resonance with an archetypal form, subtle energies of a planet or a seeming felt sense of the divine. (Barbara Langton)
It continued on as a distinct strand, with some of the same members as, and alongside, the empowerment in everyday life inquiry in the southern summer of 1996, Chapter 18.
I particularly enjoyed the sessions where we all allowed ourselves to play with energy in a light and joyful way trying out different movements and sounds. It was as if we were tapping into a very potent energy source. During 1994-6 the energy of the group seemed to imbue the rest of my life and when I think back to it I can contact the energy now. It is timeless. (Dale Hunter)
When that ended in April 1996, it continued to meet regularly throughout the southern winter and spring of 1996, with many variations of format. For some weeks in the southern summer of 1996-7, it launched a gender inquiry in which the women met each fortnight in their own group, so too the men, and the combined groups met on the intervening weeks. The ongoing group continues to meet as I write.
This ongoing group has continued to provide a rhythm of a grounded spiritual attunement, a creative emergent unfolding from a shared felt sense of appropriate timing, and a natural elegance of form and pattern. Its Dionysian style creates an expansive space when we gather. And I feel that it works because of our shared experience with a more Appollian formal co-operative inquiry, and because each individual is committed in their own life both to emotional and to transpersonal process. The space is such that we seem free to share our personal ups and downs and life process as well as transpersonal space. And we do review our process periodically.
Another aspect that has interested me is the ability and flexibility of the group to expand and reduce in numbers without losing these special qualities. Only one year I noticed some resistance of mine, to opening up to a larger group after the smaller core group had had a close intimate time through one winter. Although perhaps losing some of the familiar intimacy, the richness of other people’s energy and sharing easily balanced this for me. So it is as though a wider group who are part of it all for some months holds a container for the smaller group who meet more consistently throughout the year.
For me its value and importance is in outwardly acknowledging and having spiritual space, sharing this with others in a way I find empowering and grounded, and maintaining a form that is open, varied, flexible, emergent from the people present, spontaneously creative, disinhibited charismatically to varying degrees, deeply nourishing, light, warm, supportive and intimate. I find that it supports and enhances my own personal meditations and rituals. (Barbara Langton)
So four or six of us have been meeting, and its a new configuration so it’s not clear yet what is emerging. We may need to redefine what we’re doing. Roberta staunchly resists anything that sounds like stultified effort or intentionality. She complained that we have evolved a predictable format: a bit of greeting chatter, a check-in round, some toning and /or movement, leading to some silent attunement. That’s true of course, but it doesn’t bother me too much, the shape of the container the juice comes in. But I know I take this business of alignment seriously, so I’m prey to all the distortions that come from over-identifying with spiritual effort. Richard thinks we are simply arguing out the tension between Apollonian and Dionysian approaches. I think appropriate effort is the central issue in all spiritual endeavours, and I know there have been times in our groups when we were functioning with an openness in which there is no distinction between spontaneity and intentionality. Where I get caught is in thinking of these states as the real goods, and subtly resisting or manipulating what is, in order to achieve what is not. I suspect that’s where Roberta smells a rat. I spent our last meeting letting go of all sense of responsibility for the experience of anyone else present, and letting go of any desire to be collectively generating any particular state of being. It’s a liberating expansion into the present. (Glenn McNicoll)
As I read it, the wavy group, in its several phases over the past four years, has been continuously inquiring, with highly flexible variations of format, into its own coming into being now. Its basic format is very Dionysian. It is more than adequate in terms of the broad sweep of its cyclic process, its total collaboration, its regular self-questioning (challenging uncritical subjectivity) and attention to emotional and interpersonal process. The inquiry is conducted in terms of a dynamic interplay between experiential knowing, presentational knowing, and practical knowing:
· The experiential knowing is of our coming into being now as persons in relation within the presence of Being and the surrounding field of interbeing.
· The presentational knowing is in symbolizing this radical knowing immediately in patterns of interactive sound and movement.
· The practical knowing, the knowing how, is twofold:
· The skill, in the expressive use of interactive sound and movement, to symbolize and participate in the process of divine creation.
· The very subtle skill in managing congruence between the three forms of knowing, so that no one of them takes off on its own alienated from the other two.
The fundamental research cycling is the continuous interplay between the three kinds of knowing. This is religious action inquiry. Conventional action inquiry involves thinking (propositional knowing) in the midst of action (practical knowing). This more basic kind entails skilled action (practical knowing) that symbolizes (presentational knowing) opening to our coming into being (experiential knowing). In this sort, the element of celebration, of ecstatic abundance, evident in skilled presentational expression is prior to, is wider and deeper than, the element of inquiry its symbolism embraces.
The research cycling becomes more complete when it is extended to include phases of conceptual reflection. There is a great deal of virtue in delaying this phase for a long while. This is partly because in our culture it is very easy for such reflection to become rapidly dissociated from its relevant experiential base, and thus to disregard, denigrate or deny it. It is also because the interplay of the other three kinds of knowing in religious action inquiry needs a substantial period of ripening and maturity before it can provide a stable foundation for reflective inquiry.
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