In the Spring/Summer issue of â€œWhat Is Enlightenment?â€ magazine, thereâ€™s a remarkable exchange between spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen and integral philosopher Ken Wilber, that touches the very heart of and upgrades my concerns for collective intelligence and wisdom.
My first concern was a moral one. Seeing so much unnecessary, man-made suffering in the world, I thought there must be a better way; all we needed is an enlightened society driven by the high ideals of one for all and all for one. Later, as a young and radical sociologist, Iâ€™ve been studying laws that govern the social dimension of our existence, hoping to get a clue of how to bring an enlightened society about, and how I can add my talents to trends pointing that way.
In my thirties, when I became a meditator, the context shifted again, each shift encompassing and transcending the previous context. The new, higher concern became the â€œreaching of irreversible loving-kindnessâ€ as my best bet to contribute to social enlightenment, in a way that has a chance to make a positive difference.
In the late 80â€™s, I met David Bohm, in a small group that gathered in San Francisco, in the house of Sidney Lanier, to learn from this pioneering physicist, philosopher, and teacher of true dialogue. After the meeting I started reading more of his writings, and to my delight, I discovered a paragraph that became a new focalizer of my quest thatâ€™s still what drives my work and being. (At least, in my best days, 🙂 Here it is:
“I’m proposing that we need to learn how to dialogue with each other because of all the fragmentation in the world. It seems to me the only way we can overcome that is by experiencing our wholeness together. We need a kind of social enlightenment to help that take place. In the past, people have developed ways to foster individual enlightenment, a higher intelligence for the individual through meditation or mystical insight or what-have-you. But we haven’t worked on ways to develop a higher social intelligence.”
So, the key to the future is to learn â€œexperiencing our wholeness together.â€ How can we do that? It can be learned, obviously, only in experience but not any kind of experience.
Holding that question in my attention, I discovered another piece of the puzzle: “This is something that is a permanent cessation of these emotional negative thoughts. So that is my private nirvana. What we really need is a nirvana for society.” — The Dalai Lama
Learning from those wise teachers, and others not mentioned here, whetted my appetite for growing capacity to experience it in the company of others. Then, I became lucky and got a â€œbig mealâ€ of experiencing our wholeness together, when it occurred spontaneously, around the dining table in Les Courmettes, a French retreat center just North of Nice, August 2002.
It happened in a 2-week retreat with Andrew Cohen, and 200 of its students. Looking back what happened, Iâ€™m not sure whether I can really call it â€œspontaneous,â€ given that we received ample guidance from Andrew that helped us refraining from ordinary chit-chat at meal times. Whatever happened, itâ€™s interesting to see how it kept gaining more depth and meaning as I was reading the transcript of Andrewâ€™s conversation with Ken Wilber. All quotes below are from the Spring/Summer issue of â€œWhat Is Enlightenment?â€ magazine.
Andrew Cohen: [T]his next step that weâ€™re speaking about points beyond individual enlightenment. It points way beyond the personal domain of the individual, to the emergence of some kind of collective or intersubjective higher mind. I am talking about a kind of emergence that would release an awakened consciousness whose source of power comes directly and miraculously from the merging of minds beyond individual and collective ego.
[T]he concept of enlightenment itself, up until very recently, has generally been very much about an individual journey. But this cult of individuality, I feel, what we may all be called to transcend for the sake of the emergence of our own higher potential. … In terms of the evolution of consciousness, it seems to me that a higher level of development does point towards the emergence of a capacity of mind that literally transcends individuality.
Ken Wilber: [O]n the one hand, itâ€™s true that higher stages involve a sort of intensification of intersubjective consciousness. But on the other hand, paradoxically, the people experiencing that also become more autonomous. …
So itâ€™s not that autonomy is decreasing and intersubjectivity is increasing. I think they both just become much more vibrant, much more noticeable. And in that sense, intersubjectivity does stand out in a way that it doesnâ€™t at earlier stages. …
AC: And if this greater autonomy beyond ego begins to manifest in a number of individuals simultaneously, then the liberated mind of enlightenment itself automatically emerges through an awakened intersubjective context in a way that simply would not be possible through a single individual. …
KW: Another way to put this is that, as you well know, what happens when youâ€™re getting into these more evolved spiritual states, the One Self, becomes more and more obvious in others. So you can be sitting there looking at another person, and all of a sudden you experience an intimate oneness with their interior. And simultaneously theyâ€™re looking back at you, experiencing an intimate oneness with your interior because youâ€™re both resonating to the only Self there is in the entire universe. So intersubjectivity, so to speak, becomes a kind of harmonic resonance that just jumps out. …
AC: Itâ€™s a world or state of consciousness beyond ego, where together, as one, we can begin to consciously participate in the evolution of consciousness itself.
News about Andrew’s next retreat in Les Courmettes, August 16-27, 2003, are here.