From Right Mindfulness to Collective Intelligence to Collective Sentience

Abstracts of paper invited to Spanda Journal’s special issue on Collective Intelligence

 

Without an ethical foundation grounded in the common good and an integral, evolutionary worldview, the currently trending mindfulness practices and trainings risk to reduce a radical, ancient wisdom tradition of self-knowledge and self-transformation to a self-help technique or psychological state readily co-optable by the defenders of the institutional status quo.

“Mindfulness is not merely a compartmentalized tool for enhancing attention but is informed and influenced by many other factors—our view of reality; the nature of our thoughts, speech, and actions; our way of making a living; and our effort in avoiding unwholesome and unskillful states while developing those that are skillful and conducive to health and harmony.”[1]

Ethically grounded collective intelligence (CI) is built on right mindfulness. In this essay, we’ll use both the functional and evolutionary definition of CI.

That term “collective sentience” needs a bit more explanation. It’s neither the swarm intelligence of the murmuring starlings or the coordinated behavior of other social animals, nor the romantic notion of all humans getting enlightened at once. The collective sentience of a social organism, at any scale, implies the capacity to care for and foster the well-being of its parts and the whole, as well as of its larger, encompassing whole.

The aspiration to achieve collective sentience in small and large groups is an integral part of an evolutionary ethos, but given the dominance of today’s individualist culture, its realization is only one of the possible futures. In this essay, we intend to contribute to understanding the conditions for such realization, by noticing, observing and interpreting the signposts in the social field pointing to it.

[1] Purser, R. E.  & Milillo, J. (2014) Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization. Journal of Management Inquiry, May 2014

 

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