Opening Space for the Evolution of Human Consciousness

Harrison Owen hhowen at
Mon Sep 17 05:14:06 PDT 2007

In the early 80's a number of books appeared announcing the dawning of a new
age. Marilyn Ferguson brought us the "Aquarian Conspiracy", John Nesbit
contributed "Megatrends", and in a slightly different mode, Peters and
Waterman offered, "In Search of Excellence." In what seemed like an
incredibly short time, "new age" had been capitalized, and we had the
phenomenon of New Age music, life styles, organizations and the like. It was
in this same period that I and some friends connected the words
"organization" and "transformation" to produce Organization Transformation
which contrasted with Organization Development. The later to be understood
as the linear, orderly, manageable, and controllable progression of
organizational life towards some better way to be - productive, efficient
and profitable. Organization Transformation was a very different critter
which saw the process to be one of radical leaps, jumps and state changes.
Some of our group thought you could actually induce the process and
effectively transform organizations. My self, I wasn't too sure. In fact it
seemed to me that transformation happened pretty much all by itself in a
quite unpredictable and uncontrollable fashion. The best one could do was to
learn to ride the waves of change and possibly come out to some whole and
healthy conclusion - which remained until the next set of waves rolled
through. Not incidentally, Open Space Technology emerged from the bottom of
two martinis in the same time frame. 


Now almost 30 years later is has become apparent that something of
remarkable power and importance has emerged from the depths of human
consciousness. Bob Dylan had it quite right - "The times, they are
a-changing!" But I think it fair to say that what has emerged coincides only
in part with the euphoric expectations of the "New Agers."  It is quite true
that the global awareness of the connectedness of all of life, including
human life, has radically increased, but the vision of flower children
holding hands across a peaceful planet didn't quite come about. There are
those who contemplate what has transpired with a cynical, even anguished eye
- quite sure that everything is going to disappear in a destructive
maelstrom. That could happen, of course. However I find myself in a rather
different place.


What has happened, or more accurately, what is happening - I think - could
be called Paradigm Shift or in terms I would prefer, a fundamental shift in
human consciousness. By whatever name, the net result is a fundamental
change in the way people understand themselves. Not very long ago, the basic
understanding (at least in the West) was that we were rational beings
capable of shaping our world in accord with the individual desires and
plans. Not everybody could do this, of course, but those who could were
called The Leaders, and the presumption was that They (capital T) ran the
world. Everybody else just had to get in line, and join the program. The
shift, I think, is that it is becoming clear that we are all closely (even
inseparably) interconnected not only with each other but with the planet and
indeed the whole cosmos. Further - that web of connection is so complex,
fast changing, to say nothing of chaotic that rational plans which look fine
on paper turn out rather differently. Of course there is more, and if you
are seriously interested in what I think that "more" might look like you
might take a look at my B-K book, "The Power of Spirit" - or for an earlier
version, take a look at "Spirit: Transformation and Development in


At some level all of this looks rather like the New Age vision. We are all
globally connected and all of us have the potential and opportunity to lead.
But what the New Agers missed, or chose not to look at, is what I might call
the Darkside of Paradigm Shift. Thomas Kuhn, who originated the notion of
shifting paradigms was very clear that at the point of shifting there is
inevitably a mass of chaos, confusion and conflict. Just comes with the
territory.  I think it fair to say that we have all of that in abundance.
And in the presence of the Triple C's people understandably become
disoriented and fearful - which will often lead to retrogression and extreme
fundamentalism. When the ground shifts you hold onto whatever you can grab!
Sound familiar?


So now what? Those who think they can find a fix using the same tools and
approaches that got us into the fix are going to be disappointed. The idea
that we can rationally plan and control our way to safe ground is absurd.
But that is not the end of the story. There is a deep wisdom in crowds, and
if we who have been wandering about in Open Space for 20 years have learned
anything it is that that wisdom can be accessed, given the time/space to do


So what to do now? Could be - Open Space anywhere, anyhow, about anything
with anybody. Substantive goals may be achieved, but at a deeper level we
may just provide the grease to smooth the way of a shifting paradigm. Or



Idle thoughts on a gorgeous chilly morning in Maine.



To subscribe, unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at

To learn about OpenSpaceEmailLists and OSLIST FAQs:
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the OSList mailing list