Opening Space for the Evolution of Human Consciousness

Pankaj Bhargava pankaj at
Mon Sep 17 05:56:35 PDT 2007

That's well written Harrison. The fundamental shifts that you speak about are a natural phenomena. As human experiences go from one to the other the need to fill what is missing leads to new ways of being. And we have seen these shifts. Pre-industrial age created the need to move away form the agrarian community based living to far more automated way of working. That created a greater sense of individualism.
  As this age of individualism has progressed, man has perhaps felt the loss of connectedness. The industrial age has lead to an alienation with "nature" - people and environment. Hence the new wave of leveraging the collective as a whole. In this context, technologies such as open space are bound to flourish far more than they ever have since they invoke the fundamental nature of collective - people, economy & environment. It is something whose time has come.
  So, one is not surprised at the discoveries that I keep reading on this mail exchange. Recently, have been reading Cowan's book on Spiral Dynamics that captures the shift in "memes". Resonates with what you are talking about.

Harrison Owen <hhowen at> wrote:
        st1\:*{behavior:url(#default#ieooui) }                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 Organizations.”
  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. 
  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 something.
  Idle thoughts on a gorgeous chilly morning in Maine.

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