“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul” Hermes Trismegitus
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the PhD in Wisdom Studies at Ubiquity University’s Wisdom School as part of the course Neuroscience in a Hypercomplex World: Principles and Practice with Jim Hickman, Dr Will Taegel and guests
This course and my own experience during the period of this course brought me to a thesis that I will expand on in this paper. The thesis is that as we shift our interior experience and patterns, so the world around us changes. On top of that, the reverse is true – as we create change in the information fields of the world around us, so that is reflected in changes in our interior experience and nervous system. This is why I have chosen to connect neuroscience and eco-fields, and why I selected Hermes’ “as within, so without” quote as the subtitle. The two main faculty members of the course also reflect these two aspects – Jim Hickman on neuroscience and Will Taegel on eco-fields. If this thesis proves to be true (and there is a lot more work needed to develop it) then it will give us a way to navigate hypercomplexity grounded ultimately in our own choices about how we relate to ourselves, each other and the world around us.
For me, this was a key issue in the course. As was pointed out numerous times by Hickman and Krippner, there is now significant scientific evidence that demonstrates that human beings can alter our own nervous system. This can be achieved through practices of inner awareness and consciously-directed intention. Hickman referred to Hawking’s term “model-dependent realism” which describes how the models in our brains shape our experience of reality. These models can both limit us to our existing patterns and ways of experiencing the world around us, and be re-scripted as we take more conscious responsibility for how we experience and therefore engage and contribute to that world.
Hickman referenced research showing how spiritual and religious practices can positively impact our brain and nervous system. He also noted how many of the patterns that deeply influence our interaction with life are rooted in layers of the brain that developed early on, before the emergence of the cognitive and self-reflective layers and abilities. This implies that we cannot access those layers purely through the cognitive mind, but need to address them through more emotional and somatic interventions. This has been demonstrated for example by the comprehensive work of Stanislav Grof with his holotropic breathwork practices and research (Grof 2012).
During the period of this course, I was processing some traumas from my childhood that had risen to the surface at that time. On the one hand, I was working with a therapist who was helping me become more aware of some of the dynamics going on, enabling me to name them and see them, bringing the light of my awareness into some of the darker shadows, converting those patterns from “subject” (where they are so much part of me that I can’t see them) to “object” where I can consciously choose whether to associate with them or not. On the other hand, I was taking these traumas and the implications into a breathing practice that I have been doing for a number of years, and that has always proven powerful in transforming limiting beliefs and patterns that no longer serve me (the practice is called Quantum Light Breath, developed by Jeru Kabbal – see also Kabbal (2006)). It is this breathing practice that I would like to focus on for a moment.
As stated above, neuroscience shows us how foundational patterns in how we engage the world are located in pre-cognitive layers of our brain. To access and transform them, we need to engage in practices that are more somatic. This has been my experience with the breathing practice. The process lasts normally about an hour. The basic instruction is to develop a deep breathing that fills both the lower and upper lungs fully, and then release it. You start slowly, getting used to the full breathing, then increase the pace, then go through a few minutes of breathing as fully and fast as possible, then relax the breath again and slow it down as you come to the end – always maintaining the full breath. Biologically what you are doing is pumping more oxygen into your system than it is used to, more than it needs for normal operation, providing an excess to feed other processes that you can direct with your intention. The breathing process is accompanied by instructions from Kabbal. In essence, he continually brings your awareness back to the breath, allowing other thoughts and emotions to be there, but not directing your attention to them. At the outset, he asks you identify the issue (belief, emotion, quality) you want to transform, and imagine it written on a sticky label and stuck on your body at the place of your choosing. After the first warm-up period of about 20 minutes, he then reminds you of the issue that you identified at the beginning and invites any early memories to come to the surface that may be related to that issue. At the same time he asks you to increase the pace of your breathing, culminating in an intense few minutes of maximum speed (whist maintaining the fullness of the breath).
At the end of the intense period, he slows the breath down again and invites you to see the sticker with your issue on it come loose from your body, fall off your body, shrink and disappear (I visualise it disappearing down my grounding cord to the center of the Earth). After that the instructions focus on allowing the light and love in, connecting to your heart, to the center of your joy, and to remembering who you truly are.
This process has always been a powerful experience for me (I do it weekly). It is a very physical and emotional experience. I usually shout at some points, sometimes with anger and frustration, sometimes with joy, sometimes in defiance. In these sessions I have sobbed like never before and laughed hysterically (it’s important no-one else is going to be disturbed by you and that you will be not be disturbed by anyone else…). My body always responds physically, with energy flowing to different parts of my body, with me often kicking or stamping my feet, and banging my fists on the floor (I do it lying down). Sometimes clear memories arise of moments from earlier in my life, other times I just get raw emotion and energy in my body. Letting go of the sticky label is without exception a massive release that brings relief, joy and love flooding into my system. I usually come out of these processes feeling completely different to when I started an hour earlier – grounded, with extreme clarity and in authentic compassionate relationship with those around me. In my journal on June 4th , following my breathing practice, I wrote:
In QLB today I took in the feeling of being disconnected and isolated – from primarily the feelings in myself and in others, but also the simple feeling of being alone as I had at school. Again, tears and sobbing at the release. Ultimate insight was that it was all about love – love is connection. Accepting the love for myself, my partner, the kids, the earth and all life.
I share the example of the breathing practice as for me it backs up the claims of self-directed neuroplasticity. There is no doubt in my mind, from my direct experience, that I can shift limiting patterns and beliefs in my system that would otherwise have remained hidden to me, and both experience and co-create a different world around me as a result.
I also share this because the very physical experience that I have in this breathing process also occurs, though with less force, when I am working energetically with a system “outside of” myself – such as an organization or relationship. In the next section I will explore my experience of interacting energetically with “eco-fields” and the correlation with our neuroplasticity.
In Merry (2012), I wrote:
In Wild Heart, Dr Taegel (2010) describes what he calls an eco-field:
I define an eco-field as that region of influence which underlies a given ecology, a specific locale. The various eco-fields emerge out of a more profound field, itself emergent from the Primordial Mind. Within the specific environment energy, exchanges occur in such a manner as to encourage the resilience and evolution of the intertwined parts making up the greater whole. (p. 10)
Hans Andeweg (2009, 2011) describes natural systems in a similar way, and then goes one step further to extend the concept of an eco-field to other entities such as organisations and projects. In her work on co-creative science, Machaella Small Wright (1997) also expanded her work with energy in gardens to apply the same principles and practices to what she calls “soil-less gardens”. It is my belief that anything with a name and a boundary has an energetic field in which “exchanges occur in such a manner as to encourage the resilience and evolution of the intertwined parts making up the greater whole”, as Taegel describes. Even with a more abstract project that has no specific permanent physical and geographic location, such as Wisdom University, all different levels of energetic entity are participating, such as angels, devas and nature spirits (Andeweg 2011, Small Wright 1997).
Since writing that paper, I have continued my energetic work with organizations and systems, and with Ubiquity University in particular, applying both the practices I learned with Andeweg in the ECOtherapy training along with the self-taught Perelandra work. One of the things that I have started to notice and be curious about more recently is how my body reacts when I am carrying out an energetic intervention. I will take the Perelandra work as an example.
In the Perelandra co-creative process, you set up a “coning” with different energetic entities – the deva of the project you are working on, Pan and the nature spirits, the angelic realm and your own higher Self (Small Wright 1997). Every so often, in my case usually weekly, you call a meeting in the coning with your energetic partners, give an update on recent developments, frame your goals for the coming period, and ask if there is any intervention needed to help the system to achieve those goals. There is a list of possible interventions that you dowse for relevance. Once you have identified what needs doing, you then carry out the intervention. It usually includes the use of some kind of essence, which is liquid imprinted with information. You then administer a certain number of drops of the essence by putting them on a spoon and asking the essence of the drops to be shifted to the project – during which the information contained in the essence is transferred to the energetic architecture of the project (see Merry 2012 Cosmometry for more on energetic architectures). It takes about ten seconds. It is during this ten-second process, when the information is apparently being transferred from the essence of the liquid in the spoon to the energetic field of the organization, that I get a physical reaction. My body always responds in some way, most often with movement in the skin around my scalp, and with a sense of high voltage interactions going on in my brain – literally as if it is being rewired. My spine normally also tenses in different ways. After a while my body relaxes again, which I take as being a sign that the information transfer has been completed. The question of course which arises for me, is why should my body physically be responding like that when I am transferring one thing from outside of me to something else outside of me? If we following the hermetic statement “as within, so without” and many other teachings that emphasize how our inner worlds and outer worlds are reflections of each other, then it is not so surprising. The implication is that the informational and energetic changes that my intervention is creating in the systems I am working with is being reflected within my own body and nervous system.
This statement may be easy to accept conceptually, but when I actually experience it and contemplate that experience, it really does challenge the way I and most people assume the world works (through cause and effect interactions of separate parts). For me, although I have not done enough research to scientifically validate this thesis, it points to a realisation that the informational changes I make in the world I perceive around me are mirrored in informational changes within my own system. This is where neuroscience and eco-field science start to engage each other. Dr. Taegel, in the early stages of the course, pointed to the way the human brain and the Earth’s system mirrored each other. He also described how microtubules in our cells link us to informational fields in the world around us. All of this points to a growing realisation of the unity of interior and exterior that Hermes pointed to all those years ago.
As Within, So Without
I noticed when I came back from my therapist the other day and was completely connected with my caring loving energy, how immediately the world around me responded. Marcella [my wife] was caring and relaxed, as were the boys. It really is true that our inner state is reflected in the world around us. I felt it even in the moment as more recently I shifted my energy as we interacted and Marcella’s energy changed with me. (Journal entry, June 4 2015)
My experiential learning in this domain of inner and outer interconnectedness and mutual plasticity has been mostly in the field of the relationships closest to me, namely those with my wife and my three sons. The journal entry above describes an experience I had that significantly helped to embed this perspective in my view of the world. I suddenly became acutely aware of literally how the world around me responded as I shifted my inner state. It wasn’t a cause-effect type of experience, as there was no lag time. It was literally changing at the same time, as if it was one thing. There was a moment of deep shock as I saw myself shifting my irritation into care and in the same moment my wife literally become a different person right before my eyes; from an expression of stress and repressed anger to openness and connection. Since then I have practiced it in different contexts, and my experience bears it out each time. On our fridge, we now have a quote from Wayne Dyer: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”.
This kind of informational and energetic interaction seems to be taking place in a dimension of reality that is nonlinear, as the shifts happen instantaneously. Krippner described dreams as being in a similar dimension and related it to chaos theory. There are many indications that would point to the neuroscience – eco-field interactions being related more to the science of quantum physics than the science of relativity (Currivan 2005), but much more work needs to be done to ground this thesis in research. What we can assume based on twenty-eight years of research at Princeton University’s engineering department (Jahn & Dunne 2005) is that human intention impacts on what would otherwise be random events in the material world – and that these interactions can happen outside of the linear parameters of time and space. The details of how and why this happens are still being worked out (e.g. Currivan 2015) but the fact that neuroplasticity and impacting the informational eco-fields in the world we experience around us are interconnected, is moving beyond doubt – from a Princetonian scientific perspective to my own personal experience.
The implications of this for us all, but in particular for people who are in roles of responsibility (who I call “stewards” of a system), are significant. Essentially what it implies is that our inner state will be reflected in the world around us and the systems that we steward (be they families, communities or organizations), and vice-versa. In this context, I came up with a set of guidelines for stewards that would help maintain coherence in our inner worlds and in the systems that we steward – initially for myself but then also to make available to others. I call them Principles and Practices of Resonant Leadership and Energetic Stewardship, and they are inspired by the work of Hans Andeweg (Andeweg 2009, 2011). (See also other blog post with these principles and images.)
Know the boundaries of your leadership.
Know who and what are you accountable for.
Be in authentic relationship with those you are accountable to.
Be in touch with the stillness in yourself.
From this place you can interact with the energy field of the system you lead.
Pay attention to all parts of the system you lead. Your attention directs the life force.
Feel through your heart what is alive in people and other parts of the system.
Hold it all in the understanding light of your compassion.
Be clear on your intentions, pay regular attention to them and visualize their realization
Be actively interested in the content of what is being worked on by people
Work with the natural rhythms of time.
Go when it flows and stop when it blocks.
Pay attention to what wants to happen now and take the next natural step. That’s all.
Always be aware that you are being hosted by a physical place on the Earth.
Greet each place, ask what it needs and treat with respect.
Be curious about pain that is held from the past. Bring it into the light. Explore what it has to teach for the present. And release.
Enjoy the playfulness of each moment.
Amusement and fondness keep energy moving.
These are the principles that I attempt to practice in my leadership work. It is a practice that currently best reflects my understanding of a world of mutual neuro- and eco-plasticity, and that helps me to find some simplicity on the other side of the hypercomplexity – a small beginning to integrating the huge implications of the subject-matter of this course and paper.
Andeweg, H (2009). In Resonance with Nature. Edinburgh, Floris Books
Andeweg, H (2011). Scheppend Leven. Cothen, Juwelenschip
Currivan, J (2005). The Wave. O Books
Currivan, J (2015). The Cosmic Hologram. Draft manuscript.
Grof, S (2012). Healing our Deepest Wounds. Washington, Stream of Experience Productions
Jahn, B & Dunne B (2005). The Pear Proposition [DVD/CD]. Oakland: StripMindMedia
Kabbal, J (2006). Finding Clarity. Berkeley, North Atlantic Books
Merry, P (2012). From Evolution-Involution to Volution. Post-paper for Wisdom University Cosmometry teleseries
Merry, P (2012). Sacred Leadership – Resilient Community. Post-paper for Wisdom University Sacred Leadership 2012 course
Roney-Dougal, S (2010). Where Science and Magic Meet. Green Magic Publishing
Talbot, M (1991). The Holographic Universe. London, HarperCollins Publishers
The Three Initiates (2006). The Kybalion. UK, Filiquarian Publishing, LLC