Healing Traumas of Power and Place

Fire-flameHealing Traumas of Power and Place

I recently received two emails that triggered some reflection in me. One was from my Ubiquity colleague Dr. Will Taegel, Dean of the Wisdom School, who carries deep indigenous knowing as well as modern scientific perspectives. The other was from an Irish woman Anne Marie who had listened to this interview I gave about my upcoming book called The Pain and the Promise.

Will wrote to us about his perspective on the US Thanksgiving celebration. Here are some of his words:

I will follow the lead of the United American Indians of New England who in 1970 reframed this holiday to include a Day of Mourning.  I will utilize Saturday as a day of fasting and mourning for the policy of extermination directed toward American Indians by the United States government.  Over 600 formal treaties were broken along the trail of tears and dashed USA integrity. To this day we harbor a terrible national  secret of systematic extermination, a denial that grinds at our innards.  Until we face this secret our nation will continue as dysfunctional.

When I read it first it resonated with me as I recognized his perspective but it didn’t move me beyond that. A couple of days later I received the mail from Anne Marie. Here is an extract:

I have pondered today about why I was so stuck with my pain and come to the possibility that it is because, with access to racial memory, I am indigenous in my Ancestral lineage back to Neolithic times, colonised and then post modern. The colonised journey in the middle annihilated the indigenous self belief and the trust in what had gone before, and even with those parts restored the interface with the post modern is terrifying. A stranger in a strange land.

I worked with Joanna Macey 13 years ago at Findhorn in a Deep time workshop. We did the Truth Circle accessing the power where the pain is and that is when I was opened to it. Joanna moved on to an evening of celebration and lifting of spirits afterwards. I and two others could not lift. We were all three, women and the other two were South American Indian and Australian part aborigine. I am Irish. 

[After listening to your interview] I feel healed just because another human being knows it too and can face the pain of the split and it’s consequences. It feels a joy now to go on and release it. Do you mind if I say thanks in Irish; Go raibh mile maith agut – just because it means there are a thousand goodnesses with you. 

Her mail touched something deep in me. As I contemplated my reaction, I began to get a sense of where it was coming from. As primarily an Englishman (I also have ⅛ Irish and ⅛ Scottish blood), I have had to deal with what it means to embrace the identity of a nation that has created much suffering for others in the past – the colonial violence overseas as well as the oppression closer to home in Scotland and Ireland. I worked through much of this with my Irish friend Gavan and during my MSc in Human Ecology in Edinburgh many years back. In that period I found my peace by identifying with those movements in England that had resisted the enclosures and disempowerment – such as the Levellers, Quakers and Diggers – and by my commitment to work for a just and sustainable world today.

So what was touching me in Anne Marie’s mail? As I probed, I found that what moved me most was her words of thanks in Irish. It felt like something systemic was being healed in me through that. That set off a thought process.

The thought that started to form was the following: could it be that peoples who damage other peoples’ relationship to their land, their collective identity and core sense of belonging also have their own foundational belonging-system repressed which in turn is what enables them to continue to undermine that of others? (This relates to the “purple” energy dynamic, for other Spiral Dynamics geeks).

You see how this relates to Will’s points now. The implications would be that the oppressor nations are so damaged in their foundational energetic of belonging, which is what provides rest and relaxation in the embrace of the Mother, that they flee into a restless ungrounded pursuit to fill a deep hole in their own sense of themselves. That pursuit involves the ruthless exploitation of the external world around them in a desperate quest to quench a thirst that ultimately can only be satisfied through a healing of their own internal collective cultural trauma, in relationship with the place which is their natural home. Anne Marie, in a follow-up mail, wrote “That is what made them so frightening, there were no natural limits to what they would or could do. They were not in their bodies and their hearts were frozen.”

I have seen this reciprocal dynamic demonstrated explicitly at individual level during one of Lynne McTaggart’s events. She had a Russian scientist with her who was able to show the energy fields of two people on screens. When one person got angry at the other you saw the anger energy leave one person and hit the other, shaking their energy bodies. At the same time you saw how the same negative effect took place in the fields of the person expressing the anger. You literally do to yourself what you do to the other.

It is the “great” nations that have built empires and repressed native peoples in the process (e.g. England-Ireland, USA-native Americans, China-Tibet) who seem to have most lost touch with nature and the basic principles of life and are fueling our collective planetary demise. These nations and peoples – and there are many more than I have mentioned – need to acknowledge our past oppressive roles, apologize, and ask what we can do to heal any pain. At the same time we need to reconnect to the land that hosts us and ask for support in our own collective healing. For by harming others at their roots we have been made rootless and restless ourselves – a numbness that has allowed us to wreak the havoc that we have on this planet that is our home. Now we need to heal our relationship to those we oppressed and to that we repressed in ourselves, to be able to navigate our uncertain future with dignity, integrity and grace.

Books that helped me on this journey: The World Turned Upside Down, by Christopher Hill; The Progressive Patriot, by Billy Bragg

From Evolution to Volution

From Evolution to Volution – the implications of cosmic geometry (cosmometry) on our understanding of life and the human story.

This is based on a paper submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for my PhD in Wisdom Studies at Wisdom University, following the course Fundamentals of Cosmometry, lead by Marshall Lefferts with guests.

The images of torus, jitterbug and vector equilibrium used with thanks to Marshall Lefferts.


The idea that we as humanity have evolved in a linear process over time is probably one of the most widely accepted ideas across the human species. There is debate between more religious fundamentalist perspectives and more scientific-rational perspectives about exactly when it all began (eg a few thousand years ago versus 14 billion years ago), but they all agree on the idea that since that beginning we have been evolving through historical time with a past, present and future. Indeed, even our most popular philosophers and spiritual teachers tend to promote an evolutionary perspective (Wilber (1996), Cohen (2011), Laszlo (1996)). In my own book (Merry 2009) I adopted and connected these various evolutionary theories.

However, over the last year or so, I have come to question this perspective, and the cosmometry retreat has strengthened my belief that there is a more adequate perspective on our human reality that better reflects the fundamental dynamics of life. This paper attempts to explore the broader perspective and apply it to our human story. Continue reading

A Question

Currently I am working on a new book that explores a key concept that Ken Wilber develops in Up from Eden around the split that took place between the Typhon and Solar Ego phases, and how when “the Great Mother is repressed, the Great Goddess is concealed” – with all the implications for our current condition and the transition we are in.

I sit with a couple of questions: what was it about the life conditions in Europe that meant that the ego went the way it did, fixating on the static mind, and separating out nature from history, rather than transcending and including? Ken suggests that this form of development needn’t be the case, that the ego could develop in ways that do transcend and include Typhon, the body, the earth etc. Why did it go the way it did over here, laying the foundation for the industrialised world as we know it?

See my post on the Pain and the Promise for more background and/or read that section of Up from Eden.

CHE NL Publishes Report into Turquoise/Holistic Value System

For the past year, we at the Dutch Center for Human Emergence’s School of Synnervation have been researching into the qualities and expressions of what in Spiral Dynamics is known as the Turquoise / Holistic value system. The impulse for this came as we reached the limits of our existing coping mechanisms and had a sense that this is what was needed next – for us and others in the world. For this project we experimented with an Integral research framework and process, which the report also describes.

We remind people that this is just the start of an inquiry, not a final proclamation of an absolute truth ;-). It’ll be interesting to see what putting this out there will generate. If the initial announcement that we were doing this in the Integral Institute LinkedIn group is anything to go by, many creative (and not-so-creative) sparks may fly! Bring it on!

Download the report of the first phase of the turquoise research project

The Pain and the Promise – Recording and Transcript of Presentation

I am currently writing a new book called The Pain and the Promise.

Here is a recording of a recent presentation with questions and reflection that I gave for the Integral Leadership Collaborative, a great initiative with a vast array of Integrally informed folks (see http://www.integralleadershipcollaborative.com). It lays out the essence of where I am at now and what the book will be about. It is 2 hrs in total. My core presentation goes for c 35 mins from c 10 mins in. The questions and discussion also proved very rich.

Listen to The Pain and the Promise audio

Download The Pain and the Promise transcript

Pre-Ego, Trans-Ego and the Archetypal

Here is a paper I wrote following the great teleseries that Wisdom Univeristy put on with Stan and Christine Grof, and their colleagues.

Pre-Ego, Trans-Ego and the Archetypal


The key insights that I gained from reading Stan Grof’s work and following the teleseries resonated strongly with a theme I am exploring at the moment. It seems to me that the power of the work is that it is working in the non-egoic realms. Part of it is in the pre-ego (the peri-natal and birth work) and part is in the trans-ego (transpersonal). When those two are combined they serve to create energetic conditions for healing in the physical, emotional and rational realms.

A Hypothesis on Where Grof’s Work Resides

When I use the term “ego” I use it to mean one’s sense of separate self. There is a moment in our development when we become aware of ourselves as being distinct from our environment, and the egoic sense of unique self emerges. The ego goes through a process of formation and we then transcend the ego to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole. This graphic best describes how I see the work of Stan Grof and colleagues and is one I will refer to throughout this piece.

This image comes from the work of Dylan Newcomb[i], and builds on some research that we did together. The vertical sequence of colours, reflected in the shaded semi-circles, represents the value systems as described in the evolutionary model of bio-psycho-social systems known as Spiral Dynamics[ii]. The first column to the left describes the nature of each of the eight value systems, but it is the column to the left of that that I want to draw our attention to. Continue reading

London Calling by Edwin Holwerda – on the riots and initiation rites

London Calling!

[Download pdf here:  London Calling! – Edwin Holwerda]

I am watching TV and what I look at hits me in the depths of my soul. What is happening in the world? I wonder. And how did it come to be that we get to see those kind of images broadcasted from a civilized country like England? From Croydon to Hackney, from Tottenham to Clapham, everywhere there are groups of people – especially men – on a looting rampage. Shops are being attacked and plundered. Windows are smashed. Buildings are on fire. Large parts of the city are ablaze. Respect for the police is minimal. Officers are challenged and provoked. It seems that the rioters persist in confronting the law.

This is London today. And it’s as if I am watching a Hollywood disaster movie. I seem to await the resurrection of the hero, as so often happens in these movies. A Brad Pitt-, Harrison Ford- or Denzel Washington-kind of character who, if all hopes are lost, gets up from his apparent death and does what needs to be done. Someone who calls people to order, respectfully appeals to their sense of responsibility, encourages them to share the task at hand and, in the end, ensures that the Kingdom is miraculously restored. But the hero does not show up, nor is he like a phoenix that emerges from its ashes. There are plenty of ashes on TV, but no hero, and I realize it’s just the BBC news that I am watching. To me, it’s all bizarre, frightening and very disturbing. Continue reading

Leadership in the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands

A recording of a short interview with Jasper Rienstra, the CHE’s Organisational Learning Officer, about how Peter sees his own leadership in the CHE. It came before a leadership scan feedback session. (Note that an understanding of the Spiral Dynamics colour codes is needed to understand much of this conversation.)

Download here.

SDi EuroConfab 2008

Hi there – in case you haven’t heard, the annual gathering in Europe of practitioners of Spiral Dynamics Integral is happening at the end of this month. We would love to have as many people as possible from around the world. See below for info and come to the Netherlands, where shift happens!

EuroConFab 2008 Newsflash 01

From Friday afternoon October 31th until Sunday morning November 2nd the Center for Human Emergence (CHE) organizes the third international conference on: The practice of Spiral Dynamics Integral

You can register for the EuroConFab 2008 on-line. The registration form can be found on: www.spiraldynamicsintegral.nl

EuroConFab 2008 – the basics

The purpose is to create an internationally shared field of best practices of emergence and evolutionary change.

We start on Friday October 31st at 12.30hrs. The closure of the program is on Sunday November 2nd after lunch around 14.00hrs.

Early Bird price, book before 30 September: 395 Euro (19%VAT not included), after this date: 495 Euro (19%VAT not included). This includes conference fee, meals and accommodation (in single rooms) at conference centre Zonheuvel, in Doorn: www.hotelzonheuvel.eu .

A preview of some sessions

Every newsflash we will give you a preview of some sessions. This time more information on the contributions of Don Beck and Kees Hogendijk, and the latest affirmations for sessions we received.

Dr Don Beck on Large Scale Psychology

Dr. Don Beck will focus on a new branch of psychology that he as co-created called “Large-Scale Psychology.” It will describe the change and transformational processes in cities, cultures, movements, states, and entire nations/countries. Not only will it reflect an understanding of Spiral Dynamics, but will also introduce the Assimilation-Contrast Effect from the theory building by Muzafer Sherif around the theme of Social Judgment. He will identify the Conditions for Large Scale change and how it is now possible to craft, through the principles and processes of Natural Design, the multiple goals of a sustainable society, one that has developed the skills of resilience, and is aware of the many aspects of emergence at the DNA core of decision-making and competency layers within leadership. Case studies will include, the United States, the Netherlands, Palestine-Israel, South Africa, and now Mexico. See how theory and practice can inform each other as we develop greater complexity to deal with our problems and challenges of existence.

Kees Hoogendijk on Energy

Kees is an entrepreneur (with a background in Chemical Engineering), who went on a search (in the year 2000) for the essence of energy: energy in people, energy in organisations, energy in societies, energy as a source for peace and energy as a sustainable source for local (distributed) electricity production. A source of energy for everyone and owned by everyone. A source of energy which transcends the notion of scarcity and creates the integral experience of abundance and peace from within. This passionate journey lead him to the deep knowledge of many ancient cultures. His sources of inspiration were those who had made this journey before and published about it: Newton, Tesla, Buckminster Fuller, Schwaller de Lubicz, Steiner, Bailey, Blavatski, Teilhard de Chardin, Walter Russel, the great quantum physicists and some important alchemists. Kees reports about the challenge to translate universal ancient principles into practical solutions. This lead to a wealth of insights and experiences, some simple energy principles and practical lessons of what works and what doesn’t on the path to manifesting new energy technologies. When energy is shared freely, a truly important condition is fulfilled to make a contribution to a better world with unlimited opportunities for every human being. When there is energy, there is water, food, health and the opportunity to experience personal growth.

Peter Merry on the Hague Center for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence, and the latest that is emerging on the world stage.

Latest confirmations for sessions:

Bjarni Snæbjörn Jónsson from Iceland will present the results of the second society values scan in Iceland.

Christopher Cooke wil not only share his experiences with SDi in Healthcare projects, he also shares the next developments in PeopleSCAN. Great!

Jeroen Maes will share his experience with one of the first cases of implementing holacracy in Europe.

And more to come …

Call for contributions

This is a conference for practitioners by practitioners. So we invite you to put forward your experiences, quests and questions and exchange, share and co-create them with the other participants. If you wish to share your daily practice during a session, we invite you to send us a short description of your subject as soon as possible and no later than October 10th. You can do that by sending an e-mail to euroconfab@humanemergence.nl.


We notice an increasing number questions that people ask us. We try to answer every question with care. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Q: Do I have to be SDI 1 certified to attend?
A: No, that is not necessary. We do use Spiral Dynamics Integral as a language during the conference and require that you understand this. So if you have not followed a course in this material we ask you to attend the introduction workshop prior to the conference. Friday morning, 9 to 13:00 at the Zonheuvel, cost 75 euro.

Q: I can only be at a part of the conference, is it still possible to attend?
A: The basic idea of the conference is that it it’s a two days event. The evenings are part of the program and contribute to building an international community of best practitioners. But yes, it is possible to attend a part of the program. However you will miss some very interesting best practices.

Q: I have the possibilty to stay overnight at home or somewhere else. Do I have to stay overnight in Huize Bergen?
A: No, you don’t have to stay overnight in Huize Bergen. However it is included with the participation fee.

Q: What is the business model of financial objective behind the euroconfab?
A: We try to keep the costs to a minimum, don’t work with a profit objective and can barely give discounts. If you would like, we will send you our budget. Let us know on: euroconfab@humanemergence.nl.

Q: Talking about the participation fee, is it possible to get a discount when I don’t stay overnight or attend only one day?
A: People can come for one day but we decided not to offer discounts for this. We see the EuroConfab as a group process and want to encourage everyone to join the whole of it. We want to become a community for two days. We do not want to encourage people to do (get or give ) their thing, be a presenter/consumer of a specific part and then leave. We would love the dynamic of a conference for the people by the people, so there is an interchange. Also: as it is an international conference, most people will join the lot.

Q: Can I get a discount when I participate as facilitator of a session?
A: No, we work with the principle that we all have to contribute equally, also in financial aspect. Even the organizing committee of the conference doesn’t get a discount on their participation fee.

Q: What is the difference with “Klaar Om Te Wenden”?
A: The ConFab is a community of practice. There will be more interaction, we work with smaller groups and there will be more in depth conversations about practices, experiences and questions

Q: I am not able to participate in this EuroConFab, what now?
A: This is the third EuroConFab (and we are a bit proud of that). We are full of confidence that this has proven to be an event that is returning each year. Stay informed through http://www.humanemergence.org

See you on October 31st!

Kindest regards from the EuroConFab-team 2008:

Auke van Nimwegen, Midas Buddemeijer, Jasper Rienstra en Anne-Marie Voorhoeve