Synchronicity, Serendipity, Epiphany & Apophenia

I started my March 30 post with the familiar ironic trope, “just a coincidence…”

There, the reader could believe that I think it is more than a coincidence, while not needing to take a position herself. Now I want to address some of the embedded issues more directly. And have some word-play.

In my early March posts I maintained that going into my fear was important for me to do. I suggested it might be important for some (but not all) of you to do that as well. I claimed a good bath in one’s fear would likely lead to more freedom and flexibility afterwards. I said

Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

But my ironic use of the word “coincidence” suggests that I believe if we are willing to enter the darkness of our un-admitted fears, something bigger than just personal empowerment might be accessed.

Others might say my discovery of Stephen Jenkinson’s OrphanWisdom website was “serendipitous.” “Serendipity” means “a fortunate set of circumstances. An unplanned-for lucky event.” We’re talking “chance” here, “coincidence.” Good luck, without any greater significance than that.

Where others might say “Serendipitous,” I’ll say “an example of synchronicity.”
Speaking of the inventor of the word, Wikipedia says

Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order…

I, too, am transfixed by this idea. It is the foundation of this website, and I press this idea upon you, my readers, as we face The Great Disruption that Paul Gilding sees ahead.

A deeper order…

Yes! Traditional cultures the world over have recognized this. Unfortunately, Industrial Civilization has lost track of this aspect of reality. My message is that, as we enter fully into the Great Disruption, we can look to the deeper order for guidance. Meditation, Experiment with Light, the I Ching, Quaker meetings for worship, these are ways I have found to be in touch with, and receive guidance from, a deeper order of things. I know many people who have found other ways, as well. Flammarion captionThe experience of “epiphany” is well documented. Suddenly an ongoing mystery or confusion is illuminated and one’s understanding is enlarged. “Was blind but now I see…” I believe we can expect and rely on this guidance.*

We need to talk about this.
If there is a deeper order
–call it “God’s will,” whatever– then surely we need to attend to it as we remake our culture.

But is this idea of a deeper order a wishful fantasy? Can we only hope for serendipity but not trust in synchronicity? Skeptics, those who see randomness in evolution and in all aspects of human life, say the experience of meaningful connection is a trick of the human imagination. Where I say “epiphany,” they say “apophenia,” the experience of meaningful connection where none exists.

I want to take this argument seriously, rather than dismissing it. I think they have a point. I personally have put myself in a frame of mind where I could see faces and figures in the shapes of clouds. And I have pointed them out to friends who could see what I was referring to. I personally have had encounters with paranoia, especially in others, where Fred (say) felt a haunting sense danger, saw evil intent in every whispered remark. Fred has a clear experience of meaning. It is obvious to me that much of Fred’s experience is not related to any reality he and I share. OK, in my life, I have a clear experience of meaning. How can I trust my sense any more than I trust Fred’s? And to make it murkier, there are many examples of a gray area of artistic genius and mental instability.

* The suicide cult phenomenon
* groups with such a strong sense of shared meaning that they gather at a specified time to await the rapture
* beliefs that cataclysmic events would occur around 21 December 2012

How can I dismiss these examples of our apophenia and still take seriously “guidance” that comes to me or others?
If I believe in an invisible world underlying the material world, and
I believe it is possible to receive guidance from invisible influences,
how do I think we can distinguish between these numinous meanings, these leadings, and paranoid fantasies?
“Humility,” for starters.
And testing one’s leadings in the context of the group.

Friends, we do need to guard against creating “castles in the air.”
We need to guard against the powerful human tendency to create meanings disconnected from the larger realities of our biosphere. But isn’t that what we’ve got right now, in this endgame of industrial civilization? A shared construction of “reality” which is profoundly disconnected from the larger truths on which our lives are built?

This will not be easy, friends, but I offer to you, as an article of faith: we are individual expressions of a divine reality. If, in community and humility, we resolve to create a human world more in harmony with our overall Gaian reality than our current one is, it can be done.


* Patrick Curry has written a written a book on divination, his word for seeking and receiving guidance. It’s beyond my reach for a couple of reasons, but some pages of it lie behind the “preview”  button at: Divination: Perspectives for a New Millennium

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Stephen Jenkinson on Our Dying Culture, pt. 2 & 3

Paul GildingSo this is my journey, at this point.

Paul Gilding has inspired me not to feel marginalized. Not to slink around as if I was carrying a bunch of crazy ideas, rather than having a partial grasp of what will soon be obvious to most of us. Paul is concerned about the planetary ecosystem, but is focused on the global economy as being the most vulnerable part of that system. The part that, when it breaks, will move us out of our torpor and onto a “wartime footing.”

Stephen Jenkinson also cares about the global environment, but he is focused on the daily culture of our lives, and inspires me to refocus on that myself. Stephen-Jenkinson-450x249
We agree Industrial Civilization has gotten us into crazy situation. I believe that is partially because
when Science talked mainstream culture out of believing in heaven and hell,

it offered us no emotionally-satisfying mythic story,
leaving us, as a culture, terrified of death.

The overall mission of my website, my overall message, is to offer our emerging culture an emotionally-reassuring vision of our place in the larger scheme of things. I need this, and am gratified to have it. It helps me to accept my approaching death, and the death of Industrial Civilization. Like Stephen, I believe that community is the basic unit of human life, not the individual. Alone or separated we are undernourished and inadequate. Working with those we know well –whether we actually like them or not– our lives have meaning and we can love life, even in challenging circumstances.

In my previous post I presented some of Stephen Jenkinson’s thinking in his own voice. That may have been enough for you, dear reader, in which case you can skip over listening to the final two segments. They add richness, but you already have the flavor.

Part 2 of my edit of Stephen Jenkinson’s interview, focusing on our response to our dying culture. Nine minutes.

  • Parenting from beyond the grave [as a model for living during cultural breakdown] a challenge to live into and accept the pain of our situation. To really understand what we had and what we are losing.
    • Asking that your kids pay close attention to what is happening
  • Practicing the skill of being human
  • The Irish potato famine as an example of a dying culture
  • “Learning” the dying of a failed culture
  • Accepting your too-short life and making the most of it, not trying to “preserve”
  • What could bring our full humanity to the surface for more than just a few of us?
    • Stephen’s answer: a rite of passage into adulthood at puberty
  • The sad consequences of not getting a clear end to childhood

Jenkinson Pt 2 

Part 3 of my edit. Eleven minutes

  • Here’s a frame of mind to hold for the times ahead:
    • I am here because I am needed to help the culture die well. That’s the redemptive vision.
  • Not having children in these times.
  • Human beings should be in the business of making culture
  • Everything that dies is life-giving
  • A new culture can only grow out of the decomposed elements of the old
  • Being an elder, learning to be an elder
    • Not retiring to “safe” communities
  • What does it take to fall in love with being alive
    • Once you realize your life isn’t going to last…then you have the chance…
    • Italian weddings and Irish funerals
    • The twins of sadness and loving-being-alive
  • Grief is a learned thing [we need to learn it well]
  • We just might be fine.

 Jenkinson Pt 3

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Feeling Fear Frees Me, Opens Me Up

Just a coincidence, right, that as I opened myself to the flow of my fear a new friend happened to mention the website

Stephen Jenkinson has a profound critique of our culture and a vision for some of the elements a “sane” culture needs to have. This Canadian “white guy” worked for years in “the death trade” in hospitals with repeated experiences of how crazy our culture is about dying. He has also gained much from Native American traditions. He brings these learnings into a way of teaching based on his “redemptive vision.”

I am moved, thrilled. Stephen is talking about culture, the big picture stuff. Stephen-Jenkinson-Photo-by-Ian-Mackenzie-450x299He thinks he can see where we need to go! He has focused his life on restoring “village culture,” which holds living and dying in a wholesome way, in the bosoms of all concerned.

His style is not my style. I may never learn to tan hides. Still, he refreshes my faith that we CAN find a way through our current mess, learning some crucial lessons about humanity in the process. And he inspires me with his grasp of the fundamentals of human existence. Him being right or wrong is not the point. His work is a wonderful example of looking fear in the eye, feeling the rush of adrenalin, and working toward the good of the whole as it may manifest in new times. And I know in my very soul that he is on to some really important stuff.

Naturally, I am particularly interested to hear what he has to say about The Great Disruption of Industrial Civilization. On the website I found an interview with a couple of younger guys from The “” The interview is over two hours long and covers much of what Stephen is thinking about. I have excerpted his statements  about our planetary situation, which he summarizes as “our culture is dying.” This first segment is 11 minutes long. The first three minutes are context, his work with the dying, his manner and his relation to the interviewers. Then,

  • “If the culture is dying, then what is asked of you?
  • “…your responsibility is to learn things you never wanted to know anything about.
  • “…it’s not a great achievement to be fearful in fearful times.
  • “…you’ve got to ask more of yourself than the circumstances would ask of you…
  • “[not]…start thinking about #1…I’m not gonna do it…
  • ” The sanest response is to make as much humanity as you can, while you are still able…
  • “The death of the culture doesn’t coincide with your personal death…

Stephen Jenkinson Interview, excerpt 1

I recommend this segment as an adequate introduction to what I find important in Stephen’s message at this point. If you have time and interest for more, the next post has it.

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The Scream

Paul Gilding breaks our Great Disruption into three stages. The first he names The Scream, partly because of the shrill tone sounded by environmentalists and whole-planet-systems theorists, and partly in honor of Edvard Munch’s portrait,  Der Schrei der Natur (The ScreamThe_Scream of Nature).

Paul places the beginning of THE SCREAM period in the late 1950s, solidified by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in 1962. It runs through today, and will end with THE CRASH, which Paul expects to arrive shortly.

I found myself surprised that Paul named our current period The Scream, and then surprised that I was surprised. An interesting ambiguity. Revealing, I think.

I ask myself, “Richard, don’t you think ‘The Scream’ is an apt name for this period? Haven’t you been in a state of terror?”


It’s a regular part of the human experience that in dreadful moments, like being abused as a child –but at many other times as well– we separate off a part of ourselves. We dis-associate our regular lives, where we are happy to see old acquaintances and other ordinary events, from the traumatic experience.

Yes, I was alarmed when first really got the significance of

And that alarm deepened to a state of panic on each occasion, when I

  • went to hearings
  • teach-ins
  • wrote letters to the authorities
  • went to demonstrations
  • published my newsletter
  • watched huge mobilizations I was not a part of

and nothing happened. Not really. Nothing happened that seemed anywhere commensurate with the seriousness of the situation.

  • Was it me? Was I being “hysterical?”
  • Was it “them?” Were my most paranoid acquaintances right: the world is run by rich and violent men who control all aspects of our lives, and hide that truth from us?
  • Were the demonstrations I participated in “allowed” because they were ineffective?
  • How could I really be effective?
  • Would I become a target if I was?

Does “The Scream” apply to me, and those I worked with? Yes.
Does it apply to my sister, who never did any of these things, but followed my life from the relatively safe vantage point of small-town mom?
Well, we’d have to say her’s was a Silent Scream.
And looking back from now, my Scream seems silent too.

Panic. Dread. Shouting into a vast silence of profoundly inadequate response.


I’m in trouble.
“Maybe it’s me, with a dangerously warped sense of urgency. Maybe it’s ‘them,’ controlling my life by whatever means necessary. Maybe it’s us, dumbed by an oil addiction, or simply biologically incapable of connecting the knowledge in our frontal cortex with the action centers of our brain.”

Bad trouble, for whatever reason, or combination of them.

And a trouble so quiet that when I saw Paul Gilding label the last 50 years as “THE SCREAM,” I asked myself


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Going into my fear

Sixteen of us met with Betsy and her co-trainer, Mysnikol, for a six-week class: Faith and Hope In a Time of Uncertainty. We spent much of our time in pairs and small groups, addressing questions about what we feared and where we found hope. Two foundational assumptions of the workshop were:

  1. The best, truest, answers to such questions are the ones we find within ourselves, that rise out of our own lived experience.
  2. Just as you may deal with a stone in your shoe by walking on another part of your foot, so people tend to avoid things they fear. This is a natural short-term strategy but if it becomes habitual it also restricts the full range of the soul’s movement and growth.
    Over her lifetime, Joanna Macy has written many books and led many workshops on different subjects that take us through the same emotional arc. If you are in a problematic situation where you are afraid, you must go toward, go into, your fear. If you want to be as balanced and effective as possible in difficult circumstances, you must stop and reach for the stone that breaks your stride. Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

I believe everyone in the Hope & Faith class was able to do this, to some degree. The first two or three classes were tough for some. A fear which you have not yet befriended looms large with uncertainty. As we went into our fears, the ones particular to us, and the ones we shared, they lost some of their power. It was frightening. And the fears did not go away altogether. But as Joanna Macy and others have found, working with perhaps a million people,

  • Approaching the fear, the topic or subject we fear
  • Meeting it, getting to know it better, becoming familiar with it,
  • Frees valuable energy, lengthens our stride, helps us to carry our burdens.

Going toward the fear requires a certain readiness, enough available personal resources to start the work. It requires resolve, courage. And, almost universally, the result of a concentrated effort to do this work provides a sense of release, of relief and greater energy going forward.

This is my faith, as I turn to my work, which is also our work.

What I hear Paul Gilding say, which comes also from my thinking over the years, is that the “status quo” ended a while back, but Industrial Civilization has been semi-willfully ignoring it. I had been kind of expecting the turning point would be a spectacular environmental disaster that threatened health and lives where the wealthy nations are, like a sea level rise, or a nuclear spill.

Gilding says the world economy is the most delicate, sensitive part that Industrial Civilization has. The underlying conditions of resource depletion and the resulting increase in costs of farming, mining, etc. have been around and evident for years. These underlying conditions show up in our markets as prices, and in the availability and flexibility of money to meet the routine situations we have gotten ourselves into. Many of us know from direct experience how high credit card debt affects our flexibility and resilience. Industrial Civ. had maxed out or over-leveraged credit card after credit card, natural resource after natural resource, borrowing on each new one to make the payments on the old debt.

Don’t just say the words, Richard, feel the fear.



Let it sink in.

That fellow, Paul Gilding, has gotten to the point where he can say, “What’s next?”
He assumes the crash of over-leveraged resources in the 2008 housing market was just an early tremor, not “the big one.”
But let me pause.

Let us pause.

Let us pause and accept the weight of our fear.bhaktibaxter

The U.S. economy is “growing” again, squeezing more out of the earth’s finite resources, like fracking oil and gas.

This cannot, will not, go on. Global climate change is more powerful than markets.
“Growing” is not a long-term correction.

And speaking of corrections, the European Market zone is not growing. The Italian market is “too big to fail,” and it is moving down the same road as Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Spain, which were not nearly as big.


Is this how it will come? Sort of like the 2008 housing bubble bursting, only much worse?



 Art: Moksha Family Arts Collective

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As I opened the floodgates at 4:30AM
and let the fear flow in,
a lot of things about my life make more sense.

  • Like what I’m doing with this website, for instance.

In later posts I’m going to be sharing some of my fears, here,
and my responses to them,
and this website is the perfect setting in which to do that. This setting testifies:

  1. I’ve been working on this for years.
  2. My fears may be life-changing, but they occur within a structure of faith which sustains me.
  • Another thing that is clearer now is why I have so repeatedly adopted the persona of trickster within my Quaker meeting community. The message I bring is so odd, so outside the bounds of consensus reality that it helps that my community is accustomed to hearing odd things from me.

My message…?

For years I’ve been saying Industrial Civilization will soon fall as a result of it own success/excess. (Joanna Macy calls it the end of “The Industrial Growth Society.”)
`Til now, as I have shared my message, I have been unsure if this transition would reach a crisis point in my lifetime (I’m 69). Now I feel clear it will happen before the end of Obama’s term as president, despite the best efforts of heads of state around the world.

What changed my sense of timing was discovering Paul Gilding.

given that, last night, I crossed the threshold of viscerally acknowledging my fears, I want to share what happens next with my community. I offer you a view of my life, in its closing years, as a gift to my community.
(This gift may have more value to those who know me. Readers without the background of knowing my lived life may find this even crazier than my friends do.)

To my friends, my community, I say “watch me,” from a safe distance, if you like. I’m going out ahead into the fear. It may be that really bad things will happen to me. Like the first person in a company of people going down a jungle path, I offer the risks I am taking as a gift to you, testing the way ahead. If I am felled, you will properly consider another way.

Or it may be, if I am right, that going into our fears is where we all need to go for greater sanity in the near term, and greater resilience later on. It may be, as Paul Gilding says, that the adrenaline rush I am now experiencing is what our culture will need in order to move into the Great Disruption and to move still further, into a mature and intelligent biosphere: Gaia.

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My Playground, March 2012

Like many children, I was a connoisseur of playgrounds. In my day, they were mainly in school yards. Monkey bars, slides, teeter-totters…some things you could count on in a new playground. Sometimes there were surprises.

Welcome to my new playground. I slapped the first draft of my new sketch-map of reality together for a presentation to a University of Minnesota class. My two biggest learnings: It “needs work” & I really love sharing this stuff.

Intro to Richard

Two years ago, I attended a transition Town training and a bunch of things I had been mulling on for years fell into place. For instance, pollution and the environmental crisis; the materialism of Industrial Civilization; individualism & community; humans’ proper relationship to the Earth; and a positive vision I can hold out for myself and others to move toward.

Transition Town (TT) doesn’t talk about all this stuff, but I’d like to, in the Q&A after I introduce TT.

A brief intro to Transition Town and to “Transition.”

To my mind, TT is a growing subculture where people can meet, think together and work together.

I think the most important aspect of the TT cultural space is that it is optimistic. It insists on maintaining a positive tone. Also important, it aims to be inclusive rather than divisive. It aims to reach across lines of race, social class and political affiliation, looking for what we can do together, rather than focusing on our differences.

TT Analysis of Our Present Situation

TT’s optimistic tone is important because the analysis of our near-term future is pretty challenging. I’ll simplify the analysis greatly, because I imagine most of you already know variations of it.

  1. Industrial Civilization can not go on at its current pace. We are profoundly dependent on cheap oil for transportation and materials like plastics. While we are not running out of oil, the cost of extracting it is rising rapidly, and “business as usual” is already faltering. The jargon name for this process is “Peak Oil,” and the web is full of gloom & doom scenarios, and websites of folks who deny these scenarios.
  2. The second major element in the Transition Town analysis is global climate change. Even if we found something else to burn instead of oil, continuing to get most of our goods from global supply chains that stretch thousands of miles will further disrupt our climate. This obviously applies to most of the stuff we buy in chain stores, but it also applies to much of the food we buy. “Local” is going to become increasingly important, and relatively affordable.
  3. Another reason to focus on local resilience is a future with even more financial instability. It looks like the U.S. administration has got the economy “growing” again, but this can’t last. And shouldn’t. We are “growing” way beyond the carrying capacity of the land, and the sooner we find ways to live that don’t take more than we give back, the better off we will be.

A familiar grim picture.

This is where Transition Town’s optimism offers a surprising and refreshing alternative.

“What we need to do,” says TT, “is to get to know our neighbors, find the ones we can work on shared projects with, and start building local resilience. This can be fun and surely is a good thing, whatever the future holds. TT says,

Here, let’s start with ___, right here in our neighborhood.

The emphasis is on getting started, locally, with the needs and resources and personalities near at hand. Don’t worry about figuring everything out in advance. TT offers four major areas that neighborhoods should think about covering:
food, transportation, home heating & cooling and health care. There are millions of appropriate-technology solutions that address these issues that haven’t been promoted because they don’t enhance corporate profits, home canning of farmers-market produce, for instance.

“Neighborhood” and “town” are vague terms here, but the basic idea is “resources you can get to without the use of a personal automobile.”

In my own case, my neighborhood may soon get a bus line, linked to the Central Corridor Light Rail. Based on that, I have come up with a vision of New Lexington, and a map of “my town,”one mile wide and 20 miles long.

This is just a vision. I’ve done little follow-through. I offer it here only as an example of what a Transition “Town” might look like within a major metropolitan area.

TT History and Current Scope:

TT blipped into international awareness in Totnes, a little market town in England, in 2006.

A handbook on how to do what Totnes was doing came out in 2008.

That same year a support organization for U.S. Transition efforts was launched. This organization has an excellent website with multiple resources for people at various stages of Transition awareness. They have developed a training program and certified trainers in many U.S. locations including two trainers in the Twin Cities.

The TT support umbrella has criteria for groups becoming an official part of the U.S. Transition network and over 100 “towns” have claimed that official status. Including Corcoran Grows in South Minneapolis.

Beyond the official Transition Town efforts there are many more efforts that have not sought official recognition. A typical overview of some local efforts appeared in a Minneapolis neighborhood newspaper, Southside Pride.
Twin Cities, metro-wide, has a coordinating website at

These websites are an excellent way to learn the basics and to dive deeper into the areas you care most about.

The Wikipedia article has a good overview and lots of good links.

End of TT introduction.

~ ~ ~

Topics I’d love to get questions about, and where I would go to respond to them:

  1. Humans’ proper relationship to the Earth
    1. We are animals, primates
    2. Primates and other mammals have morality & empathy “built in” we are naturally community members. We contain both natural selfishness and a natural tendency to share, even at our own expense.
    3. Animals are expressions of earth: “The earth used to be molten rock. Now it sings opera.”
  2. Materialism is wrong. Mary Coelho
    The commercial “materialism” of “buying stuff” rises out of a much more profound “materialism” of believing “the material world is all there is.”
    There is an invisible world, out of which the material world arises.

Humanity is at a choice point. = Life on earth has reached a turning point.

Choice. Conscious choice. Co-creativity.

Awareness or Consciousness

The Universe Story, told
* simply, with pictures,
* by Brian Swimme,
* by Mary Coelho
* by Connie Barlow

Astrophysics, high-energy physics, Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields and the mysteries of life and evolution: What the Bleep, Neal Rogin, Awakening the Dreamer

I claim: There is a tendency toward wholeness.

Even though Industrial Civilization has run amok, we are not lost

  • The convergence of spiritual traditions
    • Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha Living Christ [opening a can of angels]

But what can we do?
The invisible world offers guidance. We can find our way.

Where we are now
Humanity has developed in mostly-separated populations Guns, Germs, Steel
Now we are coming together in ways we can only dimly imagine

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End of 2011 Summary

I said in my first post on this website

I have learned over the last year that developing and maintaining a website is a bit like getting a pet, it’s an ongoing effort which requires regular attention.

I have been lax. At least nothing died from my neglect.
I’ve been lax with good reason. is one of many things going on, and there are times for it, and times to ignore it. This month, after a year away, its time has come again.

As I try to pick up the neglected strands of conversation, It will help me if I summarize highlights since my last summary here, September of 2007. I was struggling to open myself to “mychrist,” then. It was a time of turmoil both
psychologically/ spiritually because I feared loss of ego-control (partly), and also socially, because I feared the enemies and friends I might make, if I started talking like a Christian.

For me, the personal and the social are two sides of the same coin:

how do we now name and understand what Western Civilization has traditionally called “God’s will” and “God’s guidance?”

Those old names won’t do, for me, but I fear it’s the neglect of the reality behind the names that has gotten industrial civilization into our current mess.
And I believe it’s a return to what I’m calling “guidance from Gaia” that will give us  indications of what we must do as we co-create the new Ecozoic Age on Earth.

Something happened, and I felt changed. Now, in 2011, I can say “for the better.”
The website, and my postings to it, were an important part of that process, especially the support I got from my community, in response to my postings.

I got a clear nudge from the source of my guidance in the spring of 2008, and agreed to become clerk of my Twin Cities Quaker Meeting. This turned out to be quite consuming, with the discovery (surprise!) that we needed a $300,000 rehab of our “sick building.”

I managed to stay present to my inner work, through the external challenges of the clerk role, and my posts through the fall of 2008 reflect the difficulty of that work. (I did have a support committee for this inner side, as well as lots of support for my challenges in the role of clerk.)

Then I discovered the work of Mary Conrow Coelho. I wrote a review of my first encounter, with a group effort rising out of Cambridge, Massachusetts,  Friends Meeting. That led on to Mary’s Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe, which has transformed my thinking. I trust this transformation will eventually be evident on this website.

I was having other adventures too, with Process Work and the Quaker meditation form Experiment with Light both of which offered help with my struggle to “accept guidance.” After the burden of Clerk of Meeting was off my shoulders, I offered my TCFM community my synthesis of these elements, at that point, November 2009.

And then, in March, 2010, TRANSITION TOWN! A movement that has resolved to proceed optimistically in the face of the dis-integration of Industrial Civilization which I had been proclaiming for years! My first post of that year reflected my brush with this optimism. Then, over the summer of 2010 I attempted a synthesis of  Transition Town and Mary Coelho, including outlining what I felt were the highlights from each of Mary’s chapters.

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I am preparing to be more active in the outer world, but it will be a matter of following guidance, to see which of the many possibilities draw my efforts.


Transition Town” is what I am calling “a brand,” because a bunch of folks have a “program” and are doing quality-control, so that newcomers have experiences of certain kinds, like hopeful ideas, and not a pile of doom and gloom. (The name “Transition Town” is slowly being replaced by “Transition,” and some confusion will naturally arise as our international conversation comes to agreement on what words mean what.)
I will say “Transition Town” when I am referring to the “brand,” which has published books, has a program for certifying trainers, and many British and U.S. websites.

I will say “Transition” and “Transition Movement” when I am referring generically to the idea that we need to move away from dependence on fossil fuels, which will result in less industrialized, more localized societies.

My Transition Efforts

* Among Quakers

My message is: We need to get ready. We need to talk to Friends who already understand how much will change even before today’s children are grown. As events which dwarf our current financial crisis unfold, folks who now think such talk is silly will start to come around. We need not spend time convincing them now: events will do it shortly. What we need to do now is find those already of like mind and start to develop alternatives, ways of working together which are more compatible with the world to come. We will be happy to share what we have learned with others as they come to see the need.

I did a workshop at People Camp this summer (of 2011), which went well.

I am now clear that, for me, the “Transition Town” program is not enough, because it is (appropriately) completely secular. When we go talking to our neighbors, as Transition Town would have us do, we need to use materials and a mindset that allow for many religious points of view, including “none.” I find I don’t have the heart for it. I think our Industrial Civilization is suffering from spiritual and philosophical problems, and while I love to start with the Transition Town program, I want to be able to talk about “waiting for guidance” in ways that I cannot, in a secular context.

To start with, I am imagining my efforts among Quakers will take the form of encouraging us to think more geographically, acknowledging the upcoming realities of increasingly-expensive transportation.

— Locally

I want Friends for whom the “Transition” initiative makes sense to start finding Quakers geographically near them. Currently the membership of each of our Twin-Cities-area meetings draws from across the whole metropolitan area, with Quakers in the same neighborhoods who don’t know each other because we go to different meetings. We need to be discovering the spiritual resources we have near at hand, in anticipation of a time when we will not be able to drive half-way across town to be part of a clearness committee. For instance, Tom and Rae, whom I barely know, live just three blocks away. Either could likely be a fine member of a clearness committee, mine or someone else’s.
I will be encouraging Friends to meet our Quaker neighbors.

— Regionally

But when I say “Friends nearby” am I just thinking about the two big Quaker meetings who own property? Of course not.
Who then?
How about TC-area Quakers

Four Rivers Friends
which would include all the Quakers in the greater metro area?

* Among my Neighbors

I do have a vision for my “local” neighborhood, which I’m calling “New Lexington.” In February, 2011, I laid the vision out as a map, and in the form of a neighborhood newspaper, and I put this stuff up on a website, but I haven’t talked about it to my neighbors. For a long time I felt badly about “no follow-through,” but I am now more forgiving, a part of my inner journey which I expect to detail elsewhere. In short: as I anticipated talking to my neighbors I realized how important the spiritual side of the conversation was to me, and I felt stymied about how to bring that up.

* In the Twin Cities, Generally

On Sunday, May 6, 2012, IN THE HEART OF THE BEAST PUPPET AND MASK THEATRE will focus its Mayday parade, ceremony & festival on the “Transition” movement. I plan to help encourage Transition efforts in South Minneapolis and city-wide by talking up the Mayday celebrations and getting as many people as possible involved.

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For my Aug 8, 2010, presentation on Awakening Universe Emerging Personhood

Most of all, I want to share Mary Conrow Coelho’s gestalt, her over-all sense of how things are developing. That rises out of the details, of course, but I don’t want to get captured by a focus on any one set of details. In our conversation Sunday, August 8, we will inevitably be talking about specifics, so what I want to do here is make sure to keep the overview, the big picture front and center.

Also, in this text presentation, where I do focus on specifics I’ll lean into the information that most directly challenges today’s materialistic scientism.

AND, with all these adult words, I am trying to reach the child in you, that place of awe and wonder.

In what follows, almost everything is Mary’s words. I show them with double quotation marks. She quotes other people a lot. Usually I show that as single quote marks. Bold-facing in the middle of text is my emphasis.


8 The Generative Cosmos p.131

Our unexamined assumptions about the physical world around us.

… our minds and hearts can begin to have confidence in a meaningful and creative place for human beings in the unfolding Earth story.”

Discoveries About the Very Small: Quantum Studies

“… sub-atomic… particles continually emerge and fall back into the quantum potential or quantum vacuum. … The way particles spontaneously leap into existence is a radical discovery of our own lifetimes. I am asking you to contemplate a universe where, somehow, being itself arises out of a field of ‘fecund emptiness.’ … It is happening trillions of times within us at each moment, so this matrix of fecundity is integral to our being.”

This sparkling, scintillating, effulgence rises out of “… a generative power that ‘cannot lie within the mental or material worlds alone, but rather has its place in some , as yet unexplored, ground that lies beyond the distinctions of either.’”

“David Bohm asserts that ’empty space’ has so much energy that it is full rather than empty… He equates it with the plenum, the same immense “sea” of energy that is the ground of the existence of everything. … The visible world, which necessarily dominates our attention, is a comparatively small pattern of excitation within this background plenum, rather like a ripple on an ocean. … The Big Bang too, Bohm suggests, was actually just a ‘little ripple.’”

“Brian Swimme describes the situation: ‘What I would like you to understand is that this plenary emptiness permeates you. You are more fecund emptiness than you are created particles.’

“It becomes possible to begin to imagine that our ongoing, stable, reliable physical structure and psychological order have a certain fundamental ‘openness’ to a larger, more comprehensive creative order.”

Discoveries in Astronomy

“None of the great figures of human history were aware of this. Not Plato or Aristotle, or the Hebrew prophets of Confucius or Thomas Aquinas or Liebniz or Newton or any other world-maker. We are the first generation to live with an empirical view of the origin of the universe. … Swimme suggests the primeval fireball came out of an empty realm, a mysterious order of reality, a no-thing-ness that is simultaneously the ultimate source of all things. … as the cosmos expanded and continues to expand, there is no place in the universe separate from the originating center, instant by instant.

“From astronomy we learn that even though ‘the originating power gave birth to the universe fifteen billion years ago, this realm of power is not simply located there at that point in time but is rather a condition of every moment of the universe, past present and to come.’ (Swimme & Berry)

“’Each child is situated in that very place and is rooted in that very power that brought forth all the matter and energy of the universe.’ This is key to our integration with the contemplative tradition.”

Origin Out of a Generative “Nothingness” in the Religious Tradition of the West

“Although this perspective is new to modern scientific thinking, religious traditions have long spoken of an unknowable, fecund, creative ‘nothingness.’”

Coincidence of Knowledge from Science and Religion: Danger of Collapsing Modes of Consciousness

“A complete coincidence of the insights of the scientific and the theological traditions is not sought, but it is important to consider them as complementary explorations of the same mysterious realm that mutually inform one another. … both science and contemplative religious people are apparently investigating or seeking to know the same dimension.

“For an individual seeking…the possibility of a viable human/Earth future…
recognition of the complementary exploration of the same realm is critical. … A ‘way of seeing’ like the one being offered in this book, is essential to facilitate the very great change in consciousness that is required of all of us in these dangerous times.”

Support for the Insights of Mysticism from Science

“Our sense impressions and daily experience of solid objects tell us of only on aspect of our being—not wrong but only one aspect.”

Naming the Fecund Nothingness

“Shouldn’t we use the word God?

“The generative realm just explored is characterized by a type of transcendence that will be called ‘true transcendence’ (chapter 17), but it is not a separate, distinct being.”

9 We Have Found No Primal Dust

“In Breakfast at the Victory, James Carse, professor of the history and literature of religion, wrote: ‘We thought scientists would find a primal dust, a swarm of lifeless identical realities, the atoms of Epicurus only smaller, that are the building units of all larger composite beings. But in fact they are describing things more dreamlike than real, more made of empty space than substance.’ To the world of physics, this discovery was an earthquake… Particles are radically dependent upon the ground from which they take form. There ‘occurs an incessant foaming, a flashing flame, a shining-forth-from and dissolving-back-into.’ (Swimme)”

“It is these very wave/particles, abstracted from a deeper level, that over the billions of years of evolution of the universe have become part of the complex, manifest world we know from day to day.”

The Phenomenon of Presence

“Nonlocal causality…occurs when two spatially separated particles are present to each other… A change introduced to one particle causes an instantaneous adjustment in the other particle, even though it may be at the other end of the galaxy. … ‘Events taking place elsewhere in the universe are directly and instantaneously related to the physical parameter of the situation.’ (Swimme)”
That is, the speed of light is NOT a limit to how fast communication between two objects can occur.

Unbroken Wholeness

“…quantum mechanics and relativity theory…imply that the actual state of the universe is unbroken wholeness. … The manifest daily world of things and living beings in their inner dimension are directly open to and are part of the nonvisible depth of things. … Similarly, Whitehead speaks of God and creation as co-constituting a communal Reality.”

Some Reflections

“The fact that contemplatives have discovered a pathway to a permanent union with Abyss/God within their person indicates that the nonvisible realm is present and may, with adequate preparation, become known in a alternative type of consciousness.”

10 Complex, Centered Beings within the Unfolding Whole p.162

“’We need to understand that the evolutionary process is neither random nor determined but creative.’ (Thomas Berry)”

To be an accident, even a glorious one, or to be the result of error and chance alone, denies people the possibility of living in a manner faithful to any fundamental order or intrinsic direction of things.

“This brings us to the study of self-organization. Form generation through self-organization involves the creation of centered, complex beings: therefore, questions of soul and subjective identity are central to the topic.

“Up until the mid-twentieth century … the study of form was the exclusive domain of philosophy and theology.

Examples of Actual Generation of Form

“1958 … Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, in which certain chemical reactants, when mixed, formed concentric and spiral ‘cells’ [that] pulsed and remained stable, and as the reaction proceeded, periodically more ‘cells’ formed. … This reaction proved to be a simple example of a self-organizing system, an important characteristic of which is that its order in structure and function is not imposed by the environment but is established by the system itself. … generation of forms that are not built slowly by the random conjunction of molecules, but appear spontaneously.

Everything is form, including atoms, cells, or human beings. A galaxy is a self-organizing system… A star is a dynamic organization, centered within itself… The flame of a candle, certain thunderstorms, and tornados are all self-organizing systems. … At all scales, the universe is far from equilibrium—self designing at the edge of chaos. Wherever we look gradients of matter and energy create crucibles for self-organizing systems.

Characteristics of Self-Organizing Systems

“The inherent tendency of self-organizing systems in chaotic situations to become changed…makes the universe a place in which there is a predisposition toward novelty and surprise. … New structures and systems develop with unusual efficiency (Davies) …’the origin of life was not an enormously improbably event, but law-like and governed by new principles of self-organization in complex webs of catalysts.'(Kauffman)”

Living Systems: Autopoiesis

“Humberto Maturana, a Chilean neuroscientist, coined the word autopoiesis from the Greek words, auto(self) and poiesis (creation, production) to describe the central feature of the organization of the living, which is autonomy.

“The autopoietic capacity of cells and of multicellular organisms results in far greater stability and longevity than is possible, for example for a tornado, a non-living self-organizing system. … Here we see clearly the remarkable, seemingly paradoxical fact that living beings are simultaneously quite autonomous…and at the same time integral to the Earth, since they are dependent on the flow of energy and matter. … [this] is central to the identity of human and other living beings.

“Earth is thought by some to be autopoietic.


“An important aspect of autopoietic systems is that they are also cognitive systems. The organism’s cognition is essential to its survival; it involves awareness of the physical intimacy of the organism and environment. … a plant may be selectively coupled with the direction of the light, while some deep-sea organisms are not coupled with light at all. … this means an organism constructs a world or brings into being a world, according to the structural coupling it is capable of, but not the world. Much passes it by.”

The Nesting of Parts in Larger Wholes

“Arthur Koestler coined the word holons for subsystems that are both wholes and parts. …each holon has two opposite tendencies: an integrative tendency to function as part of a larger whole and a self-assertive tendency to preserve its individual autonomy. … There is a kind of nesting of subsystems in larger integrative systems. … A cell can be studied as a functioning unit but not known fully unless it is also studied as part of the larger whole of an organism. People are not fully understood unless their identity as part of the Earth system is also taken into account.

“A structure doesn’t appear in isolation…but is a phenomenon born out of an environment in which everything effects everything, like Bohm’s holomovement.”


The emergence of organized forms and living beings does not involve processes outside of what we call matter but instead arises from the inherent principles of the dynamics of the universe.

“Matter isn’t cobbled together piece by piece, like the colorful wooden model of molecules in chemistry class. No one is a fragment or a chunk of matter, unconnected to the cosmos.

Order, vast and generative, arises naturally…”

11 The Depth of Human Belonging

Is DNA a Formative Power?

“…form is not determined by genes alone. …’The structure of DNA and the genes does not contain the life of the organism which develops by using this information.'(Jantsch)

“…great order appeared very early in the universe, in stars and galaxies for example, before there was any life, much less complex beings with DNA to determine order. …a spiral galaxy, which orders perhaps 100 million stars, cannot have achieved its structure by random processes.

Unexplored Shaping Powers of the Implicate Orders and the Plenum

David Bohm’s “…implicate order can account for the origin of forms, which are then replicated. According to Bohm, formative…fields are very subtle aspects of the implicate order that impress themselves on lesser, explicate energies.

“…the true meaning of forms is known by realizing that they are generated and sustained from the plenum, the immense ‘sea’ of ‘no-thing-ness’ that is the ground of existence of everything. … Thus, self-organizing centers of activity, like a tree, a cell, a person, are not fully described as independent separate beings governed by mechanical laws in three-dimensional space, because the unseen organizing of the plenum is enfolded within them. In some manner not fully discerned, local laws and random events are caught up in the larger form patterning of the implicate orders and plenum.

“…when Werner Heisengerg was trying to make sense of the plethora of elementary particles generated in collision experiments, he suggested that the truly fundamental is not the little wave/particle, as physicists had expected, but abstract symmetries and ordering principles that give form to the wave/particles as they are generated from the vacuum. ‘The elementary particles themselves would be simply the material realization of these underlying symmetries.’ (Peat) The symmetries are not part of ordinary space, time.

“It is not only in the discipline of physics that the need to search for unidentified formative powers is now recognized.

“Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry do not see genetic mutation as a random, mechanical, chemical process alone. They describe it as a primal act. It occurs as part of the activity of a universe characterized by ordering movement. It is part of the spontaneous differentiation taking place at life’s root. Thus, it is an integral part of the organizing dynamism that arises out of the larger form-generating capacity of the whole.

“We are propelled by these ideas into a stunningly different world, where the energy of the cosmos is continuously inwardly articulated and ordered by the plenum.

Objective Intelligence and Creative Ordering

“F. David Peat proposes the terms ‘objective intelligence’ or ‘creative ordering’ for the generative ordering power in the as yet unexplored realm that brings about the dynamic ordering of matter and mind. These phrases are useful because they avoid the word ‘mind,’ which in English is associated almost exclusively with the brain and its activities.

“David Bohm, too, was convinced that the ground of all being is permeated with a supreme intelligence that is creative and gives order. He finds evidence for this in ‘the tremendous order in the universe, in ourselves and the brain.’

“’This generative power cannot lie within the mental and material worlds alone, but rather has its place in some, as yet unexplored, ground that lies beyond the distinction of either.’ (Peat)

“’…the universe must have a purpose and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly that the purpose includes us. …there is “something going on” behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming.’ (Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint)

…the journey of primordial matter through its marvelous sequence of transformations over billions of years is toward an ever more complete ‘spiritual-physical intercommunication’ of the parts with each other, with the whole, and with that numinous presence which has ever been manifested throughout this entire cosmic-earth-human process. Thomas Berry, “The Spirituality of the Earth”)

“This realm of objective intelligence is certainly very closely related to Plato’s teaching [on] ideal forms…and to Plotinus’s conception of the nous, itself a formative realm. It is startling and heartening to realize how similar their thought is to that of contemporary people like Bohm…who also appeal to a hidden, immeasurable form-generating dimension…”

Bohm, and separately, Swimme, propose “...a kind of memory of what is happening in the manifest that feeds back into the formative realm, with the All-Nourishing Abyss ‘becoming more differentiated…’

The Person within the “Emptiness”, and Objective Intelligence

“Physicists tell us that if we could see the human body in the perspective of particle physics, it would be proportionally as empty as intergalactic space. … A person, a tree, a butterfly, in fact all the Earth is more Fecund Emptiness than created particles. Since a person is largely Emptiness, and the formative powers…are in the realm of Emptiness, it is not difficult to imagine that a person is held in the embrace of those powers and they are part of us…that we share in the ‘objective intelligence.’ …every form, including the human individual, is held in the embrace of the whole and is subject to its formative powers.

Exploring These Insights

A challenge to thought: “Is it possible to make a sharp distinction between what is alive and what is not?”

Is a carbon atom alive when it is inside a plant, and dead when it is not? “Rather, life itself has to be regarded as belonging in some sense to a totality, including plant and environment. (Bohm) …a tree is built out of the implicate order–‘indeed it is the implicate order which makes possible its living qualities. If we perceive the tree in this way, rather than as a bunch of dead particles into which the property of life is somehow infused when the seed is planted, then its aliveness ceases to be such a mystery.’ The so-called dead molecules are already enfolded in the implicate order, as is the living being they are about to enter. There is a common participation in comprehensive formative dynamics, allowing the molecules to nest into the more complexified local order of the plant.

Formative Powers in Relation to Ongoing Physical Laws

“…when the music comes out of the radio set, almost all of its energy comes from the power plug in the wall socket, but its form comes from the very weak electromagnetic wave picked up by the antennae. …a subtle energy…molds a denser energy.

“In a growing seed almost all the matter and the energy come from the environment, so the living seed is continually providing that matter and energy with new information that leads to the production of the living plant.

Since this formative influence affects both matter and consciousness, it can be the source of intuitive insight and intellectual visions. …such insights are part of the contemplative journey … a reversal of the point of view of much of recent science, in which global order is regarded as purely the outcome of local order.

A Cosmologically Significant Life

The new universe story and insight into the form-generating powers that are immanent in all matter provide a ‘way of seeing’ that gives us cosmological meaning. … As a form of the universe, the person partakes in the intrinsic, creative quality of the universe. Thus there is a place for the person at its dynamic heart.

12 Soul Unfolds in the Evolving Universe

What is the work of human works if not to establish, in and by means of each one of us, an absolutely original center in which the universe reflects itself in a unique and inimitable way? —Teilhard

“…two main traditions regarding the meaning of soul in Western thought. …for Plotinus, the form-generating dimension of the universe is identified with the divine Intellect. The world soul and the individual soul are emanations from the divine realm, the Nous, so that the soul is an intermediary between the Nous and the world of senses.

“This is a beautiful tradition because it assumes the possibility of contemplation, the return to the fullness of our being. However, it can so emphasize the person’s relationship to the divine realm that it runs the risk of neglecting the body and of thus cleaving the unity of human nature.

“The second tradition is less concerned with the essence of soul and the possibility of its immortality and more concerned with soul’s relationship with the matter it enlivens. According to Aristotle, the soul is the form of the body… the soul could not be thought of without the body to which it gives life, and like the body is mortal. … The Aristotelian tradition runs the risk of ensnaring the notion of soul within the confines of its earthly existence. It would not recognize contemplation as described by Plotinus.

Aquinas followed Aristotelian thought. Similarly, in Genesis 2:7 …the divine breath is blown into the body and so creates ‘a living néphesh, that is, a person. Thus in Hebrew a person is not a “body” and a “soul,” but rather a “body-soul,” a unit of vital power. After death, the néphesh ceases to exist. Saint Paul introduces terms from Greek philosophy into his letters and develops a distinction between the body on the one hand and the intellectual and spiritual character of the soul on the other.

A Contemporary Conception of Soul

In the contemporary discussion about self-organizing processes, the self (of self-organizing) has been identified as an unseen, shaping dynamism that is constitutive of living beings. … Soul in the context of the new universe story refers then to the unseen self-organizing, shaping dynamism of the person. …Jung’s archetype of the Self is the near equivalent of soul. …soul as a formative power has its origin in the plenum, which we also call fecund Emptiness or Abyss/God. …it plays a mediating role between that creative realm and both the body and daily consciousness. Thus, the creative power of the person arises out of the inseparable, enfolded ground in which the formative soul-powers take shape. …this soul-like organizing dynamism is not a specific gift given only to people, but is integral to all beings…

Does Soul Refer Only to the Formative Powers?

“…Carl Jung… conceived of the Self as both the centering, organizing power and also, at the same time, the totality of the person it integrates (including the body, emotions, cognitive events, and sensations). This…is a way of distinguishing and naming a dimension of the person (the formative, centering soul processes), yet at the same time recognizing that these processes are constitutive of the whole person and that they are not to be separated from the whole person. The unity of the person is maintained, yet the organizing, integrating soul-powers are identified. The identification of the formative soul allows us to honor and pay attention to the integrating, centering powers active in us. And it enables us to imagine the connection between consciousness and the creative, generative plenum while at the same time immersing the person in the Earth and the body. The door to contemplation is opened.

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