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Charismatic inquiry in concert: action research in the realm of the between

John Heron and Gregg Lahood

Published (without the photo) in Handbook of Action Research, second edition, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury, London, Sage Publications, 2008


Denzin and Lincoln, in the closing chapter of their qualitative research handbook (1994: 583), assert that concerns of the spirit are returning to the human disciplines and that a sacred science is certain to emerge and make itself felt. In their introductory chapter to the first edition of this handbook, Reason and Bradbury (2001: 3-4) include spiritual practices and transpersonal sciences in their overview of various approaches to action research. Standing in these opening doorways, this chapter is about a form of action research which is a spiritual practice, one possible primitive prototype of a sacred science.

Overview

We report on long-term peer group action research in the realm between persons where a sacred presence may manifest. The group has been meeting regularly since 1995 (for eleven years at the time of writing) for two hours in the evening, currently every two weeks, with a five or six week break in the summer. Gregg, a transpersonal anthropologist (Lahood, 2006a, 2006b), joined the group in 1996. For a detailed history of its founding and early years see Heron (1998: 225-229).

The core method is collaborative action inquiry, an innovative variant of Torbert’s action inquiry (2001; Chapter 17 here). It entails a spontaneity of toning, percussion, posture and movement that is interactively modulated by the participants, as in an improvisatory session of singers/musicians/dancers. The purpose of this is both to generate and be moved by, and thus inquire through this co-creative action into the nature of, a shared occasion of sacred presence in which we all participate and which is between us. We sometimes refer to such action as ‘charismatic’, by which we mean ‘characterized by creative spontaneity and depth’. By ‘sacred’ we tentatively mean ‘a combination of hallowed, holy, blessed, whole, generative, engaging, nourishing, nurturing, intimate, inclusive, numinous, awesome, mysterious’.

Our report covers the following: some background comments on spirituality and action research; a general account of the format of meetings; elements and properties of the main inquiry process; the three types of inquiry process; participants’ perspectives and outcomes; issues of quality and soundess; related contemporary developments.

Our group has agreed a principle that any member can present a personal perspective on our inquiry at the same time making clear the degree to which other members of the group have or have not collaborated. This chapter is the integration of John’s and Gregg’s perspectives, grounded on a comprehensive conceptual map of our inquiry process co-generated by the whole group.

Spirituality and action research

In preparing this chapter it has been suggested to us that there may be many action researchers who draw on different spiritual traditions in their work, but usually conceal this because it is difficult to write about and people feel vulnerable. However some practitioners, we have also been told, will talk openly: some meditate, some go to church, some pray, some talk about transpersonal experiences, and so on. An important distinction here is between bringing a spiritual practice to action research (Coghlan, 2005; Nolan, 2005), and action research itself, as such, being a spiritual practice, a sacred science (Reason, 1993).

One difficulty in construing action research itself as a spiritual practice is the subtle Cartesianism of recent transpersonal studies. This tacitly assumes that spirituality is a subjective experience, within a nonspatial individual consciousness, of transpersonal objects which transcend the everyday public space of social interactions (Ferrer, 2002). By contrast, we take a nonCartesian view of spirituality as a shared transformative event, a shared occasion of enhanced human flourishing. It is generated by collaborative action for change taken together, the action itself in part shaping, and in part disclosing, inquiring into and being shaped by, the reality of the relational event. On this account spirituality is manifest in flourishing and liberating participatory events which persons-in-relation co-create with the reality of the presence between them in their situation (Heron, 1998; Ferrer, 2002).

The public event may be a shared transformation of behaviour into resonance with the presence of the between as such, as in our inquiry, or it may be a shared transformation of behaviour into greater organizational inclusiveness and empowerment as in other kinds of action research. In short, we do not believe there is necessarily any radical spiritual discontinuity between the unusual inquiry reported here and the inquiries reported elsewhere in this handbook (Chapters 30-44). From our perspective, all of them may be nascent and widely divergent approaches within a nonCartesian spirituality of participatory events. In other words, all may be implicitly co-creative, in various liberating ways, with the reality of the presence between all the persons involved in the situation.

This approach to spirituality in terms of participatory, relational and transformative events has a resonance with Senge’s account of ‘presence’ in terms of a group collectively and consciously participating in a larger field for change (Senge et al, 2005). Buber (1937) was a modern pioneer of relational spirituality, stressing the primacy of the I-Thou relation, the realm of the between, for attuning to the real. Authentic community, he held, is an event that arises out of the Centre between persons. This is echoed in the peer spirit circling of Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea (2000). Also relevant is Hanh’s (1995) notion of ‘interbeing’; and an ancient precursor is the Shinto religious attitude and practice of intimacy (Kasulio, 1990). There is not space here to explore all these and other ramifications of relational spirituality, but we value the Gergens’ account of the significance of relational processes (Chapter 9).

The general format of meetings

We describe here the process in our fortnightly two hour meeting in terms of Shekinah. Each person in the group has their own experientially-grounded belief-system about what we do. There is no one correct account, but a family of related accounts with varying degrees of mutual overlap and resonance, and yet, we believe, with a central core in common. This is but one member of the family.

Shekinah in Hebrew means 'residence', 'dwelling'. In Jewish tradition it is the name for divine immanence, for the divine presence as it makes itself known in the material world, 'overshadowing', 'hovering', 'indwelling'. It is also associated with the feminine aspect of the divine, concerned with interpersonal relationships. In what follows Shekinah refers to the spiritual presence between humans, and between humans and presences in other realms.  It is the spiritual heart of the relation of mutuality, in both these horizontal and the vertical dimensions, which the procedure we follow seems progressively to reveal.

As people arrive and gather we socialize with cups of various kinds of tea. All kinds of enlivened conversations occur, some spontaneously using language to seed the ground with transpersonal potentials, giving them room to grow; others are simply hilarious.

When we are well settled in, round a low table with candles and other items, someone proposes or starts a check-in round. This round accommodates a whole diversity of options: simple reportage of current life-events, routine, joyful, challenging or traumatic; an account of current spiritual, psi, psychological, interpersonal, energetic/sexual/somatic dynamics; a cathartic release of some current and/or archaic distress with self-generated insight; self-transfiguring spiritual assertions. Group members support and bear witness to the person checking-in, but rarely interact or comment, because the check-in is directed to what is between us.

There may then be a period of silence, or this plus someone stroking the rim of a Tibetan bowl with a stick of wood to produce a tone.

At a certain point there is a distinct, spontaneous qualitative shift in the group energy field. One or two people are moved, and gradually and idiosyncratically each one is moved, to open their bodily, incarnate energy to the living presence within and between us, and between us and presences in other realms, by posture and gesture, by movement, by vocal toning, by rhythmic sounding of a diversity of rattles, drums, bells, tambourines, etc. This is both an opening of the heart and an exercise of alert discrimination. The posture, gesture, movement, toning and sounding are improvised in the moment out of a heart-communion with, and an aware inquiry into the nature and credentials of, this living presence – a marriage of appreciation and inquiry (Chapter 12).

This dynamic, charismatic, inquiring heart-opening goes on for a considerable period – on average about forty five minutes - with series of crescendos and diminuendos which are potently co-created with the rhythmic life of the between.

There is an unmistakable final diminuendo. We become entirely still. We draw together and hold hands, or sit silently apart, and for a long period feast on, and probe with the soul, the extraordinary depths and presence of Shekinah, also aptly named by one of our members as "the band of golden silence". This also has an clear ending. It may, or may not, be followed by a sharing, an affirmation, and an inquiring review, of what has been going on. Then we close the meeting and people depart for their homes.

What may be interwoven with the above are spontaneous episodes in which one or more members speak out of, and speak as, archetypal powers and presences interfused with the event.

If we are currently engaged in a co-operative inquiry (see below) into spiritual activities undertaken everyday life between our fortnightly meetings, we will make space during the session for each person to report on and review the previous two weeks’ of activity, and in the light of that plan the next two weeks.

As well as the two-hour fortnightly meetings, we also meet for a three-day gathering at least once a year, for more intensive cycles of inquiry as described in a later section, and for attending more fully to personal and interpersonal dynamics that may be clouding the charismatic process.

As a professed peer-group, our model of decision-making seeks a creative balance between hierarchy, autonomy and co-operation. It is open to anyone to exercise a hierarchical or leadership initiative and propose some activity or direction for the group as whole. Issues to do with the proposal are discussed, with time for each member to clarify their autonomous response, a vote is taken with arms more or less up, more or less down, or horizontal, to indicate degree of support, degree of rejection, or ambivalence. If there is a minority of those who reject or are ambivalent, they speak to their position. This may cause some of the majority to change their position, in which case another arm vote is taken. Once unchanging positions are established, and the minority acknowledge they feel heard and understood and are open to accede to the majority, the majority vote holds. In our decisions, we are committed to celebrate diversity and variety in what individuals or sub-groups may choose to do, as well as corporate and concerted actions.

Elements and properties of the inquiry process

This research is a mode of collaborative action inquiry in which our basic energies as embodied vital beings are opened up by spontaneous action to manifest, celebrate and inquire into, the living spirit within and between us, and between us and the wider reaches of being. The basic elements are:

Posture, gesture, facial expression, movement.

Toning, with cycles of spontaneous crescendo and diminuendo.

Musical rhythms with a variety of percussion instruments.

Mutual resonance, with creative mimesis - building on what others do.

Erotic energy as a component of mutual resonance.

Relative position between us in the space of the room.

Speaking out of altered states.

Mutual trust.

Exhilaration.

Silent hand-holding after the charismatic expression, to bear witness to, be enfolded in, and inquire into the sacred presence between us.

Charismatic disinhibition of these several modalities to open to the living spirit as it moves within and between and beyond, and this includes continuous internal adjustments of awareness - inquiring discrimination in keeping open to what there really is, locating and dissolving blocks, aligning energies, modulating idiosyncratic expression, attuning with others.

Supporting elements are:

A check-in round early in a meeting.

Freeform conversation, and structured dialogue.

Feedback, conceptual review and authenticity checks.

Peer decision-making as described above.

Our practice has at least six basic properties. It is relational: it involves charismatic hybridization, that is, transformative mutual resonance with each other, and with what there is. It is embodied: it opens up the fundamental energies of being embodied – standing, posturing, gesturing, moving, breathing, sounding, perceiving, sensing – as gateways for the living spirit in which they are grounded. It is autonomous: it regards teacher, tradition and text as secondary to the primacy of the discriminating inquiring authority within each person. It is peer: it proposes that hierarchy rotates among peers to facilitate, sustain and enhance the flourishing of co-operation and creative autonomy as interdependent values. It celebrates diversity in unity: honouring idiosyncratic creativity and heterogeneous perspectives within an allowing and liberating whole. It is political: it is committed to make a difference in a our daily engagement with social action in our lives.

Three types of inquiry process

We engage in three types of inquiry. The first is our bedrock: the collaborative action inquiry which is the core of every fortnightly meeting. It is the active discrimination, exercised on-the-hoof - during our mutually resonant toning, percussion, posture and movement - with regard to what we are expressing, how we are doing so both individually and in concert, and in relation with whom or what, that is, with what presences or presence. This intuitive discrimination subsumes the continuous interplay of practical knowing (skilled action), presentational knowing (symbolic forms of sound, music, posture and movement) and experiential knowing (encounter with each other and with that which is) (Chapter XX; Heron, 1998: 228-9). It is conceptually elaborated in shorter and longer periods of reflective review, which occasionally involve a whole evening.

The second type of inquiry we use in our annual three day meetings. This is structured piece of co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996; Heron and Reason, 2001) built round our collaborative action inquiry (Reason 1994). We co-decide an intentional project beforehand about how, and with what end, we do our charismatic expression, then do this, then share feedback on it and build this review into planning a second action-reflection cycle, and so on.

The third type embraces a series of structured co-operative inquiries, which bridge the gap between the fortnightly meetings and our engaged life in the world. Each of them runs for a specified period of time, involving several cycles of reflection and action, and have occurred intermittently over the years. Part of a fortnightly meeting is used to plan individual or agreed spiritual practices to be taken as an action inquiry into daily life before the next meeting, when each of us report back on our action strand and develop a plan for the next two weeks of application. Shared topics, all focussed on application in living, have been: transpersonal activities in everyday life, empowerment in everyday life, coming into being, gender issues, Shekinah in everyday life, presences and authentic intuition, authentic authority, terror, speaking from the heart. As well as the corporate topics – which individuals explore in their own way - there have also been a range of entirely idiosyncratic individual lines of action inquiry into transformations of daily living.

Participants’ perspectives and outcomes

When we review and make sense of what we experience during the procedures of our fortmighly meetings, there is a convergence of meaning in the various terms different members use to name the process: communion, attunement, resonance, alignment, and such like. There is a basic common ground about what this process engages with, particularly in the period immediately following the toning, percussion and movement. This was named by one of us "the band of golden silence" – the sense of sacred presence indwelling the between, as we put it. Each person mediates their own nuanced account of this. There is also considerable divergence, involving both overlaps and varying connotations of the terms used, about other aspects of being we engage with. So we have: one’s inner self; each other; powers and presences in complementary realities; the human race; nature/the biosphere/the earth; the solar system; galactic consciousness; extraterrestrials.

Many of us experience the procedure as a nonverbal, non-doctrinal version of worship, praise, high prayer, and dynamic meditation. One or two have expressed the theurgical view that our encounter with the divine changes the nature of the divine.

Here is an abridged account, from the notes taken by one of us, of impromptu declarations, made on 6 August 2004, of some individual perspectives on what we are doing. Each paragraph is a different speaker:

Ethereal alignment through sound.

Invoking/inviting potent powers and presences.

Culminating in co-dwelling in an in-between immediate sacred presence.

Inquiring into how we can be together in many dimensions of living - from the practical to the transpersonal - and into how what we are doing here contributes to the wider society.

A celebration of resting in my heart with others resting in their hearts; the ground of my human spirituality is between us as well as internal.

A multidimensional attempt to create distress-free spirituality, to explore ritual life, how power is distributed, contested and re-contested, to feel the holding and support of others who are living a transpersonal life.

Collectively touching into heartland, a shared intimacy generating a nectar-like quality, an alchemical exchange with a larger system of awareness, everyone distilling different metaphors and experiences.

Reclaiming my individual and collective spirit, tuning into the subtleties of how transpersonal spirit is brought forward, engaged with and expressed through sound, replenishing my essence in the process.

We identify five outcomes of this kind of relational inquiry, and believe them to be interdependent and mutually supporting (Heron, 1996). (1) Basic are the transformations of being which it brings about in the participants, and which they have variously named as attunement-alignment-harmonization-communion, bliss, softness, satisfaction, fulfilment, peace, nourishment, groundedness. These transformations, we believe, have a strong element of intersubjective hybridization, mutual cross-fertilization. (2) Intimately associated are the autonomous and co-operative skills acquired to effect such transformation, and (3) the idiosyncratic insights into the nature of reality which the aesthetic-expressive movement, toning and mutual resonance reveal. (4) An important applied outcome is charismatic face-to-face transmission and transformation of practice  in relation to those we live, work, socialize and play with. This may be spontaneous or part of intentional practice within a type 3 inquiry as described earlier. These practical outcomes in everyday life are rich and complex and deserve a paper in their own right. One common thread is a sense of wholeness and groundedness which empowers whole relations with others. (5) Another important kind of public outcome are the conceptual formulations which we make in our review sessions to clarify what we do, how we do it, what we encounter, and with what soundness; which participants can share in the wider world, as in this paper. Finally, we hypothesize, cautiously, about the possibility of subtle activism: the unknown (to us) possible effects at a subtle level on the immediate locality, and more widely on human affairs in this, that or the other respect (cf. Kelly, 2005).  All these outcome claims are subject to issues of quality and soundess discussed in the next section.

Issues of quality and soundness

Reason and Bradbury (2001: 450-4) propose five issues of quality: relational praxis, practical outcome, plurality of knowing, significant work, enduring consequence. To take these in turn, our group, as we see it: maximizes participation of the humans involved in its core process and engages the participation of wider reaches of being; has, as important practical outcomes, the liberation of participants from past spiritual colonization and the empowerment of their authentic spirituality in daily life; deepens and integrates multiple ways of knowing in appropriate methodology; affirms the significance of the sacred; and has sustained and developed its process for eleven years.

The devil’s advocate will insist this is far too sanguine. "Just how deluded and fanciful," he or she will ask, "is the co-creative enterprise of the fortnightly meetings? Is it simply a piece of improvisatory theatrical moving and toning without any ontological reference beyond what is evident to the sense-perception of anyone present in the room?" Here are a range of considerations that bear on these and other questions that relate to the five issues above and the soundness of what we are about.

Declarative validity Subtle realms, their resident powers and presences, sacred presence-as-such are what we meet in our state-specific enactments. They declare their ontological validity in and through these enactments. Crudely put: worlds, entities, presence-as-such are what we meet through our co-creations, and their reality is within the relation of meeting. Try it all and see.

Critical subjectivity and intersubjectivity The relation of meeting is itself constructed out of a dynamic discernment, an on-the-hoof expressively adjusting alignment, which involves both individual participative knowing and - by virtue of mutual resonance - co-operative participative knowing. Singly and together, in and through our moving and toning, we test for high quality ontological soundness, for the most intimate and authentic embrace with the presence between.

Shared enthusiasm without psychic colonization The subtlety of listening and yielding to the experience of others, through mimetic linkage, while at the same time hybridizing it with one’s own version, is at the heart of relational spirituality and its co-creative intersubjectivity. A declaration in any way nuanced with an authoritative voice, with tacit appeals to some authoritative spiritual tradition, blocks others from joining it and letting it blend with their imaginal worlds. By contrast, a ‘clear’ enthusiastic declaration, free from spiritual imperialism and the colonizing of consciousness, empowers others actively to yield: it invites a subtle mutual penetration and co-dwelling analogous to an erotic process (Lewis, 2003). Authentic co-creation flourishes when it steers clear of pontification and the colonization of consciousness on the one hand, and overly inhibited performances on the other.

Dionysian and Apollonian approaches: Our inquiry is spanned between the poles of the Dionysian emergence of our process and the Apollonian preplanning of it (Heron, 1996). Over the years it has moved between the poles, always involving some degree of each. Of our three types of inquiry referred to above, type 1 inquiry is Dionysian, types 2 and 3 Apollonian. Too much Dionysian enthusiasmos and we are devoured by the divine, too much Apollonian preplanning and the spirit is unable to blow where it listeth. Learning to engage with the power of this polarity, in order to deepen the soundness of what we do, is a major dimension of our inquiry.

Group process and life process: Another closely related basic polarity of our inquiry, which bears on soundness, is the group process within our meetings, and the life process in our daily existence between them. Over the years we have moved between combining our group process action inquiry with planning and reporting on our life process action inquiry, and just doing our group process without the life process planning and reporting - the assumption here is that the life process is then emergent. The soundness of the whole inquiry is critically to do with how the group process and the life process enhance each other,

Consensus collusion: We occasionally use a devil’s advocate procedure to raise questions about possible forms of unaware consensus collusion that may have us in their grip. One recent candidate was whether we were savouring Dionysian type 1 inquiry – our charismatic moving and toning – in part as a way of not engaging more fully with Apollonian type 3 inquiry - applications in everyday life – although, as already noted, these applications still go on in emergent, Dionysian mode. Another issue with which we confront ourselves is the degree to which we have interlocking structures of charismatic inhibition, that is, the extent to which we collude in the limits we set to our charismatic disinhibition.

Balance of hierarchy, co-operation and autonomy: The model of peer decision-making we use seeks a balance of these three dimensions, as described in the section above on our procedure. John’s role has shifted from taking strong hierarchical initiatives in setting up the series of inquiry workshops from which the group emerged, to a more ambiguous status as an intermittently influential peer, while hierarchical initiatives also move spontaneously among others in the group. Our model sometimes works superbly, sometimes relatively well and is sometimes – especially in the three-day gatherings - relatively chaotic with ego-burning confusion, tension and frustration. We have learnt to hang in with the chaotic phases. In burning up egoistic dross, these phases can presage both issues being disowned and denied, and also possibilities for the emergence of new and unexpected kinds of luminosity and order. There also times when the model is underused and habitual practice rules. We are still in the very early stages of developing peer decision-making as a fundamental kind of relational spiritual practice.

Personal and interpersonal tension: A high percentage of the members participate in a local peer self-help counselling network and so have access to regular emotional housecleaning. Personal and interpersonal tensions triggered by our inquiry process, possibly distorting it in unacknowledged ways, pose a special challenge. It is an open question how far these tensions are resolved by the transmutative effect of our charismatic practices, and how far they both distort and are buried by the practices. Very little explicit healing is devoted to them in the two-hour fortnightly meetings. One purpose of the annual three-day gathering is to provide much more time for such work. And members do take material aroused in the group to sessions elsewhere. During the meetings we also use agreed nonverbal signs to give each other instant feedback about the felt quality – positive, ambiguous, negative – of our individual behaviours. In all these different ways, constant vigilance is required, continuously assessing our fluctuating levels of emotional and interpersonal competence.

Primacy of the practical and the correlative primacy of the between: In our group process, the primacy of the practical – our moving and toning - is grounded in the correlative primacy of meeting – the experiential relation/the mutual resonance/the presence, between us, and others gathered with us. Practical and experiential knowing constitute primal poles of knowing, with imaginal knowing, as gestures in space and patterns of sound, mediating between them. In inquiry as in life, the basic dynamic is acting to enhance the quality of a shared life-field. Co-sensitivity to the changing state of the between-field and co-acting to enhance its overall flourishing, together entail cross-fertilization of co-inquirers’ qualities and perspectives. This is at the heart of excellence in a collaborative action inquiry into embodied group process as a gateway to communion with what there is.

Related contemporary developments

There is space briefly to mention some related approaches, alongside those in the opening section above. That the vital energies of the body can evoke the living spirit in which they are grounded, and whence they issue forth, is demonstrated in distinctive ways in each of the following: the holotropic breathwork of Stan Grof (1988) and the wide range of subtle and spiritual states it delivers; the paratheatrical research of Antero Alli (2003) with its comprehensive phenomenology of physical behaviours for cultivating ‘resonance with vertical sources’; charismatic education and training (Heron, 1999) in the context of a dipolar account of spirit (Heron, 1998); aspects of the integral transformative practice of Leonard and Murphy (1995); the interactive somatic inquiries proposed by Marina Romero and Ramon Albareda (Ferrer, 2003) in their work on a fully embodied and vitalized spiritual life; the work of Michael Washburn (2003) asserting spiritual as well as instinctual energy in the Dynamic Ground of the human being, which can be awakened as an enlivening and guiding force within our bodies; Jorge Ferrer’s (2006) considered affirmation of embodied spirituality.

There are also relevant developments within anthropology. The once frowned upon going cognitively native, has now become a major innovation, completely departing from early anthropology’s monophasic bias - the gathering of data in the Eurocentric cognitive domain (Laughlin, Mc Manus and Shearer, 1993). There is a willingness to abandon early anthropology’s spiritual or religious frigidity (Turner, 1993:7), and to enter into states of consciousness, outlawed by scientific rationalism, as a demanding form of participant observation (Jules-Rosette, 1975; Peters, 1981; Laderman, 1991). Contemporary transpersonal anthropologists, interested in the field of waking dreams, make efforts to enter the alterity-scape of their host culture, seeing the experience as bearing essential forms of ethnographic data (Laughlin, 1994). They submit themselves to a profound process of cognitive re-structuring in a cultural milieu remote from secular materialism, and so embrace, in their direct knowing, a participatory epistemology.

This participatory turn in anthropology (Jackson, 1989 and Tambiah, 1990) resonates with the participatory turn in transpersonal theory (Heron, 1992, 1998; Ferrer, 2002). Tambiah writes, "participation is very much in place" in the world of qualitative science, and is pre-eminent "as a mode of relating to and constructing reality", this pre-eminence finds its zenith, "when describing aesthetic or religious orientations" because of its "holistic and configurational grasping of totalities as integral to aesthetic enjoyment and mystic awareness". The bridge, to this mystical participation, he says, is to be found in the interconnectedness between persons and nature (1990: 106). This hybrid space of the between is an important research focus in both anthropology and co-operative inquiry.

The concept of hybridity draws from horticulture, meaning grafting or cross-pollination two species to form a third, ‘hybrid’ species. Nineteenth century Eugenics theory held that human cross-breeds and half-castes watered down an original pristine biological condition – the descent of white races from Adam and Eve. This dominant patriarchal idea of "pure origins, pure lineages" in "language, religion, nation, race, culture, status, class, gender…was preoccupied with divine or sacred origins" (Pieterse, 2004: 94).

With the development of Mendelian genetics in the 1870s cross-breeding, cross-fertilization, polygenetic inheritance are seen as advantageous, invigorating and "valued as enrichments to the gene-pool. Gradually this has been seeping through into wider circles; the work of the anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972), as one of the few to connect the natural sciences and the social sciences, has been influential in this regard" (Pieterse, 2004: 71). The Creole, the half-caste, the cross-breed, the hybrid, find new status and have come to be valorized by many contemporary social theorists: Homi Bhabha has argued that all claims to the inherent purity and originality of cultures are in fact "untenable", and that all cultural systems and articulations are constructed in what he names as the "Third Space of Enunciation" (1995: 209).

It can be argued that this third space of the between, the space of hybridization, is where, largely unrecognized, the whole development of transpersonal theory and practice has been occurring. Within the micro-culture of our inquiry group, we seek to make it central in our co-creativity. This moment is akin, we believe, to what Bhabha, citing Salman Rushdie, calls, "‘the unstable element of linkage’, the indeterminate temporality of the in-between, that has to be engaged in creating the conditions for ‘newness to come into the world’" (1994: 227).

Conclusion

The dynamic, charismatic format inaugurated when this inquiry was launched in 1995, and continuously refined through to the present day, is, as the authors see it, an intentional rebirthing of the spiritual potential within the basic energies of our embodiment. This rebirthing is relational - consequent upon the co-creative resonance among us all. And it empowers us to come into the presence between. In short: immanent spirit becomes manifest, through collaborative action, as relational and situational sacred presence. Participation in this presence engenders a liberating wholeness, a personal regeneration - which is given expression amidst the practicalities of everyday life and work, empowering whole relations with others.

 

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