Coming into being: how the
inquiry group began
The text below is the whole of Chapter 20
from Heron, J., Sacred Science: Person-centred Inquiry into the Spiritual
and the Subtle, Ross-on-Wye, PCCS Books, 1998.
A story. Place and year: New Zealand, 1994-1997.
Spiritual focus: Celebrating through improvised charismatic sound and
movement our individual and interactive coming into being. Subtle focus:
Exploring the range of subtle phenomena that support and enhance this
celebration. Social focus: Affirming a group nucleus of holonomic
spiritual activity and sustaining it within prevailing culture; injecting
individual transpersonal activities into everyday culture; and creating a
sub-culture of people intentionally inquiring into this kind of
transpersonal social transformation.
In late 1993, some
months after the Scottís Landing event described in Chapter 13, I
distributed flyer among interested persons in New Zealand. It proposed, for
February through April, 1994, a four day journey of opening, a co-operative
inquiry into transpersonal activities in everyday life, a training for
co-operative inquiry initiators, and the start of an ongoing seed group. It
presented these events as aspects of a self-generating culture. No fees were
to be charged.
The three workshops all took place,
and the second of them, about transpersonal activity in everyday life, has
already been described in detail in Chapter 15. They proved to be links in a
chain of events which started at Scottís Landing in March 1993, Chapter 13.
Eight people who had been at Scottís
Landing met each month thereafter to check in with each other and share
significant life events. They joined the transpersonal activities in
everyday life inquiry, February to April 1994, and, enlarged by new members
from that, continued on as a self-directing peer group after it closed and I
had returned to Italy. This was the ongoing seed group, anticipated in the
flyer. It continued to meet regularly throughout the southern winter of
1994-5, sharing personal and transpersonal experiences in a spirit of
When I returned to New Zealand in
early November 1994 I joined this ongoing group and we elected, over the
summer of 1994-5, to focus our inquiry on the process of coming into being
now. Each person adopted an idiosyncratic approach to this, choosing some of
form of mantra, meditation, affirmation, inner opening, centering, postural
alignment, continuous attunement, way of being present, ritual process,
which attended to their continuous coming into being now.
The theme adopted
by the group was coming into being, affirming and celebrating this each
day and observing the impact of this within our ordinary life. Over the
years this has become a regular and powerful way of beginning my day and
also a way of affirming myself within something new I am stepping into
within ordinary life. So as a tool, a skill, I might say ĎI affirm my
coming into being in this world as a competent, skilful and balanced
mediator and adjudicatorí, then tune in and evoke higher beings with
these qualities and at the same time broaden my awareness with my eyes,
to beyond this world, expand out the back and sides of my head, and feel
into and breath in these qualities. (Barbara Langton)
We met every two weeks. The form
of the meeting was variable, but usually contained these elements, including
informal discussion of any of them:
Settling in, and attuning to each other
with hand contact, toning, mind-emptying and mutual resonance.
This increasingly led over, after an early
meeting in which we gave ourselves permission to become charismatically
disinhibited, into an extended phase of improvised movement and toning. This
was a slow, sacred, sinuous, interactive dance, with expressive gestures of
the arms and hands, which established a potent field of subtle energy and
spiritual presence. It was simultaneously empowered by co-ordinated
harmonies of toning, with successive waves of crescendo and diminuendo. This
combination seemed to well up out of our own coming to being now and to be
both an expression and a celebration of it. It appeared to me to be marked
by four phenomena:
A sense of numinous presence in our midst,
as if each was open to and expressive of immanent spiritual life within each
and every other, and between all.
A participative awareness of divine powers,
archetypal energies of creation.
A participative awareness of unseen
presences, refracting these powers.
Precision of beginning and ending: both the
lift off and the closure of the process were exactly timed, the qualitative
shift of subtle energy being noted by all. They were not ours to command,
but a matter of our co-operative openness and attunement to wider reaches of
being and the movement of the spirit within.
Each person shared their experience, over
the previous three weeks, of using their way of attending to coming into
being now, and the impact of this on their everyday life.
Each person made a statement about how they
intended to proceed for the next three weeks, whether using the same
procedure, some modification of it, or some new procedure, or both.
An act of closure, perhaps hand contact and
The experience of the coming into being inquiry that
lead into the formation of the wavy group was very strong for me. I
remember at the time describing it as a spiritual awakening. The
fortnightly participation in the group, linked by the daily practice
of presencing, the experience of coming into being at every moment,
at a daily morning meditation session, and throughout the day at
random moments, seemed to open up a field that held me in a state of
flow in relation to the world around me and the day to day work and
relating I was engaged in. I had a strong sense of being held by
something greater than me, a sense of spiritual family, or a class
of friends who were learning together, that was very often with me
during the day and while asleep. It was a felt presence of the other
people involved as a container, or field of activity.
The outcome in my life was a
heightened sense of participating in an unfolding nature of being
human in the world. The access into this awareness was assisted by
the presence of, participation in, the field of inquiry held in
place by myself and co-inquirers. (Rex McCann)
Because of its characteristic
sinuous sacred dance, this group became known among its members as the wavy
group. It met early one evening for the autumn equinox, in March1995, at the
bottom of the grass-covered crater within the summit of One Tree Hill in the
centre of Auckland. As some fifteen of us gathered, we spread far apart over
the grass, deep in the crater, and stood scattered and silent for a while.
Then, as if suddenly called, we moved slowly into the centre and entranced
ourselves with moving and toning, until the equinoctial hour had had its
The more formal inquiry phase, of
planning and reporting back on individual practices used between group
sessions, ended in April. The group continued to meet regularly throughout
the southern winter and spring of 1995-6, to wave and weave together and
A consistent core group continues to
meet fortnightly for some personal sharing and then what for me is the rich,
deep, sometimes mysterious emergence of a varying mixture of toning, waving,
stomping, growling, sounding instruments, silent attunement, co-creating and
speaking out of resonance with an archetypal form, subtle energies of a
planet or a seeming felt sense of the divine. (Barbara Langton)
It continued on as a distinct
strand, with some of the same members as, and alongside, the empowerment in
everyday life inquiry in the southern summer of 1996, Chapter 18.
enjoyed the sessions where we all allowed ourselves to play with energy
in a light and joyful way trying out different movements and sounds. It
was as if we were tapping into a very potent energy source. During
1994-6 the energy of the group seemed to imbue the rest of my life and
when I think back to it I can contact the energy now. It is timeless.
When that ended in April 1996, it
continued to meet regularly throughout the southern winter and spring of
1996, with many variations of format. For some weeks in the southern summer
of 1996-7, it launched a gender inquiry in which the women met each
fortnight in their own group, so too the men, and the combined groups met on
the intervening weeks. The ongoing group continues to meet as I write.
ongoing group has continued to provide a rhythm of a grounded spiritual
attunement, a creative emergent unfolding from a shared felt sense of
appropriate timing, and a natural elegance of form and pattern. Its
Dionysian style creates an expansive space when we gather. And I feel that
it works because of our shared experience with a more Appollian formal
co-operative inquiry, and because each individual is committed in their own
life both to emotional and to transpersonal process. The space is such that
we seem free to share our personal ups and downs and life process as well as
transpersonal space. And we do review our process periodically.
Another aspect that has interested me is the ability and
flexibility of the group to expand and reduce in numbers without losing
these special qualities. Only one year I noticed some resistance of
mine, to opening up to a larger group after the smaller core group had
had a close intimate time through one winter. Although perhaps losing
some of the familiar intimacy, the richness of other peopleís energy and
sharing easily balanced this for me. So it is as though a wider group
who are part of it all for some months holds a container for the smaller
group who meet more consistently throughout the year.
For me its value and importance is in outwardly
acknowledging and having spiritual space, sharing this with others in a
way I find empowering and grounded, and maintaining a form that is open,
varied, flexible, emergent from the people present, spontaneously
creative, disinhibited charismatically to varying degrees, deeply
nourishing, light, warm, supportive and intimate. I find that it
supports and enhances my own personal meditations and rituals. (Barbara
So four or six of us have been meeting, and its a new
configuration so itís not clear yet what is emerging. We may need to
redefine what weíre doing. Roberta staunchly resists anything that
sounds like stultified effort or intentionality. She complained that we
have evolved a predictable format: a bit of greeting chatter, a check-in
round, some toning and /or movement, leading to some silent attunement.
Thatís true of course, but it doesnít bother me too much, the shape of
the container the juice comes in. But I know I take this business of
alignment seriously, so Iím prey to all the distortions that come from
over-identifying with spiritual effort. Richard thinks we are simply
arguing out the tension between Apollonian and Dionysian approaches. I
think appropriate effort is the central issue in all spiritual
endeavours, and I know there have been times in our groups when we were
functioning with an openness in which there is no distinction between
spontaneity and intentionality. Where I get caught is in thinking of
these states as the real goods, and subtly resisting or manipulating
what is, in order to achieve what is not. I suspect thatís where Roberta
smells a rat. I spent our last meeting letting go of all sense of
responsibility for the experience of anyone else present, and letting go
of any desire to be collectively generating any particular state of
being. Itís a liberating expansion into the present. (Glenn McNicoll)
As I read it, the wavy group, in
its several phases over the past four years, has been continuously
inquiring, with highly flexible variations of format, into its own coming
into being now. Its basic format is very Dionysian.
It is more than adequate in terms of the broad sweep of its cyclic process,
its total collaboration, its regular self-questioning (challenging
uncritical subjectivity) and attention to emotional and interpersonal
process. The inquiry is conducted in terms of a dynamic interplay
between experiential knowing, presentational knowing, and practical knowing:
The experiential knowing is of our coming
into being now as persons in relation
within the presence of Being and the surrounding field of interbeing.
The presentational knowing is in
radical knowing immediately in patterns of interactive sound and
The practical knowing, the knowing how, is
The skill, in the expressive use of
interactive sound and movement,
to symbolize and participate in the process of divine creation.
The very subtle skill in managing
congruence between the three forms of knowing, so that no one of them takes
off on its own alienated from the other two.
The fundamental research cycling
is the continuous interplay between the three kinds of knowing. This is
religious action inquiry. Conventional action inquiry involves thinking
(propositional knowing) in the midst of action (practical knowing). This
more basic kind entails skilled action (practical knowing) that symbolizes
(presentational knowing) opening to our coming into being (experiential
knowing). In this sort, the element of celebration, of ecstatic abundance,
evident in skilled presentational expression is prior to, is wider and
deeper than, the element of inquiry its symbolism embraces.
The research cycling becomes more
complete when it is extended to include phases of conceptual reflection.
There is a great deal of virtue in delaying this phase for a long while.
This is partly because in our culture it is very easy for such reflection to
become rapidly dissociated from its relevant experiential base, and thus to
disregard, denigrate or deny it. It is also because the interplay of the
other three kinds of knowing in religious action inquiry needs a substantial
period of ripening and maturity before it can provide a stable foundation
for reflective inquiry.
Back to Papers on the inquiry