Note: I wrote this introductory piece in the days leading up to the Emerge Gathering in Austin, Texas. Daniel Schmachtenberger proposed framing the conference around the question of a “third attractor,” while Jeremy Lent clarified this attractor involves the creation of an ecological civilization. My readers might appreciate some of the themes cohering below.
This Thursday at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET, I will be hosting a Mutations salon call about the event, “Austin Postscript and Sensing into What’s Next.”
If you are interested in attending, please send me a quick note via Twitter or email (jeremy (at) nuralearning (dot) com) for the Zoom link. See you then.
I thought it would be fun to let my writing land in the Austin gathering ahead of myself.
I’m sharing two pieces below (“Three Theses on Liminality” and “Mutations, Imagination, Futurability”), which I hope are the beginning of a dialogue on how we might cohere what Jean Gebser has called “the presence of the future,” i.e., the possibility of a “third attractor.”
What the two pieces have in common, I think, is an orientation towards finding a common ground – perhaps common depths and roots – concerning what is emerging.
The idea, I hope, would be for us to arrive at a shared recognition: the multiplicity of approaches we are bringing in response to the planetary crisis circumnavigate around a common, but inexhaustible and overdetermined “center”: the future attractor, the presence of tomorrow.
Complexity thinker Edgar Morin conveys a similar idea when he speaks about the possibility of a “third religion,” a “depth religion” which would “not have promises but roots.”
Similarly, integral ecologist Sean Kelly has proposed in Becoming Gaia (2020) that we need to seek out a “concrete” rather than an “abstract” universal.
But how do we arrive here, at Morin’s “Unitas Multiplex,” a way of thinking and being which opens up rather than closes down what the emergence of this future could mean, and coheres us enough to enact this future effectively?
I am reminded — and inspired in turn to remind us — of Joanna Macy’s important concept of “The Great Turning,” which illustrates the multifaceted demands of cultural transformation:
1) holding patterns (mitigating the extent of suffering and destruction),
2) analysis of structures that prevent transformation and the creation of structures that can begin replacing them
3) the transformation of consciousness
Macy’s Great Turning has continued to strike me as a profoundly depth-oriented approach. Depth-oriented approaches, as I understand them, are not exclusively intensive (inward), nor are they extensive (material/structure), but both, and transparently so.
Macy recognizes the need for transitions and bridgework (working within current institutions to prevent ecological destruction and oppose, wherever it appears, political authoritarianism), structural transformation (innovating new material structures and institutions that can eventually replace collapsing ones), and consciousness transformation (developing capacities for complex planetary thinking, planetary subjectivities and identities, regenerating social imaginaries).
These three dimensions are interrelated and interdependent.
All three of these dimensions are, at a minimum, needed for the unthinkable task of reimagining ourselves, inside and out, in our relationship with the rest of the biosphere.
In my “Three Theses on Liminality,” I suggested a similar framing between an imploding and collapsing worldview and the emergent-but-nascent one: together they perform a kind of dialogical and recursive dance. As the collapsing worldview undergoes an existential, material, and spiritual crisis, the conditions for the emergent worldview arise out of what I call a “mutational urgency.”
We have to learn how to exist in the middle, as in the Nahuatl concept of nepantla. Like mediators between realities, we must learn to guide each other through an interim world, where our sense of identity and worldview has been shattered, but all is not lost. Fragments of the future are here, if we can learn to become senseful enough to recognize them in the living present.
The future appears, more often than not, as the destructive, implosive, and chaotic elements of the meta-crisis: a “dark planetary.” The future as unintegrated shadow. As mediators between worlds, our role is to “stay with the trouble,” as Donna Haraway says. We turn towards the vortices, the unprecedented storms which arrive booming on our coasts each year, like they are emissaries from an integral future.
We ask: what are they teaching us? What facet of our nature, our becoming, are they showing us?
The role of emergence, especially for a crowd like our own, may be in how effectively we can engage a process planetary transindividuation: internalizing the characteristics and conditions of the meta-crisis, we recognize them as incipient jewels of planetary wisdom that are, in turn, offered back towards propagating and catalyzing “new mutations” in culture and consciousness (material, aesthetic, economic, educational). Manifestations of cultural practices that are transformational rather than merely destructive or implosive.
We might, then, become more effective worldview wayfinders, promoting new planetary imaginaries, new mutations of thinking and “being there” with the planet that address both the existential and spiritual conditions arguably shared by human and more-than human alike (see my essay, “Mutations, Imagination, Futurability”).
Collective action and coherence might then be found in the growing recognition of both our common roots and our common futures. Planetary homecoming does not rest safely behind us. It lies out ahead, waiting to be made real, and we must arrive there together, or not at all.
I’m looking forward to meeting you all, tomorrow, and hope that we can discover, together, how tomorrow already lives in us.