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Co-Intelligence Quotes

The quotes below are organized mostly according to the five dimensions of co-intellligence, and have been placed into the category that seemed most central to their message. But many of them could have been categorized in several dimensions since those dimensions are, in reality, deeply interrelated.


Intelligence, itself

Intelligence is the ability to respond successfully to new situations and the capacity to learn from one's past experiences.... Intelligence depends on the context, the tasks, and the demands that life presents to us and not on an IQ score, a college degree, or a prestigious reputation.

Thomas Armstrong, 7 Kinds of Smart, p. 8

Collective Intelligence

Let us put our heads together and see what life we will make for our children.

Tatanka Iotanka (Sitting Bull, Lakota Leader)


Some other eyes will look around, and find the things I've never found.

Malvina Reynolds


Learning is a property of all living organisms.... Since organized groups can be looked upon as living entities, they can be expected to exhibit learning...

Winfred B. Hirschmann
"Profit from the Learning Curve,"
Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 1964

The concept of organizational learning refers to the capacity of organizational complexes to develop experiential knowledge, instincts, and "feel" or intuition which are greater than the combined knowledge, skills and instincts of the individuals involved.

Don E. Kash
Perpetual Innovation, 1989

Collective intelligence emerges when a group of people work together effectively. Collective intelligence can be additive (each adds his or her part which together form the whole) or it can be synergetic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Trudy and Peter Johnson-Lenz,
"Groupware: Orchestrating the Emergence of Collective Intelligence"
(c. 1980)

The Buddha, Shakyamuni, our teacher, predicted that the next Buddha would be Maitreya, the Buddha of love.... It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and lovingkindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.

Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Next Buddha May Be A Sangha" in Inquiring Mind, Vol 10, No. 2, Spring 1994.

I believe we must place much greater emphasis on what I would call "the learning society" - a society that learns to listen to itself, reflect on itself, and create new possibilities for its future.

Richard Harwood
"Public Soul and the Learning Society"
in Focus on Study Circles, Fall 1992

We must... become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions [and societies] that are "learning systems," that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.

- Donald A. Schon, Beyond the Stable State (1971) p. 30; quoted in Malcolm S. Knowles, The Adult Learner, (1990), p. 168

We need a collective intelligence of a kind that may not have characterized the human species in the past; but we see no reason to believe that...a whole population cannot reach a stage of mature self-consciousness much as an individual does.

Paul Hawken, James Ogilvy, Peter Schwartz
Seven Tomorrows, 1982


Perhaps the most basic challenge humanity faces is to awaken our capacity for collective knowing and conscious action so that we can respond successfully to the immense social and ecological difficulties that now confront us. 

Duane Elgin
in David Korten's The Post-Corporate World

We haven't worked on ways to develop a higher social intelligence... We need this higher intelligence to operate socially or we're not going to survive.... If we don't manage things socially, individual high intelligence is not going to make much difference....
Ordinary thought in society is incoherent - it is going in all sorts of directions, with thoughts conflicting and canceling each other out. But if people were to think together in a coherent way, it would have tremendous power.

David Bohm
New Age Journal, Sept/Oct 1989
and On Dialogue, 1990

The leading edge of growth of intelligence is at the cultural and societal level. It is like a mind that is struggling to wake up. This is necessary because the most difficult problems we face are now collective ones. They are caused by complex global interactions and are beyond the scope of individuals to understand and solve. Individual mind, with its isolated viewpoints and narrow interests, is no longer enough.

-- Jeff Wright "Basic Beliefs" (private e-mail 2/20/95)

Cybernetic information theory suggests the possibility of assuming that intelligence is a feature of any feedback system that manifests a capacity for learning.

Paul Hawken, James Ogilvy, Peter Schwartz
Seven Tomorrows, 1982

Physicist David Bohm says that "Most thought is collective in origin [although] each individual does something with it".... If collective thinking is an ongoing stream, "thoughts" are like leaves floating on the surface that wash up on the banks. We gather in the leaves, which we experience as "thoughts." We misperceive the thoughts as our own, because we fail to see the stream of collective thinking from which they arise....
According to Bohm, collective learning is not only possible but vital to realize the potentials of human intelligence.

Peter M. Senge (with credit to Alan Graham)
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of
Learning Organizations
, 1990

Our intelligence resides not just in our heads but is distributed throughout the physical, social, and symbolic environment. We function more intelligently with physical (paper and pencil, books), social (thinking with others), and symbolic (verbal advice to yourself, for example) support systems than you do without. The person-solo is the naked brain approach to thinking. The person-plus makes ample and sillful use of [these additional] resources.

David Perkins
"Where is Intelligence" in Educational Leadership, May 1994, p. 105

[When a] system's internal complexity is so great that it can no longer meet its needs by trial and error, it needs to evolve another level of awareness in order to weigh different courses of action... Decision-making brings about self-reflexivity.... Might not survival pressures engender a collective level of self-interest in choice-making -- in other words self-reflexivity [at the social level]?...

Joanna Macy, Noetic Sciences Bulletin, Winter 1994-1995, p 2.

l. [Def: A "stable state" refers to the condition of a society in which major cultural change takes longer than the lifetime of one individual.] The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuing process of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure even for our lifetimes.
2. We must learn to understand, guide, influence, and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for understanding them integral to ourselves and our institutions.
3. We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions that are "learning systems," that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.
4. The task which the loss of the stable state makes imperative, for the person, for our institutions, for our society as a whole, is to learn about learning. What is the nature of the process by which organizations, institutions, and societies transform themselves? What are the characteristics of effective learning systems? What are the forms and limits of knowledge that can operate within processes of social learning? What demands are made upon a person who engages in this kind of learning?

- Donald A. Schon, Beyond the Stable State (1971) p. 30; quoted in The Adult Learner, Malcolm S. Knowles (1990), p. 168

A cardinal principle in systems theory is that all parties that have a stake in a system should be represented in its management.

- Malcolm S. Knowles The Adult Learner. p. 173

Some Cambridge students were shown a string of characters from the Persian language mixed in with similar shapes that had no meaning. When the students, who had no knowledge of Persian, later tried to reproduce these characters from memory, they were far more successful with the real ones than with the nonsense characters.
Is it possible that the millions of Persians who had been drawing those characters for centuries created a worldwide force field, a kind of resonance, that guided the students' hands?....
The object was to [test] Dr. Rupert Sheldrake's startling Theory of Formative Causation: the idea that learning is contagious; that any repeated behavior forms an energy field, a "morphic resonance," that covers the globe and makes it easier for others to learn the behavior....
Evidence has been around for years. In 1920, a Harvard laboratory timed rats running through a maze. It found that after 22 generations, the rats found the solution almost 10 times faster... even the stupid ones. Later the same maze was used in Australia and Scotland, and a totally unrelated new generation of rats solved the maze still faster.
Chemists are familiar with the fact that a new compound is difficult to crystallize when first synthesized. But each time after that, it gets easier....

Michael Kernan, "Is Learning Contagious?" in the Washington Post 7/9/86

We are sitting on a cornucopia of knowing that we had no way to access as a democracy. We couldn't get the democratization of the human capacity before our time.

Jean Houston in her "Human Choice and Human Possibility" speech at "Choices for the Future Symposium, June 12-14, 1987

Great leaders reinforce the idea that accomplishment in our society comes from great individual acts. We credit individuals for outcomes that required teams and communities to accomplish.

Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 15

Democracy is self-creating coherence.

Mary Parker Follet


"The foundation of democracy is faith in the capacities of human nature; faith in human intelligence and in the power of pooled and cooperative experience.  It is not belief that these things are complete but that if given a show they will grow and be able to generate progressively the knowledge and wisdom needed to guide collective action....  While what we call intelligence be distributed in unequal amounts, it is the democratic faith that it is sufficiently general so that each individual has something to contribute, whose value can be assessed only as it enters into the final pooled intelligence consitituted by the contributions of all."

John Dewey, "Democracy as a Way of Life", a 1937 speech cited in Introductory Readings in Philosophy, Robert R. Ammerman and Marcus G. Singer, eds (Wm. C. Brown, 1960) pp. 276-277.

Here comes a startling realization: Our society has not institutionalized ways to get together people who represent different sides of an issue and put them to work collaboratively toward a win/win solution. Mediation is available for getting two parties to negotiate with each other -- but negotiating is bargaining, not collaborative problem-solving.... The only institutionalized procedure that encourages -- in fact, requires -- consensus is the jury system. But juries are asked to reach unanimous agreement about yes/no decisions -- guilty or not guilty. Juries do not develop win/win solutions; they only pass judgement on pre-structured, win/lose outcomes....

We predict... a variety of processes and technologies will exist to involve large numbers of people in effective collaborative problem and decision making....

Since we believe so strongly in institutionalizing new ways to find win/win solutions to complex problems, and since a new social institution often gives form to a new physical institution (the way cars led to shopping centers), we predict that there will be new kinds of buildings. They may be called "problem-solving centers" and will exist inside large organizations as well as in major urban areas at large.... Ideally, the problem-solving center should support group problem-solving and decision-making in three ways: 1) It should offer a place where people of different or rival interests and affiliations can meet. "Where to meet" can become an issue of territoriality....2) A problem-solving center should offer new kinds of meeting rooms and technologies to augment and improve group problem-solving and decision-making. 3) It should be staffed by professionals who can offer third-party facilitation of meetings and assist in the design and coordination of large-scale planning and policy-making programs. This combination of services we call "process management...

Michael Doyle and David Straus in How to Make Meetings Work


Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.

Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.

Octavia E. Butler in Parable of the Sower



Multi-modal intelligence
(including emotion, intuition, story....)

It can make sense to think there exists, inside your brain, a society of different minds [e.g., intuition, analysis, emotion]. Like members of a family, the different minds can work together to help each other, each still having its own mental experiences that the others never know about.... The power of intelligence stems from our vast [internal] diversity.

Marvin Minsky
The Society of Mind, 1986

Successful problem solving involves a number of different abilities. For many problems, one [approach] may provide the key to a quick solution. But most problems are like the apartment doors in large cities: they have multiple locks requiring multiple keys.

Robert J. Sternberg, The Triarchic Mind p. 181

Male officials.... criticize women for being overemotional, and especially delegitimize their authority by labeling them "hysterical housewives," a label widely used regardless of the professional status of the woman....
The traditional role of mother ... can empower ... women to take risks in defense of their families .... [and] derive power from their emotionality....
What's really so bad about showing your feelings? Emotions and intellect are not conflicting traits. In fact, emotions may well be the quality that make women so effective in grassroots movements. They help us speak the truth.

- Celene Krauss, "Blue Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization" in Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice (New Society Publishers, 1994), excerpted in The Workbook, Vol 19, No. 1, Spring 1994, p. 20

If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.

Margaret Mead - quoted in Cooperative Learning, Vol 12, No. 1, p 24

A myth is something that never was but is always happening. The DNA of the human psyche; we are all coded with myths.
We are living in the attic of ourselves, with the first, second and third and fourth floors relatively uninhabited and the basement locked except for when it occasionally explodes.
Real education has to be of the body and the mind at the same time, not discrete subjects because then greater complexity can happen - having more sensory hooks and eyes in your mind to take in ideas. The world becomes infinitely exciting, infinitely paradoxical, and a huge amount of fun.
At the same time we are learning to understand the whole earth, we are learning to understand the whole mind.

Jean Houston in her "Human Choice and Human Possibility" speech at "Choices for the Future Symposium, June 12-14, 1987

But once I had brains and a heart also, so having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart.

The Tinman, quoted in To Say What is Ours, John Ahlbach and Vicki Benson (eds.), (National Stuttering Project, 1994), p. 191.


I believe that we need to restore the balance between the heartfelt reason of instinctive wisdom and the rational insights of scientific analysis. Neither, I believe, is much use on its own. So it is only by employing both the intuitive and the rational halves of our own nature - our hearts and our minds - that we will live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in us by our Creator...

The Prince of Wales, "Sacredness & Sustainability: A Reflection on the 2000 Century", BBC Reith Lectures, May 2000

Collaborative Intelligence

Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use or value them creatively..... [And] rather than asking "What can I get from this land, or person?" we can ask "What does this person, or land, have to give if I cooperate with them?"

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future, 1990

We must learn to think together in an integrated, synergistic fashion, rather than in fragmented and competitive ways....

Joanna Macy, Noetic Sciences Bulletin, Winter 1994-1995, p 2.

We are all in the same boat, in a story sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.

-- G.K. Chesterton, quoted in To Say What is Ours, John Ahlbach and Vicki Benson (eds.), (National Stuttering Project, 1994), p. 157.

Peace may be something that happens when we get all the rest of it right, like salmon.

Rhodes Hileman

TLC members recognize that what we know is inevitably partial and incomplete. We have agreed to listen carefully to others and to engage in a spirit-filled search for greater understanding. We are committed to collaborative effort and co-intelligence so as to co-create a future that fundamentally alters our perceptions of the way life should be lived."

from the credo of the Transformational Learning Community

He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

"Outwitted' by Edward Markham

There is a story of heaven and hell. In both, everyone's arms are too long and stiff to feed themselves. In hell they're starving because they can't feed themselves. In heaven, they feed each other.


I am because we are. We are because I am.

African proverb, cited by John Johnson on New Dimensions Radio, 1/25/96

We're all we, although some of us don't know it yet.

Jeff Schwartz (private communication)

We must always seek to ally ourselves with that part of the enemy
that knows what is right.

Gandhi not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that... will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.

William Chase, The Language of Action, quoted in The Workbook, Vol. 19., No. 1. Spring 1994

Freedom defined strictly as individual freedom tends to see itself as an escape from the constraints of community life - constraints necessarily implied by consideration for the nature of a place; by consideration for the needs and feelings of neighbors; by kindness to strangers; by respect for the privacy, dignity, and propriety of individual lives; by affection for a place, its people and its nonhuman creatures; and by the duty to teach the young....
A community confers on its members the freedoms implicit in familiarity, mutual respect, mutual affection, and mutual help; it gives freedom its proper aims; and it prescribes or shows the responsibilities without which no one can be legitimately free, or free for very long.

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Eight Essays (Pantheon, NY, 1993) quoted in The Workbook, Vol 19, No. 1, Spring 1994, p. 29

Nature is saying: This is it. Join me as partner. Deepen, not change so much but deepen, work on more levels and together we can take the changes and make them into transformation and not total collapse.

Jean Houston in her "Human Choice and Human Possibility" speech at the Choices for the Future Symposium, June 12-14, 1987

The questions "How would partners handle this?" and "What policy or structure would we create if this were a partnership?" are the two most useful questions I know in the search for the alternative to patriarchy.
Partnership means each of us at every level is responsible for defining vision and values. Purpose gets defined through dialogue.... The same process holds for ... [all] stakeholders. Each has a voice in discussing what they want the institution to become.

Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) pp. 27,29

Universal Intelligence

A brain does not "think," What "thinks" is a brain inside a man who is part of larger systems residing in balance within their environment. One cannot draw a line indicating one part that thinks and another that is profiting by the thinking.

Lynn Hoffman (paraphrasing Gregory Bateson)
Foundations of Family Therapy, 1981

You are something the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is something the whole ocean is doing. It is doing you the way a singer sings a song.

Alan Watts

You are held within the web of life, within flows of energy and intelligence far exceeding your own.

Joanna Macy, Noetic Sciences Bulletin, Winter 1994-1995, p 2.

Clouds are not regular but are never a mess. But it is difficult for us to describe that kind of order. We know it's orderly but can't describe it.

Alan Watts

Some people say consciousness is an advanced form of minerals. So can't we just say that minerals are a primitive form of consciousness?

Alan Watts

Every atom "at the depth of its coming into creation in a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable way, and therefore, is a manifestation of the deep creative process out of which everything comes."

Sister Miriam MacGillis

Can you join your story to the larger story that is yearning to reach into you?

Jean Houston "Human Choice and Human Possibility" speech at Choices for the Future Symposium, June 12-14, 1987

Consider the prints left by the tips of someone's fingers on a frosty windowpane. If you see them from one side, you see them as two dimensional and think they are five separate cells or units. If you see them from the other side, you see that they extend three dimensionally into fingers and connect to a unified entity, a hand. By extrapolation, we can see how we view our separate minds, existing in our limited perceptual apparatus using space and time could also be part of a universal mind that is a unified entity in the next-higher dimension of the spacetime continuum.

Diana Morley, private communication, May, 1994


Thus, as souls we are not merely the product of God, or the extensions of God. We are in fact the members of God, as component elements within a greater whole. Just as neurons compose a brain, we as individual souls make up a greater intelligence, a collective consciousness whose acts are far greater than the mere sum of its parts. We are therefore not merely embedded in the greater presence of God, nor outgrowths of an externally guiding force only. Instead we are the functioning elements of a collective that stretches into the infinities of space and time. We are all of similar substance, belonging to a body without end and which can never end.

Matthew Webb, "The True Nature of Intelligence", World Mind Society

Wisdom, creative uncertainty and openness

Everywhere in the modern world there are experiments in new life-styles and voluntary simplicity; the arrogance of materialistic scientism is in decline, and it is sometimes tolerated even in polite society to mention God. ... Can we rely on it that a 'turning around' will be accomplished by enough people quickly enough to save the modern world? This question if often asked, but no matter what the answer, it will mislead. The answer 'yes' would lead to complaceency, teh answer 'no' to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work.

E.F Schumacher. A Guide to the Perplexed, 1977

Dear friends, we are assembled here for the purpose of inviting into our space-time collective a visible, tangible, audible manifestation of tomorrow. Tomorrow is here at this moment now, with us, among us, in us, but not quite born. Messages are coming to us all the time from tomorrow. It makes embryo noises to us through the most unlikely channels. Tomorrow aches to be born.... Love is turning us into the next stage.

Jean Houston in her "Human Choice and Human Possibility" speech at Choices for the Future Symposium, June 12-14, 1987

Life is a form of not being sure. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.

Agnes DeMille, quoted in Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 93

I have a hope that I (and others collectively) can learn through open
dialogue (through words). I believe that we can find a collective and
compassionate wisdom that transcends our individual and present social
models of the world. If I think that I have the right model and have only to
convince others then I will learn little; I will debate, and defend, and
attempt to convince rather than to find a collective and meaningful truth
through the dialogue we are committed to.

Eric Clough, British Columbia

[Our ability to conceptualize] enables us to think such empty thoughts as "This statement is about itself," which is true but useless, or "This statement is not about itself," which is false and useless, or "This statement is false," which is downright paradoxical. Yet the benefit of being able to conceptualize is surely worth the risk that we may sometimes be nonsensical.

Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind. p. 231

The self doesn't have to be fixed. It has to be known.

Deena Metzger (KPFA broadcast, 1994)

There's a sense in which final causes - purposes and goals - have this kind of attractive quality. They draw things toward them.... This is completely different from the model of things being pushed from behind in the mechanical universe.

Rupert Sheldrake, "Cause and Effect in Science: A Fresh Look" in Noetic Sciences Review, Summer 1989.

In the dimension of time, consciousness is experienced as the eternal present with a strong element of teleology: It is the future that pulls rather than the past that pushes. Some traditional views of man interpret the present as determined by the past. Specifically, these views hold that present events or problems are the workings out of early programing. Maturity then becomes the resolution of childhood conflicts....
An alternative interpretation of the situation is to seek ways to outgrow, i.e., genuinely overcome, a problem.... Genuine growth is the experience of being pulled or attracted by a goal in the future (Aristotle's final cause or telos), not that of being pushed into action (Aristotle's efficient cause or aitia). And in directing our gaze to the future, we utilize whatever material from the past we deem appropriate, including the use of the past to interfere with the future. Under this analysis, the past becomes almost irrelevant in the experience and conception of the present.
Men like Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle and Bertrand Russell were able to maintain joy, growth, and vigor in old age because the future and not the past was experienced as determining their present.

Peter Koestenbaum, The Vitality of Death: Essays in Existential Psychology and Philosophy, Greenwood Publishing Company, 1971 (quoted in Noetic Sciences Collection, p. 83)

Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek for the answers that cannot be given. For you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now and perhaps without knowing it you will live along some day into the answers.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Beyond the last furrow
of my fenced and tilled world
lies a thicket of questions --
impenetrable yet unutterably beautiful

Richard Caniell, quoted in What the Road Passes By, by Dewitt Jones and Eleanor Huggins (Graphic Arts Center, Portland, OR, 1978)

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty.

Albert Einstein, quoted in What the Road Passes By, by Dewitt Jones and Eleanor Huggins (Graphic Arts Center, Portland, OR, 1978)

Under the emblems of the innocent brook, the
green tongues of spring, the austere, pure white
of winter, lies a truth that has no name and is
always escaping from the walls of language we
erect around it.
No one has yet explained a blade
of grass or the haunting light of evening that
falls like a benediction upon us all.
Yet we may experience the meaning and wonder of it.
That is enough.
To learn that the world must be listened to
as if it were music --
because it is.

Richard Caniell, in What the Road Passes By, by Dewitt Jones and Eleanor Huggins (Graphic Arts Center, Portland, OR, 1978)

Ultimately, there may be intelligences on the horizon that we don't even know about.... One candidate that has emerged for consideration is spiritual or moral intelligence.
It may be important, even essential for the survival of the planet, that we acknowledge and cultivate an intelligence within us that somehow guides the other seven, making sure that their use is directed toward the common good of humankind. That intelligence may be outside of ourselves, as it was conceived of in ancient and medieval times, in a transpersonal, religious, or celestial realm. It may even be located deep within the soul of the earth, as supporters of the Gaia hypothesis have proposed. Or it may be in ourselves - but located in our hearts rather than our minds. However we conceive of it, to cultivate such a supraordinate intelligence may be the single most intelligent thing we will ever do.

Thomas Armstrong, 7 Kinds of Smart, p. 223

We breathe the same air. The plants we eat become a part of us. The language invented by forgotten ancestors molds our mentality. The DNA that patterns us forms a living chain through time, and we are one link. The electrical and magnetic impulses that traverse the universe, the rain that falls on all things, unites us all in a single system.
For long ages humans have allowed themselves to be separated by artificially dividing themselves according to parochial categories. Black. White. Muslim. Christian. Female. Male. Non-human. Human. Me. Them. These divisions are all creations of the mind. They were taken up long ago. They need to be rethought now that humanity has established global contact with each other and has a more mature understanding of the Earth's place in the universe, and the long ages of evolution we have all passed through together.
Once enough people have attained an insight into the basic interrelatedness of all things, we will begin to heal the wounds caused by holding a view that we are separate from each other and from the earth.

Richard Trowbridge, "The Adventure of Creating the Future" in The Peace Network, April 1994

Any ritual is an opportunity for transformation. To do ritual, you must be willing to be transformed in some way. That inner willingness is what makes the ritual come alive and have power... ritual that is alive doesn't become frozen in form."

Starhawk (quoted in Many Roads, One Journey, Charlotte Davis Kasl, p. 305)

It was Socrates who, when asked for his definition of wisdom, gave as his conclusion, "knowing that you don't know."

The Prince of Wales, "Sacredness & Sustainability: A Reflection on the 2000 Century", BBC Reith Lectures, May 2000



see also The Blind Men and the Elephant story

Having lost their way, they redoubled their efforts. 



In all intellectual debates, both sides tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny. 

John Stuart Mill  (variations of this are quoted by many people without citing sources. Richard Tarnas says it comes from Mill's essay on Coleridge: see


Any situation in which some men [people] prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1968 (quoted in Many Roads, One Journey, Charlotte Davis Kasl, p. 305)

Democracy cannot thrive if ... day in and day out we go to a workplace that breeds helplessness and compliance.

Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 7

Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use or value them creatively..... asking [only] "What can I get from this land, or person?"

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future, 1990

John took over Atlantic Chemical and initiated its turnaround by creating an empowering, people-oriented environment.... His strategy was to

· Flatten the organization by two to four levels, giving everyone more control over what they do.
· Create a participative culture...
· Fully inform people about the business and how it was doing in the industry.
· Implement pay systems geared to real outcomes and earnings.
· Eliminate the trappings of privilege.
· Be clear in defining quality in customer-response terms, both internally and externally.

....The steps that John took were intelligent and of service to the business, but somewhere in the midst of this John began to see himself as more and more central to the success of the business.... John started to believe he not only knew what was best for the business, but also the best ways for people to behave.... He decided then to define the specific behaviors... [and hired consultants] to create ways of measuring those behaviors...
A workshop called "Managing the Atlantic Way" was used to reinforce John's vision and all employees were required to take this course.... Everyone was appraised each year, measured against whether they were managing the Atlantic Way.
The universal element in John's story is that people in charge begin to think that the way to achieve and institutionalize change is to

· Define the behaviors required.
· View themselves as essential to the change.
· Use education as indoctrination.
· Redo appraisals to ensure compliance.

This is the way strategy turns into dogma.... It encourages the replication of one belief system and tends to be very narrow in giving credit for success.

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 16-17

Big systems enjoy big success by destroying communities. They trick us into thinking that we must fight them as individuals. They trick us into thinking there is nothing but ourselves. As individuals we haven't a prayer against big systems.

Donna Schaper, A Book of Common Power, quoted in Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 171.

The question "How [do I do this]?" - more than any other question - looks for the answer outside ourselves. It is an indirect expression of our doubts. Our search for manuals, recipes, the practical is endless....
I was with a group that wanted to know how to implement empowerment and participation. Who doesn't? I asked the audience how many of them had read the books Thriving on Chaos, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the Empowered Manager, and The Fifth Discipline. Most of the group raised their hand. In those four books there are over 925, count them, specific suggestions on how to move the workplace in high-performing and customer-centered directions. So if we have seen those books and others, and there are more practical suggestions than we can use in a lifetime, why are we still asking the question "How?"
.... If we took responsibility for our freedom, committed ourselves to service, and had faith that our security lay within ourselves, we could stop asking the question "How?" We would see that we have the answer.... Our search for freedom, security and service are explorations of inner space. Our common illusion is that these can be purchased at the mall or found in a classroom. That they can be created for us by strong leadership or can be achieved only at other people's expense....
Organizations are important, in part, because they become means to overcoming our isolation in finding answers to these questions. Organization, literally, is another word for interdependence.... The problem we face is that the organizational forms we have inherited and internalized do not nurture the realization of security, freedom, and service....
The answer, then, to "How?" is to stop asking the question that way.... It is the engineer in us that looks outside ourselves and wants to know, ahead of time, what steps to take. This is our desire for a safe and predictable future. Implementing changes of our own design is learning; acting on the designs of others is too often a form of staying stuck.

Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 234-237

The relationship to the world that modern science fostered and shaped [with its "unconditional faith in objective reality and complete dependency on general and rationally knowable laws"] appears to have exhausted its potential. The relationship is missing something. It fails to connect with the most intrinsic nature of reality and with natural human experience. It produces a state of schizophreneia: man as an observer is becoming completely alienated from himself as a being.
Classical modern science described only the surface of things, a single dimension of reality. And the more dogmatically scinece treated it as the only dimension, as the very essence of reality, the more misleading it became. We may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did, and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
Speech at Independence Hall, July 4, 1994

We live in a postmodern world, where everything is posssible and almost nothing is certain.... The planetary civilization to which we all belong confronts us with global challenges. We stand helpless before them because our civilization has essentially globalized only the suface of our lifves. But our inner self continues to have a life of its own. And the fewer answers the era of rational knowledge provides to the basic questions of human being, the more deeply it would seem that people, behind its back as it were, cling to the ancient certainties of their tribe.

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
Speech at Independence Hall, July 4, 1994

He who allegedly endowed man with his inalienable rights began to disappear from the world - He was so far beyond the grasp of modern science that He was gradually pushed into a sphere of privacy of sorts, if not directly into a sphere of private fancey - that is, to a place where public obligations no longer apply. The existence of a higher authority than man himself simply began to get in the way of human aspirations.

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
Speech at Independence Hall, July 4, 1994

Most people fail in the art of living... because... they are not aware when life asks them a question, and when they still have alternative answers. Then, with each step along the wrong road, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they are on the wrong road.

Erich Fromm, quoted in To Say What is Ours, John Ahlbach and Vicki Benson (eds.), (National Stuttering Project, 1994), p. 53.

Eldership (Co-intelligent leadership)

Stewardship is to hold something in trust for another.... Stewardship is defined in this book as the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance.
Part of the meaning of stewardship is to hold in trust the well-being of some larger entity - our organization, our community, the earth itself.

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) pp. xx, 41

Authentic service is experienced when
· There is a balance of power....
· The primary commitment is to the larger community....
· Each person joins in defining purpose and...kind of culture....
· There is a balanced and equitable distribution of rewards....

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. xxi

The first order of business is to build a group of people who, under the influence of the institution, grow taller and become healthier, stronger, more autonomous.

- Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, quoted in Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 22

Managers can create the social architecture and practices to support partnership and empowerment, but individuals have to make the decision to reclaim their own sovereignty, and this is no small matter either.

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 35

Gandhi identified three elements making up his brand of service-based power, which he called trusteeship....
Power is granted from those below. The community creates the opportunity for a person to be in a position of power.... They are the ones we become accountable to....
Our contribution is our humanity. The obligation of accepting a position of power is to be, above all else, a good human being.... Stewardship is the willingness to work on ourselves first, to stay in intimate contact with those around us, to own our doubts and limitations, and make them part of our dialogue with others. Our humanness is defined more by our vulnerability than our strengths....
What is true is known to each of us.... Stewardship is founded on the belief that others have the knowledge and the answers within themselves. We do not have to teach other adults how to behave.... [Our] task is to be clear about [our] own experience and attend to [our] own learning. This is what will be contagious.

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 42-43

Creating stewardship means we need to find a way to evoke faith and responsibility and commitment in those around us and at a minimum to keep the cynics, victims, and bystanders from controlling the emotional environment and undermining our efforts. We need a way of neutralizing their power. Something different from the instinctive act of arguing with them and trying to prove them wrong. Something different from bartering with them to purchase their support.... What we need we can't buy.
In place of persuasion and barter, we need to believe that faith, responsibility and commitment are a matter of personal choice. Even though history may be on the side of the cynic, and their wounds are real, they can choose to have faith in the face of that experience. This is the invitation we make to them. We need to affirm their version of history and support them in their doubts. We replace coercion and persuasion with invitation.
At the same time we need to affirm the choice we have made. We choose stewardship and strive for political reform, in the face of our own wounds filled with our own doubts. We say to the cynic, "I understand what you say. The doubts and perhaps the bitterness you express I, in some ways, share, I, though, have decided to have faith that this time we can do something here that will matter, and I hope you will make the same choice and join in this effort." This will not be persuasive, it will not change their position. What it does is neutralize the power they have over the community. They have a right to their own stance, they do not have a right to hold back others from investing.
The dialogue looks something like this.

1. Acknowledge the other's position. Do not label it cynic, victim, or bystander. Support them by acknowledging that part of you that agrees with their position. If you think you do not have your own doubts, think harder.
For the cynic, we can name other programs that have started and resulted in nothing of value. We can own the risks of the path we are choosing.
For the victim, we acknowledge their feelings of helplessness and their wish that people in power will not disappoint them. We have the same desire and the same doubt.
For the bystander, we support their desire for more data and more proof that this story has been written elsewhere and we will have a happy ending. We too have searched for reassurance and wanted more.

2. State the choice for faith and commitment in the face of our own reservations. What is critical in this whole process is that we make choices in spite of the doubts that we have.... Our strongest response to the cynic is our own conviction. In expressing our decision to move toward stewardship, we affirm the belief that change is a matter of personal responsibility, not a response to the expectations of those above or below us. The statement is simply, "After all is said and done, I am going to do everything I can to bring partnership and ownership to every part of this unit."

3. Invite the same choice from the other person. Frame the issue as a choice. "I would like you to make the same choice." There is no promise in this invitation nor is there an immediate demand for acceptance. There is in the invitation a desire to keep the choice we are each making in the foreground and to keep the doubts and excuses in the background, where they belong.

- Peter Block, Stewardship (Berrett-Koehler, 1993) p. 227-229