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Co-incarnational Manifestation

Manifestation is the act of bringing something into existence or the fact of its emergence into the world. Manifestation can occur through ordinary or extraordinary ("miraculous") means.

Co-incarnation is the mutually evocative and co-creative dynamic of reality -- the way things evoke and shape each other, providing contexts, motivators, resources, history and meaning to each other.

David Spangler suggests that our universe is essentially co-incarnational. He notes that quantum physicists speak of matter and energy in terms of fields of probability. What we see as reality is a manifestation of fields of probability drawing each other towards 100% probability, at which point they co-incarnate as "real" phenomena.

Co-incarnational manifestation, then, is the way the universe unfolds, the generative dynamic that brings everything into being. It is a vital process underlying universal intelligence. It provides a way for us to consciously join The Universal Dance, and evoke the things we need even as the world evokes what it needs from us.

That's the best I can do right now to summarize this highly intuitive field. Here is a more detailed writeup I did in January 1998 immediately after reading David Spangler's book Everyday Miracles.

* * * *

I have always responded negatively to the popular New Age idea that the universe and Spirit exist to give us prosperity. The fact that the world is in such a state of suffering -- generated in no small part by such alienated, privileged attitudes -- makes those ideas almost repugnant to me.

But the work of David Spangler is different. I found Spangler saying things that have been cornerstones of my own work on co-intelligence for years, that I've heard no one else address. One of my hottest inquiries has been into what sort of co-intelligent spiritual practice could help us actually experience the co-creativity involved in every situation and moment. This concern is so central to Spangler's own spiritual practice that his rituals and reflections constitute a very coherent answer to my inquiry. The fact that I will have to rework it considerably to fit my own sensibilities does not contradict Spangler's approach: He encourages readers to do exactly that. His sensitivity to human diversity -- and the ramifications of that diversity -- are refreshing.

While most people would call his overall approach New Age, I see him tapping the best of the New Age while deftly avoiding the pitfalls that have most troubled me about many New Age proponents. For example:
-- Spangler advocates looking at how whatever we're doing impacts the ecological and human systems in which we're involved.
-- He fully acknowledges the dark side of life and our humanity; he has none of that saccharine "sweetness and light."
-- He validates individuality and rationality even as he validates unity and intuition.
-- He doesn't say "you create your own reality" so much as "we all co-create our shared reality."

Among the most delightful surprises for me was to find him describing in detail five of the six components of wholeness I articulated several years ago -- a model I considered revolutionary. He explicitly includes in his approach unity, diversity, relationship, uniqueness and interiority. He implicitly includes context and, of course, I think it would strengthen his model to make it explicit. But I have come to see my own model as seriously incomplete in the face of his. Lately I've been wondering if I should add to my model "possibility" and "manifestation" as dynamic dimensions of wholeness. "Possibility," in this sense, includes fields of probability and what quantum physicist David Bohm calls "the implicate order" out of which phenomena arise. The word "manifestation" here refers to all emergent particularity (the specific forms of which are always emergent) -- what Bohm called "the explicate order" -- i.e., the observable reality which "unfolds" from the invisible implicate order. Adding these two elements to the model will ultimately help me explain why combining unity and diversity (or uniqueness and relationship, or interiority and context) generates new possibilities without deteriorating the health of the systems involved.

But the personal point I want to make here is that I am quite captivated by the implications and potential of David Spangler's approach. I recommend his book Everyday Miracles very highly. It has not only given me a promising tool to address thorny problems in my own life (by manifesting improved conditions), it has finally pointed me in directions that clarify the sort of spirituality and metaphysics that have long been implicit in everything I do. As well as providing more grist for the mill of my co-intelligence work.

One thing I hope to manifest with David Spangler is some insight into how the insights he's outlined could be applied at the level of social systems -- communities and societies. I already see some great potential synergies with things like open space and future search conferences.

But here's some more of his ideas that so excite me.

David Spangler defines manifestation as "the art of fashioning a co-creative, synchronistic, and mutually supportive relationship between the inner creative energies of a person's own mind and spirit and their counterpart within the larger world in order to bring a new and desirable situation into being." His approach recognizes and facilitates manifestation as acquisition and creation and invocation -- by both ordinary and extraordinary (seemingly miraculous) means.

He finds visualization, affirmation and positive thinking useful in some situations, but often problematic. For example:

-- Creating a clear, precise image of what we want
can narrow our options, focusing our attention
on what is familiar and causing us to overlook
manifestations which show up in unexpected forms.

-- Attempting to "program the unconscious"
through the repeating of affirmations can become
mindless instead of mindful, passive instead of
passionate. It can blind us to unexpected
manifestations and channel our intention into
verbalization when images or narratives might
be more appropriate for us or our project.

-- The assertion of positive thinking to dispel doubts
and fears can deprive us of important information,
suppressing aspects of our individual or collective
wholeness (our "shadow") or aspects of reality we
need to understand and deal with.

For Spangler, manifestation is more than using such tools as visualization, affirmation and positive thinking to focus the mind. There is "a deeper force at work as well, and it was attunement to that force that constituted the core of my approach to this inner art."

"What I set out to find was something like an 'aikido of desire.' I wanted a way to use the energy of my desires to take me to a deeper part of my own being that was in touch with the holistic or spiritual side of the world's being.... I have opted for a technique in which our desires become potential points of reflection and invocation.... Manifestation is a way of using any desire as a starting point for a spiritual journey."

"Of course, there is much more to a spiritual practice than manifestation.... However, it can be an opportunity, no matter how trivial the desire, to explore connections, patterns, alignments, and the flow of both material and spiritual energy through your life. When you make manifestation a spiritual practice, then the perspectives it brings overflow into other aspects of your life. You begin naturally seeing yourself and your world in terms of interconnected and co-incarnational [mutually evocative and co-creative] patterns. The reality of the community in which we all live becomes more apparent. The vision of your incarnation becomes broader, more ecological, more compassionate. Your attitudes and actions reflect a larger, more complete humanity." Ultimately, "the inner art of manifestation" is about being a fully-conscious "co-creator of our collective cosmos,... [shaping] a reality that honors and reveals our full nature and that, in co-creative alignment with the sacred, empowers and nurtures all of life."

This practice involves realizing that we are not only "particular" bodies or personalities. We are also extended selves -- fields, systems or patterns that extend out into space and time through infinite webs of interrelationship that are continually evolving in complex, chaotic ways. Whatever we want to manifest is already part of this infinite extended self, or part of its potential evolution. Chaos and "living system" theories suggest that small initiatives and powerful visions can shift the evolution of such systems in desirable ways. Manifestation applies that insight.

But the whole approach is "co-incarnational" (or, alternatively, co-intelligent). The object of our manifestation -- what we are trying to manifest -- is not only part of our extended self; we are part of its extended self. Whether it is a relationship, an object, a job, or anything else, when it manifests in our lives, we manifest in its life -- and we will change each other. Manifestation is a two-way street; together, we and the object of our manifestation will co-incarnate each other's next stage of being. This is something to prepare for -- both for our own sake, and to deepen our understanding of what we're doing here -- and because that preparation increases the probability that the manifestation will be successful.

One further insight I'd like to share, which is mostly Spangler's and partially mine, inspired by him. We are all part of the universe's endless manifestation of evolving wholeness -- which shows up as healing, learning, realization, love, etc. In a very real sense, everything that exists is participating in that universal manifestation project. Our own healing and spiritual growth, it seems to me now, involve primarily our intentionally serving and consciously participating in that project. To the extent we undertake our personal manifestation projects as part of that larger will and welfare, our intention is aligned with the larger benign flow of the universe, and thus increases both the probability and desirability of the success of those undertakings.

Note: Spirituality plays a gigantic role in my life and work. And, although I believe that spiritual perspectives and practices (like Spangler's) that are congruent with the co-intelligent vision should be available, I don't think they are necessary for the exercise or development of co-intelligence. One need have no spiritual sensibility to put on a successful open space conference, to support students' diverse learning styles, or to constrain the domination of the media -- all of which are supremely co-intelligent activities. That said, I find the exercise of co-intelligence a fundamentally spiritual activity. You figure....



David Spangler, Everyday Miracles: The Inner Art of Manifestation (Bantam, 1996)