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Resonant Intelligence and the Core Commons

There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of a single entity. As it attunes to life, intelligence evokes a fuller, deeper intelligence in and around it. Resonant intelligence is intelligence that grows stronger or fuller as it resonates with other sources or forms of intelligence, or which deepens in empathic response to life.

Resonance is an energetic response among similar things, which arises from their similarity, especially in the absence of barriers to that response.

A vibration in one tuning fork sets off the same vibration in a similar tuning fork--the nearer it is, the stronger the response. A memory shared by one Vietnam vet sets off a flurry of memories in another Vietnam vet--especially in a supportive group setting where participants have come to know themselves and one another well, and thus have lowered the psychological and interpersonal barriers that could block resonance.

The core commons:  the depth of kinship

As human beings, our experience of resonance arises from what we share or what we have in common with one another or with the world around us. Several realms of kinship with life support this phenomenon:

Group: We feel special connection with people with whom we share significant ties, characteristics or experiences. Family members, war buddies, single mothers or cancer survivors--"we can relate." Even when the "vibes" are not pleasant, they tend to be more intense because of the resonance. Tribal and national resonances are also found at this level of kinship.

Humanity: Deeper down, we feel kinship with all other people. We share a tremendous amount in common simply by being human. We often call this "our common humanity."

Animals: Then there is our kinship with animals--especially our intelligent, infant-nursing, often furry relatives, the other mammals--such as dogs, cats, horses, dolphins, and monkeys. Most pets are mammals, but most people can empathize with any animal that is like us in any way.

Life: We also can have feelings for plants and other life forms. We can respond to all forms of life, since we are living creatures, too.

Earth: Most of us feel deeply at home with sunsets, mountains, oceans, and the rain--and the way the moon and stars look. We are part of the earth, and kin with everything on it. Every atom in our bodies has been part of this planet for eons, flowing through life in all its forms, including its winds, seas and lands.

Universe: Some people even identify with the entire universe, saying (with considerable scientific evidence) that humans are "star dust" and that "we are the universe becoming conscious of itself."

Spirit: Finally, at perhaps the deepest level, as spiritual beings, we recognize other spirits and other creatures as part of our larger spiritual family. Many people experience spiritual kinship in all of the realms described above.

Combined, I call these kinship realities--these facts of our relatedness that help us resonate with each other--our core commons. This biological, human and spiritual kinship deep within all of us nurtures our most basic values, such as compassion, respect, and integrity.

Which brings us to that energetic responsiveness called resonance. The fact that the common core exists in all of us means that you can evoke its resonance within me--and the resonance between us can cause it to come alive in our larger group--and a group, in the right conditions, can cause it to resonate in the wider population. Under the right conditions, resonance can ripple out through life quite remarkably.

So somewhere deep inside us, our sense of goodness, our connection to spirit, and our natural earth consciousness are all blended together into a seamless sense of right relationship and healthy, wholesome behavior. Sometimes this common core is buried, and sometimes it is very much alive and vivid in our consciousness. The more we are in touch with the kinship realities that make it up--in ourselves and each other--the more resonance becomes possible, allowing these deep forms of intelligence to resonate from one person to another and from one form of life to another.

This is "co-resonant wisdom"--the wisdom that is evoked in one person, group or other living being by someone else's powerful love, integrity, inquiry, suffering, empathy or other pure invitation to common humanity or life. Resonant intelligence, or the ability to evoke co-resonant wisdom in others, is what made Gandhi and King so effective. Our core commons--our shared patterns of human, biological, and spiritual kinship--can, if we attend to them, point us towards connection, towards healing, towards life, towards making our actions and our solutions wiser. The fact that we can evoke these things one another is remarkably empowering.


Resonant intelligence arises from, and supports, a sense of kinship, a lived reality of relatedness. We treat one another like sisters and brothers when we ground ourselves in our common humanity or life. Those who see their God or essential goodness in themselves and in everyone else have a powerful capacity to resonate with people around them. Those who see sacredness everywhere resonate and commune with the whole world and everything in it. Everything becomes an expression of the sacred Beloved or the spirit of Nature--and, as such, an opportunity for offering love, respect and consideration.

Other forms of resonance are grounded in nature. Deep ecologists recognize that we have much in common with other life forms and even with rocks, rivers and landscapes. We share common ancestors, chemical patterns (DNA, water, salt), a common atmosphere and our planetary home. And we share that undefinable dynamic energy we call life. Upon this shared aliveness rests our ability to commune with nature and with one another as living beings. Many Native Americans see the living world as "all my relations." We all can realize this relatedness and act on it. Resonant intelligence thrives on this level of conscious interconnectedness.

Of course, we may feel resonance with a more limited set of humans, with whom we share certain beliefs, identities and narratives about life. Most people identify with a particular religion, lifestyle, nation, or culture. Sometimes, these more limited kinds of resonance are built around a "common enemy" and do not include a sense of connection to the larger whole.

Yet the existence of the "core commons" means that there is always a way that we can attempt to bridge the differences that tend to keep us separate at a more limited level of resonance. As many religions point out, direct offerings of love appeal to the fundamental truth of our deeper shared humanity. For example, Kathryn Watterson's Not By the Sword tells the story of a wheelchair-bound diabetic neo-Nazi Klansman who was terrorizing a local Jewish cantor. The cantor and his family responded by offering sincere friendship. The heartful communications and actions from these people he despised generated profound resonance in the Klansman's heart and mind. Finally, they broke through his shell. When the now former Klansman died of his disease soon thereafter, it was in the home of the cantor, as a member of his family.

Resonant leadership

The potential for resonance among all beings suggests that there are forms of leadership that call forth deeper patterns of resonance among people. We could call this resonant leadership.

At the surface level of this phenomenon we find resonant appeals to patriotism and team spirit. On the dark side of this important but shallow resonant leadership are demagogues who evoke an exclusive, alienated tribal resonance that lifts their followers out of self-concern into deep feelings about their group or country--and about its enemies. Hitler, for example, was a profoundly resonant leader. The problem was that he concentrated on a very shallow level of the core commons, the level of the tribe, and grounded it in exclusion rather than inclusion.

Today's world urgently needs forms of resonant leadership that are strong enough to accept, include and honor all the differences we find among us. We need leadership that calls forth our resonance at the deepest levels of our core commons--our natural and spiritual kinship. This can, of course, include deep feelings for our group or our country, but only as they are embedded in a strong sense of connection to other groups and countries, and to the larger world.

From a co-intelligence perspective, the highest form of resonant leadership would give people awareness, tools and institutions to support their deep resonance with one another, with all members of the human family, and with the natural world, all at the same time. The materials on this site are intended to support that emerging leadership.


One of the ways that all of us, regardless of where we are, can use our leadership to support resonant intelligence is simply to share. All kinds of sharing support the process of resonance: sharing our ideas and stories; our possessions and wealth; our interests and fears; our hearts and meals; our activities and conversations; our singing and dancing; our past, our present and our future.

We can nurture resonant intelligence by sharing, by appreciating that which we already share, and by creating cultures, institutions and practices that increase and sustain sharing. Sharing creates and sustains relationship, expanding our ability to perceive our common ground while lowering the barriers to resonance.

Yet it is important to be able to share not just what we have in common, but our differences as well. Paradoxically, when we create a safe space where we can readily share our full diversity--all the things that make us unique and individual and different--we are often able to experience our shared humanity on a much deeper level. In this way we are often able to arrive at creative consensus without compromise.

When we speak our own truth, even when we fear it may alienate others, it can encourage others to also look within and find what is true for them. Likewise, when we take an action that is motivated by principle, or even when we propose something new, we may find ourselves at first standing alone, or encountering some initial resistance. Yet if we maintain a spirit of inclusivity and connection with others, we often find that others are inspired or moved by our actions, and ripples of resonance begin to form.

Resonant intelligence is often intertwined with our experience of collective intelligence, especially at a group level. Experiences of high collective intelligence in groups are almost always accompanied by unforgettable experiences of resonance, where we may feel "as though we are one larger organism," accompanied by a strong sense of "flow." Therefore, many people identify collective intelligence--the capacity to be effective together--with a group experience of resonance or "collective consciousness." Among the many aspects of collective intelligence at the group level, this is certainly one of the most compelling.

Resonant intelligence and the core commons are fundamental to understanding how collective intelligence can bring forth the wisdom we need to address the challenges of the twenty-first century.

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