Writing: Research Constellations and Worldviews
Introduction to Family Constellations and the Articles
What follows this brief introduction is the first of three articles written and published in 2011 and 2012 in an international, peer-reviewed journal called The Knowing Field, which focuses on a recently evolved healing modality called Family Constellations (unrelated to astrology). They articles are now being revised for a second publication in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Healing and Caring (IJHC) which speaks to a wider audience and is edited and published by Dan Benor. I am including them here on my own website as they come out in the IHJC.
These articles take off from the difficulties practitioners have understanding, explaining, and getting researchers to take seriously—effects observed in constellation work. The problem is that these effects do not fit within the worldview of scientific materialism. Isolating five of these effects, the discourse then turns to questions like the following.
I originally wrote these articles within the context of the community of Constellation practitioners. For those of you not familiar with them, I will explain the original and basic form of Family Constellations in this Introduction. What they are, how they originated, and the unexpected light they shed on the nature of trauma constitutes interesting material in its own right. But the impetus for publishing these articles here to this wider audience goes deeper than that.
Many alternative healing modalities, from acupuncture to energy psychology to past life regressions, face similar problems dealing with the culture of scientific materialism. And thus the expositions here, along with the proposed approach to framing such modalities in the kind of worldview that can make more sense of them—can hopefully be of benefit in this wider context.
Family Constellation work has evolved various later forms since its inception around three decades ago—even as applied to individuals and families. But beyond that, the process works also to take valid "snapshots" of complex, unquantifiable relationships in organizations as well.
Large European companies have availed themselves of it (Horn and Brick, 2005). There is thus a blanket term, "systemic constellations," that covers both the family and the organizational variety. The following articles limit themselves to the family form, and within that to the original group workshop format (as opposed to various offshoots), which I call "classic family constellations."
In general, this modality is a method for revealing and re-aligning hidden loyalties in family and ancestral systems. As I shall explain shortly, it is common, as a result of the kind of bonding that goes on in these systems, for descendants to carry (to their detriment) the unaccepted fates of parents or ancestors. So another term for "hidden loyalties" is "displacements of fate."
Constellations do this by imaging and working with whole family systems in an exploratory and restorative way. The classic group form uses intuitively formed, spatial arrangements of human representatives to do this. Thus for those familiar with the term, "psychodrama" combined with "unscripted" is an apt description of the classic family form.
In the actual workshop process, facilitator and client are seated together at the focal point of a circle of involved participants. In brief, the stages of the constellation are then as follows:
What has emerged as a result of tens of thousands of constellations performed worldwide over thirty years is an important discovery. It appears that we can absorb and carry, out of love and loyalty, unassimilated suffering (trauma) that actually happened other members of our extended families.
Regardless of whether we reject and distance ourselves from dysfunctional families or not, we remain expressions of a collective family system (or "soul"). What's so interesting and different about this is that emotional or physical suffering the client is experiencing may actually be someone else's. In this case, treatments that focus only on the individual may fail because they are directed in the wrong place, targeting the wrong individual.
Blind, subconscious love is formed in the infant's earliest attachment process. It causes an individual to want to carry (or help carry) tragic fates of ancestors, and is not something that is easily let go of—unless the ancestor also becomes willing to take it back.
But if we say, alright, then we have to work also with the ancestor—how can we do that if that person is no longer living? In fact, the constellation process apparently does allow us to change, not what happened to the non-living ancestor (his or her fate), but rather his or her level of acceptance of what happened.
If you are now asking, well, how can this be, and perhaps exclaiming, you mean even if the client does not know about the trauma?—then you are starting to enter the space where the puzzles posed in the following articles will make sense to you. This and other unusual effects that strongly appear to characterize constellations are the focus of the coming discourse.
Apart from the constellation process, can we justify the notion that the human family is indeed some kind of collective organism? It would seem so. The human species exists as whole only by functioning in tightly knit groups. Social neurobiology (Siegel, 2011) tells us that the underlying patterns of cooperation and specialization are hard wired into a "social empathy system" in the brain and central nervous system.
These tendencies to bond and interact in certain ways existed in us before language and thought (just like they do now in many species of pack and herd animals)--and persist today. Families are thus higher level, collective organisms run only in part by conscious process, and very much also by these ancient, subconscious patterns. Think of ants or bees for a minute. What reacts, adapts, and survives (i.e., the "brain") is the entire colony. We have way more individuality, but we're similar.
It's therefore possible to say that the notion of the family system or soul as a guiding social intelligence distributed among built-in, largely subconscious behaviors of its members flows right out of basic studies of animal and human neurology and behavior. Questions arise, however, when we go further and claim that this family soul is operational and accessible for us to work with across generational boundaries. Such a transfer of information and effects has no grounding in scientific materialism.
What we've learned is that, very often, the deep, unconscious demands of the collective family soul trump the needs and goals of individual adult humans. So until we start to sort out the dynamics in the family soul, the individuals, who remain shaped by and bonded to that collective—choose blindly to continue suffering.
Turning now to the history of the modality, most people say that Bert Hellinger, a German ex-Catholic-priest turned eclectic therapist, "created" Family Constellations. And of course he did, in a way. But very little utterly new ever emerges in the world.
A form of creation that is both very important and very undervalued in cultures dominated by specialists is synthesis. To truly integrate different perspectives or methods into a new and coherent whole is also a profoundly creative act.
When everyone else is taking the world apart into smaller and less connected pieces, putting a few back together again can be important. So, perhaps it's best to say rather that Hellinger synthesized Family Constellations, and did so from a surprisingly wide range of pre-existing modalities.
There is a joke sometimes told in the Constellation community about Hellinger. He spent sixteen years as a Catholic missionary to the Zulu people in Africa. This is a tribe for whom the ancestors have always been a living, regularly consulted presence. Ancestor "worship" may be too strong a term, but there is certainly great respect and a feeling that grandparents and other no longer living relatives remain involved in tribal life for a while after their passing.
When Hellinger left Africa and the Church, and went on to later assert that our ancestors here in the Western world are perhaps also still involved—the joke was born. Hellinger, it seemed, did not convert the Zulu to Catholicism as much as they converted him to ancestral presence. So that's the first, and a very central root to Family Constellations— indigenous ancestral shamanism. But Hellinger's exploratory odyssey through different therapies and healing tools was also long and varied— almost twenty years. He started out with Viennese psychiatry, but left it quickly.
The classic Family Constellation form discussed here integrates a number of other well-known approaches. Hellinger spent significant amounts of time studying with and appraising the ideas of people like Arthur Janov (primal therapy), Eric Berne (transactional analysis), and Milton Erickson (the father of medical hypnosis and concepts of brief therapies).
He learned and borrowed a great deal from Jacob Moreno (the father of psychodrama), and Virginia Satir (who used psychodrama-like techniques and family systems theory in something called "family sculpture.") It was a Russian by the name of Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, living and working in Philadelphia, who put Bert onto the strong influence of invisible loyalties in ancestral family systems.
Finally, the soft-focus, whole-systems view that constellation facilitators are trained to maintain in the work has its roots in Hellinger's resonance with European phenomenology. What all this amounts to is that family constellations are not some passing "flavor of the month" approach to wellness. They are firmly grounded in indigenous as well as Western healing practices.
Why should the family group trump in some situations the individual? Because, without the group, the individuals, especially the children, cannot survive. Much more can be said about this, and for that, I refer you to Chapter One of Health, Happiness, & Family Constellations (Reddy, 2012, pp. 11-28).
Part One—Paradigm and Paradox
Challenging the Western Worldview
How do we model systemic constellations in our minds? How do we picture them working? In the West, most of us have absorbed cultural conceptions of physical reality based on objective, scientific materialism. Biological reality is framed largely in terms of separation, Darwinian 'fitness' and competition.
How do these interact with our own and our client's understandings of constellations? To say there is conflict is not news (Cohen, 2009; Boulton 2006; Roussopoulos, 2006; Ruppert, 2005; Ruppert & Altman, 2006). Prevailing concepts of individuality, even time and space are challenged by what we do.
For some facilitators, mental models are not an issue. They can do the work very well and not stress about explanations. If Hellinger had not been able to distance himself from 'theories', our work might well not exist. For others of us though, the divide runs deeper.
What we regularly experience in constellations is very difficult to reconcile with how science says the world operates. What are we to answer when some potential clients ask: "How can this possibly work?" We help many, but see others turn away. Their minds will not let them experiment.
Constellations amount to a profound challenge to competitive, objectivist, materialistic, reductionist perspectives on reality. The commonplace Western worldview is extremely hard pressed to explain, not one or two, but at least five different effects we observe regularly in classic, family constellation workshops1:
At the same time, in terms of teaching or evaluating facilitator skill levels, mystification can make things difficult. And it is certainly an impediment to expanding the work. The mystery deserves much wider recognition and investigation.
A Paradox Unpacked
But there is an equally deep paradox here. Many fundamental developments springing from the dominant scientific worldview are actually increasingly supportive of constellation work.
What are these developments? If this is so, why have they not impacted large segments of the general public? If they emerge from legitimate exercise of the experimental method, why is it that rank and file scientists are those most likely to scoff? What would encourage more open-minded researchers to begin investigating our mystery?
How do we have better conversations with them? In all, a better understanding of this curious situation can help us ground our work and share more easily the systemic 'good news'.
These questions will be addressed carefully in three, linked articles, to appear in sequential issues of The Knowing Field. This Part One looks at how scientific worldviews are formed and evolve and sketches the developments responsible for shaping the currently dominant one.
It argues that lessons from this are important to how we talk with scientists, how our own 'systemic philosophy' evolves, and even how we perform individual constellations. It ends with an overview of the encouraging findings converging towards a new worldview and suggestions about how these might help explain our five observed effects.
The following articles expand and evaluate these sketches. Part Two looks at quantum theory, relativity, and the nature of evidence. These have run head on into the fact that consciousness may both shape and remember reality. Part Three centres on the macroscopic physical and social orders that most affect our lives, which appear to be far more intimately interconnected than was thought.
Many popularisations of science take real liberties with the findings. The goal here is to exercise care around this and distinguish important, promising analogies from established theories. Throughout, we remain aware that: "the map is not the territory" (Korzybski, 1958). That is, all our mental models are: just that — models and nothing more. We need them, but reality remains elusive and infinitely richer. Cognitive models cannot exhaust it.
Paradigm and Progress in Science
The earlier twentieth century viewed the progress of science as smooth. Facts and theories accumulated steadily over time. Then, Richard Kuhn's seminal, now classic book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn, 1962) changed all that.
Progress was not always gradual. It was punctuated instead by recurring intellectual upheavals with powerful cultural undercurrents. At times, Kuhn pointed out, grand integrations of human understandings emerge.
Called 'paradigms', they unite seemingly disparate events within a single, shifted vision. They explain and predict a great deal with few generalities and, once accepted, come to dominate the thought and actions of entire cultures.
Large, Western paradigms are suggested by just a few names: Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and Einstein. While a grand integration holds sway, advances are peaceful and relatively steady. During transitions between, however, turmoil erupts.
So many everyday scientists feel an allegiance to their paradigm that is actually deeper than the commitment to the experimental method. This is more social and visceral than actually spoken about. Experiments are tricky, after all, and can be done poorly. Funding is needed to conduct them.
Caught up in the magic of grand integration, researchers are confident that any problems with it will resolve in time. While it is important that their investigations produce small challenges, the ultimate goal is to extend and reconfirm their integration's ever-widening reach.
But as the paradigm reaches the limits of its explanatory power, pressures increase. There are fewer sanctioned nooks and crannies left to investigate. More experiments generate findings that undercut the paradigm. Most of these anomalies have to be ignored, suppressed, or actively ridiculed by its established beneficiaries. Who can risk status, livelihood and the comfort of an intellectual home? What corporation or government wants to see its profit or power base erode?
Still, accumulating evidence drives more researches out of the fold. As this situation comes to a head, the new data starts to coalesce, and, like a phoenix -- a new synthesis eventually arises. Ultimately, paradoxes beget a broader, more inclusive paradigm. Before long, as it becomes accepted, historical revisionism sets in and both scientists and cultures act once again as if they'd always known it.
One of our initial questions was this: if there are numerous scientific studies that make constellations empirically plausible, why do we not know about them? At this point, let's attempt to answer that. We live during the collapse of a 300 year old, Cartesian, Newtonian, Darwinian paradigm. While its very out-of-control successes threaten the planet, in other ways it is challenged on many fronts and the search for a reframing is well underway.
But it is the nature of paradigm shifts that the results prompting such a reframing will struggle to be heard and to be linked together, until they reach a certain critical mass. That time is nearing, but is not here yet. We don't know about these results because they are scattered, or buried. One goal of this article series is to gather and link them.
Farewell Organism, Hello Clockwork
In The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Carolyn Merchant writes eloquently of a profound change in the European Zeitgeist. Before the sixteenth century quite literally shifted gear into the seventeenth and eighteenth, Nature was feminine, nurturing, interconnected and still ultimately sacred. In short, she was organic:
"The root metaphor binding together the self, society, and the cosmos was that of an organism. . . . [it] emphasized interdependence among the parts of the human body, subordination of individual to communal purposes in family, community, and state, and vital life permeating the cosmos to the lowliest stone." (Merchant, 1990, p. 1)
Notice how very much at home in such a milieu constellation work might have been. By the end of our three part series, we shall see that, with some shifts and a profoundly expanded evidential base, it is back in this direction that science is now headed. But for now, the question is: What happened? Why the long detour?
At the time, this feminine view of a living reality was the received wisdom of a beleaguered world order. Why trust it when early empirical findings seemed so different? The cognitive pioneers of the day wanted to place their faith in experiment, as opposed to authority. Copernicus envisioned a new, sun-centred cosmos. Galileo's telescope saw the miniature of just such a system in the moons orbiting Jupiter.
Aristotle notwithstanding, cannonballs and apples, despite their different weights, were seen to fall earthward at the same speed. And Rene Descartes conceived of space as an endless, rigid, three-dimensional grid in which every point could be designated by numbers. Suddenly, shapes and motion could not only be observed, but could be described elegantly in the mathematical language of algebra.
Then, around 1665, Isaac Newton stormed the walls of the organic heavens. In an act of unprecedented integration, he extended Descartes' analytic geometry into calculus and was able to explain and predict the movements of all objects -- whether on Earth or in the sky — with three simple algebraic relationships. The repercussions of this cannot be overstated.
The Divine might have made the universe, and set it initially in motion, but it ran thereafter on its own. Careful observation, coupled with the calculations of mathematics, were all you needed to figure out what the important objects were going to do. As Francis Bacon proposed, Nature might be feminine, but men could extort from her the great secrets, and turn them into power. (Merchant, 1990, pp.168-172).
This was also the age of gear-driven mannequins and elaborate moving automata. These imitated an iconic invention that segmented time even as Descartes had segmented space — the mechanical clock. To understand such devices, you took them carefully apart. Unlike organisms, they did not then disintegrate and die. Assess the logic of each part, put them back together and behold: the whole behaved exactly as those isolated logics dictated. Even better, you could tinker with them and control their behaviours.
So too, in the new scientific mindset, the way to understand Dame Nature followed this reductionist pattern. Dissect her into smaller and smaller balls (molecules, atoms, particles). Experiment to find out what's pushing and pulling on them (forces, fields), and recognise three kinds of motion (uniform, accelerated and oscillating). You could explain, well -- maybe everything.
All this came at the apparently negligible cost of one small shift: now She was gone and It (nature) was all dead. The amazing marriage of mathematics and materialism spearheaded the entire modern development of Western civilisation. And it would be centuries before the full meaning of the loss of organism became apparent.
Descartes and Darwin
During the shift from organic to scientific paradigms, the Church remained a fierce defender of its role in the traditional worldview. Under the collective authority of religion, you belonged, or else. Galileo was tried in Rome for his heretical writings and imprisoned for the last eight years of his life.
Many of the new empirical thinkers of the time faced this threat of sanctions. With life at risk for harbouring heretical thoughts, isolation was one solution. In a social parallel to intellectual reductionism, some cut loose from larger social bonds. An inscription on the gravestone of Rene Descartes reads: "He who hid well, lived well." (Demasio, 2005, p. 249).
Arguably greater even than his invention of analytic geometry was Descartes' application of this reductionist methodology to the philosophy of mind and being. In 1647, his Meditations on First Philosophy (Descartes, 2009)) doubted and dissected everything until it finally arrived at some fragments that seemed absolutely certain.
From these he reconstructed subjective mental and objective physical substances as utterly separate realms of existence. They could have nothing to do with one another, save perhaps for the influence of a small gland in the brain.
There is in this seminal mind-body split both strategic genius and human tragedy. Each echoes down through the centuries. Physical matter was freed forever from the domination of the Church and opened to unfettered empirical investigation.
But mind and spirit were banished, for long centuries, from the realm of matter. They would haunt it now somehow as 'ghosts in the machine'. To this day, Western philosophy, psychology and medicine struggle with this split.
A final nail in the coffin of a co-operative, organically whole universe was hammered home during the 19th century, as the vision of evolving species entered European awareness. In Jean Baptiste Lamarck's earliest version, both genetic traits and some characteristics acquired during life could be passed on to descendants (Steele, 1998). Obviously, this second kind of inheritance is more supportive of constellation work.
Though Darwin did not entirely rule out acquired inheritance, cultures of the time were already enmeshed in the grand, reductionist quest to take things apart. A sweeping social Darwinism split off genetic inheritance and natural selection as a unit and coined the term 'survival of the fittest'. 'Lamarckian' became a term of derision.
If the wealthy and powerful came to dominate, this was (quite conveniently) the law of nature. And in biology, until very recently, the gospel has been that accidental mutations in DNA alone influenced heredity. In this way, genes received no feedback from the lives of the organisms they created.
And, most important for us, descendants were cut off from important experiences of ancestors not present in their lives. And finally, whole species were envisioned as isolated armies sparring endlessly in an uncaring and therefore savage.
Towards Talking with Scientists
Five years ago four articles in The Knowing Field (Boulton 2006; Roussopoulos, 2006; Ruppert, 2006; Ruppert & Altman, 2006) covered themes similar to this article's, and called for increased dialogue with research scientists. Yet the endeavour remains difficult.
If we want to do this, or even just dialogue more convincingly with materially-minded potential clients, it helps greatly to understand the core assumptions that lock up their outlook. In some cases, bringing awareness to this or that particular assumption opens doors, or at least plants seeds. In other cases, once you realise a person will not examine assumptions, it may be best to save your breath.
A set of seven mutually supportive ideas buttresses the mainstream paradigm. Let's call the whole thing 'scientific materialism'. Part by part, then, the paradigm says that valid scientific understanding is generated by remaining always:
In and of themselves, none of these ideas are completely wrong. With experimental and reductionist approaches leading the way, they are in many ways useful and even essential. When the careful results of experiments outrank allegiance to larger, entrenched paradigms and when experiments are deployed with some awareness of how different questions tend to shape their own different answers, they can be marvelous and sure-footed guides to the unknown.
Reductionism is what I practised above, for example, when I took apart the seamless experience of constellations to label different effects. I did it just now again to peer into the workings of the scientific materialism paradigm. Closer analysis of smaller parts can be crucial. It is the failure to also put them back together that distorts knowledge. What is causing problems is the extreme to which these seven have been taken and the lack of complementary, opposing tendencies.
A first suggestion for talking to the scientifically-minded is to try raising friendly, interesting questions about one or two of these assumptions, whichever ones seem likely to bear fruit in the context of the conversation. These people understand reductionism intuitively and you can likely gain some respect just by showing you can employ it. To either stand mute, or else try to shift the whole edifice at once, is unlikely to succeed. All we want is to simply open their minds to possible hypotheses and experiments.
On the other hand, when are you possibly wasting your breath? In my experience, that happens when the person you are conversing with practises not so much 'science', but rather 'scientism'. By this, let us mean precisely the 'mistaking of the map for the territory': the strong tendency to regard one's cognitive models as complete and exhaustive encapsulations of reality. This elevates the accumulated output of experiments to the level of dogma. And scientific materialism becomes the grand, underlying, invisible, unassailable dogma.
People with the mindset of scientism are often wedded to speaking as if observed phenomena followed the rules of science. "That can't happen," you will hear, "it's against the laws of science." Yet patterns observed in Nature do not adhere to any laws of physics. They simply are.
Even though the content of these laws is revised every generation, each new version is touted as "the way it really is" and intellectual ancestors are derided as ignorant or foolish. As we shall consider later, there is an amazing, disconnected blindness in this revisionism — one that seems almost to have systemic roots. So another suggestion is to look for the open, experimental outlook of true science and steer clear of those steeped in scientism.
Science, Systemics and Constellations
In developing our systemic understanding as a whole and even in conducting actual constellations, we face issues similar to those we have now seen play out in the history of Western science.
The orders of love, levels of conscience, a shifted sense of giving and taking all become, for most of us, something like a new paradigm. Having absorbed them, watching them work, we notice them everywhere, and begin to see the world differently. It becomes hard for us to talk about certain things with non-initiates.
At the same time, another part of what we have learned is that our healing modality is strictly phenomenological. In a constellation, we should see, without any preconceptions whatsoever, merely what is.
This is the same conflict we have now seen play out over time in scientific communities. Before moving on then, it is worth asking: how do they, or we, best resolve this dilemma?
Doing this well involves recognising and honouring a fundamental epistemological tension. Omitting for the moment direct psychic downloads (discussed later in Part Two), acquisition of empirical, experience-based knowledge requires moving in two opposed directions.
Immersed in particulars, we gather observations and look for more abstract, shared patterns with which to organise them. This movement is thought of as moving from bottom-up. Doing it well results in guidelines that allow us to predict how similar, as yet unmade observations will turn out. These predictive extensions then move top-down.
We've seen hundreds of ripe lemons and they are all yellow spheres. The bottom-up process (also called induction) creates our expectation: "ripe lemons are yellow spheres." Shopping for fruits, then, needing lemons, and using the top-down process (also called deduction), our eyes scan for yellow spheres.
Grapefruits might fool us, so perhaps we go bottom-up again and amend the guideline to "smallish" yellow spheres. If top-down is foiled yet again by yellow grapes, bottom-up refines the generality to "medium smallish" yellow spheres. This kind of zigzag, up-again down-again, corrective dance is how we refine our understandings.
Whether it is perception, everyday cognition, or the historical march of empirical science, these two opposing movements must be kept in balance. Become too attached to fixed, top-end generalities and we become unwilling to acknowledge whole areas of experience where their unrefined predictions fail.
That stuff becomes either unimportant or actually unreal. Those who remind us of it may become pariahs. On the level of perception, we can literally not see things placed right before our eyes (Chabris, 2010).2 Immersed too deeply in the swirling perceptions of the bottom end, on the other hand and we are seriously less able to predict, organise, or even communicate about what happens to us.
How do you relate to anyone a thousand, unassociated particularities? Surviving requires our subconscious minds to scan intuitively in both directions — from useful generalities down towards particulars, and from the actual shapes of particulars up towards still flexible generalities. The conscious mind follows suit. Each end must constantly shape the other.
But if this is true, as so much evidence indicates, then there is no simple, literal, seeing of just what is. Culture, language, and personal experience have shaped what is before it even enters our awareness.
More deeply, as we shall explore later, relativity and quantum theory suggest that that same awareness actually participates in the physical actualisation of what is. How then are we to understand the phenomenological stance of constellation work?
Top-Down, Bottom-up Tensions
In Science, Systemics and Individual Constellations
Perhaps it becomes a patient, soft-focus, open-minded, kind of attentiveness. Maybe it tries to move fluidly down and up from flexible generalities of systemic understanding to the unique particulars of a given situation and back again, always involved in a fresh experiment.
As I read it, this is what Hunter Beaumont embodied in his beautiful comparison of the systemic orders to a whirlwind.3 Every time we throw leaves into it, we do see them swirling. But they never swirl twice exactly the same.
In the style of the work I most admire, each constellation is actually an empirical experiment, with any number of top-down, bottom-up zigzags taking place. More generally, if we are to continue to evolve and pass on a body of systemic knowledge and succumb neither to the dogmas of our own potential scientism nor the confusion of 'anything goes', then these same complementary tendencies must be kept in balance.
Figure 1 depicts the ways in which this creative, top-down, bottom-up tension interacts with scientific paradigms, our systemic understanding as a whole and individual constellations in particular. Balance and fluidity spell success on all three levels. But this now becomes also another implement, another point of common ground, in our efforts to communicate with the scientifically-minded. Looked at this way, we are engaged in much the same endeavour as they are. Perhaps we can try to help them see that.
A New-Paradigm Preview
Despite the locked down perspective of scientific materialism, the experimental method has not ceased its valid explorations. Publicly derided at times, lying purposefully buried in dusty corners at others, considerable evidence for a transformed, perhaps once more living and organic cosmos is accumulating.
And although careful survey of this evidence must await Parts Two and Three, still, we can now ask: what might a likely emerging worldview look like? Speaking figuratively, consider this section then the menu, not the meal. We will judge the taste of the food when it is placed before us.
In many ways, the paradigm pendulum swings now in the opposite direction. Physics is supposedly at the bottom of a 'causal pecking order'. That is, what happens in chemistry depends on it and what happens in biology is explained by chemistry and what happens in psychology can only be the result of everything below.
But physics has come up against the material reductionist's nemesis — psychology, in the form of the consciousness of observers, plays a deciding role in the outcomes of important experiments. What happens to the pecking order now?
Relativity and quantum theory also suggest that those bedrock measuring sticks of the materialistic cosmos, time and space, might ultimately be the constructs of life and mind, as opposed to the other way around4.
In studies of holography and interpretations of the 'zero point field', respected (though marginalised) theorists talk about 'knowledge of the whole' being accessible from literally any part at any time. As British physicist Sir James Jeans put it: "the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine."
In the meantime, studies of social behaviour in animals and humans challenge the supposedly competitive, overly-independent nature of individuals and species. A flood of recent research in epigenetics is cautiously re-instating Lamarck's inheritance of acquired characteristics5.
Molecular switches controlling the expression of genes do convey at least some life experiences of ancestors to descendants. Studies also explore concepts like innate altruism, cross-species co-operation and fundamental drives to belong, to agree, to give and to be fair (McTaggart, 2011).
Physical and medical research suggests that these profound connections may be mediated locally by bodies that continuously transmit and receive elaborate, measurable electromagnetic waves. (Oschman, 2000). We appear to have not one but three mutually influential brains: one in the head, another in the heart (Childre, 2010), and a third in the intestines. (Gershon, 1998).
Evidence suggests that people within 8-12 feet of each other are possibly in wireless communication with each other's hearts (McCraty, 2004). Slowly but surely, my own sense is, the formidable walls of the Cartesian splits are becoming porous.
Though still dismissed or attacked by much of the mainstream, parapsychological research is mounting in quantity and has become increasingly sophisticated. Psi effects, which seem to tap into this universal great thought, are being documented not only in the human, but also in the animal, vegetable and mineral (machine) realms (Radin, 2009; McTaggart, 2008; McTaggart 2007; Sheldrake, 1999; Sheldrake, 2003). Considerable reading of this literature, coupled with my own experience in shamanism and constellation work, lead me to propose four hypothetical generalisations.
I will state these and show where they might lead now, and then explore their foundations in Parts Two and Three:
Albrecht Mahr called this latter our familiar knowing field (Mahr, 2004). Sheldrake speaks of the 'morphogenetic fields', (Sheldrake, 2009) and physicist David Bohm called it the 'holomovement' (Bohm 1995). To maintain a consistent analogy and to allow for the fact that what happens in constellations involves more than simply 'knowing' I will speak here simply of the universal remote network or more graphically, the InnerNet.
Modelling Our Observed Effects
With all this in mind, we can sketch explanatory approaches to some of our observed effects. Beyond work on trauma and bonding closer to our own field (Levine, 2010; Ruppert, 2008; Schmidt, 2006), familial entanglements, for instance, find potential support in work on mirror neurons, epigenetics, the love hormone oxytocin and studies in a new, cross-disciplinary 'sociobiology'.
Science journalist Lynne McTaggart titled her latest book The Bond (McTaggart, 2011), and New York Times editorialist David Brooks wrote in a recent column:
"We are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships."7
This suggests that a real change in mainstream opinion may be in progress. On the other hand, effective personifications remain the most difficult to comprehend. These challenge relatively deep distinctions we make between abstract and concrete, animate and inanimate entities.
Most interesting are the ways in which converging hypotheses might affect our view of representative perception, induced systemic healings and cascading resolutions. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that evidence for the four generalisations offered above becomes convincing.
In a good constellation workshop, then, we might say that participants are resonating strongly with one another via physically measurable energies that extend 8-12 feet from their bodies. 'Resonating' here would mean that the biomagnetic fields of their hearts, at the very least, are affecting one another, coming to vibrate in similar ways and sharing information.
Let's call the group, and any particular constellation, the 'local network'. Because it shares attention to the same things, has similar healing intentions and often a high degree of emotional urgency, this group would have variables likely to produce an unusually intense connection to the non-local, a-temporal, universal remote network. In this model, then, representative perception would be seen as a downloading of ancestral feelings from the universal remote to the local network.
But if induced systemic healings take place, then we would have to postulate that the group's connection was two-way. Ancestral perceptions would be downloaded, yes, but then, assuming the resonance remains strong enough, resolutions within the local system would also be uploaded. Notice how important, in these terms, maintaining resonance between the local and universal remote networks becomes. Lose it, and you are simply moving local bodies around.
Extending the model carefully, we might begin to explain cascading resolutions by postulating that changes successfully uploaded from the local constellation network to the universal remote network are downloaded somehow to other family system members not present.
But at this point, someone would probably suggest that some of these effects could equally well happen entirely within the local network. This idea has considerable merit and would need to be explored. On the other hand, it is hard to see how effective personifications could be entirely local.
Whatever we do, as long as we remember that it is just a useful toy, this and other models are likely to be refined for the better. After all, we are just trying to plant guideposts within the Great Mystery, not capture reality.
Discussions like the one above are common in theoretical physics, and are called 'gendankenversuchen' ('thought experiments'). They delineate directions for future investigation. In Part Two, entitled: Time, Space and Consciousness, we shall deepen the exploration.
Acknowledgements and Notes
A number of readers helped shape and reshape the original material through three major revisions. These readers included Chris Walsh, Jane Peterson, Dan Booth Cohen, Barbara Morgan, and for earlier versions, Ed Lynch, Karen Karnabucci, Anngwyn St. Just, Suzanne Grogen, Linda Lyng, and Alan Prescott.
I am very grateful for so much help received in what has been a difficult writing challenge. The listing of someone's name here does not imply that they agree with everything said. Obviously, any errors are mine, not those of these generous colleagues. I'm also grateful to Dan Benor and xxxxxx for their comments on the current Introduction.
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