Writing: Research Constellations and Worldviews
Path to the Present
Two issues ago, this three-part article began by describing five effects observed regularly in constellations (See Figure One). From the perspective of mainstream Western scientific materialism, these remain "impossible." This creates difficulties for us. At the same time, increasingly many empirical studies suggest potential explanations for these effects. But if so, why are these not more widely known? And why are scientists among those most likely to scoff?
Figure One—Observed Constellation Effects
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Part One (Reddy, 2011) looked at the intellectual, social, and institutional impact of large scientific paradigms on what is regarded as truth. Progress in knowledge is not smooth, as these rise and fall in something like revolutions. It also chronicled the fall of an organically interconnected, post Renaissance perspective, as this was supplanted by a mechanistic, mathematical, reductionist framework. Paramount in this upheaval were the achievements of Descartes, Newton, and Darwin.
Part Two (Reddy, 2012) saw the Newtonian and Cartesian aspects of scientific materialism begin to crumble. Most importantly, what post-Newtonian quantum physics must postulate to understand its own success is the same thing we need to begin explaining constellation effects. A non-local (unaffected by space), a-temporal (unaffected by time) network that somehow connects everything with everything else, and quite possibly records its history—more or less has to exist.
But when we turned to the question of how representatives in workshops access this Non-Local Network, the specter of "psychic phenomena" came to the fore. Despite the fact that more and more painstaking research establishes the reality of these—they are excluded obsessively. Part Two suggested that this closed-minded response may be connected to historical trauma, arising from the witch-hunts, and that constellation work could be of value in re-aligning what is essentially a systemic loyalty.
LocalNet and InnerNet
Two connected, but distinguishable networks are here said to be responsible for our five constellation effects. Everything we perceive with our unextended senses is part of the "local network," which is bound by time and space. Let's shorten this to the "LocalNet." The intangible, interconnected, information-rich network that ignores space and time has been called the "non-local network."
But "non-local," as an abbreviation, leaves out "a-temporal"—which is equally important. And rather than say that this network is "outside" of time and space, it is more accurate to say that time and space and energy and matter "emerge" from it. So this network is then better regarded as "inside" of everything.
Beyond this, the best analogy we have for the non-local, a-temporal network is the Internet. It's nowhere and everywhere, and tends to ignore time. It strives to interconnect everything, and increasingly, it wants to know and remember everything. It's even responsible for creating more and more of the transactions of daily life. For all these reasons, I want to refer to the non-local network as the "InnerNet." This non-local, a-temporal network joins, ties together, and merges all separations ultimately into oneness.
Figure Two—Rough Boundaries for the Two Networks
Some of what we see in constellation work, then, is information and effects moving back and forth between these two networks. An accurate ancestral family dynamic unknown to even the client, for example, when it manifests in the representatives, is probably drawn out of, or "outloaded" from the InnerNet. If non-living ancestors are left more aligned and at peace after a successful resolution, then clearly effects from the LocalNet were "inloaded" to the InnerNet. After all, such ancestors no longer exist within time and space.
Having discussed the InnerNet in Part Two, one of our goals here is to look at empirical studies that relate to the LocalNet's ability to explain constellation effects. But first we need to be clear about what belongs each of these networks. This is illustrated in Figure Two. In this model, the family soul is part of the InnerNet. It is shown arising from larger, or "deeper" souls like a culture, race, nation, themselves embedded in the animate and then elemental realms.
That some form of direct inloads and outloads give us access to these is well documented (Sheldrake 1999, 2003; Radin, 2006, 2009; McTaggert, 2007, 2008), but at the same time not well understood. For our purposes, they simply create a channel.
In addition to events perceived with our everyday, unextended senses, there are also time and space-bound LocalNet interactions that we observe only via technical innovations (like telescopes, microscopes, Geiger counters, etc). Or else we know of them only after extended studies of complex, not directly observable patterns in living systems. Clearly, then, what we can be sure belongs to the LocalNet expands as science and technology explore its less obvious dimensions.
We turn now to surveying some of this kind of growth in empirical understanding of the LocalNet. Three areas are particularly relevant to constellation effects: epigenetics, social bonding, and bodily electromagnetism.
The development of a living thing appears to be dependent upon the nature of its connection with things outside of itself, and it is this connection, and not simply the genetic code, that gets passed down to subsequent generations (McTaggert 2011, p. 23)
In the early 1990's geneticists thought knowing exactly what made up human DNA would solve a host of problems, and result immediately in a new golden age of genetic manipulation. But this Human Genome Project project, completed in 2003, did not live up to its promise. Much of the human DNA strand seemed to have no function, and it differed surprisingly little from that of much simpler species.
Instead of the predicted golden age, molecular biology stumbled into a deeper labyrinth involving how genes get turned on or off. Methyl compounds serving as "switches," various ways in which genes are wrapped or unwrapped, and more—called in general the "epigenome"—all effect the availability of genes for creating proteins.
And because of this, Jean Baptiste Lamarck's much ridiculed, pre-Darwinian notion of acquired inheritance has risen from the grave in which it was long buried. Important experiences in the lives of ancestors can create lasting changes in the development of descendants.
The landmark study that turned this tide was done on Norbotten, a tiny, record-happy, famine-prone village in Sweden. By studying harvest, census, and death reports, Bygron and Pembry established that boys who endured the feast to famine changes produced grandsons whose lives were roughly 32 years shorter than average (Burkeman, 2010; Cloud, 2010).
This amazing, well-documented result shocked Darwinians, and remains interesting from our perspective as well. Did the physiological effects of too much and too little food pass down and cause this? Or were there tragic life events during these oscillations that left their systemic disruptions in the family souls?
For us, epigenetics is a positive development, but at the same time not yet anything like a full explanation of familial entanglements. To begin with, epigenetics as a whole is much broader than transgenerational epigenetics. Stress, depression and addiction, for example, turn various genes in the sufferer on and off. Cocaine creates devastating sensitivities at the epigenetic level (Nestler, 2011, p. 79-80).
But these are ultimately reversible, and do not pass on in any case through the formation of egg and sperm cells. So there is no direct epigenetic effect on descendants of those so afflicted.
In mice, however, a kind of "indirect" transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, mediated by behavior, has been demonstrated.
A mother's behavior changes the epigenetic regulation of genes in a pup's brain, and the pup displays the same behavior, which alters the epigenetic markings and behavior in its pup, and so on (Nestler 2011, p. 82).
Since this affected something as complex as characteristic mothering style, it is a very significant outcome. In humans, researchers looked at children whose mothers' were involved in the tragedy of 9/11 while they were in the womb (Castandi, 2011). If their mothers developed PTSD, these children tested thereafter as more susceptible to stress. Other studies suggest the same (Matthews, 2011) . At the same time, the specific kinds of familial entanglements we observe are not explained by this work.
Imagine a young man's migraines are linked to the untimely, un-mourned death by concussion of an uncle, and that these are relieved almost at once by a constellation, never to return. Let's assume further that the young man barely even knows about the untimely death, so that it has not been somehow conditioned by repeated family stories.
For the entanglement to involve only the LocalNet, some combination of direct and indirect epigenetic transmission would have to transmit not merely stress, but the development of a specific illness related to the concussion. And the constellation would have to re-arrange the epigenome almost at once. No research even begins to support such effects. They must be thought of as mediated by InnerNet inloads and outloads until proven otherwise.
In essence, epigenetics remains very much a "stay tuned" situation for us. If McTaggert's assertion (italics, above) that it is the ultimately the connection of genes with an individual's life that is passed on to descendents—then perhaps also important failures to connect (exclusions) may also play a role. The most open-minded, yet well-grounded work that moves in this direction is Evolution in Four Dimensions—Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Jablonka and Lamb, 2005).
We are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships --David Brooks (2011)
If Darwinian genetic evolution tended to cut us of from our ancestral families, the much more broadly isolating attitudes of social Darwinism (“survival of the fittest,” “every man for himself”) have also served to cut us off from one another.
While this individualism and tendency to see things in terms of separation is not characteristic of Asian cultures (Brooks, 2011, p. 141)—it certainly makes it harder to fit our five effects into the everyday worldview of the West. But this core belief in isolation and competition is being challenged as well.
Near the core of this shift is the rise of attachment theory. After World War Two, focused on the large number of orphans left by the conflict, psychoanalyst John Bowlby became interested in the patterns of family behavior underlying both healthy and pathological childhood development (Wiki ref). Over several decades, he and others elaborated and gained acceptance for the crucial importance of very early parent-child bonding. This bonding can be secure, ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized (“Attachment Theory,” Wikipedia). Each of these predicts different developmental paths for growing children.
In particular, this appears to be a valuable expansion of the less nuanced “interrupted movement” (closest to avoidant) commonly included in the systemic perspective. But in a deeper sense, this points to the fact that individuality comes long after profoundly bonded relationships, and in fact depends on these. Another only gradually accepted finding has begun to establish a neurophysiological basis for innate human bonding. Mirror neurons, discovered by Giacomo Rizzolatti’s group, fire both when we perform an intentional action and when we see others perform it (Ruppert 2008, 41-42).
Work done in “social neurobiology” by Dan Siegel and others, and integrated by Siegel (2010), shows that these kinds of neurons link to brainstem structures and form an elaborate social resonance system active at birth. We model another person’s experience and likely intentions literally by sampling our own body’s responses to what we see, hear, or read about happening to them. This is hard-wired except perhaps in cases where developmental problems, like autism arise (Blakeslee, 2006).
These researchers are coming to the conclusion that a tiny child first creates a model of its mother’s self and mind before ever splitting off as an “individual.” (Siegel, 2010, p. 60-61) Within our own field, Franz Ruppert has written eloquently and at length on bonding and bonding systems in families, and the kinds of multigenerational traumas that result when these fail (Ruppert, 2008).
If we move outside of the human family to other species and society at large, considerable research points in a direction opposite to that of social Darwinism and “the selfish gene.” David Brooks, in The Social Animal (2011), catalogues the results of many studies as he uses them to explain events in the lives of fictional family. And then Lynne McTaggert’s The Bond (2011) presents a similar case for an inherently more collective nature in humans and many animal species. Research she assembles supports four basic assertions, namely that the human species is designed to:
Two examples deserve mention here. There is a 4 minute, hidden camera film of children engaged in spontaneous play during a school recess. Yet when studied carefully, their actions, though unrelated to one another, display a central, underlying rhythm. When a musical score which matched this rhythm was added to the film, new viewers all thought that the children had been listening to the music (McTaggert, 2011, 89-90). How differently empirically minded people might view a constellation if we understood what can orchestrate such spontaneous synchronization.
In another case, a contest was held to determine which submitted computer program could score best at a simple two player game that pits cooperation against selfishness (McTaggert, 2011, 120-122). There is a simple strategy that always outperforms every other one. It goes like this: on the first round cooperate; in all following rounds, do exactly what your opponent did last round. That is, every time he’s selfish, you be selfish next round—but never more than that one round. If he cooperated, keep cooperating. Is this a crude but real echo of Hellinger’s dictum that we cannot always simply forgive, but should return at least a little bad for bad?
A sensible design for a living system is one in which every cell receives information on the activities taking place in every other part of the body (Oschman, p. 49)
The Newtonian, reductionist story of the human body goes something like this. It's an isolated, wired, electro-chemical-mechanical object. Unlike a cell phone, for example, it can be understood for all important purposes without reference to wireless (that is, electromagnetic wave-based) communications either within or outside of itself.
Its cells are something like bags of organic compounds. Their behavior is modulated by the slow diffusion of other chemicals. Nerves are electrical conduits that control contraction engines called muscles. The heart is versatile and enduring, yes, but still merely a pump. And all of this is controlled by massively parallel computational routines within the nevertheless still wired maze of the brain.
And yet physics says that every movement of electrons creates electromagnetic waves that spread out in all directions at the speed of light. And every molecule sends out and absorbs its own specifically recognizable spectrum of these energies. An astonishing elaborate story of the universe is being constructed via the collection and analysis of infinitesimally small amounts of these energies (Whittle, 2008). And yet, similar to the psi exclusion, there is an entrenched unwillingness to apply the same methods to our own makeup.
Studies of these radiations in and around the human body actually began as long ago as the 1920's, when Harold Saxton Burr published papers arguing that
...all living things, from mice to humans, from seeds to trees, are formed and controlled by [electromagnetic] fields that can be measured (Oschman, p. 17)
But these radiations turned out to be both very weak and very complex. Without equipment to detect them and computers to analyze them, Burr's work fell aside in the wake of a general reaction against "vitalism."
In a fairly technical book, James Oschman (2000) surveys the development of much better, quantum-based detectors, and a range of research that suggests a very different picture of the human body. While the author freely acknowledges the level of controversy, there is growing reason to believe that, while the story sketched above is true, it is also radically incomplete.
The human body is made up largely of what are known as "liquid crystals." These are typically long, thin arrays of molecules in between the solid and the fluid state. In computers, for example, the brilliant display on your laptop is created as they twist and untwist in response to minute electrical currents. Cell membranes, the collagen in your bones and ligaments, muscle fibers, and more are all liquid crystals.
Many of these crystalline tissues are also "pizoelectric." That is, they generate electricity (and therefore also magnetism) when compressed or stretched. "Every step you take compresses bones in the legs and elsewhere, and generates characteristic electrical fields" (Oschman, p. 52).
All of the miracles of modern electronics depend on amplification. By controlling how much of a larger current is passed through a "semiconductor" of variable resistance, a smaller current imprints its characteristic wave patterns. Cell walls and other tissues behave like semiconductors and do this as well (Oschman, 59-61). This means that very "weak" fields in and around the body can be amplified to create larger effects. So to say that our bodies can transmit and receive on this level is not a metaphor.
Every part of the body, from cells to organs, is constantly bathed in a minute, but now measurable sea of electromagnetic fields containing instantaneous information about what every other part is doing. The cells may be "whispering to each other in a faint and private language" (Oschman, p. 253). But of course, basic physics says this amazingly complex energy field does not stop at the skin. The largest component of it is contributed not by the brain, but by the heart and the flow of ionized blood, and is detectable 8-12 feet outside the body. Thus the heart may also be the largest creator of coherence on these levels of bodily operation (Childre, 1999).
If you stand a person upright, this external field looks like a flattened doughnut extending out horizontally. Some research already suggests that when these energetic doughnuts intersect, various pulsations in the nearby bodies begin to synchronize (McCraty, 2004). Think back to the "random" playing of children in a school lot above.
Are their rhythms synchronized in part by these fields? Are human bodies essentially also highly capable, very low power wireless devices? More importantly, think of these fields overlapping in our workshops. To what extent might representative perception and induced systemic healings be aided by this measurable wireless communication among participants' bodies?
If you hum different notes while standing next to a stringed instrument, you will find that certain notes, which duplicate those to which strings are tuned, will cause this or that string to emit the same sound. Your voice is "tuned" to the string, which picks up some of the vibratory energy. It "resonates" to your voice.
Do the same thing in a closed stall shower, and you will typically find some note that causes the whole chamber to boom along with you. Radios, antenna-based TV's, and all wireless phones and routers use this principle of tuned resonance to convey information.
As might be expected, the explanatory resources available to us strictly within the time-bound, space-bound LocalNet do not reach far in explaining constellation effects. If what we observe is real, then our workshops appear to need a stronger than ordinary connection to the InnerNet. The most likely source for this enhanced connection is resonance on two levels. The participants tune into and resonate with one another, and then form a collective whole that itself tunes into and resonates with the family systems in the InnerNet. Generally, in physics, linked arrays of receivers can perform much better than lone installations.
But of course the resonance of the whole, if not the resonance of participants with one another, has to involve psi effects. Reading Sheldrake (1999, 2003), Radin (2006, 2009), and McTaggert (2007, 2008) as they carry out, survey, and/or evaluate a vast amount of psi research—certain patterns suggest themselves as relevant here. It appears as though everyone has psi abilities at least in latent form, while some individuals display more because they are either naturally gifted or highly trained. And it looks as if these are strengthened typically (not always) in individuals when they are paying attention, have some focused intention, and feel some degree of emotional urgency.
For our purposes, let's say Attention is simply the focusing of perception or thought on particular events or subjects. Intention is the persistence in the mind of a decision to bring about some outcome. And Emotional Urgency is a higher level of physiological arousal associated with alternative outcomes. In almost all cases, these appear in successful psi demonstrations, with one, two, or all three present in either solitary or else two-person experiments. Let's call these the "basic three" variables for short.
If we tentatively accept the basic three, and now turn to the question of what supports strong collective psi effects, plainly, the likely answer is group coherence. That is, attention to the same things, the same intention, and at least similar states of emotional urgency are shared among all group members. When such is the case, the composite ability of the group may rival or exceed that of gifted or trained individuals. In practical terms, this means that facilitators might want to observe the ebb and flow of these in the workshop rather carefully. Pacing, activities, constellation lengths, breaks, and so on should perhaps be coordinated to hold them strong and steady.
In terms of further discussion and eventual research, these ideas are valuable, but also mere starting points. What kinds of interactions might there be between the more particular intentions of client, facilitator, representatives, and the circle? Some teach that the facilitator should have no intention whatsoever. Clearly the client's intention is paramount, and Rupert has shifted the way he constellates certain traumas to single this out (Rupert, 2012).
Do we need to distinguish between urgency of primary versus secondary emotions? The latter may actually degrade the resonance. There are many avenues to pursue here. But certainly, in terms of talking with psi researchers, it seems obvious that the constellation workshop would be an excellent venue to observe strong effects, so long as the observations were not intrusive.
As we ask now which of our five named constellation effects might arise purely from the LocalNet, or must involve the InnerNet, or could and likely do involve both—something interesting happens. The effort to distinguish sources reveals considerable structure. At least one effect is a special case of another, and others have to be subdivided because the origins of observed effects within it are likely different in different situations.
As defined, for example, effective personifications are a particular kind of representative perception, namely, that in which the representative embodies, not a human, but an object, event, or abstraction. Taking this cue then to look more closely at representative perception, we see three roughly different varieties, as sketched in Figure Three. First, the client's representative is present in the LocalNet with the client, so some LocalNet interactions seem to be assured. But sensory, mirror neuron, and low-power electromagnetic effects likely don't convey everything—so we can no doubt point to cases where the InnerNet comes into play. So, client representation then appears to involve both, leaning perhaps toward the LocalNet.
Figure Three—Likely Sources of Representative Perception
Second, a deceased ancestor is not present, and may not have been described or even known by the client—so our hypothesis must be that an accurate ancestral representation is in the extreme case outloaded entirely via resonance from the InnerNet. But if descriptions of the ancestor are given in the workshop, they may serve to "tune the receiver," so to speak, and be thus peripherally involved.
And third, what do we say now about effective personifications? They are not only not in the room, but are not individual humans, nor even necessarily alive, and may be complete abstractions like "love." To say that these probably involve significant InnerNet interactions is nice, but the various possibilities here require individual treatment. Someone personifying a client's symptom, for instance, could possibly receive significant input via time and space bound aspects of the LocalNet (See Figure Three again). But could the same be true for accurate representation of something like a client's unknown new career?
Though we could start breaking out more particular situations, it must suffice here to say that induced systemic healings and cascading resolutions, in my view at least, involve both networks but in different ways. In the first, the client is supported in healing both by the workshop's LocalNet creation of a new "felt image," and by the now more aligned outloads of ancestral support from the InnerNet-based family soul. In the second, a non-present living family member's behavior may change at a later date because of such re-aligned outloads. But it might also be induced by later-date LocalNet interactions with the client that no longer display the old, tangled systemic loyalties. Assuming, that is, that the client has such interactions. If not, then the change must be an InnerNet outload.
Of the five original effects, this article series sheds perhaps the most light on familial entanglements. The dawn of epigenetics, along with substantial progress in attachment theory, human bonding, and social resonance systems in neurology, and possibly even electromagnetic communications—all point to really strong LocalNet channels for the transmission of many syndromes thought of as systemic loyalties. Interrupted movement (now avoidant, ambivalent, or incoherent attachment) survivors, parentified children, emotional spouses (daddy's girl's, mama's boys), and vanished twin survivors now have far better LocalNet explanations than they did say 15 years ago. Yes, there may be InnerNet reverberations of past generation traumas in these as well. But the genesis of many of them now has much stronger support that open-minded researchers might come to respect.
On the other hand, there remain other familial entanglements that seem clearly to skip generations, or else involve persons and events not within the genetic, epigenetic, or daily behavioral power of the birth family to pass on. When incurable migraines recall the un-mourned early death of a barely known uncle, for example, we must reach again, it seems, for the InnerNet. Or, where in the LocalNet do we find a source for mental illness experienced in resonance with a great aunt whose institutionalization was lied about?
Hopefully, it is obvious that we could do a great deal of analysis and empirical research without much diminishing the amazing mystery that is constellation work. What I have tried to offer in these articles is little more than a clear and grounded framework for initial inquiry. And of course, our work does not need to be explained in order to be effective. At the same time, many kinds of clients will find it easier to accept its benefits if they can fit it into their worldview. And teaching methods, as well, along with even very loose ideas for what constitute best practices—both of these can benefit from better empirical understandings.
In looking towards these, and trying to communicate more with researchers who can help us generate them, several things might be kept in mind. First, if there is an echoing historical trauma that tends to exclude the more psychic aspects of what we do (Reddy, 2012), then helping scientists understand and constellate the hidden loyalty that may influence them is important. Indeed, a similar, but opposing historical loyalty may exist within our own community. The realities we allow ourselves to engage with, much like our moralities, are rooted first of all in belonging.
Second, we need to find the go-betweens and bridge people on both sides who can create shared concepts, language, and procedures that further inquiry without damaging the healing process. Personally, I regard each constellation as a kind of experiment, and view Hellinger, in some ways at least, as a profoundly empirical explorer. At the same time, the extreme sensitivity of our experiments to the beliefs and behaviors of the participant-observers renders results far harder to replicate. And we should not sacrifice the healings on an altar of knowledge.
Thirdly, in terms of our own community, not everyone, but rather those of us who are interested in this endeavor need to continue with or else get more serious about assembling follow-ups. In so many cases, the only testaments to the accuracy of constellation effects are the pragmatic outcomes for the client. Hard as these are collect and evaluate, we need them. There are various forms of unintentional bias in the stories we hear from just those self-selected clients who keep in touch on their own.
Hopefully, more widespread conversations based on this or that particular case will help sort out the LocalNet versus InnerNet questions raised here. In practical terms, it seems that we could begin our own rough experiments, pehaps with the basic three variables—much as McTaggert has done via her book The Intention Experiment (2011). Certainly, psi researchers are the most likely to show interest in helping with this.
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Reddy, M. (2012), Constellations and the Evolution of Worldviews, Part Two—Time, Space, and Consciousness. The Knowing Field. Issue 19, pp. 49-57.
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Whittle, Mark. (2008) Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe. Chantilly, VA: Great Courses.
Thanks to Dan Booth Cohen, Barbara Morgan, and Linda Lyng, who worked with me on Part Three, as well as all of those already acknowledged for their help with Parts One and Two, in particular Jen Altman, Chris Walsh, and Jane Peterson.
Michael Reddy, Ph.D., CPC, is a constellator, certified wellness coach, and author based in Philadelphia, USA. He presented at the 2011 US Summer Constellation Intensive. At the recent 2011 US Systemic Constellations Conference, he was one of the panelists teaching the full day course on "Constellations and Coaching." Trained by native and mixed-blood elders, he has practiced a form cross-cultural shamanic healing for over twenty years. His earlier activities in the business world included organizational development, system design, and technology management--both on a consulting basis, and as a chief technical officer. A former academic, he holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago in cognitive science, and served Michael Reddy, Ph.D., CPC, is a constellator, certified wellness coach, and author based in Philadelphia, USA. He presented at the 2011 US Summer Constellation Intensive.
At the recent 2011 US Systemic Constellations Conference, he was one of the panelists teaching the full day course on "Constellations and Coaching." Trained by native and mixed-blood elders, he has practiced a form cross-cultural shamanic healing for over twenty years. His earlier activities in the business world included organizational development, system design, and technology management--both on a consulting basis, and as a chief technical officer. A former academic, he holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago in cognitive science, and served as assistant professor at Columbia University for six years. His research on conceptual metaphors in human language was widely recognized as ground-breaking (see Wikipedia, "conduit metaphor"). See www.reddyworks.com.
i Describing the many experiments found in the references cited above that support the basic three variables would be fascinating, but cannot be undertaken here. I had some of this in earlier drafts, however, so contact me if you are interested in this. My goal is more in the nature of delineating pathways for posing some valuable initial questions.