This is a conversation recorded by David McLeod, one of the main participants in the development of PatternDynamics, and me. I think David has done some excellent work tracking down some of the allied philosophical and theoretical antecedents to PD and making his own interpretations about and connections to those fields in relation to PD. This conversation can serve as a record of these developments. PD has gone somewhat underground, but it is the slow mycelial-like growth of the discipline in phases like this that will allow it to push up fruiting bodies once again.
Links to the audio files:
Part One: Context and the New Positioning of PatternDynamics (45 min)
Part Two: PatternDynamics and its Relationship to Spiritual Practice (51 min)
Part Three: A Deeper Dive into the Four Points of Applied PatternDynamics (51 min)
Table of Contents
Links to the Audios… 251
Narrative Summary and Reflective Review… 251
Detailed Topic Map of the Audio Recordings… 253
Part One: Context and the New Positioning of PatternDynamics… 253
Part Two: PatternDynamics and its Relationship to Spiritual Practice … 254
Part Three: A Deeper Dive into the Four Points of Applied PatternDynamics … 255
Figure: PatternDynamics Visual Summary… 256
Part One Transcript … 259
Part Two Transcript… 271
Part Three Transcript… 286
(including Fig. 1. Diagram representing the process of integral Semiotic Realism)
Narrative Summary and Reflective Review
The editors have asked me (Tim) to put together a narrative summary to accompany the bullet points David created to outline our conversation, “The Intersection of PatternDynamics and Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality.” We subtitled the talk: “What Brings Us Together.” I’ll recount how we explored that theme as well as include some reflections on the process of creating and recording our conversation and where those reflections might lead. Our talk extended to a rather long, long-form podcast recording in three parts. I’ll try and give the reader the opportunity to sense where they may want to dive in, if they do not have time for all three pieces.
Initially, when David approached me about writing a piece together for this edition of IR, I felt quite daunted. It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to take a deep dive into writing about anything related to integral theory. When I have written these types of articles and papers in the past, they tended to be all-consuming, quite intense experiences. Deciding to use a conversational and somewhat informal format was a refreshing way to go about it. I think that our collaboration has yielded some results that we would not have generated with a more academic, written approach.
For instance, I’m sure I would not have been so willing to speculate on the types of correlations that may exist between some of the spiritual practices I’ve been engaged in lately, and my experience with PatternDynamics. Generally, in the past, I’ve been quite unwilling to discuss spirituality, as such – especially publicly – and definitely unwilling to talk about my own, or how I think it relates to PatternDynamics. Even in this talk there are multiple disclaimers by both David and me about our concerns about errors and misrepresentations. David is an excellent thought partner. We share a foundational set of views grounded in ecology, sustainability, the systems disciplines, integral theory, and the practice of PatternDynamics. He has also quietly, but persistently, encouraged me, I think, to make more explicit the spiritual dimension of PatternDynamics, and to tell that through my own experience, rather than only as a set of abstract theories. I thank him for that. It was easier than I thought. In a lot of ways, it felt like a coming out as a spiritual practitioner. I think my discomfort with the pursuit of spirituality in the postmodern
West stems from the fetishism and dysfunction I’ve observed around it. I’ve written about this before, especially in relation to the integral community. This is the first time I’ve felt like I could openly talk about spirituality properly from a personal perspective. Writing about it as integral theory is one thing, revealing one’s personal spiritual experiences is quite another.
Being able to do that is in large part due to my meditation training within the Pointing Out the Great Way community, a unique approach to Indo-Tibetan spiritual development initiated by Dr. Daniel P. Brown, PhD. In it, Dr. Brown brings together the great wisdom traditions of Tibetan Buddhist lineages as well as the Bon tradition and Theravadin Buddhism with the study of neuroscience and the psychology of meditation. In it, the meditation instructions are extremely precise, and if followed correctly and validated by an instructor, then it is possible to get to the point where there is no doubt about the kind of meditation experience one is having. David and I spend a considerable amount of time discussing some of the general features of this meditation method, the core Buddhist theological concept of Paticca samuppada, and how related concepts in Dharma theory mesh with systems thinking and the generation of non-dual awareness. We do this
primarily in the second half of Part 2 of our talk. Joanna Macy’s book, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory, features prominently in this discussion as does Nancy Frankenberry’s Religion and Radical Empiricism.
Part 1 is spent on an overview of PatternDynamics, its development, its purpose, and how it works as a unifying force that brings us together.
In the beginning of Part 2 we discuss PatternDynamics as a bridge between the relative and absolute worlds, the curious ontological status of energy, and how its ‘winding up’ as higher energy quality leads to more and more complex forms and types of ‘consciousness.’
In Part 3 we take a deeper dive and bring in some of David’s work within the field of Radical Empiricism. We discuss four main topics here: understanding the PatternDynamics patterns as dharmas or the “felt qualities of experience” in the Radical Empiricist tradition; PatternDynamics as a pattern language in the tradition of process-relational philosophers and associated thinkers like Bernard Loomer, Alfred North Whitehead, William James, and Charles Sanders Peirce; the embodied PatternDynamics movement based workshop as a potential group spiritual practice; and, lastly, the concept of ‘facilitative shamanism’ in working with the patterns and energies that
become available through post-formal development.
David and I cover a lot of ground. It’s not always obvious that all of these topics relate to our theme of ‘what brings us together.’ It is perhaps only by pointing out this theme explicitly in the beginning that it may be detected in each element. That type of signification is also a theme of our conversation that similarly may take some pointing out to become revealed.
I found it quite exhilarating to be so free to range around and loosely cobble together, what is a rather loose set of ideas–at least from a more rigorous academic perspective. David and I are aware of the problems with this approach and also the opportunity for the creative emergence of useful, if not yet fully tested, ideas.
One of the most interesting things to come out of our conversation (towards the end of Part 3) was the listing of a set of complex fields and practices that chunk together to form the basis of the foundational pattern within PatternDynamics called Source. These ‘complexes’ relate to Source’s self-organizing capacity or organizing intelligence, including purpose, pragmaticist orientated problem-solving, inquiry, spontaneity, presence, non-duality, and systems thinking. This chunking of what are technically referred to (within the study of hierarchical complexity) as abstractions
into one integrated practice, or more technically, a principle of the felt sense of the flow of experience, is discussed as an example of the ‘second simplicity’–a simplicity that unifies all the complexity before it.
Of course, our conversation is for folks interested in Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality, not for the general or even curious reader. For most of what we discuss to be relevant, people will need to have a background in integral theory at a minimum and most likely a familiarity with the Ning forum and Facebook discussion group on integral post-metaphysical spirituality curated by Bruce Alderman. David and I are not academic philosophers or theorists. We are amateurs; I hope in the best sense of that word–dedicated, curious, and knowledgeable adherents to our disciplines. As practitioners we are also both householders practicing our post-metaphysical spirituality within
the milieu of everyday, workaday life. Like amateur scientists before the professionalization of that type of inquiry, we hope that the thought experiments we have tinkered with here in the back sheds of our humble computers will contribute something useful to an emerging discipline.
Detailed Topic Map of the Audio Recordings
Part One: Context and the New Positioning of PatternDynamics
− How Tim Winton came to develop PD (PatternDynamics)
− How David MacLeod came to find an interest in PD
− PD as a language that helps people develop their systems thinking capacity and application
− PD in relation to post-metaphysical spiritual practice
− PD in leadership and organizational consulting
− A new positioning of PD oriented around the relationship between holistically aware systems
thinking and traditional spiritual practice
− The essence of PD is the Source pattern, which is the generative capacity of the universe to
create flourishing systems
− A possible chaotic transition or phase shift to a more unitive shared view on a planetary basis
− What brings us together? How do 8 billion people collaborate to form a viable planetary
− The more connected we become, the more divisive it’s made us
Winton and MacLeod: What Brings Us Together?
− How do we balance and integrate for optimal health rather than get ideologically aligned
with one approach or another? How do we unify and integrate the value propositions that
each side brings?
− The subtle art of shifting the conversation to the systems level
− The power of “communicative action” (Habermas) and the core value proposition of PD: the
ability to point out systemic dynamics in a way that people can see them; and then you have
a reference or language with which to collectively communicate about how to balance and
− “Facilitative Shamanism” as the third piece of PD
− Going to war with post-modernism vs. integrating post-modernism
− Defining Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality
− An over-arching cosmological umbrella
− Preserving the sacredness of the traditional view, but applying the co-creative post-modern
Part Two: PatternDynamics and its Relationship to Spiritual Practice
− No separation between the relative and the absolute, and conduct in the relative world is
− PD as a bridge towards a more holistic and systemic sensibility that sees the patterns of
energy that exist in both the inside and the outside world; integrated in a way that both
scientific materialists and traditional spiritualists could honor
− The mysterious ontological status of energy, and the cosmology of PD
− The PD view is similar to that of many spiritual traditions that see reality as semiotic in
nature – it is interpretive, dynamic, alive, conversational, inter-relational, an
Winton and MacLeod: What Brings Us Together?
− Four Points of Applied PatternDynamics
1. Understanding the Patterns as dharmas or “felt qualities of experience”– always in flux,
always in relationship to other Patterns. “To help us see more.”
2. PatternDynamics as a process-relational pattern language. Balancing and integrating the
Patterns in collective conversation with other people. “To help us share more.”
3. The embodied PD group movement practice, taking an equal and central ongoing role in PD
practice, not just an activity for the Level 1 Workshop. This activity helps connect us as a
group in an ongoing Radical Empiricist “experience” practice – experiencing patterned
energies, and connection to Source. “To help us live to deeper purpose.”
4. Emphasis on “Facilitative Shamanism” (Tim talks about seeing others do this, but David has
seen him do it at PD Workshops) to bring in “a dimension of human experience that’s based
on primal, archetypal shaping forces or patterns.” Teaching “the capacity to sense the
dynamic at play and how to tweak that energy” (“knowing when to let happen and when to
make happen,” as Gebser put it). This is “the ability to shift the conversation in a way that
reveals the deeper reality of our inter-dependence.” And an example of what Lectica calls
“early principled thinking” or “the second simplicity.” Beyond all Patterns, which are all
ultimately empty or Void anyway; all simplified into Source.”
Part Three: A Deeper Dive into the Four Points of Applied PatternDynamics
1. Understanding the Patterns as dharmas or “felt qualities of experience”
a. Radical Empiricism (Nancy Frankenberry, Religion and Radical Empiricism; William
James, Varieties of Religious Experience)
b. Language/Thought/Linguistic expression, the challenges Radical Empiricism has faced,
and the key insight of PatternDynamics
c. The core dimensions of Source (Daniel P. Brown, Ph.D. Thesis)
d. The Eudaimonic Society (Bhaskar)
e. Dukkha; interrupting the flow of co-constructed experience
2. PD as a process-relational pattern language. Balancing and integrating the Patterns in
collective conversation with other people. “To help us share more.”
a. Tim’s interest in process philosophy as “the missing piece when trying to integrate
b. How is PD geared to assist in better conversations?
c. David’s interest in the idea of process-relational philosophy (Bernard Loomer)
d. Whitehead, James, and Russell and the living systems view – an integrated flux of
dynamic energy patterns
e. Steven Meyer on Experiential Togetherness
f. Peirce’s firstness, secondness, thirdness (Tim’s paper on Planetary Civilization)
3. The embodied PD group movement practice, taking an equal and central ongoing role in PD practice.
a. Practice groups to develop community; touching into Source together, with an overriding
interest in the health of humanity
4. Emphasis on “Facilitative Shamanism” – “the capacity to sense the dynamic at play and how to tweak that energy”
a. Tim’s podcast with Lauren Tenney: “We are the New Shaman”
b. Diane Hamilton using the “Big Mind” process; Taoist practice of Wu Wei
c. Using Source for Complex Problem Solving: Purpose, Inquiry, Spontaneity, Presence,
Collapse of polarities into one field
d. Primary motivation, and what brings us together: realization of Source
e. Power as another dimension of Source
5. Conclusion – the unifying capacity of PatternDynamics
For the rest of the transcript material click here.