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Synthesis from the Self-Portraits
by Carol Frenier
Practitioners in the field report that the condition we know in
individual practice as sacred space also exists for groups. Sacred
space in groups seems to be the salient factor for the emergence of
collective wisdom. Some people are called to the experience
of sacred space in groups from an inner intuitive knowing that it
is there; others, not infrequently, find themselves within sacred
space, although they were previously unaware of it and even skeptical
of its existence. For most people, once they have experienced it,
however they have experienced it, replicating sacred space in groups
becomes of primary significance.
"Wholeness" is the word which best describes what people
experience in sacred space, a wholeness that can never be fully known.
Wholeness appears to human beings to be without boundaries - something
above and beyond the human mind and experience. Thus groups in sacred
space can be present to wholeness, but can neither create it nor assemble
The knowledge and capacity, or collective wisdom, that becomes available
to groups within sacred space is perceived as being far more than
the sum of the knowledge and capacity of the individual participants.
Sacred space in groups is experienced as both incredibly pleasurable,
bordering on the ecstatic, and the cause of considerable discomfort
and fear. Wholeness, like God, is a great attractor, but also potentially
terrifying. Furthermore, the experience of collective wisdom in sacred
space, though wondrous, is also cause for concern among some practitioners
- a concern that such enormous unleashed energy can be used for negative
Since the manifestation of collective wisdom is the desired outcome,
a key task for individuals within sacred space is, in the words of
Jacob Needleman, to achieve the "willingness and capacity to
separate oneself from one's thoughts and freely give attention to
the other," thus achieving a state of relationship between participants
that transcends ego and conflict. We consider this capacity to be
what can be described as "spiritual capacity."
The experience of the emergence of collective wisdom within sacred
space is paradoxically heightened in direct proportion to the depth
of appreciation individuals hold for each other's unique gifts and
points of view. Diversity, then, rather than being an obstacle to
be overcome, is viewed as and believed to be the ground of the experience
itself. Inclusivity, equality and self-organization are natural outcomes.
The overarching spiritual task of groups in sacred space seems to
be to midwife a new social/spiritual order of an evolutionary magnitude.
To "midwife" is to assist something that is emerging of
its own power.
Learning and doing within sacred space require the whole, authentic
person - the integration of body, mind, heart and soul. Multiple modalities
of learning are recognized and welcomed as are multiple modes of activity,
particularly including those which are organic and non-linear.
People come to their interest in sacred space in groups along many
different paths and through many different doors. What is common about
their interest in cultivating capacity for sacred space in groups
is the experience of the struggle with and/or realization that people
must and are able to work together in qualitatively different and
better ways. While many people continue to work to change their organizations
from within, the revelation that "something" much change
in the way we work together often results in people moving out of
The tools that people have developed and use to help create conditions
to enable the sacred space in groups primarily involve generating
expanded awareness and authentic expression. These are believed to
enable the kind of presence that allows sacred space to be experienced,
which in turn evokes and sustains collective wisdom.
In the words of David LaChapelle, "By cultivating the awareness
tools necessary to validate and register opened fields, a group can begin
to mature the ability to recognize the presence of wisdom and ground this
wisdom through conscious expression and perceptual acuity."