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Existence is the conjunction of one with itself as a many.
The idea of wholeness is one of the hardest to grasp metaphysical concepts, and at the same time the most fundamental matter. The word is being excessively used today, often without a deeper understanding of its profound implications. Clearing some of those misunderstandings around this confusing term can open a profound path to dealing with the big questions of the human experience: Who am I? What is the self? What is the ego? What is good? What is death? What is purpose? What is reality? What is love? What is evolution? What is sacred? How can we heal?
The coincidence of opposites
One way of grasping wholeness is by understanding its relationship to separation, which leads us to the truly mind-bending case of the coincidence of opposites, the "coincidentia oppositorum". Everything in the cosmos but the whole has an opposite. You might have noticed that if you go far enough in any one direction, you reach not more of what you desired, but actually the opposite you tried escaping.
It just happens to be the case that our brain is fundamentally divided in a way that allows it to perceive the two fundamental qualities of the cosmos - union and division - separation and wholeness - non-duality and duality - simultaneously. They are two fundamentally contradictory way of looking at the world it seems, or as Iain McGilchrist put it, ways of attending to the world.
And indeed, it is our conscious attention that decides if we perceive the world through either of these ways of attending to the world. On the one side we have narrowly targeted attention, as a world of things that are known, certain, fixed, isolated, explicit, abstracted from context, disembodied in nature, known by their parts as inanimate mere representations of reality. On the other we have broad, sustained and open attention to a world that is never reducible, known or certain, never accounted for by its parts, always understood as wholes, that incorporate and are incorporated into other wholes, unique, always changing and flowing, interconnected, implicit, understood in context, embodied in Nature, a direct experience of an animate, vivid reality that is onefolding right now, around us, through us and with us.
Yet these seemingly contradictory perspectives are not meant to stay divided, they are meant to work hand in hand, because they are fundamentally asymmetrical in the role they play, they are actually not created equal, they are in a relationship of master and emissary, again quoting McGilchrist. The right is supposed to perceive the whole gestalt of the world, hand it to the left to enrich it with seemingly infinite detail, to then hand it back to the right for a more colorful, vivid and enriched, yet direct, presenced experience of the whole of the cosmos.
Unfortunately, or maybe necessarily to learn something, in our cultural development, we got off track. We forgot about the right side, the whole vivid experience, entirely, and got addicted to a left-side-only perspective on the world. Ultimately turning everything into an inanimate, decontextualized, dead, partial, deconstructed, disintegrated, representation of the whole, alive world. This cultural perspective has left us disembodied and disconnected from the whole that we are, and from the alive, vibrant, living ecology of this planet. We feel alienated, meaningless and out of touch with deep purpose. Everything we do is about manipulating a lifeless accumulation of parts, so that they give us some short-lived satisfaction. Nevertheless on the inside, we find an ever growing emptiness that forces our whole culture to engage in collective dissociation by numbing out through social media, TV, news, tobacco, sugar, and superficial entertainment.
Iain McGilchrist: "And the origin of everything, there lies a coincidence of opposites that is profoundly generative, indeed necessary for creation, that gives rise to everything we know, is by no means contrary to reason."
Healing and evolution
Once we understand wholeness as that which contains both the whole and the separate, a completely new take on the concept of healing emerges. In the paradigm of separation and mechanistic reductionism, healing usually is understood as a process of fixing something that is broken, changing and manipulating what is, to match our imagination of what should be.
The word healing though comes from the same latin origin as wholeness. It has the same meaning as integration, coming from "integer": creating what is undivided, untouched, unhurt, unchanged, entire. Further the terms "holy" and "sacred" are coming from the very same latin root. The sacred is the (w)holy. The untouched, that which we recognize as whole.
Looking at healing through the lens of wholeness show us that it doesn't refer to changing something that is, but to relating to it from the vantage point of wholeness, bringing it into an alive undivided context again. It means looking at it through its inderdependency with everything, feeling it as animate, embodied, flowing, something ever changing and never partial. It means piercing through the partially true yet incomplete idea of separation, and realizing fully that nothing is divided, nothing ever is out of context, out of relationship with everything else. And nothing is truly subjective. It means embedding separation within wholeness, instead of fighting it as an experience that frightens us.
What is needed to evolve and grow beyond the self-fixated endeavor of personal-development, is the capacity to be present with the whole which is already here, which is always here, and requires nothing to change. It is a specific way of attending to the world that is hidden in the forgotten right hemisphere of our brains: a magical and sacred capacity for presence and relationship with all life, at any moment.
This is what integration is, what evolution is, this is collective development. Approaching the world through a participatory and undivided lens, attending through presence instead of merely looking at a representation. Healing literaly means bringing what has been looked at as something separate for the reason of inquiry into its whole context again. It is an act of attention, and act of consciousness. It is not an act of doing, changing or manipulating.
This is what our work is dedicated to. This is what we want to help our clients and the culture at large to embody and comprehend.
Iain McGilchrist: Existence is the conjunction of one with itself as a many.
The Full Cycle of Life
Looking at life through the perspective of wholeness, renders the often constructed dichotomy of "life and death" as an absurd idea. Seen through the cosmoic principle of cycling through integration and disintegration, death becomes an essential part of life, a prerequisite of true vitality. Without death and disintegration, there are no fertile soils for new life to be rebirthed from.
The hindu trimurti between Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer, understands the sacred principle of a healthy (= whole) cycle of life. Life can only flourish through a healthy relationship between creation, vitality and death. Once we fully acknowledge this, we can move beyond the parlalyzing relationship to death, darkness and uncertainty and become a culture that engages in infinite creativity.
For it is not our body, but our attention that is creating the illusion of self, identification, and individuality. Thus death is not the end of consciousness, it is a phenomenon of expansion, growth, and inclusion. It is a developmental stage-gate, marking the transition from the partial to the whole. From contradiction to integration. A new order of complexity, a more inclusive level of identification. A prerequisote for evolution and syntropy.
Where we see darkness and think of a grave, it is really the primordial mother sucking us into the dark cosmic womb for the next evolutionary cycle, the rebirth into a new sense of self, less fragmented and more whole. Death is the soil in which life sprouts, from which it breaks through into the daylight. All life emerges from darkness. Understanding and fully embracing this natural cycle is the big opportunity of our time. Changing our relationship to death will also transform our relationship to fear. Recognizing death as the moment of expansion reminds us of the potency of fear as a guide into the unknown, a call for surrender, not for resistance.
Imagine we would move into a paradigm that embraces birth, life, and death equally, a culture that focuses all its energy into the constant turning of the cycle of life, rather than trying to stop it. An inclusive and sustainable economy built on principles of regeneration, interdependency, and cyclicality. Experiencing the whole planetary ecology as one living organism, one body, one consciousness, devoted to its own evolution as a whole rather than the immortality of its parts. This possibility is here now. But it requires us to take a deep breath, slow down, and turn around to face the dark, with a smile on our face, recognizing death as nothing but more life.
Read more about the theme of death in our blog post here: https://www.lennarthennig.com/post/embracing-the-gift-of-death
At the core of our mission is dialog: the lost art of holding of thesis and antithesis for a synthesis to emerge.
The journey of liberation is in its core the journey of overcoming the limitations of our animal body's primal focus on survival, while including the wisdom of these instincts into the wholeness of our being.
Unfortunately in our culture, we are constantly told that pain and fear are things we can and should avoid. Thus for many, the tricky path of self-development is a constant attempt to cut off parts of their being and to dismiss and disapprove the emotional reality and the unique experience they are holding. A powerful shift can happen when we fully accept everything that is within us - our emotions, our pain, our fears, our wounds and our dissociated split off parts.
Developmental, relational, and collective trauma leaves us with a fragmented sense of self, a chaotic circus of partial selfs - inner children, warriors, victims, perpetrators, rescuers, hyper-independent professionals - all with their unique identity, summoned by bodily memories that have yet to be integrated and felt fully. These fragments don't live next to a perfectly developed adult self that we just have to uncover, there actually is no "true" other self anywhere to be found to begin with. Our perceived self, is not a real subject, it is an impermanent, constantly changing, fleeting process of regulating a flow of information and energy that is witnessed. Our most authentic sense of self is emerging from a compassionate relationship between the inner fragments we're trying to escape. It is this relationship that allows authentic expression from a sense of wholeness, this relationship is who we are. Just like it is the relationship between electrons and protons that creates the atom, there is no substance beyond this relationship. Everything that exists is relationships, between relationships, in an infinite fractal whole.
The ability to hold all the parts within ourselves in connection, even the ones hidden deep in our shadows, judged as unlovable in ourselves and in others is the beginning of the healing journey. If we do this, we discover that our wounded fragments store superpowers that are waiting to be in service of the unfolding of our true purpose within the collective whole. Our trauma is nothing but a container for the unique alchemical potential we are here to embody. In a similar way our shadows, our unconscious judgments, the parts of us we can not see, hold a key to the transcendence of the paradigm of good and evil, opening us to a world of seeming contradictions that reveal aspects of an undivided whole.
Trauma and shadow are phenomena that are directly related to our survival instincts and somatic sense of safety. To be able to integrate them, we need to learn how to regulate a sense of safety within. True safety is presence with our direct somatic experience, a state that gives us the power to respond to life, be creative, and make choices. If we confuse safety and fragility, we collapse into dependency, projecting our safety outwards, becoming a victim of circumstance, needing others to behave the "right" way. We lose our ability to respond and make choices, we give away our power. Stepping back into this power happens through a reconnection of mind and body, compassionately asserting our boundaries, regulating our sense of safety, holding ourselves in confidence and courage, independently from what is happening outside.
If we do this, we can take responsibility for our evolutionary journey in a completely new way, living from purpose instead of fear. Yet we don’t want to get stuck in an endless quest of finding the most authentic self, getting addicted to the process of self development, and with that self. Even the most authentic self is illusory and transitory in nature, it has no permanence, no subjectivity, no substance beyond the participation in the interdependent whole of all life. We can move beyond this illusion of the self without needing it to change or disappear, and make peace with the constant process of death and rebirth that is life. Trying to escape this experience is what keeps us stuck in a constant battle with our emotional and somatic reality, missing out on the profound mystery of the present moment.
Relationships are the alchemical cauldron through which all integration in the cosmos happens. They are the only thing that is real, and the biggest challenge in our life.
Once we fully accept our experience, open the gifts of our traumas, and cast light into our shadows, we live more authentic and whole. From this wholeness it is, that we can be intimate with others, that we can express our deepest desires, that we can grow and step into our full power - while truly holding ourselves in connection. Knowing that we are complete and imperfectly perfect with all the fully lovable parts of ourselves, we can find the true meeting point.
Most relationships are built on fulfilling needs that are rooted in incomplete attachment experiences from early childhood. These underlying dynamics keep recreating paradigms that touch our very core woundings around connection and lead to disconnection from the present moment reality and projection of our internal fragments onto our partners.
Attachment patterns as a part of our survival system are closely related to developmental trauma and the inner fragmentation it leaves us with. Here embodiment as the gateway into the present moment can create a profound experience of safety within the body that is the foundation to explore our inner parts, build the capacity to feel what was too much to be felt, and create a compassionate relationship between the fragmented parts within, meeting the inner wounded child and giving it attunement and safety.
Having awareness of these dynamics in a relationship and access to somatic resources, allows us to detach from the identification with the wounded parts and create the possibility of relating in the present moment through authenticity and vulnerability, moving beyond projections and judgments. This way our relationships can become the spaces in which inner growth happens, instead of an endless loop of disappointment and disconnection. We can meet each other from a place of abundance and authenticity, truly meeting each other’s heart and soul.
This opens up the opportunity to love and relate in an authentic and truthful way that seemed impossible before. We can recognize our relationships as a crucial part of our spiritual and evolutionary journey, seeing how they are reflecting our ability to embody the archetype of sacred union, our ability to transcend (and include) separation, as an experience of the fundamental non-duality of the kosmos through love.
The evolutionary journey does not end with individual liberation, it's rather the beginning of a conscious participation in the collective evolution through transformative leadership.
Our take on leadership goes beyond the archetypes we know from todays business culture that are focussed on vision, decisionmaking, accomplishment and success through a process of social influence. When we talk about transformative leadership we talk about the capacity to be profoundly present with whole of reality and deeply listen to the emergence of life, which is constantly rebirthing itself through the dialectical transcendence of contradictory polarities into a new whole. This is the regenerative process of life that cycles though birth, preservation and death in an endless movement towards the one life that is already manifest in all form.
If the formerly described aspects of traditional leadership are embraced by and embedded in this quality of deep presence and listening, a powerful, purposeful and incredibly creative agency emerges that is in service of life, alligned with its constant unfolding and a transformative participant in our collective development.
This is the integrated, transformative leadership our work seeks to nurture in this world. The capacity to listen beyond self-confirmation, listening for contradictory information as the source of renewal, listening to another’s reality, listening to the arrival of the highest future possibility, and the empowerment to connect to it. A capacity to engage with contradictions in a state of not-knowing, a willingness for an open mind, open heart and open self for the mystery of life. It means to facilitate co-creation, to engage in a shared vision that not everyone can see yet, and to become a channel for the collective empowerment of the human journey, as an open channel of power, purpose, and will.
This is the capacity we want to awaken in our clients - individuals as well as organizations - so they can engage in creation in service of life.
Embodiment isn't about creating a blissful absence of mind, it is about creating the conditions in which the mind can truly flourish. Liberated from fear and stories of control, becoming a divine instrument of creativity and choice.
It is fundamentally about meeting death in reverence and surrender, making peace with it, instead of futilely trying to escape it.
— Lennart Hennig
The Symbols of our Culture
The Triangle representing the Philosophers Stone
“Make of the man and woman a Circle, of that a Quadrangle, of this a Triangle, of the same a Circle and you will have the Stone of the Philosophers.”
The philosopher's stone is an ancient alchemical symbol. It represents the long-sought goal of alchemy to find the “elixir of life” that turns any mundane substance into gold, reflecting the challenge of squaring the circle. The innermost circle can be interpreted as the harmony of the sexes as the two natures of humanity, similar to the Chinese yin and yang.The circle of humanity then is embedded within the square, representing physical creation and matter as a combination of the four elements, which is then subsumed into a triangle as the traditional alchemical symbol for fire being used as a transformative force, and the harmony of body, spirit (mind), and soul. The inner circle reflecting the microcosm of man’s physical existence and harmony, eventually, through the physical existence becomes the outer circle as the macrocosm of the universe and all creation.
To quote Carl Jung: “Squaring the circle was a problem that greatly exercised medieval minds. It is a symbol of the opus alchymicum, since it breaks down the original chaotic unity into the four elements and then combines them again in a higher unity. Unity is represented by a circle and the four elements by a square. The production of one from four is the result of a process of distillation and sublimation which takes the so-called ‘circular’ form: the distillate is subjected to sundry distillations so that the “soul” or ‘spirit’ shall be extracted in its purest state. The product is generally called the “quintessence,” though this is by no means the only name for the ever-hoped-for and never-to-be-discovered “One.” It has, as the alchemists say, a ‘thousand names,’ like the prima materia.”
For me the philosophers stone as the ultimate alchemical symbol represents the evolutionary journey of transformation from separation to wholeness.
Carl Jung: "The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This 'feed-back' process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself.
He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which ... unquestionably stems from man's unconscious."
Erich Neumann refers to it as the dawn state of the creation myth, the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual child. The Ouroboros therefore symbolizes the beginningless and endless. The process of evolution to and from the primordial wholeness. This is what we stand for. Self-transformation, self-responsibility, and self-sufficiency, in the face of infinity and oneness, tapping into the alchemical power of transmutation, connected to the harmony of the Kosmos through our inner and outer relationships.