ACADEMIC ARTICLES: This conceptual paper expands upon the concept of Deep Futures (DF), as introduced in a previous volume of Foresight. It shall be argued that Deep Futures is part of the emerging discipline of Postconventional Futures Studies (PFS)
Title: Deepening Russian Futures (Deep Futures, part 2)
Journal: Foresight (Russia – translated into Russian)
Date: Upcoming, late 2012
Paper type: Conceptual
Author: Marcus T. Anthony, PhD
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This conceptual paper expands upon the concept of Deep Futures (DF), as introduced in a previous volume of Foresight. It shall be argued that Deep Futures is part of the emerging discipline of Postconventional Futures Studies (PFS).[i] A prime purpose here is to outline more specific applications for Russia, especially in terms of the deepest levels of awareness of any given problematique – worldviews, paradigms, and the expression of consciousness (or mind). The recent issue involving Russian punk band “Pussy Riot” is used to exemplify the way DF might deepen policy and the way we view future. DF utilises recognised Futures methodologies and philosophies, but expands the depth of analysis and insight by incorporating additional tools and other ways of knowing not traditionally utilized by Futures practitioners.
As I argued in a previous paper here in Foresight journal, mainstream and conventional Futures work can often operate with implicit and unchallenged assumptions. In particular, there is often a focus on technology and economics: what I call “money and machines futures.” This assumes that the future is mostly about science and technology; and progress in a western materialistic sense. The concept of Deep Futures (DF) challenges those assumptions, and introduces tools and methods to “destabilize” business-as-usual thinking about the future. Therefore, a prime purpose of DF is to act as a provocation to dominant discourses. It provides an enhanced capacity for dissent – to challenge conventional Foresight and Futures work, as well as other fields of knowledge it turns its gaze upon. It thus presents the possibility of deepening the way we view the past, present, and future.
In brief, futures with depth contain these elements:
- They inspire. They instill us with passion, and ignite something deep within us.
- They are the big picture. They encourage us to see things in broader perspective, including the cultural, national, civilisational, the Gaian, and the spiritual.
- They honour both the head and the heart. They permit rational and intuitive ways of knowing and living to co-exist.
- They permit expression of multiple cultures and worldviews, not just dominant ones.
- They are deeply meaningful, not merely interesting, amusing, or engaging.
- They permit deep connection with each other, with nature, and with inner and spiritual worlds.
- They honour universal human values: peace, beauty, freedom, justice, and love (including freedom of thought and information, and financial freedom).
- People and Gaia lie at the heart of the future, not merely money and machines.
Futures Methods with Depth
Below I outline several Deep Futures methods and approaches. They can be applied by futurists in presentations, workshops, institutional settings and in research. Some of these are methods in development, and require further application before their genuine value can be determined.
Causal Layered Analysis (Sohail Inayatullah 2004, 2009)
Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) is a poststructuralist Futures method developed by futurist Sohail Inayatullah (2004). CLA can help examine the deeper meanings imbedded within problems, texts, and discourses through an exploration of four specific levels. It is particularly useful as a means to conduct inquiry into the nature of past, present, and future. It opens up the present and the past to create the possibility of alternative futures.
In other words, it can deepen our understanding of the future.
CLA is an extremely flexible tool, and the focus of analysis can be upon different levels according to the aims of the research, the gathering, and the audience. Many other Futures methods can be used alongside it. For example, my Harmonic Circles method (Anthony 2007, 2010a) can be used as part of the worldview/paradigm level, as it encourages participants to reflect upon their worldview and biases.
These are CLA’s five levels: [ii]
The litany examines the “surface” of the issue—empirical and verifiable data, what can be readily seen and measured, or what is typically seen when there is no attempt to look deeper. Data at this level can be useful in making immediate changes, but may be limited if participants lack a broader understanding of the problem.
The social/systems level identifies underlying systemic issues. The greater depth allows stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the situation and place the data in greater context.
The worldview/paradigm level examines the paradigmatic and civilisational factors which affect the issue. Futures thinking which addresses this level can help create the conditions for a paradigm shift. We can envisage new futures and devise new strategies.
The myth/metaphor level uncovers the myths, metaphors, and deeper psycho-spiritual drivers of issues. It is at the mythic and metaphorical level that postconventional methods come into play. Most notably, other ways of knowing can be used.
The consciousness level opens a space for the emotional, intuitive and spiritual aspects of the mind to be explored and find expression. Deep meanings and ultimate causes can be honoured at this level, including spiritual guidance.
Integral Futures (Richard Slaughter 2003, 2006).
This approach to Futures uses Ken Wilber’s (2000) Integral Operating System and Four Quadrant system to deconstruct and analyse futures. The four quadrants are the social, the cultural, the empirical, and the first-person. Most notably, Integral Futures acknowledges the transpersonal realms and the perennial philosophy of the Eastern world. This sees consciousness as evolving from pre-personal (unconsciousness), to conscious/rational, and then to transpersonal.
Visioning, where idealised futures are imagined and planned, is in itself neutral in terms of the application of ways of knowing, but is an ideal situation to allow intuitive and emotive cognitive processes to be employed.
Scenarios may work best where deeply reflective work is done beforehand, opening spaces for alternative futures to emerge (Curry & Shultz 2009). Causal Layered Analysis, in combination with creative and intuitive thinking, can be used here.
Harmonic Circles (Marcus T. Anthony 2007, 2010a).[iii]
This tool invites deep reflection upon the individual’s worldview and biases, via a depth-psychology approach, and meditative insight. It employs a free association method to assist the user in tapping into the unconscious, and utilises non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Integrated Inquiry (Marcus T. Anthony 2010b; 2012b).
This recently-developed alternative research method combines intuitive and rational ways of knowing, as the researcher goes about investigating his subject matter. The researcher pays as much attention to the inner world of thoughts, feelings, intuitions and dreams as to the external environment. The entire approach to knowledge transcends the strict subject/object dichotomy of modern and postmodern though, and invites exploration of Integrated Intelligence (see below). Integrated Inquiry does not necessarily require a mystical worldview (though it helps); it can be employed as a provocation designed to stimulate creativity and insight. Foresight and Futures practitioners can use Integrated Inquiry during their research. I employed this approach during my own doctoral studies, as outlined in my eBook How to Channel a PhD (Anthony 2012b).
Integrated intelligence and other ways of knowing (Marcus T. Anthony 2008, 2010c).
The concept of Integrated intelligence (INI) rests upon the presupposition that the mind extends beyond the brain, and that some information that is “out there” can be consciously accessed via feelings, intuitions, images, dreams, auditory prompts, and so on. The process incorporates non-ordinary states of consciousness, achieved through deep relaxation and physiological self-control. As with Integrated Enquiry, INI can be employed as an assumed genuine human capacity, or used as a provocation. In the latter case, it is not necessary to “believe” in it, merely to go about Futures work employing specific INI tools and using them as prompts toward the end of achieving more innovative and creative thinking.
The Purpose of Postconventional Approaches
What is the purpose of allowing such alternative thinking and cognitive depth to be part of Futures and Foresight work? Sohail Inayatullah puts it this way:
“Futures thinking ultimately can go as far as mapping and changing memes and fields of reality.” (Inayatullah 2008)
This is a contentious issue, but one with which I concur. There is a great deal of scientific evidence to support the ideas of non-local fields of consciousness and collective intelligence (Grof 2000; Sheldrake 2003; Radin 2006; McTaggart 2007; LeShan 2019), and just as much skepticism (Dawkins 2006, Blackmore 2003, de Glasse Tyson 2001). However, it should be pointed out that the purpose of the employment of Deep Futures tools should not be used as a means to change people’s belief structures or worldviews. Such an approach would be a violation of participants’ rights, and an abuse of the role of teacher/futurist as facilitator. Instead, Deep Futures can be used as a way to incorporate a broader range of perspectives and types of data, to act as a deliberate provocation, and to break through entrenched ways of thinking about and perceiving the world and its many possible futures. It can thus help to subvert cognitive dissonance and what Edward de Bon0 (200( calls “The knowledge trap”. This is where we make the self-limiting mistake of becoming too comfortable with our knowledge and approach to learning, and fail to embrace a greater diversity of cognitive tools, mental states and ways of knowing.
Much of what is true of Causal Layered Analysis is also true of Deep Futures in general. Inayatullah (2008b) points out that the goal of CLA is the integration of all its levels of ennquiry, to honour each, and allow the expanded understanding which emerges to help us better prepare for, and consciously develop, our futures. As Inayatullah writes:
Each level is true, and solutions need to be found at each level. Thus policy solutions can be deeper. Litany interventions lead to short-term solutions, easy to grasp, packed with data. Systemic answers require interventions by efficiency experts. Governmental policies linked to partnership with the private sector often results. Worldview change is much harder and longer term. It requires seeking solutions from outside the framework in which the solution has been defined. And myth solutions require deepest interventions, as this requires telling a new story, rewiring the brain and building new memories and the personal and collective body (Inayatullah, 2008: 9).
Deep Futures in general can be used as a framework for examining the future of any given problem (and analyzing the depth of any given Futures idea, text, organisation or thinker). It is thus an approach which seeks to facilitate the deepening Futures Studies, for specific analyses, and to expand the processes used in workshops and seminars. The focus of Deep Futures is upon depth and bringing forth data and perspectives from within different layers of the problem, and it permits other futures methods to be used alongside it. In this sense it is reminiscent of de Bono’s (2009) “six thinking hats” method, which allows a place for a broader range of cognitive processes than are typically permitted in modern education and organisations.
Taken together, CLA, interwoven with the other methods referred to here, can potentially deepen our appreciation of the forces driving change and futures. The processes create the potential for insight and for greater awareness of the forces which shape the self, from within and without. This may potentially lead to better foresight.
Effective Policy vs. Deep Policy
Deep policy goes deep, by definition. How, then, do standard policy guidelines about delivering effective policies compare to Deep Futures? As one example, the British government has developed the following criteria for policy makers (Ching 2009). We may assume that the goal of the approach is to be inclusive and comprehensive. I list the general guidelines here, and indicate what level of Inayatullah’s Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) they primarily address. Recall, level one (L1) is the surface/empirical, level two (L2) the social/systems, level three (L3) the worldview/paradigm, level four (L4) the myth/metaphor, and level five (L5) consciousness/mind.
- It clearly defines outcomes, taking into account the likely effect and impact of the policy in the future, five to ten years and beyond. L1
- It takes full account of the national and international situation. L2
- It takes a holistic view, looking beyond institutional boundaries to the government’s “strategic objectives.” L2
- It is flexible and innovative, willing to question established ways of dealing with things and encourage new and creative ideas. L3 (potentially)
- It uses the best available evidence from a wide range of sources. L1
- It constantly reviews existing policy to ensure it is really dealing with problems it was designed to solve without having unintended detrimental effects elsewhere. L1-L2
- It is fair to all people directly or indirectly affected by it and takes account of its impact more generally. L2-L3
- It involves all stakeholders at an early stage and throughout its development. L3
- It learns from experience what works and what doesn’t through systematic evaluation. L1-L2 (Ching 2009)
At first glance, this list looks reasonably comprehensive. It potentially allows for the first four levels of CLA, but with a weakly represented level four – myth and metaphor. Notably, level five – consciousness – is completely absent.
There are often problems in the implementation of policy guidelines. Firstly, governments and organisations often fail to follow their own guidelines. The United States and its allies, for example, did not invoke a “deep” approach in invading Iraq, despite a record of historical failures in invading other nations with little foresight of the consequences (e.g, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs). They didn’t consult the Islamic World, and we can assume they did not examine their own civilisational biases. And this is not to mention the obvious lack of foresight in failing to think very far beyond the fall of Baghdad.
My second issue is in regard to the methods that can genuinely make policy go deep. To do this we need tools which allow policy makers to be poked and prodded into seeing things at deeper levels. Simply saying, “Let’s include the Muslims,” for example, may be limited if there are no ways for mutually respectful communication to unfold, for worldview assumptions to be addressed, and for prejudice and judgment to be acknowledged. This is where CLA, used in conjunction with other methods such as Harmonic Circles, might be of great benefit.
The third observable point about the above effective policy guidelines is that they do not address much of level four of CLA, and nothing of Level five—where deeper psycho-spiritual factors and introspection come into play.
The “Pussy Riot” controversy
In this next and longest section of this paper, I shall address a specific policy issue in Russia – the Pussy Riot problematique – and see just how deep policy and analysis tends to go in government, selected media outlets and the blogosphere.
Pussy Riot is a now-notorious Moscow-based feminist punk-rock group. The band has staged several rebellious performances, typically in unauthorized locations, such as Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, on top of a trolleybus, and on a scaffold in the Moscow Metro. The performance which came to the attention of the Russian authorities – and subsequently the international media – occurred on February 21, 2012, when five membersof the group enacted a very brief performance on the soleas of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, before they were stopped by church officials. They invoked the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin and threw insults at both Putin and the Moscow Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.On March 3 a video of the performance appeared online, and subsequently three of the group members were arrested. They were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and given two-year sentences with heavy labour (Pussy Riot, 2012). Much international media attention has focused upon the story, most of it critical of the Russian authorities. Putin has stated that this is an orchestrated foreign plot designed to discredit him (Pussy riot, 2012).
Yet opinion in Russia has been more subdued. A series of Levada Center polls (an independent polling organisation in Russia) indicated that 44 percent of Russians felt that the trial was fair, and only 17 percent believed it was not impartial. Only 18 percent believed that the verdict would be influenced by the state. Just six percent of those polled sympathised with Pussy Riot, while 41 percent felt antipathy towards them. It can be noted that 58 percent of those who responded to the poll believed that the band members would receive an unduly harsh punishment (Pussy Riot 2012).
Speaking at a liturgy in Moscow’s Deposition of the Robe Church on March 21, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill I, condemned Pussy Riot’s actions as “blasphemous”, saying that the “Devil has laughed at all of us.” He said that “We have no future if we allow mockery in front of great shrines, and if some see such mockery as a sort of bravery, an expression of political protest, an acceptable action or a harmless joke.”
CLA and the Pussy Riot incident
Within this situation, Causal Layered Analysis provides a framework which enables us to observe the depth of the Russian government response to the issue. Since we do not know precisely what is going on in the minds of officials and media outlets, I focus here upon the actions they have taken.
An obvious issue is whether policy has addressed all stakeholders. What about the youth of Russia itself? Are their needs being met? Throwing youngsters in jail and calling their actions “blasphemous” does not do so.
The Litany: At this level we get descriptive reports of the event. In practice, it is not common to find reports and texts of any event which are purely litany. Most media and policy reports cover the litany and at least touch upon the social-systems level. However headlines, search engine results pages, summaries and extracts may have a dominant focus on this level. This can be seen in snippets in foreign media reports which merely stated that Russian authorities had imprisoned members of Pussy Riot for its criticism of Putin. Where texts contain short references and quotes about specific individuals and organisations, this may also be superficial. An example is the following.
The Russian Orthodox church criticized the band’s actions as “blasphemous”, and said they displayed “crude hostility towards millions of people”.[iv] (Elder, 2012).
In fact the Church also made pleas for leniency for the group members on trial (Pussy riot, 2012).
The social/systems level: Here we can note youth culture, which is quintessentially rebellious, at least in Western and Caucasian-dominant countries. [v]
In regard to youth rebellion in Russia, shallow policy initiatives begin by asking how to punish those who transgress moral norms or legal systems. The very lack of depth in such policy may reflect the authoritarian nature of modern government in Russia (a level two issue). Putin is often perceived as the archetypal strong man. It is an image he has deliberately sought to convey. The Church too, is conservative and hierarchical, with power structures mediated by a largely inaccessible and seemingly other-worldly elite.
Seen in this context, the shallow response of government and Church reflects top-down, hierarchical power structures which lack genuine relationship with the people. Deep policy in an ideal world would consider a more holistic range of causal factors for the actions of Pussy Riot, or at least acknowledge the impact of rigid authoritarianism on young people.
Reports in international media have tended to be critical of the treatment of the band by the Russian authorities, focusing upon the political implications for Putin and the issues of human rights and freedom of expression. For example Engalnd’s The Guardian wrote that:
Three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot are facing two years in a prison colony after they were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, in a case seen as the first salvo in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on opposition to his rule. (Elder, 2012)
Meanwhile British and American officials have raised concerns about human rights and international norms regarding transparency of judicial proceedings (Elder, 2012).
Putin has alleged that foreign powers have been behind the protest movement against him (Elder 2012). Like much political ‘spin’, Putin’s response focuses upon an emotional issue designed to rally listeners around his cause. There is no reference to underlying issues.
It can be seen that each of the above deals primarily with societal and systems factors – and we may assume quite deliberately so, as deeper analysis would make clear that the problem is not as simple as good versus bad/us versus them. Political discourse and much media analysis nearly operates in this way, and rarely moves beyond it. For it is beyond the second level of CLA that introspection begins to come into play; and then the enquiry has to turn inward to gaze upon the knower/perceiver.
This level identifies deeper systemic and epistemological issues. The greater depth allows stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the situation and place the data in greater context. To allow worldview and paradigmatic perspectives to emerge and become part of the discourse, stakeholders have to permit a “distancing” process to emerge (Inayatullah, 2002), where they step back and view their discourse, their organisation, their nation, and their civilisation from the perspective of an outsider.
Much discourse at the litany and social/systems levels contains what Inayatullah (2008) calls “the used future”, adopting themes unconsciously borrowed from someone else; or as I would argue, projected from unconscious elements contained within the human psyche. For example, the implicit “us vs them” mentality that underpins both Putin’s and often (implicitly) Western news reports of the Pussy Riot incident retains a Cold War worldview.
The West tends to see Putin as the archetypal, hard-faced, Cold War Kremlin dictator. Yet this is not entirely without substance, given Putin’s Kremlin background. Most tellingly, this is the very image that Putin has tried to convey to both Russians and foreigners. Carefully managed photos showing him bare-chested and engaging in very physical pastimes live kayaking and wrestling have been deliberately and widely circulated. Here Putin is the archetypal strongman. It is a quintessentially masculine and authoritarian image he has sought to project.
In contrast, Pussy Riot has strong feminist, Western and egalitarian influences (Pussy Riot 2012). There is a clear rejection of the status quo. The patriarchal/authoritarian way is to punish and crush such resistance.
A Deep Futures approach to the problematique moving to level three of CLA would permit a deep questioning process (Inayatullah 2002). We might then ask:
- Are egalitarianism and freedom of expression only ever “Western” ideals, or are they also part of Russian (and broader human) history and experience?
- “How can a more empowered and feminine consciousness rise peacefully in Russia; along with more empowered women?”
- “Does Russia really require a strongman leader? If not, what other possibilities might there be (including that of a female leader)?
- “Is it possible that power can be shared more equally and responsibly in Russian futures?”
- “How can we educate people to accept their power and responsibility in a more egalitarian society?”
The reality is that for a peaceful Russia and a peaceful world to emerge, all parties must find ways to create new futures. The alternative is to continue to go along with the used future. This used future will probably recreate the past. Inayatullah’s CLA moves the analysis into deeper civilisational, global and (ultimately) psycho-spiritual considerations. Litany and limited social/systems-level analyses and the interventions which emerge from them are likely to be largely impotent in creating lasting positive change if they cannot penetrate beyond superficialities. This is the level of much political and media discourse, both in Russia and beyond.
The myth/metaphor level:
At this level we can note several important issues.
The most notable perhaps is that of rock/pop music itself (and punk music can be seen as one branch of this). Since the time of Elvis Presley rock ‘n roll has always featured two predominant aspects: sexual expression and rebellion against authority. The rock singer is the quintessential angry teenager raising the finger at authority. In the West it is James Dean and Elvis’ hip-shaking (banned from the waist down!). Infamous British punk band the Sex Pistols sang about “anarchy in the UK”, and one of their music videos featured singer Johnny Rotten shooting concert audience members, including The Queen. We might note the obvious sexual references in band names like the Sex Pistols and Pussy Riot.
But what is sexuality? In the Indic tradition the genital area is the base chakra (or energy centre). This is the centre not only of sexuality, but also of personal power. The base of the spine is also commonly associated with the psychic storing of anger. Some rebirthing processes that I have personally engaged in encourage the expression of repressed anger, which is literally “screamed out” while focusing upon the base chakra. In this worldview, trauma, anger, rebellion and sexual expression are all intimately connected. Perhaps this is why sexuality, anger and rebellion are such strong themes in rock music. [vi]
Rebellion is also a strong theme in modern Russian history. Twentieth century Russia had some of the most famous rebellions in History – the February and October 1917 revolutions and that of 1925. There was also the more peaceful power shift of 1989. The so-called Russian oligarchs – who came into their power after 1989 – have alleged connections with illegal activities. They can be seen as rebellious, challenging the authorities; and having their power challenged in return by the state. Oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, perhaps the most well known internationally, has been serving a fourteen year prison sentence since 2003 (Russian oligarchs, 2012).
Thus “the rebel” is both part of punk music, youth culture, and is mythic and archetypal to modern Russia. It can be seen as overlapping with the social/systems level, as it ties into modern Russian social structures.
For the Western world and media, the fear of Big Brother has moved from a mere social and political concept, to the point where it can now be deemed mythic. It was perhaps Orwell’s classic book 1984 (published in 1948) which turned the idea of evil government into a deeper motif within the Western psyche. Yet distrust of – and rebellion against – authoritarianism has long been a part of Western societies. The modern Western, democratic ideal emerged from acts of rebellion. We can trace this back to the deep questioning of Socrates and the ancient Greek philosophers; Martin Luther’s 95 theses (which challenged papal authority); and the French and American Revolutions, just to mention a few incidents. Distrust of authority now finds its common expression in the typical American distrust of government. Perhaps its most neurotic expression is now found in the contemporary conspiracy theorist, who finds authoritarian deception and hegemony at every turn, even without definitive evidence.
It is important to note that the mythological and paradigmatic can only be transcended when the dominant narrative becomes conscious. Only then can it be questioned and challenged. This is where Inayatullah’s (2002a) “deep questioning” can be most powerful. The Pussy Riot incident might bring forth questions like these
- Is it always “blasphemous” to challenge a sacred symbol or icon?
- Has the sacred symbol run its course; and is it time for a new symbol?
- Can democracy have multiple expressions, not merely the Western or “our democracy”?
- Are non-democratic political structures better for some countries (such as in China, where the Communist Party’s “scientific development” has seen the country become the world’s economic engine)?
- What are the limits of freedom of expression?
- Are there means to rule our country beyond the strongman archetype?
- How can women be truly empowered in our country?
It must be remembered that paradigms and worldviews delimit the range of questions that are permitted to be asked. When we begin to delve into the paradigmatic level (and beyond) and answer such deep questions, the future can be challenged more deeply. We are deliberately inviting dissent, which futurist Richard Slaughter (2006) says if the responsibility of good Futures practitioners. After deep questioning, what Inayatullah (2008) calls “disowned futures” can be brought forward. These are the possible futures that we have discarded, forgotten, or dare not contemplate; either out of fear, because they are seen as forbidden, or because they have become too alien for us to understand.
The consciousness level: At the deepest level of consciousness, we begin to address psycho-spiritual aspects of an event, concept, thinker or text. It is here that the most profound and spiritual questions can be asked and contemplated; and where the ways of knowing employed can incorporate a strong introspective and meditative component. Ultimate questions – especially those involving the meaning and purpose of events and life itself – cannot be answered only through empirical observation and scientific methodology. This is even true for modern mainstream cosmology, which can trace the physical origins of the universe back to the big bang, but is powerless to provide data for the ultimate source of that event; or whether an intelligence of any kind underpins it.
At the consciousness level dreams, daydreams, visions, epiphanies, intuitive feelings and transcendental experiences can give us insight into what drives us at the deepest level.
Ideally, while addressing the Pussy Riot situation in a workshop setting, or even in the private – and when moving into the final level of CLA – all stakeholders (Russian and foreign) can contemplate, mediate, reflect and pray about what the Pussy Riot incident means; including how to best deal with it and all those involved. They should reflect upon their own perceptions, reactions and biases.
We might note that Russians have generally become richer since 1989, and that the Church has resumed an important role for many in society. However, we might then ask if modern life in Russia genuinely addresses the deeper psycho-spiritual needs of human beings. This is where other ways of knowing, inner worlds, passions, feelings, a sense of connection and deeper meanings come into play.
A deeper perspective on the Pussy riot problematique
A personal anecdote provides a good clarification of how meditative reflection and non-ordinary states of mind can help an individual come to a deeper appreciation of a problematique. When I lived in China I found myself feeling some resentment at the authoritarian government. Then one night I had a dream which shed light on a deeper narrative which lay behind my anger. In the dream I was scrolling down a computer screen. But the computer screen was divided in two. On left side were images of severe-looking Chinese Communist party leaders dressed in their black suits; on the right side of the screen were images of my father; equally angry and severe and punitive. That dream told me something important. That my attitudes towards China’s leaders was in part a projection of unresolved anger I had with my father. After this event I was able to assume a greater degree of responsibility for the way I thought, spoke and wrote about the Chinese Communist Party.
At the deepest level of consciousness we come to the realization that much mental construct tends towards projection – especially personal judgments and opinions. Our mental concepts tend to create binaries and oppositions while investing these dichotomies with emotional energy. Finally, the mind tends to fight for the justification of its mental constructs, once it has invested emotionality in them. It is for this reason that I created the “Harmonic Circles” process to help individuals and groups come to an awareness of the subjective nature of their judgments and projections (Anthony 2007, 2010). Once the awareness is present, individuals can then learn to take more responsibility for the way they create their subjective world.
As a mystic and deep meditator I also believe that we all carry “the sins of the fathers”. The consciousness of the ancestors trails behind us, potentially pulling us back into their pain and trauma, as well as the ‘memory’ of glory and success. Just as one example, during World War Two Russia lost some twenty million people. This ‘pain’ does not evaporate, but continues to haunt the psyches of the individuals involved. There is a danger that such subtle psychic forces might help recreate the same dominant narratives that underpins its origins – in this case violence and war.
Clearly “psychic” influences in people and populations is a highly contentious area to explore, and these forms of knowledge and understandings lie far off the official maps of reality that dominate education and society. This is the domain of Dean Radin’s “psi taboo”. Yet my experience is that they form part of the awareness of many people in greater society. People may not talk about such things in public, but many believe they are at least possible. Finally, there is a definitive but problematic body of evidence for the existence of the extended mind (Radin 2006; Sheldrake 2012) and I believe that the evidence will only grow stronger as the years pass.
The existence of the psi taboo is supported by at least some surveys into the way academics view psi experience. In Entangled Minds, Radin (2006) writes that less than one per cent of academic faculty members in the USA are willing to publically admit to a belief in the existence of psi. Yet Bem and Honorton (1994) cite a survey of over a thousand college faculty in the USA. That survey found that over fifty-five percent of natural science faculty members either strongly believe that telepathy is an established fact or feel it is a strong likelihood. The figure for the Social Sciences was sixty-six percent, while seventy-seven percent was the figure in arts, humanities, and education.
The question then becomes: how can futurists honour this consciousness level and heal it when most of our institutions do not permit its expression? The following represents my perspective, taken from years of experience with Deep Futures.
- The futures practitioner must ground his/her arguments/workshop in the first two levels of CLA, including the scientific; and using familiar Futures tools and processes. This will provide a firm grounding before the deeper levels are explored.
- The practitioner must keep in mind his/her audience; and remain vigilant to the atmosphere in the room. This way processes can be modified according to the audience’s receptiveness to Deep Futures tools. For example, the kinds of processes that will work with an audience of predominantly male engineers at a sandstone university will differ markedly with what might work with a female-dominant group at the university yoga centre.
- Where permission is denied in the mainstream, Deep Futures work can be conducted in alternative and permissive institutions, organisations and settings – perhaps discretely. I have conducted workshops (which incorporated the consciousness level) in many settings. One such event I conducted in 2011 in association with a major university in Hong Kong. This workshop was affiliated with the Hong Kong Consciousness Festival and incorporated practical participation in experiencing Integrated Intelligence. I also modeled the intelligence before the group. Further, I organized and hosted an international conference – “Shifting Hong Kong” – in 2010, where I invited systems theorist Ervin Laszlo to that city. The conference was centred around the idea of Deep Futures. However on that occasion the ideas were explored more theoretically than practically, due to the academic audience present.
I have been privileged to be part of workshops and healing groups all over the world which explored consciousness at a deep level. Mnay of these were not specifically centred on human futures, but they have helped me gain an understanding of how these processes can be practically utilized.
The importance of presence
One of the key factors in teaching people about the way ego/mind works is to invite them into a deeper experience of mind – a place where many in the modern world have never ventured. Rather than talk about lofty, abstract and culturally-defined ideas like “enlightenment” and “transcendence”, I prefer to use terms like “presence” and “mindfulness”. If I were to tell an audience that “I am going to invite you into a transcendent state”, many would immediately become nervous or doubtful, as the self-concept of many people probably does not include the idea of being an enlightened spiritual master. So I keep it all very simple. To move into a state where the workings of the mind can be witnesses from an “outside” position (distancing), all that is required is for the person to actually be fully present in the moment. It is in presence that mental chatter stops, and ego-identification lessens.
A key distinction here is coming to the awareness that mind tends to function in imagined futures and remembered pasts. Imagined futures tend to be anxiety-laden, while remembered pasts tend to activate guilt and the pain body. When the mind is silent and fully present, we get to experience this idea directly, rather than merely as an intellectual understanding (by merely reading or thinking about it).
When the mind is brought into presence something remarkable happens (and sometimes this may be experienced as being unpleasant). The emotional body begins to “speak”. It seeks release. The pain of childhood and past hurts may try to make its way up from the depths of the psyche. We may want to cry, scream, vent anger and so on. Yet this is how healing can be facilitated, and the past released. The key is that individuals be taught how to develop the right relationship with their pain; what I call “the wounded child”. A key part of this is coming to a deeper understanding that the story of pain and suffering that the wounded child believes in is not actually real in the present moment. And in order for that to be fully appreciated experientially, the person has to be taught not only how to become present, but how to remain present. The following anecdote provides a good example.
A Chinese healing
In August 2011 I attended a four day workshop/retreat near Beijing by Australian mystic Leonard Jacobson (2008). It is Jacobson more than any other individual who has taught me most about the importance of presence, and how to facilitate it.
There were about 130 people at that workshop. I was the only foreigner in attendance, with all other attendees being Chinese. Leonard does not speak Chinese, and most of the audience members did not speak English, so there was an interpreter on hand who translated everything. Once Leonard’s workshop started, I was amazed at how receptive most of the Chinese people were to Leonard’s teachings and the simple – yet powerful – processes he used. Leonard’s workshops focus on one central motif – bringing people into deep presence. His entire teaching centres on the single premise that “enlightenment” happens now, and that attachment to the past and thought of the future ensnare us in the mind and ego.
Incredible as it may seem, Leonard does no preparation for his workshops. Not even a four day workshop like that one in Beijing. The entire event unfolds spontaneously, as he brings people into presence.
As the audience began to relax into presence on that day, the same thing began to happen as happens with all Leonard’s workshops. Put simply, people’s repressed emotional pain started to spontaneously emerge. I was quite surprised. I really did not think Chinese people would allow themselves to be so emotionally vulnerable in public, due to cultural restrictions there.
Typically, what would happen is that Leonard would begin to talk about an emotional issue at a personal or social level, then someone in the audience would begin to sob or wail as their emotional energy began to surface. Leonard would (on most occasions) then address the person. Sometimes he would invite them out the front of the group. Leonard would then help them to express whatever emotional pain they felt. This in turn would trigger some emotional release in other audience members.
On one of the retreat there was a middle-aged woman sitting directly in front of me who kept putting her hand up. I could see and hear that she was scared, from sobbing and shaking. She kept putting her hand half up, but not high enough to actually attract attention. Finally, Leonard saw her and asked her what her problem was. The woman then stood up and began speaking between sobs. She was terribly distraught, telling of how childhood was “a nightmare”. Leonard invited her out the front, and allowed her to express what she felt (the whole process was incredibly loving and gentle). Then the little girl inside her started raging against what happened during the Cultural Revolution (an extreme social movement started by Mao Ze Dong, lasting a whole decade, 1966-76). As she allowed the pain to surface, she raged about how everything around her was darkness and pain and suffering, and nothing was safe. She was reliving her childhood before the group.
Other people started to shift uncomfortably in their seats. All talk of this period in Chinese history is effectively banned in China, right to this day. But this didn’t stop this courageous women. She clenched her fists and began to rage with full fury against the government and the Communist Party for the living hell she felt they had created. She simply let loose her murderous wrath, expressing what the wounded part of herself had been wanting to “do” for forty years – to kill and destroy, to take revenge against those who had hurt her and those she loved.
Then, crucially, Leonard Jacobson helped her bring that wounded part of herself into the present, which is so vital for healing (as long as we are stuck in the pain, the suffering and the blame, we cannot heal). The purpose of this was to allow the pain and its accompanying story to surface, then to arouse the deeper understanding that the story is not real anymore. It is only the pain that is real. After a time the woman began to relax, and her mind slowly became present as Leonard held her hand. After a while she relaxed and began smiling. She returned to her seat, and the workshop moved on.
The next morning I was walking to breakfast at the retreat centre, and the woman just happened to be coming out of her villa at the same time as me. So I started talking to her, and told her how brave she was, and how China needed more people like her who could face the pain inside themselves and express it responsibly. She agreed. She told me that she had talked to a friend beforehand and decided it was okay that she brought it up.
The whole workshop made me realise that there are many people in China (and many other parts of the non-Western world) who are now willing to explore consciousness at a deeper level. Other Chinese people I spoke with at that retreat told me that these kinds of ideas are booming in China now, and in the last year or two they have really taken off. One aspect of this is that life coaching using spiritual or intuitive consciousness is now increasingly in demand. I was told that there were many middle class people in their 30s and 40s who are well off, but who are asking themselves why they are not happy and fulfilled. It is our educational and scientific institutions which are lagging behind the general public, lacking in the courage to move beyond the safeness of intellectuality and book knowledge.
Presence work at the level that Leonard Jacobson facilitates is clearly a highly skilled process, and requires a facilitator who can “walk the talk” – who is also able to allow deep presence within himself at will. I cite this story here – and the concept of deep presence – not because such deep processes are a requirement for Futures practitioners and participants, but as an example of where deep consciousness work can lead when taken to its full depth. Similar processes can be facilitated at the consciousness level in Deep Futures work, although in practice the depth will often be less marked than in the example above. The simple facilitation of relaxed presence is often enough to give participants a taste of consciousness at a deeper level, and bring about the awareness of how mind typically constructs reality; and is trapped in the painful pasts or fearful futures which are not real.
In order for the deeper layers of a discourse to open up, there needs to be a deepening of awareness, especially self-awareness. This requires an inner journey, as I have tried to convey in this paper. Unfortunately it is this domain of mind that modern education systems are failing to address. In the hard sciences, even the concept of social and cultural influences on science is often scorned as irrelevant.
What will come of Postconventional Futures Studies remains to be seen. Its central processes and other ways of knowing may become more acceptable to governments and educational institutions in the future. Or it may be that the other ways of knowing will remain “other,” limiting Postconventional Futures to a position on the fringes of mainstream discourse.
Nonetheless, it is my contention that PFS methods may potentially enhance Foresight and Futures practice, including policy-making processes for organisations and perhaps even government in Russia. PFS may help us create Deep Futures. Money and machines are not enough to fulfill hearts and minds. We can no longer afford business as usual. Something subtle yet crucial is missing from modern cultures (including Russia’s), with their rush to achieve material gratification. The critical/rational worldview which trumpets these values has created an impasse in the development of materialistic, economically developed cultures. A shift in thinking is required. Yet even this may not be enough. We may also require a shift in feeling (as a way of knowing) – in relationship, in education, and in the way we perceive and create our futures. It is my hope that we can all be part of this shift in Russia, and right around the world.
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[i] I have used upper case for “Foresight”, “Futures” and “Futures Studies”, where the reference is to the disciplines of Foresight and Futures, but lower case where referring to “foresight” as a verb, and “futures” in the general sense (as the plural of “future”). I have also used upper case for the various branches of Futures Studies, and the formal concepts and tools of Futures Studies, including the tools which I have developed.
[ii] The fifth level – consciousness – has been added by the author (Marcus T Anthony) as a means to deliberately explore consciousness and the experience of mind itself.
[iii] I have used these three tools extensively in my own research and futures work. However, they are in the early stages of development, and require more extensive application in real time and space.
[iv] The Church did ask for leniency for the group before their sentencing. (Elder, 2012).
[v] This is not true in all cultures. In Confucian cultures teenagers tend to be quite respectful of elders, and often defer power to family, teachers and adults.
[vi] Indic and yogic philosophy is not an empirical science, and interpretations can differ. However many practitioners subscribe to similar views to mine (e.g. Kundalini yoga, 2012; Inner truth, 2012).