Social Wholeness in Cyberspace:
A Key Role for Contemplative and Integrative Practices?

Peter+Trudy Johnson-Lenz

This work was supported by the Fetzer Institute.

May 1997

© 1997 Awakening Technology and the Fetzer Institute

An Inquiry

Is cyberspace bringing us together or further fraying the social fabric? Is it a force for reconciliation and wholeness or for fragmentation?

Intel’s CEO Andrew Grove says:

Futurists and technology pundits say we are undergoing a sea change at least as profound as the Industrial Revolution, but in far less time.

What is the nature of this tidal wave? How do we learn to ride it? How can we influence it for the common good?

Visionary writer and consultant Peter Russell says:

He also speculates that this global brain might be waking up. "Perhaps the...complex patterns of information flowing among the billions of nodes of our worldwide communication network is giving rise to some sort of awareness at the planetary level." (3) As the world population grows toward 10 billion, which is also the number of cells in the human brain, will a global consciousness emerge? And what would that be like? Can we know, or is such a consciousness beyond our individual comprehension?

Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) co-designer Mark Pesce says the World Wide Web signifies Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere.(4) In fact, the VRML 1.0 specification includes a Mission Statement ending with: "Now our real work can begin -- that of rendering our noospheric space." (5) The noosphere (from the Greek, noos, "mind") is Teilhard de Chardin’s term for the stage of evolution defined by the emergence of global consciousness and mind.

Teilhard also referred to the Omega Point ( ), an integrated planetary consciousness, the culmination of the evolutionary process toward which we are all converging.

Meanwhile, back in the economic trenches, Andy Grove says the computer industry must win the "war for the eyeballs" of consumers. "We have to go forward with irresistible, compelling features.... We have an economic mandate to grow the number of users, or else this magical circle [of economic growth]... will break down." (6) Intel’s profits more than doubled during the first quarter of 1997.

Some venture capitalists in Silicon Valley see a five-year window of opportunity for the Internet and are willing to invest in almost anything to see what will work. Disney, Starwave, and ABC have joined forces to go head-to-head with Microsoft and NBC. Web sites of all sorts proliferate. Rumors, gossip, conspiracy theories, and millennium madness zip through the electronic ether along with everything else. During October 1996, the number one word searched for on Yahoo, one of the hot Internet search engines, was sex -- 1,553,420 searches. Six of the top ten words were sex-related. (7) Lately the two of us have been getting junk e-mail nearly every week about live sex acts on the Net, multi-level marketing "opportunities," chain letters, and other get-rich-quick schemes.

This technology amplifies and accelerates whatever goes through it -- for better or worse.

Where are the self-corrective feedback loops to ensure the market forces shaping the Net are responsible for the whole?

Donna Haraway, professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says "Technology is not neutral. We’re inside of what we make, and it’s inside of us." (8) We’ll hear more of Haraway’s perspectives on the interpenetration of technology and our bodies later in this thought piece.

Virtual reality developer Mark Pesce sees this technology giving us profound experiences of ego-dissolving interiority and exteriority. He gives two examples.

The first is Osmose, an intimate immersive virtual reality (VR) experience created by Canadian artist Char Davies. "Immersants" ascend and descend through Osmose’s compelling 3D "Life-world" through use of the breath, rather than the usual VR method of pointing (Davies is a scuba diver). Erik Davis, writing in WIRED, says, "Moving through Davies’s world, I feel at once immaterial and embodied, angelic and animal. I move like I do in lucid dreams, vaporous and invisible, and yet I’m constantly returning to the root of breath and balance." (9) In the Dutch magazine Wave, Pesce called Osmose a "virtual kundalini, an expression of philosophy without any words, a state of holy being which reminds us, that indeed, we are all angels." (10) Other participant comments include: "An almost religious experience, certainly a meditation, very close to yoga..." "Floating. Gently falling. Breathing. Exploring. In delight, the wonders of a green universe. Merging within another creation, but no fear, instead, breathe in, inhale a world." (11)

This is what Pesce calls proximal (near the central part of the body) unity, a strong experience that externalizes our inner experience, here heightened and augmented by virtual reality technology. Erik Davis notes the irony that in Osmose, Char Davies is attempting to "heal the estrangement between ourselves and ‘nature’" with the same Silicon Graphics Inc. mainframes that train fighter pilots to blow it up. (12)

Pesce’s second example is T_VISION (13), an interactive model of the Earth at different levels of focus in 22 steps, from a desktop, to a block, to a city, all the way up to a view of the planet from a million kilometers, available in real-time over the Internet. This is his instance of distal (anatomically far away) unity, which internalizes our outer experience. It is like the profound spiritual experiences some astronauts have had seeing the Earth from space:

Are these technology experiences training wheels for the emergence of the noosphere or are they just "eye candy" or cyber-entertainment? Do these experiences help effect real changes in consciousness and in behavior?

What is this technology about? And who are we inside this technology that is also inside of us?

If this apparently deepening interpenetration of human and machine is real, are there ways that spiritually principled practices can help us use it more wisely, in the service of our deepest needs?


These bold questions and more in the following pages have animated our calling for more than two decades. Until recently only a small network of other explorers have shared that journey. But now that almost everyone knows about cyberspace, the inquiry is deepening, although not yet as fully as necessary.

Some pop-culture writers are describing the Internet with potent spiritual metaphors that touch our deepest yearnings. They seem to say the technology will by itself reshape society into more holistic and interconnected patterns. Yet most of their stories describe situations that lack the deeply held intention and disciplined practices at the foundation of true spiritual work. In our search we have found only a few instances, some of which we cite below, that carry aspects of the maturity of practice that we believe is needed.

As you will see, this technological tidal wave is also threatening to unravel our fundamental concepts of self and society -- who we think we are as individuals and who we think we are together. It is an unprecedented challenge that calls for thoughtful and sustained inquiry.

At best, these pages are some first steps, a loosely knitted collection of pieces drawn from the files in our electronic cottage and our favorite corners of cyberspace. This is more a patchwork than a tapestry as yet. We invite you on a connect-your-own-dots journey into the future through space, time, philosophy, human relationships, and technology. Feel free to skip sections. Meaning is not in the sequence of words. It’s in the associative network of ideas we make in our minds.

As you read, we invite you to notice and consider:

What makes you curious, concerns you, or fills you with awe?

What patterns connect? Where is there wholeness?

What is missing? What questions emerge for you?

The Great Turning

In the beginning was the matrix, the undifferentiated web of life.


After billions of years, human culture emerged from the Earth.


During the scientific and industrial revolutions we differentiated ourselves from nature and developed our technological power to understand and manipulate the physical environment.


The rise of the scientific method and rationalism in Western culture was fueled by the separation of our logical and spiritual lives as we learned to observe the cosmos objectively, rather than participate in it. To develop Western culture fully, we had to "forget" our essential relatedness to ourselves, each other, nature, and the Mystery of creation.

Now according to cultural theorists Duane Elgin (16) and Charles Johnston (17), we are roughly at the halfway point in our evolution. Our technological capacity is highly developed, but our environment is stretched to its limits, and we are more alienated from each other than we will ever be.

Great Turning

Our collective survival depends on what Craig Schindler and Gary Lapid call the Great Turning. (18) We are beginning to "re-member" our essential connection with all Life. (19)

Reconnection and Integration

Our challenge is to simultaneously awaken the participative, holistic consciousness we have forgotten and hold it in creative relationship with our vast scientific and technological powers. The process of creation involves both differentiation and integration, distinction and wholeness. We need analysis as well as awe. To navigate the Great Turning, we need both the linking/thinking power of our electronic global brain and the grace of a profound global mind change.

The Net, the Web, and Cyberspace

The Internet

The Internet is actually a network of many computer networks, with millions of users worldwide.

Its roots go back to ARPANET, the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency network. The concept was first proposed by J.C.R. Licklider in 1962, but some key components were yet to be developed. The first four host computer nodes in the network weren’t installed until 1969. Howard Rheingold includes a fascinating account of the history of the Internet in one chapter of (20) (See also the Internet Society’s "A Brief History of the Internet" by several of the key people involved in its development and evolution. (21)

According to Rheingold, "the original ARPANET community numbered around a thousand in 1969. A little over twenty years later, [in 1993] the Internet population is estimated at between five and ten million people." (22) Until 1995 the Internet was essentially non-commercial, used mainly by the general academic and research communities, with major funding by the National Science Foundation. Then it became privatized.

It’s difficult to get reliable data about Internet and Web usage. Here are (sometimes contradictory) figures gleaned from the popular press:

The World Wide Web (WWW)

The World Wide Web is a global application on the Internet and its fastest growing segment. Those pointers you see in the newspaper and magazines, on television, and even on buses and UPS trucks are addresses of World Wide Web sites and pages.

Imagine a vast, evolving, open-ended, globally distributed, richly interlinked "hyperbook" containing a growing array of pages, images, graphics, text, sounds, conversations, animation, games, electronic store fronts, order forms, search engines, indexes, and more. You click your way from reference to reference, from one computer to another around the world, without having to know where you are or how to get from one to the next. That’s the Web. It’s the world’s biggest software application. We’re all writing this "hyperbook" filled with wisdom and foolishness together.

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, in a creative burst of genius, wrote the specifications for a global hypermedia system he called the World Wide Web while he was at CERN, the European Particle Physics Lab in Switzerland. The Web was text-based at first. Then, in 1993 NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) developed Mosaic, the first graphical "browser" for the Web. Marc Andreesen from NCSA then co-founded Netscape to produce commercial software for the Web. Netscape created and dominated this new market with the unprecedented move of giving away millions of copies of its browser.

Here are more figures from the popular press:


William Gibson coined the term cyberspace in his 1984 science-fiction novel (23), Cyberspace is the "space" created within and by the network of computers, where space and time collapse, allowing us to connect with anyone anywhere as if they were here and now. It has come to mean a variety of related things: the Internet or the on-line world, including the World Wide Web; virtual realities; and even the place where telephone calls actually occur. Here we use it to refer to the on-line world in its many forms.

A Line of Reasoning

As we think about this technology (or rather the rapidly evolving, highly complex interactions of many hardware and software technologies) and some of the personal, social, and cultural impacts, we make these assumptions and follow this line of reasoning:


Spiritual practice: whatever you do to feel whole and connected to something larger than yourself

In 1995 we developed this working definition while collaborating with the Institute for the Future, gathering stories of spiritually principled practices in the workplace. " (26) We wanted to cast a wide net encompassing the rich diversity of "inner" and "outer" practices from prayer and meditation to gardening and fly fishing, all done consciously.

Here we focus more specifically on:

Practice makes perfect. After two decades of research in extraordinary human abilities (28), Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy observed that every extraordinary ability he studied is "normal." The only difference is those who realize it have practiced. (29) This is underscored by recent research in expert performance. Geniuses and prodigies put in many more hours of practice than average performers. (30)

The idea of a whole and healthy global brain/mind is extraordinary. So let’s practice being extraordinary together!


Attention is the currency of our minds -- we pay attention to that which we value, either unconsciously or consciously, and what we attend to is the object of our current awareness. Attention also guides the flow of thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations and as such is the current of our minds.

Cyberspace presents us with an exponential increase in things to which we can give our attention. People report that following "interesting" links on the Web can become totally absorbing, and suddenly minutes and even hours have gone by. What are we filling our minds with?

There is also concern about on-line addiction. University of Pittsburgh psychologist Kimberly Young wants to see "Internet addiction disorder" added to the diagnostic manual that therapists use. (31)

Technology pundit "Esther Dyson has pointed out that the most important finite resource in the late 20th century is people’s attention. Now the TV and PC industries are engaged in a battle for what’s left of it." (33)

In 1992 Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jørgen Randers published Beyond the Limits, an update to the earlier Club of Rome limits to growth computer models. In running the new W3 models, they found that when global collapse occurs, "the world system does not run out of land or food or resources or pollution absorption capability, it runs out of the ability to cope…. When problems arise exponentially and in multiples, even though those problems could be dealt with one by one, the ability to cope can be overwhelmed." (34) We can attend to only so many things at once.

WIRED magazine editor Kevin Kelly describes the next wave of cyberspace "push" technology about to crash upon us, predicted to make Web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer obsolete within the year. Push media aims to capture and steer our attention.

How do we learn to consciously focus our attention where it matters when advertisers are ever more able to attract, capture, steer, and manipulate it? How do we find wholeness in this deluge?

Generation X writer and techno-bard Douglas Rushkoff encourages us to learn to thrive in what he calls the Age of Chaos the way kids are learning to use television:

Is the technology inherently helpful, no matter who is manipulating it for whatever purposes?

Does television automatically teach 21st century attention skills? Does surfing the Net actually increase our ability to process information rapidly?

Rushkoff speaks of multi-tasking, of doing many things at once, well. Doing things well usually requires practice and discipline.

And some kids do have real trouble focusing their attention. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three to five percent of all children could be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD), along with its subset, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nearly two percent of school-aged children receive medication for ADD symptoms. (37)

Attention Practice

Is there a need for practice in mastering our scattered and wandering attention? The contemplative traditions say emphatically yes.

Sherry Turkle, MIT professor of the sociology of science, says, "We have more need than ever for disciplines of self-reflection.... The internal maps for the new psychologies of life in cyberspace will be maps that allow us to better reflect on ourselves.... Life in cyberspace makes it seem increasingly urgent...." (38)

In some forms of cyberspace communication, such as e-mail and computer conferencing, people are not on line at the same time. This means there is an opportunity for reflection before responding, if we choose to take it. That reflection can be on the content of the communication, on our internal experience of it, on our response, and even as Turkle says, on ourselves and who we are in cyberspace. We’ll look more at questions of self and identity later.

In our own writings and workshops, we often suggest these skills for effective on-line participation:

These all take attention, intention, reflection, and practice.

Writing about her experience in our recent on-line Community of Inquiry and Practice, dialogue consultant and writer Glenna Gerard says:

Consciousness researchers Greg Kramer and Terri O’Fallon are exploring bringing Vipassana meditation into dialogue as a practice they call Insight Dialogue. The work started in 1994 as on-line Bohmian dialogue and grew to reflect a long-standing involvement in Buddhist Insight meditation. Some of their groups are face-to-face, and some meet on line. Kramer writes:


Who are we?

MIT’s Sherry Turkle says, "I believe that the experience of cyberspace, the experience of playing selves in various cyber-contexts, perhaps even at the same time, on multiple windows, is a concretization of another way of thinking about the self, not as unitary but as multiple." (42) She adds:

Turkle has carefully observed individuals in multi-user games (MUDs and MOOs) and in on-line chat rooms as they anonymously assume imaginary identities and encounter each other, sometimes through computer-generated 3D animated characters called avatars. She concludes that people use the Internet as "a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self.... When each player can create many characters and participate in many games, the self is not only decentered but multiplied without limit." (44)

If we are multiples, what is personal wholeness? If the self is decentered, what does it mean to practice centering?

Turkle says, "The goal of healthy personality development is not to become a One, not to become a unitary core, it’s to have a flexible ability to negotiate the many -- cycle through multiple identities.... [In the future g]ood parenting will not teach somebody how to be a One, but teaching someone how to negotiate fluidly and have access to many aspects of the self. You have access to all of them: that’s the key, that’s what makes it healthy and not pathological. You learn to negotiate, to fit them together in some way." And yet she adds, "We are both single and multiple voices. I’m still struggling with this issue; many others are too. It’s central to me." (45)

Turkle seems to be reaching for something that is not a singular "One," but also not merely multiple sub-personalities. Is there a personal wholeness in this multiplicity? Can we integrate our selves without losing the healthy diversity of our multiple personality states?

Some people with multiple personality disorder (MPD) integrate their dissociated selves through the presence of an "inner self helper" (46) -- an eternal observer/witness state that is in communication with all the other personalities. "The inner self helper is an ego state which seems to have an executive function over the system. The job of the ISH is to help the person survive until the goal of wholeness can be accomplished." (47) Turkle may be thinking about something like this when she says psychological health is the "ability to make transitions among the many and to reflect on ourselves by standing in a space between states." (48)

Building on the fields of Gestalt psychology and Psychosynthesis, cultural psychiatrist Charles Johnston encourages the practice of "inner character work" (49) in which you sit in a chair embodying a "third space" which is distinct from any of your "characters." You bring your various inner characters "into the room" by moving to their chairs when those personality states inhabit you. Then you engage in conversations with your various selves, but always from the position of the "third space." At least at first, the characters do not speak to each other. Johnston says that simply getting two conflicting characters into awareness at the same time begins the process of integration. Attention is key.

After awhile, you can learn to be in a "third space" much of the time, while listening to the various inner characters that come in and out of awareness. Perhaps this is another view of Turkle’s "space between states."

Can we construct and reconstruct ourselves in cyberspace without becoming disoriented or dissociated?

How might we shape the technology to support learning integrative skills? Do we need intentional, conscious, practice fields in cyberspace?

Our Bodies, Our Selves?

For Turkle, the body is the ground of authenticity. "We have only one body, and for the foreseeable future will only have one body. It’s the body that brings us back to a sense of oneness, of authenticity." (50) And yet she also writes:

McLuhan and Turkle see our minds and our selves floating out into cyberspace, but they don’t realize that our bodies are too, erasing even that last bastion of our apparent identity.

MIT’s Dean of Architecture, William Mitchell, describes it this way:

Donna Haraway, professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, believes we are already ’borgs: These radical deconstructions of self and identity remind us of transpersonal experiences: meditators discovering no self behind shifting moments of thought, feeling, and sensation; out-of-body states revealing an identity independent of the body; and experiences of an eternal witness consciousness. But are they in any way the same? Can technology inherently contribute to such awakening? Multiple dissociated personalities and the inability to draw personal boundaries are well recognized dysfunctional patterns. What makes the difference?

What does it mean to be whole when our physical world becomes part of us and we are part of it?

Social Wholeness

If personal wholeness is neither oneness nor merely moving between the many, what is social wholeness?

How do we bridge the polarity of individual freedom and the responsibility of community?

What does it take to experience social wholeness in cyberspace?

Virtual community personality Howard Rheingold has written enchanting cyberspace stories of the WELL, the Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link, a computer conferencing system that’s been a vibrant on-line community for over 10 years. UCLA graduate student Marc Smith studied the WELL and the Internet, focusing on the concept of "collective goods." As Rheingold puts it, "Looking for a group’s collective goods is a way of looking for the elements that bind isolated individuals into a community. The three kinds of collective goods that Smith proposes as the social glue that bind the WELL into something resembling a community are social network capital, knowledge capital, and communion." (54)

"Grassroots Groupminds" is the enticing title of one of Rheingold’s chapters in The Virtual Community. Douglas Rushkoff goes a step further in Playing the Future: "Rave parties, where thousands of kids dance to digital music, are planned as consciousness-altering events. The psychedelic drugs, music, and lights are designed to put everyone into a group trance. By the end of the evening, (which means dawn), the kids hope to experience themselves and one another as parts of a single, metaorganism. It’s both futuristic and intensely tribal, making use of technology to promote spiritual agendas." (55)

He goes on: "We are evolving into a new, colonial life-form. This process can be scary, especially to members of a culture who value their individuality, personal privacy, and overall stability...just like the child who at first resists the advances of the opposite sex (Gross! Cooties!) we, too, fear the coming of global intimacy." (56)

Communion is a potent, spiritually loaded word touching some of our deepest yearnings. Experiencing groupmind or group trance is the embodiment of "feeling connected to something larger than yourself," part of our working definition of spiritual practice. As noted it seems that technology may be able to amplify and/or accelerate those experiences, but sustaining them individually and in community takes deeper intention and practice.

A few years ago Rheingold privately shared some concerns about on-line communities, acknowledging that it’s not as easy as we’ve all thought or hoped. We know from our own work that telecommunity is possible, but it takes as much clarity of intention, loving care, and hard work as any community, perhaps even more. As Glenna Gerard reminds us, connecting through cyberspace requires more attention.

And virtual reality designer Mark Pesce also warns us of the danger for mind control embedded in the technology. The breath-controlled immersive virtual world of OSMOSE might be used "to abridge the ego as a mechanism for dominating it." (57) The virtual view of Earth from space of "T_VISION is at once both the evocation of a relationship to the Gaian biota [i.e., biosphere] and the ultimate panoptic mechanism [i.e., all-seeing surveillance tool] ; it is Orwell’s telescreen, at least in potential." (58)

As Donna Haraway and others remind us, the technology is not neutral.

Intentionally designed to heal what he calls the "pathology of hegemony," Pesce’s next cyberspace project, WORLDSONG, is intriguing social artform. It is his attempt to use technology for personal and social wholeness.

WORLDSONG may be a healing artform, but Pesce seems to have a somewhat simple view of what it actually takes to create and sustain communion and community. Both he and Rushkoff tap into our yearnings to belong to something greater. To avoid social coercion ("the pathology of hegemony"), their worlds are long on freedom. They cite the paradigm shift from top-down mechanistic control to bottom-up self-organizing complex adaptive systems. (60) They emphasize individual autonomy but say little about personal responsibility, even though complexity theorists are quite clear that some shared "rules" are essential. (61)

The pop mythologies of chaos and complexity theory say "self-organizing" order emerges from chaos. However, if we look beyond the surface, we discover that fractal mathematics actually says complexity (life) emerges at the creative boundary between chaos and order. (62) Neither order nor chaos is capable of giving life by itself. Both are needed.

Must we choose between freedom and community? Is there a more powerful creative whole that encompasses both?

Charles Johnston identifies two opposite "easy answer" fallacies or traps on the path to bridging any polarity. (63) Mistaking diversity-suppressing "groupthink" for social wholeness is what Johnson calls a unity fallacy. Community is won at the price of critical thought and individual autonomy. Mistaking the chaos of unrestrained individualism for personal wholeness is what Johnston calls a separation fallacy. Freedom to do anything you want -- "my time, my place, my way" -- is won at the price of community.

What practices might help us realize the possibility of "communities of freedom?" (64)

How will we ever learn to be whole together?

Duane Elgin says the universe is an elegant learning system designed to teach us to embody our wholeness by giving us feedback through the material world. Consciousness and matter push back on each other. Our universal teacher is speaking to us now through global breakdowns. After each disaster, we intend to change our ways for the better, but forget our intention after a while. "In giving birth to a sustainable species-civilization, humanity will probably move back and forth through cycles of contraction and relaxation until we utterly exhaust ourselves and burn through the barriers that separate us from our wholeness as a human family.... Numerous times we may go the very edge of ruin as a species, hopefully to pull back in time with new levels of maturity and insight." (65)

Is the Internet a natural part of this learning system?

Rushkoff reminds us this is a technology of interconnectedness: "Inventions like the telephone, television, radio, tickertape, photocopier, fax machine, modem, Internet, Cable TV, video teleconferencing, computer bulletin board, and the World Wide Web all function to increase the number of ideas and number of people with whose thoughts we come into contact. With each successive development in communications technology comes a corresponding leap in the number of ideas with which it requires us to cope." (66)

Most of our colleagues and the organizations we work with increasingly complain of accelerating overload, overchoice, and overwhelm.

Donella (Dana) Meadows says:

What is the overload trying to teach us?

Who is master of our attention?

How can we know what really matters?

How might we practice being whole together?

In recent years, a new generation of spiritually principled group practices has begun to emerge, drawing inspiration from ancient traditions and the leading edge of science. Each practice encourages personal authenticity within a vessel that embraces our diversity. Each draws in some way from the wellspring of our interconnectedness. Some with which we are familiar include:
A great deal of pioneering work and learning has been done with these and other practices in face-to-face settings, but only a little has been done in cyberspace, mostly with Open Space and some experiments with on-line dialogue and on-line talking stick circles.

What collective contemplative and integrative practices might work in cyberspace?

This last question has guided our inquiry for almost two decades. In previous sections we have already identified several noteworthy "indicator projects." Here are a few from our personal scrapbook:

In 1980 we created the world’s first "electronic chapel" on the NSF-funded Electronic Information Exchange System, an international computer conferencing system. The ONE attunement group was an on-line blend of attunement circles inspired by the Findhorn community and a Quaker-style meeting where busy researchers from Bangkok to Paris found respite and shared inspiration. (80)

What did we learn from the CIP? Glenna Gerard deepened our understanding that it takes more attention and practice to truly connect with others in cyberspace. Greg Kramer’s discussion of his work with on-line Insight Dialogue invites us all to explore meditation and other contemplative practices very intentionally in this new medium. They make a difference. Some participants emphasized the importance of relationships and community building to create trust and authenticity as the foundation for any on-line work. Others remarked about the visual design and graphic images like the talking stick and council fire that brought the spaces to life.

Some participants appreciated the safety and reflective writing in the Council Circles and Dialogue, while action-oriented members wanted more engaging conversations on business issues. Some valued the nudges from our software "agents" guiding and reminding them to follow the practices, while others found these nudges frustrating. We came away still wondering how to best shape practice fields to embrace the variety of our paths and styles.

We’ve learned enough from these action experiments to know we’re on the right track. We’ve also learned enough to know these are only baby steps into our unknowable future.


What is needed?

A prayer fills our hearts as we write these closing words. May they open a conversation through which we will come to know what is needed.

We invite you to join us. Please come and sit with us in a witness space. Let’s practice holding in our collective attention the Omega point of our many voices, knowing our wholeness is present, trusting its healthy body will emerge in its time.


  1. Brent Schlender, "A Conversation with the Lords of Wintel," FORTUNE, July 8, 1996
  2. Peter Russell, The White Hole in Time, HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 37
  3. Ibid., pp. 38-39
  4. Mark Pesce, Proximal and Distal Unity, p. 1
  5. Stephen Matsuba and Bernie Roehl, Using VRML, Appendix B: The VRML 1.0 Specification, Que Corporation, 1996, p. 660
  6. Andrew Grove, Keynote address at COMDEX'96, Las Vegas, November 18, 1996
  7. Jonathan Nicholas,"Warning: Portions of this column are rated XXX," The Oregonian, January 15, 1997, p. C1
  8. Hari Kunzru, "You Are Borg," WIRED, February 1997, p. 209
  9. Davis, op. cit., p. 190
  10. Quoted in Erik Davis,"Osmose," WIRED, August 1996, p. 140
  11. Osmose Web site; quoted in Pesce, op. cit., p. 5
  12. Davis, op. cit., p. 190
  13. Pesce, op. cit., p. 6
  14. Interview with Edgar Mitchell by Stanley Rosen, Palo Alto, CA, July 1974; quoted in Kevin W. Kelley, The Home Planet, Addison-Wesley, 1988, p. 138
  15. Edgar Mitchell, "Consciousness: The Ultimate Enigma," The Albert Schmitt Lecture, Notre Dame University, November 16, 1972; quoted in Kevin W. Kelley, The Home Planet, Addison-Wesley, 1988, p. 52
  16. Duane Elgin, Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness, Morrow, 1993
  17. Charles Johnston, The Creative Imperative: A Four-Dimensional Theory of Human Growth and Planetary Evolution, Celestial Arts, 1986
  18. Craig Schindler & Gary Lapid, The Great Turning, Bear & Company, 1989
  19. These graphics are adapted from Charles Johnston’s stages in the creative cycle, in Johnston, op. cit., p. 83
  20. Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Addison Wesley, 1993, pp. 65-109
  21. Barry Leiner, et al., A Brief History of the Internet
  22. Rheingold, op. cit, p. 79
  23. William Gibson, Neuromancer, Berkeley Publications Group, 1984
  24. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Harper and Row, 1965; quoted in Pesce, op. cit., pp. 1 and 2
  25. Hyperspace is a term from mathematics and modern physics for space with more than four dimensions. Any two points in space-time can be connected by folding through hyperspace, like folding paper through three dimensions connects any two points on its surface. Science and spirituality both agree on the possibility of our being connected through such higher dimensions. See Michio Kaku, Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension, Oxford University Press, 1994.
  26. "Spiritual (?) Capital: A Work in Progress," Presentation at the Institute for the Future's Outlook Project Exchange, Intellectual Capital: Growing and Sustaining Human and Knowledge Assets in the Flexible Organization, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 21, 1995
  27. Arnold Mindell, The Year I: Global Process Work, Arkana/Penguin, 1989
  28. Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature, Tarcher, 1992
  29. Michael Murphy, "Extraordinary Human Performance," presentation at the Marion Foundation conference, Business and the New Exceptionalism in America, Marion, Massachusetts, February 25, 1995
  30. K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness, "Expert Performance: Its Structure and Acquisition," American Psychologist, August 1994, pp. 725-747
  31. Maya Suryaraman, "Psychologists consider adding new disorder: Net addiction," The Oregonian, August 10, 1996
  32. "Hooked on the Net," Common Boundary, March/April 1997, p. 16
  33. Steve Steinberg, "Hype List: War for Eyeballs," WIRED, April 1997, p. 158
  34. Donella Meadows, et al., Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, Chelsea Green Publishing, 1992, pp. 179-180
  35. Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf, et al., WIRED, March 1997, pp. 17-20
  36. Douglas Rushkoff, Playing the Future: How Kids' Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos, HarperCollins, 1996, pp. 49-51
  37. Randi Henderson, "Relying on Ritalin," Common Boundary, May/June 1996, pp. 24, 26
  38. Brainstorms: Rheingold Mind to Mind with Sherry Turkle
  39. In a draft chapter from Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard, Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation, John Wiley, forthcoming
  40. Greg Kramer, Closing Ceremony response, Awakening Technology On-Line Community of Inquiry and Practice, October 22, 1996
  41. Marshall McLuhan, The Global Village: Transformation in World Life and Media in the 21st Century, reprinted by Oxford University Press, 1992; originally published in 1962
  42. "Brainstorms: Rheingold Mind to Mind with Sherry Turkle," op. cit.
  43. Pamela McCorduck, "Sex, Lies, and Avatars," WIRED, April 1996, p. 164
  44. Ibid., p. 160
  45. Ibid., p. 164
  46. Jacqueline Damgaard, "The Inner Self Helper," Noetic Sciences Review, Winter 1987, pp. 24-28
  47. Ibid., p. 26
  48. Brainstorms: Rheingold Mind to Mind with Sherry Turkle, op. cit.
  49. Charles Johnston, Necessary Wisdom: Meeting the Challenge of a New Cultural Maturity, Appendix I,"Inner" Bridgings, ICD Press/Celestial Arts, 1991, pp. 235-237
  50. McCorduck, op cit., p. 165
  51. Brainstorms: Rheingold Mind to Mind with Sherry Turkle, op. cit.
  52. William Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn, MIT Press, 1995, pp. 29-31
  53. Kunzru, op. cit., p. 157
  54. Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community, p. 13
  55. Ibid., p. 36
  56. Rushkoff, op. cit., pp. 4, 6
  57. Pesce, op. cit., p. 6
  58. Ibid., p. 7
  59. Ibid., p. 8
  60. Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, A Simpler Way, Berrett-Koehler, 1996
  61. John H. Holland, Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity, Addison-Wesley, 1995
  62. M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, Simon & Schuster, 1992
  63. Johnston, op. cit., pp. 34-38
  64. An intriguing paradoxical term coined by John E. Fetzer
  65. Elgin, op. cit., pp. 150, 152
  66. Rushkoff, op. cit., p. 3
  67. Donella Meadows, Personal electronic mail, March 18, 1997
  68. Parker Palmer, The Art and Craft of Formation: A Reflective Handbook for the Formation Programs of the Fetzer Institute, pre-publication draft, 1995
  69. Ibid., p. 6
  70. David Bohm, On Dialogue, David Bohm Seminars, 1990
  71. Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday Currency, 1990
  72. Gregory Kramer and Terri O’Fallon, "Guidelines for Insight Dialogue," unpublished research report, Integral Studies program, California Institute of Integral Studies, 1995
  73. Ibid., p. 1
  74. Christina Baldwin, Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture, SwanRaven & Co., 1994
  75. Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, The Practice of Council, Ojai Foundation, 1990
  76. Harrison Owen, Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, Abbott Publishing, 1992
  77. Anne Stadler, "Open Space -- A Simple Way of Being," At Work, March/April 1997, p. 1
  78. Mindell, op. cit.
  79. Peter Carlin, "How to Make a Decision Like a Tribe," Fast Company, Premier issue, pp. 105-111
  80. Kevin Kelly, "Birth of a Network Nation," New Age Journal, October 1984, p. 42
  81. Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz, "Writing and Wholeness: Online Islands of Safety," in Robin Mason, ed., Computer Conferencing -- The Last Word, Beach Holme Publishing Ltd., 1993
  82. Awakening Technology 1996 On-line Community of Inquiry and Practice

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