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Principles of a New Culture

Sten Linnander delivered this talk at NFNC's summer camp in Portland in 1995.

First, I would like to say that I and the other speakers and participants at Summer Camp are speaking as individuals, not as representatives of the Network for a New Culture. This is important to understand, because it accounts for the variety of our statements and also for the seeming contradictions in what we say.

As the name of this group, "Network for a New Culture," says, we focus on developing new ideas, new models, a new reality that takes into consideration the larger picture, that of a new culture.

Why is this so important? First of all, it is a joy to think big. It is a joy to look at things from a distance. This joy is the joy of divorcing ourselves from our limited personal framework, sensing increasingly that we are a part of a greater whole that we have co-created. When we do this we touch on a larger sense of who we are, and we touch on the deeper reasons for our existence; we touch on our sacred dream.

Looking at our own lives and at the planet, we see a whole culture that is built on principles that cannot and will not survive. But before I speak about these principles and about possible new ones, I would like to state one fundamental principle that helps us understand where these principles come from.

All things make models of themselves. This means that we cannot arbitrarily change the principles that our society is based on, for they reflect the principles according to which we ourselves function: our thoughts, our emotional reactions, the way we lead our lives. Unless we change ourselves, our culture will not change.

What goes on inside of us manifests itself outside of us. If, for example, we continuously block off an energy inside of us, such as a wish, a dream, a desire or an inner truth, then that is comparable to forcing a river to flow in a concrete embankment. The result will manifest itself as an illness in our bodies. And then, as a collective, we will create the corresponding illness both in society and in nature, in ecology. Of course this is also true about positive qualities such as beauty--inner beauty will manifest as outer beauty, radiance and health.

Let us take a look at some of the most crucial principles of our dominant culture and try to see what the principles of a possible, and necessary, new culture might be. To name a few:

  1. Closed systems versus open systems.

    Closed systems die. A person whose life revolves only around himself or herself is uninteresting. A community that only revolves around the interactions within the community is also uninteresting. Every individual, every relationship and every community needs a focus that lies outside of itself--they cannot be ends in themselves.

    The family system into which practically all of us were born was the most important system that shaped our inner lives. To a large extent it was a closed system. Of course there are good and bad families, and a lot of very positive qualities, such as trust, care, safety, and security, that are hallmarks of good families, are necessary qualities in all forms of living together. But a basic feature of the classical family structure is that when dealing with the deepest longings, with the life force itself, with love and with sexuality, it is a closed system, which cannot survive. The typical family does not allow a free flow of energies to occur in and out of the family. And the classical family cannot survive honesty. It is incompatible with honesty, and with actions that are based on that honesty.

    Just imagine what would happen in an ordinary family if the parents were to speak truthfully to each other about their erotic fantasies at work or about their wish to love other men and women. Or, for that matter, about the affairs that they have with others. And imagine what would happen if all this were out in the open so that the children could see honesty between their parents. If children sense that their parents are honest and open in these central areas of their lives, they can start to trust them.

    Instead, we mostly have a system of pretense and morals that defines faithfulness not as a positive quality between two people, but as rules about what they are not allowed to do with others. This definition of faithfulness is based on fear and distrust, and it is the beginning of the end of honesty and trust and therefore of love.

    We retain these structures of pretense and of untruthfulness, of course, even if we live in an intentional community. Unless, of course, the community focuses on working at overcoming these structures, and on creating a "field" where these emotional programs are slowly replaced by true openness and honesty. This is one of the first tasks of any community that hopes to survive.

  2. Separation versus connection.

    Nothing is totally separate and disconnected from anything else, but we can act as if they are. When we do, the energies between them cannot flow. When we see ourselves as connected with others, when we recognize ourselves in others, we do not see ourselves only as separate individuals. We recognize that, in a sense, our personal issues are not personal at all; they are individual expressions of shared issues. So to the extent that we might say that we have "chosen" the issues we are dealing with, we have done this not just to learn personally from them, but to contribute to new overall solutions for them. This often means working to create new environments where the problems inherent in our culture simply do not arise. Massive individual therapy is not a part of a new culture--instead we need to create new environments and new fields--morphogenetic fields, where healing can occur. In these fields the knowledge that we are not separate, that we are not alone, even in our darkest hours, this knowledge needs to be sensed, felt and manifested.

    This issue is part of a need for a new understanding of who we are and how we are connected to nature and to the universe. This calls for research and also for the creation of spaces where we can have new firsthand experiences of a whole new concept of self.

    An example of a new understanding of ourselves has to do with our relationship to nature and to the earth. Nature is often seen as a threat to be conquered rather than as a reflection of our own inner beauty. This is not just a poetic homage to nature, it is a literal truth. In fact, we would not even be able to see the beauty of the earth and of nature if we did not carry this same beauty within us. When we see with what effortlessness and grace a panther moves, it strikes a chord within us reminding us of a similar state of being in us. In this state of being, growth happens freely, playfully, and effortlessly, and beauty is the result.

  3. Overcoming resistance through force versus entering into resonance and cooperation.

    From the design of caterpillars to the working principle of antibiotics, our culture is suffused with technologies for overcoming perceived threats or resistances through a counter force that is stronger than the resistance. This emphasis is prevalent in the constant war between the sexes, and it is basically the cradle of violence. It is rooted in fear, a fear that ultimately stems from our not knowing ourselves, and therefore being afraid of ourselves and, logically, also of others. In men, who most often are the creators of technologies, it is the result of not having integrated their female intuitive and connective aspect. Achieving this integration of male and female is one of the major tasks of a new culture.

  4. Repression versus affirmation of the primal life force in us.

    A writer called Joseph Whitfield once wrote something that I believe is very true: All illnesses are ultimately the result of mis-aligned thinking in the area of sexuality. For this energy is the life energy, and the free flow of energies in our bodies is what keeps them healthy and alive.

    It is truly a cultural task of our time to create environments that of themselves act in a healing way in this area. This is where many of our greatest doubts, insecurities, feelings of inferiority and inadequacy lie; this is where we are all, in different, often subtle ways, laden with guilt, blame and shame.

    One of the paradigms of a new culture will be to honor pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, and to understand and affirm its healing qualities. Sexual pleasure does not need anything to legitimize it, such as, for example, love (actually it gives rise to love if it is not blocked).

    The full freedom to define one's own sexual path, with no "isms" or judgments must be guaranteed. I would like to quote the black American writer, June Jordan, who in this quote is speaking about bisexuality; but what she says goes for any and all forms of sexuality: "If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable. To my mind that is the keenly positive politicizing significance of bisexual affirmation: To insist upon complexity, to insist upon the validity of all of the components of social/sexual complexity, to insist upon the equal validity of all of the components of social/sexual complexity. This seems to me a unifying, 1990s mandate for revolutionary Americans planning to make it into the twenty-first century on the basis of the heart, on the basis of an honest human body, consecrated to every struggle for justice, every struggle for equality, every struggle for freedom."

At this point I'd like to say something about community. As the cell biologist Bruce Lipton, because of his work on the issue of evolution, has stated, the next step in the evolution of life on earth, of necessity, is one of creating human communities with open, direct communication between the members. I think this is very true and the question becomes how we can attain it.

When I speak of creating community, I see this as a process of manifesting a community that is already there, that we have already dreamed into existence and that wants to manifest itself. So I am saying: trust your inner sense of community and connection, for there are spiritual families wanting to come together not just to learn, but to make a difference on this planet.

As I said earlier, every community needs an intent, goal or purpose outside of itself. I could also have said that every true community has a goal, whether or not it is stated, just like every individual has a sacred dream. Many of the qualities needed for a community to function and to survive help set that dream free.

Take transparency: transparency, in the sense of being truthful and upfront, simply making yourself and what goes on inside visible to others, is absolutely necessary. Without transparency we become closed systems to each other, and the energies cannot flow in the community. Transparency is necessary to reach the level of communication with each other where the dream of the individuals, that which gives meaning and purpose to life, is recognized as a part of the larger dream of the community.

I would like to mention a few more qualities that we need to pay attention to in any new cultural attempts, both personal and collective:

The first one is intent: I was once in Minneapolis in late winter when I saw a home gardener at work. It was freezing cold and he was pruning his bushes. I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing. He said: "I am not a gardener pruning bushes, although it may look that way. In reality I am a caretaker of the earth."

That intent is felt by the earth and the result is a very real connection to the earth--just as we are affected by the intent of someone who is truly caring for us. This inner reality is the source of outer reality. Our thoughts govern this reality, and we urgently need to gain or regain the determination to pay attention to what we truly want to pay attention to. For attention is power.

Another crucial attribute is our attitude and approach. When it comes to dealing with our own issues and problems, many of us ack like a car mechanic who is afraid of opening the hood for fear of what he might see. There is a sense of identification with the problems or issues we have, seeing them as irreparable flaws in our innermost beings.

Our feeling of self-worth is determined to a large extent by the problems we have. (In reality our self resides entirely elsewhere and is the only authority that could take a distanced view of our issues in order to overcome them.) This identification is also projected onto others.

Here we touch on the overriding importance of how we give each other criticism and feedback. If we identify others as being the qualities or traits they exhibit, we cannot help but judge them. If we do not identify them in this way we can give them feedback and even very strong criticism as a true gift. We are then addressing a deeper part of them. This is immediately felt by the person receiving the criticism, and it tends to be willingly accepted and understood. When truth is used in this way, then truth sets us free. When it is used without compassion or with ulterior motives, it enslaves us, tying the knot of self-identification with our problems even tighter. The question of how we see ourselves and others thus largely determines if we are interested in feedback and criticism from others. It therefore lies at the root of being able to create a viable community.

Another similar quality is respect and freedom. There is no faster way to destroy a child's self-image than to treat him or her disrespectfully--and all of us have that little child in us. No matter what, nothing must be done to treat that little child in us badly. Treating each other with respect does not mean holding back any criticism or going soft on people who are behaving irresponsibly. It means awakening the part in others that you already respect. Again, truths spoken with respect are usually accepted gratefully. When spoken with disrespect, they are resisted. Disrespect also paves the way for gossip, one of the most corrosive activities in community.

Finally a word about free thinking. A new culture will be created by those who gain or retake their own freedom of thought. It will be created by those who do not waver in their belief that they can realize their own dreams. Attention is power. This means that the universe is structured so that by focusing on our dream and acting toward its realization, we cannot but attract the resources, the knowledge, the people, whatever is needed to make it happen. Simply put: the universe helps those who have a dream and work to make it happen.

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