Inquiry: A Handbook of Radical Practice
This contribution to the cartography of spiritual inquiry describes
several inquiry practices of enlivenment, engagement and enlightenment
set in the context of a theology in which co-equal polar parameters of
the divine - the spiritual and the manifest - consummate their union in
the divine-human process of action inquiry here in this place where we
are. Previous drafts titled
A Revisionary Perspective on Human Spirituality were published online
2003-5 here at
Prologue : three approaches to spiritual inquiry
lived inquiry I mean simply the active, innovative and examined life,
which seeks both to transform and understand more deeply the human
condition. The examined life, as I construe it, involves four basic
the immediate revelation, here and now, of being-in-a-world, of
participating in the sheer presence of being, and its manifold
powers and presences on different levels.
impulses to creative action and exploration, to their felt sense of
fit within their total context, balancing the claims of the inner
life and the outer life, and of the personal, the cultural and the
a finely-tuned discrimination about both these kinds of opening.
Engaging in dialogue and active co-operation with
others on a similar path.
line of all this is that, for the examined life, revelation is here and
now; and spiritual authority is within. Such authority is relative to
its context and unfolding, never final, and always open to spiritual
co-operative inquiry a group of people come together and devise a
do-it-ourselves inquiry into experiences of their own extended and
deepened reality, making sense of it according to their own lights.
Co-operative inquiry is a very simple idea, however challenging it is to
It is just two or more people researching a topic through their own
experience of it, using a series of cycles in which they move between
this experience and reflecting together on it. It is persons in
reciprocal relation using the full range of their sensibilities to
inquire together into any aspect of the human condition with which an
open body-mind can engage. In the inquiry cycles, the inquirers are
moving between fours ways of knowing:
conceptually define a topic for their inquiry and devise a
method of exploring it in action.
practically apply that method in their own actions.
doing they engage experientially with the domain of practice.
review this phase of action and experience, first grasping the whole
pattern of it intuitively, then appraising it conceptually,
re-evaluating their starting topic in the light of it, and planning
another and modified phase of action and experience in order to
deepen their knowing.
And so the
process goes on for several cycles of inquiry, so that these four ways
of knowing become more comprehensively engaged with the topic and its
domain, and more congruent with each other, both within each inquirer
and, with due allowance for individual perspectives, within the group as
a whole (Heron, 1996).
self-generating spiritual culture
number of spiritually-minded people are currently busy with their own
lived inquiry, and are seeking open and constructive dialogue about it.
I call this social phenomenon a newly emerging and self-generating
spiritual culture. It is a loose, informal network of individuals and
groups who are creating their own spiritual path from a diversity of
ancient and modern sources. It involves a growing and significant
minority of people across the planet. My sense of it is that there are
three interrelated criteria which, applying in varying degrees to any
one individual, identify these people:
affirm their own original relation to the presence of creation, find
spiritual authority within and do not project it outward onto
teachers, traditions or texts.
alert to the hazards of defensive and offensive spirituality, in
which unprocessed emotional distress distorts spiritual development,
either by denying parts of one's nature, or by making inflated
claims in order to manipulate others.
They are open to genuine dialogue about spiritual
beliefs and to collaborative decision-making about spiritual
practices undertaken together.
An overview of
1 Conceptual distinctions
The conceptual distinctions that I make in this section
are a set of working principles grounded in three kinds of inquiry, which
are interdependent and mutually involved in each other:
principles are co-created in a personal participatory relation with being, a
relation which is rooted in the human capacity for feeling the presence of
what there is. This radical capacity I explore in depth in Feeling and
Personhood (Heron, 1992). Ferrer gives a related account of
participatory knowing as presential, enactive and transformative (Ferrer,
are generated in a context of a variety of collaborative inquiries,
including an ongoing relationship inquiry, a current long-term co-operative
inquiry now (2006) into its twelfth year, and over twenty short-term
co-operative inquiries since 1978 - several of which are reported in
are influenced by acquaintance with, reflection on, and discussions within,
the wider personal, cultural and historical context, including the great
legacy of religious beliefs and experiential data from spiritual schools
ancient and modern, western and eastern.
These three kinds of inquiry provide a qualified warrant
for my text. On the one hand it present ideas that are clarified and refined
in personal and interpersonal enactments of what there is, and are thus a
valid perspective on, and revelation of, the mystery of being. On the other
hand these ideas are relative to the cultural and historical contexts within
which they are framed, and thus are fallible and non-perennial, an
invitation to dialogue and further inquiry.
To say that a theological vision is co-created in a
personal and an interpersonal participative relation with being, and in the
qualifying contexts stated, means neither that it is universally absolute,
nor that it is an entirely relativistic construction. It means that it is a
relative perspective brought forth with what is universal, and calls
for other diverse perspectives, grounded in inquiry, to honour the mystery.
I will make a few points here about the role of past
spiritual traditions in making contemporary spiritual distinctions:
have an important secondary and contributory role, via their massive
heritage of spiritual lore. This lore is the indispensable loam which
nourishes present growth. However, the primary role is for the contemporary
voice of innovative divine becoming, surfacing now through the constraints
of what is today outmoded in this great inheritance from the aspirations of
idea that there is a perennial (lasting-forever) philosophy which can be
extracted from past religions and which lays down the basic structure of
spiritual practice far off into the distant future, seems to me as fanciful
as the idea of a perennial natural science. To restrict postmodern
spirituality by principles derived from premodern spirituality is like
constraining the future of chemistry by the precepts of alchemy. Perennial
philosophy prescriptions strike me as a rearguard action to defend
established centres of spiritual authority from having to deal with radical
change. Such defensiveness is fearful of innovative divine impulse. See
(Heron, 1998: 43-46).
belief-systems and practices reflect past contexts. Current contexts call
both for respect for past traditions and for a radical revisionary overhaul
of some of their most fundamental beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
So in the spirit of both respect and revision, I
distinguish in what follows between the divine, the manifest and the
spiritual; and between three forms of the manifest, and of the spiritual. It
is important to note that these conceptual distinctions are at one and the
same time the fruits of inquiry, guidelines for inquiry and
above all are subject to further inquiry - of the three kinds
mentioned at the outset.
of the totality of what there is in every respect without let or hindrance.
An integral Many-One reality including the manifest and the spiritual in all
Note here that the
spiritual is included in, but not identical with, the divine, which is a
more comprehensive reality. To regard spirit as identical with the divine
leads to acosmic monism: the reduction of the Many to the One, and of the
manifest to the spiritual. It also fosters spiritual practices which flee to
god from the works of god, individual inflation rather than relational
engagement, and a strong element of misogyny.
The diverse realms and entities of creation, in two known
Human beings in our world, which includes the physical
cosmos, the biological, psychological and cultural spheres. The human and
physical sciences, comprehensively considered, are fields of inquiry which
constitute just one half of manifest inquiry.
Energies, domains, presences and powers to which
extrasensory capacities in humans bear witness. The subtle appears to
permeate and sustain the phenomenal realm, and also to reach far beyond it.
It has often been called the psychical, as in the field of psychical
The subtle realms, in all their majesty and vastness,
have been by various constituencies: dismissed as non-existent; or
subjectivized - that is, regarded as purely
psychological in character; or castigated as distractions on the way to
the Absolute; or regarded as projected forms of what is as yet unrealized
in the higher Self; or feared as the work of the devil; or simply left out
of account. I don’t believe that any of these views will really do. They
avoid the challenge of systematic inquiry into what is probably the greater
part of divine creation. This inquiry is the other half of manifest inquiry.
The zone of interaction of the
phenomenal and the subtle. There are two hypothetical aspects of this zone:
subtle as the formative matrix of the phenomenal.
psychoid: the subtle
effects of human intentionality in the phenomenal realm.
An all-pervasive conscious animation informing the
manifest, both phenomenal and subtle. It has three known primary aspects:
The conscious animation of our present situation, our
current process in the world, our immediate engagement with what there is,
in its several interrelated parameters. We can open to it as:
presence of location, of a particular place and time, of being here now.
spirit of occasion: a birth, a death, a greeting, a meeting, an occupational
task, making love, a ritual of celebration, and a myriad other events.
reality of relationship, Shekinah, the spirit that connects, the Between;
the distinctness-in-unity of subject and object, subject and subject,
as we participate in our multidimensional world, perceiving and engaging
with nature, culture and other realms.
Compare Jorge Ferrer’s important notion of transpersonal
phenomena not as individual inner experiences, but as events in reality in
which our consciousness creatively participates. These include I-Thou
relationships, communal spiritual occasions, collective identities such as
archetypal morphic fields, sacred places, communion with nature (Ferrer,
2002). An influential precursor here is Martin Buber (1937), who proposed a
shift from an individual to a dialogical and relational concept of
spirituality, and affirmed the spiritual realm of the Between as
establishing authentic community.
For a simple opening to situational spirit in relation to
the immediate physical environment, try the following. Stand in front of a
kitchen workbench, or a surface of similar height so that you can touch it
without having to stoop. Place your hands palms flat upon the surface and
look out at the world through the window. Let go of egoic contraction by
expanding into the space behind the eyes, and behind the spine. Then let
your awareness fall into the great open space behind and below you, as you
participate in being-in-a-world through posture, touch, seeing and hearing.
With this simple magic you find the wrap-around of inner and outer, of
awareness and its contents, all one with multifarious distinctions. For
another account of the same process, and for interpersonal versions, see
Seamless perceiving below.
The spiritual life-potential embedded within creation,
the indwelling source of manifest becoming, the drive of emergent
development. We can open to it as:
ground of cosmic motivation, including the root motivation of our will to
live both as an individual and as a universal citizen of cosmopolis.
creative cosmic womb, including the spiritual womb within our embodiment,
whence emerge our potentials and creative innovations. See Life-style
choices in section 5 below.
The pregnant void that is the mystery of
spirit within the manifest.
Note that 'immanent' has traditionally been used, in
ambiguous and confusing ways, to refer to spirit both as 'the situational'
and ‘the immanent’ in my terms.
For the spirit as ground, compare Schelling’s deus
implicitus, more recently reappearing as the
"Dynamic Ground (libido, psychic energy, numinous power or spirit) of
somatic, instinctual, affective and creative-imaginal potentials" (Washburn,
1995); the "Entelechy Self…the Root Self, the ground of one's being, and the
seeded coded essence in you which contains both the patterns and the
possibilities of your life" (Houston, 1987); of "Eros as
spirit-in-action", the indwelling divine drive at the root of human
aspiration (Wilber, 1995).
Cosmic consciousness which is beyond and encompassing
creation, and which is the origin of its formative archetypes. We can
participate in this consciousness in its several aspects as :
sustaining, managerial intelligence of the universe.
Logos, creative divine speech which utters the universe.
Indeterminate ineffability, beyond all name
Here we celebrate the great legacy of the mysticism of
transcendence which we inherit from diverse traditions over the past three
thousand years. For an overview of historical precursors to these aspects of
the transcendent see
(Heron, 1998: 89-90).
The three aspects of spirit as portrayed in this section
- the situational, the immanent, the transcendent – honour both traditional
and contemporary accounts of human experience of the divine. And the
assertions made about them call to be questioned within the
practical inquiries described below.
Here is a diagrammatic summary of the main distinctions
made so far:
Let’s now look at some fundamental polarities in this
divine scheme of things. By a polarity I mean two complementary principles -
basic creative forms of dynamic distinctness-in-unity - which are
interdependent and interact within the divine. And for us, where they
interact is always in this situation, where we are in our universe.
The fundamental polarity within the divine, analogous to
the human body-mind.
Complementary kinds of manifestation; polar forms of the
experiential body of the spiritual.
The complementarity within the spiritual, the polarity of
indwelling emergent life-potential and transcendent archetypal
consciousness. This polarity is mediated by situational spirit – the
conscious animation of every situation where we are.
spirit as dynamic mediator For us incarnate
humans, spirit is first and foremost a presence in which we participate here
where we are in this current situation, in our locality and social context
in the universe. Here and now we are in a spirit-enfolded location. We are
in the presence-between in our place. Awakening to this reality, opening to,
and acting with, situational spirit is a dynamic integration of emergent
life-potential, and emanating transcendent consciousness. I develop this
theme later on.
hierarchy and co-operation A key aspect of
this dynamic integration in human affairs is the interweaving of autonomy,
hierarchy and co-operation. Emergent life-potential is the source of
influence from the grass roots, from below upwards,: it is the ground of
autonomy, deciding for oneself. Transcendent consciousness is the guiding
light of hierarchy, deciding for others. Situational spirit is the arena of
human co-operation, deciding with others, which in a special way integrates
both autonomy and hierarchy: see
below. By the term 'hierarchy' on its own, here and
elsewhere, I mean a down-hierarchy: see
There is one divine including the phenomenal cosmos, the
subtle cosmos and spirit in its three modes. Within each kind of cosmos
there are many forms and processes, and within spirit there are many
distinct spiritual presences, including the human person. The distinctness
of the many is interdependent with the unity of the one. Distinctness is not
separateness: distinctness celebrates diversity in free unity; separateness
is a mental state of closure against unity.
The divine includes a process of becoming, of innovative
change and development, and in the phenomenal realm human-divine
interaction, in our situation here and now, is on the crest of such
becoming. Complementary to this are divine constants, the conservative
parameters of being which provide the context for innovative becoming and
may be progressively modified by it.
All actual entities in the process of situational
becoming are poised between the indwelling emergence of their divine
potential, and the transcendent encompassing calling of their divine
All actual entities combine relatively independent
functioning, and participatory engagement with other entities. This
complementarity of autonomy in connectedness, when fully developed in
humans, is what I call collegiality - diversity in free unity.
Collegiality is rooted in dynamic spirit-enhancing mutual regard, the full
flower of human living and loving.
Here are some key features which I believe apply to these
polarities. I sketch out below a few of the applications.
The poles are both interdependent and irreducible to each
other (Baum, 1953). Neither alone is sufficient and both are necessary. The
mystery of the divine is that it defies reduction of either of its dynamic
poles to the other. So creation cannot be regarded as the exclusive product
either of descending emanation from the transcendent, as in the neo-Platonic
doctrine of the great chain of being; or of ascending emergence from some
amorphous primordial state. It is the co-product of a continuous interaction
of emergence from the immanent depths, and emanation from the transcendent
The manifest, I suggest, is not simply the product of a
self-limiting process of the spiritual, as in the ancient Hindu view. An
alternative approach is that the manifest and the spiritual are
interdependent aspects of the divine: they are in different respects both
dependent on, and independent of, each other. The traditional monism of
absolute spirit denies the full interdependence of the manifest and the
spiritual, insisting they are nondual in a way that essentially reduces the
manifest to the spiritual, form to emptiness, fullness to the void.
A more radical kind of monism affirms the divine as the
one ultimate being embracing the irreducible interdependent poles of the
manifest and the spiritual, proposing they are diune. The traditional view
tends to promote liberation from the manifest; the radical view calls for
liberation within the manifest. The diune is a developing realization, a
situational unfolding; the nondual is an end-state of realization.
Conceptually and intentionally, it is more liberating, fruitful and
world-transformative to speak of two-in-one than not-two.
The word 'hierarchy' derives from two Greek words meaning
'sacred' and 'rule'. I prefer to talk about sacred influence rather than
sacred rule. Sacred influence operates in two directions: up and down. The
sacred influence of an up-hierarchy emerges from indwelling life-potential.
Power is exercised in the direction of ascent. The seed is potent in
relation to the impacted soil above it, breaking it up and pushing through
The sacred influence
of a down-hierarchy emanates from transcendent consciousness. Power
descends from what is over to what is under. Sunlight is potent in relation
to the leafy branches below it.
The immanent and the
transcendent, up-hierarchy and down-hierarchy, are of different natures that
have equal status, are in a relation of parity within each actual situation
where they interact. The sacred influence of Eros and the sacred influence
of Logos are situationally equipotent, in a divine marriage of equals. They
interact with reciprocal effect, neither dominant under or over the other.
They are polar complements equally vital in the ordering of manifest
On this view, parity
is more fundamental in the scheme of things than hierarchy, for neither an
up-hierarchy nor a down-hierarchy is properly exercised or understood save
in a reciprocal peer relation with its complement.
So too, the manifest
and the spiritual are of different natures that have equal status and value;
and within the manifest, the phenomenal and the subtle. As complementary
polar forms of the divine, and within the divine, these theological consorts
call for equal honouring and celebration of their distinctive qualities.
re-evaluation of these and the other polar consorts in terms of radical and
thoroughgoing parity stands in marked contrast with traditional evaluations.
Compare also the views of Victor and Victoria Trimondi on the creative
polarity beyond Tantrism:
The relation between the poles is asymmetrical. And there
is a polarity within this asymmetry. One pole creatively fulfils and
consummates the other, which is a ground and context of meaning for the
first. I use here limited metaphorical approximations for a complementary
dynamic within the divine. Thus the manifest creatively fulfils the
spiritual and the spiritual provides a context of meaning for the manifest;
the phenomenal creatively fulfils the subtle and the subtle provides a
context of meaning for the phenomenal; the immanent creatively fulfils the
transcendent and the transcendent provides a context of meaning for the
immanent. So the divine poles declare their interdependence, irreducibility,
parity of status, differential natures, and asymmetrical relations.
A simple diagram of concentric circles can symbolize the
divine (Figure 1). The centrepoint represents spirit as the infinitude within, an
immanent life, which moves everything with indwelling potential. An
outermost circle represents spirit as the infinitude beyond, a transcendent
consciousness, which emanates, and informs everything with, the archetypes
of creation. An inner circle around the centre represents the phenomenal,
and another circle between this and the outermost circle represents the
subtle, both interfused with spirit as situational. All these four together
symbolize the divine. The phenomenal circle of human experience is open to
situational spirit here and now, and beyond this can open to the
circumference and to the centre, in qualitatively different dipolar
practices, as described in section 5 below.
From our human point of view, the only place where the
divine poles interact and influence us, and whence they are accessible, is
in our current situation, our here and now locality in our universe. We, in
how we are being and doing in our present place, are the integrating
mediators of fundamental polar parameters of the divine. Situational spirit
is the ever-developing and unfolding human-divine co-creation of this
integration. In this matter, we are theurgists, changing the nature of the
divine in collaborative transactions with the divine. Or, if you prefer to
put it theocentrically, the divine innovates through manifesting as
imaginative co-creative humans. See Figure 2.
All the following parameters of the human
condition call to be involved and awarely re-evaluated in our mediating
human situation is an embodied situation. We are rooted in the several
primary energies/drives of our bodily endowment, and in the particular place
in which we choose to live upon our planet. These primary energies and our
location are grounded in, and basic openings to, the divine.
human situation is also a ‘we’ situation, inherently intersubjective and
social. For each of us it is moulded both in belief and in action by how we
use a shared language in dialogue with others, and by how we selectively
interpret, in relationship with others, the values, norms, and beliefs of
our culture which that language mediates. All this shapes our shaping of the
become persons in and through relationship with other persons. Autonomy
flourishes in creative kinds of connectedness with other autonomous people.
Full and profound participation in embodied divinity is through the
collegiality of fully embodied co-inquirers:
people discussing options and deciding actions to transform their
personhood, their society and their planet. In this practice, each person
moves between and integrates three positions: autonomy - being clear what I
genuinely need, want and wish for, what my idiosyncratic preferences are, in
relation to the matter being discussed; hierarchy - thinking on behalf of
the whole group and the wider community within which the action will be
embedded; and co-operation - listening to, empathising with, and negotiating
agreed decisions with, my peers, decisions that integrate diversity,
difference and unity.
ways of knowing are multiple (Heron, 1992, 1996). First we have experiential
knowing: by meeting/encounter/engagement with people, places, processes and
things – that is, by felt participation in the being of what is present - a
process which involves the whole of our embodied being, and is the ground of
the next three. Second there is presentational knowing: by intuitive grasp
of the meaning of the patterns and forms of nonverbal imagery, as in the
various arts, in immediate perceiving, in memory and dreams. Third we have
our very familiar propositional, conceptual knowing, mediated by language.
And fourth there's practical knowing: knowing how to do things, manifest in
a whole array of skills and competencies - spiritual, psychic, aesthetic,
intellectual, political, interpersonal, emotional, technical, clinical, etc.
All these modalities, interacting in mutual enhancement, are at the service
of mediating divine polarities.
These various polarity properties together generate a
theory of value about the divine process. The intrinsic values it enshrines
are those of meaning, relationship and creativity: transcendent meaning,
situational relationship, and emergent creativity. In traditional language:
wisdom, love and power, the equivalency and equipoise of divine attributes.
Divine inquiry is a much wider notion about human
relation with the divine than spiritual inquiry. Since the divine is a
body-mind - an integration of the manifest, phenomenal and subtle, and the
conscious animation I call the spiritual - divine inquiry for humans
includes both manifest inquiry and spiritual inquiry.
inquiry includes all the ways of inquiring, both theoretically and
technologically, into the nature and potentials of the manifest realms, both
physical and subtle, and of the various entities and processes within them.
Inquiry into the relation between the physical sciences and the subtle or
psychic sciences is underdeveloped.
inquiry is about opening to and acting with spirit in its three modes of the
situational, the immanent and the transcendent.
action research, developed in certain ways, is one integral bridge between
manifest inquiry and spiritual inquiry.
Thus the whole scientific enterprise of the modern age is
an expression of divine inquiry in its manifest mode. This of course is
exactly how the founding fathers of modern science such as Kepler and Newton
saw it; and how the more recent founding father of modern quantitative
psychology, Fechner, saw it.
On this view, it is an extreme kind of misplaced hubris
to suppose that any kind of ultimate divine enlightenment can be attained
exclusively by spiritual inquiry, with virtually no manifest inquiry of any
kind. Current professions of such end-state enlightenment, based on certain
limited kinds of spiritual inquiry, and devoid of any sustained manifest
inquiry, seem to be entirely for purposes of setting up spiritual fiefdoms,
whose subjects are led to subscribe to unbalanced notions of the divine,
notions with a monopolar bias.
Equally, of course, it is also an extreme kind of
misplaced hubris to suppose that self-sufficient enlightenment can be
attained about the manifest realms entirely by manifest inquiry to the
virtual exclusion of any kind of spiritual inquiry. Actually, the extreme
versions of both sorts of inquiry are not quite as problematic as they seem:
I do not think it is possible to engage in either without tacitly
presupposing some of the fundamental axioms and attitudes of the
A great adventure for the future is the progressive
integration of manifest and spiritual inquiries. For the present, it seems
to be appropriate to cultivate them in relative independence of each other
so that we may get clearer about what it is that we may eventually seek to
integrate; and to discover how they tend to lead over into each other by
virtue of they ways in which they tacitly presuppose each other. However,
collaborative action research, as a form of intentional spiritual inquiry,
and applied through social and ecological change agendas involving manifest
inquiry, is one early kind of integral approach.
Spiritual inquiry, then, relates to spirit in its three
modes of the situational, the immanent and the transcendent.
This inquiry is performative, a form of action research,
by each of us individually and groups of us co-operatively. By participating
in spirit in the fullness of our embodied situation, we co-create with it
our realisation of it. As we meet spirit, we shape it as it shapes our
shaping of it. The spiritual authority for the validity of such co-shaping
rests within each of us as critical subjectivity, and between us as critical
intersubjectivity. The autonomous judgments of validity which we make in
this way - the continuous acts of subtle discrimination - are co-created
with our inner spiritual life and light, in the context of our current state
of knowledge and of our resonance with, and our discussions with, with each
other. They are divine-human judgments, both luminously informative, and
also contingent, maculate and relative to their context. They are both
revelatory and fallible. See
(Heron, 1998: 50-60).
Within the vision here put forward, such inquiry has a
basic polarity. On the one hand, it is an inquiry about opening to spirit
as a context of meaning, relationship and creativity for living. And on the
other hand, it is an inquiry into acting with spirit to transform
relations with humans and other entities, and with our environments, in the
phenomenal and subtle realms. This is the polarity, within the process of
inquiry, between receptive opening up, and co-creative action. The inquiry
is a consummation of human-divine flourishing, a celebration of intimate
communion, and of transformative going forth.
Let’s consider this receptive-active polarity within each
of the three aspects of the spiritual - the situational, the immanent and
the transcendent. But first a reminder about how they are defined, and the
choice of a name for the inquiry associated with each:
situational The presence that is
between everyone and everything in our current situation, phenomenal and
subtle. The living reality of our participative relation with what and with
whom is here and now in this place. Spiritual inquiry in relation to the
situational I call engagement.
immanent The spiritual life-potential
embedded within creation, the indwelling source of manifest becoming,
the drive of emergent development. Spiritual inquiry in relation to the
immanent I call enlivenment.
transcendent Cosmic consciousness beyond
and encompassing creation, and emanating its formative archetypes. Spiritual
inquiry in relation to the transcendent I call enlightenment. I do
not mean by the term ‘enlightenment’ any kind of final end-state of
spiritual realization as in the old traditions, but an ongoing process
calling for integration with both engagement and enlivenment, and with forms
of manifest inquiry.
If we now take into account the receptive-active
polarity, we have three kinds of paired spiritual inquiry, making six in
to the presence-between in this situation.
with the presence-between in this situation.
to spiritual life-potential.
Act with spiritual life-potential.
to transcendent consciousness.
with transcendent consciousness.
Both the opening and the acting inquire
into human-divine co-creation. In opening to spirit we both immediately meet
it, and also co-creatively shape it in terms of some kind of symbolic
mediation. In acting, the distinct spirit of each of us, as one of the Many,
is co-creatively performative with and within the spirit of the One.
These three forms of paired inquiry are mutually
supportive and interactive. Engagement is the mediating middle ground
between enlivenment and enlightenment and provides the forum for their
complementary kinds of opening and co-creation. Thus engagement is the
fullness of a collaborative embodied relation with being.
I am here presenting another form of integral
transformative inquiry (Leonard and Murphy, 1995). Its goal is collegiality,
sobornost, individual diversity in free social unity: a consummation
of the embodied realization of the Between, grounded in the depths of the
immanent, and graced by the embrace of the transcendent.
I do not believe there is any kind of prescribed,
sequential path for the cultivation of the various states of engagement,
enlivenment and enlightenment. Relationship, life and light have parity of
value, as far as I can see. Each person will evolve their own idiosyncratic
way of unfolding each and of them and integrating all of them. All I can
commend is that over time, and this may mean over long periods of time, each
of them is given parity of attention, and all of them are brought into
integral balance. At the same time it is clear that engagement - the realm
of human mediation and collaboration – is central, since this where we
always already are.
In what follows, I outline twelve basic sorts of inquiry,
which do not claim to be exhaustive. There are two for each of the six
bulleted points above. As forms of inquiry each reader needs to modify them
to make them suit his or her own approach in a meaningful way. They are
certainly not prescriptions for other inquirers, just a contribution to the
cartography of spiritual inquiry. They are summarized in Figure 3 further on. The twelve are not mutually exclusive, but interweave and
overlap, and can be combined in various ways.
The point here is that spirit is the reality of the
between, that is, of the relation between persons, between persons and
other entities of all kinds, and between persons and their physical and
subtle environment - in the situation where they are now. On any view of
divine-human becoming which actively seeks a balanced integration of the
Many and the One, the central locus of spirit is situational and collegial.
It is in the here and now experiential occasion where some of the Many -
humans and other entities - and the One co-enact free diversity in unity. So
central spiritual inquiry is relational: opening to, and acting
with, the divine spirit that connects persons and other entities in the
immediate locality of the here and now.
Here are some receptive inquiries for opening to the
reality that connects. ‘Only connect’ said the novelist E.M.Forster.
This is the root practice of participatory awareness. It
is very simple. It means opening to our innate capacity for feeling the
presence of places, people and other entities and processes. Through this
capacity we directly sense our interconnectedness with whom and with what is
in our world, and in other interrelated realms. We feel communion,
resonance, attunement, the reality of the go-between spirit in the mutuality
of relationship. To share presence is to engage with Shekinah, the local
divinity of our process in this time and place.
in Hebrew means 'residence', 'dwelling'. In Jewish tradition it is the name
for divine immanence, for the divine presence as it makes itself known in
the material world, 'overshadowing', 'hovering', 'indwelling'. It is also
associated with the feminine aspect of the divine, concerned with
the mystical system of the Kabbalah, Shekinah is linked with the
tenth Sefirah of Malkhut and the manifestation of the divine kingdom on
Shekinah refers to the spiritual reality that is between
persons, and between persons and their worlds. It is the reality of
the relation between.
Feeling presence includes the simplicity of participatory
awareness, opening to the processes of perceiving and sensing, aware
that there is no gap between seer, seeing and seen; between hearer, hearing
and heard; between toucher, touching and touched; between us, the world we
image in any sensory, and extrasensory, mode and the imaging process;
between us, our subjective states and sensations, our body, our percepts,
and our world. To perceive a world is to feel, to participate in, an ongoing
interfusion of subject and object through sensory and extrasensory imagery,
an interfusion which is capable of development and extension and which
reveals the distinctness of subject and object within their
The business of feeling presence and seamless perceiving
is not something to be constructed and manufactured. It is a matter of
uncovering and noticing what is already going on as an innate condition of
our being-in-a-world. We open fully and equally to inner and outer
experiences, while letting go of any tight conceptual grip upon them, and at
the same time abandoning any compulsive emotional grasp of them. Then we
enjoy their seamless marriage within the encompassing embrace of being.
Feeling presence and seamless perceiving constitute the
process of participatory engagement with what and with whom is here and now.
This simple and fundamental inquiry can be practised individually any place,
any time, in relation with nature and its diverse entities, with human
artefacts, with other people, and with subtle realms and subtle entities.
It becomes a central transformative inquiry when it is
practised collaboratively by all those in a group. Here are a few examples:
the awarely shared ground of a conversation, or any other social enterprise
at work, at college, at home or at play. This inquiry involves everyone in
the skill of double-plane functioning: engaging in the social activity while
at the same time dropping down into the ‘ocean of shared feeling…where we
become one with one another’ (Alexander, 1979: 294).
mutual presencing in a group, inquiring into the ocean of shared feeling as
such. We sit close and comfortable, relax physically and mentally, and
simply feel our presence with each other and any other beings involved in
our communion. Then we become aware of the presence-between-us, a band of
golden silence, the Shekinah of our gathering. Our hands may be linked, or
not; our eyes may be closed, or open scanning each other’s eyes.
silent sustained mutual gazing between two of us. In this radical one-to-one
inquiry, we can become immersed in our dual-unity, the living spacious
reality of the sacred Between savouring the distinctness of each within the
unity of our dyad. This mode of access to embodied divinity is rich in
ambrosia. It is the universal form of satsang: peer to peer
transmission of divine presence. The skill required is to let go of
emotional tension and to be fully present to each other as whole beings,
while deepening this mutual presence into living beatitude - the enjoyment
of divine favour.
This active spiritual inquiry is for partners, or any
face-to-face group, who meet with the shared intention of transforming their
interactions with each other and their world, in any of its manifold
aspects, to enhance diversity in free unity, interconnected flourishing.
Participatory decision-making integrates autonomy,
co-operation and hierarchy. In this inquiry, each person moves between and
integrates these three positions, and moves between three phases. There is
an autonomous phase: each person states clearly their individual,
idiosyncratic preference, in relation to the matter being discussed. Next a
hierarchical phase: people start to think integrally on behalf of the whole
group, and one or more participants state integral
proposals that seek to honour diversity-in-unity,
and that resonate strongly with the group. Then
there is a co-operative phase of negotiating an
agreed decision, after debating, selecting and refining the most resonant
Fundamentally, a co-operative attitude of mutual regard
and respect underlies all three phases. They are
each exercised, and the movement between them is taken, in attunement with
the reality of the go-between spirit of the occasion. Situational spirit is
a presence which empowers collegiality - the creative interaction of
autonomy, hierarchy and co-operation in human decision-making and action..
This is a profound
practice: exhilarating, liberating, and challenging participants with the
intermittent discomforts of ego-burning.
a related approach to peer group decision-making that has a spiritual focus
see PeerSpirit Circling (Baldwin and Linnea, 2000).
Participatory decision-making, above, is about the
process of decision-making. Life-style transformation, in this inquiry
practice, brings about the products of decision-making, fulfilling in
co-operative action inquiry its intended outcomes. It involves
transformative deeds covering a wide range of social and environmental
outcomes; or some kind of aesthetic, functional or technological product
serving such outcomes; or some kind of information gathering or training
furthering such outcomes. The collaborative action inquirers are co-creators
with divine becoming of planetary transformation, manifest in terms of
social justice and human rights, personal and interpersonal development,
aesthetic creation and celebration, economic sustainability, ecological
balance and cosmic attunement - at home, at work, in the community, and
regionally, nationally, internationally and in relation to the wider cosmos.
We start here, in this place where we are, with these immediate partners,
friends, family, colleagues and associates - and other sentient beings
a related account of human-divine co-creativity see the worldview of
creation spirituality (www.creationspirituality.com/faqs.html).
as Creator is incarnate as self-creating universe, including self-creating
creatures within that universe, such as, for instance, ourselves as human
beings. Creativity itself is what is evolving in the cosmos, and we are at
the growing edge...We are in a position to realize ourselves as incarnate
divine creativity’ (Beatrice Bruteau, 1997).
co-creation we bring forth two strands - our spiritual essence and our
scientific and social capacities - to participate in the creation. When
these strands blend, a new human is born; a universal human, a co-creator, a
unique and personal expression of the divine’ (Hubbard, 1998).
transformation is closely related to
Life-style choices (see below). For full details of these and other
sorts of practice applied within a two-person relationship see
Cookbook of dyadic
inquiry: recipes for transfiguring relationships (Langton and
Enlivenment inquiries are about opening to, and
co-creatively acting with, the depths within, the spiritual as indwelling
potential, the divine ground of our human motivation – our will to live both
as a distinct individual and as a universal participant. We open to our
intrinsic dynamic rooting in spiritual life-impulse, the wellspring of our
energies and capacities, in relation with which we co-create our becoming.
Enlivenment is responsiveness to the ground of our incarnate being, the
embedded entelechy of all our possibilities.
A fundamental aspect of enlivenment is about opening to
and expressing the spiritual potential within the primary energies of our
bodily life, that is, within the basic life impulses to breathe, move,
sleep, rest, eat, drink, perceive, speak, relate, be sexual. These are all
gateways to a spiritually grounded, fully embodied, distinctive and
inclusive way of living-in-connectedness.
the vital energies of the body can evoke the living spirit in which they are
grounded, and whence they issue forth, is demonstrated in distinctive ways
in each of the following: the holotropic breathwork of Stan Grof (1988) and
the wide range of subtle and spiritual states it delivers; the
paratheatrical research of Antero Alli (2003) with its comprehensive
phenomenology of physical behaviours for cultivating ‘resonance with
vertical sources’; charismatic education and training (Heron, 1999) in the
context of a dipolar account of spirit (Heron, 1998); aspects of the
integral transformative practice of Leonard and Murphy (1995); the
interactive somatic inquiries proposed by Marina Romero and Ramon Albareda
(Ferrer, 2003) in their work on a fully embodied and vitalized spiritual
life; the work of Michael Washburn (2003) asserting spiritual as well as
instinctual energy in the Dynamic Ground of the human being, which can be
awakened as an enlivening and guiding force within our bodies; Jorge
Ferrer’s (2006) considered affirmation of embodied spirituality.
Find a quiet time and place, sit relaxed with spine
erect, feel and image the inner ground in which your immediate current state
of being is rooted; have a felt sense of the wellspring, the underlying
source of your everyday mental-emotional-motivational life. Speak out loud,
or silently within, such declarations as "I open to you, divine wellspring
of my lived experience" or “I open to the divine animation that is the root
of my motivation”. Use any form of words, any metaphor, that opens you up to
feel the spacious, generous mystery of indwelling potential.
Move on the inclination deep within to open your
incarnate being - your whole embodied attitude of soul - through breath,
gesture, posture, facial expression to the totality of what there is, to the
whole presence of Being, manifest here and now in this situation. Add
movements, sounds, and declarations that well up from the hara, the
life-centre in the belly, to affirm your divine gesture. Allow the primary
energies of bodily life to unfurl their divinizing power,
the indwelling empowering presence of divine animation.
This can be experienced as an all-consuming, all-sustaining, all-creating
everywhere active experiential fire.
Open up to the liberated place within your embodied being
where you can be co-creative with immanent spirit, your animating
life-potential, in making life-style choices. You open to the inner
spiritual and subtle womb, in the belly of your being, where the generative
potency of immanent spirit, divine life, dwells. This womb is the locus of
your potential, the source and seedbed of options and possibilities. What
emerges from it, when you intend to be co-creative with it, are periodic
impulses, prompts, innovations, proactions, responses and reminders, about
your personal action, development and relationships within the great web of
This active participation in indwelling spiritual
entelechy, a sacred soil at the root of embodied personhood, may generate
specific life-style impulses about: a feel for empowering rhythms and
patterns of behaviour in time and space; a sense of fitting and appropriate
action within the immediate situation - the content and timing of specific
actions relating to personal and shared life-style, social change, spiritual
practice and unfoldment, artistic creation, learning and inquiry, the
process of inner regression and emotional healing. These life-style impulses
arising within are maculate, contingent, relative both to the limiting
situations within which they occur and to your shaping and selective framing
of them. To be co-creative with this indwelling animation is to shape and
frame it as much as it enacts you.
the work of McMahon and Campbell (1991), following on from the work of
Gendlin (1981). They develop Gendlin’s experiential focusing in terms of a
bio-spiritual approach, which emphasizes ‘an experience of grace in the
body’. They relate letting go into the body-feeling about an issue, the
‘felt shift’, to a movement of the indwelling life-giving presence and power
also the Japanese tradition of the hara and the belly. See Karlfried
Graf Von Durckheim (1962).
These inquiries are for sharing with a partner or an
ongoing spiritual inquiry group. They build on charismatic opening
above. In primary theatre a person explores, reveals and celebrates,
in nonverbal and verbal ways, their original relation with creation. It is
based on the view that each human being can properly assert:
have my own original relation with being, with what there is.
Revelation is now, in my immediate present
experience of what there is at this time and place.
authority is within me.
can use posture, gesture, movement, sound and breath – and all the primary
energies of my embodiment - as an original language for exploring and
expressing my participation in what there is.
can use verbal metaphors to elaborate that expressive language.
spiritual enlivenment is an ongoing process, starting now as I open myself
to, and actively express, my intrinsic connectedness with what there is.
am included within, and am at the crest of, the living process of divine
process is greatly enhanced if I resonate with other persons similarly and
In a small group each person is open idiosyncratically to
respond - in resonance with each other - with movement, speech, and sound
(vocal and/or with a variety of musical instruments) to the spontaneous
promptings of their immanent, indwelling spiritual energy. Or each person
can taken equal time for a solo turn, with the supportive attention of the
rest of the group.
A lean ritual is free of any explicit theology,
and uses the primal meaning of basic words and gestures. Thus the group
stand in a circle with arms reaching upward and say ‘Above’, then kneel to
touch the ground and say ‘Below’, then cross their hands over the heart and
say ‘Within’, finally reach out to take the hands of those on either side
and say ‘Between’. Innumerable versions of a lean ritual can be designed.
Lean ritual generates a subtle sense of shared sacred space.
more on primary theatre and lean ritual see
Helping the Client: A
Creative, Practical Guide (Heron, 2001:112-115).
builds on the principles of primary theatre. It is an inquiry into the
cultivation of personal power and presence in interaction with other
persons. It is relevant for living generally, and in particular for group
facilitators and educators - who need to acquire distress-free authority,
and to emanate a quality which liberates inner empowerment in those who seek
to learn within its ambience.
It is a social
skills counterpart to Aikido training. Unlike Aikido, which is a martial art
busy with the charismatic toppling of one’s opponent, charismatic competence
is about being empowered from within the depth’s of one’s embodiment to be
actively present for and with other people in a life-enhancing way.
Charismatic action inquiry works with all the
psychophysical modes involved in social interaction: posture, gesture,
facial expression, movement, relative position, voice, speech, eye-contact,
touch. Charisma is to do with conscious command of all these modes, in
dynamic engagement with another person, or with a group of people.
It is grounded in a felt sense, experientially from
within, of one’s total psychophysical presence in space, simultaneously in
every direction and in every mode; an integral felt sense that wells up from
the hara, the life-centre in the belly. This felt sense infuses
spatial orientation and relative position, posture, gesture and movement,
the tone and timing of voice, the diction, meaning and social intent of
speech. It also infuses surrounding social space and is the ground of
empathic resonance with other persons who are present.
a full, detailed account of charismatic action inquiry exercises, see
below. See also Chapter 12, Charismatic Education and Training,
Inquiry here is about opening to, and manifesting, the
spiritual as transcendent, as overarching divine consciousness, informing
the manifest and beyond it. We participate in the emanation of our local
consciousness from this encompassing and universal awareness.
These inquiries are both versions of the great reversal,
turning about in the deepest seat of the ordinary mind to open to its
continuity with universal awareness.
Human attention is at the core of everyday awareness: we
attend to this and we attend to that. It is the very focus of our effective
in-the-world consciousness. Yet when we attend to this attentive capacity,
when we rest our focus on itself, it becomes a lens which refracts a vast
expanse of transpersonal awareness, a soaring outreach of universal
intelligence of which our own attention to daily life is the local manifest.
Such vigilant awareness of its own intrinsic stillness opens to the cosmic
ocean of consciousness.
We can participate in this consciousness in its several
aspects: as the sustaining, managerial intelligence of the universe; as the
Logos, creative divine speech which utters the universe; as indeterminate
ineffability, beyond all name and form. Or we open to it as the consort
embracing Shekinah, the presence of our process in this place, and then we
are aware of its intimate union with the here and now realm of situational
Another version of the great reversal is via our
experience of 'I', that subjective unity of our consciousness on which all
coherence and meaning of inner and outer experience depend. The 'I'
transcends any account it gives of itself, since it is the ever-present
pre-condition of every account. When we attend to the 'I', open to the 'I',
beyond any determinate description of itself, we open to its emanation from,
its consubstantiality with, the transcendent I AM, that divine consciousness
that embraces whatever there is. This is one-One consubstantiality: since
the 'I' can always give an appropriate developing account of itself, it is a
distinct one of the Many; since it always absolutely transcends this
account, it is contained in the One. This consubstantiality dwells in the
spiritual heart. This too closes the circle and takes us back to the
spiritual heart in the first of the twelve inquiries, feeling presence here
These inquiries relate to the spiritual as transcendent,
the cosmic consciousness beyond and encompassing creation, and
emanating its formative archetypes
One form of dynamic, active inquiry into such
consciousness is to refract the original speech of creation which it
emanates, to echo the cosmos-creating archetypes of the divine word. We
invoke, commune with, and actively radiate with, elevated presences (hyper
persons) in subtle dimensions, presences who mediate, in a numinous,
luminous and sounding way, divine powers - the archetypal formative
principles of creation. Within this communion, and through our ritual acts
and declarations, we refract the powers within our own phenomenal context,
giving them additional local boost or impact. We are here participating
actively in the realm of Plato's forms, the powers of Philo, the
interpenetrating living intelligences of Platinum’s onus, the
minds imaginaries, the alma al-withal of the Sufis, divine
imagines in the writings of Douglas Fawcett, angel communion in the
a full account of an ongoing inquiry which combines elements of inquiry
drawn from the modalities of engagement, enlivenment and enlightenment see
Charismatic inquiry in concert: action research in
the realm of the between
In this inquiry, through the spoken and the written word
we manifest ostensive definition that transcends itself. We use language as
a vehicle for pointing to that which both originates it and goes beyond it.
We speak and write of that which is boundless beyond space, light beyond
differentiated light, uncaused, uncreated, unborn, unconditioned, ineffable,
beyond all name and form, free of all determination – and…a creative source
of all determinate form and process. We celebrate through the performative
word the self-transcending creativity of the original Word.
Here is a table summarizing the framework of the twelve
inquiry practices described above.
Primary theatre & lean ritual
Participatory decision- making
Refracting powers & presences
Spiritual inquiry presupposes that the inquirer:
learned a mother tongue, and has been socialized and educated within a
been spiritually educated, that is, has acquired a working knowledge of
conceptual distinctions to do with human spirituality, through some
acquaintance with texts, teachers, traditions and schools, ancient and
been spiritually trained, that is, has become proficient in some kind of
how to engage in spiritual practice, both alone and with others, as a mode
Spiritual education and training may be acquired in some
spiritual school, ancient or modern, or may be self-taught from the
literature of some school. Spiritual training within a school is at best a
precursor to, and is not the same as, spiritual inquiry. Spiritual inquiry
is an advanced form of spiritual practice which requires its own preparation
and is outside the aegis of any tradition. See
(Heron, 1998: 46-49).
In the final analysis, it seems to me that knowing how to
make spiritual distinctions, knowing how to engage in spiritual practice,
and knowing how to do spiritual inquiry are all part of the same process.
Spiritual inquiry presupposes that each inquirer has an
internal monitor, a divine ground within, which is an autonomous touchstone
for making valid spiritual distinctions. The beginner may project this inner
authority outward for a period and invest it in some external spiritual
authority to acquire a training in some type of spiritual practice. But
spiritual inquiry as such presupposes that such projection is withdrawn, and
that all texts, teachers, schools and traditions of belief and practice,
become valuable secondary resources for the inquiry process. The primary
resource is a creative interpretation, within the limits of one's current
state and context, of the promptings of divine becoming - the deus
implicitus, the divine roots of human aspiration, spirit-in-action -
deep within. Spiritual inquiry, with this primary resource, is a radical and
fundamental form of spiritual practice. It involves the co-creation of a
spiritual path by the discriminating inquirer-in-context and the deus
implicitus. For a fuller account of the authority within see
The spiritual inquiry process presupposes enaction, that
is, the integration of ideational construction and direct encounter with the
divine. Without ideational distinctions about divine reality and human
spirituality, we cannot guide and conduct the inquiry process. Without
unmediated touch with divine reality, in some respect or other, our
constructions are unwarranted. Spiritual inquiry makes subtle distinctions
in order to meet the divine that is. So our enactions involve
mediated-immediacy, the interfused relation of human cognitions and divine
presence. We both interpret divine reality and at the same time commune with
it. The fruits of spiritual inquiry are human-divine co-creations.
Spiritual inquiry is both fallible and revelatory in
varying degrees. It is highly fallible when human mediation distorts divine
immediacy. It is highly revelatory when human mediation clarifies its
communion with divine immediacy, and when divine immediacy enhances human
Spiritual inquiry presupposes a relative-universal view
of truth. In so far as our spiritual cognitions are mediated, their claims
to truth are relative to the historical, cultural and immediate social and
personal context within which that mediation is generated. In so far as we
have adopted procedures to clarify our mediations and ground them in
co-creation with divine immediacy, our cognitions can lay a modest claim to
have a bearing on what is universal. But what is universal is Many-One,
diversity in free unity, so what is universal is not only commonality or
unity of enacted attributes of the divine, it is also a diversity of enacted
Spiritual inquiry presupposes a divine reality which is
greater than, and subsumes, the inquiry process, and which is the totality
of what there is in every respect, including divine becoming. And the
inquiry process, as human-divine co-creation, is itself a part of, a
participant in, this divine becoming.
Spiritual inquiry presupposes that it is intrinsically
innovative. It necessarily transcends any account it gives itself of its
predetermined limits as to what and how and when it can know divine reality.
It can progressively recreate its own enactions about its divine scope.. It
is free, self-caused, divinely intelligent activity, and is at the leading
edge of divine becoming among the Many. Since its account of the divine is a
free co-creation of the inquirer in communion with the divine - a communion
between one of the Many becoming and the One - the diversity in these
accounts is likely to be as significant as the unity and universality.
Spiritual inquiry presupposes within divine reality the
interplay of the determinate and the indeterminate, the conservative and the
innovative. Without determinate, constant features of divine reality, there
is no intelligible context for the emergence of the spiritually innovative,
which will, of course, progressively transform its conservative context. But
any account an inquiry gives of these (and any other) polar parameters -
that they are, and what they are - is itself an enaction, open to evaluation
in terms of its fallible/revelatory status.
Hence spiritual inquiry presupposes a requirement of
dialogue. It can only manifest in the limited and finite enactions of
individuals and groups, and needs the mutual correction and enrichment of
diverse overlapping perspectives. Particularly important here is gender
Spiritual inquiry also presupposes a requirement of an
extended epistemology - holistic cognition. It needs the totality of ways of
knowing to acquaint it with the fullness of divine reality. So it involves
knowing-how, knowing-that, knowing-as and knowing-with - practical,
conceptual, imaginal and affective ways of knowing (Heron, 1992, 1996).
Practical knowledge, knowing how to act in human-divine co-creation, is the
creative consummation of these ways of knowing.
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