When Warriors Try to Weave: Part 1

When Warriors Try to Weave: Part 1

Living Systems, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Fullness of What’s Needed to Cultivate Regenerative Community

Curator's Note: Our friend and colleague Michelle Holliday entwines diverse threads to create a rich tapestry of insight on the key to effecting positive and lasting change for us as a species. Below, we repost Part 1 of a two-part series.

I recently participated in a nourishing three-and-a-half day gathering of people dedicated to regenerative, life-aligned ways of living. Presentations and conversations swirled through topics like intentional communities, new land ownership models, evolution in consciousness, arts-based neighborhood activism, and more. At a few points, however, a quiet, courageous voice was raised to note that patterns of patriarchy and domination are still occasionally present, even within this well-intentioned, peace-loving movement. Mine was one of those voices raised. And it took a dedicated conversation — and the marriage of two frameworks — to tease out when and how those patterns appear, why it matters and what might be a fruitful way forward.

Importantly, what we discovered is a sometimes subtle but always limiting tendency and pattern that is common across many of the most heralded approaches to social and organizational change. Our sense was that addressing it may be key to effecting positive and lasting change — and, indeed, to surviving the most challenging problems we face as a species.

  Only in seeking the potential inherent in “what is” can we move effectively beyond compromise to discover new possibilities of “what could be.”
   

For context, I’ll share the most public example of what drew me into this inquiry at the gathering:

Two of the most enthusiastically-received presentations were highly analytical, rapid-fire rundowns of the historical and intrinsic problems in an unruly society. The presentations had a heavy focus on flaws that, according to the presenters, we’ve always had as a species. For example, futurist Daniel Schmachtenberger described in great detail how humanity’s path has been one of rivalry, competition and murder, and this characteristic way of operating is leading us inexorably to collective self-termination, with technology speeding us ever faster to that outcome. The solutions offered in response seemed to be predicated on an intellect-driven engineering/design mindset, with the need for rapid scaling and personal discipline. In particular, Schmachtenberger advocated a shift from rivalrous to “anti-rivalrous” social structures.

Though it is clear that we are on a self-created path toward catastrophe, what seems to be missing from this analysis of humanity’s track record is the historical existence — amid all the rivalry and murder — of collaboration and co-creation. Of love and care. Of beauty and potential.

The story being told seemed to be the view from the patriarchy, as if that were the only real and valid narrative all of humanity has ever lived. But we have not been a species only of warriors.

And focusing exclusively on that aspect of humanity’s journey risks overlooking other foundational capacities that we can — and must — draw on as we move forward.

I also couldn’t help feeling that there was something ironic — and even potentially counterproductive — in rejecting a dominating, patriarchal, technology-fueled culture, but presenting this assessment and related solutions in what, to me, was a dominating, analytical, technological manner.It felt like a warrior’s answer to the challenges created by warrior mentality.

A handful of us gathered to untangle our shared but vague sense that patriarchal patterns of domination persisted within the community. And perhaps predictably, we started with the need to balance the masculine and feminine. But that seemed to trip us up. We craved terminology that was both more neutral — less tied to actual genders — and more descriptive. We were also unsatisfied with the zero-sum compromise of balance; we wanted to integrate the best of what everyone had to offer.


Moving from Problem-Solving to Potential

The first breakthrough in our thinking was inspired by a framework Bill Reed of Regenesis had shared, called The Law of Three. Instead of approaching a situation as a problem to be solved through compromise between two opposing forces, The Law of Three is an invitation to seek the highest potential present in a situation by harmonizing those forces. Only in seeking the potential inherent in “what is” can we move effectively beyond compromise to discover new possibilities of “what could be.”

 
  Photo credit: Regenesis


Moving Beyond Gender to Archetypes

The second breakthrough came when — in place of the terms “masculine and feminine” — we played with the language of archetypes that I had offered in my own keynote presentation. My starting point had been the list of four fertile conditions present in all thriving living systems (including organizations and communities):

(1) diverse, divergent parts,

(2) consistent yet responsive patterns of relationship,

(3) convergent, emergent wholeness,

(4) self-integrating, self-organizing life.

From there, I pointed to how these mapped on to Jung’s classic archetypes, describing, in a way, how we experience those four living-systems conditions together in our collective human endeavors.

The first archetype is the Warrior. It is the push for distinct, individual expression — for bringing forth our unique gifts, talents and inner truth. Decisive and action-oriented, it is the source of our fierceness, conviction and loyalty. It represents rationality and discipline and is the realm of skill and technology.

The second archetype is the Weaver (also called the Magician). As the energy of relationship, pattern and process, this is where we find an advisor’s ability to interpret complex situations, making them appear simple. We see the Weaver in skilful meeting facilitation or in one who connects ideas and people in the interest of insight, learning and innovation. It is present in the design of new organizing structures. And it is the realm of rites of passage and other meaningful patterns of life.

Our small group found these to be more useful ways of expressing what we had been calling the masculine and feminine: Warrior as the universal energy of drive and diversity; Weaver as the complementary force that contains and connects.

We also noticed that, without a clear and powerful invitation into wholeness and higher purpose, we are left with “balance” and “compromise” between those two forces. We struggle to get to full generativity, to creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts and to discovering our latent collective potential, as Bill Reed might say.

This brought us to the third archetype, the Sovereign (sometimes called the King), representing wholeness, order, coherence, shared vision and purpose. This is not about any one person being the sovereign. It is about the urge to gather around a compelling cause — to be part of an unfolding heroic narrative. This archetype calls for invitation, rather than persuasion or coercion, and for discernment — “we are this, together, and not that.” It inspires a culture of generosity and recognition of gifts, a vital component of generativity. In these ways, Sovereign energy is associated with healing through making whole, as well as with creativity, fertility and leaving a lasting legacy. If you find yourself asking how your organization is walking its talk or imagining a bold vision of what is possible, you are expressing Sovereign energy.

And though a Sovereign shared purpose may enable the emergence of potential, will is needed to manifest that potential. We might think of this will as the urge and call of life — what Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran calls, “life’s longing for itself.” After all, it is the animating spark of aliveness that enables a system to integrate parts into relationship and resultant wholeness. Only something that is alive can heal itself, innovate, adapt and sustain itself. In these ways, we can acknowledge that lifeis the driving force behind regenerativity (or what I would call “thrivability).

The fourth and final archetype, then, is the Enchanter (sometimes called the Lover), bringing in the animating and self-integrating spark of life through the energy of renewal, festival and transformative celebration. The root of the word “enchanter” means to sing into being. This energy is accessed through beauty, art, music, nature, play, movement and inspiration — the dominion of the Muses. Embodying the realm of emotion and sensuality, the presence of this energy makes us feel fully alive and filled with passion. In these ways, the Enchanter connects us to the transcendent.

- More to Come

This blog was originally posted to michelleholliday.com, and appears here with permission.

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