Dr. Thomas Steininger is a philosopher and cultural activist. As the editor of Evolve – Magazin für Bewusstsein und Kultur (magazine for consciousness and culture) and with his work in the vision team of Emerge consciousness culture, he sees himself as “part of a movement in which people meet who want to give ‘the spirit of the world’ a new, vital direction”. At the center of the attention and work of Emerge and Evolve is the cultivation of new forms of creative and communicative togetherness.
L.: Thomas, why did you choose the name “Emerge” and how would you describe the aim and the content of your work?
T.S. “Emergence“ means that something comes into being whose properties cannot be traced back to the properties of the elements from which it sprang up. From matter emerges life … from life emerges consciousness. How is this possible? These are so-called emergence problems, the new cannot be explained from the old. The new quality arises from the present, not from the past. Emerge consciousness culture practices a form of dialogue through which something new can emerge during and from our encounter. A kind of synergetic intelligence emerges, which leads us into a we-space that is more than our individual space.
L.: Something is happening in consciousness that at the same time goes beyond the consciousness of the individual?
T.S.: Yes, I would like to explain this a bit more. We live in a highly individualised culture and are used to perceiving the world radically from our ego-perspective. But from a cultural-historical point of view, that is an enormous achievement. In our indigenous past, when we lived within a tribal consciousness, the ego-consciousness did not exist. There was only a collective self-perception. Also, in traditional societies people perceive themselves mainly as an expression of the collective. In Europe, we have gone through a cultural process in which – through various cultural leaps: the birth of philosophy in Greece, the Renaissance, Modern age – we developed a strong self-perception. One of the expressions that anchors this in modern consciousness is René Descartes’: “I think, therefore I am”. This ego-consciousness, which perceives everything as an object is, on the one hand, a great achievement. Only when I can say, “I”, can I take responsibility and discover that I have the freedom of choice. The development of being capable of responsibility and freedom in this I-consciousness is the European contribution to cultural history.
A re-integration into wholeness
However, the reverse of this is that we are radically alienated from our environment. The rampant narcissism, through which we are unable to see things other than from our self-centeredness, also comes from precisely this source. We assume that this process of individuation is now at a tipping point, where we perceive its limitations and its dark sides. The need arises to take the next step, a re-integration into wholeness, and there are various approaches to how this reintegration can take place.
L.: Isn’t it characteristic for such crisis points to appear always at exactly the right time? The individual must have reached a certain state of consciousness before being able to see that it can or must be transcended.
T.S.: I don’t see it so much from the individual perspective, but more from the cultural, collective perspective, because interestingly enough, our hyper-individualism is also a collective phenomenon of our time. This is exciting; it has to do with the individual and at the same time the individual is an expression of the time in which he lives. And as you say correctly, it seems to be time. More and more people and groups are looking for new forms of re-integration into the whole.
A trans-individual field
Emergent dialogue is a form of dialogue in which we focus on what happens between us, on an interpersonal dialogical field. This doesn’t require a withdrawal of individuation and a going back to a pre–individual we-consciousness. The new field is a trans-individual field and to perceive it does not require less but more individuation. It presupposes a very personal perception and a sense of responsibility for this we-space.
I would like to add, usually all spaces where individuals meet are called we-spaces and, in fact, if a real meeting of “you” and “I” takes place, that is already a lot. But it becomes exciting when it is not just an I-you encounter, but when we meet in the field of encounter as such. There exists a wholeness that transcends its parts of ”I“ and “You“ and its aliveness is the result of our encounter. In groups it can be perceived easier than in conversations of two persons. The focus is not on the “we”, it is on the shared presence. This presence of the wholeness which appears, we call the Higher-We. But it is not just about group consciousness. This Presence also includes the place, the nature, the history that brought us together. The creative opening that arises from this wholeness has an alchemical power. An intelligence, a beauty is released, which arises from the space of our encounter.
L.: New things emerge, come into the world. You can see it in many places, you can feel it. The way of the Rosicrucians is about finding a relation to the source of the emergence. Here am I and here is this source. I am facing it and yet it is also somehow within me. This experience belongs to the fruits of individualisation. Especially today we can experience the source of life in the depth of our own inner being … in a transcendent depth which is beyond our ego. We are twofold beings, that is why in an inner experience we can have the feeling of being deeply confronted with ourselves – as “another one”.
You speak of a space of encounter where the wholeness is present. To experience this field can make us feel insecure. If, in a conversation, I stay in my own “space”, I feel more secure than if I open up to the New which is emerging.
The willingness to go beyond yourself
T.S.: Yes, it takes a mature individuality to bear this uncertainty, to be open for this fluid space, this new space of conversation. I have to let it happen that we meet beyond the limits of what I know. It requires that I am able to perceive the space in its liveliness and that I am open for what is happening, wants to happen between us.
L.: What qualities are needed for this?
T.S.: The willingness to go beyond yourself, and that requires a high degree of personal maturity. Only when I am stable, can I get involved in something really new. At the same time, I need the ability to let go of myself, not to be stuck in a fixed state of being.
(to be continued in part 2)