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LOGON: Personal maturity also means to look beyond oneself, beyond what we are. It is a shattering experience to be seized by the "Whole". That's still me, but in such an extensive and intensive way that it cannot be described. And after that ... I’m back with only me again. This experience leaves traces and a new relationship to the Whole arises. Isn't that also the experience of the mystics? How would you describe this Whole, this space that opens up?
T.S.: I would like to start with the process. On the one hand it needs a mature personality; on the other hand the we-space develops through shared presence and the perception of this presence within the flow of the conversation. In this process a special dynamic develops and if the group is aware enough, a kind of gravitational field of a co-creative intelligence appears.
The “Whole” becomes a sensual experience
This field emerges from the shared presence and is more than the sum of its parts. The Whole is not just an idea, but an experience which can be made sensually. The moment in which this becomes obvious in a conversation group, at least to some of the participants, a point of attraction appears which then becomes the reference point for the further development of the conversation. Even people who normally are very egocentric can refer to this shared space because they are able to perceive it. A self-reinforcing process comes into being because the creativity and intelligence of this field develop a synergetic power. So this field can carry people with it, can raise the consciousness into this shared open space and – as you mentioned with the mystics – draw it beyond its former limits.
L.: You say the field develops something new and you speak of a point of attraction. In the Bible it says: "Where two or three are together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." When people with the same inner orientation are together, a shared field develops - and then, as it were, "from outside" something accrues. A spiritual force, the spirit connects with this field.
T.S.: What you say is based on an interesting assumption: namely that the spirit comes from outside.
L.: Yes, as the transcendent Whole, and it is possible because in the group at a certain moment there is a quality which corresponds to it.
Something lights up that we might call sacred
T.S.: My perception in the dialogues is different. Presence appears, and that is a spiritual phenomenon. Something lights up which goes beyond the trivial. In every real encounter, if it is deep enough, intense enough, something lights up that we might call "sacred" and it is within the reach of everyone – whether he/she is Christian or agnostic or something else.
Something sacred is created – and this sacred can be found in different metaphysical systems, be it Vedantic, Sufi or anthroposophical.
Our perspective is different; we simply perceive the phenomenon as such because to perceive the "sacred" does not require a metaphysical system. We would like to develop an open spirituality in which what emerges between us might well find its place in the concept of the Holy Spirit – even if it would be described differently by an Iranian Sufi or in Vedanta. In spite of the different forms of interpretation, we all have the same experience if we take it seriously just as a phenomenon and we can say, “There is something arising between us, it is a spiritual force, something that is not trivial, that we describe differently in our cultural backgrounds and in different languages – but in which we nevertheless can meet.”
How can the spiritual dimension be lived in an open society without being based on a specific edifice of teachings? An open society, which, however, is not secular, is not based only on the materialistic/scientific consensus, but gives room to the dimension of the spiritual, the dimension of the sacred?
A common denominator?
L.: What you say is probably one of the results of cultural development. All the things that have developed in the different cultures want to find their common denominator. And this common denominator is nothing other than the human being. One has always worshipped the sacred in the outside, outside oneself, one has always projected it somewhere. But it is, above all, also in the human being himself. It is the emerging source of life. In a group of like-minded people it can be easier to get in touch with it. We need to be in relation with the Cosmic Whole, which comes to us in a force that can be called the Force of Christ. And at the same time we need to be in relation with ourselves, with our depth. In the dialogue with other people and with everything with which we have to do, it will then be possible to find the sacred in one’s own self, in every other person and in all living beings. And you can connect with it. I believe that is what our time needs.
You are practising the emergent dialogue in a special setting. What importance does it have, however, for your everyday life?
T.S.: We are never outside the dialogue. Of course, it needs individual work, individual maturity, that is, its own practice. But everyday life means also dialogue. Let us take our situation. We meet, we don't know each other, now we sit here. Do I have the openness to really perceive you? Are we able to really perceive the situation we are in and let shine whatever wants to shine between you and me in a way that, from our encounter, something emerges between us that I would not be able to do without you and you, not without me? And this applies to every other encounter we have. Can I be there for that which, during this perhaps only short time, becomes possible? Or do I close myself off? For me, living spirituality means to use my individuality for whatever shows itself in the very moment. It could not be more practical. Our emergent dialogue offers spaces for practising – but it is not about the spaces of practice, it is about the spaces of life.
L: One can sense and learn what a real encounter feels like, you experience it within yourself. We come closer to each other and a kind of intimacy develops.
Admitting the not-knowing of the present moment
T.S.: Yes, and an essential spiritual quality starts to develop: the trust to admit the not-knowing of the present moment. It means not to stick to what I know. Nothing against knowledge, but real encounter takes place when I am ready to leave behind the things I know and am curious about what is happening in the very moment of the encounter, and what I do not know yet.
L.: Even in non-homogeneous discussion groups you can feel when this special moment of opening happens. People then speak from a different inner point. It may take a while until this shows, and it takes courage to speak from that point of inner perception. But with this step into the unknown, the quality of the conversation changes.
T.S.: When people have the strength to allow otherness and are able to experience unity in otherness, dialogue becomes really fascinating. It is important to sustain the friction that might arise when people meet who don’t have the same spiritual orientation. Are they able to meet in openness, without flying apart? Then the most creative encounters can develop. Something new appears, precisely because we do not start from the same mental buildings. This demands a lot from everybody, but if it succeeds, the result is phenomenal. I appreciate you, I am interested in you and want to hear you – without refusing myself by pretending that I am not different – and then something can emerge.
This is exciting and fascinating, and I believe that‘s what we urgently need in order to live together on this planet in an open society where we can be different and yet can meet each other in deep spiritual encounters.