Enlightening Groups 
The Esoteric Process of Discovering
Truth Through Group Dialectic


Author Background Material Transformative Groups Preparatory Study

     Throughout human history, arcane knowledge concerning individual transformation and the discovery of truth through esoteric group processes has been made available to select people through Perennialist 1 teaching material and exercises. In a recent essay we focused on the Perennialist operation carried out in transformative groups.

     In this essay we're focusing on the paranormal capabilities of Perennialist operations to discover Truth through esoteric group processes, using the nomenclature of enlightening groups.

     The symbiotic 2 aspects of enlightening groups--group reasoning and group solidarity--have been applied by a few external social groupings over the centuries with outstanding success, but this civic wisdom has not been widely utilized. For the most part, humans have ignored this knowledge and allowed human predators--political, religious, military, and economic tyrants--to oppress them, causing untold misery. The group reasoning and group solidarity aspects of Perennial wisdom--which we'll term group dialectic--will be our focus in this essay.

     The current abuse of humans by political and economic tyrants has become so pervasive and ghastly that it's now essential for people to begin assimilating the Perennialist group dialectic principles with which they can build commonwealth communities to replace this current capitalist dictatorship. This will not, of course, take place overnight, but it's essential for humans to begin now to understand these higher principles and learn to apply them in small experimental cells.

    This arcane knowledge of group dialectic is absolutely essential to humankind's survival and has been revealed by such Perennialist teachers as Hermes, Krishna, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Paul, Boethius, and Bernard of Clairvaux.


The Preserving Wisdom

      In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato uses a teaching story to explain how humans, when they degenerated to the point of utter barbarism, were saved by a small, distinguished group of sages connected with the name of Hermes, who taught humankind the higher ordering principles of group solidarity and decision-making, delivering them from annihilation.

Protagoras' Teaching Story (paraphrasing)

     Humans very early in their history invented articulate speech and devised technical means for drawing sustenance from the earth. At first humans lived dispersed, not in clans or hamlets, but this lack of group unity led to their being destroyed by wild beasts and the elements. Humans had not learned how to cooperate for their own survival.

     Finally, the human instinct for self-preservation brought them together into groups and villages but lacking the higher ordering principles of governance, they began to destroy each other. The Divine Principle feared that the entire human race would be exterminated, so Hermes was sent to humankind, bestowing the Forms of reverence and justice as the ordering principles of human groups, with the underpinning of the bonds of friendship and conciliation. The Divine instructed Hermes that he was to impart the sense of justice and reverence to all humans, for only in this way would they be able to survive.

     The higher ordering principles of group solidarity and group dialectic, therefore, are elements of innate intelligence, allowing all humans to participate in group decision-making. But even though these elements are innate, they can be overwhelmed by ignorance and personal vice, until they become non-functional--forgotten and atrophied. Humans can degenerate to the bestial state of dog-eat-dog, disdaining reverence for unity, order, and justice. Therefore, when the majority of humankind loses the sense of civic and social virtue, to the point of civilization's being threatened, it becomes necessary for enlightening groups--who know the Forms of Justice and Civility--to teach humans the arcane wisdom of group dialectic which will deliver them from extinction.

Plato's teaching story warns:

Without the esoteric knowledge of group dialectic, humankind will perish.


The Esoteric Teaching of the Stratification of Groups

     In a related essay, we see how transformative groups are organized in a hierarchical structure, with the Perennialist teacher--the one who has achieved advanced awareness--directing the development of followers and students. If a seeker attempts to usurp the role of the teacher, believing he can teach himself or others, the result is chaos. At the same time, the teacher assists initiates (advanced students) to move ahead as quickly as possible to the point where they can take over much if not all of their own development--and assist in transformative work with others. We can identify this as the impetus toward egalitarianism.

     Throughout the entire Perennialist operation, there is the necessary recognition of diverse functions and levels of capability. Without such differentiation, groups become dysfunctional and destructive. While some initiates are attaining the capability of directing their own and others' development, there is always the necessity of recognizing and implementing the distinction between teacher and novice in the ongoing transformative process.

     The Perennial Tradition makes available to humans the arcane knowledge of how groups can work together for the benefit of all their members in the search for Truth. Though Perennialist enlightening groups are special aggregations of selected participants, the principles which these groups discover, practice, and disseminate are applicable to all human groupings. The Perennial Tradition sees the end and aim of terrestrial evolution as the perfection of commonwealth communities through the autonomous functioning of all their individual members. Perennialist groups revivify, adapt, and re-introduce esoteric principles of group operation that serve to promote the welfare of all members within any organization--including learning circles, communities, and society in general.

The Ultimate Application of Perennialist Principles to Society

     Throughout our discussion of enlightening groups, we'll examine and explicate principles and procedures by which persons can learn to work effectively in face-to-face groups, always with the goal of leavening society as a whole with these unique ideas and methodologies as and when that becomes possible. Our re-discovery and re-adaptation of Perennialist principles begin with Plato.

"Our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought that in a State which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole we should be most likely to find Justice. . ." Plato, Commonwealth III


"Plato began his study of the social order with a definition and an analysis of the concept of justice. The state has no other and no higher aim than to be the administrator of justice. But in Plato's language the term justice does not mean the same as in common speech. It has a much deeper and more comprehensive meaning. Justice is not on the same level with other virtues of man. It is not, like courage or temperance, a special quality or property. It is a general principle of order, regularity, unity, and lawfulness. Within the individual life this lawfulness appears in the harmony of all the different powers of the human soul; within the state it appears in the 'geometrical proportion' between the different classes, according to which each part of the social body receives its due and cooperates in maintaining the general order. With this conception Plato became the founder and the first defender of the Idea of the Legal State."

Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State


"So the philosopher, in constant companionship with the divine order of the world, will reproduce that order in his soul and, so far as man may, become godlike. . . Suppose, then, he should find himself compelled to mould other characters besides his own and to shape the pattern of public and private life into conformity with his vision of the ideal, he will not lack the skill to produce such counterparts of temperance, justice, and all the virtues as can exist in the ordinary man."
Plato, Commonwealth IV, 500

     The guiding principle of a positively operating society is that each individual carries out the function for which his individual quality of consciousness enables him, one to one kind of work and one to another, every person functioning to the best of his ability; thereby society becomes one unified whole.

     A society should be lead by persons who have attained the specific skills of statesmanship--those persons Plato identified as philosopher-statesmen--who can order their own lives by an advanced knowledge of higher organizing principles (Forms). True statesmanship involves knowledge about societies as a whole and the maintenance of good domestic and foreign relations. This is a special capability, and a person cannot assume that he possesses these complex skills merely because he has education (training), wealth, or power.

      On the contrary, most often the rule of a society is taken over by the worst types of people, those with no ability to order their own lives or the functions of a society. One of the major catastrophes of our modern era is that citizens have lost the understanding that there are certain persons who, through training and character, possess the necessary capability to lead a society beneficially and effectively, while others only pretend to be able to do so.

     Plato used a teaching story in the sixth chapter of the Commonwealth to illustrate the present plight of society. On a ship at sea, a group of mutinous sailors, with the help of a scheming villain, take control of the vessel. The villain is put in charge of the ship and acclaimed by the ignorant sailors as a "great leader." Neither the villain nor the mutinous sailors possess the highly specialized skills of seamanship, assuming that the capabilities of a sea captain are negligible or non-existent. As can be imagined, the ship runs onto the shoals and is destroyed.

"Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, societies will never have rest from their evils, nor the human race, as I believe, and then only will this our society have a possibility of life and behold the light of day."

Plato, Commonwealth IV, 473d


     Any buffoon can dominate and run roughshod over a group or a nation, given enough power and ruthlessness. But that's the very antithesis of what Perennialist esoteric principles teach in terms of developing groups and societies which succeed in serving the interests of all their members.

     In today's world, the norm is groups--including nations--dominated by the worst types of persons: those who possess no moral principles at all and who do whatever they choose to gain control over people. Ordinarily, only when a nation comes to the crisis point of its despotic rulers bringing the nation and its people to the point of utter ruin, is a new type of leadership and a new set of ordering principles sought.

     At present, the myth which controls most Americans is that they live in a democracy. What they usually mean by that is that the people get to vote for their representatives, who will in turn make most if not all political and economic decisions for them. Since a demonic cabal selects both Democratic and Republican candidates in American elections, citizens have no real voice in their government. If America is ever to become a true commonwealth, it will be necessary to rid ourselves of the cabal and institute a true system of dialectical group decision-making.

     At times, societies devolve to the point where the people are so debilitated by miseducation, misinformation, and moral degeneracy that they're incapable of recognizing a demonic ruler for what he is. Unfortunately, that's almost entirely the situation we're now living in.

"Paradoxically, a society of simple tools that allows men to achieve purposes with energy fully under their own control is now difficult to imagine. Our imaginations have been industrially deformed to conceive only what can be molded into an engineered system of social habits that fit the logic of large-scale production. We have almost lost the ability to frame in fancy a world in which sound and shared reasoning sets limits to everybody's power to interfere with anybody's equal power to shape the world."
Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality


     Even in such desperate times as these, persons associated with the Perennial Tradition persist in working to overcome ignorance, tyranny, and destruction, while providing lost knowledge to those persons who are still capable of appreciating it and using it to attain personal and social transformation in special enlightening groups.

The Search for A More Perfect Union

     Because sub-human 3 predators have seized political and economic power worldwide, humans are now literally an endangered species--as in Plato's Protagoras allegory. They've lost the life-or-death capability of living in consensus communities where the goal is the welfare of all. Unless this lost wisdom is revivified in peoples' minds, the entire species could degenerate to the sub-human state of barbarity.

     All people are seeking a better way to live together than in the monarchies, fake democracies, plutocracies, and dictatorships that we now are forced to endure.


"A consensus process is the best way to grow men and women. It is he who does the thinking, who faces the problems, who makes the plans, who alone achieves both the growth and the happiness. Our present idea and practice of leadership reserve these supreme values to the leaders. Life has become, for a large number of people, pure drudgery. Men become 'robots,' machines for executing other people's desires. The leaders grow, the individuals in the crowd decline." 4

      All of us have suffered under despotic and incompetent leadership in one group or another--including at present our nation under the criminal cabal. So we know first hand what personal grief such tyrannous presidents, bosses and managers can cause group members. Though a truly representative democracy would be a vast improvement over the various forms of tyranny people now suffer under, what we're exploring in this essay is the training in and application of principles leading to a very special kind of group--what we're calling an enlightening group--totally unlike the organizations we now find in society.

     The principles we're exploring and developing here point to a new kind of organizing principle--group dialectic--which forms the basis for consensus groups. Such groups are completely different from organizations that elect representatives and allow those persons to think and act for them.

     In this essay, we're not attempting to show how current flawed and despotic political systems can be propped up or revised. We're not concerned with such systems as representative democracy. In his Commonwealth, Plato showed how democracy can be taken over by criminal elements and used to manipulate the people in any way a tyrant chooses--just as American democracy has been taken over by such despots as John Adams and the current cabal members. What we're discussing are principles of consensus decision-making, an entirely different system from the theory or practice of representative democracy.

Counterfeits of Group Dialectic

     Before we explore the principles and procedures of group dialectic, we first need to see what this process is not. By examining some of the structures and processes that are counterfeits of or divergent from group dialectic, we'll get a better idea of what it is.

1. Group dialectic is not a form of democracy.

     In supposed representative democracies such as the United States, the thrust is not to secure participation but to win assent. The so-called "representatives of the people" do not attempt to secure genuine consideration of various issues by the people, but approval of candidates or proposals which will be reflected in opinion polls and voting. Consequently, the process is propaganda and salesmanship, not reasoning. The people are led to make their choices with as little rational discussion as possible. No favorable consideration is given to possible alternatives. Thus, in this present society individuals are trained from an early age to look to their representatives or bosses for the direction of their thought and action and to dissociate reasoning from social life.

     Group dialectic involves all members deciding and acting on their own, not through a representative. They learn how to make intelligent group decisions by actually participating in the process.

2. Group dialectic is not debate or argument.

"In debate, one desires to know what another person thinks in order that he may devise arguments to convince him he is wrong. In discussion, one wishes to know what the other person thinks in order that he may get more light on his own problem or may cooperate with the other persons in solving their common problem." 5

3. Group dialectic is not a form of mindless association of people in an indoctrination process:

     Association in groups can be used for the purpose of brainwashing and conditioning. There are powerful elements within group dynamics that allow indoctrination of participants into whatever ideology the manipulators choose. Numerous studies of group behavior demonstrate that the emotional and intellectual aspects of group interchange can be used to program the minds of humans. One of the most revealing descriptions of the debilitating aspects of indoctrination groups is provided by the first-hand account of a German man who was forced to participate in a Nazi training group in the late 1930s.

"Comradeship can become the means for the most terrible dehumanization--and . . . it has become just that in the hands of the Nazis. They have drowned the Germans, who thirst after it, in this alcohol to the point of delirium tremens. They have made all Germans everywhere into comrades, and accustomed them to this narcotic from their earliest age: in the Hitler youth, the SA, the Reichswehr, in thousands of camps and clubs--and in doing this they have driven out something irreplaceable that cannot be compensated for by any amount of happiness.

"Comradeship is part of war. Like alcohol, it is one of the great comforters and helpers for people who have to live under unbearable, inhuman conditions. It makes the intolerable tolerable. It helps us cope with filth, calamity, and death. It anesthetizes us. It comforts us from the loss of all the amenities of civilization. Indeed, that loss is one of its preconditions. It receives its justification from bitter necessities and terrible sacrifices. If it is separated from these, if it is exercised only for pleasure and intoxication, for its own sake, it becomes a vice. It makes no difference that it brings a certain happiness. It corrupts and depraves men like no alcohol or opium. It makes them unfit for normal, responsible, civilian life. Indeed it is, at bottom, an instrument of decivilization. The general promiscuous comradeship to which the Nazis have seduced the Germans has debased this nation as nothing else could."

Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler, 2000


4. Group dialectic differs fundamentally from "consensus decision-making," majority-vote decision-making, and polling.


     Platonic Dialectic is the foundation of all decision-making procedures utilized by Perennialist groups. One of the more recent attempts to understand Dialectic was carried out by the physicist David Bohm (1917-1992). He tried to discern the essence of group interchange, writing a book (On Dialogue) and organizing dialogue groups. Unfortunately, Bohm and those associated with him, were unable to understand the underlying dynamic of Platonic Dialectic, so their efforts came to naught. Failing to realize that he would have to undertake an in-depth study of Plato's dialogues in order to comprehend this profound phenomenon, Bohm arrived at such errors as this:

"The dialogue is not aimed at settling anything. We explore meaning together--the creative perception of meaning--thinking together and feeling together. But meaning is active. It is not merely sitting there. The consideration of this meaning may act--or it may not. The whole point of having the Dialogue is that we're not trying to produce a result. That's very important. It may never do it. Or it may do it at some moment when we least expect it. The seed has been planted. And the meaning is naturally, spontaneously active and transformative."

David Bohm, "On Meaning, Purpose and Exploration in Dialogue"

     Perennialist groups follow the essence of Platonic Dialectic in working toward specific outcomes: transformation, enlightenment, and understanding of important issues, concepts, and procedures.

"This was the Socratic method, the dialectic, maieutic (maieûtikos) method: to lead the mind, by attractiveness, to self-discovery . . . Socratic dialectic is used to determine and to pursue human excellence."
David Fortunoff, "Dialogue, Dialectic, and Maieutic:
Plato's Dialogues As Educational Models"


The Symbiotic Group

     All esoteric knowledge seems commonplace to ordinary minds, and this is nowhere more true than with the arcane knowledge of group symbiosis. To the person who assumes he knows how groups operate, this Perennialist wisdom appears lackluster and simplistic. But let the ordinary person attempt to apply these higher operating procedures in an actual group setting, and he'll quickly discover how complex and enigmatic they really are. If he's intelligent--and honest--enough to comprehend and acknowledge what occurs, he'll recognize that his untutored efforts are incapable of applying these hidden precepts successfully.

     One of the first operating principles of an enlightening group is that the persons involved must be interested in learning how to cooperate in a group setting to accomplish goals chosen by all its members. The members must all be active participants, not mere observers. In enlightening groups the persons who set the goals are responsible for realizing them. It's only reasonable that those who share the responsibility of carrying out group goals should have the opportunity to share in planning what's to be done.

     The other element included in that first principle is that the members must all be eager to learn the essential skills required for effective group participation, leading to the success of each member and of the organization as a whole. They must recognize that persons do not develop such specialized skills in the ordinary course of human experience--that they require technical training in the principles and procedures involved.

     Granted, many current groups claim that all members are equal and that the group is working toward goals which will fulfill the needs of all participants. But as most of us experience, these claims are entirely spurious: there are hidden agendas, subtle--and sometimes not so subtle--manipulation of group processes, and almost always the president or boss has determined beforehand what the group is to finally agree on--his or her pre-selected outcome.

     Once it's recognized by all participants in an enlightening group that this is to be a situation in which the goals are "owned" by all and work toward the fulfillment of all, not just a directing or ruling faction, then they recognize that this is something so new that it will require a very different type of training in a unique process of group dialectic.

Patrick Henry      The flawed principles of American representative democracy--subverted by a plutocracy-driven U.S. Constitution--were doomed from the start because American citizens were never trained in democratic principles. A fully effective society can only be formed out of competent individuals--those who know how to think and act for themselves and how to reason in a group to make group decisions.

      Some early American leaders--such as Patrick Henry, George Mason, Luther Martin, John Francis Mercer, and Elbridge Gerry--were trained in consensus decision-making in face-to-face state assemblies, where they hammered out ideas and proposals in a fashion similar to what we're exploring here. These specific leaders were trained in group reasoning and the result was the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and such consensus-driven documents as the Pennsylvania state constitution of 1776. 6 Also, all the persons mentioned above had learned from effective group training to think for themselves, so they all rejected the fatally flawed American Constitution when it was concocted by a few unscrupulous autocrats.

Group Dialectic

     Group dialectic is the process by which an organization decides and plans as a whole--not just in theory or pretence but in actuality. Group dialectic involves, in the discussions and decisions of the group members, the same kind of process which an individual follows when he's reasoning effectively.

"The person whose judgment we trust is the one who does not act on impulse or authority or tradition. He is the one who takes into consideration present and past experience; who enriches his judgment with emotion, and who tempers his emotion with judgment. He is the one who honestly examines the evidence and weights various courses of action. His decision represents his conviction as to what is most worth while. " 7

     The aim of group decision-making is to secure the active participation of all members to the limit of their capacity in the conduct of all the group's activities.

     The first thing groups have to realize is that effective organizational leadership is a specialized skill that must be learned; it's not an innate talent that persons possess by nature. Neither individual nor group reasoning is an endowment; they're the result of training and experience. To develop the capability of forming reliable and effective group decisions, we have to study relevant material and participate in specialized exercises.

"Independent, self-directing group conduct is . . . an achievement. Merely to offer democracy to a group does not mean that the group is able to conduct itself democratically. Just as individual independence comes gradually, first in more restricted and then in wider areas of life, so independence in a group comes gradually, first in more restricted and then in ever and ever widening areas of conduct. Whether the group be a family, a gang, a class in school, or a nation, it cannot change suddenly with any success from complete autocratic control to entirely independent self-direction." 8

The Principles and Processes of Group Dialectic

     All participants must learn the principles and processes of group dialectic and apply them in specific activities for a group to be successful. However, what's regarded as "successful" in other kinds of groups is not what Perennialist teachings point to. An enlightening group operates for the purpose of discovering the truth. That may seem simplistic, but it's actually complex and very demanding. Most contemporary groups not only do not have truth as their goal, but assume that there's no such thing as truth. Truth is currently viewed as Thrasymachus and other sophists in Plato's dialogues erroneously defined it: whatever a person or a group feels or thinks is true. People not only believe there is no "objective" truth, independent of opinion or force, but that no group, large or small, could ever possibly agree on what is true.

     So it should be clear that we're exploring a very different kind of reality: a group which works together to discover what is the truth for all members as a whole, agreeing on group values, goals, and modes of action. Such a group, when you experience one in operation, seems almost miraculous. Here are persons with very disparate backgrounds and experience all making sure that the issues important to the group are clearly defined and understood, that the important factors in the situations are brought out and recognized, that the possibilities as to what to do are stated and the real reasons for each felt, that the points of agreement are recognized and the differences understood and explored, that the discussion moves toward an integration of fact and opinion to a conclusion with which all agree. And then they make certain that attention is given to ways and means for putting the group decision into effect.

     From that description it may begin to be clear how exceptional group dialectic really is and what unusual understanding and skill it requires. This is a process which brings all persons involved into a group discussion and group decision-making situation, with the more able, the more mature cooperatively interacting with the less able and the less mature, in a process in which all have the full opportunity to contribute in proportion to their ability. In such advanced group discussions, participants come with open minds, expecting to receive new light on problems in working with others in search for viable group solutions.

     The ideas and proposals of each member of the group stimulate and modify the thinking of the others. When individual group members pool the knowledge and experience they have, more resources and more varied points of view are made available than when a single individual is thinking alone. Group members learn and develop as the group dialectic process continues, members sharing their thoughts and feelings with all the others, so their contributions increase in productivity and effectiveness.

Group Formation and Group Leadership

     An enlightening group is formed by a Perennialist teacher. The novices (beginning students) and initiates (advanced students) must learn the erudite principles and procedures of group dialectic. The teacher's responsibility is to organize the group, orchestrate the ongoing group operations, bring the group to successful realizations of goals and understanding, and make sure that members are experiencing personal transformation while at the same time gaining increased skill in group dialectic processes.

     The Perennialist teacher supervises the procedures of the group rather than dictating group conclusions and decisions. This is the catalytic element she interjects, encouraging the development of genuine freedom within the group as it learns to think and decide for itself. She sees that the novices and initiates develop skills in the various leadership processes, encouraging them to practice their skills in the ongoing operation. For example, an effective group of any type requires evaluation and monitoring: judging the effectiveness of specific participants and pointing out to them their counterproductive behaviors in reference to group process. The teacher encourages all participants to join in the evaluation and monitoring tasks, so she is not the only one carrying out these responsibilities, and the group quickly learns to evaluate and monitor itself.

     Group dialectic is a highly complex fusion of many processes: cooperating, discussing, forming consensus, making changes in ideas and attitudes, arriving at decisions and goals, agreeing on ways and means to carry out goals and decisions, and forming solidarity of a positive kind.

Group Discussion

     In group reasoning and decision-making, participants must freely share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings because it's necessary that each member of the group be aware of what the others are thinking and feeling. Consequently, group dialectic requires not only that the individuals consider the issues and questions, but that they share with each other the progress of their thinking.

     The group leader makes sure that all ideas from the participants come into the circle of discussion on an equal basis, not as cases to be defended but as possible parts of the whole truth. The attitude of an enlightening group toward an expressed idea or feeling is the same as that of a genuine scientist toward what appears as a piece of suggestive evidence. The scientist doesn't immediately reject it and think of ways to disprove it. He considers it objectively, giving it full weight and examining its possibilities.

      The enlightening group welcomes and encourages each suggestion, while at the same time drawing out its implications and subjecting those to evaluation. But all this is done in the manner in which scientific evidence is subjected to criticism: through impersonal, objective evaluation. An enlightening group has the earnest desire to see that it doesn't miss any contribution to the solution of the group issues or questions, no matter how unpromising they may seem when they first appear.

     Group discussion involves the statement of all relevant issues and problems, within a specific context, in relation to the concerns of the group members.

"In whatever form the problem faces the group, it is important first to recognize that it is not sufficient just to state the problem. Time must be taken for a description of the situation as it appears to various members of the group. It is not enough to open the discussion by a mere statement of the question. . . Even when the question is drawn sharply and is very specific, to go at once to discussion without time for understanding the issue in the setting it has for this particular group makes for needless argument and misunderstanding.

"A question for discussion always represents a problem in a setting. There are differences in the actual setting and in the importance given to the various factors by one group as compared to another. This is why that which is seemingly the same question is never the same for two groups in different situations or indeed for the same group at different times. . . A problem must always be considered as it manifests itself to the particular group facing it.

"There is another reason for taking time to describe the situation fully. If a group is to discuss a question in a rewarding manner, each person must not only be aware of the problem as it appears and feels to him but must also understand and feel it as it looks to the others in the group. The chairman does not know what the issue means to the members of the group, nor does any member of the group know what it means to the others, until there has been enough time for discussion so that there is this mutual understanding of the important factors in the situation and the problems involved. More than this, a description of the important factors means that various persons emphasize different factors until the situation and its problems come to take on meaning which they otherwise would not have. Unless time is taken really to develop the problem, important elements in the situation will be overlooked. . . . Further, no problem has fully the glow of life and reality until the group has taken time to describe the situation and come to feel the problem anew."

"These important factors in the situation become the tests to be applied to any solution to determine the degree to which it will seem to the group an answer to their problem. The search for the solution becomes the effort to meet the demands brought by these factors." 9

     Throughout the group discussion phase of the operation, the leader encourages participants to describe the issue or problem in the third person and without personal advocacy. Ideas are expressed objectively--"This appears to be a possible problem or solution"--instead of in personal language such as: "I believe" or "I propose." What the group is doing at this point is seeking to discover the best description of its problems, issues, and possible solutions, so participants can most effectively contribute through discriminating thoughts and suggestions. Using impersonal language in expressing their ideas, participants thus speak more objectively and at the same time more honestly, since their observations or suggestions are not seen as something they have to defend or advocate. An open-ended discussion involves participants avoiding early--or fixed--commitment to a point of view. Group dialectic involves modification of opinions and feelings as the process evolves.

     Participants propose descriptions and solutions while also indicating why they consider the factors mentioned to be important and viable. This allows for various points of view to emerge and for the issues and problems to be defined in a variety of ways. This process avoids turning the discussion into an argument or debate, instead, placing the proceedings on the plane of giving evidence for possible descriptions or solutions.

     At some point during the discussion the leader will provide a summary, so the group can view its accomplishments in an objective manner. The summary will include an outline of the ideas, issues, problems and proposals that have emerged. The important factors are highlighted so that now the group can focus on possible solutions to the problems identified and ways to evaluate those solutions. The summary points out areas of agreement and disagreement and recognizes unifying factors which have arisen during the discussion.


The Search for Solutions to Group Problems

     Following the summary of the proceedings, the group can begin to search for solutions to its identified problems.

"The chairman [or facilitator] must be sure to state the question of search for solution in relation to the summary of the first stage of the discussion so that it will be evident that it is not a general search for an answer to a general problem but a specific search for what to do in the situation under consideration. The point here is to be sure that every option or proposal which seems important to members of the group is recognized and considered, even though it may not seem important to the leader.

"It is important also to be sure that any proposals of which a group is ignorant but which might appeal, are brought before it in some way. The proposed courses of actions must include not only those which are live options because of the experience of the group, but others which have grown out of the richer experience of other groups in the past or present. In short, the group seeks to meet its particular situation in the light of the best experience to date in meeting similar situations. Any person making a proposal makes it because on the basis of experience it seems to him likely to work out effectively in this situation." 10

     Enlightening groups discover solutions which are for the members new-born, creative resolutions that arise out of the richness and versatility of the proposals brought before them. Originality and creativity in an enlightening group grow out of abundance rather than out of paucity of experience and thought.

     As this phase proceeds, the group eliminates those possible solutions which are not real options, combines proposals which seem viable, and narrows the options to the most likely possibilities. As the discussion proceeds, the reasons given for a particular proposal are not mere intellectual arguments but concrete considerations charged with the emotion of real life. Discussion of the proposals involves a prediction of the likely consequences and comparison of these possible outcomes. In other words, the group is forming hypotheses. The reasons for proposals are based on evidence out of experience or on predictions which have some foundation in reality. Proposals are tested by asking: Why does it appear that this possible solution would work out this way? What evidence is there in experience that this proposal would bring the results suggested?

     The group can now begin to finalize its efforts and come to a conclusion.

"All that has happened thus far in the discussion makes toward reaching a conclusion which will be considered best by all concerned and which will conserve the values and points of emphasis considered important. The conclusion includes always two parts: a decision as to a specific course of action which forms a definite answer to the problem; and the reasons that this has been chosen. It is 'what' we shall do, plus a 'why' we do it. The 'why,' the 'because,' represents the facts, the viewpoints, the goals or purposes on which the group is now united."

"Integration represents the result of the magnifying of differences, of seeking to bring out into the open every contribution, of attempt to build into the conclusion the very best of all.

"In reaching a conclusion, the group should search for some new alternative rather than merely make a choice from the possibilities which they saw when they began the discussion." 11

"Now the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I don't belong to the body,' does that alter the fact that the foot is a part of the body? Of if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye I don't belong to the body,' does that mean that the ear really is no part of the body? After all, if the body were all one eye, for example, where would be the sense of hearing? Or if it were all one ear, where would be the sense of smell? But God has arranged all the parts in the one body according to his design. For if everything were concentrated in one part, how could there be a body at all? The fact is there are many parts, but only one body. So that the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' nor, again, can the head say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body which have no obvious function are the more essential to health: and to those parts of the body which seem to us to be less deserving of notice we have to allow the highest honour of function. The parts which do not look beautiful have a deeper beauty in the work they do, while the parts which look beautiful may not be at all essential to life! But God has harmonised the whole body by giving importance of function to the parts which lack apparent importance, that the body should work together as a whole with all the members in sympathetic relationship with one another. So it happens that if one member suffers all the other members suffer with it, and if one member is honoured all the members share a common joy."

1 Corinthians 12:14-26

     The foregoing outline of the operations carried out by an enlightening group describes most--but not all--the processes of group dialectic. Ineffable alchemical, creative, and spiritual effects occur at the same time as the more easily explicable events.

The Alchemy of Group Symbiosis

     When an enlightening group reaches a consensus decision, an alchemical process has occurred. The "solution" contains all the original elements in the group, but they've been modified in the process--combined but not lost. Something entirely unique and unforeseen has appeared. All the original elements in the group have been included in the procedures and outcome. Certain dross has been eliminated. All valuable elements have been included in a solution which is actually something entirely new. The unified outcome is different from any single contribution and yet includes the best from all the ideas, proposals and solutions presented. The conclusion is not necessarily an either/or dichotomous selection, it may be a combination or something entirely new.

The Creative Element in Enlightening Groups

     It's impossible to understand the creative power of an enlightening group unless one has participated in the process.

"We need to see groups at work . . . to appreciate how the give and take of a pure discussion, which is not a debate, throws new light on old ideas, shifts emphases, corrects aberrations, and even softens emotional antagonisms. The die-hard debater ready to beat the world into submission finds that he is not facing opponents at all. The group is eager to get all that he has of value to contribute. A simple idea presented by a humble member is taken up with care and handled gently lest a promising infant be destroyed by too rough handling at the start. Such ideas caught up by the group grow to unexpected proportions, and make for cooperation in a search for truth. Groups made up of very ordinary people have proved essentially creative to a degree that could hardly have been hoped for beforehand." 12


The Spiritual Domain

     An enlightening group, through the direction of a Perennialist teacher, operates in the spiritual dimension.

"A group reaches the spiritual plane when it is conducting its discussion in a recognition of and a search to conserve the very highest and best the group knows.

"When a group is seeking most earnestly to find what is best or truest to their highest conception; and when they are doing this in a situation of real concern in a spirit of fellowship, there is indeed a high level of spiritual experience.

"The group becomes dynamically spiritual when the members are willing not only to search for a course of action which will be true to the highest values they have recognized and the deepest meanings that have come to life for them, but when they are willing to reexamine these values and search for still higher and better purposes.

"Something happens which is in the highest sense dynamic when a group in fellowship and in confidence lays hold of the previously unreleased resources within itself. At such a time there comes insight as to what to do, and strength and ability to carry out the purposes, which represent more than the mathematical total of the resources of the members of the group when taken separately. Such release of spiritual power is a manifestation of the divine resources all around us which are at the command of all those who in a group process meet the conditions of spiritual creativity." 13


     Enlightening groups are harbingers of an earthly commonwealth toward which we aspire and at the same time reveal a heavenly fellowship which already has being in a celestial realm.


"Even though the commonwealth described does not exist in the terrestrial domain, there is a model of it in the sovereignty of the higher realm for anyone who wants to look at it and make himself its citizen on the strength of what he sees. It makes no difference whether it is or ever will be somewhere in the terrestrial realm, for he takes part in the practical affairs of that commonwealth in the higher realm and no other."

Plato, Commonwealth X, 592b


     Because the destructive forces of tyranny and oppression seek to destroy all overt positive activities, enlightening groups led by Perennialist teachers operate somewhat "invisibly" at present. As the time arrives when new creative energies can help to build a commonwealth in which all human potential can be realized, the wisdom of these enlightening groups is now being made available to humankind. Part of the preparatory training for participation in enlightening groups is now being provided online.





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Notes:

1 The Perennial Tradition is the single stream of initiatory teaching flowing through all the great schools of mysticism and philosophy. It has taken many names over the centuries such as Hermeticism, Philosophia, Platonism, Esoteric Christianity, Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, Esotericism, Alchemy, Cabala, Magic, Sufism, and Illuminism, among others. For a complete explication of its ideas and practices, see the author's recent book The Perennial Tradition.

2 Symbiosis: joining together in a mutually beneficial relationship; unified, congruous

3 The word "sub-human" has been used by various groups as a mindless term of rejection: the Nazis depicting other European peoples as sub-human; some cultures referring to women as sub-humans; Hindu society depicting untouchables as sub-human, and so on. I am using the term only in a descriptive manner, referring to certain people as sub-human who have lost the ability to think critically, who possess no desire to understand the truth, and who have no compassion for their fellow-humans. Since those and other qualities are essential in true humans, their absence from these people renders them sub-human.

4 Harrison S. Elliott. (1938), The Process of Group Thinking, p. 6

5 Ibid, p. 18

6 "A one-house Assembly whose members were elected annually was made the seat of almost all power. The Assembly was required to function in open public sessions, and to keep full records. Legislation had to indicate its purpose clearly in the preamble, and except in emergencies had to be published and distributed publicly by the Assembly before it could be considered for enactment--but only by the next session of that body, after another election had been held.
"The office of governor and its veto power were eliminated in favor of a weak Supreme Executive Council of 12 members, four of whom were elected each year for three-year terms. Judges were elected for seven-year terms, but were made removable for cause by the Assembly. A council of Censors was to be elected every seven years to review the government's performance and recommended a new constitutional convention if changes in its structure or powers were required. The extent of popular control involved in such a system exceeds that of any American government before or since. Indeed, opponents at the time referred to it as 'mob government.'" Kenneth M. Dolbeare. Democracy at Risk, 1986

7 Harrison S. Elliott. (1938), The Process of Group Thinking, p. 9

8 Ibid, p. 12

9 Ibid, pp. 42-44

10 Ibid, p. 47

11 Ibid, pp 58, 59

12 Ibid, p. 8

13 Ibid, pp. 186, 187