living the spiritual experience


“If we attend to our daily life we will notice we say that we have a spiritual experience when, in the emotion of awe or wonder, we become aware that we feel that we belong to, or are part of, a wider realm of connectedness than that of our immediate locality. It is the emotions that guide the actions that arise as a consequence of the awareness of the expansion of the consciousness that one is part of a wider, or even overwhelmingly wide realm of connectedness, what gives its character to what begins in our living with the spiritual experience. What usually happens, is that the well-being that arises in the experience of connectedness that we call a spiritual experience, entails the awareness that we belong to a loving realm of existence that accepts us in the simplicity of our natural being.”

Maturana H. R. 2005 The origin and conservation of self-consciousness: Reflections on four questions by Heinz von Foerster.
Kybernetes  34(1–2): 54–88

double look

As we reflect on something we can sometimes hold it as two different perspectives on the same thing that are not really incongruous, but rather deepen our understanding.  For example we can regard the domains of inner and outer, autopoiesis and adaptation, or the experience of seeing oneself as both an element and context, both miniscule and immense.  Perhaps the words “everything and nothing” most closely conveyd what I wish to connote as the ground of spiritual experience, as I live that experience.

Presumably we can have multiple looks, but I myself find regarding two domains simultaneously takes much attention.  In systemic thinking domains are not thus distinguished, though one or more may be implicitly present.  Perhaps it is easier to grasp many potentials before we impose a conscious distinction.

the ordinary extraordinary

What we name ordinary, and often take for granted, is always, on reflection awesome, when regarded with appreciation and thankfulness.  It is relatively easy to be thankful for those gifts of the cosmos we require to live, our food, clean water, warmth - or those things we find ourselves unaccountably fortunate to receive, such as the friendship and love of those we wish to be near.  

We can also approach other things that we often take for granted in our lives with such appreciation, everything from the ease of disposing of wastes, to the existence of the sun, the beauty of a sparrow or a slug.  I think many religions resonate in our capacity for appreciating ordinary extraordinary, and thriving in such appreciation.  Prayer, as I understand it, is often an space and time people grant themselves for engaging in this wonder and thankfulness.


As we reflect on what is happening in our modern world, we have become deeply concerned about the changes we, as an invasively expanding species, are bringing about for the biosphere.  Like other expanding populations, we may yet outstrip the capacity of the earth to sustain us.  Many, myself included, believe that we are already too many, but here I am skirting a whole constellation of further topics that are not currently intended to be included in this website. 

evolution of humanness

Evolution happens.  Evolution is happening even now, it is not something in the past.  Evolution is taking place in many species, including our own.  We can distinguish changes in form, in physiology, in our genome as well as in our behaviour and our psychic space.  All of these influence our manner of living.   I think it would be great hubris to presume we know where the evolution of a complex systemic network will lead.  Similarly I think it is arrogance to assume we have attained, or will attain some higher order of existence.  We are different than other mammals on this planet, and one of our differences is the degree to which we can reflect on the consequences of what we do. 

Thus we can come to a stance of radical responsibility, but in so doing we must not loose our sense of autonomy and our willingness to live as loving wise and reflective beings, able to live a life that is experienced as beautiful.  If thus we live, then thus we may also become as a species.  And that would have different consequences for our home, this earth.


Each one of us can formulate some token that for us evokes a whole network or matrix or a systemic existence in a systemic biosphere and cosmos.   Such tokens are sometimes called “touchstones” as we touch them they touch us.  I have included an image of a rosary, only to remind us that there are many traditions of using simple objects to evoke complex understandings.

I have made for myself a little touchstone that fits in the palm of my hand.  The image is Maturana’s little drawing of an autopoietic system in structural coupling with its niche.  But for me it evokes much more than this biological notion.   I see embedded in my thinking, my being, reciprocal change in any relation.  I see love and reflection.  I see domains arising and dissipating.  I see flow, and I see simple daily engagement.  My touchstone, when I regard it in open reflection, opens the possibility of further reflection; hence mystery and surprise and change to myself ... who after am also a living system changing in conversation and reflection, according to the emotioning I live.

rosary found on the 16th century carrack “Mary Rose” (Wikimedia Commons)

conservation and change

I end this page with a question I have asked before, as it is one that has no final answer though we may live a whole lifetime with an answer we like.

What is it that you conserve in your living such that all else can change around what you are conserving?

Robert Duras

What I do wish to bring up, as a topic for thought and discussion, is the question of what is being sustained as we speak of, and act towards sustainability.  What is the difference between preserving something, or acting to increase its robustness, and its resilience.  And even with those choices of action, the question of what should be robust, and what should be resilient, to what perterbations has not really been adequately included in most conversations on the topic.