Coherence and Cohesion
At a two-week workshop I recently attended I learned about the distinction between coherence and cohesion. Increasingly, I’m finding the idea and experience of coherence as a meaningful way to describe our experience of G_d or Source. Essentially, when John’s gospel speaks of Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” what is meant is that Jesus was what coherence looks like in the human experience. It is the unimpeded flow of G_d, Wholeness, Life Force through our body, mind, soul. Taoism speaks of the “wayless way”.
When I’m in a state of coherence I am grounded in my body. I’m at rest, but alert. I feel safe. I feel resourced (re-Sourced), and supported for the challenges of life. I feel an intrinsic intimacy with life, with my partner, and with all creation. My higher brain is not being recruited in the service of fear, (when it is I am in a state of vigilance), but rather by love. There is a knowing that is higher than, but inclusive of reason—what the Jude0-Christian lineage calls Wisdom. I am the part that pre-senses, and then presences the Whole. Needless to say, I spend less time in this coherent state than I would like. But I’ve tasted it and I’m sure that you have to. Athletes call it being in the zone.
The key is feeling safe enough and supported enough to drop into it.
A word about support. Most of us, myself included, function without enough support. Because of my particular personality, I learned not to need. Or rather my need went underground, and manifested in unconscious and unhelpful ways. At this workshop, I experienced what it was like to have the unconditional support and resourcing of a whole community. I resisted it for a long time, because to feel this much support, is to finally feel safe enough and resourced enough to get at one’s compensation patterns. One of mine was the early experience, and then the subsequent unconscious belief, that I didn’t really belong in this world. With support the pain and the isolation that was the result of my particular compensation pattern over a lifetime surfaced with a flood of tears. In the modality that this workshop was using this support is called the “surround”, and I got to set up my surround (all the people present) exactly how I wanted. I had three hours to simply feel the support of the surround which made it safe enough for me to move beyond my early patterning, and drop in to a state of coherence—which felt like deep rest, deep enough from some re-patterning to begin. By the end of the experience, I was being shifted into coherence.
Physicist Henri Bortoft distinguishes between authentic wholes and the counterfeit wholes. The latter is closer to what is meant by “cohesion”. If you think about glue or sticky tape, used to hold stuff together, you’ll get the idea. The cohesive self is stuck together by compensation patterns, which were brilliant, life-saving, and unconscious compromises we made in order to survive. Counterfeit wholes, including counterfeit selves, are constructed, says Bortoft, “by attempting to stand back from the parts to get an overview” and then trying to put the parts together like leggo. (My analogy not Bortoft’s). This is a bit like trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and it results in what we call our personality—our adapted self. And remember, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” This is the cohesive self. Cohesion is trying to make a whole by piling up separate parts.
But the authentic whole is accessible only by “directly going into the various parts and intuitively seeing the wholeness”. The authentic whole is not actually visible, except through the parts, and if those parts (as it relates to human psychology) are the very ones that we have dissociated from, it takes courage to go into them. But if we do, (with sufficient support and resourcing), the Whole (coherency) will reveal itself, and will begin to re-organize the self by the power of the coherent and primordial Whole. We will differentiate from the compensation patterns, and realize that we have those patterns, (which we may employ consciously when needed) but they don’t have us.
Notice the passive nature language, “the whole will reveal itself”. Our agency is found in the willingness to go into the fragmented parts, the painful experiences and the double-binds that required a strategic compromise. But from within these split off parts the coherent or authentic Whole reveals itself, and will help us find our way back to a coherent self.
In evolutionary spirituality, like all forms of spirituality, there is a danger of spiritual by-passing. The “evolutionary impulse” and all other such language can be evoked as a kind of heroic attempt to transcend the cohesive self. But increasingly I’m thinking that there are no short-cuts. The only way to authentically experience evolution is to make conscious all those compensation patterns and blocks to love, agency, self-expression, and go forward with coherence leading the way and not cohesion.
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