Nora Bateson
Creating A Living Co-Learning Community
with Nora Bateson
Recording Available

Our final seminar in the symposium features a dialogue with Nora Bateson. Nora’s profound and visionary work centers around an idea that she has named symmathesy. Using the art of symmathesy, we see that reality is made up of a multitude of overlapping, co-learning relationships. I was introduced to Nora’s work through her film An Ecology of Mind and, through her work, I have been introduced to a profound vision of how everything is always learning in relationship with everything it comes in contact with.

Our dialog began with a discussion about how all agency is contextual. That means that the choices that we make are always influenced and shaped by the context within which we make them. A new kind of contextual understanding is necessary for us to navigate successfully through the deeply interconnected reality that we live in. Nora speaks about this as the "paradox of agency".

She states clearly that we must remain in the uncertainty of paradox, not knowing how much our choices are truly our own and how much they are being dictated to us by circumstances and influences that we might not even be aware of. This means that we must keep zooming in to look at our choices in isolation and zooming out to see the context within which they are being made. The capacity to zoom in to look at specifics in isolation and zoom out to look at the context is an essential skill for the future of humanity.

As the conversation develops, we speak about the idea of symmathesy and how it can be practiced so that we can develop a new kind of contextual sensitivity. We mention how the core practices of any mystery school involve entering into the unknown in ways that open our senses to unseen possibilities. We go on to explore how our ideas about reality are fused directly into our experience of reality. In order to move beyond our current perception of reality, we must enter the liminal space that lies beyond what we think we know.

Symmathesy is a way of seeing that will allow us to see more clearly forward into the future. And to do this, Nora explains, we must learn to look less for the effects things have upon each other and more for the ways things are affected by each other. In other words, we could say that in order to see into the future clearly, it is more important to feel reality than to understand how it works. Developing a more sensitive way of perceiving will be essential to move into a new paradigm.

Our conversation also addressed the workings of a school and we explored how a new kind of school would be structured and organized to unleash powerful co-learning and co-evolutionary potentials. There is an art to creating a new kind of learning environment and we share a mutual thrill about establishing such a school of new paradigm learning.

This dialog is accompanied by three additional resources. A written review of Nora Bateson’s film An Ecology of Mind, as well as an audio clip of Nora explaining how to think about contexts of mutual learning, and finally an audio recording of Dr. Timothy Morton explaining how far from our current reality we might need to go in order to save our world.

Nora Bateson’s conception of symmathesy, and her vision of life as a multitude of co-learning relationships, is a powerful model that is being incorporated into the structures and organization of The Mystery School for a New Paradigm.

Creating A Living Co-Learning Community with Nora Bateson


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Contemplations
1.

In this seminar with Nora Bateson, she introduces a new way of perceiving reality that she calls symmathesy. We’ve been trained to look at life in terms of the effects that things have, but symmathesy re-trains us to see how everything is being affected by the elements of its environment. According to Nora, we need to be less concerned with the effect that things have, and more sensitive to how the context is affecting everything in it. Nora speaks about developing the ability to alternate between zooming in on specifics, and zooming out onto the context.

Spend a few minutes practicing going back and forth between zooming in and zooming out. This morning I was at a coffee shop. I zoomed in and watched what one of the baristas was doing, then I zoomed out and became aware of how she was being affected by ao many elements of the environment. Try this with something or someone in your proximity going back and forth between zooming in and zooming out.

How does your perception of the situation change after doing this for even a few minutes?

2.

Nora Bateson like her father Gregory Bateson, sees living systems as co-learning communities where everything is constantly communicating and at the same time constantly growing. All of the growth in the system is shaped by the communications, and the communications are influenced by the growth that is occuring. In his book Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson gave a simple example of a living system - a thermostat. The lowering temperature of a room makes a metal filament in the thermostat bend until it completes an electrical circuit and turns the heat on. As the temperature rises, the filament bends in the opposite direction until the circuit is broken and the heat turns off. Information about the temperature of the room is constantly being communicating to the thermostat and the thermostat is then influencing the temperature of the room. This cycle of communication is the essence of any living system.

Using this model see how many living systems you can identify in your immediate surroundings.

Can you see that if you broaden your understanding of communication, soon everything appears to be in constant communication with everything else?

Nicolya Christi
Nora Bateson

Nora Bateson is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator, as well as President of the International Bateson Institute, based in Sweden. Her work asks the question “How we can improve our perception of the complexity we live within, so we may improve our interaction with the world?”.

An international lecturer, researcher and writer, Nora wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary, An Ecology of Mind, a portrait of her father, Gregory Bateson. Her work brings the fields of biology, cognition, art, anthropology, psychology, and information technology together into a study of the patterns in ecology of living systems. Her book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, released by Triarchy Press, UK, 2016 is a revolutionary personal approach to the study of systems and complexity.

As an educator she has developed curricula for schools in Northern California and produced and directed award winning multimedia projects on intercultural and ecological understanding. Her work, which has been presented at the world’s top universities, is described as “offering audiences a lens through which to see the world that effects not only the way we see, but also the way we think”. Nora’s work in facilitating cross-disciplinary discussions is part of her research into what she calls “the ecology of the conversation”. Her speaking engagements include keynote addresses and lectures at international conferences and universities on a wide range of topics that span the fields of anti-fascism, ecology, education, the arts, family therapy, leadership, and many more aspects of advocacy for living systems — she travels between conversations in different fields bringing multiple perspectives into view to reveal larger patterns.

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Community Engagement Exercise

Please use the comment section below to describe an insight that you had as a result of listening to today's dialog or thinking about the contemplation questions.

Once you have shared your comment please respond to one comment that was left by another participant.

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Adriana Colotti
Adriana Colotti
1 year ago

Glorious dialogue! For me that it is almost 20 years that I teach and facilitate for people how to live energetically aware and bridge with the context of conscious evolution it is really ambrosia to listen to Nora and her symmanthesy as it gives me new language to communicate and corroborate the mutual learning context of life. I feel also very reassured when you speak or coin the term of trans contextual sensitivity that reflects the multidimensionality with which I view us as people in the living context. As a bridge of light I feel myself to be I am… Read more »

Dave Stuhlbarg
Dave Stuhlbarg
1 year ago

This is very inspiring and REAL! The notion that this art of education emerging is a living process. The Interconnected Living Education!
This open source learning environment that shares, generates, circulates, and grows is awesome!!
The Magic of Presence.

Kathy Andrews
Kathy Andrews
1 year ago

I had some concept that I would do the ‘zooming in and zooming out’ exercise described in #1 above, then have something cogent and brief to report. I laid here on the couch for the past 20 minutes shifting back and forth, noticing that i am calm and can concentrate here in my living room, and sensing how things shift subtly when I recognizing the affect of the way the room is…then shifting to noticing the difference between effect and affect in a number of circumstances I find I myself in during the week. Difficult to describe, but the difference… Read more »

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

Because many of these talks are complex, it’s difficult to synthesize them into something understandable, but I think that’s exactly the point. Nora Bateson said (this is my interpretation) that trying to solve the paradox is not the way to produce new ways of thinking and doing. Jeff, by presenting so many different oints of view and ideas this week, you have created rich soil for growing the mystery school. It has been an exciting week!

Dave Stuhlbarg
Dave Stuhlbarg
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan

Yes! Not just growing ~ but Blossoming with beauty beyond the senses!

Majio
Majio
1 year ago

Nora Bateson’s work in particular impactful on what is engaging my work in relation to mutual learning in a studio setting where our influence on each other is so obvious. The challenge, of course, is the resistance of the paradigm as sole agents. But we see again and again that it is more creative and innovative when we suspend that personal centrality. Warm data is new to me but extremely relevant in regard to an extension to art on Jeffrey Kripal’s thoughts on text.

Cary Richman
Cary Richman
1 year ago

I was just integrating the discussion, which took some mental acuity, which was such an enjoyable exercise; & then it ended! It needed quite a bit longer…. I hope when she returns as a contributing teacher, that it can be a rather long session, not because I imagined there would be “the answer”, but because it would be incredibly productive I feel, to tease out some possible directions that may be taken, stemming from the matrix of thought Nora & Jeff laid out together.

Parishe Maxwell
Parishe Maxwell
1 year ago

I love her passion and the open nature of her curiosity around “How did they learn to be like that?” I so align with that way of looking at the World as we know it. Where is the Shift? Where is it happening? Great questions. We have chaos and disorder, without a clear vision of consciousness in the new dimension.
Yet, A daily Prayer that we will make it. This kind of deep conversation around living systems is valuable beyond words. I will listen to it often.

Mark Otteneberg
Mark Otteneberg
1 year ago

Fantastic!! Nora is exactly where I’m headed! SO wonderful to be able to jump into what I need to restructure my mind’s perspective instead of having to create (puzzle it out) it as I go. This is where our (sorry… systems 😉 thinking (given my background/contextuality) needs to go in order to start to frame the large problems this world is facing. Having done a lot of internal work, the warm-data / contextuality of reframing and the inherent paradoxology involved is not a new or bothersome problem, rather just a cleaned up extension of what I have already been finding.… Read more »

Ed Hirsch
Ed Hirsch
1 year ago

Yes, I like the introduction of systems theory, which introduces something on the order of meta-theory, stepping back from various intellectual standpoints to see a larger view that can even embrace paradox. Of course, as otherwise it would be pushing some ideology and not a “Mystery” School (!). At the same time, to me it seems that Mystery Schools were basically about a transformation or conversion of the heart and mind (metanoia). They go together, like Love and Wisdom, but for the sake of emphasis, I would vote for the heart. In fact, I would say Heart, so as not… Read more »

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

I see what you are trying to do. You’re trying to create a learning environment that doesn’t duplicate the blind spots that you are trying to get out of.

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

I just can’t take enough notes to keep up with the gems in this dialog.

Mark Otteneberg
Mark Otteneberg
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Carreira

I put it on my phone to relisten to in those moments waiting for the doctor, walking the dog, etc. Maybe a transcript of this one is in order…

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

The liminal zone is that place between chaos and order.

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

Being more sensitive is the key. How are our senses coming into play in our efforts to make sense of the world?

Mark Otteneberg
Mark Otteneberg
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Carreira

I hadn’t thought of using senses as a perspective to help in describing the whole or (relationships between the) parts of a complex system, but knowing how often I work with People Systems as Complex Systems, I think this is especially a good way to both individualize AND to functualize the descriptions in a way that will make regaining the moment of clarity in the descriptions memorable and easy to return to.

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

The paradox of agency. When we look at contextual agency there is a paradox. We are unique individuals with unique perceptions that are uniquely ours. In that sense we have individual agency, but if I try to identify which aspects of me make me unique we find that none of them originate in me — they are all contextual. It is best not to try to solve the paradox. It is most productive to leave it open.

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

I find Nora Bateson a joy to listen to. She is so articulate.

Jeff Carreira
Admin
1 year ago

Our society is geared toward attaining efficiency and effectiveness by identifying problems and solving them. Rather than looking for problems, we can ask “How did this person/circumstance learn to be the way that it is?”

Louise Raven
Louise Raven
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Carreira

Raising children prenatally affected by alcohol and drugs has made me take the path of ‘How or why is this happening’ rather than a judgment of the action. It does apply to all of life.

Mark Otteneberg
Mark Otteneberg
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Carreira

And, how would that person/circumstance/action be different given even the tinyest or largest change in the environment or decision or random happening at any given point in the temporal path?? What is the range of current effect and affect that any given a variant of effect or affect at any point along that path?? 😉