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enter subtitle (sic)
Q: What is an “interdividual” ?
I. Tiny Prologue
During the final campfire session appended to my recent online course for the Parallax Academy (entitled DEUS EX MYCELIA: Nonduality in the Network Age) one of the participants read us a beautiful long poem. He had composed this sublime lyric to celebrate the surprisingly deep, trustworthy & tender intersubjective spirit that our cohort had rapidly succeeded in co-generating. After the reading, there was some appreciative discussion. Most of it orbited around the way in which the poem seemed to both reify & amplify the poet’s unique individuality while also seeming to be a shared expression of the group’s shimmering pop-up soul.
It was during this discussion that I quite literally heard the word “interdividual” burst inwardly as though it were a resonating gong struck in the recesses of my mind.
Or was it our mind?
A quick online search revealed that this word is already in use among a small number of mimetic psychologists and quantum theorists (sic). They are using it as a thought tool pointing toward ways in which we are socially, and even physically, part of many reciprocal and collaborative information streams. As opposed to having fixed and isolated singular identities.
That’s not too far from what I mean by the term. However, I will stand with my own peculiar sense of its meaning. What I want this word to do is help clarify and invigorate the emergent scene (that has apparently utterly enslaved me) by familiarizing us more deeply with the quasi-mythic sense of our blended identity possibilities.
Just like this guy:
II. Transpersonal Agency & Communion
Interdividual is a word that synergizes three other words: individuality, dividuality & interbeing. Let’s take them one at a time.
An INDIVIDUAL is a metaphysical concept describing a unique affective and behavioral signature associated with a particular sapient neuro-organism. It is the spiritual and philosophical cousin of the way that our physical organs are permeably isolated within a skin membrane.
We are physically and metaphysically distinct from our environment and other beings. (Forget for a moment thatbreath, pheromones, electric fields, food, phylogenetic extensions, etc. constantly ignore this so-called skin membrane. Keep it simple.)
Individuality essentializes and epitomizes the collaborations that occur within a given informational boundary. This is very useful. It also has tremendous beauty and dignity. Sacred individuality extends naturally into the ethical notions of personal autonomy, empowerment and agency.
A DIVIDUAL, on the other hand, is the recognizition of the non-essentialist adaptive plurality of the human psyche and all things.
Instead of “a” self we have a glorious symphony (or cacophony) of selves. The different contexts in which our enactments are embedded are always evoking different relational selves that each pretends to be an individual — until this is corrected by a sincerely ironic, trans-pluralistic self-awareness appropriate to the post-psychoanalytic bio-digital/mycelial age. Wow. Those are great words.
We are also dividual in the sense that we sense ourselves, at a primitive existential level, via a looped awareness that first passes through the Other/Not-Self and then returns to grant us the status of an experiencer.
Humans are deeply relational beings both inside & out. When we are carefully mindful of our neuropsychological inner life it appears to consist of various subjectively-active information systems operating in diverse conditions of collaboration or antagonism.
Yet while dividuality seems more appropriate to the multilateral schizophrenia of the network age, nonetheless the distinction between dividual & individual can never be totally absolute. Speaking from my typical vantage point as a promoter of the nondualist metaphysics of adjacency, it seems we can never get away from the many-one.
After all, it is “I” who am plural. “Each” of us is “a” multiple dividual. You and I are singular examples of a fluid interactive plurality whose inner states of adequate teamwork elicit all those beautiful effects ascribed traditionally to the spiritualized individual. In/dividuality is a reciprocal open boundary.
And INTERBEING was an evocative term used by the sage Thich Nhat Hanh to describe the Buddhist principle of interdependent co-arising. A rich understanding of Buddhist insight does not propose that all forms are illusory or empty but, rather, that all forms always only operate in tandem via mutually-changing interstitial conditions. Creative relationality is the primary ontology. The Divine, so to speak, is an omnipresent in-betweenness.
Whew. I’m glad we got that cleared up!
So the main ethical and orienting concept here is that our goal — and our deep nature — is simultaneously about autonomy & communion. We are looking for practices, communities and ways of being-in-the-world that can optimize for both. This may seem tricky. However, it could also be viewed as much simpler than choosing between them. A project is often EASIER to attain if it has a more specific set of design constraints. It certainly simplifies things by removing many options and leaving only those few which meet our hybrid specification.
Here’s Alex Gray’s painting, Interbeing :
III. Intra-subjects in Collaboration w/ Inter-subjects
We were just saying that that the interdividual is the simultaneous amplification of qualities that increase the effects of individuality & the competent participation in satisfying collective fields which depend upon de-essentializing our individuality. I know, I know. That’s a tough sentence. We could say that in a different way:
The interdividual is a creative continuum between the interactive networks within a sapient organism (intra-subjects) and interactive networks between sapient organisms (inter-subjects).
Well at least you heard it two different ways. Now it can more potently infect your subconscious…
I was saying that a kind of “surplus coherence” emerges where there is adequate harmonization between internal subsystems AND this tends to blend with the surplus coherence that emerges among attuned, responsive participants in trustworthy we-space practices.
All of that, and the charmed generativity associated with it, is what I mean by the word interdividual.
My observation is that such interdividuality can be cultivated by certain methods among certain self-selected and mutually vetted people. It can do something like growing and unfolding. As it does this it seems to elicit its own edges cases and tensions that can be productively processed within the non-suppressive communion. It may also begin to reflectivity behold itself, peer into its own processes and generate ideas and actions out of the blended affect of the participants — and these prompts cannot be strongly isolated to either an individual or the collective.
The field seems to do this in ways that make the individuals more vivid and distinct. Perhaps even nudging them toward taking up particular roles as the field tentatively explores its possible tribe-like instantiations?
I also note with pleasure that this produces a kind of “spirituality” that can be equally considered as a growth model & a nondual approach. Interdividual praxis appears as an increase of depth and capacity accompanied by the realization of an implicit fluidity of identity.
And, oddly but importantly, this whole affair seems to privilege embodiment and ecology.
Hold on. Long sentence alert. Ready?
So I would propose that this interdividuality is both (a) an adaptation of spirituality to the interlinked age (in which digital, mycelial, social, neural & other information-energy networks become the ongoing lens and recurrent discovery of civilised life in the bio-informational epoch) AND it is also (b) the retroactively postulated nature of archaic human cultural patterns insofar as they have ever been able to organically religionize, becoming capable of sustaining collective action that qualitatively exceeds mobs and states in its variegated distribution of additional motivation & apotheotic mutual appreciation via cultivated and protected spaces of beauty, ensoulment, healing, human maturational process, collaborative ritual and actually satisfying projects both domestic and social.
Where have I seen that before?
We might whimsically describe this as “turquoise community” if we pretend to accept quasi-mythic, pop culture versions of developmental stage theories that describe the stacked mutations of human worldviews and justification systems.
We’re in pretty deep now. I had another whole sequence of ideas that I wanted to introduce here concerning the interplay of stages but I realize that most of you don’t spontaneously talk the way I do — and what’s been covered already is probably enough for one sitting.
After all, the premise of this substack is that it tries to introduce a single idea each time under the cover of answering a question that has been posed to me recently.
I’ll only add that these turquoise communities, whether discretely pop-up or continuously re-instantiated, embodied or virtual, are autonomy-oriented collaboratives of sincere irony who communicate supportively across stylistic diversity and multiple traditions, constantly adjusting and learning, shining forth, experimentally attuning and ritualizing and operating fluidly across domains of serious inner practice, ecological magick, intense cognitive work, therapeutics, support, pleasure and mutual resourcing. The ubiquitous presence of rational and intuitive modes, used together, coupled with secure, rapid oscillation between distinct affective tones (affording a productive communication in a language that incorporatively flips into its opposites at high frequency) makes interdividuals both opaque to external observers and admirable to them in various ways.
Of course, this all might depend also on being good intra-dividuals and infra-dividuals as well, but that’s for another liminal day.
The separator is the connector.
If you’ve read this far — your poor thing — here’s Bo Burnham’s haunting, humorous and provocative metamodern ode to the apocalpytarian strangeness in which we now live and in which we must find ways to cultivate the intimacy and integration fields that can be antifragile for our strange new (and possibly archaic) conditions. You may have heard me reference this song before but I think this time “that funny feeling” refers both to the oddity of the world-condition AND the robust sweetness of the emerging interdividual enactments. Fingers crossed.