Intercentricity (Part 2b): Examples – From pluralism and education to power and democracy

In my first post on this topic I introduced basic principles of intercentricity – a dynamic worldview of reciprocal aliveness. In the second, I explored how that worldview plays out in a number of different realms, including activism, love, spirituality & religion, greetings, and countries & cultures. In this post, Part 2b, I explore intercentricity in networks, pluralism & self-actualization, education, power, and deep & wise democracy.

Each exploration in yesterday’s and today’s lists is a semi-independent meditation which can be read by itself. You can pick which ones most interest you to read in whatever order you like. Or you can read the whole list at one sitting to get a better “feel” for what intercentricity is all about.

There’s nothing definitive here. It’s all exploration of a new perspective. I’m interested in any comments you have about it.

More than 80% of what’s written here is the same as what I wrote 30 years ago. The other 20% has been updated and enhanced. Enjoy.

– Tom


Networks are examples of social structures that are founded on centers and relationships instead of borders and separations. Therefore, many different networks can coexist in the same space. They are distinct at their centers but become increasingly mutually-permeating as they move outward to share common ground. Their rise in this century has helped counter the dominant boundedness of nation states.

Global computer networks and their information flows can be overwhelming for some of us due to their complexity, volume, and speed. But I wonder if perhaps that overwhelm derives not from the information itself, but from our efforts to embrace it all, to comprehend and make sense of it all, or to resist it — in short, our effort to objectify it, to manage it, to wrap it up in boxes with borders. What if that experience of overwhelm is our felt psychic resistance to flow and interrelationship: Having been conditioned to live in a world of clear and bounded objects, definitions and borders, we can feel disoriented when dropped into a borderless context of centers and dynamic interconnectivity.

I once heard of some city-bred kids who only knew of a few trees in a city park and who thus became disoriented when taken into the middle of a forest: Some freaked out and others started stepping on flowers and breaking branches. Their circuitry simply didn’t know how to handle the context. Nowadays we have young people who are technological natives, who have no problem living in the context and consciousness of networked worlds. Meanwhile many of their elders struggle.

As one of those elders, I feel the need to let go and flow in a more generally receptive and non-linear, non-grasping mode in order to relish and benefit from the resources of global networks. I suspect that the same advice would be good for me to take in relationship to many other aspects of my life and ways of thinking, feeling and being as I grow into the greater intercentricity of the Net.


It should be clear by now that both pluralism — respectful diversity — and self-actualization are well served by the intercentric perspective.

Who we are is actually who we are DEEPLY, not who we seem to be when others first see us. As we prejudicially categorize people, we make it difficult to see, newly and deeply, who they are. Viewing the world through category-colored glasses is what objectivity is all about. On the other hand, respect and authentic relationship are natural when we see the world inter centrically. We can look beyond surface labels and appearances to see people in their deeper uniqueness and broader context.

From the intercentric perspective, a person is understood primarily through contact with their unique spiritual center, their unique core values, their deepest beliefs, their life stories, and how they relate to the life around them. Intercentrically, such aspects of our being are paths to self-understanding, as well, and we can spend our whole lives exploring them, extending our understanding, clarifying and developing who we are. In our relationships we can help each other explore ourselves along these same paths, and in this way effectively help and come to know each other. Within the society around us, we can find and create environments and institutions that facilitate such paths of discovery and knowing, and we can choose such environments over those that degrade or distract us from real discovery and relationship, and in that way help our societies mature.


Objective education is based on implanting pre-selected facts, skills, attitudes and behaviors into the supposedly empty vessel of a student, or manipulating the plastic “student body” into a form determined by the manipulators (educators). Intercentric education is based on facilitating self-knowledge, knowledge of one’s place in the web of life, and what’s involved in intelligent, reciprocal, co-creative relationships with the world.

Objective education starts from curricula. Intercentric education starts from the students and the lives they are leading and want to lead and their potential aliveness and contribution in the context of greater Life. Intercentric education respects them, wants to make their unconscious nature more conscious and accessible, more free and able, and their roles and relationships more alive and collaborative.

Objective education always knows where it is going. Intercentric education is more exploratory, moving along with the students where their hearts and minds are called (by inner urgings) to move, in their own time. Intercentric education does not direct, but rather offers students an option-rich environment and encourages them to create even more options, inviting them into heart-to-heart connections and alive contexts that are themselves filled with learnings.

But just as students are not blank slates or empty vessels to be filled, they also often arrive with habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that can undermine intercentricity. Intercentric and objective educational strategies overlap when educators share understandings and, especially, questions, challenges, exercises and stories that counter or challenge dominant assumptions of separateness and prejudice and/or which introduce exemplary alternatives, not just as lessons to learn, but as realms to explore for deeper understanding of intercentricity and its potential applications. This becomes important to the extent that students have been so imbued with alienating assumptions and behaviors that they can barely step outside the puzzle they are trapped in, even for a moment. Educators can alert them to the puzzle and give them bridges out so they can begin truly productive self-motivated explorations.

Everything said here about education applies as well to child rearing and to the lifelong learning of us all. And this subject of education leads us, interestingly enough, into the subject of power.


Power is the word we use to describe our ability to influence our environment. The more influence we have, the more power we are said to have.

Intercentric power involves eliciting cooperation from the intrinsic nature of things and people. It views entities not as inertial objects which require a kick of energy before they’ll cooperate, but as active sources of cooperation, if provided with the right conditions. Most important among those conditions is an appreciation (at least understanding, if not valuing) of who or what the entities we want to work with really are, including (intercentrically) their energies and relationships with the world around them, including us.

Certain plants, cultivated together, supply each other with nutrients or protection, eliminating the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Certain tasks uniquely fit certain people, reducing the need for monitoring, pep-talks and incentives. Certain building materials and structural arrangements tap the unique powers of sun and earth, thus reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling of homes and offices.

This understanding lies at the heart of permaculture, the study and practice of natural design, of placing things in synergistic relationships that minimize the need for importing energy and attention from outside the design. Permaculture design is about the weaving generative relations among the essential nature and aliveness of things

Interestingly enough, even coercive power works only because of intercentricity. The mugger who says, “Give me your money or I’ll shoot!” gets compliance only because the victim values his or her life and is thus motivated from within to cooperate. A gun will not elicit cooperation from a person with a higher cause than bodily survival, or who has no will to live.

Civil disobedience is a form of personal and collective empowerment that taps into this understanding: individuals reconnect to their own center (conscience, inner voice) as the source of their motivation, reclaiming their power from external things which, in fact, have little power when deprived of cooperation – and then use that power of self-connection to engage others in connecting to the deeper parts of themselves and the more profound roles they could be playing in the world with greater understanding and empathy.

This seems similar to – but is profoundly different from – manipulative powers like advertising and propaganda that simply channel existing motivations in directions that are of use to the manipulator.

Perhaps as much as 90% of the effectiveness of coercive and manipulative power rests on the active cooperation of those over whom it is exercised. To the extent those people find their centers and become more conscious of their relations with themselves, each other, and the world around them, such active cooperation will evaporate, leaving the coercers and manipulators stranded. This is an important component of the theory (at least) of nonviolent social change.


Intercentric democracy (otherwise known as “deep democracy” or “wise democracy”) is characterized by a recognition of universal, inevitable participation (we all are participating in the world and society simply by doing and not doing whatever it is we are and aren’t doing), and by valuing and utilizing the creative potential of unique, individual viewpoints (as in deep consensus process where people together come up with the best decision they can, often one unsuspected at the outset of discussions).

Wise democracy’s most fundamental principle is “to evoke and engage the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole.” Both the wisdom and the resourcefulness of “the whole” are deeply rooted in the centers of people and of Life and in the nature of their interconnectedness with each other and whatever the issue is that they’re dealing with.

The idea of deep democracy is solidly rooted in intercentricity. “Universal participation” is actually talking about the fact that we are all related to everything around us. And “utilization of viewpoints” is actually talking about the creative power of the human spirit (center), and how our unique personal histories and experiences enable us to make contributions to decision-making that no one else can, contributions that would be lost if they were always reduced to a vote or totally ignored.

Voting, the essence of shallow democracy, is eminently materialistic (objective/subjective). It limits and quantifies both options and human experience so they can be manipulated. You vote for a candidate, for example, from a pool of candidates which you had little say in creating — and your vote grossly oversimplifies and restricts the scope of your capacity to express yourself and respond creatively. Public opinion polling similarly warps reality. It mimics the negative effects of advertising, creating an image of public opinion that does not elicit, arise out of, or reflect either the complex web of connections that adhere to any issue or the personal complexity, aliveness and creativity of the interviewees.

Random selection can bypass the shallow categories and appearances of people (like demographics) and creates space for them to show up as themselves with an invitation (under the mandate of being on a citizen council of some kind) to tap into the best that their unique spirit, understanding, and interactivity have to offer. This contrasts with selection/election contests where appearances and categories largely replace essence and real relationship.

These thoughts suggest that intercentricity provides a useful lens for evaluating and envisioning political and governance arrangements.


There are obviously dozens of other topics in which we could explore what intercentricity looks like in action. So I view this list as just a taste of what I can see here and now at the start of my own explorations. So much more is possible for and with us all…


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