The Twelve Phases of Structural and Cultural Metamorphosis

Craig Chalquist, PhD

“As long as a disequilibrium condition is maintained or increases, and as long as amplifications of departures from equilibrium become rife in the system, and as long as the system is constrained to hold all of this energy, more and more experiments will be tried until a threshold is reached--an unpredictable moment when the entire system may shift.”
- Goldstein, Hazy, and Lichtenstein

“Force can always crush force, given sufficient superiority in strength or skill. It cannot crush ideas. Being intangible they are invulnerable, save to psychological penetration, and their resilience has baffled innumerable believers in force.”
– Liddell Hart

This model derives from a deep study of religious and political history, Systems/Complexity Theory, depth psychology, archetypal mythology, eradigmatics, and several other disciplines. The core insight for transrevolutionaries--those who encourage the evolution (not revolution) of mature, resilient, and self-reflective social systems--comes down to this: If you can’t beat ‘em, transform ‘em by receiving, tending, and spreading creative new visions of community.

  1. Nonmaterial forms organize complex systems. Every dynamic system is the material expression of its pattern of organization (Fritjof Capra). Systems large and small are ultimately shaped not by fixed roles or plans, but by invisible, intangible patterns (archetypes, motifs, meanings, images).
  2. Systemic problems are not correctable without structural change. Ongoing problems like wars, political corruption, racism, sexism, and ecocrisis cannot be repaired because they are systemic (Donella Meadows). The first step toward deep change is facing this: old systems incapable of adaptive self-reorganization cannot be reformed. If a web breaks, the spider doesn't cut out a slice, she reweaves it, making it even stronger (Margaret Wheatley).
  3. In outworn systems a new core image/myth/vision emerges from rupture and chaos. As the old system wears out, a new organizing attractor--a new myth--emerges that carries the seeds of future social structure and culture-making. Sensitive people who can stay inwardly transparent to the new myth resonate with it and find ways to “give it a modern dress” (C.G. Jung). “What affects a pardigm, that is, the vault key of a whole system of thought, affects the ontology, the methodology, the epistemology, the logic, and by consequence, the practices, the society, and the politics” (Edgar Morin).
  4. Living the core emblems and principles of this new image/myth/vision plants the seeds of new culture. Spokespeople for the new myth form groups of likeminded kindred and converse (via heartsteads) to start living the core attractor/new myth of future culture now. “Act as though the day had arrived” (Friedrich Nietzsche). Nowtopia (Chris Carlsson). These new transrevolutionary explorations limit themselves to a modest number of self-replicating evolutionary principles, images, and guidelines to form the core around which new kinds of culture grow.
  5. New energies and meanings multiply fractally along critical connections rather than from mere critical mass. The transrevolutionary network expands via smart networking: redundant central hubs connected to reality labs (Ignacio Martin-Baro) on the periphery to tend what emerges. The new vision/myth/attractor depends on reinforcing loops that feed and spread it. Methods for spreading the vision are coordinated across a multitude of places, events, and media.
  6. Spokespeople for the new image/myth/vision gather and transform all those who resonate. This support empowers interested people and equips them with critical consciousness (Paulo Freire) while inspiring them with the new vision and its memes. To speak on behalf of its activated archetypal potential is to speak with a million voices (C.G. Jung). What educationally empowers people with sense of agency, voice, and liberation awakens all who hear to body, emotions, soul, nature contact, and spirit; and this undermines oppression. The new vision can seduce people away from ineffective, outmoded, or destructive projects by offering deeply meaningful activities and responsibilities.
  7. Redundant communication nets keep the evolutionary memes moving along, especially when linking novel experiments with each other, using micro innovation to make for macro change. Information must flow across ordinary boundaries (make them clear and semipermeable), and new connections form between elements, between subsystems, and between system and environment.
  8. Networks congeal into parallel institutions--subsystems of transformation: not revolution so much as cultural resilience experiments--that do something better than the old institutions (Dominic Barter) while operating as adaptive learning organizations (Peter Senge). Example: taking control of a local resource (in contrast to the old pattern: controlling what people need to live). At the heart of a working parallel institution is a combination of vision (refinement of the emerging myth/attractor), fairness (cross-species and deeper than morality), commitment, autopoesis, and a semipermeability that lets in new info and keeps the ambitious, controlling, and emotionally immature from achieving influential positions.
  9. Under wise leadership, ever-wider and deeper new subsystems manifest, complexify, and multiply. Systems strengthen and consolidate when connected to more of themselves, creating stronger relationships while building better access to themselves (Wheatley) and increasing their diversity. Strategic thinking moves past and across splits/compartments, repetitive interactions (= Senge’s “system archetypes”), vicious circles, simple causality, and bounded rationality. Leaders tend patterns, directions, interactions, qualities, feel, pace, mood, inspiration, creativity, and rhythm. Creative autopoesis: new combinations and wisdom groups always beat simply adding new elements.
  10. The new system and its evolving subsystems self-organize as a rite of passage. Culture crisis can be framed as rite of passage, with tools offered for surviving it and (Jung) outgrowing it: growing people up via initiation moves them above the crisis. Broadcast the voices and examples of true elders and adults.
  11. Remaining unstuck from any paradigms lets transrevolutionaries wield any of them as tools in service to the new system. Meadows: “It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.”
  12. As old institutions either reorganize themselves or fall by the wayside, the new systems and subsystems expand and anchor their forms of culture by being linked to similar efforts going on elsewhere, by building and connecting stocks (community resources), by being in conscious relationship to place and Earth, and by promoting the resulting new norms.

See also:

"Heartsteading: Forming and Strengthening Circles of Ecocommunity"

"Earthrise: Beacon of a New Worldview"