Representative Perception and the Nature of Reality
(This article was first published in “The Knowing Field” Systemic Constellations Journal, issue 34, June, 2019)
“There is something in the universe – a mind, a principle or an intelligence that orders and ‘in-forms” the phenomena that structure and hold together the phenomena we observe in the world.” Ervin Laszlo (2017)
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” William Blake (ca.1794)
I appreciate the editor’s invitation to constellators to focus on the phenomenon of representative perception in constellations for this issue of the journal. As a corner stone aspect, which the whole constellation approach rests upon, it is surprising that articles and discussion on this topic have been so few and far between. Possibly the topic fits into a “too hard a basket.” Or maybe it can be argued that most constellators’ exploration of this phenomenon has been and continues to be conducted in a phenomenological way, gaining our knowledge about it through the actual experience of countless constellations.
The attitude adopted by Bert Hellinger at the early stage of development encouraged this approach and as I was learning about constellations many questions arose from my rational mind, such as: “How does it work?” Such questions were met with an answer along the lines of: “We don’t know how it works, but we do know that it works. We cannot explain it, and it is not necessary to know how it works for it to be beneficial.” That was a very pragmatic approach, which saw the work spread enormously, and which indeed many have benefited from. It also had us all focus on the actual phenomena, rather than encouraging us to intellectualise about it.
But invariably, the practice of constellations, which has spread far and wide in the meantime, does pose wider questions about the nature of consciousness and the nature of reality, the nature of the very world we live in. I also remember hearing Hellinger in those early days saying that once we truly open ourselves to the experience of representative perception, and take it seriously, our whole worldview has to change.
Constellations, Science & Spirituality
Many of us, I bet, can still remember that moment when we first experienced representative perception, leaving us perplexed and in awe. Each one of us was having to come to terms with the implications of this undeniable fact witnessed in every constellation – that strangers representing a person they don’t know, accurately and authentically channel the energy of that person, situation or related dynamic.
By now we have become so used to this phenomenon that we do not question it, or even wonder about its nature. The problem is that these phenomena the Constellation method relies upon and uses as a matter of fact, are incompatible with the widely accepted belief of scientific materialism that the material world we can observe with our senses is the only reality.
How we, the practitioners of the approach, deal with such a situation is an important question to consider, especially in the light of frequent cries for wider acceptance of our work.
Some continue to ignore these issues by focusing pragmatically on the practice of the work. Others endeavour to carry out research and provide ‘scientific evidence’ for the Knowing Field and effectiveness of the method.
Some try to explain representative perception within the known mechanisms of information transmission, accepted within a current scientific framework, like mirror neurons (neurons that fire both when we act and when we observe the same action performed by another, thus ‘mirroring’ the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting) or limbic brain resonance (the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain).
Some authors are suggesting that “all representations are deemed to be parts of the client’s psychological state” and that constellations are “in this sense … an intra-psychic exploration” where the representative is “resonating with the unconscious mind of the client whose work it is.”1
Still others are suggesting that representatives in a constellation are all subconsciously reading the meanings of and reacting to the group’s positions and orientations: “in other words that we get the information through the spatial positions of representatives and through reading this special placement through our knowledge of social geometry. (Michael Reddy, 2012)
These explanations all stay within the accepted (and acceptable) models of information sharing, learning and development which can be accommodated within the disciplines of neuroscience, psychology, sociology, biology and physics, not crossing the boundary of what a current scientific framework allows for, and thus also, I believe, falling short of capturing the true nature of representative perception.
Such understandings of this and other phenomena we observe in constellations are often accompanied by a wish to stay clear of ‘metaphysical’ or ‘spiritual’ or ‘shamanic’ aspects of the constellations method. Yet, it is precisely in these aspects where the power and effectiveness of this approach lie. It is my belief that we, the constellating field, should not shy away from that which gives constellations its strength, but rather stay at the forefront of the worldview paradigm change which is needed to accommodate the phenomena we witness. It is a bold proposition, but to come closer to understanding the essential aspects and nature of the Constellation approach, nothing short of new science is needed – a complete change of paradigm.
Such change we are actually already witnessing and we hear some prominent voices, even within a scientific field, calling for it. A scientific revolution is upon us and I believe that CW could play a prominent role in shaping up this new emerging paradigm, with us as constellators not being afraid to step more prominently into the wider world, out of the closet, not fearing exclusion from the mainstream. We live in exciting times of big change, and it is my belief that Constellations could and should be at the forefront of this shift.
The Western scientific materialistic view is more and more giving way to the understanding of the Universe which is organic, self-organising, holographic, fractal and conscious, in constant movement, driven by a force which lies beyond the time-space framework and which is, still to date, a mystery to us.
Science is, in some fields in particular, coming closer to the teachings of many old spiritual systems, like Taoist philosophy, Jewish mysticism, Hindu mythology and the teachings of the Buddha, as well as the wisdom of ancient tribal knowledge of indigenous peoples.
“Using their bodies, minds, and spirits to gather vital information about the world, shamans have understood that epistemology (how we know what we know) is closely linked to consciousness. Shamans participate in the world and gain knowledge in a way that is rarely understood by modern people: through direct participatory knowing.”2
Even though the shamans from all over the world have known for millennia that the human being is the greatest tool available for acquiring knowledge, this dimension of life has not been recognised within the current materialistic paradigm. Neither has its spiritual dimension, in recognition of which lies the crucial difference between constellations and other related approaches, like psychodrama or family sculpting and which also differentiates between approaches of individual constellators or schools. The recognition of this spiritual dimension, is also a hallmark of constellations as developed and taught by Bert Hellinger, followed by many, and also a point of departure from his approach by others.
“Everything that is moves not of its own accord, but from the outside. All living things, even when they seem to move by themselves, have an inception that cannot come from within. Therefore, every movement of all that is alive, results from a movement that came from the outside … Every movement, especially every movement of a living thing, is a known, a conscious, a purposeful movement. This concept presupposes consciousness in that force which moves everything. In other words: Every movement is a thought-out movement. The movement begins because it is thought by this force, and it comes into movement the way it is thought.” (Hellinger, 2008).
The phenomena that we witness in Constellations suggest that mind and consciousness operate at a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Also that they continue to operate in the energy fields even after our death. The information that is part of our mind /consciousness (like memories, emotions, thoughts, attachments, and other) does not get lost with physical death, but continues to be accessible across time and space and can be channelled relatively easily through the living, even by those who did not know the original owners of these stored energies or were not in any way connected to them.
Furthermore, through constellations we also observe systemic laws which operate in all human systems, from the body, family to organisations and nations and which teach us about the systemic nature of the Universe.
Each one of us is embedded in a complex system of networks, which are holistic in nature, creative and interdependent. The holistic nature also assumes non-duality as visually expressed through the Taoist symbol of yin and yang where the light present in the dark and the dark present in the light indicate that everything contains a bit of its polar opposite. The Tao also alludes to the constant movement in the Universe, like the flow of water, which continuously changes and assumes different shapes or temporary forms.
In constellations we experience the information flow that comes to us through an unbroken chain of experiences of our ancestors and all humanity as a sum of all knowledge gathered thus far and which in-forms who we are today.
Rupert Sheldrake recognises the role the information plays in morphogenetic fields which are all around us, determining forms, maintaining patterns of order and also connecting related structures to one another across space and time.
Whether we consider Sheldrake’s theory of morphogenetic fields, Carl Jung’s idea of Synchronicity and the collective unconscious, the Buddhist concept of Dharmadhatu, the Tao or what in other traditions was referred to as God or the Great Spirit, everywhere we find the same understanding: that there is a basic unifying force which guides and connects everything unfolding in the Universe.
“Humanity’s understanding of our universe is currently transforming into a worldview that is actually a rebirth of ancient philosophical wisdom. In very simple terms, the emerging understanding of our universe accepts that consciousness or ‘the mind’ plays a fundamental role in co-creating our interconnected and ‘life-full’ reality.”3
In particular through theories of the leading system thinkers like Ervin Laszlo arises a picture of a Cosmos which is self-actualising, self-organising whole, where each part is in coherence with the other and all parts together create the conditions for the emergence of life and consciousness. We are not just the product of carbon activity and some proteins; living and dying in the Universe, which is mechanistic; ticking along according to some physical laws, without meaning:
“The vision of a coherent, interconnected, and cyclically self-renewing cosmos is not new. The most important among its historical antecedents is the vision that inspired the imagination of countless generations in India and throughout the East: the vision of a world that emerged from Akasha.” (Laszlo, 2004)
Memory and information exist in nature, they are a real phenomenon. On a quantum level we see that every particle that has ever occupied the same quantum state as another one remains connected to that other one, and the exchange of information occurs between them through time and space instantaneously.
In constellations we observe this phenomenon on a level of family and other human systems. Every person who has ever belonged to a system, through many generations, continues to belong and continues to communicate with all other members of that system through time and space. The information stored in a field of that family can be accessed by any other member of that family and, indeed, the energy of fates suffered by our ancestors continue to inform the lives of their living descendants.
“Generations after generations of humans have left their holographic traces in the A-field, and the information in these holograms is available to be read out. The holograms of individuals integrate in a superhologram, which is the encompassing hologram of a tribe, community, or culture. The collective holograms interface and integrate in turn with the super-hologram of all people. This is the collective in-formation pool of humankind … We can tune our consciousness to resonate with the holograms in the A-field.” (Laszlo, 2004)
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about. “ 4
The in-formational field of the universe becomes more and more apparent as we study the nature of our world. What was first considered to be ‘empty space’ between planets and all matter, with ever-increasing scientific knowledge has turned into an ‘energy plenum’ – a rich soup of information responsible for shaping (in-forming) our world. This understanding becomes possible through observations from quantum to cosmic levels. “The quantum vacuum is the holographic information mechanism that records the historical experience of matter.” (Mitchell in Laszlo, 2014)
In constellations, we know, it is also possible to set up a system without any members of the family system being physically present, which points towards the possibility of connection between everyone in the system of the ‘human family’, and even beyond it. Many constellators know that it is possible to connect in this way and communicate, indeed, not only between humans, but other living creatures like animals and trees, also other nature elements and abstract concepts. Therefore, we have to assume some common field through which such transfer of information, such connection is possible. What this also tells us beyond any doubt is that consciousness cannot possibly be restricted to the brain of a living person, and can also not be the prerogative of humans alone.
“Remote healing, energy and all in-formation healing rely on extrasensory information from a source that must be accounted for in any serious discourse about the nature of reality – and this is likely to be the same source that creates entanglement among quanta and transpersonal connections among organisms and minds … I have named this source the Akashic or A-field.” (Laszlo, 2004)
The ‘non-local coherence’ of this field, which becomes apparent and tangible in the process of a constellation, its ability to store and pass information and connect everything, does not need to be ascribed to some mysterious forces beyond our natural world, according to Laszlo. “Nonlocal coherence is a bona fide scientific phenomenon, just as real and understandable as light, electromagnetism, mass, and gravitation – although initially it proved to be just as puzzling as they have been.” (Laszlo 2004).
The knowledge accessed through the Knowing Field in constellations does not only provide useful information, say in relation to family dynamics, but is healing in itself, as if the exposure to this field provides a blueprint towards which systems realign themselves, always towards greater balance, greater harmony and greater health.
Indeed, some scientists and healers postulate that there is such a blueprint, ‘the species specific pattern’ according to which the ‘individual’s morpho-dynamic pattern’ has to be matched or synchronised with. In fact, life can only be sustained in the universe, because living systems ‘tune into’ and resonate with the basic in-forming pattern present in the universe.
“The age-old insight, that the organism can heal itself when it is in touch with the universe is reaffirmed in Akashic-field based medicine. The information that codes all things in the universe is present in every human being. It is complete and functional, governing the myriad processes of the organism, and able to correct a wide range of malfunctions. But it needs to be accessed, and for modern people this calls first of all for recognizing that it is present, and that it can be accessed.” (Sagi, 2018)
The Guiding Force
There are many philosophical traditions and ancient systems of knowledge, which point to very similar insights, as do some of the scientists at the frontier of new understandings in many different disciplines.
Developmental biologist Bruce Lipton advocates a new approach to psychology:
“The switch from Newtonian to quantum mechanics changes the focus of psychology from physiochemical mechanisms to the role of energy fields. Energy psychology would focus on the software of programming consciousness rather than the physiochemical hardware that mechanistically expresses behavior.” (Lipton, 2016)
An all-encompassing new field of science known as noetic science assumes that the structure of the universe is made in the image of its underlying field.
“Noetic consciousness reveals that collectively we are the ‘field’ incarnate. Each of us is ‘information’ manifesting and experiencing a physical reality. Integrating and balancing the awareness of our noetic consciousness into our physical consciousness will empower us to become true creators of our life experiences.” (Lipton, 2016)
Prof. Ervin Laszlo boldly, but with much elaborate and convincing argument, asserts:
“Higher intelligence rules the Universe and creates its laws and that Higher Intelligence is spiritual in nature.” (Laszlo, 2017)
Already Einstein wrote:
“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we, with our modern powers must feel humble.” (Laszlo, 2004).
(In the German original he used the word ‘Geist’, which is hard to translate directly into English but can mean ‘spirit ,’mind’ or ‘intelligence’.)
Bert Hellinger has written extensively (and beautifully) about that which connects us and which ultimately, of course, makes representative perception possible at all.
“In Plato’s time, the word ‘psyche’ meant something that connects us with others, that establishes the kind of connection among us that allows us to perceive others and makes it possible for us to understand them. The psyche is the invisible connection between the other and me. How could we reach each other without the existence of the invisible tie between us that connects my spirit with the other’s spirit? How could contact be possible without this invisible bond that allows us to be in contact with each other and at the same time with a view to something greater on which we all depend together?
What is the soul? Is everything that is there ensouled, and do we perceive it with our soul, in tune with a universal soul? What is at work behind everything and in us? In everything an infinite soul is at work. In tune with this soul and together with it, we are one with everything there is, and in everything that is there with it. How? With love.” 5
Some time has passed now since Hellinger first started gaining insights about human systems, but also about the nature of our reality, through constellations. The method has been changing, so has our understanding about life, love and healing through it. The role of representatives in constellations has also changed considerably from traditional family constellations to spiritual constellations, ever finer tuning into the movements of the force which lies behind, has been required.
What has not changed, for those who follow Hellinger’s teaching, is the process of relying on the information from the field for guidance, insight and healing. In his later writings, Hellinger refers to this force whose workings we observe through the field, as ‘Spirit-Mind’, and surrenders even more to its guiding authority.
However we name this force (“The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao” Lao Tsu, 1972), for me, there is no doubt that the essence of constellations lies in reliance on its ever-present wisdom. It is from there that we are in-formed, it is from there we are guided, it is through it that we are connected and it is in only in harmony with it that we move forward.
“Aristotle speaks of this idea of a first mover, a first mover who moves everything because he thinks it. So everything there is, owes its existence and its movement to the thinking of an all-pervading spirit. From this follows the idea that this spirit not only thought everything, as it moves, but also keeps on thinking it in its every movement. Looking at it this way, we perceive this spirit and this first mover immediately at work in everything that moves and how it moves”. (page 37)
“This shows in the experience that sometimes we feel we are seized by a movement and are taken into its possession, as if it were coming from outside, beyond our personal will and wishes. Above all it shows when a new insight is given to us in such a movement, expanding our consciousness, as well as that of humanity. Here the first mover shows that ultimately everything is in his hands.” (Hellinger, 2013, page 37).
The significance of the phenomenon of representative perception is not only in helping us to ‘read the mind’ of this force in our efforts to come into alignment with it for better health and well-being, but also as a clear manifestation of this force as expressed through the felt bodily sensations and particular movements of representatives in a constellation. Representative perception makes the Spirit and its workings visible.
Blake, William 1994, republication of the work originally published ca.1794 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Dover Publications
Laszlo, Ervin (2017) The Intelligence of the Cosmos: Why are we here? New Answers from the Frontiers of Science. Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, USA
Hellinger, Bert (2008) Rising in Love: A Philosophy of Being. Hellinger Publications, Germany.
Hellinger (2013) The Churches and their God. Hellinger Publications, Germany.
Laszlo, Ervin (2004) Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything. Inner Traditions Rochester, Vermont, USA.
Lazslo, Ervin (2014) The Self-Actualizing Cosmos: The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, USA.
Laszlo, Ervin (2017) The Intelligence of the Cosmos: Why are we here? New Answers from the Frontiers of Science. Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, USA.
Lao Tsu (1972) Tao Te Ching, Random House, USA.
Lipton, Bruce (2016) Embracing the Immaterial Universe. This is from the article on the web page Uplift Connect, link: https://upliftconnect.com/embracing-immaterial-universe/
Reddy, Michael (2012) Health, Happiness and Family Constellations: How Ancestors, Family Systems, and Hidden Loyalties Shape Your Life and what YOU Can Do About it. ReddyWorks Press, Kimberton, PA, USA.
Sagi, Maria (2018) Healing with information: The New Homoeopathy. O-Books, Winchester, UK.
Alemka Dauskardt holds a Masters Degree in Psychology, with specialist training in Gestalt therapy, relationship counselling, cross-cultural therapy and trauma work, Alemka is a full time Constellation Practitioner in her own practice.
Since first introduced to Constellation Work in 1995, all areas of her personal and professional life have been inspired by it (also in-Spirited by it!). She has been using this approach in the individual setting, as well as facilitating workshops. She offers training in Systemic Constellations in Croatia and elsewhere.
Within systemic work, her focus has lately been on reconciliation constellations and on learning how large system events shape the sphere of intimate relationships. Alemka is interested in exploring current challenges the work and constellating community are faced with. She also translates constellation literature and writes. More broadly, she is excited about the paradigm shift, which is occurring in so many related fields and opening new horizons.