Working Together To Change the World: An Interview with David Nicol (Part 2)

Interview By Susan Beal

SUSAN: What strikes me is that much of what we’ve been taught about the spiritual path is that it’s about personal, individual discipline and study— a solitary climb toward God— and you’re saying no, it’s actually more that we’re all in this ocean of wisdom. Instead of struggling to swim against the currents on our own, if we intentionally link together we’re buoyed up and float far better as a result of our collaboration.

DAVID: Right, it’s not the heroic path, the spiritual hero. It’s more like we can help each other in profound ways. In the places we tend to be weak, somebody else will be strong. Through being together in that very profound, group spiritual intelligence, the field is acting on all of us in nuanced ways, and we’re all getting uplifted while we’re also co-creating the thing that’s uplifting us.

In all honesty, I’m so excited about this stuff! What excites me the most is that people are connecting at a really deep level to the unity and coherence of the group field, and intentionally expressing that in simple, sort of tribal dance forms that ground those energies in an embodied, ecstatic way. I think it is tapping back into ancient wisdom, states of consciousness that are powerful and quite magical, maybe especially because we have been such an individualistic culture and when we enter into these forms, something comes into the group field that is clearly beyond it. It’s like the group becomes a portal for higher dimensional consciousness to come through. It’s more than the rational mind can comprehend.

SUSAN: It sounds like you’re saying there’s a difference between the newness of what is emerging with these group subtle fields and rituals, versus an attempt to return to tribal culture or recreate “tribal consciousness” in some kind of reaction against our individualistic culture.

DAVID: Yes, I do feel what we’re discovering here is an integration rather than a regression. We’re coming from a place of honoring the preciousness of the sovereign, human individual, which I think is an evolutionary development that we all prize, very much—our autonomy, our freedom, our ability to make our own choices. That has been an achievement of the whole Western journey. I don’t just have to do what my father did, or what my tribe tells me to do. It has led to an incredible flowering of creativity as well. So these group field practices are not a diminishment of that, but a voluntary, temporary entering into these states of collective awareness, with a clear, conscious recognition that we’re doing this so that we can find and experience something greater than any one of us can have alone. It’s definitely not just trying to get back into some sort of ancient wisdom. It’s more of an integration of ancient and modern, past and present.

SUSAN: Getting back to the topic of the shadow—as far as these emergent group organisms or entities, if we really realized we’re contained within this higher, collective wisdom and healing capacity, maybe there’s no need to disown parts of ourselves because they’re represented there in everyone else anyway. Maybe it’s a way for our shadows to be integrated through this collective embrace. It sounds like you’re talking about the possibility for the healing of the individual and society by drawing on the combined healing capacity of everybody within the group.

DAVID: Yes, and as part of that, a coherent group has the ability to witness and hold more suffering and trauma than an individual can. It’s very difficult, in fact I think it’s inappropriate to ask an individual to open up to the collective traumas of humanity and to try to process that themselves. It can actually lead to health problems and more trauma. It’s a mismatch of levels. But groups are inherently a social space that can hold more than an individual. And so a coherent, skillful group can open up to, say, the suffering of the Holocaust, or racism, or large scale suffering of any kind, because it’s got a much larger capacity.

SUSAN: In your book you refer to Christopher Bache’s work in which he says it was opening up to collective suffering that allowed him to access his sacred identity, but I think it can also destroy you to do that.

DAVID: And he came close to losing it. So not everyone can go there. It’s a very high risk method. But I think groups can take us there and hold us safely.

SUSAN: That’s part of what I love about your work, that it works with this grounded, powerful group intention that acts like a boost to get you into states of collective consciousness and wisdom that a lot of people think you can only access via clairvoyant skills or psychedelic drugs and entheogens.

DAVID: And the experiences people seem to be having in these group explorations of subtle realms is amazingly vivid. I think there’s something significant about the inter-subjective validation. We’re in there together, so it’s harder for that inner skeptic to come in and say, “You’re just imagining things,” because we’re all imagining it together!

The other thing that has been sort of revolutionary is this approach of co-creating and entering together into these subtle realms not just with visualization or imagination, but through our presence, our actual essence. It’s a key element to how I work. There’s a difference between saying, “Imagine there’s a green diamond coming into your crown chakra,” for example, and saying, “Connect with the part of your being that is inherently compassionate and kind,” and then, when everyone has connected with that familiar quality within themselves, saying, “Let’s start to envision that presence of compassion within us as a green light.” The visualization simply gives form to the felt sense we’re all having. It has a different ontological status than a thought-form suggested from outside oneself. It’s actually something within us.  

SUSAN: That’s lovely, because I know a lot of folks feel shy and uncertain about their ability to visualize things or “see” subtle energies, and this approach draws on a familiar, felt sense of things and our natural capacity to access that presence within.

DAVID: And then we all share an experience of a tangible phenomenon, which then becomes a tangible subtle world that we’re all in together. It goes a long way toward dissolving the usual barriers and doubts we have about the subtle realms, because firstly, it’s very tangible— we can feel it with our bodies and presence— and secondly because it’s got the social, inter-subjective aspect to it.

SUSAN:  So are you developing new courses from this? What are you up to at this point in terms of teaching and research?

DAVID: I’ve been building foundations for this work since about 2005, when it was clear to me this is what I was meant to do. That’s when I started writing my dissertation and formed the Gaiafield Project. This path is still revealing all kinds of things about its direction, so I’ve been in a real R & D phase, just trying things out. Right now I’m playing with an approach with a smaller group process in which we’re setting up the group field to focus on individual healing and each person in the group gets a turn to be in the center and bring in a particular issue they want healing for, or a particular project they want support for. And then they get this amazing, multi-dimensional, powerful group field that offers a profound healing.

SUSAN: Do you have an identifiable group of inner colleagues or guides that you work with, or is it more intuitive hits and that kind of thing?

DAVID: I don’t have a corresponding experience to what David Spangler has as far as his inner colleagues. For me, I feel guidance from Gaia, itself, and more specifically, trees. In particular I am inspired by the forest of redwoods in Montgomery Grove. I went there with a prayer some time ago, because it’s such a sacred place, and I asked for help turning this seed of an idea into a forest. I came back from time to time and would check in. I thought it would be metaphoric, but about 9 months ago we found a place to move right down the road so it was a tangible result. Now my wife and I live right near there and our back yard is this massive redwood forest. Suddenly it’s as if the forest is literally speaking to me and guiding me in my life and work. And beyond that there’s this sense of a cosmic dimension as well. I’m connected to a group of beings whose culture, if you will, is oriented around tapping the energy of ecstasy and celebration. I feel they’re in communication with me about that frequency of ecstasy, and that’s what I want to bring in on a big scale.

SUSAN: So how can people learn more about your work or get more involved in what you’re doing?

DAVID: The best thing is to go to the website ( for information about our online community and offerings, or get on the mailing list. I’ve also just launched an online course—  I’m offering a 50% discount to Lorian blog readers who enroll. Just enter the code gn5O when you check out.

SUSAN: Well, thank you so much, David. I’m really grateful to you for talking to me and for the work you’re doing in the world!

DAVID: Thank you, Susan. It’s been an enjoyable conversation.

Click here to read Part 1 of this interview.