Working Together to Change the World: An Interview with David Nicol (Part 1)
Interview by Susan Beal
David Nicol’s research into group subtle fields and their potential for healing and transformation on both the individual and collective level is an exciting example of the basic principles of Incarnational Spirituality in action. My introduction to Nicol’s work was through his book Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimension of Social and Planetary Activism. The book, based on Nicol’s PhD dissertation on subtle activism, was recommended by David Spangler, a member of Nicol’s dissertation committee. Intrigued by the book, I enrolled in Nicol’s 6-week online course, “Building Group Subtle Fields”. Since then, I have been sharing what I learned with my local subtle energy study group. We have found the process to be uplifting, powerful, and a perfect complement to our study of David Spangler’s book Working with Subtle Energies.
Last month I had the delightful opportunity to chat with David Nicol about his ongoing work, including his discoveries about the higher wisdom that is available to us when we engage in intentional, collaborative approaches to subtle energy activism.–Susan Beal
SUSAN: Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me about your work and research with group subtle fields. The Lorian Blog recently focused on the topic of the shadow, so if we might, I’d like to focus on that topic relative to the work you’re doing with group subtle fields and subtle activism.
DAVID: That sounds great.
SUSAN: The work you’re doing with group subtle fields and their application to subtle activism is incredibly exciting. I’m enchanted by the blend of practicality and magic that characterize your work. Yet there’s a darker aspect to the power of groups that can play out in the pressure to conform, the dangers of groupthink and herd mentality and the tendency for some groups to become exclusionary or to ostracize people who don’t fit in. And there are a lot of different agendas people might have for joining a group, some of which may not be all that positive. Even within groups that are consciously working to be welcoming or open, it’s inevitable that conflicts will arise or individuals within the group will use it as an arena to act out their own shadow stuff, consciously or not. Have you found this to be a problem?
DAVID: My general sense and my experience is that the power of the coherence of the group field cancels out individual scattered energies and influences. They don’t have much of an effect on the group coherence or power. But someone actively seeking to influence things in a negative way, that’s another level. That’s why we build in a number of protective elements designed to create as clean, grounded and safe a field as possible— like connecting with the Earth, with the light, with our deepest Self, creating a membrane of light and filter inside the circumference of the group field, and having people help hold space. That said, I do think the more determined practitioner of the dark arts could find a way to influence the field.
SUSAN: I wondered about that, because in terms of the quality of coherence, some question if it is a neutral energy that can go either direction, or if it is intrinsically benevolent. Is there anything built into your approach that recognizes and has a way to respond to that?
DAVID: We are starting to discover a real power in this work to influence things. I’ve wondered how public to be about this potential, given that some people out there may want to learn the technology but have different intentions than using it for healing. On the other hand there’s a collective awakening in these times, and it’s not a time to keep esoteric knowledge locked away anymore. So I wrestle with the question of how to walk with responsibility knowing there’s real power in this process and it shouldn’t be used in the wrong way or get into the in the wrong hands.
But I think about how in Dion Fortune’s book Magical Battle of Britain, she mentions her perception that the Nazis were engaging with occult knowledge and it explains in part why they were so effective in the early stages of the war, working on the subtle planes to weaken the morale of the nations they were targeting. She said although they had a certain power by working with subtle energies that way they didn’t have access to the frequency of Love, so they weren’t operating on the full spectrum. The force her group opened to was ultimately greater because they were working with much higher frequencies and dimensions.
SUSAN: In your book and in the class “Developing Group Subtle Fields”, you said that the deeper in meditation an individual goes, the wider and higher the impact they can have on the collective.
DAVID: I think people like the Beatles, or J. R.R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis had such widespread appeal because they worked at a deep, universal layer of consciousness that everyone can resonate with. And the great teachers like Christ and Buddha hit these deep layers we all resonate with. Jung talked about the layers of the unconscious and how as you go deeper you go from the personal layer into more collective layers—family, tribal, national, then universal archetypes. The idea is that if you go that deep you are actually bringing in healing to that level so that everyone connected to that level will share in that healing in some way.
SUSAN: Because these are the levels of consciousness where we’re connected. But of course there are collective fields of fear, rage and alienation, too, and the undercurrents that Trump tapped into and that some political figures can use to manipulate people. But like you were saying before, those lower frequencies don’t have the power of Love, which is like white light that contains or encompasses all the others. Fear and anger aren’t bad in themselves, just problematic when they’re isolated and misused.
DAVID: Right. I think too that when you have a high enough perspective with the Trump phenomenon, you can see it as part of an evolution toward full unity of consciousness. The consciousness Trump is expressing has an aspect of truth in it. He’s saying something about the story of our culture that hasn’t really been able to be said, that needs to come forward. It’s happening in a primitive and unconscious, even damaging way, but you can see the logic of it needing to be integrated.
And there’s an energetic truth that Trump is speaking to in which we know the system needs to go through a fundamental change in order to heal. There’s a need for some sort of revolution. We didn’t think it would take this form, but there’s instinctual recognition that things need to shift radically, so there’s support in the system for that to happen—even though it’s playing out in a distorted way.
SUSAN: I think a number of people don’t want to hear that. A dear friend forwarded me an email about a grassroots campaign urging thousands of people to send hate mail to Trump. I was appalled. It’s the negative aspect of building group subtle fields—using a group to express hatred in a big way. But how do you honor collective fear and rage in a way that heals it rather than colludes with or gives in to it?
DAVID: It’s very tricky. This is where I’m encouraged by something we’re discovering in working with group subtle fields, which is the development of what seem to be emergent organisms that have intelligence and spiritual capacities greater than any one of us individually. It’s something I’m very interested in, because for any one of us as individuals it is very difficult to know how best to respond to evil, if you want to call it that, or just dark or fanatical forces. It can be confusing. Am I supposed to find some kind of profound compassion where I’m able to understand these forces on the deepest level, or am I supposed to summon some sort of fierce strength where I’m able to act as some kind of warrior for the truth? It’s not always clear how to respond.
But my intuition and my actual experience is that there’s a knowing within the group field about just the right combination of qualities called for to respond in an appropriate and healing way. It can be a mix of kindness, sensitivity, firmness, pity, strength and love, for example. It can contain these paradoxical and complementary truths, because it’s a complex organism.
SUSAN: So if I understand what you’re saying, there are these intelligences, or even beings, that result from these groups fields and have a greater wisdom and a higher perspective than we have as individuals, and we can invoke this collective intelligence for aide. In other words, we don’t have to know how to respond on our own because we can ask for help from these group fields that will have a capacity drawn from our collective wisdom and strength.
DAVID: Yes. That is my experience. It’s our collective wisdom and we participate in creating it—we’re part of these organisms. And yet there are qualities within these group fields that are more complex and of a higher order than any one of us as individuals. It’s like a bridge between the individual human and higher frequency beings like angels. These group field organisms are closer to us because they actually are us, in addition to being an opening to wisdom and intelligent forces from the Earth and the subtle realms. And so it’s a potent channel for this collective wisdom and intelligence from all sides to come together.
SUSAN: So there’s less lost in translation and less difficulty in accessing that assistance and information?
DAVID: That’s right. And there’s also an inter-subjective validation of the reality of the experience. It’s not like having to translate a personal visionary state into social reality, because you’re having it together. It creates a shared experience that transcends the individual ego.
SUSAN: Yes, it gets to the heart of what it means to be collaborative. It’s akin to what David Spangler refers to as the Gaian perspective, thinking like a planet, in terms of the whole rather than an individual. There’s a synergy generated from working intentionally with subtle energy as a group that you don’t achieve independently.
DAVID: Yes. And in particular, I’m fascinated by what we’re discovering together in our collective capacities for healing, awakening, and transformation. When spiritually sovereign individuals who already have a connection themselves to Source consciousness, link together in these states, they co-create these emergent, collective organisms—I think of them as subtle ecosystems—with exponentially increasing wisdom. Each time we connect, more and more comes in and we collectively have access to higher and higher levels of wisdom and increasing realizations about what’s possible.
The second part of this interview will be published next week. Click here to read recent blog posts on the shadow and an interview with David Spangler on subtle activism.