Dorothea F. Zimmer

Some Questions About Europe
by Dorothea F. Zimmer

Dorothea F. Zimmer

Thinking about how best to express the multitude of my thoughts on the topic of the future of Europe in a short article, I frequently step outside into the sunshine to pick the old leaves and blossoms from my plants on the terrace. As often, I am amused by the symbolic nature of my actions: removing the old that wants to die, this way making space for the new. My body carries out what I am moved to do/think from within.

What are these new things that need space to develop in Europe?

Since December 1st of 2009 the Lisboa-Contract came into operation—27 nations with 500 billion people became part of a renewed economical, social and cultural system with new common boundaries. There was and still is much talk of a faceless technocracy and absurd bureaucracy in Brussels, as well as of a deep crisis of a European vision. We are increasingly confronted with a threat of life being dominated by brutal laws of the capitalistic market as well as separated from each other and still dominated by the struggle for power in and between the different countries.

At the same time we are more interlinked with each other than ever before. Many speak of a “European Hope”—a hope for a vibrant living space for everybody, a world designed and co-created by leaders with new conscienceness and new thinking, These are qualilties that seem to be imperative to meet the complex challenges we are facing. For the first time the Charta of Constitutional Rights is legally binding. Many projects for a better and more human way of living and working together are on the European table. In all parts of Europe as elsewhere people are coming together to contribute to the establishment of deeply humane and life-affirming life conditions.

So, are we going for more bureaucratic unification or more diversity in Europe? More free market anarchy or more social care and responsability? Both are right and both are partial. Alas, what needs to be done? Surely, we require something different than just new organizations, new projects and good will demanded by moral appeal and written down in contracts. We need a new way of thinking. That is already said often. And yet, what does it really mean?

New Thinking About Things We Know

As Schopenhauer once said, the task is not to see what nobody has seen before, but rather to think what nobody has thought before about that what everybody sees. This means that we need to see the world as it seems to be in front of our eyes, really just as it is. We need to see from a new perspective, one that not only changes WHAT we think but also HOW we think, and how and through which lens we view our world. We need a perspective that does not shrink towards crude simplicity in the light of growing complexity, that does not favour the one, more comfortable side and fights the other one, but rather one that discovers a new order in this current chaos and new linkages in our fragmented thinking and acting. We need a perspective that uncovers the deeper dynamic forces that form the thoughts, the actions and the identities of individuals, organizations, institutions and whole cultures. Since connecting to these deeper designing forces of human minds and hearts we also discover in this time a huge and growing human power of creation and co-creation. This is usually referred to as a new paradigm.

The emerging new paradigm includes an insight into the evolutionary dynamic of the thinking, feeling, acting and living of humans and the collectives they form, including whole cultures. This dynamic apparently follows an inner order that is not static as if types of humans would exist, but develops on multiple levels, like a musical scale. This scale in turn allows for literally miriads of melodies to develop, melodies that are echoing on all levels inside of you, me and all of us.

Spiral Dynamics Integral, pioneered by Dr. Don E. Beck, the most precise and advanced model of cultural development, I know about, investigates this dynamic. It is this dynamic which provides a basis for our development of conscienceness as individuals as well as for the development of our “cultural DNA.” And it is of course a dynamic model to design the presence and future of Europe. As Immanuel Kant already knew: “There is nothing more practical than a good theory.“

The Integral Mindset is Concrete

I am very much inspired by Jean Gebser. He says that the integral mind set is concrete. Is this contradictory to the words of Kant? No. Concretion, as Gebser sees it is, is not narrowing down to details. It is the next step after First Tier abstractions in ideologies and fragmented concepts that don’t care much about the conditions they meet. Instead of narrowing, concretion is expanding in verticality, viewing the aspects of the visible on the surface, the deeper realities beneath the surface and the cohesions, horizontally as well as vertically, in developments and emergences in past, present and future.

I would like to use an example to more concretely illustrate what I am aiming at. One of the big issues in many European countries is the aging society—at least so people say. For me, this means much more than just thinking about the development of new pension schemes and discovering the elderly for commercial advertising and working life. Values inside of us mean stream thinking—for example, deficient Orange still perceives older people as a burden—and develop into problems on the outside. But maybe we can change perspective and see the aging population more as a hint that it is now time to develop another perspective on aging. Maybe it is even a hint for a possible task for Europe, referred to as the “old continent,” to rediscover the wisdom of the elderly and not try to compete with the drive of other “younger” countries, a drive that often entails a good portion of naive optimism. And maybe such a different attitude is an inherent part of an even deeper challenge, that Europe—as well as any country, nation or continent—needs to find how it can best contribute to a prosperous and vital “world body.”

The topic of an aging population with low birth rates has yet another dimension. Through the course of evolution, women have adopted not only the task of bearing children, but also of providing care for their children and familiy. This is as essential for the survival of the species as food and drink. The public sphere, separated from the private sphere, is still not well suited to meet the special needs of women and children. Maybe women require their energy today for the development of something completely new in the history of humanity, even if at this stage this is happening to a large extent on a subconscious level. Perhaps this is the deeper reason why women have withdrawn to some extent from their traditional role as child bearers, at least in regions where other life conditions for women and families now seem possible. The new identity of women is to stand side-by-side with men as equal partners to co-create life on this planet. This of course gives rise to the question of how women can adopt this new role without either betraying their traditional responsibilities or burning out. We don’t talk about more money for families for their children or more kindergartens—this would be only a quantitive Orange approach to the theme. Qualitative and concrete changes are needed in the way we create working and living conditions for us and everybody.

Europe—A Body, a System?

Let’s look at the analogy of Europe as a body, system or organism with fractal-like subsystems in the cultural regions, nations, and cities. We may talk of it so, since system theory tells us that we deal with a system as soon as there is a boundary, a membrane. And to expand this picture, like any system, body or organism, Europe definitely needs a Natural Design for its parts and their synergy as a whole system—such as Meshworking as an operational systemic tool for self-organizing results of complex-adaptive human systems and structures.

What might that mean?

Don Beck wrote in the end of 2009 in an email about climate change thoughts that might be needed to be involved into any issue: “I thought of “memetic-engineering” since I believe that most of our problems stem from the distortions in the patterns of human emergence, with Gamma Traps and the dark sides (shadows?) of various memetic codes themselves. As FS-Green and GT-Yellow emerge, they naturally retard the greed and excess of materialism contained in the ER-Orange world views and, both contribute to the decline in population as European societies can demonstrate. Clearly, we lack the intelligences and will power (and political courage) to deal with our destructive cultural conflicts and warfare causing great damage to the environment itself. I don’t think one can do “Geoengineering” without also doing “Memetic-engineering.” This will involve a much longer presentation and conversation but I really saw some light today regarding what is missing in the efforts at large-scale systems change which, alas, do not go deep enough into the memetic contours and flows to “see” what is happening; the models to know what to do about it; and the power base to actually implement the templates and practical strategies…

…In other words, “nature” as expressed in the “geo” system has rhythms, cycles and flows that flush out toxins and cesspools as it cleanses through the various seasons and repeats the patterns over and over again. And, what if the same “nature” as expressed in the human memetic system, also has rhythms, cycles and flows that flush out human life and cultural forms that arrest development and threaten the life force itself. Think about it. Maybe the two are connected in ways we are just now beginning to grasp. Both must be addressed simultaneously; but this did not happen in Copenhagen because people were literally and figuratively “ice-skating” on the surface unable to sense how the below-the-surface magnets (call them fractals or strange attractors) were pulling the skates in various directions.”

As is often the case, Don’s thoughts at first sight come along quite unspectularly. Pay attention—they aren’t! If it is true, and I am sure it is, that the human memetic system “has its own rhythms, cycles and flows that flush out human life and cultural forms that arrest development and threaten the life force itself”—then what does that really mean and include? Could it be that the whole body of humanity also flushs out—on to the surface and thus to our awareness—everything that threatens life itself? Wouldn’t that mean we need to take another very much deeper look to our conflicts, wars and catastrophees as a dance that we all design together, surpassing the usual us vs. them and the polarity of victims and predators?

Do We Lack a European Dream or Vision or Soul?

Talking about the future of Europe, many say that we need a common vision for Europe, since we always go in the direction we look at. Who is “we”? And what means “common”? And how will it be more than another wellness dream on a larger scale for the haves, while billions of other people go on to suffer and die on this globe? What needs to be done?

In a speech delivered at the conference 2006 in Berlin “A Soul for Europe,” the German filmmaker Wim Wenders said: “The whole American Dream is really an invention of cinema and it is now being dreamed by the whole world.” I don’t want to discredit this, but merely ask the question, “Who is dreaming the European Dream?” Or better: “How are we encouraged to dream it?”

Maybe this is the time, after the Charters of Independence, to draft a Charter of Interdependence for Europe, based on a vision that creates a playground for everybody and really acknowledges the dignity of all people in each phase of their development. I want to emphasize that this still confronts lots of arrogance in most of us. Couldn’t it be, that we are not humans who make spiritual experiences of all kinds, but rather spiritual beings who make human experiences? Wouldn’t that perspective transform our minds and hearts? A Charter for Interdependence would also allocate everybody’s responsibility while at the same time enabling, empowering and demanding his and her engagement. Surely we need people in Europe with this perspective to take on leadership tasks.

In the program for our Center for Human Emergence we wrote as a vision for Europe: “A cosmopolitical Europe, that saves and honours its diversity and integrates it, means including and transcending it into a bigger entitiy.”

Jacques Delors talked about giving Europe a soul. Does Europe as a system lack a soul? I don’t think so. It is there. We need to learn how to listen to it and how to allow it to express.

The real quantum leap in human consciousness and creation that we face might be to see life itself as our best coach and teacher. It speaks to us in every second. We may better learn its language and its dynamics now and start a creative and playful partnership with it instead of trying to manipulate, control and shaping it into our concepts. It seems that living systems don’t accept very well solutions from outside. They want to create themselves according to their own inner drummer and want us to engage.

Integral leadership—in Europe and elsewhere—needs these new independent synthesizers, design engineers and visionaries who make sense out of the data that science, spiritual wisdom and philosophical thinking produce in synergy. Together with the data life mirrors us continuously. This will be for sure no new truth. Rather, it is a new morphogenetic playfield for our minds, hearts and hands, where we will be knowing how to accept, design and live with the challenges life presents to us in this time on our globe.


Revised article by Dorothea F. Zimmer published as “Europe – more than a hope” in: “Hope Europe”, published by the Global Marshall Plan Initiative, 2006.

Dorothea F. Zimmer is co-founder and -leader of the Center for Human Emergence Germany, Austria, Switzerland. She works as consultant, trainer, supervisor, coach, therapist, author and journalist.

Leave a Comment