• What do ‘rings’ actually do?
This question would require a book-length description to adequately address the topic. What follows is instead a rough sketch that should answer the most basic questions, and provide some additional material which is important to be aware of.
A ring is usually called together by someone sufficiently endowed with both understanding and motivation to be consistently capable of directing its growth and activity in a positive and encouraging way. In some cases, the ring may form as the outcome of an agreement between two or more individuals relatively spontaneously. However, in any case the ring has an ostensible ‘leader’ who may be referred to as the dot. In most rings, this position should be held by members in turn, however the way this will be done is a matter for group intention to delimit.
In any case the ring begins with agreement. The basis of the agreement is to work intimately as a unity in the pursuit of action and understanding for mutual benefit, with and for each other and our world, in all matters. There may also be discussion and agreement about the necessity of examining both our relationships with language and knowledge, and our relationships to identity and meaning in nonordinary ways (Cognitive Activism). The formation of a ring must be a profoundly sincere and deeply comitted event, and should be undertaken in the spirit of a fundamental and permanent comittment to progress, rescue, and understanding that rises far above the purview of personal differences. This is a moment of joining ourselves to the many ancient and extant traditions that sought wisdom not for the purposes of power, but for the purpose of endowing current and future generations with opportunities and resources that are otherwise lost, stolen, or converted to something else. In short: liberation. Not as a static goal, but as an ever-expanding horizon which we agree to pursue together.
A ring is envisioned as a small team of people, usually of odd number (3,5,7,9) who are comitted to a game of mutual rescue and uplift. The ring utilizes the inherent diversity of its members in such a way as to discover their unique domains of prowess, and to magnify the power of the inherent diversity of the individuals such that the positive experience and expression of relational intelligence is consistently encouraged and rewarded. It is possible in this fashion to radically magnify group and individual access to cognitive and relational potentials inhernet in our species, but hidden from us by our habits and cultural immersion. The group becomes a locally developed culture which uniquely expresses the diversity its members actively represent.
This process provides an ongoing experience of local authorization and local credentialing — something fundamentally unobtainable in our common experience. In a ring, we can have the experience of being authorized, and of credentialing both ourselves and our ringmembers without the intervention of extrinsic standards. Additionally, this process provides a powerful protection against lost progress; in effect, it represents the development of a form of interactive extrinsic ‘memory’ (the ring).
The ring represents a unique form of cognitive ‘tactical unit’ which will never be involved in combat, but instead, in unique ways to transform challenges, obstacles and potential conflicts into progress. In effect, this is like a ‘team of secret agents’ who, rather than being employed by some government or subversive entity, are employed by the living universe itself. This is an invitation for us to bring forth and embody our brightest visions of human potential and relation.
Once formed, the group meets regularly, and their meetings and work together are highly valued relative to other activity. In the beginning, the fundamental goal is to establish access to strong rapport and direct experience of beneficial inter-reliance. Fundamentally through group activity, and secondarily through discussion or verbal play.
Activities will often comprise ‘missions’, with the attainment of a goal acting as the focus of the attention and awareness of the group. The group, some subset of members, or the dot will invent an activity and demonstrate in theory how this activity might be beneficial as a practice. After selection and planning, the group will activate the mission and puruse it to conclusion. This should not lead to challenges that will likely involve harm to the members. The heroic aspect of the group’s agreement reveals itself in the skillful evaluation of and relation with opportunities and obstacles, not in the generation of danger.
Discussion may center around topics of any sort, but particularly those related to cognitive activism, and a progressive understanding of biocognitive resources and potentials both of other organisms and of humans. The cognitive evolution of our species, and ourselves as individuals will necessarilly occupy a central position of concern, as will the history of metaphysical and religious experience and expression. Of particular interest are the dangers and opportunities implicit in the caching-behavior we call ‘memory’ and its evolution and various expressions in our species and others. I expect that the biocognitive evolution and expression of the many forms of life on Earth will also be crucial to the endeavors of the ring, for to understand ourselves, we must deeply and experientially understand both our environment and the other living relational beings within it.
I envision an emphasis on non-ordinary aspects of human potential and experience, both in terms of exploration and in terms of acquisition, such that many of the missions will be organized to experiment directly with unexpected abilities possessed by tightly-knit groups in the domains of sensing, thought, and relation. I expect that novel modes of awareness and relation experienced in what we call ‘dreaming’ will be deeply explored and evaluated for translation into waking-state analogs. Additionally, group dreamwork should be a part of the ongoing activities of the ring. They will focus in general on the retrieval and development of new or unrecognized cognitive potentials in the individual, and, particularly, in a deeply comitted ‘team’ environment.
Animals developed cooperative strategies in part to continually optimize their relations with challenges and opportunities. This behavior is a fundamental part of our cognitive evolution which we are rarely equipped to adequately explore during our lives, due to the fact that our potentials in this domain are largely co-opted by existing culture, and where they are not co-opted they are overtly denied. In truth, we possess nascent skills and abilities that are beyond the capacity of the wildest fictions or metaphysics to deliver to our conceptual mind. We never see them primarily because we have no way to discover or develop them given the bizarre biases and demands of our extant cultures (at every scale from the personal to the planetary).
I have heard many arguments against this idea, and been roundly attacked for presenting it, however, there is a simple and indefatiguable defence. The question usually amounts to this: ‘You have no proof, why should I believe you?’ This is the basic underlying deceit implicit in our cultures, that all that we can be, we have been or are. The answer is simple: ‘Can it be proven that we have fully explored or exhausted the cognitive and relational potentials of our species?’ If not, let the exploration proceed, and begin with us. It’s really that simple. The basis of capitalist society is the pursuit of an improperly mediated expression of the inherent desire for a transcendent experience and expression of our potentials. An objection this easy to respond to comes only from those who have (usually for a reason more personal than philosophical) thoroughly failed to examine the questions at hand.
The formation and early education of the ring will be fraught with a variety of challenges, both common and entirely of an alien or nonordinary nature. In every case, the members will be faced with a variety of serious threats that must be overcome as a team in order to continue to grow in this dimension. This education will, in most cases, occur over a long period of time, many months, or years. The group will know it is prepared for the next step when the members and team have developed a set of relational assets comprised of trusted non-ordinary techniques that have proven effective in overcoming common obstacles to action, expression, and awareness.
Rings may add members, and will likely lose members, particularly in the early experience of the people involved. Members can be recruited at will, however if a ring grows beyond a comfortable size (say 5 members for a young ring) reproduction should be considered (the formation of a new, distinct, ring).
When each of the members of a ring is adequately endowed with skill and understanding to lead one, the group may consider replication. This process involves one member leaving to found a new ring, and the remaining members either proceeding as a smaller group or replacing the lost member. The members of the original ring may participate directly in the formation of the new ring, or not. Similarly, there may be close relations between rings formed in this way, based on awareness and valuing of ‘lineage’. Alternately, there may be little or no overt relation between the parent ring and the child.
New rings are can be formed spontaneously (by a dot or team), or they may be children of an existing ring. Spontaneous rings represent lineage birth-points.
As previously stated two or more rings may link to form a meta-ring. This may similarly link upscale to larger organizations. This can be in an ongoing way, or a particularly focussed way, as when a large number of rings organizes to accomplish a mission likely to be beyond the capacity of any individual ring.
Once the ring is relatively well-prepared, and duly confident in the unity of the members, they will begin to explore possibilities for a mission. In some cases, replication may take precedence and delay this process, however, in general, most rings will either deeply establish or complete a mission of some sort prior to replication.
The selection of a mission or quest is a bit like shopping for a house, in that, next to the group itself, the mission will become the focal point of group attention and activity. This process may itself require some time and active exploration. Eventually, a goal will emerge that will capture the imagination, passion, and potential of the group. At this point, the group will continue its process of self-elaboration with a generous portion of activity directed to the quest. The quests may range from the relatively ordinary such as the establishment of new forms of social and educational interaction in our cultures, to the intrinsically non-ordinary, such as achieving direct contact with nonhuman intelligences. The guiding principle remains the same, an ongoing organism in which cognitive and relational activism may prosper and proceed, with the goal of delivering direct benefit to all members, and all beings, in the broadest possible sense.
“First, do no harm. Then, do all good.”
The establishment and exploration of the properties of human teams in intimate and tightly knit groups represents a hidden reserve of cogntive and relational prowess. This prowess has remained largely unexplored in the modern moment, even though it is natural for us to seek and establish insufficient analogs such as corporations, armies, etc. In the beginning, we must expect to be rather naive about both the possible benefits and the possible dangers of such endeavor. In truth, ring-making is a heroic act of pioneering. Unfortunately, as we all know, pioneers commonly suffer a relatively high attrition rate due to unforseen circumstances and, in many cases, poor preparation. Although rings establish a local culture with precedence to surrounding cultures, other traditions will be found to contribute useful models and practices that will aid the members and the group in its growth and ability to respond flexibly and intelligently to both challenges and opportunities. The study of martial arts, linguistics, rhetoric, acting, music, graphic art... all of the common gardens of human knowledge and experience should be seen as useful both as practices and as expressions of unique elements of human cognitive character, potential, and evolution. However, the dangers of the ring-making process must be attended with a clear mind, and for the unprepared they are significant. It’s not practical to catalogue them here, however a brief discussion of some of the more obvious threats is possible.
Problems arise when particular perspectives on reality become cached tokenizations of previously encountered ideas or experience. While we wouldn’t want to get rid of this entirely, we need to clearly understand the threats. Nonordinary experience, and local credentialing carry with them a variety of unexpected consequences, and many of them lead to extremely unhealthy positions of dogmatic certainty, often in the face of every form of accessible contrary evidence. In short, dogmatizing elements of the game is an ongoing threat. We must make the wisest possible use of this danger, and avoid entering into it in ways that will rob us of flexibility, insight, intelligence, and awareness. Ongoing exploration of the cognitive dimensions of Generality (as opposed to specificity) can be an invaluable ally in navigating these terrains. A generalizing approach commonly employs an unconventional, but I believe superior relationship with both logics and evaluations. The approach should also be recombinantly multi-dimensional, in that it dynamically ‘re-appoaches’ subjects from a variety of angles without granting precedences amongst them. This process proceeds inclusively until a very general understanding which is more than the sum of its componants emerges. I believe the process I have just described to be similar to how we assemble meaning from experience.
This is one of the most serious dangers. The group and members must be able to act, think, and communicate with confidence and efficiency — internally, and with the world around them. As prowess grows, particularly in nonordinary ways, the threat of self-congratulatory behavior and attitudes grows not in kind, but exponentially. There is another version of this danger which outwardly mimics humility, but is actually an extremely virulent and deadly form of egoism. It is quite challenging for many people to develop uncommon skill and experience without suddenly deciding that all or most other people are fundamentally confused, flawed, or mislead. This perspective is, in general, quite deadly, and leads to bizarre psychological and relational problems which can be almost impossible to evade once established.
The problem will be faced in many ways within the group, but the group itself also faces this problem in relation to human culture at large, and all possible subsets. The individuals and the group must work directly with these matters in an open and progressive way, even during times when these matters appear to be relatively benign.
This is a complex issue, however, in general, the goal of a ring is to create an environment where we can become and learn things vastly beyond what is purportedly available through drugs. The ring is, in part, an answer to the problems posed by drug use, particularly the problem of finding ‘something worth doing with others worth doing it with’ faced most noticeably by early and late-stage teens. Drugs are generally a dangerous replacement for something that is missing from our experience. When we’re taught to look in this dimension for what was missing, we invariably get lost, and will generally retrieve neither what was missing nor any real lasting benefit.
This is not to say that drugs have no place in our quest for our cognitive and relational birthrights, but rather that, in comparison to what we possess innately, drugs deliver something which is not worth comparing. In short, we must reach into ourselves and others directly for experience that is more ‘fun, interesting, and amazing’ than anything drugs may deliver. Once we’ve acquired that experience, or retrieved our common access to it, perhaps then we can more intelligently deal with the many questions which drugs (essentially poisons in nearly every case) pose.
Matters of romantic or erotic attraction, repulsion, and neutrality will present significant dangers to most groups. Care must be taken in dealing wisely with the highly charged atmosphere the group engenders, and the results of this are commonly intoxicating in their own right. It will be nearly impossible to avoid these challenges, and indeed, they are likely to provide a vital context for the group’s growth, learning, and action. In any case, the members should be aware of this potential far in advance of group formation, and it should be openly discussed and explored.
As products of the relatively toxic cultures we are immersed in, each of us will of necessity arrive with a variety of strengths and seeming weaknesses. To some degree, these will act as focus-points of group endeavor, and members of the group should have a demonstrable grounding in and interest in psychology in general since the discipline as currently practiced contains accessible information that is extremely useful when properly understood and adeptly applied.
Psychological ‘problems’ represent both an overt threat and a profound opportunity. In the ring environment, we will encounter, and generate highly-charged situations. We are bound to encounter a variety of what we may call psychological barriers and reactions, from desireable to catastrophic. Dealing wisely with these opportunities is part and parcel of the process, however, in some cases the barriers will be insurmountable or result in behavior that is openly counter-productive or harmful. In such cases, pragmatism may demand that the ring dissolve or re-form.
• Ordinary and Non-ordinary
Ordinary dangers abound, even when we inhabit our respective shelters. These may in many cases be magnified when the ring has achieved some degree of unity or is pursing actions ‘out in the world’. It is when things are going very well, conceptually, that disasters of inattention often arise. Similarly, in encountering nonordinary realities, perceptions, and paradigms, we will both generate and encounter dangers for which we are entirely unprepared. This is a very real aspect of ringwork. Members should be attentive and inquisitive about these matters in general, and should practice simulations that allow hidden dangers to be revealed to some extent. As pioneers, we must learn more about danger in general, and how this generality applies to the various situations we create or inhabit.
I believe that the most incredible discovery our species will make will grant us new and complexly evolving experiences of personal, social and cultural liberty. It will be something we do together, with and for each other — all the time — a very general thing. I also believe that this isn't actually something we will invent, so much as something we will remember together.
Liberty of this sort looks like intimacy and unity. Not an formalized unity, but one that grows in waves of explosive abundance and regeneration — beyond all definition — any time it is experienced and elaborated by any interaction at all. It looks like impossible movement. In assembly and form — this movement would be much more akin to an exceptionally positive game — than a religion, tradition, theory, law, philosophy, government, or formal way of knowing.
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