Part I: WHY?

I believe that all those who are reading this article are involved in one way or another in a movement of spiritual renewal. We all are searching for “something” in this direction, for a breakthrough out of the current cultural and social predetermination. I believe we all are on the verge of crossing an important threshold in our lives from individualistic to cooperative life strategies.

Please read this article as an invitation and let me explain what I invite you to. Thank you in advance for your precious time. I hope it will be an insightful reading!

I think everyone could agree that we can’t solve our problems acting with the same mindset that created them in the first place. Our old behaviors are a kind of predetermination that are driving us – again and again – to the same outcome. We certainly can’t go any further or differently by behaving the same way. We have to change something if we want something a little different in our lives. What is this change about?

My thesis is simple: If we want to create a fair and ecological society, we have to align it with Life’s principles. But what exactly does that mean? How could this alignment be expressed in our daily lives? What transformations (major or minor) it would request?

The first change we have to make is to renew the metaphysics in which we base our lives. The metaphysics we use, consciously or not, informs our beliefs, values and perceptions, our sense of fairness and meaning, our motivations and priorities, and, ultimately, our decisions and actions. In order to change something in ourselves (and later in our societies) we must consciously change the metaphysics in which we root our lives. Metaphysics is our ultimate information layer. Speaking of the need for renewal in metaphysics, Thomas Berry used “story” as a metaphor for metaphysics. He said that we are in “between stories”. The old story is becoming increasingly obsolete, informing us in a dysfunctional way, while the “new story” is still to emerge. We need a “new story” to unite us around a common understanding and purpose.

Based on scientific discoveries, a new interpretation of the world is emerging. It perceives our planet as a living system. I think we’ve all heard and agreed with the metaphysics of the Living Universe. (My book is a plea for this metaphysics.) If we let this new metaphysics inform us, it should drive us toward new ways of living and social organization. What could be these ways?

Throughout my book, I have tried to show that the social organization implicit to such a metaphysics mimics life’s organization. And this is a holarchic organization. (You can read here what holarchic organization consists of or how and why Life unfolds in holarchic ways.) Therefore, the second change we have to make is to orient our way of living toward holarchic ones. How can we foster a holarchic attitude and behavior? This is, in my opinion, the main change we must make if we are to align our lives with the organizing principles of Life.

For this second change is intended the co-creation of “Butterfly” fellowships and communities.. In order to change our way of life in this direction, it is not enough just to accept, on a mental level, the metaphysics of the Living Universe. It requires a cultural environment conducive to it. We need a cultural / social environment conducive to this way of life and social organization. I invite you to be the co-creators of this environment. We have to be the new heroes of humanity!

What the true heroes bring to humanity is their new human quality, their higher level of consciousness, their more adequate perspective toward the world around them. The true heroes of humankind, from their spiritual journeys, bring new visions that could open new developmental cycles. Informed by these visions, we can build new civilizations!

Butterfly Fellowship, which I talk about extensively in my book, is a possible first step toward this holarchic organization and way of life. It is a step that depends on us. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of us have been able to go too far in this direction of embodying the principles of the Living Universe in its personal and social life. I am convinced we are all for social regeneration, fair cooperation, inter-being, biomimicry etc, but I believe we are all still afraid to change towards a community-based life strategy and a community-based social organization.

It is somehow normal to be afraid to entrust our lives to each other, to live in solidarity*. And yet, as I have shown in my book, this is how we have lived almost the entire history of our species. Actually, this is the humane way of living. We evolved as a species through the so-called “group selection“. We are “wired” to live so, in close-knit groups. Even more clear, as scientific research shows, life unfolds in holarchic ways because a living organizing principle drives it in this direction. The holons, as open systems and open processes interact between them and have the tendency to create even larger scales open systems/processes. Their first tendency is to compete between them, but in time they discover that they could achieve better what they want through cooperation. (The key factor for explaining cooperative phenomena lies in their functional synergy and its bio-economic consequences. Functional synergy is the frequently unappreciated common denominator in various models of cooperative behavior. The functional payoffs produced by various kinds of synergy have been the drivers of evolution in the direction of an increasingly larger scale of cooperation.) In time they learn to cooperate better and better toward higher levels of symbiosis and interdependence.

(* Actually, I am not afraid to live in solidarity because I have already done it in few Orthodox monastic communities. Also, I have spent a while in Loppiano – “a small town, a laboratory of fraternity”. I deeply felt the beauty and humanness of this kind of life.)

So, I suggest we join together – for a year or two – in a “Butterfly Fellowship”. This time, dedicated to learning how to live in solidary ways, could be perceived as a “rite of passage”. What follows is an attempt to present what this rite of passage might entail.

A community-based life strategy

My book is about imagining a new way of human relationship based on solidarity that is conducive to fairness and planetary regeneration. What I refer throughout it as “Butterfly Communities open project” may be seen as a transformative social process. The book provides the insights needed to begin it. It also provides a direction for it. Life’s evolution on this planet has a direction and this direction is toward increasingly larger networks of cooperation. Thus, the beginning of a proactive systemic social transformation should be the conscious orientation towards cooperative life strategies. This orientation will radically change the fabric of human relations. The emergence and development of small solidary human groups, as a better way to face the upcoming challenges of the future, realign our social dynamic with the processes that makes Life to flourish on this planet. A community-based life strategy and a community-based social organization could change the world and become a viable choice for us.

I think it is appropriate to emphasize that what I am proposing to you is not another “eco-village” or “tribe gathering”. It is fundamentally different because of the spirituality / metaphysics on which it is based and which it wants to express in the world. What I propose and dream of bringing to life is a “Yellow-Turquoise” community. (Because there isn’t a clear definition of what a yellow-turquoise level of consciousness might entail, we can start – as a common ground from which we can develop further – with what I call in my book a “planet-centered” consciousness.) For that I need you, the people who have the potential to bring forth such a community. From my point of view, a “Butterfly Fellowship” could become a step forward from all that has been done so far, an embodiment of everything we have come to understand (theoretically) that it could lead us to a fair and regenerative society.

What I propose is not risky from an economic or social point of view, but on the contrary*. It is an unique chance in which we can evolve in a specific direction as human beings and learn something that we cannot learn as long as we don’t live in solidarity. It is also an opportunity to create a type of community that is new to the individualistic mindset and could prove to be a viable alternative in our VUCA world. Taking this enterprise as a rite of passage, for one or two year, could make a difference in our lives and, hopefully, for our society as a whole.

(*For those who are too attached to their status quo, although my proposal is not risky, it is impossible to be honored, because it requires a heroic spiritual journey, getting out of the comfort zone and venturing into the “enchanted forest” or “unknown territory” …)

As you could see throughout my book, the “group selection” was the main selective force that has driven the evolution of the human species. Throughout our history, the functional human group has always had an evolutionary advantage over dysfunctional human groups or non-cooperative individuals. Whatever the challenges of the future, cooperators will have a clear evolutionary advantage compared to non-cooperators. These “Butterfly Fellowships” could be informal or formal organizations, organized as cooperative associations. They are the best social environment for developing a symbiotic behavior and a more integrative level of consciousness. If we live, even for a while, in solidary groups, we will evolve some specific features that can’t be achieved otherwise (see Symbiotic Behavior). Individual and community development go always hand in hand.

Human evolution was strongly shaped by group selection, hence we have evolved moral commandments and psychological predispositions that help us to orchestrate and enjoy our participation in group activities. We have evolved to be psychologically complementary, to be able to play different roles in a human community. We are “wired” to be part of a community. It was the bioeconomic payoffs associated with various forms of social cooperation that produced the ultimate directional trend over a period of several million years, from the earliest bipedal hominids to modern Homo sapiens. Let’s continue this trend!

Cooperating in groups was the main way we survived, thrived and evolved as a species. Now we are living individually and, for some reasons, it apparently looks a good strategy. And yes, for sure it is, but for specific outcomes. And the ultimate outcome of this individualistic way of living is our deeply unfair society and the degradation of our planetary ecosystem. If we want to change this outcome, we have to change our ways of living: we have to reverse this individualistic trend toward cooperation. We are speaking so much about “inter-being”! I am inviting you to experiment for a year what inter-being really means.

Someone has to start this process. My thesis is that the “eco-village” movement is not enough to start a transformative social process because it lacks the mindset/ behavior of solidarity. I met this solidarity oriented behavior and mindset rather in religious communities. It needs the mentality of a “fellowship” with a clear shared purpose (perceived almost as a mission) to overcome our individualism and trigger solidarity and cooperation among us.

What I understood from studying history is that the people who became humanity’s step forward were only the ones who came with innovative behaviors. It is about being flexible, creative, innovative, proactive and able to take the “next right step” further.

Living beings start to search for new ways of being only when the old way is becoming obviously ineffective. As Bret Weinstein said, living in an abundant but very fragile society, we will feel that something is not working anymore when it will be too late. That’s why it’s imperative to change our ways before it is too late! This means to start now a conscious and proactive systemic transformation, that will lead in time to a better social outcome. This is what the “Butterfly Fellowship” rite of passage and “Butterfly Communities” open project is all about!

All the human endeavor which made a difference were due to cooperation that implied the consciousness of their solidarity and mission. I was impressed by the “Koryos Fellowship” institution/rite of passage/practice. I spend thousands of hours reading or watching documentaries to better understand how Red culture (a hierarchic war-like culture, based on exploitation and castes) transitioned from Magenta (a holarchic, peaceful and communitarian culture, based on partnership) and how the indo-european tribes literally conquered the world and replaced, almost entirely, the previous indigenous peoples*. It was this practice of Koryos Fellowship (Männerbund etc) that fostered that process**. In more recent times, there were the “religious” orders (from re-ligare, to reconnect) – be them with philosophical (see Pythagorean order) or religious-political (see Essenes of Palestine that have influenced so much the Christianity) or military “flavor” (see the orders of Teutonic or Templar Knights). Another classic example is the ordinary monastic orders (brotherhoods and sisterhoods). What characterizes these groups is their solidarity, the awareness of a mission and a certain belief in the necessity and usefulness of their mission.

(* I am so interested in this ancient cultural transformation to understand how we can reverse this orientation from competition again to cooperation and partnership)

(** that’s why I think we need an institution / practice as effective as the Koryos Fellowship, but this time oriented towards cooperation – the Butterfly Fellowship)

This solidarity and awareness of a mission, guided by rituals, differentiates a “fellowship” from a more “ordinary” group of people (be it an “eco-village”, a “teal” organization or a group of “change-makers”). These unique characteristics give them an advantage, especially in uncertain times, like our VUCA world, and can make them the spearhead of a social movement.

Part II: How?

The answer to the main “how?” question is: through cooperation, partnership and solidarity.

But if we want to understand “how can we get from here to there?”, we have to speak about “what we want to create?” in the first place.

Part III: What?

I think we all agree that online courses on permaculture, cob houses or even “deep transformation” (See Gaia Educations and many other similar institutions) have their usefulness, but they are far from being able to produce a systematic transformation at the individual and society level. Also, scientific books and documentaries, TED conferences and articles on spiritual and social development etc. cannot in themselves produce the social transformation we want, even they could be insightful and provide us with the theoretical knowledge needed for a major paradigm shift. What can produce this transformation is a cultural and social space conducive to it! Therefore, the answer to “what we want to bring forth?” is: a cultural and social space conducive to a systematic individual and social metamorphosis toward cooperation, fairness and sustainability*.

(* The first “Butterfly Fellowships” will be far away of being ecologically sustainable due to the predominantly capitalist economic environment. Anyway, the orientation toward cooperation and fairness of the individual and social development will make in time a difference, transforming our capitalist society into a fairer and more sustainable one. This is our end goal and the orientation toward cooperation and fairness is what we have to promote as “Butterfly Fellowships”.)

How can we bring forth this cultural and social space conducive to cooperation and fairness? As I said in my book, we can conceive of ourselves either as a nomadic caravan of dancers, musicians and educators, traveling through Europe, offering art performances, exhibitions, conferences and courses or as a sedentary community (of dancers, musicians and educators). In both cases, what we will co-create and express together will be a “Yellow-Turquoise” environment. As “missionary” travelers, we could stay a few months in the big cities of Europe, offering theoretical courses but mainly and especially the possibility, for those who want, to live with us and deepen, step by step, a new culture and way of being conducive to cooperation. The same thing happens when we choose to form a temporary sedentary community where people can co-learn and co-live with us. I repeat: what people will see and feel among us should be something different form what they are normally witnessing in a mainstream eco-village (see the “big names” – Tamera, Damanhur etc. – that became “business as usual”). A true example of social fairness and human solidarity is what we are all waiting for!

It is up only to us to bring forth this environment conducive to cooperation. So, my idea is simple: I want to bring together a few people, with different but complementary experiences – the cultural creators capable of expressing the metaphysics of the Living Universe in their daily relationships. We can decide to stay together a certain amount of time, with the following clear goals:

1) First, to learn to live together, in solidarity.

2) While we are learning to live together, we will understand what could guide and nourish our solidarity and cooperation. We will translate this understanding into practices and rituals that will further nourish and strengthen our inter-being, laying the basis for an organizational culture conducive to cooperation.

3) Also, together we will establish a co-op economic organization (see What is a Co-operative, The 7 Principles of Co operation, The Case for Co-ops or This New Cooperative Business Model Could Change Everything), with a holarhic organization (see Teal organizations, Holacracy: A Radical New Approach to Management, What is Sociocracy , A brief introduction to classic Sociocracy etc.), based on solidarity. A Butterfly Fellowship will be different than all other co-op organization because it will be at the same time a community that lives together, as a big family or household.

This initiative – spiritual and economic at the same time – could be seen as a rite of passage, because it will primarily involve an individual transformation.

The main activity of this co-op will be to promote, trigger and sustain the transformative social process in which more and more people hear about the metaphysics of the Living Universe and reorient their life strategies towards cooperation, fairness and even solidarity, with the immediate consequence of the emergence and development of close-knit cooperative human groups. This is the “what?”. Now we can return in more detail to “How?”: How can we promote, trigger and sustain this transformative social process?

Part II: How?

First of all, we aim to learn to live together, as a step forward for each of us. A first activity will be to translate the gained understanding into rituals that can nurture, guide and structure this new culture and its cooperative mindset. The second activity will be to spread this knowledge. Of course, there will be courses, books, articles, conferences or films but our goal won’t be as expensive courses as possible, but rather a real transformation of our students. We do this by inviting them to live among us for a period of time, sufficient to trigger in them this process of transformation.

For both us and our students, this enterprise can be perceived as a rite of passage. We will be the first to join a Butterfly Fellowship. Its main purpose will be to bring forth the cultural environment that will be the “water of baptism” for those who want to be initiated in this cooperative and solidarity way of life. Who wants to engage into a “Butterfly Fellowship” rite of passage will need an initiation: therefore, they will spend among us the necessary and sufficient time to trigger in themselves the transformative process towards becoming more capable of cooperation and conscious evolution. This necessary medium is what we will provide. It is obvious that this way of “teaching” is radically different from the classic online courses, and it really has the power to transform people. We will not follow the quantity, but the quality of the transformation.

“Butterfly Fellowship” is an open project that depends on us, an open story that we can enter and become its heroes. I have only configured its main guiding lines, but the details we will establish together. We have the rare chance to make a difference! (see The Butterfly Effect)

I have created a calendar proposal for the Butterfly Fellowship. It started around November 25th. So let’s meet 2-3 weeks in advance in Spain (or another warmer place). The first weeks will be dedicated to getting to know each other, developing common rituals that will structure and nurture our fellowship, and deciding on the guidelines and goals of our future cooperative enterprise.

I will end with some famous quotes that can inspire us to take this step forward.

When a system is far from equilibrium, small islands of coherence in a sea of chaos have the capacity to lift the entire system to a higher order.” (Illya Prigogine)

When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” (Rudolf Bahro)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” (Buckminster Fuller)

We have to create miracles. A miracle is not the intercession of an external divine agency in violation of the laws of physics. A miracle is simply something that is impossible from an old story but possible from within a new one. It is an expansion of what is possible.” (Charles Eisenstein)

We must come to understand that these dreams of ours do not originate in our brains alone. We are the space where Earth dreams. We are the imagination of the Earth, that precious realm where vision and organizing hopes can be spoken with an awareness not otherwise present in the Earth system. We are the mind and the heart of the Earth only insofar as we enable Earth to organize its activities through self-reflexive awareness. That is our larger destiny: to allow the Earth to organize itself in a new way, in a manner impossible through all the billions of years preceding humanity. Who knows what rich possibilities await a planet that has achieved this vastly more rich and complex mode of life?” (Brian Swimme)