Metanoia, Emergence & System Change


When the hero's journey begins, there is Metanoia. The spark that begins the quest, the change in mind or heart that drives the search of the mystic. In Gnosticism, it's an aeon, which is a name for one of the various emanations of God. 

Angie brought up metanoia in our latest episode and lately, I've been wondering about its congruence to emergence in complex systems. Emergence is the "eureka" that happens when a system interacts with its own parts and produces something new and unexpected.

Before he coined the term "learning organization," Peter Senge borrowed the gnostic term Metanoia for his work in transforming organizations from the inside out, and described it as "letting go of control and embracing learning as living." Can we liken metanoia to emergence in a system as complex as the way we learn and grow?

In the gnostic myth, Sophia, the embodiment of divine wisdom, creates something solely from herself and gives birth to a being of ignorance. What happens when divine wisdom and ignorance are face to face? When we don't understand something (or ourselves), we create. That desire to understand moves us to learn and grow and to do that, we have to access a part of ourselves that can't be explained away by the books we've read or the laurels collected in our curriculum vitae. 

The gnostic Sophia Metanoia embodies the realization that the world has become fragmented from unity and into polarity, and that even our selves are fragmented into a collection of masks--in which our purest, divine being still resides. In the rest of Christianity, Metanoia is commonly called redemption. This infers a lot. I asked Gnostic priest David Hogan for some background on the myth.

"Metanoia is the cause for realization. It's the place in us that we call consciousness and awakening," Hogan explained. "Metanoia is very much akin to redemption, or liberation in a sense. The goal is for wisdom to be so deeply embedded in us that it becomes unconscious, that it moves and flows through us. When you you start to free up your concept of self and your ideas, all of your perceptions and the gravity that they hold start to change."

At the moment we are impressed by our own knowledge and wisdom, it uncoils and deeper layers of learning are exposed so that still more lessons can be learned. More of our hangups are gently revealed and as we shed them, the more diverse our idea of "self" is free to be.

In personal experience, Metanoia can be the moment you are compelled to do something to change yourself so that the world can change with you. How is education changing to allow emergence and coevolution? In upcoming episodes, we'll talk to educational entrepreneurs, policy changers, and others who are compelled by realization to forge new paths in learning and growth. 

The HumanCurrent podcast is hosted by Angie Cross & Stacy Hale. Subscribe in iTunes or listen atwww.human-current.com. Stay tuned for interviews with Isaac Morehouse, founder of Praxis, on the disruption of education, and Michele Battle-Fisher on health policy as a system.

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