Deep Democracy is the philosophical basis of the Process Work and Worldwork Paradigm, a psycho-social-political theory and methodology. The term Deep Democracy was developed by Arny Mindell in 1988 and first appeared in Leader as Martial Artist (Mindell, 1992). Mindell, a physicist from MIT and Jungian Analyst, has researched and written extensively about how awareness interlinks with reality and how we perceive it on different levels, creating different frameworks of reality.
Unlike “classical” democracy, which focuses on majority rule, Deep Democracy suggests that all voices, states of awareness, and frameworks of reality are important. Deep Democracy also suggests that all the information carried within these voices, levels of awareness, and frameworks is needed to understand the complete process of a system. Deep Democracy is an attitude that focuses on the awareness of voices that are both central and marginal.
This type of awareness can be focused on groups, organizations, one’s own inner experiences, people in conflict, etc. Allowing oneself to take seriously seemingly unimportant events and feelings can often bring unexpected solutions to both group and inner conflicts.
Deep Democracy is a natural process that occurs in all community building processes, but often goes unnoticed or un-used. Just as conventional democracy strives to include all individuals involved in the political process, Deep Democracy goes a step further in the effort towards fostering a deeper level of dialogue and inclusiveness that makes space for all people (with the individual right to vote) as well as all various and competing views, tensions, feelings, and styles of communication – in a way that supports awareness of relative rank, power, and privilege, and the potential of these forces to marginalize other views, individuals, and groups.
Deep Democracy and Process Work Paradigm
Process Work integrates concepts from quantum physics, psychology, anthropology, and spirituality into a new paradigm and methodology that has many applications. Mindell defines process as the constant flow of information, manifesting in events that are connected by an underlying organizing principle reflecting many universal laws. Process Work is a widespread approach with applications in collective transformation (change management), individual transformation (psychotherapy), medicine, physics, law, politics, leadership development, and art.
Mindell coined the term Deep Democracy to describe the importance of developing awareness of and appreciation for all levels of experience. Deep Democracy further formulates quantum mechanics in terms of the relationship between the observer, the event, and the method of observation. It is a radical new way to think about reality, and shines a new light on the relative value of scientific and philosophical approaches that try to explain reality by focusing on single-dimensional aspects, but fall short of addressing the phenomena of all dimensions.
Mindell formulates the process of observation on three separate awareness levels: the measurable, objective, and readily expressible aspects of our experience; the non-measurable, subjective, and expressible aspects; and the deepest, inexpressible ones. Deep Democracy recognizes the equal importance of consensus reality issues and concerns (measurable objective descriptions of problems and people), dreamland figures (roles, ghosts, directions), and essence experiences (common ground) that connect everyone. It shows how we can experience the universe more fully by valuing equally all of the various aspects of our awareness.
For example, in the area of collective transformation and organizational change, Deep Democracy includes the idea that awareness of all these levels can bring valuable information to groups and leaders, by helping them to discover “The Process”, the multi-dimensional direction that is hidden from the linear everyday state of mind. “The Process” is the principle that organizes the dynamic flow of voices and roles – including our collective experiences of altered states, subtle feelings, and behavioral and somatic tendencies. Awareness of the background process allows us to see the whole picture and brings forward a new understanding of existing conflict and problems, including business issues, and allows new organic and spontaneous solutions to organizational or community problems. Focusing on immediate goals is important, but including information available at the deeper levels of our awareness brings the most stability to the system, and often creates spontaneous and surprising results.
Impact and Evolution of Deep Democracy
Deep Democracy has had an enormous impact in many areas over the last twenty years. The concept of Deep Democracy is now being used by many scientists, social activists, politicians, transpersonal psychologists, and organizational development communities.
”The most fundamental forum is your own heart. Both as a facilitator and as a human being, you must learn to hear yourself there.” Arnold Mindell, “Sitting in the Fire”, 1995
Deep democracy has many aspects, many of which relate to philosophical concepts derived from quantum physics. Deep Democracy at its deepest manifestation refers often to an openness towards the views of other people and groups. It also embraces emotions and personal experiences that are most often excluded from conflict and rational public discourse (Mindell, 1992).
One of the primary concerns of Deep Democracy is the use, maintenance, and awareness of metaskills, a concept developed by Amy Mindell (attitudes and feeling tones underlying our skills). The concept of openness to diversity and dialogue between various views doesn’t mean that the facilitator goes along with what the group wants—that is only one metaskill (although it often reflects a lack of awareness). Facilitators must also practice, embody, and express other metaskills such as toughness, anger, intractability, love, detachment, concern for the well being of the others, and a genuine desire to achieve consensus. Some of the metaskills in the above mentioned list are organic responses. However, when a facilitator uses her internal organic responses to better inform her intervention, she is using a metaskill. This is why the human development (the internal psychological and spiritual growth) of the facilitator is so important.
Deep Democracy involves not only openness to other individuals, groups, and diverse views, but also an openness to experiences including feelings, dreams, body symptoms, altered states of consciousness, and synchronicities as well as an awareness of signals, roles, and the structural dynamics of the interactions between parties involved.