At Birmingham School of Architecture in the 3rd year we had a series of lectures by pioneer sociologist Charles Madge. He had been a member of the ‘Mass Observation’ team in the late 30s & 40s. He opened my eyes to the fact that good Architecture was about people’s aspirations and their feelings as well as the intellectual strictures of the ‘Modern’ movement. Later in our course, at Attingham Park there was an inspiring talk from Terence Lee who was actually working on understanding how people used buildings and wanted them to be. Then working in Buckinghamshire, with Fred Pooley and Ron Walker who were trying to create buildings users ‘could never have dreamed in having’ – using local materials, pitched roofs, soft internal furnishing and delightful landscaping. In Milton Keynes, Derek Walker’s adherence to the 60s revival of ‘Modernism’, struck a jarring note with the ethos of public participation and social provision of the de Moncheaux-Beauchamp plan for Milton Keynes and resulted in much argument within the Corporation.
In the 70s my growing concern for environmental issues led me to ‘Resource Manual for a Living Revolution’, then a manuscript and a very early guide to the concept of Facilitation. My reading of the current literature such as Ivan D Illich, ‘Whole Earth Catalogue’, ‘Self Sufficiency’, and Schumacher led me to think Milton Keynes should shift direction – but Fred Roche argued ‘Mankind has always found a technical way out of things like this’. A small group within the Corporation also understood the issues, John Doggart, Steve Fuller, Rowan MacTaggart and a few others. I met Peter (then called Jake) Chapman of the Open University, one of those who first warned against Global Warming. But also he introduced me to the work of Carl Rogers which encouraged my view of the importance of Architects working with people not arrogantly handing down work from on high as the ‘Neo-Modernists’ were doing. Jake Chapman went on to do good work in MK. The difference of view about my desire to create a city which all could admire and participate contrasted with the architect’s flat roofed, harsh materialed constructions, led me to go to Auckland in New Zealand. I urged Fred Roche to change, become more humane, more eco-friendly, but he would not, Wayland Tunley at Neath Hill and Peter Winchester at Great Linford started the change.
In Auckland I met with an entirely new group of people who were pioneering just what I was seeking. The were Architect Russell Withers and Clarinetist Dale Hunter. They had been inspired a couple of years earlier by visiting lecturer John Heron (originally from Ilkley!). He became a real pioneer of the concept of group Facilitation. John had established a centre for the development of human potential at the University of Surrey at Guildford. His philosophy grew from the notion of Co-Counselling which in turn implies peer working and cooperation. Russell as an Architect and as a therapist observed that many ostensible architectural problems arising within organisations or relationships were in fact problems of power or oppression. He, with great insight, developed a therapeutic method using our ability not only to talk but represent feelings through recording on a page by words, gestures and drawings. This he called ‘Interactive Drawing Therapy’, a remarkably effective way of accessing the unconscious – the skill was further evolved as a working tool in group facilitation, ‘Graphic Facilitation’.
Towards the end of my time in Auckland, Russell, Dale, Christine Herzog, Bevin Fitzsimmons and a small group met to create an accessible ‘Environmental Resource Centre’ in Ponsonby, Auckland, to help local people work with and understand environmental and community issues. Bob Drake produced clear and comprehensible documentation for this. It came together after I left to join what could have been UK’s first Community Architecture practice. After my departure Russell set up ‘Archangels’ a community architecture practice until he became a full time therapist and trainer of ‘Interactive Drawing Therapy’ and Dale Hunter formed ‘Zenergy Global’ taking NZ facilitation skills into a wider world.
On return to Leicester in UK, I decided to complete my Town Planning Degree which I had abandoned due to pressure of work on North Bucks New City. At the University of North London the final dissertation I undertook was ‘Planners and Counselling’, this made the case that if Planners and Architects were to work with the environment, with communities and with individuals then they needed interpersonal and facilitation skills which were not (and are not) included in their training. This was in the very early days of these ideas and terms like ‘Facilitation’ were not current – hence the use of ‘Counselling’ in my title.
However, doing this work put me in touch with a wonderful group of people in Leicester and Loughborough. Michael Jacobs, Leicester University Student counsellor was also President of the British Association for Counselling and he gave me the opportunity to give a paper on my ideas for interpersonal skills relevance in environment and urban planning to the BAC Conference at Loughborough. Following that I became involved with a project to create an off-the-street Counselling Centre in Leicester, I suddenly found myself acting as Facilitator for this group of highly skilled counsellors, Hazel Marshall, Jean Clark and Colin Lago to clarify and proceed with their project. They were a great group to work with. In addition I encountered, Tony Gibson who created ‘Planning for Real’ and David Sturgess and Arthur Wooster of Nottingham University.
Before its completion and for professional reasons I took a position at Leeds University and moved to Ilkley.
In the north I tried to find like minds in this world of personal development without much success – Leeds University was one of the few without a student Counsellor. I did meet up with Pat Wood who was trying to revive the BAC branch in this part of the world, through this I encountered Nick Ellerby, later of Oasis.
At the same time, through a different contact I met Bryce Taylor who had established Oasis, a consultancy based on peer working and person centered learning and working. In the ethos of Oasis’ lay a common ancestor with Russell Withers and Dale Hunter in the work of John Heron. As the skills of Facilitation and Peer Working evolved attention began to be directed towards the urgent need to review the importance of ‘Leadership’, a strange almost contradiction of Peer Working. This brought new thinking to Oasis in reconciling these opposites, to the degree that Oasis has pioneered work on ‘Globally Responsible Leadership’ facilitated by Nick Ellerby.
My association with Bryce Taylor and Oasis continued until Bryce’s sudden and untimely death in 2010. Our work together lay in developing and expanding the role of Oasis and my particular effort was to reveal and encourage involvement with global and environmental issues. At the time of his passing we were examining the hazard of Oasis’ teaching becoming dogma but more rewardingly exploring an entirely new concept of ‘Emergence’. I greatly miss the stimulating and adventurous exchange we had.
Another Layer of Consciousness?
Over the last forty years or so I have viewed the evolution of what began as a new range of skills which have come to be called variously, as personal development, counselling, facilitation and so on.
Those great observers of the human condition, Sigmund Freud and developing from him, Carl Jung, have made possible the investigation and understanding of another aspect of humanity, the unconscious.
Their study began from a tradition of reason and science being the path towards enlightenment and bringing with it the denigration of spirituality and intuition. As much study of the human mind has so far been empirical, the scepticism towards the inter-personal skills of human development has continued and mocked as ‘touchy-feely’. These polarities stem from the nature of what is currently regarded as evidence and proof. Now, however our ability to begin to examine in a measurable way the activities of the human brain is rapidly altering the very foundations of work on the conscious and the unconscious.
Deriving from the work of Carl Rogers, the ideas of mutual autonomy, counselling, facilitation and peer learning and working have evolved. This work forms the philosophical foundation of a number of groups and individuals which I know and respect. An ability to access, examine and work with both the conscious and unconscious mind is a fundamental component of their work and so if our understanding of these suddenly begins to shift, then it seems to me to be necessary to review fundamental beliefs in the light of these discoveries.
It seems to me that we are at the beginning of a massive change both to the basis of ‘normal science’ and of our studies of understanding the ways in which humanity perceives, analyses, decides and implements its mental processes.
The new changes and discoveries I see and learn about, suggest to me that a radical review of the philosophical basis of our work is both needed and necessary. Perhaps not a revolution but a much accelerated evolution.
But what is this change? It is a change as great as that when humanity first looked back from space to the wholeness of our blue planet. As great as the communication revolution which through computers and the understanding of electro-magnetism which is making these changes visible. The change is in the ability to examine how the human brain reacts to stimuli. Then from that study to perceive that in addition to the ‘unconscious’ – which we have explored as we evolved notions of ‘human development’, there is another level of the unconscious created deep within our being from centuries of human existence and modified by our individual inheritance and environment.
This world of ’Neuro-Science’ enables mind activity to be viewed, interpreted and collectively analysed. Giving us insight into something beyond that which we have currently called ‘Science’. This is because we can see that ‘Reason’ is not an adequate term for our human activity of reaching decisions and what we choose to call ‘Proof’.
What is being output from new discoveries may unfortunately be overlooked in the short term because it may be perceived that the human mind could be influenced even reprogrammed based on the scientific and quantitative nature of investigations and the techniques used. This is rejected however in that the individuality of experience, background, evolutionary history and genetics is far too complex to allow this.
But it is ironic that this new study of the mind and brain, which can only be done by the use of the most sophisticated hardware, software and analysis, is revealing to us the actuality and value of intuition, imagination and creativity.
Is there a level of the unconscious beyond that level with which now work? If so, then a major new learning lies ahead.
“To learn to distrust the distrust of feeling – this then was the next step for the seeker?” R.S.Thomas, from ‘Perhaps’ in ‘Frequencies’