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The term Deep Democracy was developed by the physicist Arny Mindell, and is a methodology developed to foster a deeper level of dialogue and inclusivity. It is a psycho-social-political paradigm, which first appeared in 1988 in the book Leader as Martial Artist [1].

Arny Mindell

Main article: Arny Mindell

The inventor of Deep Democracy, Arnold Mindell (born 1940), is a physicist and Jungian Analyst. He is married to Amy Mindell, and is the author and the founder of Process Oriented Psychology. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Arnold Mindell has written 19 books that have been published in 20 languages. He had researched and written extensively on how awareness creates reality and how we perceive it on different levels, thus creating different frameworks of reality. An example, this is how time is perceived according to Mindell:

  • The measurable reality of the seconds ticking in a clock
  • The dreamlike "subjective" perception of time as it passes during an encounter with a lover
  • The sentient essence of timelessness, as we catch the moment of a sunrise that goes beyond time as we know it and replaces, for a moment, the concept of future with hope.

Concept of Processwork


Mindell calls his paradigm Processwork, which formulates these principles and demonstrates how they can be used in psychotherapy. In the late eighties, he started to formulate them as a political principle that he called Deep Democracy. Unlike "classical" democracy, which focuses on majority rule, Deep Democracy suggests that all voices, states of awareness, and frameworks of reality are important, and are all needed to understand the complete process of the political system.[2] The attitude focuses on the awareness of voices that are both central and marginal.[3] The principles can be used on groups, organizations, one's own inner experiences, people in conflict, etc.[4] Mindell describes the "experience of Deep Democracy as a process of flow in which all actors on the stage are needed to create the play that we are watching"[citation needed]. Numerous attempts to implement Deep Democracy are occurring simultaneously throughout the world[citation needed].

Free Speech

See also: Freedom of speech in the United States

From the Deep Democracy viewpoint, people censor themselves if they express an opinion, but ignore that their opponent is also a person with many dimensions. Free speech and freedom of the press are important, but without Deep Democracy, they can become abusive and forces of tyranny, unrelated to emotional and social realities.[citation needed]

According to Deep Democracy principles, people often ignore the need for relationship between parties using free speech. Both parties, those who champion for free speech and those who champion for limitations in the interests of public safety, need to relate more to each other and learn to understand the visions and ideals that are behind those opinions.[citation needed]

Deep Democracy

Deep Democracy is supposed to involve openness to other individuals, groups and diverse. It includes feelings, dreams, body symptoms, altered states of consciousness, synchronicities, and an awareness of signals, roles, and the structural dynamics of the interactions between the parties involved.[citation needed]

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"[5]

The idea of supporting a deeper dialogue has been around at least since Plato argued for the inclusion of women in public discourse[citation needed]. Athens needed the intelligence of all and couldn't afford not to accept women as thinkers and leaders. Even if Plato didn't expand his thinking enough to extend that acceptance to slaves, other races, and other than the upper classes of women, he planted a cultural seed that needed another twenty-five hundred years to sprout and is only now coming to fruition in culturally creative ways.[citation needed] At its deepest manifestation, Deep Democracy, refers to an openness towards the views of other people and groups, and also embraces an openness to emotions and personal experiences, which tend to get excluded from conflict and rational public discourse.[1] As R. Buckminster Fuller said, we need to support the intuitive wisdom and comprehensive informed-ness of each and every individual to ensure our continued fitness for survival as a species.[6] One novel formulation called structural deep democracy, uses deep democracy as an algorithm, equating trust and consent with network centrality. By rating the pagerank of internet connections, emails, etc., a social network optimization methodology is postulated to equate centrality with leadership ability.[7] However, strange and point attractors other than trust and consent may also correlate with node centrality.[8]

University of Texas at Austin Professor Particia A. Wilson says, "At its essence, deep democracy is the inner experience of interconnectedness.”[9] “From a systems perspective, deep democracy is an open dynamic system springing from the diverse points of engagement where individuals and community come together."[9]

A US government publication called What is Democracy maintains that, “Democratic societies are capable of enduring the most bitter disagreement among its citizens—except for disagreement about the legitimacy of democracy itself”.[10] The symbiotic connection between democracy and human development is an aspect of Deep Democracy but attempts to formally define deep democracy often result in formation of a procedural approach. For example, one economist suggests, "Deep Democrfacy [sic] and economic justice, therefore, can be presented as a coherent set of positive requirements,"[11] but that approach may not relate to self-organizing tendencies, potentially meaningful synchronicities, non-linear and non-local experience, and the more subtle concepts and experiences that Mindell's original conception discussed.[1]


One of the primary concerns of Deep Democracy is the use, maintenance, and awareness of metaskills,[12].[1] The concept of openness to diversity and dialogue between various views doesn’t mean that the facilitator is a pushover—that is only one metaskill (although it often reflects a lack of awareness). Facilitators must also at times practise, 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 that list are organic responses. However, when a facilitator uses her internal organic responses to better inform her intervention, that is a metaskill. This is the reason why the human development—the internal psychological and spiritual growth and inner peace—of the facilitator is so important.[13].

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mindell, Arnold (1992). Leader as Martial Artist: An Introduction to Deep Democracy (1st ed.), San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
  2. Mindell, Arnold (2002). Deep Democracy of Open Forums: Practical Steps to Conflict Prevention and Resolution for the Family, Workplace, and World, Boston: Hampton Roads Publishing.
  3. [Association of Facilitators (ed.)] (2010). Working with Difficult Groups, NYC: Jossey Bass.
  4. Audergon, A. Ph.D.. Collective Trauma: The Nightmare of History. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 2(1), 16-31.
  5. Mindell, Arnold (1995). Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation using Conflict and Diversity (1st ed.), Portland, OR: Lao Tse Press.
  6. Fuller, R.B. (1981). Critical Path, NYC: St. Martin's Press.
  7. Rosst, Mark sd-2 · Structural Deep Democracy. URL accessed on 2009-10-11.
  8. Lorenz, Edward N. (1996). Essence of Chaos, Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wilson, Particia A. (February 2004). Deep Democracy The Inner Practice of Civic Engagement. Fieldnotes: A Newsletter of the Shambala Institute (3).
  10. What is Democracy?. US Department of State.
  11. Kahn, Haider. A Theory of Deep Democracy and Economic Justice in the Age of Postmodernism. CIRJE F-Series, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo (CIRJE-F-468).
  12. Mindell, Amy (1994). Metaskills: the spiritual art of therap, New Falcon.

External links

For further information on Deep Democracy see:

Video clips

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