My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,
“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”
Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.
One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.
Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.
There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.
As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.
Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.
I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.
Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.
The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.