A review of Turning myself forward: The Personal story that led to the Transform and Empower approach by Julia Wolfson.
Julia Wolfson has written an amazing testament for people who need to regenerate their engagement in whatever they are doing.
Many of us have been touched by Julia’s work in recent years. We have been affected in the most challenging ways – to repair our histories and ourselves. I was so affected by this that I asked Julia to write a book about how she came to this approach and I thank Julia that she did.
Some of us have been disturbed, shaken by some of the consequences this approach has brought to us. Transformation is not a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park; it is not even a weekend seminar. This is why the book is full of stories. Our own “sacred text” is what we are here witnessing in the other. We are here being confronted with “the real life”, a screaming of the silence and invisibility that in many ways has eaten away at the core of our spiritual intention.
Julia starts with a consideration of what happened to her and the nation of South Africa in the nineties and then leads us through her childhood memories: who is God? Can I write my own name? Hanging upside down on a monkey bar in front of the world she exposes her journey as a kind of paradigm awakening for all of us to be inspired by.
In this immensely readable book (it is only 108 pages – a cortado one can throw down before breakfast) Julia traverses through such wide ranging inspirations as: the African notion of Ubuntu, to illustrate how “talking about the painful things that had happened was part of the healing”; Paulo Friere’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to show how methods can be employed to “assist individuals with learning difficulties to gain dignity and self respect, and use their voice in creating a better life and a better world for everyone”; Aaron Antonovsky’s salutogenesis: “my struggles are an opportunity to develop”; Arnold and Amy Mindell: “to connect empathetically and be more mindful and fluid when sitting in the fire of diversity and conflict” and the current must read book for all people operating in activities like Camphill, Otto C. Scharmer’s Theory U which offers “awareness tools” for the interaction between individual (micro), group(meso), institutional (macro) and global (mundo).
Julia’s book may be described as a collection of intuitive wisdom interspersed with personal stories, demonstrating how this intuition arose by being profoundly engaged in a dialogue with her deepest self and that of the human beings she has encountered during an amazing field trip, her life.
Julia iterates the profound changes needed in Camphill without any sense of “superimposing”, rather it is all about inviting “intimacy with others” or “rediscovering shared enthusiasm for the purpose that motivates us collectively” which can “dissolve hateful and wounding thoughts and feelings, even momentarily”.
Julia could be described as a Camphiller “gone rogue” as she connects vigorously with the streams around her, challenging herself and the people with whom she works to enter into dialogue with people, organizations, movements which at first may seem to be counter intuitive dialogue partners, reversing the tide of decades of introspective “Steinercentrism”. She naturally uses Steiner to back this position: “…no spiritual movement can really survive in our time which is any separatist movement of mankind”. Then Julia asks the question that I sincerely hope many in Camphill have been asking, “Was I living in an illusion about the importance of what we were doing? Or, could our collective experiences and aspirations somehow be part of a broader field network in the world that I could discover.” This reflects a justifiable fear I sense today in Camphill, are we relevant? Julia communicates an insight for all of us however, that wonder if what we do is ultimately meaningful in the context of a world facing major need of transformation:
“In quantum terms the principle of locality and non-locality means that wherever you are you can be working on the whole field at different levels. This worldview is hopeful and energizing because we can be developing ourselves and affecting world change simultaneously, from our own backyard”
The point is that we perform simple acts of love and we do this belonging to a greater whole that will, like us, be enriched by this – Ubuntu.
Turning myself forward heralds a necessary paradigm shift in our communities today. This paradigm shift is remarkably no less than the recognition of a death and rebirth of the spiritual content of the original Camphill impulse. Julia writes “In my view, the personal fate of the founders [of Camphill] was integral to their ability to use the archetypal imagination of the human being in its wholeness in meeting individuals in their care with respect, empathy and mutuality.” In other words we today have to transform ourselves to empower the Camphill pioneer spirit in a postmodern, individualized way, a way imbued with freedom:
Transform and Empower has its source in the profound right of every person to be a leader of his or her own life, in this spirit of freedom. This approach begins when two, three or more want to collectively generate conditions hat enable those with the least voice, person by person, to show the way.
Julia indicates that what must happen right here right now in our selves and our others (in my words) is to kill the social capital of Camphill to generate new transformed social capital for the future. Julia does not reinvent the Camphill impulse, rather, by using references from diverse streams: African, Indian, American, German, Jewish, she re-testifies the true impulse at the heart of Camphill:
“And if you don’t know this dying and birth, you are merely a guest on this earth” (Goethe)
Read this book if you want to be reminded that honesty, pain and love is the soul food for a wonderful, free life; if you are just willing to face the “real” and trust the resulting collective empowerment of everyone with you on your journey.