The State of the World

Seeking the Pattern That Connects


This course will reflect upon the major changes taking place in the world today and the fundamental questions they compel-changes that compel us to confront paradox, and questions that lead us to deeper questions.

This experience will give you a way to gain deeper understanding of the deeper patterns at play in the current transition. It will galvanize your thinking about the great issues of our day and the challenges they create for leadership. It will provide you with tools to develop the capacity to hold a healthy dialectical tension between the paradoxes inherent in a globalizing world and the need to have a moral compass that remains steadfast. It will enable you to construct more meaningful questions and examine ways to deepen both your wisdom and your ability to create coherence and restore balance.

Ultimately, this course will empower you as a leader and citizen by expanding and deepening the framework of values from which you can draw inspiration and upon which you can make decisions in an increasingly complex world characterized by radical change, climatic turbulence, social upheaval, technological innovation, awakening consciousness, a completely new worldview and extraordinary opportunities.

It was T.S. Eliot who asked:

What is the information in the data?

What is the knowledge in the information?

What is the wisdom in the knowledge?

Course Objectives

By the end of the intensive, participants should be able to:

  • Have an overview of the many global-scale issues that are in transition
  • see and articulate an underlying pattern that connects the different issues
  • see and articulate the elements of society that are disintegrating and emerging
  • Engage in dialogue about their moral compass in relationship to global affairs
  • Name underlying universal principles and relate current global developments to them
  • Express their relationship to the topic through sacred geometry

Daily Schedule - tbc

Plenary/Small Group topics include:

What Dots Should We be Connecting
in the World Today?

A major challenge in the world today revolves around the crucial fact that economic power is moving from West to East as the United States and the European Union falter and the economies of India and China continue to expand. How should we navigate through the increasing fragility of the global financial system? Other challenges are emerging: escalating climate turbulence is threatening virtually every country throughout the world. How should we understand and respond to this? We also see rising protests and social movements-what do these mean? What is behind them? How do we engage in meaningful social change in a globalizing world when international laws and national particularities conflate and sometimes collide? And what about technology: is it the problem? Is it the solution? Both?

Faculty: Dr Jim Garrison

Evolutionary Leadership in a Complex
and Rapidly-Changing World

Leaders today face a world that is beyond their background and experience. Many are confronting the need to address issues of complexity, diversity and uncertainty on an unprecedented scale. In such a world there is no one right way to lead. Leadership must be seen in the context of personal style, organizational lifecycles, cultural differences and global issues. In such a world wise leaders need to use their head for systemic analysis, their heart for empathic understanding, their intuition for deep sensing and their “guts” for moral guidance in the face of constant paradoxes that must be navigated, rather than problems to be solved. Wisdom in leadership is therefore dependent on “whole” leaders who first understand themselves, second understand the context in which they are leading and third have the ability to “hold” conflicting needs in their conscious while acting to meet immediate crises.

Faculty: Peter Merry

What is dying and what is wanting to be born
in our human society?

As we enter this global transition for humanity and the planet we are part of, which beliefs, behaviors and structures are crumbling and which are emerging? The shift from a linear, scientific-rational worldview to a more organic paradigm is playing out in all areas of our society such as our economy, ecology, education, healthcare and social cohesion. What is the language to describe the old that is dying and the new that is being born? What principles can help us to orient ourselves to informed action?

Faculty: Herman Wijffels

How can we know ‘what works and
what does not work’?

We can look at the current situation in the world from different perspectives. From the perspective of the big picture we can search for the answer to the question how we can really know ‘what works and what does not work’ by using three completely different sources that are available to us in this special time in history: First of all, perceptions based on our personal experiences and awakening consciousness, secondly the ancient knowledge of wisdom traditions recently made available to everyone, and recent cutting-edge scientific discoveries that seem to be in line with these ancient insights and our personal experiences and awakening consciousness. The combination of all these sources makes it possible to rediscover the existence of the universal laws, which underlie the harmony and the dynamic balance of the universe. This reveals not only insights into the major changes taking place in the world today and understanding of the deeper patterns at play in the current situation. It also reveals that our Western culture has for a long time lost the fundamental insights into ‘what works and what does not work’ and what really is needed for us to thrive and flourish and live in harmony with each other and with all else. With the rediscovery of the universal laws we can use them as a frame of reference to make conscious choices to restore coherence and balance in ourselves and to consciously work toward creating worldwide ‘Societies in Balance’. The term ‘Societies in Balance’ is coined to describe societies that have the insights into the operation of the universal laws as an inherent part of all aspects of that culture, so they are able to function in an optimal way and in which all individuals can flourish.

Faculty: Marja de Vries

Required Reading

Peter Merry, Evolutionary Leadership

Marja de Vries, The Whole Elephant Revealed, Insights into the existence and operation of Universal Laws and the Golden Ratio

Recommended Reading

Jared Diamond, Collapse

Alastair McIntosh, Hell and High Water

Richard Tarnas, World Transits 2000-2020 (PDF)

Seena Frost, Invitation to SoulCollage (6 min video)


What is your current perspective on the state of the world?


To be assigned in class

CLICK HERE to view all the courses being offered in Europe in 2013 (and 2014 as developed).

Dates: March 17–21, 2014 (moved from March 2013)

Location: Mennorode Conference Center, the Netherlands

Faculty: Dr. Jim Garrison, Herman Wijffels, Marja de Vries, Peter Merry, Richard Henry

Credit: 4 credits

Faculty Bios

Jim Garrison

Jim Garrison serves as President of Wisdom University and is a scholar of historical studies with a focus on Greek philosophy. He received his BA, magna cum laude, in World History from the University of Santa Clara in 1973; his MTS from Harvard Divinity School in Christology and the History of World Religions in 1975; and his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in Philosophical Theology in 1982. His doctoral dissertation was on the theme “Hiroshima, Apocalyptic, and the Antinomial Nature of God.” Garrison has developed this theme in all his published writings beginning with his first book in 1980, called The Plutonium Culture (SCM). This was followed by The Darkness of God: Theology After Hiroshima (SCM/1982); The Russian Threat: Myths and Realities (Gateway Books/ 1983); The New Diplomats, (Resurgence Press/1984); Civilization and the Transformation of Power (Paraview Press/2000); and America As Empire (Barrett Koehler/2004). His forthcoming book is called Return of Gaia: Climate Turbulence and the Primordial Mind. Garrison also serves as president of the State of the World Forum, which he founded in 1995 in partnership with President Mikhail Gorbachev and Senator Alan Cranston.

Richard Henry

Richard Henry is an artist and teacher with particular interest in the contemplative aspects of pattern. He has a background in philosophy and cognitive psychology and studied for two years under Keith Critchlow, one of the world’s leading authorities on geometry in sacred and traditional art. Richard has subsequently lectured widely on this subject and has devised and taught practical portfolio courses in geometric design for the British Museum in London's World Arts and Artifacts programme. He has undertaken field studies in Morocco, Egypt, Syria and most recently Iran. Richard is the co-editor and illustrator of Miranda Lundy’s Sacred Number (Wooden Books 2005), a book about the history and symbolism of number and has participated in a number of exhibitions exploring links between geometry and art. Richard is a visiting lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art, Central St Martins, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, a sessional lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London and an associate lecturer at the Open University in London. He holds an MA from Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, MSc from the University of Wales, and BA Hons from the U of Birmingham.

Peter Merry

Peter Merry, MSc, PhD (Cand), is founder of the Center for Human Emergence (Netherlands), co-founder of the Wisdom University in Europe, a founding partner of Engage! and Fellow of the Center for Human Ecology.

He works in and across different sectors. As well as founding and leading the organisations above, his experience includes facilitating integral change processes in multinational corporations, and government ministries, and in multistakeholder initiatives with global stakeholders. He has also spent many years in the not-for-profit sector. Recent multistakeholder projects focus on MDG5 (Maternal and Newborn Health with WHO), climate change and biodiversity.

He is a recognised expert in the field of evolutionary systems dynamics and Spiral Dynamics Integral in particular. He has had his first book published in English and Dutch (Evolutionary Leadership), with two forthcoming (The Pain and the Promise and Leading from the Field).

He is currently researching the application of noetic science, energetics and quantum physics to whole systems transitions. In this context, he is working on a PhD with Wisdom University, and helping life-affirming leaders to understand and work with the energetic dimension of reality.

For more information, see, and CV on LinkedIn.

Marja de Vries

Marja de Vries studied biology and ecology at the university of Utrecht (RUU) and Groningen (RUG) and obtained in 1980 her MO-Biology (qualification to teach biology). Looking for answers to the question “How can we, human beings, live in harmony with nature?” she came to the conclusion that the answers were to be found outside our Western culture. She visited several indigenous people and in the 1990s she spent time to learn from what was left and still alive of the wisdom of non-Western indigenous traditions. As a result of these intensive trainings which were based on ’enabling to have first hand experiences’ she developed her intuition and awareness of the non-physical realities. As a result she is able to see the whole picture, the patterns and the interconnectedness of everything.

She also worked more than 10 years as a self-taught fabric artist and since 2003 she is fully dedicated to contribute to the transformation of learning and education, so it will be more in line with who we and our children in essence are. As a first step she wrote the bestselling book De Hele Olifant in Beeld about universal laws which was published in Dutch in 2007 and of which already 11,000 copies sold. In 2012 this book was also published in English as The Whole Elephant Revealed. Since the publication of her book she is an often asked for speaker and is invited by many different organizations to give a presentation.

At this moment she is writing her second book which is about ‘Societies in Balance’, meaning societies, that have the insights into the operation of the universal laws as an inherent part of all aspects of their culture, so they are able function in an optimal way. Her third book will be about ‘Learning and Education in Balance’.
See for more info:

Herman Wijffels

Herman Wijffels is a Dutch economist and politician for the CDA. From 1981 to 1999 he worked for the Rabobank ultimately as chairman of the board of directors and from 15 March 1999 until 1 April 2006 he was chairman of the Social-Economic Council (Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER). From 2006 to 2008 he was the Dutch representative at the World Bank. For the 2006-2007 Dutch cabinet formation, Wijffels was recommended to lead the negotiations between the CDA, PvdA and ChristianUnion. He has been referred to as “the best prime minister the Netherlands never had”.