Deep Democracy Institute

What is Deep Democracy



Deep Democracy is the philosophical basis of the Worldwork Paradigm, a psycho-social-political theory and methodology. The term Deep Democracy was developed by Arny Mindell in 1988 and first appeared in Leader as Martial Artist (Mindell, 1992). Mindell, a physicist and Jungian Analyst, has researched and written extensively about how awareness interlinks with reality and how we perceive it on different levels, creating different frameworks of reality. An example of this is how we perceive time: 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 - or during a conflict with an opponent - and the sentient essence of timelessness at the moment of sunrise that transcends "known" time (if only for a moment) and replaces it with the concept of a hopeful future. Mindell calls his paradigm Processwork. He formulates these principles and demonstrates how they can be used to facilitate individual, relationship, and group transformation in many of his books.

In the late eighties, Mindell started to formulate these principles as a philosophical approach 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. Deep Democracy also suggests that all the information carried within these voices, levels of awareness, and frameworks is  needed to understand the complete process of a system. Deep Democracy is an attitude that focuses on the awareness of voices that are both central and marginal.

This type of awareness can be focused on groups, organizations, one's own inner experiences, people in conflict, etc. Allowing oneself to take seriously seemingly unimportant events and feelings can often bring unexpected solutions to both group and inner conflicts.

Although the term and the concepts of Deep Democracy are now being used by various groups in different ways, Mindell formulates their common denominator: Deep Democracy is the experience of a process of flow in which all actors on the stage are needed to create the play that is being watched.
Deep Democracy is a natural process that occurs in all community building processes, but often goes unnoticed or un-used. Just as conventional democracy strives to include all individuals involved in the political process, Deep Democracy goes a step further in the effort towards fostering a deeper level of dialogue and inclusiveness that makes space for all people (with the individual right to vote) as well as all various and competing views, tensions, feelings, and styles of communication - in a way that supports awareness of relative rank, power, and privilege, and the potential of these forces to marginalize other views, individuals, and groups.

Deep Democracy is our sense that the world is here to help us to become our entire selves, and that we are here to help the world to become whole (Mindell, 1992).

Evolution of Deep Democracy

”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", 1995

Deep democracy has many aspects, many of which relate to philosophical concepts derived from quantum physics. Deep Democracy at its deepest manifestation refers to an openness towards the views of other people and groups. It also embraces emotions and personal experiences that are most often excluded from conflict and rational public discourse (Mindell, 1992). As R. Buckminster Fuller Collect-Architectural-Drawings  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.

Deep Democracy has crossed over into many fields and has been picked up by many authors, some using it as defined by Mindell, others using only particular aspects (as it is often the case with crossovers). For more information, please see

One of the primary concerns of Deep Democracy is the use, maintenance, and awareness of metaskills (attitudes and feeling tones underlying our skills). The concept of openness to diversity and dialogue between various views doesn’t mean that the facilitator goes along with what the group wants—that is only one metaskill (although it often reflects a lack of awareness). Facilitators must also practice, 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 the above mentioned list are organic responses. However, when a facilitator uses her internal organic responses to better inform her intervention, she is using a metaskill. This is why the human development (the internal psychological and spiritual growth) of the facilitator is so important.

Deep Democracy involves not only openness to other individuals, groups, and diverse views, but also an openness to experiences including feelings, dreams, body symptoms, altered states of consciousness, and synchronicities as well as an awareness of signals, roles, and the structural dynamics of the interactions between parties involved.

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