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Record Type: Review   ID: 182

Co-Operative Inquiry: Research into the Human Condition

Heron, John

John Heron, later joined by Peter Reason, has been developing the concept of "co-operative inquiry" since the late 1960s. This type of inquiry "involves two or more people researching a topic through their own experience of it, using a series of cycles in which they move between this experience and reflecting together on it. Each person is co-subject in the experience phases and co-researcher in the reflection phases" (p. 1). In this remarkable work, Heron gives the history of this approach and describes the many developments that have occurred since his first published paper about it in 1970 and how it relates to the postmodernism/objectivist science/quali-tative science debate. I could write many pages on the book and on its relevance to EHE research but in this abstract/review I must confine myself to describing the book briefly and pointing to its relevance to EHEs. I want to say at the start that though it is a masterful work, intricately intensive, it remains very accessible throughout. If new terms are introduced, the reader is made to see readily why they were needed and the unique role they play.

After a personal and historical introduction, he discusses research method and participation. Next comes an overview of co-operative inquiry and how to launch an investigation using this approach (2 chapters). Chapter 5, Stages of the Inquiry Cycle, is very important because it describes a developmental process that evolves from using this technique regardless of the inquiry’s focus. Parts of the article are standard, but it also involves experiential immersion, including the experience of radical memory. A chapter is devoted to outcomes of inquiries, including "transformative, illuminative, and informative" ones. In a sense, each co-operative inquiry functions as what I have called a project of transcendence. The technique itself will generate positive results irrespective of the original aim. Some of the skills inherent in co-operative inquiry are described in chapter 7, Radical Memory and Inquiry Skills. These he calls "transformative" and indeed they enable the team to experience what he calls "extraordinary consciousness." It is easy to see why I am highly interested in this approach because (a) it is applicable to the ideal interchange between EHEer and EHE investigator, and (b) it is conducive to generating EHEs in the course of the inquiry. (Note that co-operative inquirers engage in inquiry, not investigation. The aim of the inquiry in a sense cannot be known until it is engaged in, although each inquiry has a topic into which it is inquiring. Chapter 8 is on validity procedures, and again is very useful for anyone inquiring into EHEs. The next two chapters are on validation of practice and on a new worldview that he calls postconceptional. The whole approach involves an empirical practice predicated on "an openness to integral lived experience which does not presage in a limiting way its content" (p. 179). His postconceptual worldview is the outcome of his attempt to "transform the primary meaning of any integral lived experience into the secondary meaning of a conceptual system that seeks to be open to its primary ground," tempered by the "corrective elaboration co-operative inquiry" (p. 196).

It seems to me that when the process of co-operative inquiry really warms up and "gets cooking," in the alchemical sense, new meanings are sparked off in the process; new visions are produced. The fruit of co-operative inquiry can be called exceptional human experiences involving nonordinary ways of perceiving, recalling, and producing meanings new to the participants, that is, anomalies of experience

Publisher Information:Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996. Pp. ix + 225. Bibl: 209-215; 13 figs; Ind: 217-225; 6 tables
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