Excerpted from: The Alchemy of Power, Post Hill Press
We are all familiar with the power of words, the power of concentration,
power in a decision-making process, the power of
rank or position, power of influence over other people’s emotions
or thinking, and supernatural powers like precognition.
Physics teaches us that power is both a cohesive and a disruptive
force. It is cohesive when it holds things together in specific
patterns, like when it travels through the walls in just the right
mix of positive and negative charges to light a lamp. And
change occurs whenever power is used to disrupt patterns of
coherence. When power is disruptive, it makes elements scatter
in chaos until they cohere again into new, changed patterns.
The yogi’s power over extreme conditions was a result of body,
mind, and spirit cohering together in a pattern of well-being.
Power, like all forces, ebbs and flows—as the Bible says,
“to everything, there is a season…a time to build up, a time to
break down…” Alchemical leadership engages in ever-evolv-
ing inquiry with self and team about when to hold ’em and
when to fold ’em, when to move and when to rest, when to
gather and when to disperse, and when to reap, to sow, or to
allow for fallow fields so fertility can regenerate.
Alchemy is the art of being consciously causal with the metaphysical
forces that create disruption and/or coherence. Unconsciousness
of the metaphysics of power, of the laws of power that cause
things to cohere or to disperse, can lead to complete breakdowns
coming “out of nowhere.” In reality, there is no such
thing as “nowhere.” Yet how often do we all buy into disempowering
fairy tales about nowhere being the source of a problem?
The theory of there being a nowhere and fluff mythology
go together—the only way to maintain the belief that there is a
magical nowhere from which people’s circumstances arise is to
buy into the myth that the metaphysical part of our reality is just
fluffy stuff. Believing in the myth that “nowhere” causes things
to happen leaves believers with nowhere to go to fix things.
To believe that “nowhere” is accountable for your situation
is to award your power to a fantasy place, and thereby deny
your own access to the field of causality. The nowhere that is
often accepted as a dead-end truth is a metaphysical field of
potential. We are undergoing an evolution in leadership consciousness
today as we’re gaining better means of accounting
for the “somewhere” that is occupied by metaphysical factors. The invisible field where power lives is accessed by consciousness
and is fueled by mojo.
I have trekked the world looking for keys to accessing power.
What I’ve learned is that, across cultures, disciplines, and
belief systems, there is a common recognition of a spark of life that
is unique in each of us and common to all. That uniquely common
spark of life is a metaphysical power that makes the difference
between us being a collection of atoms and us being
people who love, dance, laugh, self-reflect, and give toward
the well-being of others. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit
philosopher in the early 1900s, wrote a lot about the essential
nature of our invisible lives. He, like many theologians and
philosophers, concluded that the primal spark of humanity
is love, and he said that, when humanity truly discovers it, we
“will have discovered fire for the second time.”
Given all its connotations, love may not be the best word
to describe that primal spark for Westerners but de Chardin
was referring to a universal phenomenon and not to romantic
love. I wrote a doctoral dissertation on that spark, have been
all over the globe exploring it, and have given many talks
about it. The more I learn about it, though, the more there
seems to be to learn and the clearer it gets to me that it can
never be adequately named. Eastern religions, as well as indigenous,
pagan, and spiritual disciplines, all have words and
practices for articulating, harnessing, growing, and unleashing
the mysterious, metaphysical spark of the human spirit.
There will probably never be a conceptual model that fully
encompasses it, but most cultures seem to have tried. Chinese
philosophy calls it chi; in Japanese, it’s ki; and the idea of invisible,
primal energetics relates to the Hindu concepts of prana
and shakti. I call it “mojo.” Mojo is the power of the fire in your
belly, the spark that’s there even when you’re not feeling it. Mojo is
the primordial driving force for what is happening on your watch.
Organizational mojo is the collective flame that fuels productivity.
We can put all the elements that make up a grape into a
lab dish, but we cannot make a grape because we do not have
the metaphysical capacity to ignite the spark that makes life
live. That primal spark in living beings is the essence of what
I’m calling mojo. There is not much mojo in a grape, but as
life forms become more sophisticated, their mojo increases.
Mojo is an invisible thing, a visceral experience of a
metaphysical charge. It is the life-throb that pulses through
us as zest, dynamism, drive, passion, zeal, zip, zing, pizzazz,
bounce, spirit, oomph, moxie, get-up-and-go, pep, and feistiness.
Mojo is the metaphysical fire that de Chardin was talking
about. We experience the metaphysics of mojo in moments of
everyday magic, like when people just click and that invisible
sense of alignment causes us to want to do more with each
other, or when we somehow inexplicably know we are onto
something and it causes us to pursue further, even when the
pursuit doesn’t make any logical sense.
Wise ones of every era have sought to understand the phenomenon
of chi/ki/shakti/mojo and most conclude that it is
not a fully knowable thing. Taoists probably got the closest
in their teaching from the Tao Te Ching that that which can be
named cannot be the tao. The word “tao” refers to the way of
the universe, to its essential principles, the metaphysics, that
underlie our experiences. In recognizing that it is unnameable,
the Taoists are teaching that the nature of the universe,
and all the power within it, is an ever-unfolding mystery; and
also, that the mysteries of the universe are no less real just
because we haven’t figured them out.
The Taoist reluctance to nail down our deepest truths is resonant
with the words of statistician George Box, who warned
that “all models are inaccurate, yet some are useful.” The truth
is that, in congruence with Taoist teachings, none of the models
that religions, philosophies, sciences, or leadership theories
come up with will probably ever be able to accurately depict the
powers that cause things. Suffice it to say that, throughout all of
history, there is testimony to an invisible inner fire that is causal.
Mojo is a concept that attempts to distinguish that very
real, yet ever mysterious, component of life that is both energy
and power. Mojo is the capacity for making things happen, which
is energy, and, at the same time, mojo is the power to convert energy
from one form into another and to cohere or disrupt existential patterns.
Mojo is a noun, but it isn’t linear or fixed. It is a primal,
invisible, energetic flow—sometimes mojo waxes, sometimes
it wanes, sometimes it moves, sometimes it rests, sometimes
it’s raucous, and sometimes it’s so subtle as to seem imperceptible.
A leader’s power comes with the capacity to convert collective
energies into actions that fulfill a mission. That power
is dependent on management of personal and collective mojo.
In traveling a spiritual and intellectual path of many
paths—encountering academia, human potential technologies,
interfaith seminary, Amazonian shamans, African bush
tribes, American indigenous spiritual leaders, and countless
Asian and Western religious and spiritual traditions, I’ve come
to understand a few key things about mojo:
• Access to power correlates with a person’s command
of personal and group mojo.
• Mojo must be sourced.
• The quality of the sourcing matters.
Dr. Joni Carley, Author of The Alchemy of Power: Mastering the Invisible Factors of Leadership; Consulting with Non-Profit and Private Sector Leaders on cultural development, leadership and Sustainable Development Goal compliance. www.JoniCarley.com