Constituting Consensus
    Andy Tudhope
    November 12, 2021

    All that is good in these words is given back to the ancestors.

    In order to perceive the most prosocial forms of web3 governance, we must develop more nuanced understanding of two words: constitution and consensus. So, before we begin: constitutions are not just textual documents and consensus is not the same as agreement.


    For many, this word means a written institutional text, to which we refer when we want to appeal to an external authority, most often in a legal debate or in moments of anger or protest. It does not have much impact on our day to day life.

    However, “constitution” also means the composition of something: it is a recipe for how we can most harmoniously live together given the basic bits which make each of us up (statuere comes from the Latin meaning “made up” and con is a prefix which means “together”). The word itself displays the heart of human being: each one of us is a unique composition of constituent parts which can only be fully understood - can only cohere - when we come together.

    In Africa, we say umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: a human being is only a human being through other human beings. This, too, is a law. Though it is not a law in the sense that we understand “constitution”. It is simply an observed and lived aspect of reality, passed down and reproduced anew in every different age.

    In this older sense, a constitution is really a dynamic and living tradition tailored over countless generations, designed to lead you to useful knowledge about who you really are and the harmony in which you are composed. Any tradition is only useful insofar as it can train you to live in accordance with your constitution. Doing so sincerely brings you to the great truth of every human life and tradition: how you are made up is no different from the constitution of every other being, indeed, from every aspect which appears in the universe. There is no separation. The essence of each and every constituent part is nothing other than the whole. It is One.

    When this singular essence at the heart of every being is your reference in any interaction, the constitution of this moment becomes clear. In a sense, the universe is like a cookbook: but you have to know the ingredients required, the correct time to prepare different meals, and you must cultivate the ability to read the measures clearly and follow them.

    When you cook according to the recipe tested by countless chefs before you, you are moving along the way. Of course, you can add some cinnamon here, or some chilli there, but if you deviate from the basic measures, you will neither have your cake, nor will you be able to eat it. This is the freedom you have: submit joyfully to the way you are constituted (which is joyful precisely because it entails the lived realisation that you are made up the same way everything is); or deviate according to your whims (and, inevitably, fall into distraction and suffering).

    Via Negativa

    Once we understand the inner meaning of the word “constitution”, we can think clearly about its most harmonious external manifestation. The question is, “If all is One and my constitution reflects the same essential nature of every aspect of the universe, then why have a formal constitution at all?”. Well, because this sentence “It is One” is not the truth. It is a metaphor which only hints at the truth of an experience which cannot be put in words, because it is the ground of all words and meaning. The most we can do in terms of tailoring traditions capable of grooming and preparing people for such experience is to speak in the negative.

    I cannot say what Reality, or Truth, is. I can only be honest about what aspects of my experience seem to deviate from It. If I carve away clearly all that is not essential, what I am left with - the radiant, infinite, eternal void at the heart of life - is what is referred to in metaphors like tat tvam asi or “It is One” or “Great Spirit”. The most harmonious external constitution to abide by follows this same pattern of simple negation:

    Do not kill. Do not lie. Do not covet. Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.

    This, and no more, is the basis for a wholly constituted life. Why not include positive prescriptions like “love thy neighbour”? Because love is already the expression of our essential nature. Telling a human being to love is like telling water to be wet. If you simply stop doing all that is not directed by the love which already constitutes you, this becomes obvious.

    What about stealing and cheating and other social ills? Well, that’s the point: these are social ills and so we can compose societal incentive structures that make them mathematically impossible or prohibitively expensive. Being how we are each made up together, a constitution is about protecting against internal states - violence, deception, envy, and arrogance - so that these are not reflected in our external relationships with others.


    How do we come to decide upon what kind of societal incentive structures are the ones we ought to implement such that our constitution remains vital? Some might say: democratically, but democracy is divisive. It is a form of finite-game governance in which the majority win, the minority lose, and the outcomes are enforced by violence.

    To which the common response is, “Yes, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others and - if you’re going to bash it - you need to provide a viable alternative.” In order to do so, we must first dismantle the underlying assumption of democratic government, which is that governance is about fostering agreement between diverse interest groups. This is, when you reflect on it, impossible by definition.

    Consensus is not about agreement. Consensus is about establishing a shared understanding of the constituent parts of the total moment; that is, establishing a clear order of events by, for instance, using a "network of timestamp servers". In the context of such shared understanding, agreement is superfluous.

    Consensus is not about agreeing with other people and playing nice, it is a means of discovering truth together. And truth scales, because it is dimensionless. It rings the same in subatomic particles as it does in supernovae. We have just forgotten how to trust the capacity we each have to recognise truth, how to listen with love, and how speak from the heart, because it is a capacity that is accessed through the collective in a particular kind of dialogic space, and we no longer sit in such circles.

    The majority of civilizations throughout history have operated on consensus, recognising how voting and majority rule is inherently violent, divisive, and dehumanising. Democracy, communism, socialism, or any other ism you care to examine are the exception; anarchy is the rule. I phrase it that way specifically, because anarchy does not mean chaos or no rules. It means no rulers, which is exactly the precondition required to propagate lasting protocols for peace.

    The Call

    The optimal constitution for harmonious living has never changed, nor is it any different from the signed covenant in your own heart. However, being the total moment - this overflowing here and now - it cannot be fully expressed in words: it must be refined by your awareness and interpreted in the context of your unique age. The most effective way to do this is by stating clearly what it is not and seeking counsel with others.

    In order to read the full body of your constitution, you need these others to help you reflect, until you consistently remember that the secret you carry is the same secret they do and that there is, in truth, no otherness. It only seems separate so that you can keep discovering this secret, over and over again, in ever-widening circles, every time adding a new verse to Life’s eternal song.

    If this seems a strange way to end, remember: we are not here to create new processes and paradigms for human organization. We are here, finally, to break with the paradigmatic approach to history and ensure that a shared understanding of what constitutes meaningful consensus is placed at the heart of all actions which collectively make us up.

    We are not here to make new legal codes; we are here to restore to shared awareness old laws based on multidimensional observation of who we really are. We are here to be in love.

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