12 May 2001
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Conceptual prosthetics and surrogates
Conceptual traps and Ponzi schemes
Globalization of experience
Conceptual dimensions of globalization
Reflecting the environment
Recognizing the 'cultural rainforests' of the globalized
Universe, solar system, cell and atom
Technology as metaphor
Planetary thinking and human experience
Globalized experience as nonlocal consciousness
Patterns that connect
Clues to the pattern that connects
Globalization has now become one of the most fashionable strategic
terms, supposedly descriptive of an inevitable process through which a bright
new future will emerge. This use of the term obscures other senses of the term
'globalization' that have traditionally been more highly valued by
the individual and by the community through which the person is sustained --
notably in non-western cultures.
Personal globalization might usefully be seen as descriptive of
the process through which an individual becomes 'better rounded' --
a person 'for all seasons'. Beyond the evident preoccupations of education
and socialization with the enculturation process, it carries connotations of
the individuation process that is a central focus for much psychotherapy. Indeed
it might be said that the crisis in psychological well-being is intimately associated
with fragmentation of an integrative, or global, sense of self.
The following notes explore the possibility that the enthusiastic
focus on economic globalization, as an inevitable process, is a reflection of
a momentum towards an equally inevitable form of personal globalization. Many
challenges of globalization of the planet may be occasioned and sustained by
unresolved challenges in the globalization of the person -- just as proponents
of economic development argue the reverse, namely that any the problems of people
will be resolved by economic development. It is indeed possible that planetary
globalization will only prove sustainable with an adequate degree of personal
globalization. However 'personal globalization', as explored here,
is NOT about obesity and its achievement, nor is it about travelling the world
-- nor consumption of products from distant lands!
The paper was partially inspired by the initiative of the Union
of International Associations, through its project on Integrative
Knowledge and Transdiciplinarity (see commentary)
dating from the 1970s, which profiles some 720 'integrative concepts'
concernd with unification in some way -- and of which 'global' is
Conceptual prosthetics and surrogates
It is recognized that it is much more difficult for the individual
to explore and acknowledge personal challenges than to explore and acknowledge
the challenges of a community or of the planet. Indeed the variety of phenomena
around the globe provides an ideal set of conceptual 'coat hangers'
onto which the challenges of personal globalization may conveniently be projected.
The challenges of personal globalization may then be readily described as external
features of society -- without any need to explicitly acknowledge their roots
in the individual through these conceptual prosthetic devices and surrogates.
As a result society now practices a special form of euphemism
and denial that, as might be expected, is reminiscent of the prudery (and avoidance
of consequences) widely associated with reference to bodily output processes
in certain cultures. As with the presidents of major democratic countries and
CEO's of major corporations, it is vital that unsavoury practices against opponents
be undertaken in such a way as to permit 'plausible deniability' --
innocent denial of responsibility for involvement in events of which they are
the direct cause. Why would any individual want to consciously acknowledge involvement
in an environment characterized by extreme dysfunctionalities?
There is therefore a case for reviewing some of the core arguments
relating to planetary globalization: the emphasis on economic globalization,
the tolerance of homogenization and inequalities, etc. What do they represent
as unresolved issues for the personalities whose well-being is supposedly the
justification for the human enterprise? In this mode the range of 'external'
planetary problems (hunger, pollution, poverty, unemployment, criminality, disease,
ignorance, injustice, etc) may be reviewed to determine what they may constitute
as surrogates for poorly acknowledged 'internal' conditions of the
human psyche ( see).
Conceptual traps and Ponzi schemes
Attention is widely focused on material conditions and technical
innovation. This disguises the ferment in contemporary ways of thinking that
is expressed through three forms. On the one hand there is widespread appeal
for 'new ways of thinking' -- as being essential to avoidance of patterns
of behaviour in which planetary society is trapped. On the other hand there
is widespread belief in a 'new paradigm' that many have endeavoured
to elucidate. Finally there is concern about 'leadership' and the
need for new leaders to take people forward.
However the proponents of new paradigm thinking have great difficulty
in focusing it on the material conditions for which sustainable solutions are
sought. They quickly end up in the well-known trap of deploring the unsustainability
of their particular initiative due to the lack of sufficiently widespread consensus
on its merits -- and the absence of active adherents and financial support (to
be generated by the old paradigm). For enthusiasts, all problems would be resolved
if only sufficient people would subscribe to their preferred recipe. Religions
have long used 'insufficient adherence and commitment' in arguments
to explain why their individual recipes have not brought 'peace on earth'.
They have been quick to stereotype negatively those who oppose their strategies
or fail to support them. Advocates of new paradigm thinking face the same challenge.
Are those who agree with them to be labelled 'forward thinkers', and
are those who disagree with them to be labelled as regressive adherents to 'old
paradigm thinking'? A genuinely new paradigm would address this issue of
diversity of perspectives rather than remaining locked in the conceptual trap
which sustains old paradigm thinking.
Proponents of globalization are also caught in a similar trap
and indeed their belief system increasingly takes on a religious quality. For
an increasingly secular society, the 'wholeness' of 'global'
has come to hold traces of the Holy Grail and the Quest for it. Proponents point
enthusiastically to a glowing future resulting from the inevitability of the
process from which they personally derive most benefit. They carefully ignore,
or minimize as incidental, the negative consequences for those who suffer in
the intervening period. Supposedly it is merely a temporary matter requiring
a measure of austerity before 'all comes good' -- especially for later
Society has a heavy investment in such Ponzi schemes, or their
conceptual equivalent. The prime characteristic of such schemes is the process
whereby resources are transferred from the many to the few in exchange for promises
which ultimately cannot be fulfilled for the many -- and about whose fulfillment
the proponents are quite negligent in practice. The social security crisis of
the decades to come is but one very concrete example. The challenge for new
leaders is to distinguish their promises and visions from those of any marketer
of a Ponzi scheme.
Globalization of experience
Humans, like animals, are necessarily skilled in responding to
a complex dynamic environment. These skills do not however translate into equivalent
skills in responding to the complexities of society. Although perhaps, like
animals, the skills of policy-makers lie in focusing on specifics and switching
to other specifics, without at any time having to be consciously concerned with
the coherence of the response. If a policy response is inadequate, then it simply
fails -- perhaps entraining many in its fall (as in the Asian financial crisis).
The range of intellectual disciplines, and the institutions associated with
them, are all primarily characterized by their problematic relationships with
each other -- or absence of such relationships. Many have deplored the shallowness
and limitations of interdisciplinary methodologies.
How can the individual globalize personal experience? What might
this mean? Is it a question of discovering or recognizing a dynamic framework
through which all experience is understood as complementary? Part of the challenge
must surely lie in the dynamics, for the framework cannot simply be a set of
conceptual 'pigeon holes' or labels. It is as much process as structure.
Another aspect of the challenge is the wide variety of 'things' to
be entrained in this dynamic. And yet another must be the way one's thinking
engages with any such dynamic framework. Personal globalization is a matter
of selectively reducing barriers between modes of experience such as to ensure
the emergence of a richer pattern of checks and balances within one's awareness.
Such pointers suggest the possibility of other modes of experience
from a 'global' perspective. Their nature is echoed in some of the
hype associated with material globalization of the world. An important characteristic
is indeed the manner in which knowledge is developed and exchanged between different
parts of the whole. Indeed what would seem to be missing from the current hype
about a particular form of economic globalization is the need for what might
be termed 'conceptual deregulation' -- to match and manage the deregulation
of trade and financial services for which arguments are so vigorously made.
Such conceptual deregulation would remove the artificial barriers to transfer
of knowledge between various academic disciplines, and notably those surrounding
contemporary economics, in order to enable insights from the many systems disciplines
Disciplines thus need their own equivalent to 'trade rounds'
and a 'WTO' -- and achieving this is just as challenging, if not more.
Ironically disciplines need to engage in a freer 'trade in ideas'
(especially systems insights) to ensure, for example, that economists understand
systems implications blindingly obvious to hydrologists. Whereas economic globalization
is dependent on transportation (the movement from port to port, even electronically),
the conceptual counterpart requires new kinds of transdisciplinary vehicles
to ensure more appropriate governance of the process (see Metaphors as Transdisciplinary
Vehicles of the Future, https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/transveh.php).
The individual has much greater opportunity to explore these possibilities through
considering the implications of personal globalization, moment-by-moment, in
Again, 'protectionism' amongst the disciplines is very much alive
and active in opposing any such globalization of knowledge -- despite the World
Bank's Global Knowledge Partnership (http://www.globalknowledge.org/)
that in no way focuses on these issues. Such interdisciplinary cross-fertilization
is a prerequisite to ensure the development of conceptual frameworks and techniques
capable of predicting, preparing for, and remedying the disasters which the
current blinkered approach is unable to handle. Removing buffers between trading
systems may indeed reduce transaction costs but it effectively increases the
costs associated with the system management expertise then required for what
becomes a much more complex dynamic system. This requisite is well-identified
by Ashby's Law in cybernetics (requiring that the controller of any system be
of greater complexity than the system controlled). In the case of personal globalization,
the question is what buffers are essential between different modes of one's
behavior? When should different modes be buffered and when should such buffers
be removed in ensuring coherent behavior? Why has economics stigmatized system
buffers as 'protectionism', making globalization an exercise in 'de-bufferization'
-- leading to consequences such as the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease?
Conceptual dimensions of globalization
In focusing on an essentially geographical and geopolitical understanding
of 'globalization', there has been a complete failure to recognize
the need for a corresponding conceptual understanding of globalization
through which its implications can be appropriately managed. This is more difficult
in French, for example, where mondialisation ('worldifying')
is clearly distinguished from globalisation (in its conceptual sense).
There are innovative challenges to both, but hype concerning the former dangerously
and irresponsibly conceals those of the latter. It is through personal globalization
in the latter sense that the individual has some possibility of shifting to
a new mode of thinking and applying it meaningfully to daily behavior.
The current approach to globalization of the planet effectively oversimplifies,
inhibits and distorts the new forms of 'global' dialogue required
(see Judge, 1997: Future Generation through Global Conversation):
'Perhaps it is only in mathematics that the clearest, and most general,
distinction is maintained between "global" and "local". Unfortunately that
discipline is incapable of taking into account the essential psychological
distinction between the two that is associated with broader (rather than narrower)
processes of comprehension, communication and learning....In terms of the
challenges of global governance, the ability of a particular discipline to
grasp the challenges of society cannot in this sense be understood as "global".
It is necessarily sub-global, namely local in some way which honours the particular,
"local" insights of that discipline. A single finger cannot pick up and hold
a ball, just as the ball cannot be completely viewed from a single perspective.
In this metaphor, there is also a distinction between "clutching" and the
many skills required to play with the ball through a variety of grips and
actions. What does this then imply for global "conversation"? (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/converse.php#global)
The question is how insights from the variety of disciplines are to be integrated
dynamically into a whole -- a form of global understanding -- through which
the many processes of globalization (economic, social, cultural, etc) can be
managed, and without designing out alternative insights and initiatives.
But, much more pointedly, how are the roots of such insights and disciplines
in personal thinking to be woven into a personal form of globalization?
Reflecting the environment
The (Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog (1974) carried on
its cover the phrase: "We can't put it together; it is together". It is indeed
possible that there is an intriguing conceptual dance to be explored between
the necessary togetherness of the global environment and the sense of personal
integration and togetherness of which we have many intimations at better moments
in our daily lives. Just as the planetary globe, as a complex ecosystem, sustains
life through the pattern of systemic relationships between elements of the geosphere,
the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere, these might be understood
as necessary templates for patterns between the earthy, watery, aerial and fiery
qualities of the human psyche -- as implied by many contemporary and pre-modern
schools of psychotherapy. Solutions that humans discover to 'scientific'
problems may well prove to have been widely prefigured by elegant solutions
to systems design problems manifest in the natural environment. Is it not dangerously
arrogant to assume the contrary?
The 'problems' that people perceive in the external
world may be to a high degree a reflection of the unresolved issues amongst
these patterns in the understanding of the individual. If the external environment
is necessarily 'together', individuals may need individually (or collectively)
to project their unresolved issues onto their external world. Unconsciously,
we may even evoke these problems externally as a way of providing carriers for
conflicted understanding, dilemmas, and paradoxes within ourselves. Of course
it is also possible that problems of pollution within the external environment,
and how we collectively respond to them, may condition ways in which we individually
experience forms of pollution of our internal environment. What is it that people
seek in resonating with the implications of asteroid collision with the planet,
the loss of species, starvation, and the like?
Knowledge of environmental processes and interdependencies is
now increasingly rich. A wide variety of species is acknowledged in principle
-- reinforced by media documentaries. It might also be said that the range of
TV and other dramas is effectively an equivalent acknowledgment of the range
of interpersonal processes and interdependencies, although these are not subject
to the same kind of taxonomics as for the biosphere. The reflection of both
in the potential variety of processes and interdependencies within the individual
human psyche is even less accessible -- however much it may be the subject of
It is currently extremely challenging to understand how such variety
might be embodied in any form of personal globalization. But ironically this
difficulty is matched by the oversimplifications associated with the hype about
planetary globalization -- which many see as tending towards homogenization
and suppression (or marginalization) of variety. This cultural homogenization
may be a reflection of tendencies towards homogenization of individual personality
-- at least through formal programmes and initiatives. Individuals must necessarily
discover and face the challenges of any richer form of personal globalization
for themselves. However, as with the Last Whole Earth Catalog, maybe
for the globalization of the individual it is also a case of "We can't put it
together; it is together". The question is why we each invest so heavily in
thinking we need to get our personal act together -- rather than finding ways
of understanding how it is already together.
Recognizing the 'cultural rainforests'
of the globalized person
Following this argument, individual species of the oddest form
and behavioural pattern in the natural environment may well have a role for
human well-being far beyond that acknowledged by pharmaceutical companies in
their efforts to patent their derivatives. It may well be the case that they
are each effectively carriers of complex patterning information that is vital
to the subtleties of complex system design -- especially in any effort towards
personal globalization. Individuals may also be psychically dependent on their
own exploited personal 'cultural rainforests'. Each species effectively
resolves an unrecognized design problem in complex system dynamics. Humans may
be able to derive insights from resonating in some way with their behaviour
-- as intimated by the fascination that some people feel for some species.
It may also be the case that, as a solution to a systems dynamics
problem, the loss of a species may force individuals in society to evoke carriers
for solutions to problems of the same form. This might prove to be an explanation
for the metaphoric use of 'tiger' (Asian tigers), 'bull'
and 'bear' (stockmarkets), 'fox', 'cat', 'snake',
'rat', 'worm', 'shark', 'hawk', 'wolf',
'sheep', 'pig', and the like. As many have noted, urban
society may not only recreate conditions of pre-industrialized society (in slum
areas), but is frequently described as being a 'jungle' (notably in
the business environment) -- an acknowledgment that whole ecosystems are being
recreated as carriers for individual experience and learning.
The natural environment has a highly complex web of species, but
the psycho-social environments being recreated are only understood through a
very limited range of metaphoric categories -- as suggested by the limited range
of metaphoric species that are identified within them. The question is whether
these are sufficient for a sustainable ecosystem that can hold the qualities
that we would like to believe characterize humanity -- rather than primitive
conditions of the prehistoric, pre-human era. In their private pursuit of personal
globalization, individuals may be wise to acknowledge a far greater range of
interacting 'species' within their internal psychic environment in
order to give themselves the possibility of a sustainable quality of personal
It may be that until people can recognize the species analogues
within themselves, they will be unable to appreciate the need to support the
preservation of the species without -- or how to go about it.
Universe, solar system, cell and atom
Science has made tremendous advances in exploring the extremes
of the universe (back to its origins), microbiology, and the makeup of the atom.
But, as with the human-scale environment, there is a sense in which it is human
explanatory capacity, and criteria for a satisfactory explanation, that are
determining the patterns of insight that emerge. It might be asked to what degree
human cognitive capacity influences the nature of the explanations sought and
found in the domains that are beyond direct human ken. General systems theory
has identified organizational parallels at all these levels -- perhaps because
these are the patterns humans find meaningful.
In the light of the earlier argument, the case might also be made
that humans project subtle dimensions of their own thinking onto the seemingly
unimaginable phenomena at the beginning of the universe or in nuclear physics
-- or the life of the cell. Seemingly highly unusual -- even paradoxical --
patterns are discovered that do not appear to conform to normal human logic.
The styles of explanation are not those which apply in human-scale phenomena.
Science has made a discipline out of such explorations. No equivalent discipline
exists for the explorations of the human subjective cognitive capacity -- except
in those of some eastern meditation traditions outside the western mainstream.
In this way humans may well be using such inhuman scales onto
which to project aspects of human cognition that cannot be adequately expressed
on human-scale media. There is then merit in exploring the nature of these explanations
about the universe, and about the cell or atom, to discover to what degree they
have been developed 'unknowingly' by scientists to hold insights into
human cognition whose reality they otherwise choose to avoid.
Some might argue that any such relationship is ridiculous. However,
given that humans are a product of the evolution of the universe and of the
cell, and that they continue to have an intimate (moment-by-moment) relationship
to the dynamics of atoms and cells by which they are constituted, is it not
highly probable that organizing principles at these other levels have a very
strong influence on the kinds of patterns that humans can perceive and find
meaningful? They are the patterns with which we have evolved. In this sense
science is an exercise in human self-discovery.
In exploring personal globalization, there is therefore a case
for reviewing the insights about the design of the 'universe', or
the 'cell', or the 'atom', to detect how human self-organization
is written there in unusual languages -- which we choose to define as totally
impersonal and irrelevant to understanding of our individual selves.
To what extent is there a strange resemblance between the origins
of the universe, or the fertilized cell, and the development of human understanding?
Do these early dynamics provide templates through which we can understand our
own cognitive origins? Are there exciting possibilities of recognizing in such
dynamics the processes of conceptual creativity that we experience on a daily
basis? Is the birth of some new idea and its subsequent articulation, similar
in many ways to the birth of a universe, a galaxy, or a solar system? What might
the pattern equivalents of 'black holes', 'quasars', 'stellar
evolution', and 'super novae' be within our own psyches? How
is our moment-by-moment thinking paralleled by the dynamics of the cell -- what
is a 'stem cell', 'cellular division' or a 'cancer'?
Is it possible that cancer might be more accessible to understanding in terms
of certain forms of 'cancerous' thinking?
Does the resonance hybrid pattern, in the most basic organic molecule
(benzene), have implications for how we might choose to understand the organization
of concepts, communities or our own psyches (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/quenchin.php)?
Curiously the Nobel Prize in chemistry was recently awarded for discovery of
more complex versions of such basic resonance hybrids (Carbon-60) -- a third
form of carbon, structurally more complex than graphite or diamond. The special
characteristic of this new form is that it is a molecule of 60 carbon atoms
forming a hollow sphere (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/musings/bucky.php).
Understanding of this molecule by Kekulé (as described to all chemistry
students) has since evolved through resonance between alternative structures,
to one based on "orbitals" above and below the plane of the carbons, in which
electron (probability) clouds are smeared out, with no single or double bonds
at all. The real benzene molecule looks rather like an included middle between
what were formerly understood to be the two canonic forms raising the question
of whether there is any resonance. More recent descriptions, of both benezene
and C-60, are based on combinations of bonding, anti-bonding and non-bonding
orbitals. The question is how such evolving explanatory patterns, unacceptable
a century ago, acquire credibility and how their credibility affects, or is
affected by, patterning within the human mind.
In this light humanity is in the strange condition of having been
cut off from the cultural heritage through which it has access to rich patterns
of explanation for the human condition -- and from understandings of who we
are as individuals and how we function. These explanatory tools and insights
have been directed elsewhere -- with great success -- but the most important
fruit of this enterprise has not been embodied back into our own thinking to
assist in our evolution. As with certain animals, we respond to the environment
as to a mirror in which we fail to recognize our own reflection. It is this
lost connection which may be fundamental to personal globalization. It is a
connection that is of deep concern to many indigenous peoples as recently documented
in a UNEP publication (see Darrell A. Posey (Ed.). Cultural and Spiritual
Values of Biodiversity, 1999).
There is a curious irony to the fact that one of the principal
academic indicators of self-awareness and introspection is the ability of individuals
to recognize themselves in a mirror -- usually achieved in humans between 18
and 24 months. A major breakthrough in 2001 has been the demonstration that
dolphins also have mirror recognition ability. It might be wondered whether
extraterrestrials have analogous indicators of self-awareness based on ability
of a species to recognize itself as mirrored in its environment. Modern civilization's
failure of this test may have resulted in humanity's classification as a pre-intelligent
species, just as humans have classified animals as lacking in the kind of self-awareness
by which humanity characterizes itself.
Technology as metaphor
As explored by Robert Romanyshyn (1981, 1982, 1989), technology
itself may be explored as symptom and dream. As with the natural environment,
the artefacts of human activity may themselves be powerful carriers of insights
into human psycho-social processes that we find it easier to project onto externalities.
Much may presumably be learnt from recognition of the patterns
embodied in artefacts such as a dynamo, a windmill, a bicycle, a motor or even
the subtleties of nuclear fusion in plasma containment vessels (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/quenchin.php).
There is a curious resemblance between the electromagnetic technology
required to generate the pattern of magnetic fields to contain plasma and that
of the pattern of relationships between the Chinese hexagrams (see diagram)
purportedly encoding the full range of experiential transformations. Within
the latter framework, the dynamics of moment-by-moment understanding are sustained
by their projection onto the complexities and subtleties of relationship between
elements, such as earth, air, fire and water, held to embody qualities of that
Planetary thinking and human experience
Some of the legitimacy of the above inquiry is extensively outlined
in a study by Francisco Varela et al (The Embodied Mind, 1991)
whose concern is to 'open a space of possibilities in which the circulation
between cognitive science and human experience can be fully appreciated and
to foster the transformative possibilities of human experience in scientific
culture.'. The authors see their project as owing much to Martin Hiedegger's
invocation of 'planetary thinking' of which they quote the following:
We are obliged not to give up the effort to practice planetary thinking along
a stretch of the road, be it ever so short. Here too no prophetic talents
and demeanor are needed to realize that there are in store for planetary building
encounters for which the participants are by no means equal today. This is
equally true of the European and of the East Asiatic languages and, above
all, for the area of a possible conversation between them. Neither one of
the two is able by itself to open up this area and to establish it.'
(The Question of Being, 1958, p. 107)
This endeavour has been considerably developed by Nishitani Keiji
(1982), one of Heidegger's students educated in the Zen tradition. Varela et
al, after reviewing 'nihilism and the need for planetary thinking'
(p. 239-241), consider that:
The need for planetary thinking behooves us to consider groundlessness, whether
evoked by cognitive science or experience, in its full light in the total
human context. (p. 245)...If planetary thinking requires that we embody the
realization of groundlessness in a scientific culture, plantary building requires
the embodiment of concern for the other with whom we enact a world. The tradition
of mindfulness/awareness offers a path by which this may be actually brought
about. (p. 247)
When we widen our horizon to include transformative approaches to experience,
especially those concerned not with escape from the world or the discovery
of some hidden, true self but with releasing the everday world from the clutches
of the grasping mind and its desire for an absolute ground, we gain a sense
of perspective on the world that might be brought forth by learning to embody
groundlessness as compassion in a scientific culture. (p. 254)
These writings on 'planetary thinking' predate the recent
unreflective enthusiasm for simplistic 'globalization' and might easily
be confused by its proponents as support for aspects of it. New variations are
to be found in the promotion of 'planetary consciousness', such as
the Planetary Consciousness Network (http://home.earthlink.net/~aklaszlo/syntonyquest/Pages/PCN.html)
of the Club of Budapest, and a number of other bodies focusing on this understanding.
This language invites projection of a variety of insights, as a complement to
'globalization' -- but it is unclear to what degree it loses touch
with the directness and quality of human experience for which the above writers
There is also something of an irony to the fact that, for astronomers,
any plea for 'planetary' or 'global' thinking is tantamount
to a regression to the earth-centric focus of the Middle Ages -- in a universe
of myriad galaxies to which their research is constantly attracted. In that
scheme a planet is a globe restricted to an orbital plane around the sun --
with more restrictions than a ball on a billiard table. As a metaphor, planetary
consciousness also raises the question of what is the 'sun' around
which the 'planet' revolves. More fruitful, and consistent with this
paper, are the explorations of Thomas Moore (Planets Within, 1982) in
interpreting the work of the Renaissance luminary Marsilio Ficino on the personal
psycho-social implications carried by the planets.
Globalized experience as nonlocal consciousness
'Global' may also be understood as 'nonlocal'
in mathematics and physics. The notion of 'nonlocal consciousness'
is now being popularized, notably by Russel Targ (1998), Deepak Chopra and others.
The possibility that consciousness itself might be described as nonlocal has
been usefully reviewed by Christian de Quincey (1999),
as well as by Peter Lloyd' s review of consciousness studies (http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~ursa/philos/cns.htm)
and relevant websites. This approach is providing a new basis for 'explaining'
consciousness -- however that preoccupation is to be understood.
In the field of research on the nature of consciousness there
is considerable excitement about the learnings to be derived from advances in
fundamental physics. Thus Gordon Globus (1995)
Classical mechanics cannot naturally accommodate consciousness, whereas quantum
mechanics can, but the Heisenberg/Stapp (H/S) approach, in which consciousness
randomly collapses the neural wave function, leaves the conscious function
unrestricted by known physical principles. The Umezawa/Yasue (U/Y) approach,
in which consciousness offers superposed possibilities to the match with sensory
input, is based in the first physical principles of quantum field theory.
Stapp thinks of the brain as a measuring device, like a Geiger counter, and
overlooks that the brain upholds second-order quantum fields that are symmetry-conserving
with respect to reality. Consciousness is cybernetic rather than having a
An International Conference on Science and Consciousness (Albuquerque,
N.M., 1999) has provided a recent focus for insights into the relation between
quantum physics and consciousness. Another conference was held specifically
on the Quantum Approaches to Consciousness (Flagstaff AZ, 1999).
Steve Bunk (1999),
reviews the work on a self-aware universe of Amit Goswami (1995) in the following
The question, then, is what collapses a wave of possibility into an actual
event? Goswami's answer: consciousness. Quantum nonlocality says that once
materials interact, they become coordinated, and once coordinated, they remain
that way even when separate. Metaphorically, when either of two correlated
beings touches a cactus, the other feels the prick. But quantum nonlocality
only exists when two objects are correlated, a relationship that ends as soon
as they interact with another object. Only consciousness can keep the correlation
intact, as in human nonlocal interactions. "Consciousness simultaneously collapses
similar states of actuality in two locally separated brains," as Goswami puts
it. And the cactus prick is felt by both beings.
There are processes in nature with no subject/object split, which means there
is no awareness of an event, and therefore, no quantum event occurs. In those
situations, the brain itself becomes a wave of possibility. So, which came
first, the awareness or the collapse? Happily, the very circularity of this
chicken-and-egg problem also solves the problem of self-reference, or our
own self-awareness. That's because there is a difference between the object
that was collapsed and the brain that was collapsed. The difference is that
the observer identifies with the brain, and this identity becomes the subject/object
split, or the controlling consciousness looking at itself separately from
itself. The result of these tangled, hierarchical measurements is self-reference.
But if the observer abides in his or her own awareness, the objects aren't
outside the observer. Why, then, can we all share the observation? Because
for massive objects, the waves of possibility are sluggish. Yet the large
object does move, imperceptibly, and so the great quantum law, the Uncertainty
Principle, still applies. Indeed, all of modern science can be accommodated
by these ideas, including Darwinism and genetics. For example, genetic mutations
can be seen as quantum possibilities that accumulate without collapse (this
is the stage of unconscious processing), until a pattern leading to a definite
trait reveals itself. When the macroscopic trait is realized, consciousness
suddenly collapses the possibility into actuality. Thus, only at the big end
of evolution is consciousness required. (The Scientist 13:16, May.
The notion of opening up a space between objectivity and subjectivity,
as argued by Varela et al. is succinctly expressed in other terms by
Humberto Maturana (2000):
Natural phenomena are abstractions that we make of the coherences of our
operation in language, in the realization of our living, in the domain of
structural coupling in which we exist as such. Whenever we make a distinction
we distinguish an entity (object, relation, operation, ... ) through an operation
of distinction that entails the relational matrix or the geometric space in
which it takes place. And we distinguish what we distinguish as an operation
in the domain of structural coupling in which we operate in the realization
of our living. We exist in an ever changing epigenic domain of tautological
operations in structural coupling defined by our living, in the realization
and conservation of our living. The substratum that we need for epistemological
reasons is the no-thingness from which we bring forth things, without needing
to talk about it.
These considerations have encouraged neuroscientists such as Andrew
Newberg (2001) to explain the nature of individual spiritual experience. See
New Scientist reviw by Bob Holmes (http://www.newscientist.com/features/features.jsp?id=ns22871)
Patterns that connect
Such articulations, and the meditational tradition to which Varela
et al. point, are undoubtedly of great value in orienting collective
investigation. But it would seem that much of immediate value is lost for the
individual in their subtle arguments about the simplicity of a different direct
experience to which they point. It is in this sense that the phenomena of the
environment at every scale may be seen as holding patiently for us understandings
whose directness we may choose to avoid or experience only glancingly. It is
our recognition of ourselves in the 'mirror' to which we we need to
adapt our understanding -- more than an explanation of the 'optical'
It has been argued by Gregory Bateson that civilization is characterized
by 'patterns that connect' -- with the quality of higher civilizations
characterized by higher connectedness of patterns. More personally, globalization
as hyped may reflect thinking that is the antithesis of the kind that is required
to meet the challenge of 'remaining human' -- the theme of a public
forum on the occasion of a conference of the American Society for Cybernetics
(Vancouver, May 2001).
The mystique and hype now associated with globalization indeed
stresses certain forms of connectedness: information, telecommunications, trade
routes, travel. However incoherent, it is suggested that this makes for a form
of cultural globalization through exchanges of various kinds -- supposedly distinct
But what are the patterns that connect in the case of personal
globalization? What are the webs of insight that sustain us individually and
exemplify our character in communication with others? They may be better recognized
when they are broken or absent -- as in certain forms of mental illness, or
in the decline into senility. But they are also recognized in some ways by educators
in trying to build such patterns to produce a 'well-rounded individual'.
But no effort is made to evaluate degrees of 'roundedness' -- except
perhaps as a set of unrelated characteristics in interview situations on a CV
(academic qualifications, sport, 'interests', 'community initiatives',
It is curious that various disciplines and schools of psychotherapy
may well acknowledge distinct aspects of the psyche (cf Jung's: Sensation, Emotion,
Thought, and Intuition; or their articulation in the categories of the Myers-Briggs
system). But the challenge of how they are woven into a dynamic pattern of behaviours
necessarily escapes 'cookie cutter' thinking. This is the new-found
challenge for geneticists who have lost the direct match between genes and the
complexity of living creatures (following discoveries of the genome projects).
It is one thing to have the all the parts of a watch -- it is another to put
them together so that it works. Psychotherapists may focus on ensuring that
no one function is suppressed or dominant, but whether as a consequence the
pattern that connects exemplifies a higher quality of personal globalization
or not is another matter.
Clues to the pattern that connects
How might this patterning within the globalized person be understood?
A prime clue may lie in the role and appreciation of music and poetry.
In both these arts, association and resonance have a key function
in weaving and sustaining a pattern. The pattern that connects might be understood
as one of resonant associations. These are the global pathways around the psyche
that sustain its roundedness as a way of holding separate, but within the same
frame, the many modes of approaching the world that characterize an individual.
The resonances between the parts, are like ecosystemic links between species.
It is no coincidence that the past decade has seen an emerging concern with
memes, memetics and knowledge ecology -- to counter-balance the preoccupation
with more tangible analogues in material forms of globalization.
Are the patterns of resonance to be understood like Chladni patterns
(see examples http://www.phy.davidson.edu/jimn/Java/modes.html)?
Or are they also usefully understood like notes evoked from a complex wind harp
on which the winds of change play a melody that we struggle to understand within
ourselves? It is curious that recent thinking on individual biological cells
views them as structured according to the principles of tensegrity. These usually
spherical structures are built up by configuring compression elements (rods)
in relation to tension elements (strings), such that the rods do not touch each
other and the strings form a continuous network. They have some of the features
of basket-weaving. But, as a Scientific American (January 1998) issue
on the topic indicates:
"How groups of molecules assemble themselves into whole, living organisms
is one of biology's most fundamental and complex riddles. The answer may depend
on 'tensegrity', a versatile architectural standard in which structures stabilize
themselves by balancing forces of internal tension and compression."
Donald E Ingber argues there: "A universal set of building rules
seems to guide the design of organic structures -- from simple carbon compounds
to complex cells and tissues" (see http://www.sciam.com/1998/0198issue/0198ingber.html).
These structures suggest how disagreement (compression "rods") may be designed
into a pattern of agreement (tension "strings") to bring about the emergence
of a stable structure in another dimension (see Judge, 1981,
notably with respect to social organization). An application to team design
has been patented under the name syntegrity. The possibility of more complex
patterns, possibly in a fourth dimension (hyper-tensegrity?) remain to be explored
-- with possible implications for knowledge structures.
It is the unique equilibrium (made possible by a tensegrity pattern) between
what unites (i.e. the tensional network) and what divides (i.e. the many distinct
compressional incompatibilities) which gives rise to (and derives from) the
new kind of organizational structure. The functional incompatibilities are
those which have to be faced (to create a viable organization) when all the
functional realities (i.e. negative feedback loops ?) are accepted and brought
into focus rather than avoided, whether deliberately or out of ignorance.
The more functional incompatibilities explicitly incorporated, the more specific
each becomes (and the less vulnerable will be the organizational integrity
to imbalance in any one of them). Also the more viable and resource-conserving
the resulting organization - namely the more spherically symmetrical the resulting
tensegrity pattern and the more elegant the dynamic equilibrium between the
functional elements. (Judge, 1978)
Such tensegrity structures may be equally fundamental to the organization
of the individual psyche -- the tensional elements functioning like the chords
of a wind harp through whose melodies individuality is expressed and given dynamic
integrity. Perhaps it takes the form of a hypersphere (see http://www.hypersphere.com/hs/).
The many meditational mandalas favoured by eastern disciplines might each be
seen as sub-elements of such spherical cognitive structures -- each flat mandala
corresponding to the visible portion of a sphere onto which they are all projected
so that together they sustain the cognitive whole.
The sustainability of any psycho-social community may be defined
by similar structures of which a special characteristic is their dynamic equilibrium.
They are in constant resonance in search of equilibrium -- the strings vibrate
in this process. There is a tantalizing resemblance to the continual shifts
in a person's thinking from moment to moment (a concern in meditation) in order
to maintain an integrated response to the environment.
For the globalized person, these resonances -- like bird song echoing in a
forest dell -- may well have been the allusion in the classic Sufi allegory
of the Conference of the Birds. In the words of Laleh Asher on that allegory
'The Conference of the Birds is about the search for an ideal
spiritual king. Two constant themes throughout the poem are: the necessity
for destroying the Self, and the importance of passionate love...The allegorical
framework of the story is as follows: the birds of the world gather and are
led by the hoopoe to find their ideal king, the Simorgh, who lives far away.
After their initial enthusiasm, each bird makes excuses about going on the
journey which the hoopoe counters with anecdotes which at first seem obscure.
The final question the birds ask before proceeding along the way, is about
the length of the journey, to which the hoopoe responds with a description
of "The Seven Valleys of The Way." The obscurity of the hoopoe's answers is
partly intentional; the reader is being asked to look at a problem in an unfamiliar
way, with logic deliberately flouted, so we are teased into understanding,
analogous to the paradoxical koans of Zen Buddhism. The birds' final arrival
at the court of the Simorgh depends on a pun, as they realize that there are
only thirty (Si) birds (Morgh) left. The thirty birds meet the
Simorgh, and realize that the goal of their quest, the Simorgh they have been
looking for, is none other than themselves.'
It is amusing that the birds who achieve the goal of their quest (the Simorgh)
number thirty -- an organizing principle of Stafford Beer's syntegrity (1994).
Strangely there are echoes of this in the much quoted phrase of Lao Tzu from
the Tao Te Ching: 'Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It is the
centre hole that makes it useful...Therefore profit comes from what is there;
usefulness from what is not there'.
Initiatives in a global context: Dancing between Project and Projection
A global context, in whatever light it is framed, evokes the question as to
the nature of any viable initiative or project. Clearly it may be simply framed
as a purely objective, practical matter from which those engaged in it are dissociated
according to normal management practice. On the other hand it may be undertaken
as a vehicle and carrier of meaning in which the drama of the dynamics is an
essential learning process. These two extremes might be understood in terms
of 'project' vs. 'projection'. Either may be favoured for
shorter or longer periods of time but individuals or groups are obliged in practice
to alternate, or dance, between them.
As in the complementarity between the wave vs. particle theories of light,
both limited explanatory models are required to encompass the underlying experiential
reality. Those engaged for any length of time in 'projects' may focus
on a check list of such projects in their CVs, but in their experiential reality
these are associated with learnings deriving from the projections they constituted
that integrate into patterns of experience that cannot be so articulated and
are essentially invisible to exterrnal measurement. This leaves unanswered any
questions about the nature and quality of the dance and the experience its dynamics
carry. Researchers on 'flow' experience continue to explore this,
most recently in relation to web experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Hisang
Chen, et al.; Thomas BNovak, et al., 1997). It may perhaps be alluded to in
phrases such as 'radical appreciation of the coherence of the moment',
alth the design of group intiatives based on this remains to be discovered (Judge,
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