2 March 2003
Emergence of Homo conjugens
- / -
Threads and clues
-- Paradox and ambiguity
| Dualism and polarity
-- Inter-personal relationships
| Group activity
| Paradigm shift
This exploration was inspired by a documentary on the poorly understood displacement
of the Neanderthal people by the Cro-Magnon. What skills and attributes did
the Cro-Magnon have, and the Neanderthal lack, that enabled this transition?
How might we envisage such a transition at this time? Does the key lie elsewhere
than through the fashionable understanding of "cultural creatives"?
For 60,000 years the Cro-Magnons, lived side-by-side with the Neanderthals,
our closest biological cousins who had flourished for a quarter million years
-- but then, about 30,000 years ago, they disappeared. From evidence presented
by archaeologist Alexander Marshack, it seems that the Neanderthal's extinction
may be linked to humanity's first Information Revolution [more].
The question is what happens next, when and how?
This term is used to summarize the
articulation in what follows. It points to a new way of encountering the world,
sensing it as a whole, and seeing it reflected in oneself. The jargon term "grok"
is used to point to ways in which this goes beyond a purely conceptual understanding
and is rather a mode of being in relationship with the world. This is to be
contrasted with its purely conceptual use in proprietary knowledgement management
software (see Grokker).
The term was introduced into science fiction by Robert Heinlein (Stranger
in a Strange Land, 1961) as meaning literally "to drink" and metaphorically
"to be one with" -- connoting understanding in a global sense involving intimate
and exhaustive knowledge. It has been taken up by cognitive scientists, philosophers
and neuro-cosmologists -- as well by practioners of zen.
Its German origin as verstehen implies a special form of sympathetic,
experiential and intuitive understanding. Milo Clark (The
Art of Grokking, 2000) summarizes his use of it, in contrast to the unwitting
perpetuation of conditioned thought, as:
For my purposes, to grok extends beyond ordinary and even extraordinary levels
of comprehension moving far into the vestigial core of being human and possessing,
as well as using qualities rarely engaged these days. We may grok more from
our reptilian brain segments than from the later evolutionary lobes. As we
move beyond transcendent experiencing to genuine transmutations of consciousnesses
[plural intended] of being, we move from understanding to grokking -- and
then stay there, leaving behind all which is behind without, in any fundamental
way, negating the qualities of knowing personally, individually and collectively
the histories of humankind on this planet -- now quite lost, barely available
through ordinary processes, education, etc. to most. Meditation practices
pursued to realization, first levels of samadhi, for example, provide some
sensing relevant to and transferable to ordinary, daily life which helps to
break, to free from the lulling dualities dominating most.
Also spelt as "groking", Bill Hayashi has explained
it as "moving from a merely conceptual, mental understanding to a personally
felt and experiential knowing" (Groking:
Transformational Knowing, 1997). For Obafemi Adewumi:
"Groking occurs naturally when we practice whole body listening. To
grok something is to grasp it: to get the marrow, the inner meaning, the crux,
or the gist of it. It is to get the essence of a communication or sharing
such that we are able to recreate it in our own language. By practising groking,
we can all become contributors to the planetary evolution. Groking enables
us to learn quickly and to share what we have learned with others". [more]
The qualifier "authentic" is used to contrast the experience
with more superficial or formal modes of knowing and being -- determined by
circumstance and from without. The qualifier would be superfluous according
to some understandings of grokking. But it also suggests that such authenticity
can be sensed by others and can trigger and sustain a response in kind. It is
this which will enable and sustain new modes of organization responsive to the
needs of world society and local communities at this time. In the world of philosophy,
"individual authenticity" was a particular concern of Sartre, whilst
"radical authenticity" was a concern of Heidegger. It is a theme much
explored in religion. It can be usefully related to understandings of entelechy
The notion of "personal authenticity" is cultivated by the "cultural
creatives" as identified by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson, in their book
of that name. For them:
Authenticity means that your actions are consistent with what you believe
and what you say. The people in this new sub-culture prefer to learn new information
and to get involved in ways that feel most authentic to them. Almost always,
this preference involves direct personal experience in addition to intellectual
ways of knowing. (Cultural Creatives, 2000) [more]
The subtitle playfully suggests that beyond Homo sapiens
lies a species, Homo conjugens, that is fecund in ways that Homo sapiens
could only project into biological reproduction. The emergence of Homo conjugens
signals a new way of engaging and joining with the world.
Threads and clues
Paradox and ambiguity: To Homo sapiens the conceptual
associations and logical steps used by Homo conjugens are not rational
in any cartesian sense. They do not appear justified and they should not result
in anything viable. They contrast fundamentally with the form of "thinking"
which distinguished Homo sapiens in the first place. Most problematic
is the lack of any apparent coherence to this mode of thought. It is partly
understood in the contrast to the strategic thinking required for the Eastern
game of "go" as opposed to the Western game of "chess". To Homo conjugens
it is this ambiguous space which provides a new degree of freedom that contrasts
greatly with the constraints of the grid thinking of Homo sapiens as
evident in urban planning, classification systems, organization charts, timetables,
Dualism and polarity: Homo cojugens thrives on duality
rather than being torn by it like Homo sapiens. It is through the dynamics
associated with duality that the essence of Homo conjugens is born. Polarity
and polarization become a game to be explored as with contrasting notes and
melodies in music. [more]
Intercourse: As the name implies Homo conjugens
engages with reality in a way quite different from Homo sapiens. Where
the latter seeks to effect a separate reality and mould it primarily for "selfish"
purposes, Homo conjugens is involved with reality in ways that are most
easily described through the sexual metaphors that poets of all cultures have
traditionally used with regard to mystical experiences. In the Lake District,
William Wordsworth, for example, claims to have "held unconscious intercourse
with beauty". The haiku poet Matsuo Basho would "enter into the object, the whole of its delicate life, feeling as it feels". Reality is then encountered in a way that is not founded
on separation but on conjoining. Each becomes the other in ways which lovers
often endeavour to describe and embody -- and in so doing give expression to
a larger unity. Homo conjugens will view Homo sapiens as having
"thrown the baby out with the bath water" in confusing such engagement
with all the negativity that past centuries have projected into the evils of
sex and the temptations of the world -- by which Homo conjugens is not
entrapped. By contrast, Homo sapiens has indeed been entrapped as defined
by Geoffrey Vickers (Freedom in a Rocking Boat: changing values in
an unstable society, 1970): "a trap is a function of the nature of
Consummation: As is implied by the above phrase "give
expression to a larger unity", there is a way in which Homo conjugens
is exemplified by the quality of the encounter with reality -- for which one
common term is "peak experience". But this consummation is one which
effectively defines Homo conjugens in other dimensions within which a
new integrity is sustained. It is the pattern of thinking and being of this
integrity, the quality of knowing, which sustains Homo conjugens in ways
beyond the ken of Homo sapiens [more].
As expressed by Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a Necessary Unity,
1979): "The pattern which connects is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns.
It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed,
it is patterns which connect." And it is from this perspective that he warns,
citing Jung: "Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you
necessarily destroy all quality." [more]
Homo sapiens has become committed in practice to a form of tunnel vision
("knowing more and more about less and less") -- and relating instrumentally
to it. Whereas Homo conjugens effectively seeks ways "to know less
and less about more and more" whilst emphasizing a more fruitful relationship
Enactivism: There is a way in which this engagement, intercourse
and consummation by Homo conjugens are all part of what has been explored
under the term "enactivism" -- associated with the notion of the embodiment
of mind. This has been notably pioneered by Francisco Varela (Laying Down
a Path in Walking: essays on enactive cognition, 1997) [more].
It may be understood as an aspect of the creation of reality and of "world-making".
Reflection-within: A major contrast with Homo sapiens
is that for Homo conjugens the world is not separately "outside".
There are a variety of ways in which the external world is reflected within
-- controversially described on occasion by the phrase "there is a Hitler
in every one of us" (or a Saddam Hussein). In this sense the values, qualities,
attributes and diversity perceived without also have their correspondences within
-- without which we would in all probability be unable to distinguish them without.
In this sense Homo conjugens is the joining up of the "outer"
world within. [more;
more] This is in
some ways implied by the ideal expressed in the phrase a "man for all seasons".
Reflection-without: Similarly, for Homo conjugens,
the world without is understood as a reflection of the diversity experienced
within. In a sense each outside feature carries qualities characteristic of
the inner world of Homo conjugens -- although it may well be that these
qualities need to be projected onto phenomena distinguished "outside"
as a way of holding great complexity in a manner accessible for awareness. The
"outside" world is then used like a large wardrobe with a myriad of
coat hangers for conceptual garments that can only be donned under particular
Environment: The two preceding attributes point to the
distinguishing feature of Homo conjugens with respect to the natural
environment and its biodiversity. The streams that arise in springs and run
"without" are echoed by streams that arise and run "within".
Homo conjugens can only tolerate the degradation of the natural environment
at the price of degradation of personal identity. This is equally true in the
case of biodiversity. The myriad species "without", in all their complex
relationships, are effectively carrying attributes and qualities of Homo
conjugens essential to the sustaining dynamics of the person. Loss of biodiversity
is tantamount to significant diminishment of the person. Conversely of course,
it is the exemplification of the potential of Homo conjugens "within"
that enables a new kind of stewardship "without" -- healing and sustaining
the environment in new ways. It might be said that Homo conjugens has
a "conjugal" relationship with the environment -- married to the world
in ways that Homo sapiens can only guess at. Homo conjugens might
even be said to "know" the world -- in the biblical sense. [more]
Instrumentalism: In responding to the environment, Homo
sapiens is most characterized as a tool maker and user with an instrumental
orientation -- leading to the development of a multitude of tools via which
to relate to the environment and to change it. By contrast Homo conjugens
might best be understood through the design and use of instruments in the aesthetic
sense -- such as musical instruments through which harmonies and ways of resonating
with the environment can be evoked. These are instruments that focus awareness,
playfully (as noted below), on the many ways in which aspects of the environment
are conjoined through patterns of associations.
Possession: It follows from the preceding points that Homo
conjugens has a way of relating to possessions and property that is quite
distinct from that of Homo sapiens. The identity of the latter is distinguished
in wisdom by the manner of grasping and possessing knowledge -- increasingly
described as intellectual property. Homo conjugens is however as much
possessed by the property he/she might be considered by others to own -- in
ways similar to those that indigenous peoples have long endeavoured to articulate.
For example: This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs
to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man
did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does
to the web, he does to himself [Chief
Seattle, 1852]. Rather than clutching it for exclusive material use, Homo
conjugens effectively embodies it in the celebration of larger identity.
Inter-personal relationships: As implied above, the reality
and environment with which Homo conjugens engages in these new ways are
of major significance for personal relationships. Those encountered "without"
are understood to be echoes of those active "within". People encountered
"without" are then necessary projections of those encountered "within"
-- constituting dynamics by which one is severely challenged. Problematic phenomena
like "Adolf Hitler" and "Saddam Hussein" may need to be
encountered and held "without" in order better to understand how they
are to be handled "within". But this also applies to the saintly figures
and gurus of this world and the strange dynamics and values that they represent.
The challenge is to understand how to discover them "within" and develop
an appropriate relationship to them there. Such richer insights into inter-personal
relationships "within" will sustain richer patterns of relationship
Group activity: More prosaically, the previous point also
applies to any work or community initiative -- with its potential range of eccentric
personalities. It is in the latter respect that Homo conjugens will perhaps
be most obviously distinct from Homo sapiens. The dynamics of groups
will be quite different from those favoured by Homo sapiens. The new
style will be inherently more dynamic and less reliant on fixed structures.
To sustain such group activity, patterns of communication ad dialogue will develop
and evolve in ways that Homo sapiens will find incredible and difficult
to comprehend. Time will play a much greater part -- where Homo sapiens
is entirely dependent on linear time for group organization, Homo conjugens
will rely on a variety of times. This may perhaps best be understood by the
contrast between plainsong and the complex melodies of the later evolution of
Commitment: Homo sapiens has successfully given
form to interpersonal bonds through contracts and other kinds of commitments
-- of which those based on the proverbial handshake may be the most binding.
The quality of authenticity out of which Homo conjugens will act will
distinguish bonds and agreements to a degree unfamiliar to Homo sapiens --
except perhaps as suggested by the quality of moral obligation exemplified by
untranslatable concepts such as the Japanese giri, typically experienced
as irrational to the western business mentality.
Paradigm shift: The much sought "paradigm shift"
will acquire significance and sustainability with the emergence of Homo conjugens.
In effect the previous points will also apply to conceptual relationships which
will acquire and sustain their integrity in new ways. Invariance and transformation
will be understood in relation to extra dimensions, including non-linear time.
The static approaches to knowledge organization favoured by Homo sapiens
will be superceded. The dynamic forms will be vital to new forms of coherence
in any understanding of organization. Homo conjugens would be amused at the
checklist of characteristics in this document, when the enabling paradigm is
dependent not only on their configuration but on the dynamic between them, on
the process of engaging with them, on being entrained by them, and on their
function in navigating alternative realities [more;
Time-binding: Although the points made above contrast Homo
sapiens with the emergent species of Homo conjugens, a prime characteristic
of the latter is the manner in which value is attached to phenomena of different
times. This is exemplified in the case of the environment by the recognition that
there are many "prehistoric" species (sharks, coelacanths, trilobites,
etc) that continue to have their place in the ecosystem. This is equally true
of "dangerous" species and pests (wolves, snakes, etc). The same might
be said of their human counterparts (thieves, drunkards, etc). For Homo conjugens
it is not a case that outdated and dysfunctional models should be "replaced",
as has been a favoured approach of Homo sapiens. It is recognized that
in a complex world there is a vital need to provide integration over time --
if only as a learning experience of those born to Homo conjugens. Consistent
with this view is the sense in which the past is embedded in the present --
as is any future potential of humanity ("the oak within the acorn").
In this way Homo conjugens is already amongst us and within us -- and
has been so recognized under a variety of labels. Equally Homo sapiens
will be with us and within us for a long time. The challenge lies in their co-existence
and communication. [more;
Language: Homo sapiens gave birth to language as
it is currently known and articulated through grammar. Homo conjugens
will transform the manner in which language is used in ways that would now best
be understood by poets. In particular, as suggested by the association between
conjugens and the discipline of "conjugating verbs" in their
various tenses, language in the moment will derive new and unique power from
what might be described as its tensional integrity -- binding time in unforeseen
ways. The classic poem of T S Eliot starts with the lines: Time present and
time past, Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained
in time past (Burnt
Norton). Such tensional integrity will transform understanding of the temporal
dimension in ways that the "tensegrity" of R Buckminster Fuller transformed
spatial integrity -- most notably in the structuring of geodesic domes. The
spatial emphasis of network organization, as in semantic networks, will acquire
a temporal dimension. [more] Possibilities are suggested by exploration of "conjugation
patterns" in other disciplines, notably biology and molecular organization.
Self-constraint: It is the inherent understanding of conjugation
patterns that will give Homo conjugens the sense of "goodness of
fit" that will naturally constrain the fundamental flaw (and unwisdom)
of Homo sapiens, namely the commitment to the biological procreation
of humans whatever the cost to the environment. Homo conjugens will have
a design sense of appropriate configuration -- where Homo sapiens equates
quantity with quality. The point has been made through the phrase "small
Dynamic: Implicit in several of the points above is the
sense in which the identity of Homo conjugens will be associated to a
far greater degree with patterns of movement rather than with the more static
attributes favoured by Homo sapiens. Aspects of this have been explored
in terms of the "flow experience" [more].
Since these patterns are less tangible and less easily measured than are the
more static attributes (wealth, status, beauty, etc), there are many respects
in which Homo conjugens will be "invisible" to Homo sapiens.
The latter will tend to be caricatured as "stolid" by the former.
The challenge is exemplified as explained by one character in Heinlein's novel:
"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part
of the observed -- to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.
It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science
-- and it means as little to us as color means to a blind man". [more;
Playfulness: Homo sapiens has invented a multitude
of games which are a prime focus of attention, notably as a form of recreation.
The propensity has even led to a characterization of humanity as Homo ludens
by Johan Huizinga [more]
-- especially where gambling is the focus. Games are understood as defining
culture. Self-esteem may be intimately related to being perceived as a "player"
-- in initiatives in which there is as much a chance of being a "winner"
as a "loser". Homo conjugens, however, approaches playfulness
in other ways -- best briefly described as playing (with) the world -- that
could indeed be described as a process of "recreation" involving the
"entertainment" of possibilities in a kind of "engaged detachment".
As noted above, the world might then be understood as a gigantic musical instrument
to be played -- in ways inspired (notably on the web) by the allusive indications
of Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969).
It might also be understood as a kind of existential learning environment in
which Homo conjugens is also "played". In a sense Homo conjugens
strives to give coherence to the Game of Life, as indicated more by the intent
of works such as Mary Catherine Bateson's Composing a Life (Atlantic
Monthly Press, 1989) than by the many computer simulations of that name -- although
the characteristic playfulness in the moment is better indicated by the classic
Humour: Whilst Homo sapiens sees humour as one of
the prime characteristics distinguishing "humans" from animals, it
is partly in the nature of the humour cultivated by Homo conjugens that
key differences from Homo sapiens are to be found. The quality of such
humour, and its integration into the existential paradoxes of the uncomfortable
spontaneity of living, have perhaps best been exemplified by the various Taoist,
Buddhist and Sufi approaches to "crazy wisdom" -- notably Chuang-Tze,
Lieh-Tze (Columbia University Press, 1990), Chogyam Trungpa (Crazy Wisdom,
Random House, 2001) and the Nasruddin tales.
The (Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog (1974) carried
on its cover the phrase:
"We can't put it together; it is together".
Does this partially reflect the nature of experience of Homo conjugens
in the moment as something that is a natural given that can only be defined
artificially as absent?
Ralph Abraham. The World According to Grok. In: Chaos Gaia and
Eros. San Francisco, Harper, 1992 (p. 13 et seq)
Milo Clark. The Art of Grokking. 2000 [text]
Neil Freer. Conscious Evolution in Designer Genes: a manual for
Robert Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land. 1961 (see also "The
Original, Uncut Version" of Stranger in a Strange Land, produced by Virginia
Johan Huizinga. Homo Ludens: a study of the play-element in culture.
International Library of Sociology and Social Reconstruction. Routledge and Kegan
Paul Limited, London, 1949 (translation of 1938 edition).
- Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490. 1990 [text]
- Attacking the Shadow through Iraq. 2003 [text]
- Being Other Wise: dynamics of a meaningfully sustainable lifestyle.
- Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities:
learnings from sexual harassment as a metaphor. 1996 [text]
- Communicating with Aliens: the Psychological Dimension of Dialogue.
- Critical Factors for the Long-term Survival of Humanity. 2000
- Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West
metaphors. 2000 [text]
- From Statics to Dynamics in Sustainable Community. 1998 [text]
- Living Differences as a basis for Sustainable Community: Designing
a difference engine. 1998 [text]
- My Reflecting Mirror World: making Joburg worthwhile. 2002 [text]
- Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics
of enacting new paradigms through movement. 2002 [text]
- Patterning Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order: implications
of diamond faceting for enlightening dialogue. 2002 [text]
- Personal Globalization. 2001 [text]
- Presenting the Future. 2001 [text]
- Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental
processes. 2002 [text]
- The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship
of the Ring. 2002 [text]
- Towards Conscientific Research and Development. 2002 [text]
- Transforming the Encounter with Terrorism. 2002 [text]
- Warp and Weft: Governance through Alternation. 2002 [text]
- Web resources on "breaking the cycle". 2002 [text]
Michael Nagel. Markers on the Path to Personal Authenticity.
William A. Parrette. So, What Does It Mean to Grok In Fullness?
Michael Rothschild. Cro-Magnon's Secret Weapon. Forbes ASAP Magazine,
September 1993 [text]
Johan van Benthem. Homo Sapiens as Homo Ludens (Paper to the
11th European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information, Utrecht, 1999)
Dave Warner and Nason Fellow. GROK BOX: An Interactive Perceptualization