Living Systems

       Ancient Greece
 Western thinkers seem to presume the
  first real development of philosophical
  thought originated in ancient Greece
 The sages and mystics in India and
  China had already developed
  sophisticated philosophical insights
  several thousand years earlier.
 „Logos‟ - A transcendent principle
  governing the cosmos.
 All things are in constant flux but, at a
  deeper level everything is balanced by
  its opposite - all opposites ultimately
  constitute a unity
 This is similar to the ancient Taoist
 The universe was ordered by a plurality
  of „timeless essences‟ which underlay
  concrete reality giving it form and
 “the fundamentals of existence are the
  archetypal ideas which constitute the
  intangible substrate of all that is
  tangible”. (Tarnas)


 The physical world is constituted by an infinite number of
 indivisible corpuscles moving randomly in an infinite void,
 - atoms.
 Historical perspective

– “Indian atomism was certainly independent of Greek
  influence, for an atomic theory was taught by Pakudha
  Katyayana, an older contemporary of the Buddha, and
  was therefore earlier than Democratus….but the atomic
  theories of ancient India are brilliant imaginative
  explanations of the physical structure of the world”.
  However, beyond this, ancient Indian physics
  developed little as their primary interests were directed
  elsewhere.” (A.L.Basham)
   Achieved a partial synthesis of these two
    deeply divergent views. He turned Plato‟s
    ideas upside down - a substance is not
    simply a unit of matter but is an intelligible
    structure or form embodied in matter.
   The form does not exist independently of its
    material embodiment, but it is the form which
    gives to the substance its distinctive essence;
   Aristotle‟s four principles, or causes of all
    phenomena; i.e. Form, Matter, Process and
Copernicus Nicolas (1473 - 1543)

 Overthrew geocentric view
 Earth no longer the centre of the universe

Kepler Johannes (1571 - 1630)
 Scientist and mathematician
 Developed laws of motion of the planets
   Gallileo:-
   “Scientists should restrict themselves to the
    essential properties of material bodies – size,
    shape, number, weight and motion. Only by
    means of an exclusively quantitative analysis
    could science attain certain knowledge of the
   “Gallileo‟s programme offers us a dead world: out
    goes sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and along
    with them have since gone aesthetic and ethical
    sensibility, values, quality, soul, consciousness, spirit.
    Experience as such is cast out of the realm of
    scientific discourse. Hardly anything has changed
    our world more during the past 400 years than
    Gallileo‟s audacious programme. We had to destroy
    the world in theory before we could destroy it in
Bacon Francis (1561 - 1626)
  The goal of science is knowledge that can be
  used to dominate and control nature.

  Nature had to be:
            “hounded in her wanderings”
            “bound into service”
            “made a „slave‟”

  Bacon had to:
           „torture nature‟s secrets from her.‟
Descartes Rene (1596 - 1650)
               Analysis - Reductionism
  The „Whole‟ is explained by understanding the
  parts and material of which it is made.

                Mind and body - Separate
 “there is nothing included in the concept of body
  that belongs to the mind; and nothing in that of the
  mind that belongs to the body”

  “I think, therefore I am” („cogito ergo sum‟)
                 (I am, therefore I think - Chariji)
         Isaac Newton
 Mechanistic view of nature
 The universe is a machine (a giant
 Human beings are also machines
 Differential calculus
 Saw time as a separate dimension,
  which was absolute, having no
  connection with the material world.
          Mechanistic view
   . From the second half of the 17th century to the end
    of the 19th century the Newtonian, mechanistic model
    of the universe dominated all scientific thought.
   By the 19th century God‟s creation of the world had
    dropped out of the picture. It was felt that it was only
    a matter of time until a complete scientific
    understanding of the entire universe would be
        Newtonian Physics
   The natural sciences as well as the humanities and
    social sciences all accepted this mechanistic view, as
    the correct description of reality and modelled their
    own theories accordingly.
    To this day whenever psychologists, sociologists, or
    economists want to be scientific they always turn to
    these basic concepts of Newtonian physics and base
    their research on them.
   It made possible the extraordinary technological
    achievements which we see all around us in the
    world today.
           TUNNEL VISION

The mechanistic scientific paradigm realises its final
arrogant expression in the work of people like
Stephen Pinker or Richard Dawkins.
In the latter‟s recent book „The God Delusion‟ he fails
to even mention, and appears to be unaware of any
of the recent, genuine scientific developments which I
am attempting to describe here. .
      Scientific „Paradigms‟
   Thomas Kuhn defined a scientific „Paradigm‟ as: „a
    constellation of achievements - concepts, values,
    techniques, etc. - shared by a scientific community to
    define legitimate problems and solutions‟
   Science, like the evolution of life tends to move by fits
    and starts - „paradigm shifts‟.
   Far from subjecting the existing paradigm to constant
    testing, scientists avoid contradicting it by
    reinterpreting conflicting data to support it, or by
    neglecting such awkward data altogether.
             Paradigm shift
   These innovative developments are chipping away at
    the periphery of the main mechanistic scientific
   As more and more data accumulates which doesn‟t
    fit, sooner or later the old model must burst its banks
    and a „paradigm shift‟ will occur.
   These are only glimpses of what is to come, seen
   „as through a glass darkly‟ (St. Paul).
Turning Point

Thermodynamics (1824) “The Science of
  First great break with static, reversible world and
  classical dynamics.

  First Law - Conservation of Energy
 Second Law - Any isolated, (closed) physical system
 will proceed spontaneously in the direction of
 ever-increasing disorder. (Sadi Carnot -1824).

  „Entropy‟ - a measure of disorder (Rudolf Clausius - 1850)
Turning Point

Irreversible Thermodynamic Change
  A change towards states of increasing probability

  In any isolated system the entropy (disorder) will
  keep increasing until the system reaches a state
  of maximum equilibrium (Boltzmann - 1844-1906)

             “The Arrow of Time” - (Eddington)
           The new physics
   . In 1905 Albert Einstein produced two papers. One
    dealt with the theory of relativity and the other with a
    new way of looking at electromagnetic radiation
    which was to form the foundation of quantum theory.
    The material world, which had been viewed as a
    comfortably ticking clockwork mechanism, was now
    transformed into a complex of indeterminate,
    interweaving and interdependent relationships.
   Heisenberg - in Quantum Physics everything is
The New Physics
 Max Planck, Heisenberg, Neils Bohr
        (Quantum Physicists)

        Interrelations - not separate entities
Three scientific world views
   1. Matter is primary and energy is secondary to this.
   2. Matter and Energy are equivalent and are
    interchangeable. (Einstein)
   3. Energy is primary and what we call Matter is
    simply organised energy. (Heisenberg)
                            (Schwartz's)
 The New Physics

“ The material world, according to contemporary physics,
is not a mechanical system made of separate objects, but
rather appears as a complex web of relationships. Subatomic
particles cannot be understood as isolated, separate entities,
but have to be seen as interconnections, or correlations, in a
network of events. The notion of separate objects has no
fundamental validity. All such objects are patterns in an
inseparable cosmic process, and these patterns are
intrinsically dynamic.” - Fritjof Capra
           The living world
   Ever since antiquity there was the idea of a
    great chain of being - a static hierarchy with
    God at the top and descending through
    angels, human beings, and animals to ever
    lower forms of life. Nothing had changed
    since the day of their creation.
   It was Lamarck rather than Darwin who first
    put forward a coherent theory of evolution.
           The living world
   “Lamarck, probably the greatest biologist in
    history, turned that ladder of explanation
    upside down. He was the man who said it
    starts with the infusoria and that there were
    changes leading up to man.” (Gregory
   He had the remarkable intuition that all living
    creatures had evolved under environmental
    pressure from simpler forms.
          The living world
   Charles Darwin (1859) “ the Origin of
    Species”. 12 years later “ The Descent of
   He too accepted the idea of „acquired
    characteristics‟, but based his theory mainly
    on the concept of random mutation and
    natural selection.
   This became the corner stone of modern
    evolutionary theory.
   “chance alone is at the source of every
    innovation, of all creation in the biosphere.
    (Jacque Monod)
   Watson and Crick - established DNA as the molecule
    that holds the secrets of life - „The Master Molecule‟.
   The „central dogma‟ formulated by Crick in 1957:
    “DNA makes RNA, RNA makes protein, and proteins
    make us”.
   Watson - “We used to think that our fate was in the
    stars. Now we know, in large measure, our fat is in
    our genes.”
          Epigenetics (cont.)
   “Every molecular biologist now knows, the secrets of
    life have proven to be vastly more complex, and more
    confusing, than they had seemed in the 1960s and
    „70s,” (Keller)
   “The notion of an isolatable, constant gene that can
    be patented as an invention for all the marvellous
    things it can do is the greatest reductionist myth ever
    perpetrated ...There is no simple, linear, one-
    directional instruction proceeding from the gene to
    RNA to protein.”(Mae-Wan Ho)
    – .
        Epigenetics (cont.)
   Research work in isolated areas in Northern Sweden
    suggests that genes have a „memory‟. That the lives
    of our grandparents can directly affect one decades
    later. Epigenetics proposes a control system of
    „switches‟ that turn genes on and off – and suggests
    that things people experience, like nutrition and
    stress, can control these switches and cause
    heritable effects in humans.
   “Cell heredity, both nuclear and cytoplasmic, always
    must be considered for the entire cell, the entire
    organism.” (Margulis)
        Epigenetics (cont.)
   “Lamarck‟s theory - is of transformation
    arising from the organism‟s own activities and
    experience of its environment. This requires
    a conception of the organism as an active,
    autonomous being, which is open to the
    environment. It would seem now that
    biological form and behaviour are emergent
    properties of the epigenetic network. (Mae-
    Wan Ho)
The Living World
 Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955)

 “On the one hand we have in physics a matter which
slides irresistibly, following the line of least resistance,
in the direction of the most probable forms of distribution.
And on the other hand, we have in biology the same
matter drifting (no less irresistibly, but in this case in a
sort of „greater effort‟ for survival) towards ever more
improbable, because ever more complex, forms of
The Living World

 Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955)
        Reverse the values
        Two different energies
        Linked together in „arrangement‟
        Operating at different levels
The Living World
 Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955)

                  Increasing complexity
                  Rise of consciousness

    Human beings „pressing up against‟ one another
    cover the planet with a web of ideas - „Noopshere‟
  Systems Causality

PART                  WHOLE


PART                  WHOLE
    Conventional science
Believe Systems:-
  Reductionism - the whole explained by the parts.
 Determinism - The doctrine that all events including
  human actions and choices are fully determined by
  preceding events, so that freedom of choice is
 No Purpose - “Chance alone is at the source of
  every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere”.
                                     (Jacque Monod)
Conventional science (cont.)
   Heart - is simply there to pump the blood around the
   The Brain - There are a fixed number of neurons in
    the brain, when they die not replaced.
   The DNA - this is a completely closed system not
    affected by environment.
            Recent scientific
   „Whole‟ - new „emergent‟ reality - greater than the
    sum of its parts.
   Genetic system open - can be affected by the
   The plastic brain - brain changes related to
   Memory and information storage in „fields‟ (feed-back
    loops) outside the brain - Brain mainly an „ „antenna
    More new developments

   Heart-lung transplants - recipient can have dreams,
    memories & experiences of the donor.
   The After life experiments - controlled studies with
   Near-Death experiences - consciousness can exist
    outside the brain
   Past Life Therapy - „Through Time into Healing.
 Living Systems Theory

 Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1968) - General Systems
           Organisms „open‟ systems
           Quasi steady state
           Entering and leaving the outside environment

  (Alexander Bogdanov - Tektology, 1912 - 1917)

           „Time‟
           Universe expanding and running down - (Big Bang)
           Evolution - simple to complex
Living Systems Theory

Ilya Prigogine (1917 - )
    Self-organising systems
    “Dissipative structures” - irreversible, non-linear
       transformations under conditions far from equilibrium.
   Continuous fluctuation
   Energy increases - turbulence
    “Bifurcation Point”
  “Our vision of nature is undergoing a radical change
  toward the multiple, the temporal and the complex”
Living Systems Theory

                     New Pattern

Living Systems Definition

      Contains a number of elements
      Dynamic process
      Boundary - regulates what goes in and out
      Maintains and renews itself
      „Locus of control‟ within itself (self-organising)
      Reproduces itself
Key Criteria of a Living System
   Pattern of organisation
    The configuration of relationships that determines the
    system‟s essential characteristics
   Structure
    The physical embodiment of the system‟s pattern of
   Life Process
    The activity involved in the continual embodiment of the
    system‟s pattern of organisation

                                 (Fritjof Capra)
Two Types of Systems

    Living                   Non-Living
 Auto-Poeisis               Allo-Poeisis
 (Self-making)             (Other making)

          (Maturana and Varela)
            Chilian Biologists
Cybernetics Movement
               Macy Conferences
               Mathematicians,
                engineers and
               Humanities
               Feedback and
         Feedback Loop

Circular arrangement of causally connected elements,
so that each element has an effect on the next, until the
last „feeds back‟ the effect into the first element of the
cycle. Thus the first link („input‟) is affected by the last
(„output‟), which results in self-regulation of the entire
         Feedback Loop
BALANCE                                  C

                 Two Forms of Feedback

         Circular causality of a feedback loop
 Two Forms of Feedback
Negative feedback is a self-balancing circular form,
maintaining a ‘steady state’.
This underlies Canon’s concept of ‘Homeostasis’
in living creatures.
Positive feedback is what has been known in
common parlance as a ‘vicious circle’, a self-
reinforcing, ‘runaway’ loop.
               A network
   Candace Pert has described what this
   “A network is different from a hierarchical
    structure that has a ruling „station‟ at the top
    and a descending series of positions that play
    increasingly subsidiary roles. In a network,
    theoretically, you can enter at any point and
    quickly get to any other point; all locations are
    equal as far as the potential to “rule” or direct
    the flow of information.
   The group of macromolecules comprising 60
    to 70 molecular messengers (information
    substances), form a psychosomatic network
    extending throughout our human physiology.
   Because they were studied separately by
    different disciplines (Neuroscience,
    endocrinology, and immunology) this fact was
    not realised.
          „Mind‟ Definition
   “What the mind is , is the flow of information
    as it moves among the cells, organs and
    systems of the body.
   The mind as we experience it is immaterial,
    yet it has a physical substrate, which is both
    the body and the brain.
   Thus we might refer to the whole system as a
    psychosomatic information network, linking
    psyche,….such as mind, emotion, and soul,
    to soma, which is the material world of
    molecules,….Mind and body, psyche and
Orders of Living Systems
          1st Order     - Cell
          2nd Order     - Multi-cellular
          3rd Order     - Grouped multi-cellular
          4th Order     - Grouped species
          5th Order     - Bio-sphere (Gaia Hypothesis)

 A living system is modified once it becomes
incorporated in a higher order system.
There is no correlation between the complexity of
the higher order system and its lower order system
 Each new level of living
system is a new beginning
   Although each new order of living system, once it
    has fully come into being, now has a controlling
    influence over its parts, it does not mean that it is
    more developed, or complex than the lower
    systems of which it is formed. the highly complex
    interactions between the millions of cells
    internally in a dog or cat bear no relation to the
    quite simple behaviours of these animals as living
        The Social Insects
   This disparity becomes much clearer when we
    turn to the social insects. Many of the insect
    societies are very ancient compared to mammals
    or humans; termites reach back over 400 million
    years and even the honeybee has been in existence
    for over 40 million years.
   They could, in a sense, be considered as adults,
    while we (that is the mammalian group), are, by
    comparison, children.
                A paradox
   Our highly sophisticated technology has been
    developed over the past four hundred years, from
    Gallileo onwards, through the mechanistic scientific
   This is now becoming lighter, increasingly non-
    material - „spiritualised‟.
   This is enabling open-minded scientists to examine
    complex questions, which was impossible before,
    such as - Consciousness, brain function, complex
    physiology, memory and information storage outside
    the brain, etc.
         The Paradox
– The human individual as a multicellular
  organism is far more developed and complex
  than a bee, ant, or termite. But the third-order
  groups of human beings are, in evolutionary
  terms, far more recent than those of the social
  insects, and have therefore, as living systems,
  not yet developed the sophistication or complex
  organization of the latter.
          The plastic brain
   Richard Davidson‟s lab at Univ. of Wisconsin
   Supercharged EEGs - can pinpoint activity at
    locations deep within the brain.
   The functional MRI- a video rendition which can track
    changes the brain goes through during a given
   The PET scan - this allows researchers to measure
    which of the brain‟s several hundred neurochemicals
    are involved in a given mental activity.
    The plastic brain (cont.)
   The dogma in neuroscience was that the brain
    contained all of its neurons at birth and it was
    unchanged ny life‟s experiences
   „Neuroplasticity‟- We now know from this work and
    elsewhere, that the brain continually changes as
    result of our experience - Whether through fresh
    connections or through the generation of utterly new
   The frontal lobes, the amygdala, and the
    hyppocampus, change in response to experience.
     Heart-lung transplants
   Memories of the donor - Reports of heart-lung
    transplant patients having experiences, dreams, likes
    and dislikes of the donor are being reported with
    increasing frequency across the world.
   This may be happening through information stored in
    a non-material form in „feed-back‟ loops or
    electromagnetic fields outside of us.
    Near-death experiences
 These can occur in any of the
 Cardiac arrest
 Shock after loss of blood
 Coma following traumatic brain injury or
  intra-cerebral hemorrhage
 Near drowning - especially in children
 Etc.
            N. D. E. (cont.)
   Prospective studies carried out:-
   Dutch, English, American,
   Consciousness outside the brain:- Patients
    being resuscitated show cardiac arrest, no
    brain activity, yet able to report in detail what
    is happening at the time.
   18 to 20% of NDE patients can recall these
          Back to the heart
   The atrium of the heart produces hormone - ANF
    that interacts with other hormones and affects every
    organ in the body, including the brain.
   Recent work is revealing that there are networks of
    neurons in the heart showing evidence of „mind‟, and
    that the heart is the real centre of our emotions
    reflecting back on the brain.
Three major heart-centred
      stages of life
   The development of a heart-mind synchrony, needed
    for physical life,
   A later post-adolescent development which
    synchronizes the developed physical self and the
    creative process.
   A final „highest heart‟ which moves us beyond all
    physical emotional systems.
   This non-localised intelligence governing the heart in
    turn maintains synchrony with the universal
    consciousness at large.
         Past Life Therapy
   „Through Time into Healing‟ - sheds new light
    on the extraordinary healing potential of past
    life therapy.
   Brian Weiss shows how he uses regression
    to past lifetimes to provide the necessary
    breakthrough to healing mind, body and soul.
   This can help us to realise that death is not
    the final word and that the doorways to
    healing and wholeness are inside each of us.
    The primary social unit -
      A group of families
   This has taken various forms at different
    times: the tribal settlement, the extended
    family, the hamlet, the village, the small
    market town with its hinterland. This was
    true also of the cluster of neighbourhoods
    making up great cities of the past,
   The Nuclear Family
It is not until we come to modern society and the,
much-lauded, phenomenon of globalization,
we find the isolated nuclear family as it exists

These natural human settlements, even the
cities of the past, developed in relation to
natural resources, primarily to be.
Demise of the age-old forms
  of Human community
  – The villages and the small towns have largely
    disappeared, in the West at least, or have
    altered their character totally, as part of the
    giant urban conurbations that now exist. The
    extended family too has largely gone and even
    the nuclear family is now under threat. Giant
    corporations and organizations of all kinds have
    taken their place; these are primarily task-
    oriented enterprises, concerned with doing.
    „Pseudo-living‟ systems
   A „third order‟ system of this kind because it is of
    recent origin is essentially a new beginning.
   These insatiable „blind monsters‟, even though they
    have entangled thousands of sensitive, complex
    human beings within them, are, themselves, only
    capable of quite primitive behaviors, similar to the
    ancient dinosaurs.
   They can manifest „fight or flight‟ behaviour, take over
    another corporation or be taken over.
 Corporate personhood

“When Cain beat out his brother Abel‟s
 brains, His maker laid great cities in his
 (Robert Lowell)
Physiology - Human Nature

Essential Human Needs
   Relationship to natural environment
   Relationship to each other as persons
   Relate to an understandable holistic world
Human „Needs‟ and „Wants‟

  ‘Wealth can be measured by the
 greatness of what we have or the
    smallness of what we want’
    Human „Needs‟ and „Wants‟
  Human ‘needs’ which we require to live a full and
   fruitful life are relatively few.
  Society has filled us with ‘wants’ which we do not
  Insatiable ‘wants’ through advertising
  With technology ‘needs’ could be met with a
   fraction of current output

Satisfying ‘wants’ will not give us contentment or

Cell     Bio-sphere       Society

  Teilhard de Chardin
 “Either the entire construction of the world
  presented here is an empty theory. Or else
somewhere around us, in one form or other, we
    should be able to detect some excess of
personal, and extra human energy that reveals
   the great presence, if we look carefully.
       Teilhard de Chardin
   The day will come when we shall
    harness for God the energies of love.
    And, on that day, for the second time in
    the history of the world, human beings
    will have discovered fire

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