Systems thinking is linked with a fairly recent philosophical
movement, Deep Ecology, started by the Norwegian philosopher,
Arne Naess, in the early 1970s.
"Deep ecology does not separate humans--or anything else--from
the natural environment. It sees the world not as a collection of
isolated objects, but as a network of phenomena that are
fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. Deep ecology
recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views humans
as just one particular strand in the web of life." [Fritjof Capra,
THE WEB OF LIFE: A NEW SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF
LIVING SYSTEMS, Anchor Books, 1996, pp. 6-7.]
For much of this lecture, I'll borrow from Capra's excellent work. As
a matter of background, Fritjof Capra is a Phd in theoretical physics
(University of Vienna) and has done research in high-energy physics
in both European and American universities.
Systems thinking has included not only a novel perspective on
the "hierarchies of nature," but has impacted upon the fields of
Quantum Physics, Cybernetics, Ecology, and Psychology--
particularly Gestalt Psychology.
"Gestalt," as used in psychology, sparks the sense of an irreducible
*pattern.* And moving towards the Imaginal Realm, Capra notes: "
There is something else to life, something nonmaterial and irreducible--
a pattern of organization...[and] it's most important property is that it
is a network pattern." [Ibid, pp. 81-82.]
Wherever we look, when we encounter living systems, we can observe
their components arranged in a network fashion. Any network goes in
all directions, thus an "influence, or message, may travel along a cyclical
path, which may become a feedback loop. The concept of feedback is
intimately connected with network pattern." [Ibid, p. 82.]
From Cybernetics the concept of a feedback loop is as follows: "A
feedback loop is a circular arrangement of causally connected elements,
in which an initial cause propagates around the links of the loop, so that
each element has an effect on the next, until the last 'feeds back' the effect
into the first element of the cycle. The consequence...is that the first link
(input) is affected by the last (output), which results in self-regulation of
the entire system." [Ibid, p. 56.]
And what we feed into this gigantic self-regulating universal system is
important! Professor of theoretical physics at the University of Adelaide
(Australia), as well as a winner of religion's Templeton Prize, Paul
Davies expresses a provoking view about the characteristic of the
"It is as though, as the universe gradually unfolds from its featureless
origin, matter and energy are continually being presented with alternative
pathways of development..." [Paul Davies, THE COSMIC BLUEPRINT:
NEW DISCOVERIES IN NATURE'S CREATIVE ABILITY TO ORDER
THE UNIVERSE, Simon & Schuster, 1988, p, 87.]
Is this cosmic ability to launch "alternative pathways of development" that
which is significant? Let's transfer our thinking from the material universe
to that special realm, the mental universe. It would seem that if scientists
are determining these alternative paths for the material world, than the
same might be said for the mental world. Hence we need to return to the
idea that what we do, what we say, and what we *think* may have an
enormous impact as to which path the universe might take. And within
such a self-regulating, feedback system an old adage might apply:
"What goes around comes around."
Thus it's seemingly significant what we create both materially and
mentally in this world. To further this point, let us turn to some ideas
presented by Ervin Laszlo--a world-class philosopher of science.
(Additionally Laszlo is the developer of Systems Philosophy-- derived
from General Systems Theory. He is a member of the Club of Rome
and has taught at Yale and Princeton Universities . Also the founder
of the General Evolution Research group and head of the advisory
committee to the United Nations University, he is currently director of
the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.)
Laszlo makes the point that we humans are non-linear systems, those
systems farthest from thermal and chemical equilibrium; consequently,
we can increase our level of complexity and organization--and become
Non-linear systems are able to "import" energy to perform further work.
"There can be a transport of free energy-or negative entropy-across the
system boundaries." And the more dynamic and negentropic such a
system can be, the greater its potential of freedom in the face of chaos!
[Ervin Laszlo, EVOLUTION: THE GRAND SYNTHESIS, New Science
Library, 1987, pp. 21-22.]
As *autopoietic,* self-creating non-linear systems, we humans possess
a special creativity, whether employed physically or mentally, that can
propel us into new (and higher) plateaus of nonequilibrium. What we
are "about" is creating greater order out of chaos! And what we are about
is gleaning more energy!
Scientifically speaking, what may lurk far in our depths is the *wherewithal*
to create order out of chaos--and to become more dynamic and energetic.