Chris Thomson 3819 - his September 2019 three-part series of articles:
Part Two - I describe the inner cosmos itself.
Part Three - I give you some advice on how to access your own inner cosmos and make the best of it (Sept 25).
Part One - Link: Introduction to the “inner cosmos”.
Inner Cosmos ... Description -Explanation
I said in Part One that my preferred pathway to a deeper exploration of the new story is the “inner cosmos”. In this article I will tell you what the inner cosmos is. The gateway into the inner cosmos itself is the holarchy.
In his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine, Arthur Koestler coined the term “holarchy”, and he called the members of a holarchy “holons”. If you consult the internet, you will find several interpretations of “holarchy”. For me, the defining characteristic of a holarchy is “omnipresence”. As the word implies, this means that everything is present everywhere. If this seems an unlikely idea, please bear with me. I will explain.
I like to think that a holarchy is any kind of community that is functioning at it best. The whole serves everyone, and everyone serves the whole. Each of its members is somehow present in all the others. For example, we marvel at a flock of starlings making exquisite patterns in the sky, as if drawn by a single hand, and guided by a group mind. Now, if it is true that there is some kind of unifying mind at work, then this is a holarchy, because the whole (the mind) is clearly present in all the parts (the birds). And the birds are somehow one with each other, as they perform their dazzling choreography. Although it is not the same, a well-functioning community of people has similar characteristics. If it functions well as a single, unified entity, then it is a holarchy. This is because the spirit of the community (the whole) is present in all its members (the parts). You may be able to think of other examples of holarchies in the natural and human worlds. Today I want to focus on the most important holarchy of all, the Cosmos. Although you may never have thought of it as such, the universe has all the qualities of a holarchy, as I hope to show. The following will be familiar to you:
- Superclusters of galaxies
- Clusters of galaxies
- Our local group of galaxies
- Milky Way Galaxy
- The Solar System
- Planet Earth
- Nature (defined as the totality of all living things)
- The Human Race
- Human Being
- Our Organs
- Subatomic particles
- Quanta (defined as the smallest things conceivable)
Please note that this particular depiction of the Cosmic holarchy makes no claim to be the only holarchy or even the comprehensive one. We simply have no idea, for instance, how many holons there are between a star and the galaxy of which it is a member, nor between a galaxy and the universe. There may be some that we have yet to discover. In addition, not every molecule forms part of organic life, and not every star has its own system of planets. These and other similar considerations suggest that the Cosmos may consist of a set of parallel holarchies that look increasingly similar to each other at their tops and bottoms. The image of a vibrating violin string comes to mind!
It is clear from the diagram that we human beings are members of many higher holons. Some of this is obvious and uncontroversial, some of it less so. For example, we are clearly members of the human race, which is itself a holon. The human race is a member of an even larger holon, Nature, which I have defined as “the totality of all living things”. Nature, in turn, is an integral part of this planet, which is part of the Solar System, and so on, through successively larger holons until we reach the largest possible holon of all, the universe itself. We know it is the largest possible, simply because the word “universe” is defined as absolutely everything in existence. There cannot be more than one universe. That would be a contradiction in terms
In passing, we might note that all holons have an “integrative” nature and an “assertive” nature. Every holon is a member of all the higher holons in its holarchy. It therefore has to comply with, or integrate with them. At the same time, because every holon consists physically of all the smaller holons below it, it asserts its personality on them. They reflect its personality in some way. Since we are part of a holarchy, this dual nature applies to us too. Each of us is unique and to some extent free and independent, and we can therefore assert our individuality. At the same time each one of us is part of something greater, such as a family or a nation, and must therefore cooperate and integrate. There is a great discussion to be had here, but it will have to be for another time.
You are almost certainly wondering how it could be possible for everything to be present in everything else. At first sight, it seems impossible. After all, we live in a universe where things are separate from each other, often very separate, light years apart. Specifically, how can we human beings be present in things that are very far away, such as a distant star? Just as unlikely, how can that star be present in us? The answers to these questions lie in the fact that the word “presence” can have more than one meaning. It can mean physical presence, and we are all familiar with this. For example, chemicals and cells and atoms are physically present in all of us. But it goes much further than this. Although at first sight it seems very unlikely, we are physically present in our home star, the Sun. Of course, the visible parts of the Sun – i.e. the bright ball in the sky - are very far away. We are clearly not part of that. However, the invisible parts are right here. We are right inside the Sun’s gravitational fields, and its electromagnetic fields, which extend to the edges of the Solar System and beyond. In this sense, we are physically present in a star!
I hope this much is clear. However, it is much more difficult to accept that the Sun is also present inside us. It would be easy to argue that, since the Sun’s gravitational and electromagnetic fields go right through us, the Sun is therefore present inside us. But this is not what I mean. What I mean is that the Sun’s “uniqueness” is present in us. We reflect this uniqueness in some way. As we shall see, this applies equally to everything else that we are part of. We human beings reflect the uniqueness of this planet, for example. The essential thing to grasp is that when we are part of something, we reflect that thing’s unique characteristics. Some of this is obvious, some less so.
It is obvious that since we are vertebrates, we have what is unique, and common, to all other vertebrates – a backbone and a spinal cord. It is equally obvious that since we are human beings, each of us has what is unique and common to all human beings. I leave it to you to decide what are the characteristics that distinguish human beings from everything else. At this point, the narrative gets slightly less obvious, because not only are we part of humanity, we are also part of the whole of Nature.
Although many of us do not behave as if we were part of Nature, we most certainly are, particularly if we define the word Nature to mean “all forms of life on this planet”. Since we are clearly part of Nature, this suggests that we share the characteristics that are unique and common to all other forms of life. A little thought tells us that this seems to be the case. As with all other forms of life, we are born, we mature, we adapt and evolve, we reproduce, and we die. This is the cycle through which all living things appear to go. Although these features are unique and common to the whole of Nature, there may be other features. Again, I leave you to think about this.
Although these qualities of Nature are apparent in us, they are apparent only at a general level. At a more specific level, we are vertebrates. At a more specific level still, we are primates. At an even more specific level, we are human beings. And at the most specific level of all, each of us is a unique individual. Of course, we are all similar to each other, in the sense that we are all recognisably human, yet at the same time we are all different from each other, with our unique faces, fingerprints, DNA, personalities and destinies. The similarities represent our integrative nature and the differences our assertive nature. Another way of expressing this is unity in diversity. There are countless examples of this. Probably the best known is the snowflake. All snowflakes are undoubtedly snowflakes, with their familiar hexagonal crystal patterns, yet every snowflake there ever has been, and ever will be, is unique. What applies to snowflakes applies equally to fingerprints, starfish, black cats, oak leaves, blue whales, Scotsmen – the list is endless. It is an awe-inspiring thought, and a testimony to the creative capacity of the universe. Although scientists would probably attribute this to Darwinian evolution, I prefer to see it as compelling evidence of the immense intelligence of the universe.
Continuing further up the holarchy, Nature herself is imbued with the uniqueness of all the many larger holons that she herself forms part of. The holon immediately above Nature in our diagram is planet Earth. We would therefore expect Nature to reflect the uniqueness of our home planet. A little thought suggests that this may well be the case. There can be little doubt that Nature - life as we know it here - has been formed and informed by the unique characteristics of this planet. These include the strength of its gravitational field, its mean surface temperatures, the abundance of water, its magnetic fields, the many forms of electromagnetic radiation which affect it, the relative proportions of chemical elements and compounds, and its fortunate distance from a particular star, which in turn, has its own unique characteristics. I believe that, in all these respects, Nature on this planet contains the uniqueness of the planet.
Although you may agree with some of the things I have just said, you might draw the line at my suggestion that we human beings are “members” of this planet and the Sun. How can such a thing be possible? As with Nature herself, we human beings are formed and informed by this planet. We are made of its unique “stuff”. Our bodies evolved to be able to survive and thrive in its unique conditions. And although this will seem a strange thing to say, we are very small, and this turns out to be a good reason for believing that we are members of this planet! We are so small that, to all intents and purposes, we are invisible. If you have played with Google Earth, you will know that it takes time to zoom into a country. Even longer, to zoom into a city. Even longer to zoom into a particular street, And the last thing you can zoom it, when you use “street view”, is human beings. In relation to the size of the planet, we are smaller than specks of dust. Another example – when you see the thin blue film of atmosphere, as viewed from space, it really does look very thin. But we know that in reality, at the Equator, it is about 18 kilometres thick. Compare 18,000 metres to the height of the average person! Still not convinced! If you have ever looked at green fields, as you come in to land in an aircraft, you may recall that you can see cows only at the last minute. Up to that point, they are invisible, because they are so relatively small. The fact is that we are so small, in comparison to the planet, that we are, in effect, part of its fabric. As far as the planet is concerned, we human beings are much, much smaller than atoms. We really are members of Planet Earth.
As for our membership of the home galaxy, all I will say here is that the fact of the holarchy strongly suggests that we are members. We have no idea what this means. But perhaps one day we will. Perhaps my grandchildren will live to see it. I believe that we have reached the point where we can now describe the “inner cosmos”.
The Inner Cosmos
We have seen that higher holons are present in lower ones in the form of their unique qualities. For example, the unique qualities of the human race, Nature, and this planet are all present in us. The higher the holon above us, the less evident is its presence in us. I call this “inverse presence”. Whereas the presence of humanity is very obvious in us, the presence of the planet is much less so, and the Sun even less so. When I try to visualise all this, I am reminded of an onion! Just as an onion has layers that we can peel away, to reveal deeper layers, I believe that the successively less evident presence of higher holons inside us can also be peeled away. Collectively, I call these layers our “inner cosmos”. Just to be clear, everything has an inner cosmos. It’s not just us. Each inner cosmos will look different, depending on where it stands in the holarchy. For instance, the inner cosmos of Planet Earth will contain the unique qualities of the Sun, the home galaxy, and every holon above them in the holarchy that is the Cosmos. Our own inner cosmos will, in addition, contain the presence of the unique qualities of the human race, as well as those of Nature and Planet Earth. I hope that this makes sense.
This is not to suggest that there is a physical thing inside us, called an “inner cosmos”. Far from it! Inner cosmoses are non-physical. They are simply reflections of the unique qualities of the higher holons of which the thing forms part. That “reflection” cannot be touched or seen in any physical sense. Yet, our inner cosmos is very real, because it shapes who we are, and influences what we say and do every day. Not only this, when we access the layers of our inner cosmos, which we will explore in Part Three, it changes our understanding of what the world is and who we are.
I would now like to say a few words about “dual presence”.
Dual Presence – Physical and Non-Physical
Everything has a physical nature, in the sense that everything is physically composed of its smaller parts. Take the Milky Way, for instance. It is physically composed of stars, interstellar matter, planets, moons, Nature (wherever there is life), human beings, cells, molecules, atoms, particles, and quanta. We can think of these things as the physical aspects of the Galaxy. It is not difficult to visualise this. What applies to the Galaxy applies to everything else. Everything has physical aspects because everything is physically composed of its smaller parts. As far as we are concerned, our own physicality consists of all the parts below us in the holarchy – our organs, cells, chemicals, atoms etc. However, this is only half of the picture. There is another, equally important part of the picture, a part that the modern world largely ignores. Science ignores it completely. For convenience, let us call it the “non-physical”.
A useful way of defining “physical” is to say that it is to look downwards through the holarchy and see only the parts of things. I hope that this is clear. I think it is equally useful to define “non-physical” as looking upwards through the holarchy and seeing only wholes. However, this can be confusing because, typically, when we look at bigger things, such as planets and stars, we see only their physical aspects. What I mean by this is that we see only the parts of stars and planets that correspond to levels that are lower than us in the holarchy. In other words, we see only chemicals, molecules, atoms and so on. We are simply not in the habit of looking for, and seeing, the higher qualities of stars and planets, such as intelligence and consciousness. Indeed, when we think about it, looking for, and finding, only the physical is how science explores and understands the world. And it is how it presents its facts. It is worth dwelling on this for a moment.
The world as described by science is the world seen in terms of particles and waves (physics); atoms, elements and molecules (chemistry); giant molecules and cells (biochemistry); tissues and organs (anatomy and medicine), and so on. When scientists study holons higher than us in the holarchy, they see only their physical aspects. They see only those aspects that appear to be physical when seen from the human standpoint. Scientists do not associate stars, planets and galaxies with intelligence or consciousness, but this is only because they see them from the physical point of view, and therefore think of them only in terms of the holons below us - chemicals, particles, radiation, and other physical qualities. For most scientists, the universe is dead and unconscious, but only because they believe it to be physical, and only physical! They have become so accustomed to believing that the physical viewpoint is the only possible one that when they observe anything’s physical aspects, they mistakenly believe that we are observing all its aspects.
If we are ever to understand the deeper nature of the universe and ourselves, then we need to learn how to apprehend up the holarchy, as well as down it. We need to learn to adopt the non-physical perspective in addition to the physical one, not as substitutes for the physical, but as complements to it. If and when we do this, our understanding of the universe and humanity will change significantly. I believe that the time for this is long overdue.
Presence – A Summary
Given that “presence” is arguably the defining feature of any holarchy, we can bring everything together under a single, unifying theme.
Omnipresence - All holons are present in all other holons, regardless of their size or nature, and regardless of the distance from each other. The very big is present in the very small, and the very small is present in the very big. Although it does not seem possible that we are present in stars and that they are present in us, this is only because we are not accustomed to think this way. We are present in them because we are part of them, however remotely. And they are present in us, precisely because we are part of them!
Presence of uniqueness – the unique characteristics of all higher holons are present in all the holons below them in the holarchy.
Dual presence – Holons can be present in one of two ways. Small holons are physically present in bigger holons. And bigger holons are present in smaller one in the form of their unique qualities.
Inverse presence – the higher the holon in the holarchy, the less evident are its unique characteristics in the holons below it. Its presence is deeper, if you like. This successively deeper presence can usefully be likened to the layers of an onion.Human presence – We human beings are holons too. Therefore, we are present in all levels in the holarchy, physically or on the form of our unique human qualities. This has far reaching implications. Arguably the most important implication is that the Cosmos is as human as we are Cosmic. I may have just captured the essence of the new story in these few words!
Chris Thomson was a lawyer and economist in Scotland until the mid-80s, when he was asked to chair the Natural Medicines Commission in the UK. He then trained as a psychotherapist in London, before joining the Scottish Council Foundation, a think-tank in Edinburgh, set up in anticipation of devolution. From there he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he advised multinational corporations on various moral issues.
As well as passable Spanish and French, Chris speaks Chinese.
He now lives in the Catalan Pyrenees, where is a keen mountaineer. The ski slopes are only 20 minutes away!
Chris published Full Spectrum Intelligence in 2014. He is now writing The Inner Cosmos, and Intelligent Simplicity
YouTube or https://www.youtube.com/user/Vaguehighlander
TU Chris ... Onward ...
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