Alexander – here I digress around ideas generated by reading your FAQ on syntony  . It is not so much about that specific concept or term, but I can’t find the proper term to label my ramblings.

What you label as A Syntony Quest, is a vision that I fully agree with, but not the only vision. I try to see its manifestation , as an ongoing quest in temporal stages: today and tomorrow, the next few decades, the rest of this century, the next millennium and beyond. A quest has duration and cannot be captured in a momentary state – although momentary states may contain evidence of a quest – when compared with other momentary states. “Quest” could label both the vision and the actual engagement-over-time. Your FAQ focuses on the vision of a syntony quest, leaving strategizing the quest for later – as do we all.

There are many variations on the two conceptual schemes to be related in syntony: “a human person and nature” is a weak, conventional pair. In my writings I guess it is “Humankind and Gaia”. To others, it may be “Gaia and Cosmos”. There is a major issue “detailing” the “nature” of that “whole” to which human individuals and humankind must quest to resume “healthy” relationships. Is it a “system”, or something “more”?

Eric Jantsch was a seminal thinker for me, in my earlier days – you reminded me of his significance. The “creative aligning and tuning” hinges on accurate conceptualizations of humans/humankind and the evolutionary processes in Gaia – to which temporary humankind is not aligned, to say the least. We have much more to learn about this, and “to learn what it takes to learn what we should learn — and learn it” [ Aurelio Peccei in his 1979 foreword to the Club of Rome’s little book: No Limits To Learning: Bridging the Human Gap.] We cannot assume that we yet have competencies to engage in a significant Syntony Quest. The initial stages of that Quest might be acquiring the requisite collective competencies to begin strategizing – and possibly creating better technologies to achieve these objectives.

For example, I expect there will be a day when contemporary “systems studies” (with all its complexifications) will be superseded for certain challenges, as Newton’s ideas were superseded by Einstein’s. These certain challenges may include those we currently face – in Magnitude/Scope/Complexity and Weirdness. My thinking and writing play around the edges of this challenge. My recent insights on contexts vs theories may have merit.

Personal note. At a conference long ago, we took a bus from the main center to another site to hear Erich Jantsch. Unfortunately he was ill – his replacement was Francisco Varela. I rode back with Varela, in deep discussion. At the time I didn’t know his association with Maturana, although I expect his talk included Autopoiesis. Until now I had not been aware of the tragedy of Erich’s later years.

In the Evolutionary Learning Community (ELC) you describe almost exactly what I came to Tucson in 1971, hoping to eventually create. For multiple reasons I was not successful. A version of these is Learning Expeditions. They are the core of my current UPLIFT proposal.

I resonate strongly with everything said in your FAQ about the vision of syntony. I might word some parts differently. Yet, I comprehend a variety of different direct actions or action routes this could lead to. I don’t call for a choice of direction, but for a dialog about different directions.

I agree fully with the items in your THE CHALLENGE

As for the items in THE OPPORTUNITY, although there are starts and some growth, I am not at all confident that humankind is progressing as it needs to be. I continue to ask: WHAT IS MISSING? Are there other/new things we need to be doing to make our collective action sufficient? I feel what we are doing is necessary, but far from sufficient. It concerns me we assume sufficiency – or at least we don’t actively seek what might be missing. There are many reasons for this – which themselves fall in the domain of the missing.

It appears to me we are all waiting in our silos for the swarming to synergy or syntony to begin (to really emerge as needed). We identify many of the types of changes we expect – but these are imagined as future states, not what we need to do to achieve those states. That level of strategy lies in our blindspot. I might see the need, but I too seem impotent to move as needed. If a new pattern of human activity is to emerge from our swarming (which includes all the research and dialog you, I, and others are part of), what would it look like? Would we recognize it and support it?

There are those who insist that the shifts are already well underway, and that persons and communities can achieve these special states in the midst of societal collapse and epidemic dysfunction. I can’t exclude a magical Black Swan, but I can’t depend on it. I don’t believe a single “silver bullet” action (or even a few) will “turn the tide”. Yet, what more we need appears beyond our collective imagination, and we seem unaware that things are missing.

I had the same reaction to Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy in the early 1970s. There were many imaginal buds (term in metamorphosis) emerging, but waiting for the “conspiring” to begin/manifest. I find this the case for EVERY proposal I read today. Potential continues to build but the type of catalyst needed is unknown; most don’t even expect a need for a catalyst. I speak here of the “best of the best” in working for Humankind and Gaia.

Part of our difficulty lies in our confusion of perspectives, paradigms, and barriers.

Howard Margolis, in Paradigms and Barriers: How Habits of Mind Govern Scientific Beliefs, demonstrates – through examples from the history of science – how a population (of knowledgeable persons) may adequately comprehend a new perspective but be unable to make the behavioral paradigm shift because of psychological barriers associated with their cultures and social systems. Kuhn’s initial use of “paradigm” was for a “habitual practice” in scientific research, a “dogmatic methodology” (my terminology). It later became muddled with “perspective” (ideas) – and even Kuhn, in later writing, confused us. In terms of cognitive dissonance, if there is a conflict between a new perspective and an old paradigm, practitioners of the old paradigm usually suppress the new perspective. Alternative perspectives are seldom sufficient to shift paradigms.

Also, our reality is a complex mix of perspective, paradigms and barriers. Speaking of a shifting of one (if even possible) making a difference is naive.

The conceptual scheme we label “evolution” is unnecessarily constrained by our paradigms of scientific practice. Although metamorphosis is a legitimate process in biology, it lies fully in a blindspot as a possibly real human social process. Insect metamorphosis is used as a metaphor for rapid and significant change, but for unknown reasons won’t even be explored as a viable human strategy.

I chose to limit the term “evolution” to the variation/selection process introduced by Darwin, and expanded upon since to your post-Darwinian conceptual schemes (drawing on such areas as general system theory, chaos theory, cybernetics, systems dynamics, and nonequilibrium thermodynamics) –complex processes, yet still fitting neatly into classical (non quantum) reality. I once read that the term “evolution” in Darwin’s time had a quite different meaning: analogous to the quasi-deterministic unfolding we observe in embryonic development. This confusion of meanings for the term contributed to the opposition of Darwin’s conceptual scheme, giving it an unwanted deterministic flavor..

I use “emergence” to label phenomena and hypothetical processes that is independent of and can interfere with “evolution”. Emergence occurs when a form/pattern is observed when there was no prior form/pattern to be transformed. My “ignorance” includes knowing that the conceptual schemes for post-Darwinian evolution can model a type of emergence. Yet, in my “ignorance” the whole remains stochastically deterministic. I speculate that the timing of distant stochastic events may deviate from randomness in ways related to consciousness, mind, spirit, creativity – but, also, heralding a “nu scientific” methodology. In 1994 I proposed a process I called “holistic determination“.


Some background. In 1974, as new faculty in a new community college campus I had the responsibility of designing a faculty development program. I soon realized the futility of preparing faculty to function in a highly dysfunctional system that wasn’t achieving its objectives. I realized we needed rapid and significant change. Metamorphosis came to mind and I realized I knew nothing of what went on inside the cocoon. A week in the UofA library changed my life. In 2 days I composed a 100 page proposal for the metamorphosis of the college. My dean and college president thought my ideas “interesting”, but not “realistic”. After designing a traditional faculty development program for them, I took a semester leave without pay to compose my unpublished manuscript: Mission_2000.

For your possible later reference, in a later version for Y2K , Earth_2002 (click OVERVIEW to access Mission_2000)  After nearly 5 decades of development, a brief intro to my latest version is in my chapter in this issue of The Spanda Journal – without links. I am having difficulty getting a discussion session attached to my chapter.

Alexander, I don’t expect you to read everything I refer you to. At this point I have only read 2 of the 21 chapters, not including my own. Yet, much of the content backing my statements are found through url links I have placed in my comments.

I would appreciate your quickly skimming the two papers from 1969 and 1970 that I placed background for and links to in an earlier comment to your chapter’s comment session. I don’t expect you to read them. This is my 1970 paper, The Technology of Non-Violent Revolution  ; responding to John Platt’s 1969 SCIENCE article, What We Must Do.  .