A Special Integration Group (SIG) of the
International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS)
originally SGSR, Society for General Systems Research.



An activity of the Primer Group




Compiled by Thomas Mandel

aka Tommy Mandel


C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more
doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and
parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when
it holds that the understanding given by it is the only
kind there is.


"Out of what is in itselt and indistinguishable, swarming continuum, devoid of distinction (sunyata), or emphasis, our senses make for us, by attending to this motion and ignoring that, a world full of contrasts, of sharp accents, of abrupt changes, of picturesque light and shade. Helmholtz salys that we notice only those sensations which are signs to us of things. But what are things? Nothing, as we shall abundantly see, but special groups of sensible qualities, which happen practically or aesthetically to interest us, to which we therefore give substantive names, and which we exalt to this exclusive status of independence and dignity."



"Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born - the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people's experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things." [TDOP Huxley 23]



"Indeed, to some extent it has always been necessary and proper for man, in his thinking, to divide things up, if we tried to deal with the whole of reality at once, we would be swamped. However when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man's notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives, (i.e. in his world-view) then man ceases to regard the resultant divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and this world as actually constituted of separately existing fragments. What is needed is a relativistic theory, to give up altogether the notion that the world is constituted of basic objects or building blocks. Rather one has to view the world in terms of universal flux of events and processes."



Bergson was also aware of the spurios reality of "things" because, - as he himself pointed out - thought creates things by slicing up reality into small bits that it can easily grasp. Thus when you are think-ing you are thing-ing. Thought does not report things, it distorts reality to create things, and, as Bergson noted, "In so doing it allows what is the very essence of the real to escape." Thus to the extent we actually imagine a world of discrete and separate things, conceptions have become perceptions, and we have in this manner populated our universe with nothing but ghosts. Therefore the Madhyamika declares that Reality, besides being void of conceptual elaboration, is likewise Void of separate things.

The doctrine of mutual interpenetration and mutual identification of the Dharmadhatu represents man's highest attempt to put into words that non-dual experience of Reality which itself remains wordless, ineffable, unspeakable, that nameless nothingness. The Dharmadhatu is not entirely foreign to Western thought, for something very similar to it is seen emerging in modern Systems Theory, in Gestalt psychology, and in the organismic philosophy of Whitehead. As a matter of fact, Western science as a whole is moving very rapidly towards a Dharmadhatu view of the cosmos, as biophysicist Ludwig von Bertalanffy states: "We may state as a characteristic of modern sciece that the scheme of isolable units acting in one-way-causality has proved to be insufficient. Hence the appearence, in all fields of science, of notions like wholeness, holistic, organismic, gestalt, etc, which signify that in the last resort, we must think in terms of systems of elements in mutual interaction."



The Physiology of Perception
When a person glimpses the face of a famous actor, sniffs a favorite food or hears the voice of a friend, recognition is instant. Within a fraction of a second after the eyes, nose, ears, tongue or skin is stimulated, one knows the object is familiar and whether it is desirable or dangerous. How does such recognition, which psychologists call preattentive perception, happen so accurately and quickly, even when the stimuli are complex and the context in which they arise varies?

Much is known about the way the cerebral cortex, the outer rind of the brain, initially analyzes sensory messages. Yet investigations are only now beginning to suggest how the brain moves beyond the mere extraction of features-how it combines sensory messages with past experience and with expectation to identify both the stimulus and its particular meaning to the individual.

My own group's studies, carried out over more than 30 years at the University of California at Berkeley, suggest that perception cannot be understood solely by examining properties of individual neurons, a microscopic approach that currently dominates neuroscience research. We have found that perception depends on the simultaneous, cooperative activity of millions of neurons spread throughout expanses of the cortex. Such global activity can be identified, measured and explained only if one adopts a macroscopic view alongside the microscopic one.

There is an analogy to this approach in music. To grasp the beauty in a choral piece, it is not enough to listen to the individual singers sequentially. One must hear the performers together, as they modulate their voices and timing in response to one another.

From: February 1991 Scientific American, Vol 264, (2) Pgs. 78-85.
WALTER J. FREEMAN is professor of Neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley.



"The dramatic change in concepts and ideas that happened in physics during the first three decades of this century has been widely discussed by physicists and philosophers for more than fifty years...The intellectual crisis of quantum physicists in the 1920's is mirrored today by a similar but much broader cultural crisis. The major problems of our time...are all different facets of one single crisis, which is essentially a crisis of perception...Like the crisis in quantum physics, it derives from the fact that most of us. and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the concepts of an outdated world view...At the same time researchers...are developing a new vision of reality...emerging from modern physics can be characterized by words like organic, (w)holistic, and ecological. It might also be called a systems view, in the sense of general systems theory. The universe is no longer seen as a machine, made up of a multitude of objects, but has to be pictured as one indivisible dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process". What we are seeing today is a shift of paradigms not only within science but also in the larger social arena...The social paradigm now receding had dominated our culture for several hundred years, during which it shaped our modern Western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world...This paradigm consists of...the view of the world as a mechanical system, the view of the body as a machine...the view of life as a competitive struggle...the belief of unlimited of unlimited progress achieved through economic and technological growth and the belief that the female is subsumed under the male...During recent decades all these assumptions have been severely limited and in need of radical revision. Indeed, such a revision is mow taking place...In science, the language of systems theory. and especially the theory of living systems, seems to provide the most appropriate formulation of the new ecological paradigm. I would like to now specify what is meant by the systems approach...I shall identify five criteria of systems approach...1. Shift from the parts to the whole. The properties of the parts can be understood only from the dynamics of the whole. In fact, ultimately there are no parts at all 2. Shift from the structure to the process. In the new paradigm, every structure is seen as a manifestation of an underlying process. 3. Shift from objective to epistemic science. In the new paradigm, it is believed the epistemology - the understanding of the process of knowledge - has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomenon...4. A shift from building to networks as a metaphor of knowledge. In the new paradigm, the metaphor of knowledge as a building is being replaced by that of the network. 5. Shift from truth to approximate descriptions. This insight is crucial to all modern the new paradigm, it is recognized that all scientific concepts and theories are limited and approximate...One of the most important insights of the new systems theory is that life and cognition are inseparable. The process of knowledge is also the process of self-organization, that is, the process of life. Our conventional model of knowledge is one of representation or an image of independently existing facts which is the model derived from classical physics. From, the new systems point of view, knowledge is a part of the process of life, of a dialogue between subject and object. I believe that the world view implied by modern physics is inconsistent with our present society, which does not reflect the interrelatedness we observe in nature. To achieve such a state of dynamic balance, a radically different social and economic structure will be needed; a cultural revolution in the true sense of the word. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we can bring about such a change. It will depend ultimately, on our ability to...experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony."



"According to the philosophy of Zen, we are too much a slave to the conventional way of thinking. which is dualistic through and through. No "interpenetration" is allowed, there takes place no fusing of opposites in our everyday logic. What belongs to God is not of this world, and what is of this world is incompatible with the divine. Black is not white, and white is not black. Tiger is tiger, and cat is cat, and they will never be one. Water flows, a mountain towers. This is the way things or ideas go in this universe of the senses and syllogisms. Zen, however, upsets this scheme of thought and substitutes a new one in which there exists no logic, no dualistic arrangement of ideas. We believe in dualism chiefly because of our traditional training. Whether ideas really correspond to facts is another matter requiring a special investigation. Ordinarily we do not inquire into the matter, we just accept what is instilled into our minds; for to accept is more convenient and practical, and life is to a certain extent, though not in reality, made thereby easier. We are in nature conservatives, not because we are lazy, but because we like repose and peace, even superficially. But the time comes when traditional logic holds true no more, for we begin to feel contradictions and splits and consequently spiritual anguish. We lose trustful repose which we experienced when we blindly followed the traditional ways of thinking. Eckhart says that we are all seeking repose whether consciously or not just as the stone cannot cease moving until it touches the earth. Evidently the repose we seemed to enjoy before we were awakened to the contradictions involved in our logic was not the real one, the stone has kept moving down toward the ground. Where then is the ground of non-dualism on which the soul can be really and truthfully tranquil and blessed? To quote Echart again, "Simple people conceive that we are to see God as if He stood on that side and we on this. It is not so; God and I are one in the act of my perceiving Him." In this absolute oneness of things Zen establishes the foundations of its philosophy. The idea of absolute oneness is not the exclusive possesion of Zen. There are other religious and philosophies that preach the same doctrine. If Zen, like other monisms or theisms, merely laid down this principle and did not have anythng specifically to be known as Zen, it would have long ceased to exist as such. But there is in Zen something unique which makes up its life and justifies its claim to be the most precious heritage of Eastern culture. The following "Mondo" or dialogue (literally questioning and answering) will give us a glimsp into the ways of Zen, A monk asked Joshu, one of the greatest masters in China, "What is the ultimate word of Truth?" Instead of giving him any specific answer he made a simple response saying, "Yes." The monk who naturally failed to see any sense in this kind of response asked for a second time, and to this the Master roared back. "I am not deaf!" See how irrelevantly (shall I say) the all-important problem of absolute oneness or of the ultimate reason is treated here! But this is characteristic of Zen, this is where Zen transcends logic and overrides the tyranny and misrepresentation of ideas. As I have said before, Zen mistrusts the intellect, does not rely upon traditional and dualistic methods of reasoning, and handles problems after its own original manners....To understand all this, it is necessary that we should acquire a "third eye", as they say, and learn to look at things from a new point of view."


-FRITJOF CAPRA The Turning Point

"The systems view looks at the world in terms of relationships and integration. Systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units. Instead of concentrating on basic building blocks or basic substances, the systems approach emphasizes basic principles of organization. Every organism- from the smallest bacterium through the wide range or plants and animals to humans is an integrated whole and thus a living system. ...But systems are not confined to individual organisms and their parts. The same aspects of wholeness are exhibited by social systems- such as an anthill, a beehive, or a human family- and by ecosystems that consist of a variety of organisms and inanimate matter in mutual interaction. What is preserved in a wilderness area is not individual trees or organisms but a complex web of relationships between them.

All these natural systems are wholes whose specfic structures arise from the interactions and interdependence of their parts. The activity of systems involves a process known as transaction- the simultaneous and mutually interdependent interaction between multiple components."



In a true system...not all macroscopic properties follow from the properties of components and combinations. Macroscopic properties often do not result from static structures, but from dynamic interactions playing both within the system and between the system and its environment...A human being falling in love -- perhaps only once in a lifetime -- changes the life of the community of which he or she is a part. Such considerations already hint at the fact that a systemic view of necessity leads to a dynamic perspective. Quite generally, a system becomes observable and definable as a system through its interactions. (The Self-Organizing Universe." p24)



Ludwig von Bertalanffy
"Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology..."
"These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or "forces" between them...
"General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness"...
The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, "The whole is more that the sum of its parts" is simply that constitutive characteristics are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts. "



Gregory Bateson A Sacred Unity Harper 1991 ISBN 0-06-250100-3

A system, after all, is any unit containing feedback structure and therefore competent to process information. There are ecological systems, social systems, and the individual organism plus the environment with which it interacts is itself a system in this technical sense. The circumstance that the family as a unit came to be thought of as a system must lead back inevitably, I believe, to considering the individual as a system.
It follows that the ways of thinking evolved by psychiatrists in order to understand the family as a system. . . .The polarization of opinion then will not be simply between practitioners of individual therapy and practitioners of family therapy but between those who think in terms of systems and those who think in terms of lineal sequences of cause and effect. . . .
The basic rule of system theory is that, if you want to understand some phenomenon or appearance, you must consider that phenomenon within he context of all completed circuits which are relevant to it.


—PETER SENGE The Fifth Discipline

Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” It is a set of general principles—distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management. ...During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a sensibility—for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character.


—LUDWIG von BERTALANFFY Problems of Life

A “system” can be defined as a complex of elements standing in interaction. There are general principles holding for systems, irrespective of the nature of the component elements and the relations of forces between them. ...In modern science, dynamic interaction is the basic problem in all fields, and its general principles will have to be formulated in general General Systems Theory.


—MARILYN FERGUSON The Aquarian Conspiracy

General Systems Theory, a related modern concept [to holism], says that each variable in any system interacts with the other variables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. A simple variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, a culture if you isolate it from its context. Relationship is everything.


ERIC SOMMER Synergy: an Introduction:

By a `synergy', I mean a system of interactions between two or more actors or centers of action. The word `synergy' comes from a Greek work meaning `working together'. Any set of two or more interacting beings may be regarded as a synergy. Two people in a conversation, two people bumping into each other on the street, a bee visiting flowers and polinating them, or two armies at war may all be regarded as synergies. All of them involve interactons or systems of interaction between two or more beings or centers of action.


PETER CORNING Synergy and the Systems Sciences:

Synergy -- the combined effects produced by two (or more ) parts, elements or individuals -- is a unbiquitous phemomenon in nature and human societies alike.

Although it plays a significant role in most, if not all, of the scienctific disciplnes its importance is not widely appreciated because it travels under many different aliases, including emergence, cooperativity, symbiosis, coevolution, symmetry, order, interactions, interdependencies, systemic effects, even complexity and dynamical attractors. In this paper it is proposed that the term "synergy" be utilized as a pan-disciplinary lingua franca for co-operative effects of various kinds.

Although its role is often unappreciated, synergy can also be considered one of the core concepts of the systems sciences.



Synergetics by Kirby Urner

Synergetics: A metaphoric language for communicating experiences using geometric concepts.

Thinking is the tuning in/out of systems. Systems are spherical networks of interrelated points of interest. The density of points is a measure of a system's ``frequency'' -- super high frequency systems approach sphericity.

The minimal system with the fewest possible points is a tetrahedron -- four points make a primitive volume with an inside and an outside. The canonical tetrahedron has a volume of one.

2. In its broadest sense synergetics is Fuller's hypothesized coordinate system of Universe --- both its physical and metaphysical aspects. Fuller's system of epistemography and mathematical-physics attempts to disclose how Nature actually operates --- her ``operational mathematics.'' Fuller claimed that synergetics could be understood by children (though they probably couldn't comprehend his books on the subject). He published this material in his essay ``Omni-directional Halo'' (in No More Secondhand God), Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, Synergetics 2: Further Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, and Cosmography. Cosmography is probably the easiest to read for people unfamiliar with Fuller's prose style. An ``interleaved'' version of Synergetics and Synergetics 2 is available on the Web at

From my own study of synergetics, I'm convinced that Bucky did in fact identify the coordinate system used by Nature. But I would add the caveat that he didn't get too far along in developing it. Fuller points to what the coordinate system is in broad strokes. He gives many penetrating insights and new discoveries, but the synergetics coordinate system needs a lot more development before it will be possible to replace the current (and inherently unrealistic) XYZ coordinate model.

Tip to students of synergetics: Build models. Ultimately, it is the only way to come to understand the material. See the section more tips.




The Conscious Universe
Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory
Menas Kafatos Robert Nadeau
ISBN 0-387-97262-5

From the Introduction
Page 11

...We will also advance the hypothesis that the epistemological
situation we are obliged to confront in a quantum mechanical universe, in which
non-locality must now be viewed as a fundamental fact of nature, provides a new
basis for understanding the ability of the human brain to construct symbol systems,
or symbolic representations of reality. Drawing extensively on Niels Bohr's
definition of the logical framework of complementarity, which we regard as
fundamental to understanding the actual character of physical reality in a quantum
mechanical universe, we will advance and attempt to support the view that
complementarity is the most fundamental dynamic in our conscious constructions
of reality in both ordinary and mathematical language systems. If this thesis is
correct, it provides a more reasonable and self-consistent explanation than physical
scientists have developed thus far as to why the language of mathematics, or the
language of mathematical physics, is more "privileged" in its ability to uncover the
dynamics of physical reality than is ordinary language. And it could also relieve
much of the obvious "angst" that has apparently been occasioned by the rather
widespread conviction among humanists and social scientists that all of us are
locked, as Nietzsche put it, in the "prison house" of our linguistically-based
constructions of reality with no real or necessary connection between subjective
reality and external reality.
The most radical hypothesis advanced here is, however, more narrowly scien-
tific. That hypothesis is that since complementarity has been a primary feature in
every physical theory advanced in mathematical physics beginning with the special
theory of relativity in 1905, and since complementarity can also be shown to be an
emergent property or dynamic in the life of the evolving universe at increasingly
larger scales and times, then future advances in physical theory in cosmology, or
in the study of the origins and evolution of the entire universe, will also feature
complementary constructs. In this same discussion, we also suggest that present
limits of observation in the study of the large-scale structure of the universe appear
to be providing additional evidence that the entire universe is a quantum system,
and that cosmologists and astrophysicists may have to invoke complementarity in
resolving some seemingly irresolvable problems associated with the most widely
accepted model for explaining the origins and evolution of the cosmos-ae
big-bang model with inflation."


- Jonas Salk The Anatomy of Reality

"It appears that all units of reality are comprised of two basic elements in an asymmetrical binary relationship in dynamic interaction..." (p.38) "As noted above, one of the basic ideas that underlies my thinking, one of the images I have in mind when I contemplate the universe, is that it is constructed upon a simple pattern of order that may be seen in any and all phenomena, no matter how complex. The simple pattern is that of a binary relationship, recognized in a binary system. The implication here is that everything in nature, everything in the universe, is composed of networks of two elements, or two parts in functional relationship to each other..."(p.39) "The most fundamental phenomenon in the universe is relationship."(p.44)


KEN WILBER The Atman Project pg 68

Dante sang it thus:
"Fixing my gaze upon the Eternal Light
I saw within its depths,
Bound up with love together in one volume
The scattered leaves of all the universe...
Within the luminous profound substance
Of that Exalted Light saw I three circles
Of three colors yet of one dimension
And by the second seemed the first reflected
As rainbow is by rainbow, and the third
Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed."



The Kundalini Experience pg 85

'In 1976 I again experienced a quantum leap in energy and received a vision that has been a directive in my life ever since. This vision was in regard to a universal language. At first, in my meditation, there appeared a point of intense, unearthly, beautiful blue light. Then the blue light enveloped me, and I went into a realm where I saw three immortal beings more clearly and purely than is possible is sensory perception.The central being was white, and on either side were Immortals in red and blue. An elixir dropped from the roof of my mouth (from my brain!) and pervaded my body with bliss. I saw celestial landscapes and the Immortals showed me the luminous structure behind nature. I was granted a vision of the future of our planet. I was told that there would be human travail, but that there would also be children who will understand the universal language I was shown."


Kabbalah (B.C. 1200?-700? A.D.)

In wisdom and understanding we have the archetypal Positive
and Negative, the primordial Maleness and Femaleness,
established while "countenance beheld not countenance" and
manifestation was incipient. It is from these primary Pairs
of Opposites that the Pillars of the Universe spring,
between which is woven the web of Manifestation.

It is between the two polarizing aspects of manifestation -
the Supernal Father and the Supernal Mother - that the web
of Life is woven; souls going back and forth between them
like a weaver's shuttle. In our individual lives, in our
physiological rhythms, and in the history of the rise and
fall of nations, we observe the same rhythmic periodicity.