Dimensions of Wholeness
Co-intelligence theory rests on the foundation of "wholeness."
Different people and schools of thought adhere to diverse ideas about
wholeness. Co-intelligence theory seeks to honor and include virtually
all of them within the overall conceptual frame given on
our topic page about wholeness. Accordingly, we have developed
numerous models attempting to show that inclusiveness, with varying
degrees of success.
The model below is our most recent attempt
(as of December 2013). Its graphic representation is followed by
a detailed description.
THE CO-INTELLIGENCE "DIMENSIONS OF WHOLENESS"
This model depicts many different dimensions of wholeness, manifestations
of wholeness, and factors that contribute to wholeness, all presented
in a spiral format whose counter-clockwise sequence (starting at
the top) suggests the creation or emergence of a new whole. The
"whole" or "system" referred to in the text
below can be a whole person or group, a whole community or economy,
a whole event or situation, a whole thought or theory, a whole organism
or ecosystem, etc. Or "wholeness" can refer to conditions
or states, like health or sustainability or understanding or relationship
or sanctity. This model seeks to embrace - or at least hint at -
everything that relates to wholes and wholeness.
(Historical note from Tom Atlee: The elements of this model
have been gathered over more than 15 years. They came together
first in the late 1990s as a mind-map of every idea or phenomenon
I could think of that related in any way to the subject of wholeness.
That exercise stimulated an earlier version of this spiral several
years later in an early morning realization. In 2011 I created
an expanded list of wholeness-related
factors as the basis for an envisioned book on the subject.
That effort, in turn, contributed additional items to the spiral
model you see here, and somewhat restructured it. Clearly this
model is an evolving effort and is thus explicitly incomplete.
However, its many aspects reflect my endeavor to include all the
ideas, phenomena, and experiences that various people think of
AS wholeness or to which they refer when they speak or write about
wholeness. In my view, wholeness is an elusive notion that embraces
all those things, whose comprehensive nature is intuitively accessible
to those who seriously delve into the fullness of this model.
Their many-facetted understandings will undoubtedly contribute
to its further evolution.)
The sequential aspect of this model is valid in a very limited
way, but serves primarily as a logical container within which to
incorporate all the dimensions of wholeness depicted. In addition
to their sequential relationship, the phenomena listed here can
manifest somewhat separately, somewhat in non-sequential relationships
across the model, and also in fractal relationship, manifesting
within or through other phenomena depicted here. In reality they
are aspects or dimensions of wholeness, not simply stages in a sequence.
But, as noted, their sequential mapping serves to hold them all
together more or less comfortably.
The sequence (described in more detail below) starts at inclusion
and moves through relationship, contribution, interaction, and integration,
all the way to the entity becoming a distinct whole of its own characterized
by oneness and interiority - at which point it can be included as
part of some larger whole through the whole/part boundary area (the
wedge at the top of the model) - and thus the spiral begins again
at a larger scale. (The "upward spiral" character of this
model falls within the field of "holonics", where every
entity is a "holon", that is, both a whole and a part,
existing somewhere on a continuous gradation - or "chain of
being" - of ever-larger, more comprehensive and complex wholes
- e.g. atoms, molecules, cells, organs, organisms, communities,
etc.) All this occurs within certain contexts (the outer ring of
the spiral) and is intrinsically driven by the dynamics of emergence
(at the center). Finally, there is an ultimate "non-dual"
wholeness or unity variously posited to exist in quantum, cosmic,
infinite, and/or spiritual realms.
The seeming counter-clockwise (whole-building) directionality of
the model has a mirror image clockwise directionality, perhaps best
embraced by the terms "disintegration" or "breakdown"
(as in composting). This "downward spiral" includes many
things we don't normally think of as wholesome but which are essential
aspects of any healthy, evolving whole system, as the term "composting"
makes clear. Breakdown is grist for new forms and evolution.
This mirror-image bi-directionality also highlights the fact that
there are two kinds of wholeness
1. Dynamic (or explicit) wholeness, involving
energies moving away from conditions experienced as not-whole (brokenness,
illness, alienation, etc.) and towards conditions of "greater
wholeness" (integrity, health, communion, etc.). Dynamic wholeness
embraces dynamics like creation, healing, transformation, inclusion,
sacredness, completion, etc., and therefore favors the counter-clockwise
direction over the clockwise in the model.
2. Essential (or implicit) wholeness arises from
the recognition that everything - as it already is - FITS within
some larger - and in some sense perfect - whole, and that that sort
of wholeness is everywhere in everything and worthy of appreciation.
Essential wholeness - the wholeness of the core "essence"
of things - embraces dynamic wholeness through the perfection of
the impetus through which unwholesome conditions call forth energies
to make them more whole (through healing, transformation, inclusion,
etc.) - a dynamic covered by the term "grace" in this
model. Grace in this sense is an aspect of reality, an aspect highlighted
by the "essential wholeness" perspective.
Now let's look at the different sections of this model in more
detail - the different dimensions of wholeness - starting with CONTEXT
because it is ever-present, contextualizing everything else in the
model. The paragraphs are pretty densely packed so we recommend
that your read over each one twice - and perhaps pause to note its
relationship to the "dimensions" before and after it -
before going on to the next.
CONTEXT: What are the environments, conditions,
and circumstances within which things are happening? Physical circumstances
- nature, weather, structure, access, danger, etc. - are, of course,
very important. But so are cultural, social, psychological, intellectual,
emotional, economic, political, and historical contexts - and the
intentions and purposes guiding (or trying to guide) what's happening
and the stories people are telling themselves and each other about
it all. What is the space or field or climate like - is it challenging?
supportive? rich with information, resources, and opportunities
- or constrained and threatening? Is what is happening aligned with
the realities around it, or off-base, or oblivious? All these forms
of context shape what happens with, within, and around a forming
or existing whole, giving it form, direction, and meaning. The more
we can take into account the whole context, the more wholesome and
wise we can be in our attitudes, awareness and actions.
So now we'll explore the spiral itself, recognizing that each of
the following dimensions blends into its neighbors and happens within
certain contexts, with which it has connections and mutual influence.
INCLUSION: This involves questions like: Who or
what is going to be included and excluded - and under what conditions
- and why? There are issues here of boundaries, relevance, tolerance,
acceptance. How open is the system, how discerning is it, and how
conscious of purpose and the ways it chooses what to keep and allow
and what to refuse, forbid and eliminate? If we're biased towards
wholeness, we have a bias towards inclusion, a sense of welcoming
and open invitation - but we also know there are limits which, if
we violate them, invoke energies of exclusion. At the edge of our
activity, where it meets its context, there are issues of perception
(or obliviousness and denial): How much reality are we willing and
able to let in - and how do we do that?
RELATIONSHIP: At the boundary between inclusion
and relationship we find issues of agreement, alignment, and trust
among whomever or whatever has been or is being included in the
emerging or existing whole. What are the connections between these
people, groups, ideas? Here we find structures of relationship -
networks, hierarchies, circles, power, equity, justice - as well
as qualities of relationship like harmony and resonance on the one
hand and dissonance and discord on the other. Relational attitudes
are also here: kindness and compassion contrast with suspicion and
hostility. Also key is the recognition that relationship is never
one-way: the reality is interconnectedness, interdependence, co-incarnation.
Assuming or constructing alleged one-way relationships - or acting
as if they are real and possible - or enforcing them despite their
unreality - undermines wholeness. At the edge where relationship
meets context, we find the sense of belonging in a place or situation,
as well as the perception of patterns (elements of context that
have some relationship with each other) and their influence on what's
going on in the whole.
CONTRIBUTION: Part of wholeness involves what
these interrelated parts DO: What is their contribution to - and
their role in - the whole system? Most generally we consider action
and agency here, and levels of responsibility for what is done and
responsibility for the functioning and well-being of the whole.
Where contribution overlaps with relationship, we can ask: What
is the nature of communication, of leadership and followership,
of giving and receiving, and of other ways the entities involved
act to fit together. Also: What is the wholesome quality of the
action - its level of engagement, vitality, passion, creativity,
etc. - and its dynamics, including factors like flow and iteration.
In terms of context, we can explore the impact entities' actions
have on their environment (and vice versa) and the resources that
flow both ways. As we move further around the spiral towards interaction,
our attention is drawn to the dynamics of participation, and the
contributions of facilitation, of process, and of catalysts that
support healthy interaction.
INTERACTION: The flow of contributions among the
elements or members of the whole system constitute their - and the
system's - interactivity. Among people and groups, the archetypal
interactions are conversation and dance, and these extend metaphorically
into all realms (e.g., "the dance of opposites"). Conversation
includes wholesome forms like dialogue and deliberation as well
as contentious (part-isan) forms like debate and argument - with
mediation connecting the two. In general, we can ask how much cooperation,
co-creation and synergy are there compared with how much competition
and fighting - or, at the whole-system level, how much exchange,
balance, interdependence, and feedback is there, including among
the system's competing or contentious elements? All these can also
be applied to the interaction between the system and its context,
but we might say that the co-evolution and learning that can happen
in that realm are especially important for wholeness.
INTEGRATION: As the interactions generate more
coherence and are shaped by the character of the emerging (or existing)
whole system - as in synergy ("the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts") - the dynamics of integration become primary.
The wholeness of the system becomes more visible and real AS a system:
the whole emerges from (and displays emergent properties beyond)
its interacting parts. The nature of the system itself - its simplicity
and complexity, its balance of order and chaos, its management of
polarities, etc. - manifest as health, elegance, peace, and/or meaning,
depending on the type of system. Intelligence, governance (especially
subsidiarity), management (especially self-organization), consensus,
realization - all these are dynamics through which the integration
is or can be maintained, depending on the nature of the system.
When a system is integrated well with its environment, we say it
is resilient and sustainable. As the system arrives at full integrity,
it manifests oneness and, through realization and actualization,
develops and accesses its own interiority.
ONENESS: At this point the system's parts and
interactions have been so thoroughly integrated that it is a whole
in its own right - a unique unified entity with an identity that
distinguishes it from its environment even as it can achieve communion
with that environment. For example, the person reading this can
be viewed as a collection of interacting molecules or organs, but
you are far more often viewed as one whole person. Often identity
is associated with a name - or even comes about through the process
of naming. Furthermore, the experience of oneness can reach beyond
particular identity. Common forms of this include love, truth, and
beauty, which blend into the sacred and spiritual which ultimately
transcend into the realm of NONDUALITY - quantum
nonlocality, "the eternal now", various experiences of
supreme Being, infinite Void, and so on (which are modeled here
as an exit out of the top of the spiral). One so connected may experience
a "power from within" that provides inspiration, energy,
capacity, authority, guidance, or "calling" - phenomena
intimately associated with the sense of a larger oneness or beingness
manifesting through them.
INTERIORITY: Here we have consciousness, awareness,
thinking, feeling - and their analogs in organisms, systems, or
spiritual realms that are "higher" or "lower"
(e.g., more or less evolved or complex or fundamental) than ordinary
human cognition and beingness. This is tricky but important territory.
At the very least we have the individual human experience of consciousness
- in all its diverse manifestations such as reason and dreams and
alpha waves - that can altered or enhanced by various chemicals,
disciplines, meditations and mindful practices that increase one's
centeredness and presence (which can be experienced or verified
by others externally as well as by oneself internally). This is
broadly agreed upon. Furthermore, science has slowly extended the
concept of awareness - in various forms - into less complex forms
of organism. Spiritually inclined people have generalized the concept
of awareness further, out into realms normally thought of as inanimate
or cosmic (e.g., "a conscious, living universe"). Psychologists
and others have posited that there is a subjective or intersubjective
dimension to culture, a collective conscious or unconscious, variously
evidenced. All this is the realm of the interiority section of this
model of wholeness, often framed as entities being part of a larger
wholesome form of consciousness to which they have access. This
is the interior dimension of being at once a whole and a part.
WHOLE/PART: This is one of the most intriguing
sections of the model. In the larger model, the whole or system
we have been talking about is seen as a whole in the right side
of the model, but as a part of a larger whole on the left side of
the model - e.g., being included, in relationship, making contributions,
etc.. In a more or less physical sense, this is the theory of holonics
described above: all things are both parts of larger wholes and
wholes in their own right. Associated with this are a number of
other phenomena: Holergy posits - as a companion to synergy
- that a part (such as a student or employee) is more than its role
in whatever wholes it is part of; it has its own unique qualities
and capacities that can be productively acknowledged, tapped or
liberated. Holographics posits that a whole can be contained
within a part - the way holograms are generated by focusing a laser
on any one part of a holographic plate, or the way a sketch can
embody the whole thing sketched, or the way a randomly selected
microcosm of the population can contain the population's diversity
of demographics and perspectives, or the way William Blake suggested
we "see a world in a grain of sand... and eternity in an hour".
Membergy is the power of the part to represent the qualities
and power of the whole, as an elected official represents their
constituency or an Olympic athlete or tourist represents their country,
or a policemen represents "the law" or "the state",
by virtue of being a noted member of that larger system. Finally,
fractals are patterns in nature and in mathematics which
show up at various scales within themselves, the way a branch has
branches, or patterns of waves or clouds repeating at different
levels of observation or magnification. In any case, this whole/part
phenomenon - in all its variations - complexifies and enriches the
issue of what aspects of an entity will be welcomed in the INCLUSION
dynamic with which the model's spiral begins again. (Note re jargon:
"Holergy" and "membergy" are neologisms coined
by Tom Atlee to designate two wholeness-related phenomena for which
he knew no other adequate term.)
EMERGENCE: This model posits a fundamental dynamic
that drives life's insistent motion towards greater or recovered
wholeness, a dynamic intrinsic to life's processes, but able to
be consciously worked with and enhanced. Emergence (of novelty and
greater complexity) is a new field of science, fundamental to evolutionary
science as well as a number of other fields, and is intimately connected
to the dynamics of self-organization. This model generalizes emergence
beyond its scientific meaning to maximize its usefulness to humanity.
People skilled at increasing wholeness in living systems tend to
act less to manufacture or manage it than to nurture, catalyze,
evoke this intrinsic, self-organizing drive towards wholeness, this
grace, this force for emergence, healing, evolution, transformation,
and transcendence beyond what has existed before. One way to describe
this role - consciously increasing wholeness - is that it involves
letting go of control and outcome, and having the humility to tap
and join the mysterious intrinsic and latent aliveness in the system
- a Taoistic form of wise holistic leverage for healthy unfolding.
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