Since ancient times, we have sought to understand the human condition in relationship to Life itself. In ancient Greece, philosophy was the guiding science. And every era before and since (from the Sumerians to the Mayans to the Egyptian mystery schools) has developed explanations for how and why things work the way they do.
Religion has played a part too. Although it is generally short on explanation, religion seeks to establish the ‘proper’ relationship between humankind and God. However, perhaps with the exception of Daoism, humankind was seen as distinct (and in some cases altogether separate) from the rest of life, and definitely from the Creator. Even in Buddhism, where there is no Creator principle -things just are as they are – there is a complex system of lineages, progressions and historical personalities and no overarching explanation as to how they all tie together.
Although we take it for granted as part of our history (and perhaps as a way of championing diversity), it is interesting to consider that, since humans have walked the earth, there has never been universal agreement on what Life is, let alone humankind’s relationship to Life. In short, we have no common narrative to join around.
More recently, modern Systems Theory has studied human / ecological environments in order to propose solutions for the multi-faceted challenges we face. By studying complex systems, it was thought that we would find the answers to make them work better. It was proposed that system thinking must be for the betterment of life (their thinking was that this would be achieved through a scientific framework). The resulting insights have made an admirable contribution to our understanding.
The work of Bertalanffy and Piaget formalised the assignation of common patterns, behaviours or properties to complex systems. Others expanded on this foundation by applying systems theory in their own domain. Bela Banathy, Ervin Lazlo, Gregory Bateson, Fritjof Capra, Peter Senge, Max Weber and many other respected thinkers studied whole or part systems and sought to describe the active principles of relationship and behaviour.
In order to move away from the absolutism of religion, the reductionist thinking of Newtonian mechanics and the obvious inertia of closed (non-relative) systems, the modern system theorists sought to explain systems in terms of relativity. Every single part influenced, and was influenced by, other parts. This was the beginning of seeing all systems as interconnected (I note that Buddhism has been furthering this perspective for 2,500 years – but science doesn’t like to be told anything. It wants to discover it for itself – and claim validation of its process!). Although this was a truly crucial step in our understanding, we ended up replacing absolutism with relativism – and wondered why we were still experiencing challenges.
As a result, one fundamental aspect has been overlooked. What has been missing from both religion and Systems Theory is the perspective that both absolutism and relativism play a necessary role inside a bigger truth. We have studied systems mechanically, philosophically, theoretically, as if the principles which run them are derived from the interaction of human choice and biological activity alone.
We have never yet embraced the idea that Life (on earth) is both absolute and relative. Life’s absolutism is expressed as the non-negotiable laws which govern all life. The world’s religions and philosophies have touched on this in their own way, but in portraying the Creator / God as a character rather than a principle, it has distanced us from an important truth – that Life is not just biologically alive, but sentient – the same characteristic applied to the Creator / God. And more importantly for us, all life comes from this common source; equally, unequivocally.
Both the notions of absolutism and sentience rankle scientists. Because you can’t study sentience ‘scientifically’ because their protocols don’t allow for a) a unified theory or b) that consciousness is anything more than the product of brain activity. So instead they study Life through relativism but miss the unifying design giving rise to the results.
Curiously for human beings (and I promise this is not semantics), absolutism reveals itself through relativism. We access the collective design through individual experience. We arrive at objective reality subjectively – and it has always been thus.
Our experience is the living (relative) record of our relationship to the (absolute) presence of existence. Because our experience differs so widely (actually not that widely – but the identity likes to think of itself as unique), we fail to see the similarities and crossovers within our experience.
Nor do we see the unfailing laws and principles in operation behind every single moment of what we think of as our version of Life. For in defining ourselves as unique individuals with independent storylines, we remove the possibility of a shared heritage – not from actual existence, but from our perception of it. Therein lies the conundrum that religious adepts, philosophers, system theorists, scientists and many more besides have wrestled with over the centuries.
How do we marry our individual experience with the notion (and reality) of a unified whole? That has been the work of Intelligent Life. To help us understand both the absolute and relative aspects of life, and how they fit together. To give us a framework that includes both and describes the relationship between the two. To guide us in our experiences, so that we see the presence of a source intelligence and our particular response to it expressed.
To provide a new narrative for not just human life and experience, but one that encompasses all forms of manifest and non-manifest life. And most of all to evolve our sense of being Life; its purpose, its innate capacity, its potential and…its immense intelligence and beauty.