“Everything is both part of a greater system and a whole thing unto itself” (Immanuel Kant)
The term cosmology is usually taken to mean a theory or model of how the universe works or doesn’t depending on the kind of day we are having. It suggests that this set of principles can be applied to everything worth explaining from the orbiting planets to why our computer only freezes up during important presentations. The great Hungarian novelist Arthur Koestler called the study of whole entities as the fundamental components of reality holism – the idea that all the elements of a complex system not only work in concert but are contained within each other. Like a hologram each piece no matter how infinitesimal contains a complete image of the entire object. Not only is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, its parts also in themselves whole. This view suggests that it is best understand something by studying it as an integrated system in its entirety. Forms of holism appear in most disciplines of inquiry: Evolutionary biology, chaos theory, systems thinking, osteopathic medicine and cultural anthropology to name a few. This also explains why our abhorrent table manners are partially derived from Great Aunt Tanya who believed that she was in reality the lost Romanov Princess Anastasia. It is through the study of the collective system that best determines how the individual parts behave.
Pythagoras founder of Classical philosophy and mathematics espoused a similar view in what he called the “music of the spheres.” Oft misunderstood, the Greek mystic saw reality as embedded in a series of concentric and invisible domains he characterized as crystal spheres that were in a dynamic but harmonious relationship with each other. He saw alignment not as a fixed state but one in motion. This concept can be seen in a temporal framework in the celebrated passage from Ecclesiastes “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” and again as a spatial concept in Dante’s Divine Comedy when he ascends from the lower rungs of hell to the summit of the celestial realm. The concept that we are contained in a multi-leveled, functionally restrictive yet growing system, and have the choice to align with it or rail against it has a multitude of new names like macroeconomics, sociology and environmental biology with the prerequisite jargon and other accoutrements but the foundational idea of a naturally embedded system is essentially the same.
Just as our thoughts and actions are affected by our parents and children, they too are moved by us. We are Self-authorizing beings that have the ability to control and even change some things in our environment, but we also must adapt and respond to it as well. In an effort to better understand how we grow into wholeness, we must first understand how our world is becoming complete, and how we fit, or don’t, with these dynamics. Let’s call this study of the structure and dynamics of how Man becomes whole within the larger system of his world wholonics to suggest the reciprocal nature of our relationship with our circumstances – both mover and moved.
Like putting a jigsaw puzzle together having never seen the cover of the box, we sense that there is a clear and complete picture of our Self, but finding and fitting all the pieces together requires us to make sense of emerging patterns to discover the simplicity hidden within our complexity. To complete the puzzle we progress simultaneously from all directions. We spot the specific pieces that contain enough of a complete image to be discernable as a cardinal or a flower some other discrete element. Conversely, we also recognize the colors and shapes that merely suggest that they may be a small part of a larger motif like a blue sky or a snow covered hill. Puzzles require us to be mindful all around and intentionally integrate our foresight and insight until an implicit design is made explicit. We do not create the puzzle but our creativity helps us find the image and bring it into view where all can appreciate its splendor.