Synergic inquiry and evolution of consciousness

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Chicago Library]On: 30 November 2014, At: 02:02Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

    World Futures: The Journalof New Paradigm ResearchPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gwof20

    Synergic inquiry andevolution of consciousnessYongming Tang aa Callifornia Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) ,765 Ashbury, St San Francisco, Ca, 94117Published online: 04 Jun 2010.

    To cite this article: Yongming Tang (1998) Synergic inquiry and evolution ofconsciousness, World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research, 52:3-4,347-365

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02604027.1998.9972713

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Synergic Inquiry and Evolution ofConsciousness

    YONGMING TANG

    Callifornia Institute of Integral Studies (CIiS),765 Ashbury, St San Francisco, Ca 94117

    (Received May 8, 1995; accepted May 17, 1996)

    Challenged by overwhelming social and ecological problems and crises, anew alternative that re-explains the world is called for to transform humanconsciousness. The author argues that an alternative should meet thefollowing criteria: (1) corresponding to the total reality, (2) contributingevolution of consciousness, and (3) coming with an adequate actionmethodology. Based on an understanding of the coherent patternstheprocesses of differentiation and integrationthrough which the universeevolves, the Synergy Principle of the universe is established. Dimensionalityof consciousnessthe visible, logical, and mythicalis also presented.Further, the Synergic Inquiry methodology designed to guide humanaction work for consciousness transformation at various levels of humansystems is developed. Finally a few levels of synergy are also discussed.

    KEYWORDS: synergy, change, transformation, consciousness, methodol-ogy, collaboration, integration

    SYNERGIC INQUIRY AND EVOLUTION OFCONSCIOUSNESS

    The present situation is distressing. We have crises in just aboutevery aspect of our lives: an environmental crisis, an educationalcrisis, a crisis in of confidence in government, and crisis in family(Johnston, 1991). Recently, 1680 senior scientists (including 104Nobel laureates) of 70 countries around the globe warn that human-ity is on a course of self destruction, possibly within decades, and agreat change is required (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1995). Theecosystem is experiencing entropy: Our living system seems to takethe road to deterioration and inexorable death (Harman, 1994).

    World Futures, 1998, Vol. 52, pp. 347-365 1998 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V.Reprints available directly from the publisher Published by license underPhotocopying permitted by license only the Gordon and Breach Publishers imprint.

    Printed in India.

    347

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  • 348 YONGMING TANG

    Our times calls for a new, refreshing approach to these crises, onethat re-explains the world (Thompson, 1991) and plays the role ofbifurcation to bring another societal transformation (Abraham,1994; Harman, 1994). Should this approach be new and refreshing,and have the power to re-explain the world, it has to be different.Currently most alternatives seem to generate more problems thanimprove human conditioning, thus contributing to the worseninghuman predicament.

    My bias is the some criteria ought to be established to evaluate anapproach. First, the value of an approach depends on whether itcorresponds to the total reality. The universe has wisdoms in theform of orders or principles to teach us. A sound approach oughtto embody or reflect wisdoms of the universe. Vachon (1995) arguesforcefully:

    We believe that the value of a statement does not come primarilyfrom the number of individuals who subscribe to it, nor from itsofficial governmental or professional charter, but from its foundationin the reality of life itself. In other words, we believe that our mandateto live and speak does not come primarily nor ultimately from anygovernment, nation-state, religion or culture, nor from Man alone,God alone, or Nature alone, but from the whole reality. It is to thecircle of the whole reality that we are ultimately accountable to, andnot only to any government, expert, culture, religion, man or god(p. 127)

    Second, the value of an approach is judged by whether it contri-butes to the evolution of consciousness, the inherent purpose of thewhole reality. My working hypothesis is that the universe suffersfrom pathology which manifests itself in the form of problems andcrises that we experience today. To effectively solve our problems,we have to eliminate underlying pathology by transforming ourconsciousness. This presupposes that evolution of consciousnessand transforming the essential structure of human are two sides ofthe same coin. Chaudhuri (1977, p. 95) puts it:

    In the ultimate analysis it is the human factor which counts most. Nomatter to what extent the economic and political structure of a societybe drastically overhauled, until and unless there is a real transform-ation of inner consciousnessa genuine change of heart, as Gandhi

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  • SYNERGIC INQUIRY 349

    would say, exploitation of others and the environment and injusticecan hardly be eliminated from society.

    Finally, the value of an approach depends on whether it isequipped with an adequate methodology for human action. Theadequacy of a methodology has to satisfy the proceeding conditions,namely (1) corresponding to the total reality and (2) working toeliminate pathology. Further, this methodology ought to be heuris-tic in that it can be applied to all levels of human systems, such asindividuals, relationships, groups, organizations, communities, andcultures. Since this is not a place to examine other methodologies,let me suffice to say that among the overwhelming number ofmethodologies few match these conditions.

    At California Institute of Integral Studies, for several years wehave been experimenting with such an approach we call SynergicInquiry. Synergy projects devoted to transforming consciousness atvarious human system levelssuch as individuals, groups, organi-zations, communities, societies/cultureshave been experimentedin the United States of America, the People's Republic of China,Mexico, and India. It is an approach which I believe connects withan understanding of the total reality, aims at transforming humanconsciousness, and comes with a methodology for human action.

    THE SYNERGY PRINCIPLE OF THE UNIVERSE

    Our strategy is to seek "the pattern that connects all the livingcreatures" (Bateson, 1979, p. 8). "The pattern which connects is ametapattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is the metapattern whichdefines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns whichconnect" (Bateson, 1979, p. 12). Evidences have shown that thesepatterns or regularities do exist, and it is important to identifythem. According to Laszlo (1987, p. 5),

    To search out and systematically state these regularities is to engagein the creation of "grand synthesis" that unite physical, biological,and social evolution into a consistent framework with its own laws andlogic.

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  • 350 YONGMING TANG

    Synergic Inquiry is developed out of an understanding of such "aconsistent framework with its own laws and logic" in the total reality.It is based on the following premises. First, the total reality is elusiveand thus beyond our comprehension. It cannot be fully describedby what we know. The I-Ching, one of the most ancient philosophi-cal texts, used the notion of Tao (or Way) to describe the elusivenature of reality. According to Wu (1985, p . 29),

    Tao as a metaphysical concept stands for ultimate reality of theuniverse. Unlike the Pre-Socratic concepts like water, air, or fire, Taodoes not imply any notion of material substance. Unlike the Platonicforms, Tao is not entirely abstract. Because of its immaterial nature,it cannot be properly qualified or predicted by words which usuallycharacterize material or corporate objects. Ordinary language per-forms its function adequately in describing ordinary matters of lifeand our daily perceptual world. But it becomes very restricted andlimited when it is applied to the characterization of Tao.

    This is why Lao Tzu made the famous saying in the verybeginning of Tao Te Ching: "The Tao that can be spoken of is notthe absolute Tao" (Wu, 1985).

    Second, the total reality is infinite. Tao Te Ching says:

    Tao, being a hollow vessel,Is never exhaustible in use.Fathomless,Perhaps the fountain head of all existences.

    Further, from the I-ching perspective, "the universe is an organicwhole, a process of never-ceasing growth. All the existences withinthis growing context are organically interrelated and form a com-prehensive continuum advancing into novelty" (Wu, 1985, p . 60).

    Due to the elusive and infinite nature of reality, all descriptionsof reality are at best maps rather than the territory. They areinevitably partial. Chaudhuri (1977, p. 87) explains:

    Since a map is not a territory but a sketchy guidechart indicating pos-sible lines of movement and action in the real world, no ideologicalscheme, whether theological or metaphysical, or scientific or politicalcan be said to exhaust the multidimensional fullness of the universe.It should be clearly recognized that the universe, essentially different

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  • SYNERGIC INQUIRY 351

    from all conceptual maps, necessarily transcends all philosophical,religious, scientific and political ideologies. The universe is theground and the comprehensive unity of all thought systems withoutitself being a determinate system.

    This dictates an attitude of humility. All of our perspectives areessentially unfinished and incomplete. It seems that the reality isalways ready to confront our absolutistic notions. It is in thisexchange between human beings and the reality, our consciousnessis opened up and expanded. Vachon (1995, p. 16) describes thisprocess beautifully:

    It is as if reality were refusing to let itself be reduced to any oneprinciple, vision, experience, thought, concept, myth or symbol.Instead, it is inviting us to an awakening, to going beyond, to lettingourselves be moved, inspired, transformedrespectivelyby an ever-new and more open myth that is trying to surface. Let us say thatreality is calling us, each and all, to a deep mutation that we are stillgroping to see and to express, but which we are in the process ofliving, of discovering and co-creating gradually, together, every day.It is about an ever-open vision, synthesis and horizon.

    The irony is that throughout human history, many have attem-pted to use their maps as the territory. In fact, this is exactly wherethe problem lies. For example, the materialistic, scientific approachhas attempted to use the story of the physical universe as the totalityof reality, alienating the psychic-spiritual dimensions of reality. Thisas we know has paralyzed our nature and societies.

    Third, although reality cannot be fully understood, human beingshave the capacity to understand orders or principlesi.e., the cohe-rent patternsthrough which the total reality evolves. In the I-ching philosophy, "All existences in the universe follow a definiteorder" (Wu, 1985, p. 50). In other words, although reality is vagueand elusive, we can know orders or principles in the form ofcoherent patterns manifested by the total reality.

    I assume that the processes of differentiation and integration arecoherent patterns through which the reality manifests itself. Theuniverse evolves through continuous processes of differentiationand integration. As implied in the Tao Te ching, the Tao manifestsitself by differentiating and integrating. Lao Tzu says:

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  • 352 YONGMING TANG

    The Way brings forth one.One brings forth two.Two brings forth three.Three brings forth all things (Wu, 1989, p. 155).

    In the I-ching philosophy, Yin and Yangthe two cosmic for-cesare used to describe the processes of differentiation andintegration. All things are brought forth by the differentiation andintegration of Yin and Yang, and such a process continues organi-cally and indefinitely. "The continuous interaction between Yin andYang is the process of Tao." This notion also exists in Indianphilosophy. Chaudhuri (1977, p. 93) says:

    According to Indian philosophy, the Supreme Being, the One with-out a second, become many by producing dualities. Herein lies themost hidden secret of all creation and evolutionself-multiplicationthrough polarization of energy. The nondual Being polarizes itselfinto the fundamental dualities of spirit and nature, mind and matter,God and world, light and darkness, heaven and earth, logs and eros.

    The same patternsdifferentiation and integrationare discover-ed by a great metaphysician in the West, Georg W. F. Hegel. In hisencompassing dialectic system, Hegel believes existence embodiesmultiple dimensions which can be integrated into a unitary whole.All human thoughts about reality are incomplete and contr...

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