I. GENESIS VISION: A Creative Organic Universe
Prescient attempts earlier in the 20th century sketched the broad outlines of an organically developmental universe. These literature examples are followed by current holistic efforts to articulate this discovery and revolution as it lately gains scientific verification and humanist import.
A. Historic Precedents
These selections glimpse the essential outlines and essence of a cosmic genesis. Three lifeworks stand out - the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Russian geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945), and the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). A significant publication for each is cited as an entry point.
Berry, Thomas. The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988. Sage essays contemplate the epic proportions and responsibilities of the human presence in an immense, still unfolding numinous universe. Typical chapter titles are: The Earth Community, The Ecological Age, Bioregions: The Context for Reinhabiting the Earth, The Historical Role of the American Indian and The Cosmology of Peace.
“Such a fantastic universe, with its great spiraling galaxies, its supernovas, our solar system, and this privileged planed Earth! All this is held together in the vast curvature of space, poised so precisely in holding all things together in the one embrace and yet so lightly that the creative expansion of the universe might continue on into the future.” (xv)
Boulding, Kenneth. Ecodynamics. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1978. A pioneer systems thinker, Boulding provides a general theory of physical, biological and societal evolution which then informs the course of history. If asked “what evolves,” it is most of all an encoded “know-how.”
Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982. A holistic systems view of life is proposed to supplant the mechanical model and as a consequence to inform for a more humane society. Capra provides a prescient grasp of complex adaptive system theory:
“Besides the complementarity of self-assertive and integrative tendencies, which can be observed at all levels of nature’s stratified systems, living organisms display another pair of complementary dynamic phenomena that are essential aspects of self-organization. One of them, which may be described loosely as self-maintenance, includes the processes of self-renewal, healing, homeostasis, and adaption. The other, which seems to represent an opposing but complementary tendency, is that of self-transformation and self-transcendence, a phenomenon that express itself in the processes of learning, development, and evolution.” (285)
Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1987. The grand cycle of metahistory from its maternal inception and long patriarchical dominance now reaches a juncture between continued oppression or empathic transformation to a partnership of women and men for the good of children. Eisler’s perspective is uniquely informed by the sciences of complexity just appearing.
Fox, Mathew. The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. The book’s subtitle is “The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance” and is lyrical mediation on the immensity of the coming revelation. We have lost an original vision of the correspondence of microcosm and macrocosm, as Hildegard of Bingen knew: “God has arranged everything in the universe in consideration of everything else.” If we can regain this providential secret then with St. Paul the world will rightly be seen as birthing and bringing forth a New Creation.
Jantsch, Erich. The Self-Organizing Universe. Oxford: Pergamon, 1980. Twenty years ahead of its time, a visionary exposition of a dynamic creation which spontaneously develops life, mind and personal significance.
Life appears no longer as a phenomenon unfolding in the universe - the universe itself becomes increasingly alive. (9) In an Epilogue: Meaning, finally, the central theme of the dynamic connectedness of man with an unfolding universe is re-evoked. In a world which is creating itself, the idea of a divinity does not remain outside, but is embedded in the totality of self-organization dynamics at all levels and in all dimensions. (18)
Koestler, Arthur. Janus. New York: Random House, 1978. A valiant attempt by the renowned author to move beyond scientific reductionism by constructing a theory of “holoarchy” which reflects the innovative, modular rise of life.
The point first to be emphasized is that each member of this hierarchy, on whatever level, is a sub-whole or ‘holon’ in its own right - a stable, integrated structure, equipped with self-regulatory devices and enjoying a considerable degree of autonomy or self-government. Cells, muscles, nerves, organs, all have their intrinsic rhythms and patterns of activity…they are subordinated as parts to the higher centres in the hierarchy, but at the same time function as quasi-autonomous wholes. They are Janus-faced. The face turned upward, toward the higher levels, is that of a dependent part; the face turned downward, towards its own constituents, is that of a whole of remarkable self- sufficiency. (27) Ontogeny and phylogeny, the development of the individual and the evolution of species, are the two grand hierarchies of becoming. (43)
Mallove, Eugene. The Quickening Universe. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. Here is an example of how what is observed depends so much on one’s inclination. The whole sweep of cosmic evolution reveals to this astrophysicist not sterile mechanism but a universe becoming progressively alive, a genesis.
Miller, James G. Living Systems. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976. A landmark treatise on the nested, hierarchical organization of biological and social life wherein 20 critical subsystems which process either matter-energy or information repeat at several subsequent levels. These similar, isomorphic features “thread out” at each stage from the genetic to the global. The resultant field of Living Systems Theory has been elaborated in the journals Behavioral Science and its successor Systems Research and Behavioral Science.
Murchie, Guy. The Seven Mysteries of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978. A grand tour of the realms of abstraction, relatedness, life, polarity, mind, and transcendence along with a perception of Earth as an embryonic superorganism.
Sixth is the germination of worlds, a critical event that seems to happen once to every celestial organism and, after her billions of years of slow evolution, is occurring right now to Earth, as evidenced by many fundamental changes during what we call modern times - things that, as far as we know, never happened before and can never happen again on our planet. (7) (Noted again in Planetary Self-Selection)
Neumann, Erich. The Origins and History of Consciousness. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971. Jungian insights into megahistory as an analogous cycle of individuation understandable through archetypal mythic symbols. By this dimension, the great mission of humankind is seen as the heroic achievement of a whole person.