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Thoughts on the General System Theory - [ 1 ]

Imre von Soos

        "General System Theory, founded by von Bertalanffy, whose purpose is to construct theoretical models and discover general principles which are universally applicable to biological, social and symbolic systems of any kind - in other words, a search for common denominators in the flux of phenomena, for unity-in-diversity." (Arthur Koestler).

        Koestler read a paper in 1968 on the Alpbach Symposium on Beyond Reductionism, starting thus: "This is going to be an exercise on General System Theory - which seems to be all the more appropriate as Ludwig von Bertalanffy, its founding father, sits next to me. It seems equally appropriate that I should take as my text from Ludwig's Problems of Life; it reads: 'Hierarchical organization on the one hand, and the characteristics of open systems on the other, are fundamental principles of living nature.'" He then continued to produce a concise but wide-angle and thorough definition of the concept holism and the holon, quite obviously in accord with LvB, who was sitting beside him, and whom he quoted extensively in his books. While sticking to the terminologies, the concept they originally expressed were drastically altered by some even well known 'experts' and their followers in the last three decades. At the same time the G.S.T. became fragmented to numerous specialties and mostly reduced to the study and optimization of economic and general business management systems, as if these were the primary systems of planetary Life.

        I always considered G.S.T. as an attempt to establish a Unified System Theory (similarly to the Unified Field Theory), and LvB's ideas and efforts as being primarily not in the direction of developing an improved social, political, educational, commercial, economical or whatever man-made system, each independently as a closed scheme for itself, but, based on the conviction of the unified nature of reality, to discover the general principles of the one, natural, universal system, without ignoring its spiritual dimension - hence his General System Research - which all man-made systems and thinking must be in harmony with, and which must serve for them as a foundation. This is holistic system-thinking, leading to General System Understanding.

        Himself being a biologist and the biological system being the major and dominant life-system on this planet, proving itself with three and a half billion years of success, his G.S.R. went in this direction. He studied the laws of evolution and found that "It appears to be not a series of accidents, the course of which is determined only by the change of environments during earth's history and the resulting struggle for existence, which leads to selection within a chaotic material of mutations . . . but is governed by definite laws, and we believe that the discovery of these laws constitutes one of the most important tasks of the future. . . Hierarchical organization on the one hand, and the characteristics of open systems on the other, are fundamental principles of living nature, and the advancement of theoretical biology will depend mainly on the development of a theory of these two fundamentals." Its rules and 'keys' once established and serving as a frame, the various 'harmonies' can be filled in accordingly, to produce a 'symphony'. "General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness." It is the unified concept of the entire universe, the foundation of planetary system thinking, to replace the ruling egocentric, econocentric and anthropocentric system thinking. Being such, it has no boundaries, no divisions, no resolution into component elements, no specialties and no 'nolite tangere circulos meos'. Any other process, built on the presently reigning aberrated ways of thinking, leads to the schizophrenic cacophony that humanity is actually experiencing and trying to solve through some additional aberrated archicortical thinking processes.

        One part - or even the cornerstone - of this aberrated thinking is anthropocentrism. Anthropocentrism is specializing, limiting and preconditioning, thus it is antithetic to holistic thinking. Hidden properly behind and protected by emotion-charged beliefs, it is well expressed in the following quotation from Teilhard de Chardin, whose "somewhat muddy mysticism" also LvB criticized, and which I will debate.

        "The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egotistically the extremity of 'everyone for himself' is false and against nature... The outcome of the world, -- these are not thrown open to a few of the privileged or to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others. They will only open to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual renovation of the earth... No evolutionary future awaits man except in association with all other men."

        Evolution - characterized by growing complexity and change - works through the individual. It happens through the particular effort of each individual being to react positively to the challenge of the change and growing complexity created by the environment (which includes all but itself), but mostly through its own 'intellect-pressure' acting as its evolutionary drive, thus becoming itself more complex and with it contributing to the general evolutionary flow. It is self-generated and self-activated. So are regression and degeneration. Evolutionary history is the history of the evolution of individuals as such, and of the prevalence of the perpetuation - descendants - of these individuals of a species forming first a new subspecies (intra-specific differentiation) and finally turning into a new species (evolutionary split) of a higher evolutionary state: a super-race in relation to the one from which it evolved. In this intellectual and spiritual endeavour the individual is not selfishly self-managing against the others, but is self-transcending for universal evolution. The portraying this absolutely natural life-manifestation prevailing on this planet for three and a half billion years as "the egocentric ideal of attaining egocentrically the extremity of 'everyone for himself'", might caress some primitive archicortical crannies, but cannot reach the neocortex, and the mind especially not.

        Isn't - following the quoted line of thinking - every actual member of the species Homo sapiens "privileged", belonging to the "chosen people", with the exclusion of all other creatures he has left behind on the phylogenic ladder? 'Privileged' - invested with privilege - or 'chosen' by whom, anyway? By no one, but due to some of those individual and very far back Pleistocene ancestors of ours, who exercised their brains, 'answered the call of the far horizons', and had the guts to 'descend from the trees' and establish our species - while leaving the others, who didn't have it, behind, at their own level of competence, in their accustomed-to ecology-niches.

        If "no evolutionary future would await a member of a species except in association with all other members of that species", there would be no evolution, and still nothing but anaerobic bacteria would populate this planet ad aeternum.

        Exactly these kinds of lullabies - lacking even the slightest scientific or logical foundation - make the great majority of so-called humanity lay back in their slothful dull-wittedness and let 'the others' (whoever they might be) make all the efforts, trusting that they will be taken anyway with 'the great human brotherly current' through the gates of the future, into the super-human land of cocaine.

        For those, who base their cockeyed dogma of egalitarianism and equal capabilities and merit on some pseudo-religious sloppy sentiments, I recommend the words of Jesus, to be found in St. Matthew 25:14-30 (New Testament, of course). For the indolent I reproduce here its conclusion (29,30): "For unto everyone that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (And for those who believe that "hath" refers to bank-accounts or gadgets: forget it!) Not "a spiritual renovation of the earth" is needed, but the spiritual renovation of the naked ape.

        Isn't it just about time that people get out of their complacent stupor of distorted reality of materialistic and/or anthropocentric myopia and religious lopsidedness, and reorient their thoughts and worldview towards an inspired spirituality and planetary system thinking?

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