The Pattern That Connects

If we look at the various fields of human knowledge, – from physics to biology to psychology, sociology, theology, and religion, – certain broad general themes emerge about which there is actually very little disagreement.

Arthur Koestler coined the term “holon” to refer to an entity that is itself a whole and simultaneously a part of some other whole. And if you start to look closely at the things and processes that actually exist, it soon becomes obvious that they are not merely wholes, they are also parts of something else. They are whole/parts, they are holons. There is no whole that isn’t simultaneously a part of some other whole.

Everything is basically a holon of some sort or another and because every holon is a whole/part, it has two “tendencies” or “two drives” to maintain its wholeness and its partness. On the one hand, it has to maintain its wholeness, its own identity, its own autonomy, its own agency. If it fails to maintain and preserve its own agency, or its own identity, then it simply ceases to exist. So one of the characteristics of a holon, in any domain, is its agency, its capacity to maintain its own wholeness in the face of environmental pressures which would otherwise obliterate it. This is true for atoms, cells, organisms, ideas.

But a holon is not only a whole that has to preserve its agency, it is also a part of some other system, some other wholeness. And so, in addition to having to maintain its own autonomy as a whole, it simultaneously has to fit in as a part of something else. Its own existence depends upon its capacity to fit into its environment, and this is true from atoms to molecules to animals to humans. So every holon has not only its own agency as a whole, it also has to fit with its communions as part of other wholes. If it fails at either agency or communion it is simple erased. It ceases to be.

Evolution clearly operates in part by Darwinian natural selection, but this process simply selects those transformations that have already occurred by mechanisms that absolutely nobody understands. For the moment, everybody has simply agreed to call this “quantum evolution” or “punctuated evolution” or “emergent evolution”, radically novel and emergent and incredibly complex holons come into existence in a huge leap, in a quantum-like fashion.

Evolution is in part a self-transcending process. It always goes beyond what went before. And in that novelty, in that emergence, in that creativity, new entities come into being, new patterns unfold, new holons issue forth. This extraordinary process builds unions out of fragments and wholes out of heaps. The Kosmos, it seems, unfolds in quantum leaps of creative emergence. Particularly with the systems sciences, the vivid realization has dawned: we live in a universe of creative emergence.

Ken Wilber
A Brief History of Everything

Exploring for Universal Patterns