Life Quotes Thoughts

Bill Plotkin on Purpose

The Journey of Soul Initiation by Bill Plotkin is a thorough description of the most essential things Plotkin has learned over the past 40 years about the journey to full maturity as a human being.

Bill Plotkin has the following perspective to share on purpose (my emphasis in italics):

Our Soul purpose is categorically different from our social or vocational purpose. This is one of the most common misunderstandings… Soul purpose is what we’re born to accomplish in our lifetime — the…gift we are here to offer… Although a social or vocational perspective on purpose is necessary, appropriate, and healthy…, it doesn’t derive from the depths of the psyche or go to the depths of the world, and it is not enough to build a full life on. Yet, …it’s very rare to find anything beyond this…perspective on purpose.

—Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries

What am I born to accomplish in my lifetime — the gift I am here to offer? Soul, by the way, is an ecological concept for Bill Plotkin.

Related post:
Bill Plotkin on Soul, Felt-sense, and Metaphor

Life Quotes Thoughts Values

Bill Plotkin on Soul, Felt-sense, and Metaphor

The Journey of Soul Initiation by Bill Plotkin is a thorough description of the most essential things Plotkin has learned over the past 40 years about the journey to full maturity as human beings. Bill Plotkin uses common words in uncommon ways. Soul is, for example, an ecological concept.


Bill Plotkin writes (my emphasis in italics):

Soul, for me, is … a person or thing’s unique ecological niche in the Earth community. …all human creations that evolve organically [have Soul]… Each natural thing…has its own unique position…in the larger web of…life. A niche…consists of a thing’s unique set of relationships with every other thing in its ecosystem. A thing’s eco-niche…is what makes it what it is on the deepest, widest, and most natural level of identity.

—Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries

It’s worth noting that everything that is not fabricated or constructed solely with our strategic minds has Soul. Here I am reminded of Christopher Alexander’s work on living structure.

Felt-sense & Experiencing

We have, according to Bill Plotkin, a felt-sense about our unique ecological niche in the larger web of life. He writes (my emphasis in italics):

We humans possess a special realm…of consciousness…that rides on top of the more extensive consciousness we have in common with all other species. …because each individual Ego…is a child of culture and language, we at first…come to understand our place…in terms of social roles. … But we’re also born with an entirely different kind of knowledge, a felt-sense about our ecological place or niche in the world. This knowledge exists only within the deeper realm of consciousness…, knowledge that is not linguistic but imaginal…

—Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries

Here I see a connection with Eugene Gendlin’s work on experiencing and felt sense. Besides the logical dimension of knowledge, there is also a directly felt, experiential dimension.

Metaphor & Poetry

This means that we can only point to our unique ecological niche indirectly with the language of the intrinsic, i.e., metaphor and poetry.

When it comes to identifying Soul, we can only point…to it using metaphor… We can linguistically understand our Souls only indirectly… We discover (or remember) our innate place, our true home, when the world mirrors it to us by way of nature-based metaphors, human archetypes, or other…poetic images or symbols. We don’t choose these metaphors or figure them out… Rather, we’re shown them in a moment of numinous vision…

—Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries

Here I see a connection with Robert Hartmans work. Finding our unique echological niche, our true home in the larger web of life, constitutes a fulfillment of intrinsic value.

Related post:
Bill Plotkin on Purpose


Eugene Gendlin on Logic

Logic, math, and graph paper are quintessentially human creations—nothing natural comes in equal units that can be substituted in logical slots. Every leaf and cell is a little different.

—Eugene Gendlin

The actual order is supralogical. It is more than a given logic can represent, although a given logic can fit some given aspect or relation.

—Eugene Gendlin

The interrelation of all…possible meanings is so complex as to exceed any one logical scheme. … It is supralogical, or, if you wish, prelogical, capable of functioning in the creation and application of very many different logical schemes.

—Eugene Gendlin

We must not model nature on mathematics and logic… Math and logic are exclusively human processes. If we model nature on mathematics or anything that is only human, we exclude all forms of life but ours. In the case of mathematics we drop ourselves out too.

—Eugene Gendlin

…we surely need not give nature and bodily life process over to fixed units and logic—however powerful their use is. We need not think of nature as artificially constructed out of separate pieces…

—Eugene Gendlin

Iain McGilchrist on Logic

An uncritical following of intuition can lead us astray, but so can an uncritical following of logic.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning

Even the rules by which logic operates…have to be taken on the recommendation of intuition – and such intuition may be only partially reliable.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

Externality and instrumentality are inescapable logical requirements in whatever it is that one claims drives the machine model.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

I believe…that many, if not all, logical paradoxes can be seen as arising from the left hemisphere’s attempt to analyse something that is better grasped as a whole by the right hemisphere.

—Iain McGilchrist, TThe Matter with Things

It is not that language and rational thought…are not valuable: they are. But they are there to be struggled with, and finally, having been found wanting, let go.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

I want to suggest that there is a kind of madness associated with…imagining that life follows a sort of mechanical logic. I am not, of course, in favour of abandoning logic, or attention to facts…

—Iain McGilchrist, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning

…logic is only an ‘unpacking’ of what is hidden in our premisses.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

Narrow logic, once given foundations, can carry on operating as long as you like. But it cannot ground itself. It cannot provide either its own first assumptions in any argument, nor, in more general terms, its own worth as a tool in reaching the truth.

—Iain McGilchrist

…people are…seduced by the rhetoric of reason. And incidentally, some recent…work in evolutionary theory suggests that this may be the whole purpose of logic – not to understand, but to persuade, to seduce, others and win a competitive argument.

—Iain McGilchrist

Pursuing logic will not in itself achieve understanding, which comes from living a thoughtful life.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

The left hemisphere doesn’t realise its own limitations. Neither does logic if unassisted. It doesn’t know what it is that it doesn’t know.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning

…the real world isn’t the way we think it is because logic says so.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary

…unless you have the courage to stand by one of your own [visions], you are not a philosopher – just a logic-chopper. And a vision never results from following procedures.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

…we have difficulty seeing beyond a vision of the world that looks logical, but at a deep level isn’t really logical at all.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things

What is fascinating is the rationalistic left hemisphere’s conclusion: not that…logic has its limits in understanding the world, but that the experiential world somehow doesn’t measure up to logic.

—Iain McGilchrist, The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning

F. David Peat on Logic

…any approach that is based upon a set of fixed rules, strategies or fixed rational forms can never fully come to terms with nature’s unlimited richness.

—F. David Peat, New Science, New Vision

Any level of introspection indicates to us the degree to which our thoughts and responses are conditioned and how the self orders or in-forms our experience. …the order of the mind ranges from the mechanical and conditioned into infinite sensitivity and creativity.

—F. David Peat

Human minds…are able to escape from the constraints of logic and fixed rules… Or, to put it another way, the capacities of the human mind extend beyond the potential of any programmable, deductive, iterative or stepwise connected system.

—F. David Peat, New Science, New Vision

If our Western science is to move beyond that sterility that views the world as object then it…must be willing to enter into new logical forms and new orders…that will tolerate ambiguity, paradox and metaphor, orders which give each experience a living space…

—F. David Peat

…I would also suggest that the orders of matter have the same range. Inscape speaks of the inexhaustible nature of all experience in which matter can range from the mechanical and clinging into the infinitely subtle.

—F. David Peat, Unfolding the Subtle: Matter and Consciousness

The essence of reality is…its form. …the material world is an arising of form, a clinging to form and a dying away—in fact this clinging to form is nothing less than the expression of the laws of nature.

—F. David Peat, Unfolding the Subtle: Matter and Consciousness

…the laws of matter are really about particular levels of clinging within transformation, they point to those patterns of change within our experience that we tend to define as being material. But, of course, a similar clinging is also exhibited within the mind.

—F. David Peat

…the various…processes that take place within living organisms…suggest that systems evolve their own order of cohesion and that their authentic structures are not exclusively reducible to something supposedly logically more primitive.

—F. David Peat, Unfolding the Subtle: Matter and Consciousness

…to let go of the dominance that traditional logic has over our thinking does not mean that we have given way to meaningless disorder. Rather, we are challenged to find new and deeper…orders that are alive and ever changing.

—F. David Peat
Organizing Quotes Thoughts

How to make living structure?

Christopher Alexander on how to make living structure:

…success in making living structure…comes from the ability of the maker, at each step in the unfolding process, to do the thing which is required—at each instant to do the thing which is most consistent with wholeness. …and that, of course, depends on the extent to which the makers could see the structure of the wholeness that was there while they were making it. Yet while one works…it is hard to see what is required, it is hard to see wholeness. To see wholeness as it is requires purity of mind, because the thoughts, mental constructs, theories, ideas, and images one has all interfere with perception of wholeness, and make it difficult to see.1

1. Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 4 – The Luminous Ground (2004), 35.

People Quotes Thoughts

Are People Machines?

This is an imagined conversation between Peter D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), George I. Gurdjieff (1866 to 1877–1949), and Norm Hirst (1932-2012).

The conversation is based on quotes from Peter D. Ouspensky’s book In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, and the Autognomics website.

PO: Once I was talking with Gurdjieff… I was speaking…about the terrifying mechanization that was being developed in the big European cities… “People are turning into machines,” I said.

GG: “Yes,…that is true, but only partly true. …the mechanization you speak of is not at all dangerous. … Have you ever thought about the fact that all people themselves are machines?”

NH: “There is a distinction between being autonomic, obeying self-law, and allonomic, obeying some other’s law. Machines are allonomic, they obey the laws built in by external agencies. Organisms are autonomic, there is no way for any other to build in the internal laws of a living entity.”

GG: “All the people you see, all the people you know, all the people you may get to know, are machines, actual machines working solely under the power of external influences…”

NH: “We have been led astray by our experience of obedient things. In dealing with living autonomic self-acting entities it may come as a surprise that they do what they want with no thought of obedience.”

PO: “I thought it rather strange that…[GG] should be so insistent on this point. … I had never liked…short and all-embracing metaphors. They always omitted points of difference. I…had always maintained differences were the most important thing and that in order to understand things it was first necessary to see the points in which they differed.

Articles Life Phenomenology Quotes Thoughts

Notes on Goethe’s Aphorisms

Daniel Christian Wahl has translated Goethe’s collected aphorisms in ‘The Tip of the Iceberg’ Goethe’s Aphorisms on the theory of Nature and Science. I appreciate that Wahl has attempted to stay as close as possible to the literal meaning of Goethe’s writings in order to avoid unnecessary interpretations.

Here are my own brief notes, which are based on Goethe’s aphorisms and Wahl’s helpful comments:

  • We have a capacity for meaningful intuitive insight in addition to purely analytical reason. (Aphorism 1)
  • It is a mistake to generalize what specific phenomena have in common and thereby exclude differences. (Aphorism 2)
  • Our senses are attuned towards an intermediate level of scale, between the microscopic and the macroscopic. (Aphorism 3)
  • Each specific phenomenon is an expression of the general under certain circumstances. (Aphorism 4)
  • The individual phenomenon contains the general. The multitude of phenomena is the specific. (Aphorism 5)
  • The universal is in the particular. The particular is a living manifestation of the universal. (Aphorism 6)
  • Life is profoundly interconnected. Nature is simultaneosly multitude and singularity. Time is the eternal now. (Aphorism 7)
  • Dynamic phenomena manifest in the self-organizing whole. (Aphorism 8)
  • Agree on the approach to the phenomena and how to make sense of the observed. (Aphorism 9)
  • Let the phenomena become visible without imposing mental constructs. This requires participation. (Aphorism 10)
  • Exceptions are particularly important in understanding phenomena. (Aphorism 11)
  • Everything living is a field being. (Aphorism 12)
  • Nature abhors vacuum. Everything arising needs space. (Aphorism 13)
  • Everything arising wants continued existence. (Aphorism 14)
  • Abstracting things from their place and context can lead to a whole chain of errors. (Aphorism 22)
  • A non-rationalizable, subjective approach can allow for deep insight. (Aphorism 35)
  • The phenomenon can be obscured by the way make sense of what we are seeing. (Aphorism 38)
  • Our behaviour is based on how we are making sense of the world. (Aphorism 40)
  • Moving too quickly from the phenomenon to its explanation leads to premature conclusions via inductive interferences. (Aphorism 44)
  • Experiencing phenomena is primary. Making inductive interferences interferes with the experiencing. (Aphorism 45)
  • Thinking that fits to one context ends up being used for another. Finally the no longer fitting continues to be used. (Aphorism 47)
  • Nature is fundamentally incomprehensible to (traditional) logic. (Aphorism 57)
  • Traditional logic is useful but does not the same as wisdom. (Aphorism 58)
  • Participation unites the observer with the observed, making itself identical with it and becomes its theory. (Aphorism 59)
  • Explore the explorable. Revere the inexplorable. (Aphorism 61)

This is work in progress…

Related post:
Norm Hirst’s Propositions on Life

Quotes Thoughts

Charles Chapin on Airborne Infection

The unwillingness to acknowledge the likelihood that aerosols are a major means of COVID-19 transmission can be traced to Charles Chapin (1856-1941), an American public health researcher.

Charles Chapin writes in The Sources and Modes of Infection that:

In reviewing the subject of air infection it becomes evident that our knowledge is still far too scanty, and that the available evidence is far from conclusive. 1

While Chapin admits that he knows too little about airborne infection he firmly belives in contact infection.

If it should prove, as I firmly believe, that contact infection is the chief way in which the contagious diseases spread, and exaggerated idea of the importance of air-borne infection is most mischievous.2

Chapin is so sure that he is right that he writes:

While it is not possible at the present to state with exactness the part played by aerial infection in the transmission of the different infectious diseases, we are by the evidence forced to the conclusion that the current ideas in regard to the importance of infection by air are unwarrented. 3

Chapin feels great satisfaction with his conclusion:

It will be a great relief to most persons to be freed from the specter of infected air, a specter which has pursued the race from the time of Hippocrates… 4

And now, 110 years later, aerosol transmission is no longer such an exaggerated idea.

1 Charles Chapin, The Sources and Modes of Infection (Wiley & Sons, 2nd Ed., 1912), p. 314.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.

Life Phenomenology Quotes Videos

Henri Bortoft on seeing life itself

Seeing is the thing!

Simon Robinson shares Henri Bortoft’s 2009 Schumacher College lectures on his blog Transition Consciousness: Making the transition to a better world.

The following is a transcript of Henri Bortoft’s Lecture Four, Part Three, from 12:20 to 16:05, where Bortoft talks about seeing life itself, comparing Darwin with Goethe. I have edited the text for brevity.

Life is change! …
Goethe saw that this is the very quality of life itself. …
When Darwin saw this he wanted to find an explanation. …
He wanted a theory. …
For Goethe, … none is needed. …
You just see it! …
You are seeing the phenomenon! …
This is life!
Life is a phenomenon. …
We are not used to this.
We’re all been ruined by our education. …
The intellectual mind demands an explanation for everything. …
If you want an explanation you turn the phenomenon into something else.
When you explain it, you explain it in terms of something else, so it’s no longer that phenomenon. …
It’s very hard for us to get this experience, where you stand face to face with the phenomenon, and it hits you and you realize that what you are seeing is the real.
What Goethe encountered with this — and Darwin too, but he went sideways — is life itself, is livingness.
Gothe talks about this. He said … there comes a point, where when you reach it, it stops.
The great temptation is to go on, and everything is ruined. …
Seeing is the thing! That’s phenomenological seeing. …
We have no feeling for life whatsoever!
We are thinking something is produced by something else. …
We have no adequate way of thinking about life. …
What we are looking at is … life itself.
We just have not got this idea!
That’s also why Goethe is so important, because he does have this idea, because he’s seen it.

Related posts:
Henri Bortoft on wholeness in organizations
Henri Bortoft on human organizations and relationships
Henri Bortoft’s Schumacher Lectures 2009
The very quality of livingness
BELONGING together vs. belonging TOGETHER
Henri Bortoft on taking the ‘appearance’ seriously
The ‘totalitarian’ tendency of systems theory
Organizational metamorphosis