We have shared over 100 episodes on the Human Current podcast and have explored the very essence of complex systems throughout many different conversations. We continue to learn from others about interdependencies, patterns, relationships, emergence, self-organization, feedback loops, and many more trademarks of complex adaptive systems. All of these concepts have helped us better understand the inner workings of our reality. They are packed with meaning and tangible understanding. Yet, there is another concept that continues to reveal itself to us time and time again, which is harder to grasp with the mind: wholeness. Wholeness is the very essence of what it means to be a living system.
At first thought, it seems like a straightforward term that you can wrap your head around without having to sit with it for very long. When you do sit with it for a while however, you realize it’s loaded with mystical complexity.
Peter Senge said, “systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.”
Wholeness is all around us. It is our reality. We can use systems thinking and complexity thinking to see it more fully and to tap into it, but we are learning that we also need something more, something beyond knowledge or reason, in order to fully appreciate what wholeness really means.
Here are a few quotes to help you grasp wholeness with your mind (and maybe a few insights for how else we might seek wholeness):
“Holistic Science is really a journey of the soul towards wholeness, involving thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition.” — Dr. Stephan Harding (episode 112)
“Wholeness is the nature of our reality….it is an emergent quality.” — Philip Shepherd (episode 72)
“To drop into being means to recognize your interconnectedness with all life, and with being itself. Your very nature is being part of larger and larger spheres of wholeness.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Individuality is only possible if it unfolds from wholeness.” — David Bohm
“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.” — Meg Wheatley (episode 90)
“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle
“Out of the cacophony of random suffering and chaos that can mark human life, the life artist sees or creates a symphony of meaning and order. A life of wholeness does not depend on what we experience. Wholeness depends on how we experience our lives.” ― Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“The double role of living systems as parts and wholes requires the interplay of two opposite tendencies: an integrative tendency to function as part of a larger whole, and a self-assertive, or self-organizing tendency to preserve individual autonomy.” ― Fritjof Capra, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision
“Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.”― Carl Gustav Jung
“Complexity thinking is the thinking side of holistic science. It’s that kind of thinking that brings you closer to the way nature really is.” — Dr. Stephan Harding (episode 112)
“When the healthy nature of man works as a whole, when he feels himself in the world as though in a great, beautiful, worthy, and precious whole, when his harmonious sense of well-being imparts to him a pure, free delight, then the universe, if it could experience itself, would, as having achieved its goal, exults with joy and marvels at the pinnacle of its own becoming and being.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (in Steiner, 1988)