Systems Thinking vs Belief? LO19725

AM de Lange (
Mon, 2 Nov 1998 20:53:42 +0200

Replying to LO19674 --

Dear Organlearners,

Steve Eskow <> writes:

>At de Lange's discourse below is a quite brilliant example
>of genres of communication now under attack as
>unsuitable for a learning organization: it is a lecture, a
>sermon, a totalizing vision of the world and why it is
>what it is.
>And then it ends with an invitation to dialog: to discuss the
>fabric of language which the writer has created, the world
>of language which he has created and within which he lives.

Greetings Steve,

I am no exception. Language is a very old and yet important "tool" with
which all humans create the world in which they live. It is impossible to
live as a human without language. We are also very fortunate to live with
language because in dialogue it helps to sustain our creativity.

Just as there are thousands of languages to express a particular thought
with, there are thousands of different viewpoints from which to try and
understand that very thought. It is this diversity which enables us to
know that each human is unique. But we all also live in one world which
entails that we have much in common. It is in this "common-uniqueness"
which we have to steer a course.

I am fully aware that my way of expressing myself is unusual to most
people. There are many reasons -- some of which I have not control over
like the country in which I live with its immense diversity in nature and
culture, and others which I do have control over like the body of
literature which I have studied. Something which have struck me time and
again is that the thoughts expressed in a book, controversial in the era
of its creation, becomes almost common sense in later eras. Likewise it
has struck me that a seemingly insignificant question posed in one era
becomes a hot question in subsequent eras. I do not know exactly what the
future will become, but I try very much to understand the creative course
of time. It is in this sense that I participate in dialogues, passing on
to the future because I have received from the past.

>I would like to accept the invitation to dialog, and hope At
>will talk with me, since I am one who finds the world he
>describes below not the world I live in, or want to live in.

This is very wise words -- and not because I agree with you. It is the way
most people think. I wonder if there is even one participant on this
listever who is happy with the world as it becomes or descriptions of this
becoming. But I have learned something which is very important to my own
happiness. It is to understand complexity in Creation because it images
the complexity of the Creator. Thus complexity plays a central role in my
systems thinking.

Since complexity plays a central role in my systems thinking, I am
compelled to explain complexity? I consider complexity as the totality of
all perceptions of all humans during the creative course of time. Thus I
have to accept other people's decriptions of the world which we live in as
well as descriptions of the world in which we ought to live in. If I
exclude even one person's perception of the past, present and future of
our world for whatever reason of mine, even the reason that it does not
make me happy, I am not studying complexity any more, but only my version
of it. Thus I must have very important reasons for including all
perceptions. Whatever the reasons, they cause my study of complexity to be
only a version of it -- one of many versions which are fast increasing in

Steve, with this backgound, let us now get to your central question:

>As an initial step in trying to open a dialog which may
>never come about, I would like to ask At why the evil that
>Christians and other "believers" have inflicted on the world
>he attributes not to their "beliefs" but to something he
>chooses to call "judgment." That is, the Grand Inquisitor
>and >the Crusaders did not torture and kill millions because
>of >their Christian "beliefs" but because something that At
>inserts into the conversation: bad "judgment".
>The question then must be raised: why are "believers" so
>prone to this kind of murderous bad "judgment"?

First of all, let us consider the phrase "because something that At
inserts into the conversation:". It is the nature of any conversation that
anything can be "inserted" in it. If we insert anything, except something
of a judgemental nature, it becomes a dialogue. If we also insert
judgements, the dialogue will eventually cease, although the conversation
may become a controversy.

But there is also something else we have to bear in mind -- the "evolution
of concepts" in the "abstract world of mind". Charles Darwin's book (1859)
"The origin of species by means of natural selection" created a
controversy in the world as seldom before. The reason was simple. Before
Darwin most people believed that the occurance of the "diversity of
natural species" was ordained and completed at the beginning of creation
-- a being. Darwin offered a new viewpoint (the theory of evlution),
namely that the "diversity of natural species" is the result of an ongoing
process selection -- a becoming. Today we have more than facts on the
level of microorganisms that evolution (for microorganisms) does take
place, and that selection is not the only process involved.

Darwin's theory concerns the "evolution of species" in the "material world
of brain". But what about the "evolution of concepts" in the "abstract
world of mind"? In other words, what about one broad, undifferentiated
concept which develops through the creative course of mind into many,
different concepts? Have all the concepts of humans been ordained and
completed at the beginning of creation -- a being? Does the emergence of
a new concept not appear like the "insertion" of something in our
"conversation" with reality? Consider as an example the concept
"creativty". The concepts creation, creator and create are millenia old,
but the concept "creativity" is essentially a post WWII one.

Steve, you have replied to my contribution
Systems Thinking vs Belief? LO19656
< >

In that contribution I have drawn the attention of Tom, Rick and
others to the fact that I have inserted "judgement" earlier into our
dialogue by trying to explain it in:
Conflict in LOs LO19578
< >

In that explanation I have inserted the following from my own systems
* conflicts result from irreconcilable "differences in
opinion" because of premature judgements,
* judgement is the binary evaluation of any creation,
* people invoke dialectic classes (forced, opposite
duals on a diversity) when they prefer one of the
* we judge because we want to know about the future
of any creation, not its past nor its present.

In LO19656 I wrote:
>It is tragic, but understandable from my viewpoint of
>complexity, that so many people in the history of
>Christianity resorted to judgement. Judgement created
>immense conflicts. Some calling themselves Christians
>did horrible things in terms of their judgements, believing
>they had the right to do so. Add up all these horrible
>things through the almost 2000 years of history of
>Christianity, and its clear why so many people today do
>not want anything to do with Christianity. It is also my
>tragic judgement that many of these bashers of Chistianity
>judge the Bible to be the source of these wrong doings of

I spent almost two hours on this paragraph, rewriting it over and over
again, always coming back to it, trying to avoid this judgement of mine in
our dialogue. If there is any "bad judgement", let it be mine because of
expressing my feelings by way of this judgement. When I wrote that they
did "horrible things", I thought of the many books which I have read, some
condemning these people for their "horrible deeds" done in the name of
Jesus Christ, others telling how much trouble these "horrible deeds"
caused in telling the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the end I have decided to include this paragraph because it concerns
"believing", an activity which we will have to give special attention to
in our systems thinking. The reason is that not only some Christians had
fallen victim to "bad judgement", but that it is something which occurred
in the history of most religions (at least those which I have studied or
read about). I think this "bad judgement" was more responsible for
avoiding the activity "believing" in systems thinking than all the other
factors combined. I have dealt with many people experiencing all sorts of
conflicts or immergences because of trying to avoid "believing".
Eventually I could not deny the parallel any more with all sorts of
conflicts or immergences of people trying to avoid another activity,
namely "learning".

By that time I was already sure that "learning" was an emergent activity
based on "creating". It took not much to realise that whereas learning is
a first order emergent, believing is a second order emergent. In my
studies on complexity I have come to the conclusion that higher order
emergents always have a "back empowering" on lower orders. This is, for
example, an important reason why we elect people to government. Even more
important, this is the reason why our learning empowers our creativity.
But, to contemplate the stronger power which believing rather than
learning unlocks dazzles the mind. Yet it helps me to understand why in
the history of humankind beliefs had a more dramatic influence than
knowledge. One slave believing in freedom have a stronger power than a
king with all his council. It helps me to understand what Jesus once said
-- we can move mountains with faith. OK, but we can now also move
mountains also with our machines and bombs. But this is because of our
learning -- and what empowered our learning?

Even though I know these "bad judgments" occur in most religions, I did
single out Christians because of a very important reason. It should not
have happened with Christians. Why? Well Christians are called Christians
because they say that they follow Jesus Christ. Whether they walk the
talk, is the subject of an important (and often most controversial)
epistle in the New Testament of the Bible, namely the epistle of James.
His message is simple -- our walk makes our talk sincere, our deeds
substantiate our words, the becoming witnessing to being. Whether these
Christians who made "bad judgements" misinterpreted James, I do not know.
But I do not think it is possible to misinterpret him.

James writes TO CHRISTIANS about many activities, some which they must do
and others which they must avoid. For example, In 1:20 (chapter 1 verse
20) he writes that a Christian's wrath does not aid the the righteousness
of God. In 2:4 he writes (by way of a question) that the partiality of
Christians causes them to judge and to do it badly. In 2:13 he writes that
mercy exults over judgement. In 3:11 he warns Christians that they will
not get away with murder. In 4:1 he cautions Christians against
participating in wars and fightings. In 4:11 he gets to the heart of the
matter -- a Christian who judges his/her brother/sister, judges the law
and is not a doer of the law. Who is this brother or sister - fellow
Christians? No. In 2:8 he gives the answer -- the Christian's neighbour,
any person crossing the Christian's path.

It should be clear that James has a lot to say on what Steve writes about:

>For example, in our time Christians continue to kill and
>main in the US to show their disagreement with those of
>our citizens who support the right of women to have
>abortions. Strangely, the often nonbelievers and atheists
>who support abortion do not kill the Christians: it's the
>devout Christians who are the violent ones.

I have mentioned that in 4:11 James gets to the heart of the matter. What
is this mysterious law which he writes about, the law which Christians
have to do, but according to which they cannot judge? To answer this
question, I have to take my fellow organlearners to another incident which
happened in the life of James, but of which James was no witness to. It
concerns a most extraordinary dialogue which a man called Nicodemus had.
In the next four paragraphs I will tell about this dialogue as how I
understand it. I will even paraphrase what has been said slightly in my
own words -- up to a certain point. You can follow it yourself in anyone
of the many translations of the Bible. Please read the Gospel according to
John, chapter 3. When reaching verse 16 I will have to switch to the
original Greek to help us to get to heart to this serious matter.

Nicodemus had the highest standing among all Jews. He was not only both a
ruler and a teacher (rabbi) of the Jews, but also a Pharisee (conservative
rather than liberal in his thinking). His main purpose as a theologian was
to remind the Jews of the coming of the Messaiah, to think and live in a
way fitting to the Messiah. The central message of all books in the Torah
(Old Testament) was that the Messiah would come to restore the Kingdom of
God. Like all people he felt the oppression of the Roman empire and thus
thought of this Kingdom in terms of the material (physical) kindom of
David. But some days while studying the Torah, he had his doubts. Was the
Kingdom not rather one which become initially in the abstract (spiritual)
world to provide for the souls of the Jews? Thus he had to teach in the
face of great danger, knowing that the Romans (for physical reasons) and
the Sadducees (for spiritual reasons) would want to put an end to his

So, one night he went secretly for a dialogue with a young man about
thirty years of age, the son of a joiner (wood worker). This young man had
no formal training to be a teacher himself. Yet he had gathered a band of
twelve misfits around him and began to teach them openly before the Jews
while working miracles among the Jews in need. Reports began to flow in
that this young man said he was the Messiah because all the prophesies
about the Messiah fitted him. Well, the Jews had been expecting the coming
of the Messaiah who would restore God's kindom. This young man seems to
have ended that era.

Nicodemus' visit startled the twelve misfits. But the words of the
dialogue which followed between Nicodemus and their leader became engraved
into the mind of one of the twelve, one certain John. Nicodemus,
according to his stature, greeted their leader very businesslike, but said
something rather wierd: "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher from God
because a human can do these miracles only if God is with him." The young
leader, one certain Jesus, answered him even more businesslike: "Surely,
surely, a human cannot see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Did this reply confused Nicodemus since he had not yet announced the
purpose of his visit? No, this was not a common dialogue any more.
Nicodemus knew all what his felllow Jews ever knew. But Jesus knew more
because he came from God to restore the Kingdom. Thus the dialogue
immediately shifted into highest gear.

Nicodemus replied with another question, not caring how stupid it sounds
before this bunch of misfits: "How can a human be born again, surely he
cannot enter a womb to be reborn again." The pace of the dialogue
quickened even more. Jesus answered him: "Surely, surely, a human cannot
enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of spirit and water." While
Jeus was explaining this answer, Nicodemus became aware how God was
replying to his his own uncertainties of so many years. The "water"
rerfered to the first birth -- the birth water. Thus the Kingdom of God is
intended for all humans. But the "spirit" refered to the second birth, the
things about which he wondered alone, but which he could not share with
his peers and fellow Jews. So he decided to go for the very answer as if
it was "now or never". Thus he asked Jesus to the very point: "How can
these things become?" Then Jesus answered him, first reminding him
(Nicodemus) to learn of his own experiences as a teacher while trying to
help the Jews to learn about the Messiah.

Then follows the answer of Jesus explaining the law to Nicodemus. I will
use the revised Nestle version of the original Greek text, probably the
closest we will get to it. I will type the Greek, but using the "western"
alphabeth rather than the original Greek letters. In [ ] brackets I will
try to give the closest Enlish words to every Greek word - the elementary
(or interlinear translation). Compare this elementary translation] with
both the Greek words above to see how many Greek words you can recognise.
Also compare the elementary translation with your English Bible to see how
Greek scholars translated the Greek.

Verse 3:16
uotos gar egapesen o Theos ton kosmon,
[Thus for loved one God the world]

oste ton uion ton monogene edoken,
[so-as the son the one-begotten he_gave]

ina pas o pisteuon eis auton me
[that every one believing in him not

apoletai, all eche zoen aionion.
[may_perish, but may_have life eternal.]

Verse 3:17
ou gar apesteilen o Theos ton uion
[not for sent one God the son]

eis ton kosmon ina krine ton
[into the world that he_may_judge the]

kosmon, all ina sote o kosmos
[world, bu that he_may_save the world]

dia autou.
through him]

Verse 3:18
o pisteuon eis auton ou krinetai,
[one believing in him not is_judged

o me pisteuon ede kekritai,
[one not believing already has_been_judged]

oti me pepisteuken eis to onoma
because not he_has_believed in the name

tou monogenous uion tou Theou
of_the one-begotten son of_the God.}

Verse 3:19
aute de estin e krisis, oti
[this but is the judgement, because]

to phos eleluten eis ton kosmon kai
[the light has_come in the world and]

agapesan oi anthropoi mallon to skotos
[loved the humans rather the darkness]

e to phos, en gar auton porena
[than the light, were for them evil]

ta erga.
[the works]

Verse 3:20
pas gar o phaula prasson misei to
[all for one evils practising hates the]

phos kai ouk erchetai pros to phos,
[light and not coming to the light]

ina me elechthe ta erga auto.
that not validating the works of_him]

Verse 3:21
o de poion ten aletheian erchetai
[one but doing the truth comes]

pros to phos, ina phanerothe
to the light that may_be_manifested]

autou ta erga oti en Theo
[of_him the works because in God]

estin eirgasmena
[they_are having_wrought]

We can see from the Greek and the elementary translation that Jesus uses
different words for believing ("pisteuon"), judged ("krinetai") and
judgement ("krisis"). The concept "krisis" was to the Greeks like a
pressing problem is to us when it leads to destruction because it cannot
be solved. In terms of complexity terminology, a "krisis" is a destructive
immergence at the edge of chaos because the bifurcation cannot resolve
into a constructive emergence. We know today that temperature is a measure
of the intensity of thermal energy. The higher the temperature, the more
diversity in thermal energy. Any object radiates electromagnetic energy.
The higher the temperature, the higher the frequency of this radiation in
the order:- radio-waves => micro waves => infrared waves => visible light
=> ultraviolet waves => X -rays => gamma rays. The higher the frequency
and thus the energy of the wave packets, the stronger the destructive
effect of these waves. In the days of Jesus he could refer only to light
since none of the other electromagnetic waves were known to humankind.

In 3:19 Jesus say that the when a person does not believe in the name
("onoma") of the Son of God, that person is already in the "krisis". We
must remember that in the ancient world, especially for the Greeks and
Jews, the name of any thing was more than a mere label. Whenever the thing
(being) was also capable of managing behaviour (becoming) the name ought
to have expressed the very behaviour of the thing. For example, consider
the word economy which is used so often. The Greek etymology of this word
is "eikos"=house and "nemo"=manage. In other words, "economy" means
managing of the house(hold). Likewise the name of the Son of God means
managing what God wants -- to love the world and give what is dearest to
save the world. To kill a person, or even merely curse (criticise) that
person as Jesus have said at another occasion, is to deny that person
love, compassion and help so that the person cannot ever possibly emerge
into eternal life.

Well, did Nicodemus understood Jesus teachings? Less than three years
later Jesus died on the cross. His mission was almost complete. He had to
remain dead until the third day. But which people had the courage and
conviction to ask in the face of all Romans and Jews for his body, embalm
it and lay it to rest in a proper grave before the sun sets down as the
laws of the Torah requires? His bunch of misfits who were then better
known as his team of disciples? No. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea
(probably the richest man in at least Little Asia). Even a few weeks after
His resurrection, His disciples still could not understand Him after three
years of learning. They asked him once again when will he restore the
Kingdom of God, thinking of a material (phsyical) kingdom. Without
criticising them, he told them what they will have to do. First they must
wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then they must tell the Good
News to all people to the end of the world and this dispensation.

What is the Good News? Jesus is the
Messiah (Hebrew) = Christos (Greek) = Saviour (English)
He save us from the path of immergences by helping us through the
power of His resurrection onto the path of emerges which leads into
eternal life. Christians have to talk and walk this Good News rather
than dishing out crises. This why it is so tragic when those who talk
Christ do not walk Christ.

Steve, you ask:

>Is this merely bad judgment? Or is violence endemic
>to "belief"? Is there a road that leads from passionate
>belief to Holocaust?

I hope that Jesus gave us learners enough to think about. I may have
painted the picture too passionately, but I will take responsibility
for it.

>It comes down to this for me:

>There is a always a need for prophets, for those with
>a burning vision of the sins of this world and a plan for
>its redemption. Those believers are always in a state
>of declared war with the coldeyed thinkers who want to
>slow them down and talk a bit before launching the next

Steve, yes, any plan of those with a buring vision which goes directly
against the plan of God (revealed in the Bible), will result in a
"krisis", a regression on a path exactly opposite to the one which Jesus
walked. How will we know what is the revealed plan of God? By studying the
dialogue between Him and humankind as is reported in the Scriptures. And
if we try to learn about this plan without having a dialogue among us
about it, we must have a very good reason.

>I do not think it is wise for us at this time to try to
>merge the hot vision of the true believers with cooler
>perspectives of the system thinkers.

You may be correct as to the timing. But as I have tried to explain in the
beginning, believing is not some activity restricted to merely Christians.
In my system thinking I see it clearly as an activity natural to all
humans. In other words it is part of our human make-up. The "krisis"
begins when we emerge with that activity to "articles of belief" which do
not harmonise with God's love for the cosmos. I do not want to sound too
depressed, but we have to face the facts with a systems thinking powerful
enough to deal with them. There are many religions other than the
Christian religion (with its many varieties) which are awakening to the
power of believing according to some cosmic synchronisity. It is happening
all over the world. As our organisations (like corporate businesses)
become global, they will have to take these facts into consideration to
plan their future action. Hurt caused by believing is increasing

>And I am hoping that Rick will not decide that this
>message of mine is too passionate for this list.

I am hoping for something different, namely that we will succeed in
painting a rich picture without getting involved in a "krisis". As I
understan the many short messages of Rick, he has pledged to avoid such a
"krisis" developing in any topic worthy for LO dialogues. In the case of
this topic I want to bg him to stop the "krisis" with a "no more faith
stuff please". I pledge not to mention believing again in my systems

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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