Segmented Knowledge LO21971

AM de Lange (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 13:31:27 +0200

Replying to LO21963 --

Dear Organlearners,

Tom Abeles <> writes:

>....From a time and systems perspective, one wonders, in the
>future whether one will not look back with a jaundiced eye and
>ask whether the reductionist approach which segmented
>knowledge in this manner was not the last vestige of a dying
>intellectual model, or, perhaps, a clever marketing approach
>used by management consultants to differentiate themselves
>(this latter idea noted with glee by a publisher of management
>books). Rick's remark about what might be "new" in the last
>3-4 years parallels this concern, particularly when we place
>ourselves in an evolutionary perspective.

Greetings Tom,

Reading the above has been a sheer delight for me. Thank you very much.

I often wonder how many people have had the experience that by
endeavouring for the wholeness of knowledge, they eventually have emerged
into a new level of consciousness? Furthermore, have they tried to
perceive how their new consciousness differs from their past

My endeavour for wholeness in knowledge began in 1964 as a second year
student at university. It happened TACITLY. There was nobody to guide me.
The majority of my fellow students thought that I was behaving foolish. My
lecturers were no different. A few students were somewhat curious as well
as one professor in organic chemistry. Today I realise that these curious
people were in the same dilemma as me. We were all behaving on the tacit
level of knowledge. We could not even articulate our curiosity!

The society in which one develops academically, plays a desicive role.
Should we search for thinkers sensitive to wholeness, we will find them
spread over the creative course of time the past five millenia. They are
not plentiful, even bearing in mind the sparseness of exsisting records.
(I wish somebody will do a fully fledged research on "wholeness in
thinking" and make it available. I will buy that book, even If I have to
sell my house for it.) Perhaps, when I have more time available, I will
give you pointers to some of these thinkers. But for now, I want to point
to Jan Christiaan Smuts. He was a South African (1870-1950).

Let us observe.

The life of Smuts was incredibly rich like his contribution to the
development of the consciousness of humankind. Read any of the biographies
on him to make the same observations as me. It is also most important that
his name does not even occur in many of the present polls at the end of
both this century and millenium trying to rank the most influential people
among humankind according to public opinion.

Let us speculate.

Is Smuts actually not important? Perhaps I am infatuated with Jan Smuts
because he was a South African or because of his contributions to
understanding wholeness. Perhaps I have a guilty conscious because many
fellow students warned me that to read Darwin on evolution is dangerous to
the "Christian National" mind, but to read Smuts is lethal. (I resisted
reading Smuts for 15 long years.) Perhaps I use Smuts opportunistically as
a lever to push my own seven essentialities (wholeness being one of them)
into the knowledge market?

Is humankind at present ignorant to Smuts? Perhaps South Africa's
isolation during fifty years of apartheid after Smuts' death obliberated
Smuts' contributions to the advancement of humankind. Perhaps South
Africa is still what it has been for three centuries -- a halfway post
between the east and the west like a fuel station along a high-way.
Perhaps another century has to pass before humankind will appreciate
Smuts' contributions.

Is Smuts an agent for the extinction of life? Perhaps wholeness is the one
worst fallacies to have infected the human mind in the sense that no two
things outside the humand mind was, is and will ever be parts of a greater
whole. Perhaps Smuts secret desire was to replace Darwin as the key figure
in evolution theory, using incomprehensible crap about holism so that
nobody could point a finger to his secret desire. Perhaps Smuts was so
against his political opponents (the National Party with its ideology and
policy of apartheid) that he devised a strategy directly in opposition to

Is Smuts not a key player in the control of the human mind? Perhaps Smuts
was a member of a secret and subversive society which mission it is to
gain control over every human on this planet, using Smuts to set one of
their strategies into action. Perhaps those agencies responsible for the
pollings want to prevent people to know more about Smuts and thus
wholeness. Perhaps it is impossible for far majority of humans to have
even the sightest understanding of wholeness.

Let us falsify.

I have offered nine (3+3+3) speculations above. I can offer another nine,
or even nine more, ..., depending on how many you would like. See how
many of the original nine you can falsify. Some will be difficult. Some
will take many years. Some will generate even more speculations. Make you
own conclusions.

Now what did Jan Smuts do? He was not the first person to articulate the
tacit concept XXX for which he used the word "whole". Leibniz, for
example, did it three hundred years earlier, using the word "monad".
Smuts was also not the first person to articulate the tacit concept YYY
for which Darwin earlier used the word "evolution". Lamarc, for example,
used the word even before Darwin. Anaximander did so even earlier (6th
cent BC, I forgot the word which he used.) Smuts was also not the first to
explain evolution in terms of something else. In Ancient Babelyn
(Gilgamesh) it was explained as an act of predestination by the gods. In
other words, Smuts has hundreds of predecessors with whom he has to

However, should we study his book "Holism and Evolution", a number of
things become striking. He dared publishing the book when the star of
Darwinism was shining brightest. His explanations of how the whole is the
primary force behind evolution is just as convincing as natural selection
being the agent. His perception of the coevolution of human mind to
understand the evolution of nature is much brighter than that of Darwin.
He made much more use of observations, theories and experiments by other
people than Darwin. In short, his book is the first example of a holistic
strategy to explain the role of holism in any organisational realm. I can
recommend to those of you who admire Buckminster Fuller to read all you
can about Smuts -- they were birds of much the same feather.

The reason why I consider Smuts so important, is that he was the first
person ever who identified (what he never knew) some facet intrisical to
the Law of Entropy Production to a facet (what he never knew) of its final
outcome, namely increasing complexity. Smuts did not ever gave an
indication (even indirectly)that he knew that wholeness is one of the
seven patterns essential to entropy production. Smuts gave only slight
indications that he suspect complexity to be the foremost property of
reality. Yet, by connecting wholeness to evolution, he accomplished one of
the most creative acts among human kind.

Smuts perceived an intimate relationship between wholeness and evolution
in the realm of biological entities. But Tom Abeles perceives an intimate
relationship between wholeness and evolution in the realm of conceptual
entities. Wholeness has an immense constructive influence on knowledge. It
is the very thing which helps us to perceive the destructive dagers in
"segmented knowledge". I still remember the shock waves caused on this
list when I wrote about "academical apartheid". The same shock waves
happened here in South Africa about 30 years ago when seemingly loyal
supporters of "political apartheid" began to question it. In that case
they were shamelessly ostricised, branded for life as collaborators of the

In my contribution "Transdiciplinary Thinking", I have argued that once we
begin to mend the various subjects together with so-called
"interdisciplinary thinking", we will discover how inadequate
interdisplinary thinking is. Why? Interdisciplinary thinking works with
already filled up holes, even though these "filled holes" are fragmented
from each other. Interdisciplinary thinking in the way it is practised
presently cannot work with "empty holes" in between and not yet perceived!
That is why I suggested "transdisplinary thinking" to complement
"interdisciplinary thinking" so that we can proceed towards
"nondisciplinary thinking". I have made this suggestion because I
personally experienced the power of "transdisciplinary thinking".

However, please note that with "interdisciplinary thinking" and eventually
"nondisciplinary thinking" I do not want to get rid of "disciplinary
thinking"! I will be a fool and a lier to argue that "disciplinary
thinking" is useless for me and everybody else. What I rather see of great
usefulness is "disciplinary thinking" and "nondisciplinary thinking" as
the two assymptotes between which our thinking has to meander. I am fully
aware that it seems as if I invoke the Law of the Excluded Middle here.
But it is not the case since I maintain that somewhere in the "Excluded
Middle" we must also allow for "interdisciplinary thinking" and
"transdisciplinary thinking". I am rather sensitive to the fact that
"disciplinary thinking" and "nondisciplinary thinking" form a
complementary duality.

This has been the case for a couple of millenia. The "nondisciplinary
thinking" was traditionally known as philosophy. We stiil recognise it one
of the highest degrees which a univerity can offer -- PhD. Unfortunately,
somewhere along the evolution of academy a dip was taken. In biology it
would be called a catastrophy. (I think of it, in terms of "deep
creativity" as a major destructive immergence). Biological evolution has
experienced five such catastrophies in the past millions of years. Some
biologists speculate that we are very close to the sixth. But for all this
hype about knowledge, epistomology, etc., I have yet to find someone aware
of similar catastrophies in the evolution of knowledge since the dawn of

I seriously think of "segmented knowledge" as such a catastrophy.
Hopefully we have reached the bottom of the dip. Biologists have observed
that after each biological catastrophy there was an enormous increase in
diversity of biological species, but always following Dollo's law. Each
new wave of diversity was very different from the previous waves. For
example, there were not several "dinosaur eras", but only one. I myself
become aware by the day of a new wave of diversity in knowledge similar to
these biological waves. I wish I could convey this awareness in a better
way to all of you.

I have to end. But one thing is too serious not to discuss it here. Tom,
you have commented on "segmented knowledge". However, according to the
essentiality liveness, we should always think in terms of both "becomings"
and "beings". Should we consider knowledge as the "being", then learning
is the corresponding "becoming". Should we become aware of "segmented
knowledge", then we should also become aware of "segmented learning". The
present dialogue on "learning styles", for example, illustrate this new
awareness to "segmented learning". However, the best example which we
have, is this very list itself on "organisational learning".

How many of you perceive that your sensitivity to "learning organisations"
is a manifestation of your deeper sensitivity to the detrimental effects
of "segmented learning"? Do you sense the emergence of the concept of a
"learning organisation" part, even though major in itself, of a much
bigger whole of emergences? What is really happening in the fantastic
world of mind -- the noesrealm? Are you aware of this incredible
constructive emergence happening all over the world? Maybe you are tacitly
aware of it.

Is it then not high time to articulate your tacit awareness to the leaders
of this world in all its walks --leaders who usually deal in the past
using LEM (the Law Of the Excluded Middle) left, right and centre --
causing immense sufferings to humankind while claiming that they did it in
the best interest of all concerned.

In the contribution "Catalysis in LOs" I have argued that leaders are the
catalysts in human organisations similar to enzymes which are the
catalysts in all living organisms. Some ensymes catalyse constructive
biochemical reactions while other catalyse destructive reactions -- both
are needed. However, when death sets in (and perhaps this is the major
cause of death) most of these enzymes (even the constructive ones) act
destructively, doing crazy things which they will never do in the living
organism. Hence, whereas they formerly hamonised to deliver a living
organism, they now harmonise to bring efficiently decay upon death.
Without this orchestrated decay, our planet would have been littered
beyond recognition with the corpses of all the dead organisms.

The same with leaders and organisations. Some have a constructive calling
while others behave destructively, doing things crazy to leadership. To
end this contribution once again with Jan Smuts. He was an international
leader himself. During the thirties he became more and more convinced that
most leaders were acting crazy to leadership. He argued and pleaded with
them, trying to convince them of a looming catastrophy. They though little
about it while trying to save the world, not perceiving that they actually
were engineering WWII.

Apartheid ("segmented politics") almost caused the death of the Afrikaner
people. During the last ten years of apartheid many Afrikaner leaders
began to do crazy things, destroying much of the previous hundred years of
evolution of the Afrikaners in political, economical and social
organisations. They behaved like the enzymes in a dead organism. The decay
among Afrikaner organisations increased rapidly. However, when president
Willem De Klerk released Nelson Mandela from jail, he did a courageous
thing. Many Afrikaners are still completely disorientated after having
been awakened from the hypnosis of their death bed. Both shared the Nobel
prize for peace, although the majority of black people think that De klerk
should never have been awarded half of the prize. However, the fact
remains -- both De Klerk and Mandella gave South Africans in general and
Afrikaners in particular a new life like enzymes do in biological life.

What will "segmented knowledge" do to humankind? Are we in the last years
of "segmented knowledge"? How did the political, economical and social
leaders of this world behave this 20th century, now very close to its end?
Do they behave like the enzymes in the decaying of a dead corpse or in the
growing of a living body? What will the next century and millenium bring
-- extinction of humankind by weapons of mass destruction or a new wave of
diversity among humankind? What tools rather than weapons do we need to
help us in riding this new wave. If I had been 0.00...00% unsure that
wholeness will not be one of them, I would have told you so.

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>