Human Group Health Cycles: Negative and Positive
The Negative Cycle
(1) Excessive group size leads to (2) Resource strain (or perception thereof), which leads to (3) Increased anxiety, crime, pollution, and disease, which leads to (4) Abstract thinking/inventing of atomistic "solutions", which leads to (5) Unintended consequences – most importantly “surplus”, struggles for control of surplus, and surplus’s promotion of increased group size, anxiety, crime, pollution, and disease, etc. This cycle can be entered into at any point, and self-generates. It produces imbalanced individuals and groups, and so, social injustice and the slavery of addiction to any manner of substance, behavior or thought.
· Excessive group size, in addition to possibly stimulating the explosion of the neo-cortex, with all of its particular benefits, produces holistic liability through its inevitable increase in anxiety, and attendant crime, pollution and disease (due to resource strain, or the perception thereof).
· In search of a solution to these problems, humans naturally call upon our seemingly most powerful abilities: abstract thinking and invention (both physical and non-physical – perhaps beginning with hunting or language, but certainly manifest as religion, agriculture, and countless other examples).
· Abstract invention, being the product of an imbalanced state (i.e. overly physical or non-physical), however successful in solving the atomistically-defined problem, will necessarily result in net liability, due to unintended consequences. Most importantly, the creation of “surplus” (more shelter, water, fire, food, or other valuable resource than needed for the survival of the group), struggles for control of surplus, and surplus’s promotion of increased group size, anxiety, crime, pollution, and disease, etc.
· Naturally, humans attempt to utilize our ever-increasing powers of abstraction in the reduction of this ever-increasing pain. A vicious cycle is perpetuated.
· This misguided embrace of “progress” has virtually consumed all of modern humanity. In light of the variously admitted and suppressed/repressed acknowledgement of the holistic liability of this approach, the most accurate label of it may be "addiction".
Here’s another explanation with a more with spiritual/political flavor (questions our attachment to "progress"):
· Regarding excessive group size, atomistic solutions, addiction, and our perhaps most prominent cultural cornerstone – the Judeo-Christian Bible, here's a way to connect the dots:
· The Bible describes the human expulsion from paradise as the result of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A useful message here is that the atomistic abstracting of whole reality into opposites (which logically seems to be the first action of sentient beings, i.e. me and not me) - and the resulting imbalanced reliance on overly physical and/or non-physical “solutions”, although perhaps inevitable, can be the original source of all human suffering (sin, and the fallen state).
· This western perspective is perhaps an analog of the with an eastern or taoist perspective, which begins with yin and yang as both the root of all sentient experience (the "mother of the ten thousand things"), with all the attendant confusion and suffering.
· Perhaps our greatest, existential challenge is to harmonize with all; “the ten thousand things” (east) or qualia (west), as the various constituents of creation were known in antiquity, such that our original, overly-atomistic abstraction of their perceived separateness is rendered unnecessary, and they may be again experienced as one. This may be the state known as enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, etc. We supposedly, big-brained humans, are forced to accept the pitifully feeble capacity of our minds (whatever that is – we still don’t know) and abstract reality to fit it into our comprehension.
· The problem, described so well by religion, is that the very experience of the abstraction (which includes the pleasures of “sin”) is immensely captivating. This is due to the intoxicating nature of personal power, which is the natural endowment of a facility – or perceived facility - with abstraction.
· So, for instance, a human group that existed in relative harmony for many years may, at some point, find their numbers have grown beyond a comfortable limit (remember, this limit may be the result of real resource strain, or simply the erroneous perception of scarcity, and may be consciously acknowledged or non-consciously felt).
· As a result of this anxiety, the group will be impelled to seek relief in atomistic solution – for example, the creation a new weapon to “protect” their “scarce resources”.
· As a result, the more “progressive” group may proliferate at the expense of their neighbors (an abstracted form of our human “family”, which on a psychological/spiritual level can be understood as an abstracted form of "us").
· But eventually, this “progress” comes at the dominant group’s own expense. Although the “solution” allows for a temporary decrease in anxiety, it also produces surplus, struggles for surplus, and eventual concentration of control among fewer members of the group.
· Also, these factors eventually lead back to increased group-size and intra-group conflict, manifest as ever-increasing anxiety, crime, pollution, and disease. A vicious cycle develops.
· Ultimately, the group falls prey to the original abstraction that seemed the hallmark of their “progress” or “success”. The psychological/spiritual perspective of the members of the dominant group “progresses” from "all is one", to "me and not me", to “we and not we”, to "us versus them” and “me versus you". Consciously or not, our culture-wide addiction is apparent in that human history is replete with various recognitions of the ultimately counter-productive results of “progress” and invention -while being seemingly helpless to reject it.
· Records exist of modern-day aboriginals who state that they have consciously rejected the seduction of invention, and "progress" because they realize the inherent danger, which they say is due to the weakness of humans to resist the short-term gain in personal power granted by invention, even in light of the net long-term liability. If such a society still exists, it is seemingly due to its extremely, unusually wise restraint, most importantly manifest in keeping its group small, thus ensuring it has sufficient natural resources (but not exess surplus) to avoid the seduction of the power that comes from excessive use of abstraction and invention.
· This may have been the state of affairs for humans the world over for much of pre-history. Unfortunately, the negative cycle of abstraction and invention has now virtually consumed all of modern humanity.
The Positive Cycle
(1) Individuals voluntarily commit themselves to Love (WED’s definition: Humble submission to embodying WED’s Parenting Ideal, as a means of pursuing the education of all.), which reflects (2) WED’s Core Values of Following, Non-Violence, Dynamic Balance and Faith, which promote (3) Social groups that dynamically balance pro-social adaptation with individuality through the mandatory conformance to WED’s Behavioral Guidelines and abundant support for individual liberty and voluntary collaboration built on those guidelines, which leads to (4) WED’s Developmental Goals: Respect, Dignity, Responsibility, Compassion, and Perseverance, which promotes the creation and maintenance of (5) Relatively small groups of likeminded people living in harmony with nature, and utilizing inclusion/exclusion as the limit of non-violent response to violation of The Behavioral Guidelines (WED calls this “Nature Neighborhood”). This cycle can be entered into at any point, and self-generates. It produces dynamically balanced individuals and groups, and so, social justice and liberty.
· We begin with “love” to avoid the common tendency to favor either a “scientific” or “religious” paradigm (although it is uncertain if they fundamentally differ). In defining the ultimate goal as love – a word that can be no more the exclusive property of the priest than the physicist – we are proactively expanding the context of our thoughts beyond the clearly adversarial, either/or dialectics of western atomism as well as the more subtly adversarial, atomism-rejecting, western interpretations of eastern holism.
· We are recognizing a special kind of holism we call “Wholeism”, for its paradoxical inclusion of all – including atomism.
· The most universal manifestation of love is expressed in the unconditional love of what is referred to in WED as the “Ideal Parent”.
· A basis of unconditional Love is well defined in WED’s Core Values of Following, Non-Violence, Dynamic Balance, and Faith.
· It should be noted, these Core Values are not limited to pacifism, conscientious objection, passive-resistance, asceticism, altruism, selflessness, transcendentalism, or any other specifically defined rule-set other than this: the action which promotes the greatest degree of health and contentment (what WED calls Optimal Wellness). Ultimately, what we are describing is the experience of love.
· Nor are WED”s “Core Values “limited in any religious way. Their practice demands a dynamic responsibility – one may not rely on some static, predetermined definition to relieve oneself of the consequences of one’s actions.
· In this way, they also allow for the mystery of the potentially unknowable past, present and future – with all of its threat and all of its promise.
· This encourages the embracing of paradox, and allows for optimal flexibility – the foundation of health. For example, it may be, under certain circumstances, perfectly consistent with the Core Values to purposely injure or even kill (e.g. in defense of peace). But any harm, any offense, however relatively minor, when a less harmful alternative is possible, is always inconsistent with our Core Values.
· Most tangibly, WED’s Core Values are practiced as its Behavioral Guidelines. This practice is manifest in the minimal norms of social interaction necessary to ensure the promotion of the Developmental Goals, and vigilantly demanding adherence to those norms in a non-hierarchical, non-violent, and respectful way (see Behavioral Guidelines below).
· The Developmental Goals: Respect, Dignity, Responsibility, Compassion and Perseverance.
· Just as importantly, we dynamically balance this mandatory, pro-social conformance with an equally vigilant demand for tolerance of any behavior that does not violate The Guidelines. This practice can create and maintain The Educational Culture.
· Such an educational culture encourages members to deepen and broaden voluntary connections and extend mutual support to all individuality consistent with practice of The Guidelines.
· For further discussion of WED’s “Ideal Parent”, “Core Values”, “The Behavioral Guidelines”, “Developmental Goals”, “Educational Culture”, and other WED concpepts,, see the book The Art of Direction.
· The like-mindedness that is essential to the durable maintenance of this kind of society is only possible in relatively small groups. It seems humans are genetically limited such that they can only healthfully manage a limited number of primary relationships. When this certain, variable limit is transgressed, it seems humans suffer some generalized, often unconscious anxiety, perhaps caused by the perception, if not the reality, of resource scarcity. This anxiety causes an over-reliance on the seemingly most promising human tool for problem-solving, i.e. abstract reasoning. This, in turn, causes the invention of imbalanced, atomistic solutions, eventually resulting in surplus and an insatiable greed for dominance. Such solutions may reduce the limited pain of the specific problem, but generally results in the net increase of pain from a Wholeistic perspective.
· However, even a sufficiently small group must guard against collectively violating The Guidelines by either punishing or enabling those who may violate them. The only premeditated response to violation that is consistent with WED’s Core Values is exclusion from the group (what WED calls “Restriction”).
· In accepting the “Restriction” of a member from the group, we respect his or her autonomy, prove that we will not seek to control them, punish them, or fight with them, while fulfilling our duty to maintain a positive, loving group. Our humble, yet confidently expressed statement is, “These are our Behavioral Guidelines, everyone who commits to practice these are welcome here. Anyone not committed to their practice, is not welcome.”