Science of The Spirit
Systems Science, Naturalistic Spirituality,
and the Return of a Sacred Reality
Myth's Spiritual Psychology of Network Agency
Enacting 'The Spirit' of Network Reciprocity
Symbolizing the Necessity of Inter-System Reciprocity
Systems science tracks how feedback responses between system networks regulates their mutual sustainability
This meta-system interplay generates the overall self-organizing vitality and adaptivity of larger networks such as forests
- Such inter-system reciprocity evolves over time to become the self-organizing agency of a meta-system.
The 'leverage' of technological capacities allowed humans to to evade and disrupt this governing reciprocity in Nature
Human intelligence in turn perceived this disruption and sought to restrain it through cultural rituals of sacrifice
Inter-System Network Reciprocity as Co-Operative Facilitation
'Giving to get'-- Meta-System Sustainability through Reciprocating Network Accommodation
The old saying "what goes around comes around" is particularly relevant to systems science. The circulation of feedback in and between system networks is not simply 'circular,' it travels in many directions, influencing many system components 'all at once.' It is does not just 'flow' but rather 'explodes' across networks instantaneously and continuously. It is from this ultimately impenetrable interplay that network agency emerges to govern a system as well as its responses to other systems in its environment. Not only are the specific actions of such feedback flow obscured by their instantaneous spread across a network, much of it happens in relationships we seldom consider. "Microbiomes" is a term used to describe the populations of microbe that live both on and inside animal bodies. The body is their ecological environment just as a forest is for plants and animals. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites interact in this environment in ways that can be 'competitive' and 'co-operative' as they either suppress and facilitate each other, producing intricate flows of feedback between their systems.
In so doing they make our human body functions possible--no microbiome, no human digestion. At the same time, they can be the source of disruption to our bodies' self-organization that results in sickness and death. They need us and we need them, just as the plants and animals of a forest are interdependent. If one species gains too much advantage over others, its 'success' can debilitate that of other species, resulting in disruption of the larger meta-system 'interplay of all' that all rely upon. If lions suddenly increased in size twofold they might decimate the prey species they depend upon and thus starve themselves. The self-regulation of ecologies is charted in the relative rise and fall of predator and prey populations. If the appearance of a virus new to an ecology decimates a particular species, the overall flow of interdependency can be so disrupted that the entire ecology undergoes collapse.
Thus the meta-systems of bodies, forests, and societies derive their long-term sustainability from this reciprocating flow of network feedback that accommodates its sub-systems to the needs of each other. Over long time periods, evolutionary processes provide the larger constraints within which multiple species interact to produce mutually beneficial relationships of reciprocity. There are 'trade offs,' as it were, for every participant. Prey species often survive by generating extremely large populations. That means many are eaten by predators, which feeds the predators and many other species benefit from predator kills. But the populations are so large the prey species sustains itself. Lions hunt vast herds of wildebeast in this manner. In the process the lions maintain resilience among the wildepeast, leave or loose kills to other species like hyenas, and compete with each other for hunting territories. No species in such food webs is 'superior,' there is no 'king of the jungle.' All must benefit each other to survive.
There is a sense in all this exchange that the 'price of persistence' for each participating system is mutually beneficial behavior.
In the accommodation of this 'giving to get,' the activities of species A can facilitate or constrain that of B, which in turn facilitates A, or even some third species. Taken together, the 'competitive accommodation' of these reciprocating relationships promote the sustainable self-organization of the whole meta-system of the ecology-- in which all exist and the resulting network agency of which promotes the sustainability of the sub-systems. Of course, when conditions such as climate change, species and thus ecosystems must adapt, with the consequences that some change radically and some become extinct. However, such change is usually gradual enough that most species and ecosystems do re-self-organize adaptively, persisting into the future in an altered but related form.
An "invasive species" might proliferate in a new environment where it did not evolve reciprocating relations with other species. But its impact might disrupt the reciprocating network of that ecology so severely the latter collapses and the invasive species itself becomes threatened.
Human Technological Leverage and the Disruption of Inter-Network Reciprocity
Due to our exceptional capacity for tool making and abstract thought, we modern humans have become a uniquely powerful influence upon our environments. There is no more profound evidence of our impact on the biosphere than the global warming now pushing the self-regulation of earth's climate system toward chaotic disorder. But our ability to alter even local environments in significant ways long predates industrial modernity. Even the 'technological leverage' of paleolithic humans appears to have had ecology changing effects. It is now considered likely that human hunters entering North America from Asia played a considerable role in the extinction of numerous species of mega fauna. As the 21st Century wears on, we are witnessing what is termed "the 6th Great Mass Extinction Event' on earth. A mass extinction of plant and animal species that is occurring at a faster rate than any previous one. It has also been termed "the Anthropocene Extinction," in reference to the name now used to describe our current geological era--being one dominated by human activity.
From the perspective of systems science, humans, as a complex adaptive system, have gained the capacity to evade the constraints of the inter-network reciprocity which governs relationships among species in an ecosystem. This overwhelmingly powerful technological leverage manifested by humans has emerged over an extremely short time span, relative to how long it takes for ecosystems to evolve their self-regulating network reciprocity, and then re-self-organized in response to disruptions. In an geological and evolutionary 'instant' we have gone from a hunting and foraging hominid constrained by reciprocity within our environments to a 'rouge species' that acknowledges no limits to our appetites and exploitation of Nature. Most disturbingly, though we have simultaneously generated the insights of systems science into 'how the world actually works' -- through the interdependency of self-organizing systems and their network agency--contemporary societies still refuse to behave accordingly. Our disruptions of ecosystems and climate are rapidly crippling that agency and thus the capacity of the biosphere to maintain and adapt itself sustainably.
Human Social Ecology and Network Reciprocity
How inter-system network reciprocity can be disrupted, thus threatening the mutual sustainability of all linked systems, can be understood in human terms. Viewed from the perspective systems ecology, urbanized, large scale civilization are prone to hierarchical social ordering in which a few dominate and exploit the many. Such inequity of wealth, privilege, and power illustrates how a sub-system of the elite can exploit all other sub-systems in society by not allowing wealth and power to circulate broadly in the total social system network. Consequently, the agency of the overall system network of society itself reinforces this network structure. Concerns with individual liberty, human rights, economic and legal equality, have promoted social and political systems configured to resist this hierarchical, exploitative form of social network operation. Nonetheless, even in social systems designed as "democracies" and founded upon principles of equality, human society as a meta-system still tends to be manipulated and exploited by an elite sub-system.
The appearances of this hierarchical, exploitative network structure associate with the threat of physical violence. A social system represented as "the state" reserve the right of violence against individuals to itself. "The state" can force individuals to comply with its demands regardless of whether the latter are just, compassionate, or even beneficial to the system as a whole. In addition, the network agency of a hierarchical social system has many other means of coercion at its disposal. Legal systems can be manipulated to enforce laws selectively. Economic advantage can be enhanced for elites. Incarceration can be used to control individuals or sub-systems of society that threaten the dominant power of the existing hierarchical network agency. And all this can be justified by claims that such manipulations are 'for the good of the whole of society.' Thus how humans, at least in the systems of 'civilization,' tend to treat each other demonstrates how we tend to interact with Natural systems. "Giving to get' is not typical of how human systems interact with each other or the biosphere.
Psychologically, we can view this exploitative tendency in civilized systems as "egocentrism," or an emphasis upon personal desires, appetites, and control in relationship to 'others.' Such a 'me first' attitude might be termed 'ego-logical,' in contrast to an attitude that sees one's self as intrinsically an interdependent part of society and even the biosphere. This latter view could be regarded in contrast as an 'eco-logical' attitude, in which all individuals, or systems, are co-facilitating, thus seeking advantages that debilitate the overall sustainability is dangerous to one's own existence.
Though civilized societies most overtly manifest this 'ego-logical' attitude, and its disruptions of inter-system reciprocity, such behavior appears to be a fundamental aspect of modern humans regardless of culture and social system organization. Just as paleolithic hunter-gatherer bands are thought to have contributed to the extinction of North American mega-fauna, there are many examples of pre-modern societies degrading the sustainability of their environments by non-reciprocating or 'ego-logical' behaviors. The history of Easter Island is another prominent example. Thus, even with what we moderns would regard as primitive technology, modern humans were capable of devastating the self-organizing agency of ecosystems long before agriculture and urbanization became widespread. Thus, unlike other animal species whose behaviors have been integrated into inter-system reciprocity by evolution, technological humans are capable of exceeding those constraints, often with disastrous results for themselves.
Symbolizing the 'Giving to Get' of Network Reciprocity
Animal Empathy, Human Intelligence, and imagining a 'Spirit of Inter-System Reciprocity'
Research into animal behavior confirms the capacity of non-human species to experience and be motivated by empathy--by an awareness of 'the feelings' of another individual. In the case of modern humans, this notion of some 'baseline' of sensitivity to the feelings of other creatures would be combined with the abstract imaginal qualities of human intelligence. Here we encounter the notion of "theories of mind," meaning the ability to conceive that 'the other' thinks and feels similarly to one's self. As hominids, humans are an intrinsically social species. Individuals exist and thrive through complex social relationships. Empathy and "theory of mind" are essential to the sustainable generation of our social organization--upon which each individual depends. Given these traits of human psychology, it would not be surprising if human societies were prone to perceiving other living things, plants and animals, as 'like humans,' as somehow sentient entities that manifest thought and agency Such an attitude has been labeled "anthropomorphism," and considered a non-scientific attitude. Complex systems science now shows how such an attitude actually has some empirical basis.
The archeological record of human art, or the symbolic representations of our experience and its meaningful interpretation, provides some insight into how pre-modern humans 'imagined' the world around them and their selves in it. Though there are some examples of such symbolic expression dated back around 70,000 years or more, such artifacts seem to have become more common starting around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. That is early on in what is termed the Upper Paleolithic era, roughly from 50,000 to 17,000 years ago, and preceding the agricultural societies of the succeeding Neolithic era. This is also described as the period in which "behavioral modernity" emerges. From early in that time span on we see a proliferation of figurines, rock art, cave painting, and evidence suggesting the performance of ritualistic behaviors. Here we encounter compelling evidence for human culture that perceives the world as 'animated by spiritual agency.'
Paintings from the Lascaux cave in France, dated to around 17,000 years ago, showing
a panorama of wild animals and a stick-figure human which has been interpreted as
representing a man in shamanic trance during symbolic ritual actions:
Curiously, there is also an increase in technological ingenuity around the same time range when evidence for symbolic art becomes widespread. Hunting tools and techniques appear to have become more sophisticated and effective. Tools such as spear throwers, bows, and arrows appear somewhat abruptly, relative to the observed rate of innovation over preceding millennia. That would mean human technological 'leverage' over natural systems increased significantly. It is also during this period when modern humans enter Europe and seem to have 'out-competed' the Neanderthal, whose hunting technology was much less sophisticated.
It is tempting to wonder if there is any connection between a marked increase in technological capacity and a florescence of symbolic art. What is known with certainty about human societies living by the level of technological sophistication evident in the Upper Paleolithic comes from studies of similar ones surviving into the modern era. Examples range across the globe, from Australian Aborigines to the Scandinavian Sami and Indigenous American peoples. Such cultures live much like our common ancestors technologically. Almost without exception, they maintain a spiritual imagination of the non-human world as animated by spiritual agents, forms of intelligence which they seek to communicate. In their animistic worldview, humans are but one form of intelligent life and exist only because of the non-human spiritual realm.
'Maintaining Good Relations' through Offerings and Seeking Favor through Sacrifice
The animistic worldview can be described as more "eco-logical" than "ego-logical." Common practices aimed at maintaining 'good relations' with the non-human systems of plants and animals for such societies include the "offerings" of prayer, rituals, symbolic art. These gestures can be understood as conscious expressions of the need for inter-system reciprocity, represented by animating spirits. They promote a human attitude of appreciation, respect, and gratitude for the non-human. A distinction about these practices has been observed between hunter-gatherer societies and those more reliant upon agriculture for their food supply. Generally, hunter-gatherer based societies acknowledge their sense of reciprocity with natural systems through symbolic stories, rituals, and offerings. These societies are rarely found to engage in disruptions of their local ecologies that might seriously disable the sustainable self-organization of those ecosystems.
Agriculture-bases societies more often include practices of destructive sacrifice. These involve physical items of value to humans such as weapons, the ritualized killing of animals and, in some instances, humans. Like offerings, such sacrifice is intended to acknowledge human dependency upon the agency of natural systems, symbolized by personified gods and goddesses. Thus, with the expansion of technological control over environments afforded by agriculture, there is often more emphasis upon destructive sacrifice. Agricultural societies manifesting urbanization and hierarchical social order are more prone to disruption of the inter-system reciprocity of their local environments. The self-sustaining impulse of these societies becomes more 'at odds' with wild natural ecologies, due to the need for control over landscapes where farming occurs. Thus, though they still seek to acknowledge the self-organizing network impulse in Nature, the effort becomes more directed at seeking favor for human systems that are, in effect, in competition with the all-inclusive reciprocity of wild ecosystems. Agrarian societies are more likely to be preoccupied with appeasing or petitioning divinities associated with the sun, weather, domesticated plants, and water sources like rivers, as their existence is so particularly dependent upon these.
The concept of sacrifice carries the general meaning of "an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy." Such an exchange is more than 'a trade of items regarded as of equal value.' Rather than 'giving to get' it seems more like 'giving to get more.' In a religious context, sacrifice often is understood as "an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or a divine or supernatural figure." In such a process one is effectively 'putting something valued beyond further use' in ordinary life.' In addition to killing animals or people, valuable treasures and implements such as weapons are rendered useless, often by being buried, burned, or cast into bogs and lakes. Further forms include inducing self-limitation, such as fasting, or suffering, such as flagellation.
A Buddhist shrine with offerings, a Meso-American image of offerings to a divinity that might
include strips of skin cut from the supplicant's body, and human sacrifice:
Such acts of sacrifice can be more specifically associated with a sense of 'doing penance' for some transgression, expressing gratitude, paying homage, or propitiation that seeks the favor of a spirit or divinity. From the perspective of systems science, one could say that all these variants involve the agency of one system--a person or a society--deliberately acting to affirm, appease, or influence agency involved in the self-organizing operations of a non-human system. The latter is represented by the personified figure of a spirit or divinity. Importantly, sacrificial action is seldom viewed as a guarantee that the non-human agency will respond predictably or favorably. Such uncertainty about the outcome of giving offerings or making sacrifices to influence non-human network agency is commensurate with the systems science view that adaptively self-organizing systems are fundamentally unpredictable, even though they tend to behave in ways that express "self-similarity" over time.
Thus spiritual offerings and sacrifices can at the very least direct the attention of human agency toward that of other systems and how humans would be wise to respect the inter-system reciprocity of Nature. Both modes act as a symbolic 'mirror' of the type of feedback flows which enable sustainability. However, in regard to destructive sacrifice that seeks to appease or gain favor from the spirits that symbolize agency in the world, there is a sense that humans are seeking some 'special dispensation.' The goal seems either ask that our excesses or transgressions against other systems be 'excused,' or to gain support for our manipulation and exploitation of them--as if we want non-human agency to help us "game the larger system." Psychologically, this again looks more like an 'ego-logical' attitude that seeks to dominate other systems, rather than an 'eco-logical' one that perceives itself as a co-participant in a non-hierarchical meta-system.
But is there any basis to think such acts might actually have such effects? Could ritual acts of sacrifice in some way influence the network agency of non-human systems? It does appear evident that humans systems can and do influence themselves through spiritual practices of offerings and sacrifice. Personal and collective attitudes can be re-oriented through such behavior toward behavior that is more accommodating to other systems--as in the animistic worldview. But sacrifice that is performed for the goal of penance for transgressions or some special dispensation that grants disproportional advantage over other systems associates with an attitude of non-accommodation, of exploitation and dominance--or an effort to evade and disrupt inter-system reciprocity.
'Sacrifice' as a System's Science Concept
A general insight from systems science is that system networks develop "bias" in the ways feedback flows across them. The relative regularity or self-similarity of a system's from and operations derive from some continuities in how information moves between, and is 'interpreted by,' different parts of the system--be it an ecosystem, a society, or a single individual's brain/mind. A certain degree of habitual processing and response to stimulus in its network gives a system its characteristic operations. However, these are not fully predictable because such systems derive their adaptive self-organization from impenetrably complex dynamical activity involving chaotic aspects. We can think of this condition as having 'great subtlety' or extreme sensitivity to tiny variations in network flows--both in how feedback moves internally as well as externally from the environment and other systems. Basically, the science confirms that these complex inter-plays of simultaneous interaction and abrupt synchronization, which result in each moment of a system's behavior, cannot be fully explained nor directly manipulate in ways that have predictable consequences.
This extreme sensitivity of complex system networks seems to leave open the question of just what might influence their agency. If that agency emerges in some 'ethereal realm' of concurrent 'hyper-interactive interdependency' that is 'beyond access' to materialistic quantification and calculation, is it then a sort of 'spiritual mystery?' And if so, could such activity in one system network influence similar activity in another on in a non-material manner? So far as the science stands presently, this question appears unanswerable.
What is evident, is that the 'giving to get' interplay of reciprocating systems that enables the self-sustaining ordering of a meta-system can be abrogated. An invasive species can 'game the system' by evading reciprocating restraints. In such a case, the invasive species becomes 'monstrous' in that it exploits and disrupts a non-native environment to the detriment of other species. Because its mode of self-organization, its characteristic agency, has not evolved in relation to the inter-system reciprocity of that environment, it becomes a 'rouge system' by evading mutually beneficial reciprocity. But to do so it effectively must disable, damage, even drive to extinction, the systems of other species, thereby threatening the sustainability of the entire meta-system they constitute. Might this set of relationships be what humans intuited about influencing the world through spiritual sacrifice--that systems prosper disproportionally, or gain extreme advantage, by exploiting or destroying other systems? In regards to agriculturally based, urbanized civilizations, this description appears to fit how such systems engage with the meta-systems of the biosphere--and even with each other. In seeking domination through violence-enforced control or hierarchical inequities of wealth, privilege, and power, human systems treat each other as they collectively tend to treat non-human systems.
Returning to the systems science concept that inter-system reciprocity actually depends upon disruptive 'challenges' among its subsystems, this 'gaming the system' behavior of civilizations does not appear as entirely 'un-natural.' What is different about human challenges to the co-evolved constraints regulating an ecosystem is that technology enables human systems to vastly out-pace natural ones in its rate of adaptation. Where there is little water we build damns and drill wells. If we want to move mountains or level entire forests we make steel and burn fossil fuels. If the soil is unproductive we douse it with petrochemical fertilizers. In such actions we devastate both the capacity of ecosystems to sustain themselves and to adapt to our behaviors. We 'sacrifice' those systems in exchange for something of 'greater value' to our systems--control, power, and profit.
Thus the 'giving to get' of inter-system reciprocity can be viewed through the notion of sacrifice. For an entire ecosystem to attain a sustainable level of self-organization, every species of plants and animals constituting its sub-systems must evolve to fit its agency and behavior with incertain constraints. The 'success' of each requires limitations so that all can 'succeed.' Thus each must 'sacrifice' some potential adaptive advantages so that the other sub-systems it depends upon remain sustainable, thereby enabling its own sustainability. Lions can only evolve a certain level of size and speed relative to that of wildebeast, and vice versa. The relative "fitness" of each species must remain within reciprocating boundaries. So it could be said that each 'sacrifices' the near term value of 'dominance' in favor of the long-term, thus 'greater value,' of sustainability. Thus inter-system reciprocity arises from the co-evolution of each sub-system's 'sacrifices' of potential advantages in favor of the mutual benefit of the whole. That is not to say such a condition arises from 'conscious choices,' but that it is in a sense 'imposed' by the self-organizing agency of the entire meta-system of an ecosystem.
Like the impact invasive species have on ecosystems, civilization's exploitation represents what happens when inter-system reciprocity fails. Viewed thusly, one system's unchecked agency is disabling a larger meta-systems reciprocally self-regulating network of constraints not because it is 'un-natural' or 'evil' but because it has gained the capacity to 'sacrifice other systems without reciprocating to their benefit.' What is peculiar about human societies, at least those living as hunter-gatherers, is that they appear to have understood this issue and consciously restrained their potential exploitation through their spiritual imaginations of agency in non-human systems.
The notion of sacrifice has an aspect that seems relevant to the conundrum that inter-system reciprocity and the sustainability it enables requires disruption--but not too much. The word sacrifice derives from sacred, which derives from the Latin sacrare "to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate," which derives from sacer, translated as "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed." In the last definition is an unexpected contrast. Meanings of both "holy" and "accursed" are associated with sacredness.
The religious making of a sacrificial offering, to the agency of a spirit or divinity, 'makes sacred' that being being 'destroyed or put beyond use' by the act of sacrifice. The object sacrificed to a spiritual agent 'becomes sacred' as it is offered to a spriit or god. And this act is intended to solicit advantage to those conducting a sacrificial ritual. So where does a notion of "accursed" relate to any of this? If such 'persuasion' of non-human agency requires and act of destruction, then there is an element of negation involved. Unlike in offerings, the social value of treasure, the usefulness of a weapon, or the life force of an animal must be destroyed. A curse is the pronouncement of 'severe trouble' upon a person or thing. Curse derives from the Latin cursus, meaning a course, as in a prescribed direction. Thus to 'be accursed' is to have been committed to a grim or destructive course. Clearly, that being sacrificed is 'doomed to destruction'--for the purpose of gaining favor from the 'spiritual realm' of network agency.
Sacredness then appears to be a 'two-sided' condition. That which creates the world, network agency, as represented by the imagination of spiritual agents, does so through a constant process of creation and destruction, life and death, order emerging from disorder. That creative 'power' is sacred, or 'of the highest value,' because it is the source of the world. To do what it does, it imposes constraints upon all things and creatures, including mortality. For some to live, some must die. Such is the 'give to get' of inter-system reciprocity. Prospering and suffering are part of the whole process. For those wishing to prosper more than suffer, approaching 'sacred powers' is therefore always a tricky and dangerous endeavor.
Sacrificial Destruction as Inherent Aspect of Civilization's Network Agency
So sacrifice appears as an acknowledgement that 'gain comes with loss' from the perspective of an individual system contending with the constraints of inter-system reciprocity. From this, one can draw the conclusion that 'the greater the gain the greater the destructive sacrifice required.' Extreme privilege and power over arise from extreme exploitation, constraint, and even destruction of other systems. In this view, hierarchically structure, technologically empowered civilizations that evade inter-system reciprocity are dependent on large-scale destructive sacrifice.
This view appears to be confirmed by systems science. And it is testified to in the way hierarchical civilizations justify their destructive exploitation in their mythological imaginations of gods and goddesses. The latter often present a hierarchy of deities that favor civilization and mirror its values. In Mesopotamian myth, the god Marduk, consider the founder or patron of cities, creates the order necessary for civilization by killing and dismembering the goddess Tiamat, associated with the sea and chaos.
A tablet depicting the confrontation of Tiamat and Marduk:
Thus overt sacrificial practices acknowledge civilization's intentions and purpose, its archetypally characteristic agency, of seeking disproportional advantage over other systems, human and non-human, through attempts to seek favor from specific types of network agency--personified as 'spiritual actors.' In monotheistic mythologies, one god is posed as superior to all, having omnipotent powers, and favoring civilized self-ordering. Thus it is to that mode of network agency that such societies tend to sacrifice. Yet even of such a singular, human-oriented god, it is said 'he notes every sparrow's fall.' So even here, there is a spiritual imagination of inter-systems reciprocity.
The omnipotent, 'one true god,' who makes the ultimate sacrifice of his own 'embodied self' for the benefit of humans:
Overt and Covert Sacrifice
It is important to note then that sacrifice is an inherent aspect of the 'giving to get' that enables inter-system reciprocity but that it can be manipulated by non-reciprocating systems that force other systems to 'give more than they get.' And further, that this 'leveraging' behavior is intrinsic to the self-organizing agency of civilization's human systems. The mythologies of pre-modern societies which maintained a spiritual imagination of inter-system reciprocity overtly acknowledged this dynamic by ritually performing symbolic sacrifice to the archetypal spirits and divinities posed as the agency of both human and natural systems. In stark contrast, modern secular societies have ceased to overtly acknowledge the role of destructive sacrifice in their operations and relationships between systems. These societies claim to be 'acting for the benefit of all' while covertly sacrificing the sustainable agency of not only ecological and climate systems, but those of humans. Impoverishment and violent conflict are endemic to the exploitation and wealth inequities of contemporary consumer-driven economies.
This covert sacrificial behavior can be understood from the perspective of myth's spiritual psychology as the debilitation or destruction of sustainable agency, or spirit, in some systems for the enhancement of such agency in others. Psychologically speaking, mental or psychic 'energy' is being 'stolen' from one source or purpose and transfered to another. Whereas the mythical mind acknowledged this seeking of disproportionate advantage overtly through symbolism, modern mentalities operate in denial of the consequences of their behavior. Our response to the problems created by our 'leveraging' of other systems is typically to seek 'more leverage,' more manipulative control over the agency of those systems we exploit. That behavior indicates our lack of understanding about how complex systems are sustained by their own agency and its participation in inter-system reciprocity.