Agents Interact                                                               Sub-systems Synchronize                                                   Networks Self-Organize

The New Science of Spiritual Animation

Relationships between system parts can become

self-organizing and self-directing thus self-animating

Feedback Can Create Adaptive 'Network Agency'
  • Nonlinear dynamics generate disproportional, unpredictable effects

  • These effects include the emergence of self-organizing feedback networks

  • The resulting self-organizing systems can sustain and adapt themselves

  • This self-directing agency effectively animates the systems of the biosphere and society

  • Systems science has provided an empirical description of "spiritual animation" as an intrinsic aspect of Nature

The Origins of this Strange Science

Obviously, it seems preposterous to claim there is now a "science of spiritual animation."  However, the evidence for making this claim is in fact profound.  Over the last 50 years, research has revealed some utterly unexpected insights into how order emerges in Nature. Though there are many areas of study involved, from weather to biology and economics, the overall concepts are associated with the terms nonlinear dynamics, complexity theory, and complex adaptive systems.  In short, nonlinear dynamics generate disproportional changes that are difficult if not impossible to accurately predict or control--and that can have astonishing effects.

Formation of Feedback Networks


The disproportional, unpredictable effects of nonlinear dynamics are typical of interactions between parts that are linked in interdependent relationships of feedback--think of chemicals or ants interacting.  The effects or outputs of various parts of a system become inputs to other parts. These in turn "feed back" into the system, influencing subsequent inputs and outputs This reciprocal influence circulates through the links of a feedback network. These collective interactions can generate an ongoing process with identifiable patterns.

Feedback loops form

Feedback recirculates thru multiple nteracting loops

Feedback networks sustain a process

System Emergence from Feedback Networks


Because these networks involve simultaneous flows of feedback between parts in each instant, and changes in inputs and out puts from one moment to the next, their activity cannot be reduced to any specific, progressive sequence. Yet the effects of feedback networks can become evident as the overall behavior of a system that emerges from them, like an ecosystem or a social group. However, exactly how that behavior is being created often cannot be understood in linear mechanical terms. Thus it is termed an emergent property because it emerges from interactivity in ways that cannot be fully examined, explained, or predicted.


A specific system emerges

But the simultaneous, self-modifying feedback interdependencies cannot be fully analyzed

System Emergence is On-Going


The organization of systems is not simply a transition from disorderly to orderly relationships. It is a dynamic transformation within feedback networks that must continue if the emergent system to persist.

Many actions interact, from which emerge a system of on-going self-organizing feedback relationships:

The Emergence of System Self-Organization as Network Agency


Most importantly, self-organizing feedback networks can not only give a system the 'wholeness' of a particular formation, but serve to sustain that formation with considerable consistency over time. Such a feedback network can even adapt its system to changes in its environment in ways that enable the system to persist. This self-organizing activity is an emergent property that produces what are termed complex adaptive systems, or CAS. Such systems effectively manifest autonomous agency--or the capacity to act selectively to direct and adapt their operations in ways that preserve themselves 'into the future.' That capacity can be termed "network agency."

Interaction between parts can lead to self-organizing feedback networks

from which the self-directing agency of a CAS can in turn emerge:

Wholes emerge from interacting parts

Self-organization emerges

A system has self-directing agency

An Emergent World of Self-Organization


Self-organizing, self-adapting systems are the very basis of the biosphere--as well as human societies. In a forest ecology, many species of microbes, plants, and animals interact to produce feedback networks which enable the whole of the forest system to self-organize and even adapt to changes that might threaten its continued existence. Indeed, the smaller parts of the system (animals and plants) are themselves complex adaptive systems whose interdependent interactions give rise to the meta-system network of the forest. Feedback networks interact to form ever more complex systems and networks. There is self-determining agency shaping the biosphere across vast scales of interacting complex adaptive systems.

Sub-systems of animals, plants, microbes, and fungi interact to generate

the meta-system network that is a self-regulating forest ecology

The Fundamental Mystery of Network Agency

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the recent science of complex adaptive systems and the self-organizing agency of their feedback networks is that quantitative analysis of these indicates there is a limit to what we can know about their operations.  The novel forms, functions, and adaptive changes generated by such systems can be quantified but their complex dynamics cannot be fully specified.  Thus they are often referred to as "black boxes."  Inputs and outputs can be identified, but how they do what they do cannot. We appear to be confronted by a factual mystery associated with network agency.

How feedback networks organize and direct complex systems remains a "black box" to scientific analysis

Self-Organizing Network Agency and the 'Science of the Spirit'


Following systems science, we can now say the world is animated by this emergent property of self-organizing, self adaptive agency that gives complex adaptive systems at least some degree of self-determining autonomy. This feedback driven network agency, in animating the biosphere as well as societies, from individual entities or agents on up to meta-systems, effectively constitutes a property of spiritually animating agency'--which is a natural phenomenon. Most of the order of the world arises from this 'creaturely behavior' of self-organizing, thus self-animating systems.


Theoretical biologist and complexity scientist Stuart Kauffman has termed this knowledge "The Reinvention of the Sacred." Though the science for this view is extensive, our culture has yet to confront its implications. This website will introduce you to some of these and explore ways that mythic symbolism helps us comprehend 'how the world actually works.'

Read More: A New Naturalistic Spirituality

Feedback Networks    

Self-Organizing Agency
Characteristic Behaviors
Mythic Symbols