13. The Evolution of Transformational Education

Alexander. There is a progression talked about in educational systems where you go from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence to unconscious competence. That last level is when you are in flow, but that is not the highest engagement because unconscious competence is still a form of abdication, if you will; an eschewing of the co-creative relationship. You are letting yourself be completely flowed by the moment, without appreciating how “I am the co-creator of this moment,” too. In the martial arts, that is particularly dangerous, because if you are engaged with flow in the moment — and you can be engaged in a way that you can have such a beautiful dance with your sparring partner that your actions are in complete flow of the moment — then if you abandon all oversight, things can happen that you may not have wished to occur.  People can get hurt — just because you are in that state of unconscious competence and let the moment move you one-hundred percent. I have had instructors who say that is the highest point of the practice; when you enter into a state where you are no longer responsible for your actions. I wonder if there is a desire in the world for this sort of transcendence, this abdication and absolute neutrality that removes us from co-generative responsibility. It doesn’t seem to be alive, present, filled with syntony or love. At least, to me, that’s not attractive and not a goal or state of being to which I aspire.

Embracing being Human 

Alexander. So, this sort of transcendence that asks us to forget our humanity is not the answer. We must always be truly, deeply, fully, and even passionately human. No matter the calling, we must always care and be present.  To say, “well, I’m just going to be in the flow,” or to offer the justification that, “well, certainly in martial arts can be dangerous,” as reasons to allow yourself to do things – or even think or intend things – that aren’t grounded and informed by humankindness means to abandon the evolutionary quest of syntony. Letting go of the rudder or the steering wheel and trusting that the universe will be responsible for the outcome is taking flow too far and allowing things to spin out of control. In sailing, you have the notion of pitch and yaw. Pitch is the up and down motion yaw is side-to-side. Things can start to wobble and get out of balance because there is always a slight imperfection in the movements. When we start to move very fast the wobble will appear very quickly.  There are also the centripetal and centrifugal flows of movement. These are the things that will be expressed when you ramp up a system into higher flow rates!   

For me, that is the difference between a Buddhist and Daoist approach, for example. In Zen Buddhism, for instance, the focus is precisely to let go and flow, in complete harmony with the universe. If death is part of the flow of the moment, then death is part of it. The Daoist approach would be more to focus on how to harmonise these flows for the greatest goodness. That is subjective of course, but the idea is to foster dynamics that emerge the greatest healthy patterning for all concerned. And that, for me, is the core of syntony. As such, it is much more Daoist than Zen Buddhist. There is an interest in creating an alchemy of flow. If things are off, you seek to create harmony — not just to say, “well, that’s what is; if it’s off, let it be off”.  Instead, the impulse is to explore, “how can we create a greater harmony of flow?” I think that is a healthy role for humans to engage with – not only to be the connectors of life with life, but also to be the augmenters of the dynamics of coherent emergence — a coherence that represents health, vitality, thrivability, and aliveness for individuals, communities, societies and for all living environments.

The Space of the Possible and the Flow

Alexander. I see that is what you are doing with Complexity Patterning when you are in the classroom; you enable flow. You are not telling students how to flow but rather you help create the space of the possible in which they can practice alignment, practice flow, practice syntony. They also get to practice discernment among those things with which they align so as to distinguish between things that are not healthy and things that are, where what is considered healthy is always a function of the embedding context, what I refer to as the Syntony Spheres. 

Shae.  Yes, Complexity Patterning engages with constraint and enablement, which are very paradoxical. As we have seen, constraint can be a good thing, but too much of it may not be a good thing. Similarly, enablement is a good thing, but likewise too much can get a little bit tricky. I use these concepts for discernment and engaging with some ethical understanding of agency, engagement, and responsible co-creative relationship. This includes the balance of freedom and responsibility, and individuality and community. These concepts are paradoxical rather than creating certainties and absolutes. They thereby avoid the reductive approaches of dogma whilst encouraging co-generative relationship with and within the dynamics of the complexity of life. 

We have covered wide fields of considerations for transformational education. There is so much for me to think about. Lots to ponder. I feel inspired. 

Alexander. I appreciate our Daologues, Shae. I benefit immensely from engaging with so many concepts and perspectives and terms, but mainly from gaining perspectives that I have found tremendously enriching for me. And I am hopeful, because the work you are doing bridges paradigms, and that’s not easy to do. Your work is bridging education, consciousness, evolution, and sentience, four strong domains!  I look forward to where our Daologue will take us next.

  • Brown, S. L. (2023). Complexity Patterning: A patterns-based design and strategy for transformational Education. ISSS Yearbook. Systems Research and Behavioural Science 
  • Brown, S. L. (2023). Complexity Patterning: A language and strategy for the teaching and learning of complexity competence. Journal of the International Society of Systems Science. 66(1). 66th Annual Conference Proceedings, 2022. 1-20.
  • Brown, S. L. (2021). Complexity Patterning: A patterns-based approach to the teaching and learning of complexity competence. [Thesis. Southern Cross University].
  • Kauffman, S. A. (2019). A world beyond physics: The emergence and evolution of life. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Laszlo, A. (2019) Education for the future: The emerging paradigm of thrivable education. World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research 75(3), 174-183.
  • Laszlo, A. (2020). Connecting to the holotropic quantum universe – Developing holotropism in ourselves. In E. Laszlo (Ed.). Reconnecting to the source: The new science of spiritual experience, how it can change you, and how it can transform the world. St. Martins Essentials. 

12. The Patterning of Being: At once Individual and Inseparable.

Shae. Using pattern thinking and understanding can enable us to relax the fixedness of our sense of identity and being, to support engagement with relational dynamics and flows, whilst also providing some parameters within which to operate. These parameters are not the fixed structures of society but are more playful because they are patterns. Patterns are inherently dynamic; they are parameters for life itself to emerge; they enable holding and stability for engaging in greater flow whilst also engaging in sentient relationality, without control, without linearity. I think about patterns as a language to assist us in accessing the quantum dynamics of life — the process of coming into being. I feel that pattern thinking and understanding as an experience of embodied sentience is one way toward the quantum holotropism you explore in your 2020 article. I understand Indigenous people to have patternings that are sacred and agentic expressions of holotropic co-generative relationality. 

The Language of Patterns

Shae. The pattern-based language of Complexity Patterning is very different from Western identity and/or psychological language. It is very different from educational language and structures; it doesn’t have any of the associated qualities. It is truly transdisciplinary, even postdisciplinary, really. Such a patterning language bestows capacity for holding to enable flow: there is enough repetition of the parameters to enable you to get into the flow with stability and dynamic change. I have not done martial arts, but I imagine there is a similar principle, with enough repetition of the parameters to enable you to get into the flow and better your technique. 

I relate it also to horse-riding. If you get your balance and your seat right, and you are breathing right, then you can let go into the flow of the ride. So in a sense, these are parameters that enable flow and constraints that enable stability. And so we are back to paradox again. I am hoping, and trusting, that this kind of material can open up the capacity for engaging and navigating an increasingly complex world for young people, into the future to come.

Alexander. I like the ideas of parameters that enable flow and looking at Complexity Patterning as a way to explore those parameters in educational settings. And as you say, with the martial arts and horse riding and so on, that flow can be found when there is a certain degree of mastery and letting go that enables you to do what you are doing without efforting, without trying. It enables just being and doing.  

11. Paradox

Shae. The concept of paradox — as-well-and, it all depends, it’s relative, with relative parameters — makes a lot of sense in the way I understand life. And… there’s that as-well-and, again… there are important anchor points, like learning to take care of life on our planet.

The Music we Play

Alexander. Two things are connecting for me by way of the evolutionary frame. One in terms of the paradox of fixed and constant, and the other one is the non-linear frame in terms of tunnelling and connecting. People in physics will talk about the second one in terms of wormholes. They are coming up with metaphors to try to explain how things are able to move across distances in a much shorter time than is possible in classical physics. So, yes, in terms of evolutionary framing around fixed and not fixed, if we use the metaphor that the universe is a large cosmic jazz ensemble that has been playing improvisational jazz since time immemorial, and there are different instruments playing and we are always in that patterning of coherence, then at times there will be discord or dissonance and other times there will be flow or consonance. 

So, this is the music of the spheres as it’s sometimes called; the evolutionary patterning of all things. When you take this metaphor to the human scale of being, we are all learning to play in this amazing jazz ensemble with everything else that is playing around us. It is just that humans have a knack for being tone-deaf and for not listening very well and wanting to blast out their own tunes without trying to create a greater harmony of expression. But when we learn how to be in greater syntony and flow, we come to understand that the music evolves and changes all the time. It’s improvisational jazz, always changing. Not only that, the instruments in our hands are evolving and changing, too, and in fact even our hands are changing and evolving, so where are the constants? It is all in the flow and warp and weft of the dance. It is all morphing — the instruments, the beings, and even the evolutionary frame, itself.

Broadly Relational Sentience

Alexander.  Here is where sentience comes in. I think we can get glimpses beyond the macrodeterministic parameters of our universe, beyond the veil that people like William Blake talk about in poetic terms. This is what happens when we connect with source, or the akashic field, or the implicate order… we do not generally have access to the implicate order, as the explicate order is all that is manifest, in Bohmian terms. But I believe we can access it, just not through direct consciousness engagement, but rather through our sense of accord, through syntony. Tuning and heightening our sense of appropriateness of flow opens a pathway for doing the kind of things that very skilled shamans and learned people might be able to do and that we would say doesn’t quite accord with the parameters of play that we know. 

I think this has to do with that aspect of being able to connect through a patterning that underlies everything but is not manifest in our common experience of explicate manifest reality. This is a kind of spatial frame (and there is a temporal frame, as well). Remember when we talked about memories of things yet to come (recuerdos del porvenir in Spanish)?  And also about the ability to bring in the frames of being that are actually future frames through a kind of translation or metalation of yet incompletely emerged informational realities. Frames is the wrong word, ways would be better — ways of being… that might be relational ways, or a future relational being that you can reach into. I think the possibility of doing this is inherent in our relationship to space and time that goes beyond strictly linear notions. Stuart Kauffman talks about “the adjacent possible” as a dimensional domain of reality that exists just on the other side of the probability space we inhabit. If we weren’t to have said, thought, moved or done just what we did, we could be there… but then we wouldn’t be in this domain anymore, since it would have become our adjacent possible now. This type of spatial veil has its correlate in the domain of time: the adjacent possible of temporal relations. A transcendent non-linear frame can be engaged, though not necessarily through conscious effort. Nevertheless, perhaps consciousness is required to observe and create the necessary space of the possible for relational multilevel sentience. Putting this stuff into words is a challenge.

Shae. My own experience of the broader frames (though I would say patterns) of relational sentience you are describing, is that it calls for conscious awareness in order to engage and focus, and yet also requires a relaxing into a broadly patterned consciousness. To hold the space of the possible for embodied sentience to tune to wider patterns, including those yet to come. Complexity Patterning is an approach to holding conscious attention on the spatial, temporal, and discursive dynamics occurring, now and possible, in the phenomenon of focus. This then can enable a more expanded sentient relationality and awareness. Complexity Patterning offers a sound foundation.

10. The Big Picture

Alexander. Ervin Laszlo describes the really broad patterns of change as macrodetermination. According to him, this is when you have “bounded indeterminism” such that your degrees of freedom are bounded by the parameters of the governing system. Another way of looking at it, if we turn the perspective on macrodetermination around, is to consider that we live in a universe that has certain parameters within which we have free play, like chess. If you want to play chess, there are certain ways you can move and others that you cannot. In our universe, we have laws of gravity for example, and we can figure out how those work and then work with them; we have the speed of light and we know what that is; and we know the speed of sound in certain environments such as air, water, or vacuum. Those kinds of speeds and densities are constants that we can explore; they are the parameters within which we live and work. 

Human Limits?

Alexander. We have certain things we cannot actually do. That is also macrodetermination, and within that we can play, we can change many things, we can decide to do many things, and we keep pushing the boundaries all the time. But there are some things that you actually cannot do. You cannot stick your hand into a rock and pull it back out (no matter what Alan Watts says), I have tried and it’s not a good idea. So, this is all true in this universe, but maybe it’s not the same in the entire cosmos. That is because the cosmos can hold other universes. Indeed, we might be in a multiverse, and in other universes the constants might be different, so they would have different bounds on their parameters of play and, in effect, a different macrodetermination. So, what patterns we can engage with are bound by the nature of this universe. What do you think about this idea of bounded indeterminism and macrodeterminism in the way I have described?

Shae. I want to say, Yes-And… I agree that our “constants” are somewhat fixed for us, rather than fixed as a backdrop to everything everywhere, for all time. I’m thinking of the contrast between the idea of what we experience as constants being “fixed” everywhere throughout the universe for all time, and the relativity of being “fixed” in our part of the universe at this time. I have been reading about this in a book by Thomas Hertog on the very last theory that Stephen Hawking was working on before he died. The book is about the origin of time, and Hertog explains that all of the laws of physics and indeed all of the patterns that are evident in our universe are only so in our patch of space, in our universe. So, “fixed” is a relative term. Hertog explains that Einstein found this very prediction from his general relativity theory not to his liking. So yes, fixed at the moment and fixed to a certain extent; an indeterminism that is bounded. Paradox at its finest…

We see clearly what can happen when we don’t pay attention to the parameters of the way that nature and the universe we inhabit actually operates in our part of the universe; we can easily destroy things. We can disintegrate life’s coherence when we don’t pay close enough attention. The time frame of human beings existing in the universe is so short, so what we experience as fixed may not actually be so over a longer temporal frame. I think that fixed is a relative term and I think dynamic is a relative term: dynamic to this extent at this time; fixed to that extent at that time. In this way, each is relative and could possibly change. 

Dynamic Patterning

Alexander. I don’t have a definitive answer, but given the patterning of the way the universe is operating and with which we are engaging at the moment as humans, we could say that these are the parameters of what we experience and are capable of knowing with our physical forms and sensory capacities. And… and there is an “and”… I think there is always more to learn and to know. There are many stories of people having experiences that appear to stretch the parameters of what we can and cannot know or even have access to as currently documented in the dominant paradigms of knowledge. Yes, in a fundamental sense, I think it is all fixed and not fixed at the same time; everything is paradoxical. 

  • Hertog, T. (2023). On the origin of time: Stephen Hawking’s last theory. Bantum.
  • Jantsch, E. (1980).  The Self-Organizing Universe. Pergamon Press.
  • Laszlo, E., & Laszlo, A. (2016). What is reality: The new map of cosmos and consciousness. Select Books. 

9. Complexity Patterning.

Shae. I describe Complexity Patterning as a metacognitive strategy for relational experience and understanding, and it is most effective when students’ own identity and experience of life is the first complex phenomenon of focus. I’m convinced pattern thinking is useful for the cultivation of the type of systemic consciousness you describe, because patterns are a metaphenomenon throughout the universe. Complexity Patterning, as a language for the complexity of life, does not have any kind of linear grammar: it’s a dynamic multilevel patterning that is open to any creative engagement. If students come up with their own patterning, it doesn’t matter; it’s their direct embodied experience of relational sentience and the awareness and knowledge they generate that is important.

Alexander. There is a paradox in there. The perennial aspects of life: on the one hand, you express as constant, and on the other, ever changing. There are aspects of the Complexity Patterning, the spiral patterning, for example, that help us remember the patterning of our own being. To remember the song of Self as also remembering those bigger patterns that bring us back into a relationship. In Spanish, remembering is recordar… to bring accord, for ourselves, with everything. Religion has that element from Latin, as well: religare… to bring us back into connection with spirit, to re-connect, to re-member and re-story our relationship within the great hoops of life, or however one may wish to put it. 

There are certain aspects to Complexity Patterning which call in this re-membering relationality. The paradox is that if we imagine any forms of patterning as fixed structures, they become a straight jacket of thinking, but to say there is no structure, just an oceanic flow, becomes the opposite, with no form.  It is this balance between constancy and change which allows for scaffolding of the patterning: the scaffolding emerges and changes, and emerges again and flows. As my friend David Schulhoff put it, “it is the shuffling of the deck between hands that creates the play of emergent order each round the cards are dealt.” 

A Patterning Ontology

Shae. I think with a patterning ontology, that’s what patterns do in the universe: they enable change within a certain amount of constancy through the holding of shape and form. A pattern will hold enough for energy and information to become a something, and it will do so long enough in time for the something to gain qualities and experience. Patterns are also open enough for flow and change; that is the nature of patterns themselves, as far as I understand them. And different patterns have different qualities. With spheres holding more firmly than a mycelial patterning, which is branching and distributing and communicating, and a spiral pattern has some holding qualities and are moving along at the same time. So, the different shapes and patterns have different qualities in the balance of that capacity to hold and enable and allow, all at the same time. Which is the paradox of existence, the dance that we live every day, not doing everything the same but the same enough to enable us to do something else — but not doing it the same enough that we get stuck. It is an interesting paradox all the time.

Complexity Patterning

A Dance Indeed!

Alexander. Yes, keeping the groove from becoming a rut, but allowing for some path-dependence so that we can stay in the groove.  A dance indeed! It recalls a quote from Erich Jantsch who said that “to live in an evolutionary spirit means to engage with full ambition and without any reserve in the structure of the present, and yet to let go and flow into a new structure when the right time has come.” Ha! Anything else is dogmatism or passivity. If you say, “I’ll just let it happen,” that is abandonment of engagement. And yet, to really fully determine some co-creative act you can end up going off in a different direction. Still, evolution always goes off in different directions, so how do you flow with it confidently? This is again the call for syntony. The dynamics of emergence are always coherent on some level. If you look (or sense) closely enough, you will see that things are always in some way connected, even if they express as a stochastic process. And somehow, we can see how it is part of what went before. It usually happens in retrospect because if you are looking at bifurcations you usually can’t say what the outcome will be, but later you can say, “okay, I can see how we went through that quantum leap there,” like with the development of telephony in India where they didn’t develop landlines first and simply leapfrogged straight to cellular telephony in the uptake of that technology. Being able to see those evolutionary patterns is important, and that’s where cultivating one’s syntony sense comes in handy.