brainroads-toward-tomorrows mental patterns


pyramid to dna

The Happiness Purpose

by Edward de Bono (includes links to many of his other books)

Happiness Purpose


From pages 8 and 9

The proposed religion (in this book) is based on the belief that the legitimate purpose of life is happiness and the best foundation for happiness is self-importance.

The happiness purpose is to be achieved through the use of thinking and humour and dignity. The ideal of love is to be replaced by the more reliable practice of respect.

The new religion may be used as a framework or as a philosophy. It may be used as a way of living or a way of looking at things. The new religion may be used on its own or in conjunction with any other religion.

Unlike some others, the new religion focuses on the positive aspects of man's nature.

It may of course be that 'religion' is the wrong word.


The world may need a new religion simply because it intends to find one anyway continue

  • The proposed religion
  • Introduction
  • Nature
    • Religion and Change
    • Meta-Systems
      • Meta-System definition
        • Examples
        • Suicides (lack of a meta-system)
        • A device for reacting
      • Gödel's theorem
      • The use of meta-systems
        • Explanation
        • Origin and destiny
        • Purpose
        • Value
        • Decision
        • Judgement
        • Action
        • Achievement
        • Simplicity
        • The hump effect
      • The community as a meta-system
      • Internalized meta-systems
      • Astrology
      • Ping-pong ball
    • Elements of a New Meta-System
      • Happiness and enjoyment
      • Positive aspects of man's nature
      • Life-enhancing
      • Involvement in the world
      • Now-care and future-care
      • Self-enhancing
      • Humour
      • Balance
      • A god of man's mind
      • New thinking system
      • Truth
      • Respect
      • Activity and achievement
      • Structure
      • System cheats
      • Organization
      • New words
      • Details in following sections
      • Only a framework
    • God, Belief and Meta-Systems
      • God as creator
      • Self-organizing systems
      • God and self-organizing systems
      • Belief and the new meta-system
    • Truth
      • The need for absolute truth
      • Types of absolute truth
        • Mathematical truth
        • Logical truth
        • Scientific truth
        • Mystic truth
        • Revealed truth
        • Dogmatic truth
      • The process of truth
      • Proof and truth
      • The consequences of absolute truth
      • Proto-truth
      • Proto-truths and absolute truths
      • Practical varieties of truth
        • Absolute truth
        • Proto-truth
        • Hypothesis
        • Pragmatic truth
      • Proto-truth and hypothesis
      • Proto-truth and pragmatism
      • The consequences of proto-truth
        • Defence
        • Persecution and intolerance
        • Man's mind
      • The practical use of proto-truths
    • The Mind of Man as God
      • Perception as a self-organizing system
      • Towel and gelatine systems
        • The towel model
        • The gelatine model is different
      • The gelatine model and the brain
      • The importance of patterns
      • Alternative patterns
      • Changing patterns
      • Influencing patterns
    • Thinking
      • Purpose of thinking
      • Misconceptions about thinking
      • Ignorance and information
      • Beauty and feeling
      • Mistakes
      • The ego and thinking
      • Unsolved problems
      • Wisdom and cleverness
    • Exlectics
      • Exlectics and dialectics
      • The process of exlectics
        • Exploration stage
        • Extract a key-point from the situation
        • 'Re-clothing' of the key-point
        • Modification and development of the new idea to make it workable
      • The lump effect
      • Changing ideas
    • Humour
      • Humour and perception
      • Negative aspect of humour
    • The Biodic Symbol (Biodos)
      • What the biodic symbol means
      • Sequence of experience
      • Humour and the biodic symbol
      • Possibility of perceptual change
      • Hope
      • Different ways of looking at things
      • Moving away
      • Going back
      • The lump effect
      • The edge effect
      • The hump effect
      • Functional symbol
      • Stable patterns
      • Use of the biodic symbol
    • Self
      • Christianity and self
      • Buddhism and self
      • Marxism and self
      • The abdication of self
      • The deep self
      • Burden or joy
    • Life-Space and Self-Space
      • Life-space
      • Self-space
      • The gap
      • Pressure and opportunity
      • Self-improvement
      • Different life-spaces
      • Dignity and happiness
    • Happiness
      • Deliberate happiness
      • Types of happiness
        • Pleasure
        • Excitement
        • Enthusiasm
        • Joy
        • Interest
        • Relief
        • Peace
      • Now-care and future-care
      • Balance
      • Action
      • Ups and downs
      • Limitations
    • Activity and Achievement
      • Apathy and activity
      • Boredom
      • Action activity
      • Awareness activity
      • Achievement
      • Achievement and life-space
        • Oasis of competence
        • Confidence
        • Ratio-effect
      • Direction
        • Helping other people
        • Hobbies and special interests
        • Work
        • Organization and community work
      • Inner-world activity
      • Reactive activity and projective activity
      • High-achievers and competition
      • World involvement
    • Dignity
      • The value of self-space
      • Plurality
      • Self-improvement
        • Increasing control
        • Detachment
        • Actual change
        • Perceptual change
        • Discipline
      • Oscillations
      • Dignity and happiness
    • Respect
      • The three respects
      • Positive respect
      • Ordinary interaction
      • Competition
      • Conflict
      • Bullying
      • Help
      • Responsibility
      • Size of respect
    • Mood
      • Holiday mood
      • Other beliefs
      • Positive
      • Constructive
      • Happiness and enjoyment
      • Self
      • Respect
      • Humour
      • Tolerance
      • Plurality
      • Gentle
      • Sensitivity
      • Effectiveness
      • Focus
      • Activity
      • Achievement
      • Involvement
      • System sins
      • Control
      • Practical and realistic
      • Opportunity
      • Day-to-day
      • Balance
      • Wisdom
      • Simplicity
    • Summary
      • Belief
      • Man's mind
      • Proto-truths
      • Biodic symbol
      • Self
      • Life-space
      • Self-space
      • Cope/demand ratio
      • Dignity
      • Respect
      • Happiness
      • Activity
      • Key elements
  • Application
    • Application
    • Avoid
      • Negativity
      • Criticism
      • Opposition
      • Put-downs
      • Sneer
      • Superiority
      • Pretension
      • Egotism
      • Bullying
      • What you can get away with
      • Violence
      • Cynicism
      • World-weariness
      • Boredom
      • Apathy
      • Drift
      • Self-pity
      • Props
      • Passivity
    • Applied Thinking
      • The purpose of thinking
        • Enjoyment
        • Problem-solving
        • Review
        • Perceptual change
        • Preceding overlap each other
      • Starting-point
        • Scan
        • Focus
        • Analysis
      • Framework
        • TEC-PISCO framework
          • TEC
          • PISCO
          • The above framework is only an example
        • Such a framework is not a restricting structure but a liberating one
      • Being wrong
        • Instant judgement
        • Inadequate scan
        • Magnitude effect
        • Point-to-point
      • Being right
        • Error-free
        • Emotional rightness
        • Unique rightness
      • Decision
        • Priorities
        • Review
        • Consequences
        • Alteration
        • Prepared to give up
      • Lateral thinking
        • The three basic processes of lateral thinking
          • Stepping-stone
          • Concept-challenge
          • Random juxtaposition
        • There are many other techniques and processes in lateral thinking
      • Exlectics
      • Practical problems with thinking
    • Life-Space Care
      • Content of the life-space
        • Expectations
        • Pressures
        • Tensions
      • Action processes
        • Ignore them
        • Discard them
        • Flee them
        • Change them
      • Tools
        • Focus
        • Thinking
        • Discipline
        • Cut-off
        • Convenience
      • Abilities and talents
      • Sources of unhappiness
      • Maps
      • Caution
    • Self-Space Care
      • Activity of awareness
      • The moment
      • Activity of action
        • Forms of action activity
          • Hobbies
          • Craft
          • Organizing
          • Involvement
          • Work
          • Helping others
          • Interest
          • Sport
          • Television
      • Achievement
      • Intensity
      • Plurality
      • Stone-cutters' religion
    • Happiness Profiles
      • Ingredients of happiness
      • In setting up a happiness profile it is useful to keep certain things in mind
        • Distraction
        • Counter-effective
        • Effort-expensive
        • Continuity
        • Green-field
        • Sensitization
        • Trade-off
        • Cut-off
      • Happiness audit
      • Happiness foundation
    • Balance
      • Types of balance
        • The spectrum type of balance
        • The mix type of balance
        • The alternation type of balance
      • Dealing with balance
        • Recognition and audit
        • Middle-place concepts
        • Personality
        • Counter-effective
        • Trade-off
        • Cut off
        • Sequence
        • Artificial proportions
      • Balance areas
        • Adjustment and change
        • Involvement and drop-out
        • Now-care and future-care
        • Ignore and react
        • Inner world and outer world
        • Awareness activity and action activity
        • Projective and reactive action
        • Excitement and peace
        • Stability and change
        • Prejudice and doubt
        • Lateral and logical thinking
        • Self and society
        • Structure and freedom
      • Perfect balance
    • Relationships
      • Respect
      • Positive respect
      • The three respects
      • Relationship between individuals
      • Non-intrusion
      • Relationship between individual and society
        • Regulation
        • Modification
        • Replacement
      • Positive respect and the soda! system
      • Priorities
        • Attention
        • Conflict
        • Action
      • Dialectic
      • Failure of respect
  • Action
    • Action Steps
      • 1 Mood and attitude
        • Positive and constructive
        • Anti-negative
        • Happiness and enjoyment
        • Self
        • Respect
        • Anti-passivity
        • Summary
      • 2 Review and audit
        • Life-space maps
        • Happiness-profile and audit
        • EPA
        • Recognize
        • Identify
      • 3 Focus and objectives
        • Problems
        • Tasks
        • Activity
        • Balance
        • Priorities
        • Conflict
        • Summary
      • 4 Self-space examination
      • 5 Life-space examination
      • 6 Shrinking
      • 7 Expanding
        • Coping
        • Activity
      • 8 Practice and training
        • Being positive
        • The shrug
        • Awareness activity
        • Decision and problem-solving
        • Thinking
      • 9 Understanding
      • 10 Organization
    • Transition Steps
      • 1 The positive mood
      • 2 Improvement
      • 3 Dignity
      • 4 Space-care
      • 5 Role-playing
      • Summary
  • Network
    • Network
      • Purpose and nature of the Network
      • Structure
      • The importance of thinking
      • Group and individual
      • Thinking as a craft
      • Tone
      • Academy and gymnasium
      • Qualifications
        • Motivation
        • Involvement
        • Positive attitude
        • Tolerance
      • Plurality
      • Operating
        • Organizers
        • Information compilers
        • Detectives
        • Researchers
        • Idea generators
        • Synthesizers
        • Reactors
        • Explainers
        • Communicators
        • Salesmen
        • Group organizers
        • Diplomats
        • Leaders
        • Effectors
      • Thinking
        • Logic
        • Analysis
        • Criticism
        • Description
        • Assessment
        • Observation
        • Lateral thinking
        • System design
        • Problem-finding
        • Problem-solving
        • Evaluation
        • Decision
        • Coping
        • Initiative
        • Operation
        • Construction
      • Activity
        • Group and individual
        • Exploration of thinking
        • Thinking practice
        • Problem-solving
        • Task forces
        • Think-tank
        • Communication medium
        • Thinking strategies
        • Network operation and organization
      • Principles
        • Definite
        • Effective
        • Tolerance
        • Respect
      • Organization
      • Problems
        • Lack of consideration
        • Crispness
        • Flavours
        • Eccentrics
        • Involvement
        • Endorsement
      • Contribution
        • Spread
        • Organizing work
        • Funds
        • Thinking
      • Start
      • Symbol
      • Summary




… snip, snip …

illustrations coming later — see ScrivenerLinkDeleted

[The proposed religion]

The proposed religion is based on the belief that the legitimate purpose of life is happiness and the best foundation for happiness is self-importance. ¶¶¶

The centering of patterns

The Unfashionable Kierkegaard

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Try searching this page for: “remembered for”

The happiness purpose is to be achieved through the use of thinking and humor and dignity.

The ideal of love is to be replaced by the more reliable practice of respect. ¶¶¶

The new religion may be used as a framework or as a philosophy.

It may be used as a way of living or a way of looking at things.

The new religion may be used on its own or in conjunction with any other religion. ¶¶¶

Unlike some others, the new religion focuses on the positive aspects of man’s nature. ¶¶¶

It may of course be that ‘religion’ is the wrong word.


The world may need a new religion simply because it intends to find one anyway. ¶¶¶

The old religions, including Marxism, were designed for a world of suffering.

Buddhism sought to relieve the suffering by encouraging man to detach himself from his earthly self which was seen to be both the cause of the suffering and the sufferer.

Christianity offered happiness in the next world and this salvation was to be gained by enduring the suffering in this one and using it to improve one’s soul.

Marxism suggested that man should look to the happiness of the state rather than his own and if the state seemed to require him to suffer then this was necessary for the happiness of the state.

Today boredom has replaced suffering in the larger communities of the industrialized nations.

Boredom includes confusion, lack of direction and a depression caused by the complexity of modern life.

The relationship of the established religions to modern society will be discussed in the next section. ¶¶¶

New religions are developing.

They take two forms.

Both forms are simple and direct but dangerous because they add nothing to the well-being of the world.

The first form is the religion of opposition.

Opposition has always been a most effective basis for a religion.

Opposition offers a direction, a mission and a role.

It offers self-importance and palpable achievement.

It offers comradeship and organization.

Above all it offers a definite value system against which to judge each action.

The success of Christianity may have been due to the opposition that was forced upon it in the early days.

The success of Judaism may have been due to the permanent opposition that has been its destiny.

The success of Marxism is certainly due to its emphasis on the struggle against established capitalism.

Indeed, so much emphasis was rightly placed on this opposition stage that little thought was given to what would be done if the opposition were too successful and removed what it opposed.

There is always something to oppose, and those with a religious zeal can always find a cause to shape that zeal into a mission. ¶¶¶

The second form of religion that is developing is that of self-abdication.

Since the self is so boring and so much trouble it should be abandoned.

This abandonment can itself take two forms.

The first form is the handing over of the self to some outside power that is to run it for you.

Let the stars run your self for you, or the party or your guru.

The second form is that of ecstasy.

By-pass the self and switch straight to the pure pleasure of ecstasy and mysticism.

Drugs are an easy way of doing it and in time, perhaps, direct electronic stimulation of the brain. ¶¶¶

Both the opposition and the self-abdication type of religion are anti-world in so far as they do not seek to make the world a better place or the individual a better individual.

Many of the major religions had elements of both opposition and self-abdication.

There was continual opposition to evil and especially to the earthly self with its greed and selfishness.

There was also the element of self-abdication in mysticism, detachment and ‘not me but God’s will through me’. ¶¶¶

Astrology requires no belief beyond the initial belief that the stars will run your life for you.

Religions of opposition require no belief beyond the initial belief that there is a ‘cause’.

Once these initial beliefs have been acquired then there is an outside reference system that gives point and enjoyment to life.

This outside reference system reduces confusion and makes decision easy.

Man has always sought such a reference system outside of himself.

Without such an outside reference system decisions are appallingly difficult and complex.

The only solution is drift and moment-to-moment opportunism.

In fact, any system requires a system outside of itself to act as a reference framework.

This framework is called a meta-system.

The purpose of meta-systems is described in another section. ¶¶¶

Religion has always provided man with his meta-systems.

Is there likely to be a revival of the established religions?

If so, it is likely to be of the zealous and charismatic variety which will inspire some and alienate others.

In its evolutionary progress, is the trend of man’s thinking and feeling likely to crystallize at some point into a new religion?

It may do.

But it may also be leading away from that point of departure, as shown in ED859C8F-B13A-46DF-B6F0-398134660289 ScrivenerLinkDeleted. ¶¶¶

In this book is described a new religion that is not based on truth or on a belief in God and salvation.

Love is discarded and replaced by something less wonderful but more workable.

It is a low-key religion based on humor and good humor.

Instead of denying the self it seeks to enhance the self and to emphasize self-importance.

Because it does not rely on absolute truths it is possible to make a god of man’s mind. ¶¶¶

The book is divided into four parts.

The first part deals with the nature of the new religion.

The second part deals with the application of the basic principles to ordinary living.

The third part deals with the action steps that would be taken to put the principles into effect.

The fourth part is quite separate and independent of the other three parts.

This fourth part deals with a network organization which can exist in its own right and requires from its members no acceptance of what is put forward in the other parts of the book. ¶¶¶

An essential feature of the new religion is a positive and constructive attitude of mind.

The nature of the new religion

Religion and Change

A religion that changes is dissipated and one that does not becomes unusable

Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism are all over two thousand years old and Christianity almost that old.

Islam is a later religion but still over a thousand years old.

The only successful recent religion is Marxism which never set out to be a religion at all. ¶¶¶

Is it possible that religions that were based on simple peasant communities can be of help to modern man living in a megalopolis of more than a million people?

The direct answer is that they can, since they were based on an understanding of man’s universal nature rather than his particular circumstances.

Yet man was seen as man within himself and man within a small society.

Man as an anonymous creature in a large urban society may be rather different.

In a small community there is a community of belief which sustains doubters and puts social pressure on backsliders.

More important, there is a defined social system of behavior and roles.

There are expectations and rewards and penalties.

In a way, any small community provides its own meta-system to guide behavior.

If this social meta-system derives its validity from a higher meta-system the effect is even stronger.

And religion provided this higher meta-system.

Teenage urban gangs and motorcycle gangs are attempts to provide a community meta-system in large cities.

Churches no longer have the same functional effect when you no longer know most of the people in the church.

Today, instead of a religion moving down through a community to an individual it may need to move up through an individual to form a community. ¶¶¶

Religions that are based on watertight belief systems do not suffer the atrophy that comes from continual adjustment to circumstance (since at each adjustment more is lost than can ever be gained).

On the other hand, a watertight belief system carries with it the danger that one difficult belief or requirement may puncture the system for many.

For example, the Catholic opposition to artificial forms of birth control may put many Catholics in a position of incomplete obedience.

The dilemma is one that will come up again and again in this book:

how far does one seek to hold the present position and how far to change it for a better one?

The dilemma is simply that of stability and change.

True evolution requires stable states and the possibility of change to a new stable state.

Technological change, such as the development of the contraceptive pill, puts pressure on the change process.

Technological changes require reactive changes from religions—for example, food taboos may prevent the full utilization of agricultural developments.

Religions dislike reactive changes because this seems to open the way to change on demand—for example, with regard to abortion.

And a religion that is run on a temporary consensus basis is but a political system.

In short, a religion that changes on demand is no longer a meta-system that is outside the system.

A religion that does not change may provide a meta-system that is no longer usable. ¶¶¶

Traditionally religions have operated to protect man from himself and from his circumstances.

It seemed that man had to be protected from his greedy, opportunist self that looked always for self-gratification and never at higher things.

Enjoyment was a danger since it would lead at once to self-indulgence.

Self-indulgence was bad for the person concerned (like a surfeit of ice-cream or alcohol) and also for society.

Today man is somewhat more civilized and aware of his own nature.

It should now be possible to allow enjoyment as a legitimate aim of existence and to encourage the self to develop patterns of enjoyment instead of abolishing a self which had any such inclinations. ¶¶¶

Man is also able to change his circumstances in a way that was not possible two thousand years ago.

For this reason the passive endurance of suffering is not the only mode to be encouraged.

We can try to develop a positive and active outlook towards change.

It is hardly possible to achieve happiness purely by changing circumstances.

But change is possible and it can help.

We may need to advocate both change and acceptance—instead of just acceptance. ¶¶¶

Man is so much larger a part of the world than he used to be that his activities affect the survival of the entire planet.

The world is no longer a vast universe in which man’s camping made no difference.

The world is a limited spaceship (to use Buckminster Fuller’s term) with limited resources that require skilled management.

Too many religions have urged man to look only to the next world and to save his soul rather than risk losing it by getting too involved in this world.

Even today the drop-out dreams of a small country farm on which he is going to grow his own food while he forgets about the mad, frantic world outside.

So who is going to get involved in running the world and its limited resources? ¶¶¶

None of the defects outlined here implies real faults in the established religions.

The defects arise from the very nature of a satisfactory religion.

A religion deals with the nature of man, but its interpretation is effected by men living in particular circumstances.

In time the interpretation takes over as the essence of the religion. ¶¶¶

It can be said at this point that the particular view of truth that lies at the heart of the new religion makes it unnecessary to attack or criticize established religions or even to effect comparisons.

Nor is the new religion an alternative:

it can coexist alongside whatever belief system is in use.

The new religion is like a table on which different foods may be served.


Meta-System definition

A meta-system provides a reason for doing something which does not lie within the immediate situation itself.

A meta-system is a higher system outside the immediate system in which one happens to be operating.


Perhaps the most striking example of the operation of a powerful meta-system is the way Christian martyrs went singing to their deaths in the Colosseum of Rome and elsewhere throughout the ages.

Their meta-system of belief was so powerful that they were willing to give up life itself:

the meta-system required that the operating system close down.

A meta-system can make no higher demand. ¶¶¶

Not very different was the fervor with which the Janissaries and other soldiers of Islam hurled themselves into battle with a disregard for their personal safety.

They knew that once a jehad or holy war had been declared, death in battle meant instant access to heaven.

Suicides (lack of a meta-system)

In contrast to the Christian martyrs and the Islamic soldiers there is the opposite example of suicides or people who end their lives not through the operation of a meta-system but through the lack of one.

From this must be exempted ritual suicide such as the Japanese hara-kiri which is another example of the operation of a powerful meta-system (though this time a social one and with no reward of heaven).

I have known many people who have attempted suicide and several who have succeeded.

If we leave aside the gesture type of suicide attempt there seem to be two mechanisms.

One is a sort of temporary madness or rage and fury at life itself and especially at oneself.

Though the end-point is different the process is probably not any different from any burst of destructive rage. ¶¶¶

The other mechanism is a sort of blankness or emptiness of the will to live.

There seems to be nothing to look forward to and no point in life.

The spirit appears to have died and so the body might as well follow it.

It is sadly characteristic of depression that at the depth of depression it does not seem possible that anything can ever change or get better.

It does not seem possible that there should ever be any enjoyment again in anything.

No matter how many up and down swings a depressive may experience, in each down-swing he cannot believe that it will pass.

The depressive exists from moment to moment.

There is no meta-system of belief which allows him to get outside of himself and outside of the moment.

Figure 2 shows how in the moments of depression a meta-system can provide the needed continuity and hope.

A device for reacting

A meta-system is a device for reacting to something other than what is immediately under one’s nose.

Left to himself a child would eat poison berries (or medicines) because they were red and pretty.

Human children would have difficulty in surviving if there were not the meta-system of parents who provide instruction that goes beyond the gratification of the moment.

Because of his freedom of action a human child needs such an outside meta-system. ¶¶¶

A bird, however, avoids the poison berries because instinct has programmed him against them. ¶¶¶

Instinct provides an inbuilt meta-system—except that the bird probably does not feel attracted to the berries in the first place since he is not free to be attracted unless his instinct program includes such attraction.

Gödel’s theorem

To the delight of philosophers and mathematicians, Gödel showed that no system could prove the axioms on which it was based. ¶¶¶

For example, Euclid had to take for granted, and could never prove, the parallel-line axiom which stated that two parallel lines would never meet (on a plane surface because, of course, they do meet on a spherical surface).

The axioms have to be provided by an outside system or meta-system. ¶¶¶

Christianity was built on such axioms as the kingdom of God and universal love.

These axioms were not developed from within the system but supplied by Jesus.

Judaism was based on axioms supposedly handed by God to Moses directly.

In the Koran, Muhammad provided the axioms from which the meta-system of Islam was to develop.

Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital provided the axioms from which the religion of Marxism was to develop. ¶¶¶

There might seem to be a big difference between meta-system axioms handed down personally by God, since God is the supreme meta-system, and those generated by a man such as Marx browsing through the British Museum Reading Room. ¶¶¶

Gödel’s theorem, however, states that a system cannot prove its own axioms, not that it cannot produce them. ¶¶¶

The authority of the axioms handed down by God seem to prove their validity, but only if one already believes in the infallibility of God and in his personal transmission of the axioms. ¶¶¶

The basic Marxist axiom that the happiness of the state is more important than that of the individual is unprovable. ¶¶¶

Since there is no way in which a system can prove the axioms on which the system is based it is open to anyone to set up a series of axioms and then to react to them as though they provided a meta-system.

It is the belief that is invested in a meta-system that makes it work. ¶¶¶

The nature of a self-organizing system will be discussed in a later section.

It may be said that a self-organizing system comes about by chance and the laws of organization followed by the laws of evolution.

Once the system is in being both processes can be much influenced by the development of meta-systems which, once created, become part of the evolutionary process.

Self-organizing systems have no purpose except to exist and drift. That is why man has felt so strongly the need to receive or construct meta-systems.

The use of meta-systems

Once the meta-system or framework has been set up it can be used in a number of different ways.

Meta-systems are not usually designed specifically to satisfy different human needs.

Meta-systems arise from belief, myth, legend and revelation.

Once the meta-system has gelled into a definite form it can serve the following purposes.


Meta-systems provide a framework of explanation for the world and the heavens.

Whether the explanation be in terms of monster gods or theological entities it serves as a usable philosophy for linking things together.

It provides the total answer to the never-ending ‘why?’ of a child who is trying to link his experiences into a whole.

Whereas religion is an operating framework for man, philosophy is the understanding framework.

Origin and destiny

Man is interested in knowing where he has come from mainly because he wants to know where he is going.

A majority of religions (including primitive tribal cults) believe in ancestral spirits which hang around after death because it seems absurd that something as important as man should cease with physical death.

Other religions provide heaven and hell, both as a finite destiny and also as a reward and punishment system to control behavior.

The interesting thing is that once a destiny has been set up—even for no other reason than mental tidiness—it comes to exert an influence on behavior.

The ancestors come to watch over what one does and may require respect and sacrifices if they are not to breathe harm.

The system also serves to ensure a proper respect for elders usually lacking in systems that do not arrange a special destiny for ancestors.

Origins are more usually clouded in myth and legend, but the mystery of life provides a solid base on which to build a god-system.


Man seems to need a purpose because his energy is too abundant to be satisfied by drift and a cow-like munching of experience.

Man is so successful that too little of his time is taken up with eating and so more time is left for wondering about his purpose in the world.

One of the prime functions of a meta-system is to give him a purpose even if it is only the teeny rebellious decisions of Existentialism.


The most important function of a meta-system is to provide a system for value reference.

Animals tend to have values programmed into them by their instincts which dictate what they like, what they avoid, what they fight and what they do to each other.

Man, in his multi-potential freedom, has no such programs.

But the price of freedom is decision.

So man needs a meta-system to which he can refer in order to read off the values that are to affect his everyday life.

In this way he retains both his freedom and a program to make his value judgements for him.

If he is a Christian then the Christian ethic and the road to salvation give him his values.

If he is a Marxist then he has two value systems: the transition stage or struggle values while capitalism is being overthrown, and then the supremacy of the state value system.


Decision is the application of values to action.

Decision is easy when a powerful meta-system provides the values.

The Christian martyrs and the Islamic soldiers were able to decide that the value of heaven and salvation was superior to that of betrayal of their faith and continuation of their lives.

A terrorist has easy decisions to make if his meta-system tells him that all government forces are evil, just as the Nazi meta-system indicated that all Jews were of a sub-human value.

It is in this area of simplifying decisions that meta-systems tend to be most powerful in action.

And it is this practical power in action that gives meta-systems their appeal.

People tend to take up a belief or meta-system because it reduces the confusion of their lives by making decision so much easier.


If decision is the application of values to action, then judgement is the application of values to reaction.

Something happens and a person is called upon to react or give a judgement.

He may of course be inclined to give a judgement even if none is really required of him.

Social groups maintain their cohesiveness by a certain uniformity of approval or disapproval, shown most dearly in the English and Japanese concept of a gentleman.

This uniformity of judgement, usually exercised as condemnation, is provided by the group’s meta-system.

Outsiders are kept outside and insiders are thrown out (or threatened with this) by reference to the values of the group meta-system.


When children are asked to draw machines (for sausage-making, haircutting, etc.) they equip them with buttons instead of mechanisms.

You press one button for one effect and another button for another effect.

This is a reflection of their world in which television sets, vacuum cleaners and motor cars are all activated by the right button.

In primitive societies incantations or sacrifices to the right god had the same effect.

A meta-system which put these gods into positions of operating power (like making it rain or making the crops grow) gave the users of the meta-system an apparent power of action based only on knowledge of the meta-system.

Knowledge was power as it is today with science.


Man needs achievement almost more than anything else.

Achievement gives him a tangible basis for self-approval and also for the approval of his fellows.

Achievement is the currency of life.

Without the direction, purpose and values given by a meta-system, achievement is difficult if not impossible.

A child who is caught between the joy of building bricks into a house and the joy of knocking it down often finds that he is unable to build the house at all because of the conflict of achievement.

Meta-systems not only clarify achievement directions but actually create achievement opportunities.

The proselytizing and missionary opportunities offered by the Christian meta-system contributed very much to its success.

The rituals and laws of Hinduism and Judaism offer tangible areas for achievement.

There is as much achievement in carrying through a prescribed ritual as in opening up a new area.

Meta-systems provide things to be done and ensure that these things are worth-while.

Man is a busy animal but needs to feel that business is not an end in itself.


Without a meta-system man would have to react directly to the many influences that press upon him from moment to moment.

Today man is suffering from an immense information overload.

He is bombarded with information: through education, through magazines and newspapers, through television, through advertising and through his fellows.

There is a feeling that if some information is useful then one hundred times as much will he one hundred times as useful.

In fact dilution and confusion occur and ultimately a sort of depressive apathy.

A meta-system can he used to simplify the information input by providing a framework of priorities.

The hump effect

One of the main purposes of religion has been to cope with the hump effect.

Like the child and the poisonous red berries, man often finds himself in a position where his immediate self-interest is to act in a certain way: eat the red berries, steal a camera, tell a lie, seduce someone else’s wife, etc.

Religion provides the meta-system which tells him that in the long term such behavior will not be in his best interests or, if this seems untrue, in the best interests of society as a whole.

So the religious meta-system carries man past the temptation of immediate self-gratification in order to reward him with higher things.

That is why the major religions have been so concerned with attacking self which is recognized as the source of selfishness and immediate gratification.

Conversely a man may be required to do something which goes against his own nature in order to reap a long-term benefit.

This might include such things as turning the other cheek to an enemy or giving money to the poor or studying at school when it is more fun to leave school.

A meta-system is needed in order to make man do things which are not attractive at the moment.

If we look at man’s care for the attractions of the moment as ‘now-care’ and his care for the future as ‘future-care’, then a very important function of religious meta-systems has been to turn man’s attention away from now-care to future-care.

As will be seen, the meta-system outlined in this book is designed to change the balance back and to make man more conscious of now-care though still being concerned with future-care as well.

With traditional meta-systems the balance was almost entirely in favor of future-care.

The hump effect is so called because a person may have to climb over a hump before he can enjoy something.

This effect is described more fully in a later section.

The community as a meta-system

Culture and religion are usually so closely intertwined that separation is not possible.

Like religion, culture can provide a meta-system (a reason for doing something which does not lie within the immediate situation itself).

The operating meta-system for many people today is no longer the Christian religion but the Christian culture.

Tradition and culture are also difficult to separate, but tradition, like culture, provides a sort of meta-system.

A meta-system covering some parts of life can also be provided by a political creed or doctrine.

Where this acquires the status of a religion-of-opposition then the meta-system comes to cover matters outside the political sphere as well.

In history the most powerful meta-system has been that provided by the small community.

The expectations of behavior, rules and roles set up within a small community provide a powerful meta-system.

In part such a meta-system is derived from the background religious meta-system of the community, but the operating meta-system also includes the expectations of the community as such, including its individual social structure.

Today when strong communities are being destroyed by ease of movement and communication, and mass cultural influences (advertising, records and television), the community meta-system disappears, carrying with it the religious meta-system.

The community meta-system was extremely effective, even if it did have one major fault.

This major fault was the implicit axiom that ‘being found out’ was the key failing.

This was not a matter of hypocrisy but practical operations: a community could survive so long as its rules were not openly flouted.

Internalized meta-systems

Most religions have tried to avoid the flaw in the community meta-system (‘Do what you like but do not be found out’) by creating internalized meta-systems based on the soul and conscience and an all-seeing God.

The self-improvement of Buddhism puts the emphasis entirely on the internal self, and so cheating is impossible.

Where adherence to a meta-system has had a definite external and visible form, like Christians going to church on Sundays, there is always the danger of hypocrisy inasmuch as the external application of the meta-system may suggest an internal application which is not there.

As suggested earlier in this book, the need today is for an internalized meta-system that can then become externalized and this is what the book is about.


Astrology provides a nice example of a meta-system package which is easy to adopt.

There are supposed to be specific personality types which are related to the birth signs.

This gives both an element of individuality and also a reinforcement of belief, since personalities which fit the stereotypes reinforce the beliefs and those that do not are ignored.

The stars control destiny and the future unfolding of events giving rise to a sort of fatalism.

This is not a fatalism of despair but one of irresponsibility.

Future-care is not worth bothering about since it cannot be altered.

Moreover, there is the advantage that one can look into the future and see what is likely to happen (then using this as a framework-myth to be lived into much as a patient uses the psychoanalyst’s interpretation as a framework-myth or mini-meta-system).

The astrology meta-system is internalized in the sense that there can be no cheating since everything has already been determined by the stars.

A person may, of course, conveniently pay attention to the stars when he wishes to and ignore them at other times - but that is no different from any meta-system.

The interest in astrology indicates the strong yearning for a meta-system.

As a meta-system astrology is anti-life and negative since it treats life no differently from the ocean tides.

It is determinism in its most extreme form with human life affected by the stars much as iron filings are affected by a magnet.

But this determinism indicates a need for a meta-system that can simplify life and reduce the burden of decision while at the same time enhancing the self.

Ping-pong ball

Without a meta-system an individual’s life is like a ping-pong ball on a jet of water at the fair.

It bobs about passively, totally dependent upon and trapped by the demands of the moment.

Elements of a New Meta-System

We can call it the happiness religion because it recognizes happiness as the legitimate purpose of man’s existence

Some of the elements of the new meta-system described in this book are outlined here, and are dealt with in more detail in subsequent sections.

Other elements which require more explanation are described elsewhere.

So also are the practical operations which distinguish a religious meta-system from a purely philosophical one.

Happiness and enjoyment

Happiness and enjoyment are acknowledged as the main purpose of human life.

Instead of being a sin as in the puritan ethic, enjoyment is regarded as one of the main routes to happiness. There are other routes involving activity and achievement.

Happiness is regarded as something positive and not just the absence of pain and suffering.

Happiness is also regarded as something which may have to be worked at and achieved rather than something which surfaces only occasionally like a porpoise in a quiet sea.

Positive aspects of man’s nature

Religions have traditionally concentrated on the weak, greedy and selfish aspects of man’s nature because man has been regarded as essentially sinful or at least too attached to earthly desire.

The new meta-system acknowledges these aspects of man’s nature in so far as they exist but puts the emphasis on the positive aspects.

It is said that a state can generate any number of criminals it likes simply by creating laws that are likely to be broken.

Similarly, religions have tended to test their adherents with laws and belief requirements that seemed designed to emphasize to man his sinful nature.

In the Christian church in particular, St Augustine created the concept of original sin expressly to underline the role of the Church in leading man to salvation.

There is some evidence that man grows to fill the nature that is ascribed to him.

That is why the new meta-system emphasizes the positive and constructive aspects of his nature.


Life is something to be enjoyed and lived rather than a well of suffering to be endured on the way to better things.

Life is not to be hurried through as a means to an end with our eyes on heaven rather than the flowers by the wayside.

Life is to be enjoyed on its own terms.

We can coin the term ‘biophilia’ meaning love of life.

The new meta-system is definitely biophilic.

Involvement in the world

The new meta-system does not require a man to turn his back on the world.

In its complexity and problems the world needs talented people to run it.

For people with the right nature running the world is part of that activity which leads to involvement, achievement and fulfillment.

Others are expected to make their contribution just as a lad is taught to make his own bed in the mornings.

The new meta-system is world-accepting rather than world-rejecting.

Total emphasis on the internal world of one’s own self and self-awareness is not enough without a balance of external involvement.

Now-care and future-care

As part of the re-focusing of man’s attention there is an emphasis on now-care:

on the enjoyment of the moment.

Future-care or investment in the future is also important but no longer has the exclusive emphasis it had in so many religions.

The moment is to be enjoyed.

The future is to be considered because such consideration will give in the future more now-moments to be enjoyed.


The new meta-system is definitely selfish.

The self is the most important focus of attention.

The meta-system encourages self-importance and self-valuation.

The aim here is dignity which is the quiet worth a person gives to himself and as a result is accorded by society.

Many religions such as Buddhism and Christianity are opposed to the earthy self that is involved in the world and capable of enjoying life.

As will be shown later, they adopt different methods of subjugating this self and talk of the rapturous moment when man’s soul detaches itself from his earthy self.

In the new meta-system the aim is to integrate soul and self.


Humor in its most profound sense is the key metaphysical concept at the heart of the new meta-system.

The focusing symbol (the biodic symbol), which will be described later, illustrates the implications of the humor process, especially as regards the behavior of mind.

In a less metaphysical sense the new meta-system is good-humored and easy-going.

This does imply a high degree of tolerance and individuality, but it does not imply drift, passivity, permissiveness or lack of direction.


As might be expected from the emphasis put on humor, balance is important.

This is not the all-round balance of the perfect man but a conscious decision to operate at the most satisfactory point between extremes.

It is not only a matter of balance between the ends of a spectrum, but a balance of attention when different things have to be considered:

for example, a balance between now-care and future-care.

Balance is one of the major areas for conscious effort.

A god of man’s mind

The new meta-system makes a god of man’s mind.

It is man’s mind that through the process of perception creates the world in which he lives.

This is as surely a creation as the traditional god-created universe.

Man’s mind is the tool with which he re-creates the world to enhance his self and to obtain happiness.

The emphasis is not on ecstasy whether induced by drug or mysticism but on the ordinary natural behavior of mind as a patterning and re-patterning system.

It is recognized that man’s mind is immensely fallible.

New thinking system

In place of the traditional dialectics which sustained Greek and, later, Christian thought and provided (through Hegel) the basis for Marxism there is a new type of thinking based on positive evolution of ideas rather than improvement through polemic and clash.

The emphasis shifts entirely from critical thinking to constructive thinking.


The new meta-system dispenses with absolute truths and hence with a belief system based on absolute truths.

In place of absolute truth there is something called ‘proto-truth’ which is usable but improvable.

Like humor, to which it is related, the switch from absolute truth to proto-truth is a key element in the new meta-system.

Once absolute truth is discarded, a world of possibilities explodes in front of us.

Arrogance and righteousness disappear and with them persecution.

The switch from one proto-truth to a better one may be a matter for lateral thinking.

Concepts are no longer traps but become stepping-stones to better concepts.


Respect replaces love as the operating basis of the system with regard to social intercourse.

Love remains as a bonus and an ideal but no longer a working device.

It is better to have a practical working idiom like respect than to have an ideal idiom like love which is fine in theory but rarely reached in practice.

As with many other aspects, the emphasis is on usable and attainable goals, not on ultimate destinations and ideals.

In this regard the new meta-system is low-key.

Activity and achievement

Being alive means being active.

There is an emphasis on activity rather than on passive drift and time-filling.

There are different sorts of activity, some of which are directed inwards (awareness and sensitivity) while some are directed outwards (altering the world).

There is a balance between adjusting to circumstances and seeking to change them.

There is a balance between improving oneself and improving the world.

Achievement is recognized as one of the fundamental routes to happiness.

This is not the achievement of competition and pressure but the simple achievement of setting out to do something and doing it.


The emphasis is on freedom and on plurality, but this is achieved through structure rather than through structureless mess.

The structures are liberating structures that make it easier to do things rather than restricting structures that confine activity.

Focus is an important part of the operating side of the meta-system.

System cheats

Because man is himself a system and because he lives in a social system the main condemnation of the new meta-system is directed at those who are able to abuse the system so long as everyone else is keeping it going:

the smart-alec who is able to avoid paying his bus fare because everyone else is paying theirs.

In the new meta-system the sins are system sins.

Arrogance is another of these because it takes advantage of the proto-truth system.


The last part of this book describes a definite organization that bears the same relation to the meta-system described in the first part that water bears to a glass.

You can drink water without ever using a glass.

You can also use a glass even if you dislike water—there are other things to drink.

There may, however, be a relationship of convenience between the two.

New words

From time to time it has been necessary to coin new words as I had to do when I invented the term ‘lateral thinking’.

This has been done with reluctance because new words are confusing.

There are, however, concepts which cannot always be described with existing words without having to use a cumbersome phrase that is awkward to use and easy to forget.

If the established word nearest in meaning is used then the special difference of the new concept may never emerge.

For example, there is a fundamental difference between truth and proto-truth.

There is also a fundamental difference between proto-truth and pragmatism.

The elements listed here are described in fuller detail in the appropriate section.

A meta-system is only a framework.

A framework cannot impose itself,’ but, like an idea, once it has come into existence it is there for anyone to use.

The more effort and attention we invest in a meta-system the more valuable does it become. 

A meta-system is really only a mirror that reflects back effort as value.

God, Belief and Meta-Systems

The belief base of the new meta-system is the self-organizing principle as applied to the patterns of human perception.

Not all religious meta-systems have a god basis.

And those that do have such a basis do not necessarily treat God in the personalized way that Christians do.

For many religions God is the organizing principle of the world, or the spirit of life, or self-knowledge of one’s own being.

But meta-systems that dictate types of behavior and values tend to have a solid belief basis.

The more difficult or unnatural the behavior the stronger the belief base has to be.

A Christian martyr really does have to believe in salvation and heaven.

An Islamic soldier may have been conscripted anyway or be fighting as a job but to throw himself into battle with reckless abandon he will have to believe that death in a holy war means instant salvation.

Buddhism does not have a god basis but there is a strong belief basis in the cycle of life and the need to free oneself from the continual cycle of birth and re-birth into a painful world.

Religions which have not had a strong belief basis have tended to atrophy.

The more sophisticated amongst the ancient Greeks did not seem to take their gods and goddesses seriously except as a basis for myth and poetry. ¶¶¶

A religious meta-system runs the risk that if belief wilts then only ritual, habit and social pressure can keep the meta-system operating.

Fortunately belief is an emotion rather than the result of intellectual activity.

Astrology, like many ancient religions, relates its belief structure to something that can be seen and measured:

the position and movement of the stars in the sky.

But belief is still necessary to form any connection between this visible process and man’s destiny.

The same sort of belief jump was necessary to link the physical characteristics of a sheep’s entrails to the destiny of a general about to go into battle. ¶¶¶

Man has a hunger for belief because he has a hunger for order.

Ordinary science and explanation are not able to satisfy this hunger and so belief has to create systems instead, just as a mother often has to invent explanations to satisfy the explanation hunger of a child.

Once created, the belief system may takeoff on its own if it supplies other emotional needs as well—for example, hope or alleviation of suffering. ¶¶¶

Like astrology, Marxism can point to something finite and measurable in the behavior of an economy.

The next step is still a matter of belief, since the preferring of state happiness to individual happiness is a matter of choice based on a belief in the role of the state.

The Confucian system of ethics was based on a sense of the ‘proper’ functioning of society but did not seem to have a strong belief base.

God as creator

Most religious belief systems establish God as the creator, organizer and operator of the world.

The world is his handicraft.

He has to be appeased and also asked to do things which man cannot do for himself (like making it rain).

Amongst God’s other creations there is man.

Because God has provided him with an origin it seems likely that there is also provision of a destiny.

At any rate man created God enough in his own image to suppose that God would be interested in how man was doing.

It was also socially useful to believe that God was interested in the behavior of each individual, who was therefore obliged to obey God’s laws as interpreted by his priests. ¶¶¶

Darwin’s theory of evolution was never proved in any way.

It was just a theory and a speculation.

But it did provide a plausible explanation to show how the different species could have evolved without each one having had to be created by God.

The defenders of God’s creation quite sensibly pointed out that there did have to be at least one original species, that the God-directed infusion of soul into the appropriately readied ape was what mattered, and that God himself must have designed the evolutionary process anyway.

But the fuss was not about this.

The fuss arose because many recognized that God had his origins in man’s need for explanation and that if plausible explanations could be provided, then, even if the explanations were unproved, the need to believe in God was weakened.

The crisis passed and it was realized that man’s emotional need to believe in God and the relevant meta-system was more important than the intellectual need to believe in God purely as explanation.

Self-organizing systems

St Thomas Aquinas, in his monumental work that provided a thinking base for Christianity right up to this day, put forward five proofs of God’s existence.

One of them was based on ‘causes’.

Every effect had to have a cause and so on back until the first causer, who was himself uncaused, could be called God.

It is natural to think that things will happen only if we make them happen.

We tend to feel that anything complex has to be deliberately constructed or organized.

But it need not be.

There are self-organizing systems which operate by chance and yet produce an organized end-product which seems to have been put together deliberately. ¶¶¶

You can make a chain of paper clips by attaching one to another in a deliberate fashion.

You can also put a number of paper clips into a cocktail shaker and shake them up.

At the end you will have a pile of separate paper clips quite unlike the chain that you had deliberately constructed.

But if you now slightly open out each paper clip and put them back into the shaker for another bout of shaking you may get a surprise.

At the end you may find that the clips have now organized themselves into a chain.

The chain is nowhere near as neat as the one you made deliberately but nevertheless it is a chain of sorts—and quite distinct from a pile of separate paper clips.

You have created a simple self-organizing system. ¶¶¶

The basis of a self-organizing system is what we might call ‘stickiness’.

With the unopened paper clips one clip could as easily break free from another as come into contact with it.

But with the slightly opened clips there was an element of stickiness.

Once something had happened (two clips intertwining) it was much more difficult for it to unhappen—in other words, there was some event stickiness.

As you continued shaking more events (connections) would happen and they would not unhappen until all the clips were fully occupied or at least not free to make further contacts. ¶¶¶

It is suggested that life may have arisen by a somewhat similar process.

Under certain conditions, such as those created by the electrical discharge of lightning, gases like ammonia and carbon dioxide can link up to form simple amino acids and these in turn can form protein and the elements of life.

The appropriate gases have been detected in space.

Like Darwin’s idea, this provides a plausible explanation for the origin of life.

It is also possible that, for inanimate matter, different forms of energy and fundamental particles interacted and self-organized to give the atoms and chemicals we know. ¶¶¶

Once a basic self-organized system has come into existence then it can evolve and interact with other such systems to form larger systems.

Evolution is a form of self-organization.

A random mutation causes a gene change and the result provides the organism with a new feature.

This new feature ‘sticks’ if the creatures carrying the feature are more successful at surviving and so pass on the gene to their offspring.

It is also possible that the changes are not caused by random mutation but by spontaneous reorganizing of the gene material on a self-organizing basis. ¶¶¶

As we shall see in another section, our perception of the world also operates on a self-organizing basis.

Our brains provide a means for incoming experiences to organize themselves into definite patterns.

These patterns then determine how we look at the world and with what concepts we think. ¶¶¶

Society itself with its political and organizational structures also tends to progress in a self-organizing and evolutionary manner nourished by a soup of ideas and circumstances. ¶¶¶

It is characteristic of self-organizing systems that they reach a plateau of stability which is held for a long time.

Then, under suitable circumstances, the stable state may change to another stable state just as chemicals interact to produce new chemicals.

With regard to the physical world of atoms and molecules, the plateaux last for billions and billions of years.

With the self-organizing system of living organisms the time scale is shorter but measured in millions of years.

With the self-organizing system of our minds the time scale may be measured in centuries.

But technological change may have speeded this up so that it is measurable in decades rather than centuries.

The same may apply to our social and political structures.

God and self-organizing systems

The principle of self-organization might seem to make God superfluous as a creator.

Yet it could be argued that it was God who designed the system to be self-organizing.

In any case, in many religions God is regarded not as a personalized entity but purely as a principle of organization.

The Greeks paid a great deal of attention to mathematics because they saw something divine in its organizing principles.

Pythagoras started a religion that was closely connected to numbers and geometry.

Religions that refer to God as the principle of life may be said to refer to him as the principle of self-organization.

For Hindus there would be nothing strange in regarding God as the principle of cosmic organization.

One of St Thomas’s five proofs of God’s existence referred to him as the ultimate designer, and this is very close to the principle of design or organization.

Belief and the new meta-system

The new meta-system rests on a belief in the principle of self-organization and evolution—especially as applied to the perceptions of man.

Principles of self-organization can be investigated mathematically and experimentally as can the principles of perception, so the belief is not a difficult one.

Although the principles of self-organization do actually provide the basis for the meta-system, this is just as capable of operating from a different belief base (just as the Christian meta-system can operate from a base of divine revelation, historical scriptures, scholastic theology or pragmatic ethics).


A proto-truth is usable and believable—but only if you are prepared to change it for a better one ¶¶¶

Truth is so central to human affairs that every religion and every philosophy has had to consider it before anything else.

This is hardly surprising because, just as a navigator needs his map of the oceans, so we need a map of the world in which we have to live.

Like a navigator we want this map to be as true and accurate as possible.

A navigator with an incorrect map will never reach the destination he has chosen:

he will arrive at the wrong place or end up on a reef.

We want our explanations of the world to be true because that makes them usable.

Science is a continual search for truth.

It was our true understanding of the nature of bacterial disease that allowed us to conquer it.

If we arrive at a true understanding of cancer we might be able to do the same for it.

In matters of religion it is the truth of what we believe in that has given strength to the actions based on that belief.

We feel that we can build if we have truth as a foundation—but without truth any building will crumble.

The need for absolute truth

Because we can understand falsity, lies and errors we are able to understand truth as the absence of these.

Once we can understand truth then we can make that truth better and better until we arrive at absolute truth.

Absolute truth is perfect and unchangeable.

We need such absolute truth as the basis for our religions and philosophies. ¶¶¶

We imagine that we believe in what is truth, but more often we hold as true what we want to believe in.

It is the strength of our beliefs that gives strength to the truth on which they are based.

Faith is more likely to create the truth than truth is to create faith. ¶¶¶

We need absolute truths to give us decisiveness for action.

In science we have tended to accept truths as absolute, and when they turn out not to be absolute we just shrug and move on to the new truth which we again hold as absolute.

There almost seems to be no point in using the adjective ‘absolute’ since we accept that truths should be absolutely true.

Types of absolute truth

There are many different varieties of absolute truth, and some are listed below.

Mathematical truth

For the ancient Greek philosophers this was the perfection of truth.

In a right-angled triangle Pythagoras demonstrated that the sum of the squares on the two short sides would always equal the square on the longest side.

This would always hold true and could never be contradicted.

It was in emphasizing the continual search for this sort of truth which he held to underlie surface appearances that Plato set the trend for the truth-search that became the basis of philosophy and science in the Western world.

What we tend to forget, however, is that mathematical truth only holds under a very particular set of circumstances that are defined carefully in advance.

For example, the Euclidean truth that the angles of a triangle always add up to two right-angles only holds on a plane surface and does not hold on the surface of a sphere where the angles add up to more than two right-angles.

When we state the truth that two plus two equals four, we know that this only holds within the constructed system that we have set up.

If three is obtained by adding one to two, and four is obtained by adding one to three, then it automatically follows that two plus two equals four.

Mathematics is a constructed universe in which the truths are implicit in our construction or in our definition of the universe in which they hold.

Logical truth

Until quite recently philosophers spent a great deal of time with logical truths.

On the whole these consisted in relating words in such a way that a new truth seemed to be obtained.

It is now generally understood that these logical games were really word games and that nothing was proved that had not already been accepted in the original definition of the words used.

The logical arguments only served to make clear what had been taken for granted.

The classical syllogism was invented by Aristotle and re-packaged by St Thomas Aquinas.

A classic example of the syllogism might run as follows:

John is a man; all men are mortal; therefore John is mortal.

The fact is that we only recognize John as a man because he has ‘man-like’ characteristics.

So the syllogism is really saying:

John is mortal and therefore John is mortal.

So logical truths are similar to mathematical truths in that we set up a universe and then explore to see what is implicit in what we have done.

Scientific truth

Science is set on a continual search for the true laws of nature.

Unlike mathematics or logic, science is not working in a constructed universe but in the real world.

Science is the art of description and explanation.

The truer the explanation the more useful it will be in allowing man to control his world.

A description will seem true because it fits the available facts and then new facts are generated by experiment and a new truth is arrived at.

Science is quite used to having its truths altered—even though they may have seemed absolute at the time.

For example, the truth about the circulation of the blood in the human body was only arrived at a few hundred years ago.

Scientific truth is rather like the truth that is used in law courts:

the explanation seems to fit the facts best—if new evidence turns up we may have to find a new explanation that fits better.

Mystic truth

This is almost a pure experience of the sensation of truth.

The mind of an individual is put in such a state that it experiences something which seems to be pure truth.

This state can be arrived at by contemplation, by taking drugs or by prolonged starvation which has a chemical effect on the mind not unlike that of drugs.

A mystic truth need bear no relation whatsoever to reality.

It is almost as if the truth centre in the brain had been stimulated directly.

We can electrically stimulate a part of the brain which can give a pure sensation of pleasure—even though nothing pleasurable has been experienced.

Similarly mystic truth can give this end-result sensation without any real-world basis for it.

Revealed truth

St Thomas Aquinas distinguished between truth that was arrived at by human reason and that which arrived direct from God as revelation.

If we already believe in the authority of a source (such as God) then it follows that we must believe in what is offered as truth by that source.

Dogmatic truth

Dogmatic truth is truth that we create as such.

Dogmatic truth is truth that is decided upon and then set up as a truth.

In order for it to be workable as truth there must be a general agreement to treat it as truth rather than to explore its basis.

Dogmatic truth may at one time have had a basis in experience but the truth has acquired a momentum of its own, fueled by the belief-emotion, and need no longer be based on experience.

Dogmatic truth is not unlike logical and mathematical truth inasmuch as it sets up its own universe of perception.

Dogmatic truth requires that we look at the world in a certain way—and when we do look at it in that way then our view supports the dogmatic truth.

It is this circularity that gives dogmatic truth its strength.

Freudian psychology offers a nice example of dogmatic truth.

Sex is put forward as the basic human drive.

If some action is recognizably sex-based then that confirms the hypothesis.

If it is not recognizable as sex-based then the explanation is that a sublimation process is in operation and has disguised the sex-drive as something else.

Either way the dogmatic truth is supported.

The process of truth

What happens to truths?

We can consider several possible scenarios. ¶¶¶

There are truths which cannot yet be shown to be wrong.

Scientific truths of all sorts fall into this category.

Further evidence or experiment or exploration may show an established idea to be quite incorrect.

These temporary truths tend to be descriptive truths. ¶¶¶

There are truths which can never be shown to be wrong.

These are truths which hold in constructed universes and specially defined universes.

They tend to be circular in nature in that if the universe is accepted the truth must be accepted as well.

For example, if I construct a special universe in which ‘a’ equals ‘b’, and ‘b’ equals ‘c’, then in that universe ‘a’ will always equal ‘c’.

Mathematical, logical and dogmatic truths fall into this group.

These are all special-universe truths. ¶¶¶

There are truths which cannot be shown to be right or to be wrong.

If you choose to believe that the planets do not move in set orbits because of the laws of gravity, but because each planet is supported by an angel that acts in that particular manner, then you are unlikely to be proved wrong even though you can never prove yourself right—except by reference to a special universe of belief.

The problem is that one sufficient explanation cannot exclude other sufficient explanations.

The adequacy of the gravity explanation does not disprove the accuracy of your angel explanation.

All it can do is to make it unnecessary.

Proof and truth

The scientific tradition seeks to overcome the problem created by superfluous truths (truths which cannot be proved right or wrong and which seem superfluous to an established truth) by requiring proper proof of any truth.

The attempt to extend this principle to all aspects of truth neglects the subjective nature of human experience.

It also neglects the validity of circular truths.

If I believe that a certain pill is going to do me good and it does me good then it is no use claiming that scientifically it only contained chalk.

If I believe that suffering and deliberate starvation will get me to heaven then I have created a special universe in which the suffering and starvation do have a definite value.

The consequences of absolute truth

Religious meta-systems tend to be based on absolute truths.

This means that the truths have to be defended at all costs.

It also means that conflicting truths must be wrong.

Righteousness and arrogance follow:

‘I am right and you are wrong.’

There often seems to be a duty to impose the truth on those who have not yet been able to see it for themselves.

As a practical spin-off this duty of imposition strengthens belief in the truth that is being imposed.

Persecution and intolerance tend to follow—but not necessarily, since there are many religions which jealously guard their own absolute truths but make no attempt to impose them on others. ¶¶¶

The Greeks used absolute truth as a destination:

something to be worked towards even if it could never be reached.

This is the way a scientist uses truth.

Christians have tended to use it as a way of life. ¶¶¶

The main problem created by absolute truth is that it is perfect and unchangeable and hence arrogant.

Since any person or group of people is entitled to consider as absolute any temporary or dogmatic truth, this arrogance can lead to trouble.

The arrogance of Marxism equals that of Christianity—and why should it not, since both are possessed of absolute truths?


What would happen if we discarded the concept of absolute truth?

What would happen if we threw out absolute truth from its central position in philosophy and in religious meta-systems? ¶¶¶

We could replace absolute truth with temporary or contingent truths.

In areas such as science this would only seem to be acknowledging what any proper scientist knows to be the position anyway.

Karl Popper has suggested that the purpose of an hypothesis is not to be proved but to be disproved so that a better one can emerge.

Scientific truths are temporary truths which may seem absolute at the time but are later replaced by others.

Newton’s truths seemed a perfect and absolute explanation until Einstein came along and provided a different explanation.

In time Einstein’s concepts will certainly be replaced by an even newer truth. ¶¶¶

We can look at the evolution of truths in the same way as we can the evolution in any self-organizing system.

There is a stable state which continues for some time.

Then there is a period of change to a new stable state which again lasts for some time.

This gives a series of plateaux as shown in E211F3FC-A96E-4859-AFA5-C1FD5ECC4AB8 ScrivenerLinkDeleted.

All the time the truth is ‘improving’. ¶¶¶

We can call these plateaux or stable states ‘proto-truths’.

We can treat them as truths in all respects except one:

a proto-truth is always held to be changeable and is never regarded as absolute.

A proto-truth is only changed for a better prototruth.

There is a constant readiness for change but at the same time a willingness to use the proto-truth as if it were absolute.

It is very important to realize that the rejection of absolute truths does not mean that no truth is possible and that we should not try to find any.

On the contrary, it means that we can freely believe in and use truths because we no longer fear being trapped by them.

We often reject absolute truths because we fear the consequences of accepting them.

The same fear is not present with proto-truths. ¶¶¶

Proto-truths satisfy the dilemma that has become more and more obvious in our scientific age.

In theory we should be unable to act until science had given a full explanation of the world and a scientific basis for action.

In practice we do have to act and in many areas we have to act on the basis of little information and little scientific understanding.

A proto-truth is a working truth with which we can proceed.

The distinction between a proto-truth and an hypothesis will be discussed later in this section.

Proto-truths and absolute truths

It should now be clear that there are two systems of truth.

Both types of truth are believable and usable.

The sole difference is that proto-truths are capable of being changed to better ones whereas absolute truths are not.

Absolute truths hold sway in special universes and in circular situations.

An absolute truth cannot be changed unless the universe in which it operates is changed.

Proto-truths hold sway in ‘open’ universes. ¶¶¶

The meta-system suggested in this book is based on proto-truth rather than absolute truth.

In particular it is realized that the world created by the perception of man’s mind is entirely a world of proto-truth:

one way of looking at things is capable of being replaced by a better way.

Most religious meta-systems are based on absolute truth.

Practical varieties of truth

We can now put proto-truth in its proper context amongst the practical varieties of truth:

Absolute truth

Obtains only in special universes and in circular situations;

may be deliberately set up by belief or dogma.


Obtains in open universes;

an evolutionary type of truth which is usable as truth in every way but which is capable of replacement and change.


A temporary arrangement of experience to be used as a framework for exploring that experience further.

Pragmatic truth

Something which is held to be true because such a belief is useful.

Proto-truth and hypothesis

It is important to make a clear distinction between the two.

In its essential meaning an hypothesis is a sort of guess which creates an explanation of events which can then be used to design experiments.

Any hypothesis is a provocative tool of science.

For example, I might have an hypothesis that certain species eat their young when upset in order to keep the population constant in an area.

My hypothesis would suggest that in conditions of overcrowding there would be changes in the brain leading to production of chemicals that made an animal more easily irritable.

Such animals would be easily upset and so would eat, their offspring.

Such an hypothesis would lead to a variety of experiments:

  • measuring chemicals in the brain
  • using tranquilizers
  • comparing the provocation thresholds of animals from overcrowded areas with those of animals from less densely populated areas
  • observing other instances of irritation in overcrowded areas
  • etc.

After thorough research there might be enough evidence to support a conclusion.

This conclusion would become a proto-truth.

The proto-truth could itself be used deliberately as an hypothesis by someone else who would confirm the proto-truth or replace it with a better one.

The essential difference is a matter of use:

a prototruth is a conclusion (even if short-lived) whereas an hypothesis is a provocative experimental tool.

Proto-truth and pragmatism

This is another important distinction.

Pragmatism was developed by the American philosopher William James who derived the idea from Charles Peirce, another American.

Pragmatism holds that there is no truth except the ‘cash-value’ of an idea.

In other words, a statement is true only if it makes a practical difference to life.

This is generally interpreted to mean that a statement is true only if it is useful.

At once huge dangers open up.

The Nazis may have found it useful to consider the Jews as sub-human because this gave their followers a feeling of superiority which was important for the functioning of the Third Reich.

The Catholic Inquisition may have felt that it was useful to burn apparent heretics because it kept others in line.

Truth can usually be rationalized around actions which seem useful.

A proto-truth does not have to be useful or even usable.

It may make no difference to life at the moment.

It is simply a truth which is acknowledged to be replaceable.

The consequences of proto-truth

Once absolute truth is replaced by proto-truth a number of possibilities at once explode into being.


It is no longer necessary fiercely to defend the truths one holds, as is the case with absolute truths.

A proto-truth does not have to be kept intact.

It can be changed or replaced if an alternative is shown to be better.

At once this replaces polemic, clash, debate and dialectic with a mutual exploration of the situation.

Instead of two people each trying to prove the other wrong there can be an exploration of the situation and the proto-truths involved, with the intention of constructing a better proto-truth.

This makes use of the process of ‘exlectics’ rather than dialectics (the process of exlectics is discussed later).

Persecution and intolerance

Persecution no longer makes sense.

It is replaced by tolerance and a readiness to accept alternative proto-truths.

Proto-truths do not have to be unique in the sense that absolute truths need to be unique.

Proto-truths may indicate different stages in the evolutionary thinking of another person or group or different evolutionary pathways.

Just as there are different competent animal species so there can be different competent proto-truths.

Man’s mind

The new meta-system suggests that we make a god of man’s mind.

In the past this was never possible because it was realized that man’s mind is very liable to make mistakes and also to be deceived by illusions.

Man’s mind was rejected because it could not generate satisfactory absolute truths.

But if we accept fallibility and proto-truths then we can accept that man’s thoughts can evolve through one proto-truth to a better one.

So long as we know that proto-truths are always replaceable by better ones, fallibility does not matter.

At the same time we can use the positive, constructive aspects of man’s mind.

The practical use of proto-truths

There can be personal proto-truths, group proto-truths and cultural proto-truths as well as more universal ones arrived at by consensus.

Proto-truths are ways of looking at the world, and the experience-histories of different people will lead to different proto-truths.

There may seem an obvious danger here that an individual or group may have arrived at a rather peculiar proto-truth which constitutes a danger to other people (like the Manson cult in the USA).

If such a person or group is entitled to its own version of truth, does this not open the way to anarchy?

The answer is that because a proto-truth is only a temporary truth it cannot be held with sufficient intensity to interfere with the rights or proto-truths of others.

Subjective truths are valid so long as they are not objectively imposed on others.

In any case a person or group who have considered their own version of truth as absolute are not going to be made more dangerous by being told that it is not absolute but only temporary.

The trend would be towards reducing such dangers along with the reduction in arrogance and intolerance. ¶¶¶

Like any other truth, a proto-truth should be free of deliberate error or deception.

It should also be based on a full consideration of the situation, not just on a tiny part of it or a special point of view.

The requirements for a proto-truth are no different from the requirements for truth as we now accept them—the only difference is the acknowledgement of the possibility of improvement or replacement. ¶¶¶

The Buddhist meta-system insisted that the human mind can only perceive illusion, not reality.

The mind has to be trained away from illusion until it is released into a state of contemplation of pure reality.

The new meta-system insists that illusions are usable and workable and may be regarded as proto-truths.

This does not mean that every illusion is a proto-truth but that some illusions may be regarded as proto-truths and others will still be regarded as illusions.

The distinction is based on the application of the usual criteria of evidence, proof, fit and consensus. ¶¶¶

The same distinction can be made between subjective proto-truths and objective proto-truths as is now made with truth.

The only difference is that the arrogance of absolute truth is removed from both. ¶¶¶

It may be suggested that if there is no such thing as absolute truth then it is better to dispense with the illusion of truth entirely.

This attitude would mistake the functioning of a self-organizing and evolutionary system.

Animals are ‘definite’ enough even though they may in time evolve into better animals.

It is only because we are so used to considering truth as absolute that proto-truth seems worthless.

In fact proto-truth is of more value than absolute truth because it is evolutionary.

We can use proto-truth with confidence because we know that we are not going to be trapped by it.

Proto-truth is not another word for doubt or indecision.

On the contrary it makes for definiteness and decisiveness:

we must use the proto-truth we have at the moment as we have to do in science.

Without proto-truth life is a meaningless drift of confusion. ¶¶¶

The essential point about a proto-truth is that we can use it and believe it—so long as we are prepared to improve or replace it with a better one. ¶¶¶

A proto-truth may seem intangible in the way water is intangible.

It cannot be handled and attacked because it is so fluid.

But there is nothing intangible about the way water supports a boat.

Just as a boat makes its way over water so we can live our lives supported by proto-truths that are fluid and changeable.

The Mind of Man as God

Man’s mind creates the perceived world in which he has to live as surely as God created the external world

Most religions have firmly rejected the mind of man.

This has been because his mind is seen to be subject to deceptions and illusions or else because his mind is seen to serve the earthy-greedy self that has to be suppressed before salvation can be achieved. ¶¶¶

The new meta-system suggested in this book treats the mind of man as god.

Traditional religions of all sorts are agreed that God created the universe.

Whether this was done directly in six days as suggested in the book of Genesis, or whether God is the principle of life and organization as believed by the Hindus does not matter:

the fact remains that God created the world and therefore we worship him as God.

Man has to live in the world created by his mind.

Through the process of perception the mind of man creates his world just as surely as God is credited with creating the physical world.

If we regard God as the principle of organization and even as the principle of self-organization then the mind of man is the principle of organization that allows him to perceive the world and so create the internal world through which he is going to live.

It is the map-maker who actually creates the world in which the navigator is going to navigate.

This world may or may not correspond exactly to the real world.

In the same way our minds create our worlds and these may or may not correspond to the real world, depending on the organizing characteristics and knowledge of our minds. ¶¶¶

The mind of man has no inbuilt program of instincts which offers a ready-made map of the world.

That is why the human infant requires years of self-education before it can cope with the world, whereas a new-born fawn can cope almost at once.

The mind of a child has to create its own world through experience organized by perception into an internal world that is an ever-improving map of the external world.

Education and second-hand experience are only devices to enrich the field in which this self-educating process happens. ¶¶¶

A five year-old child refuses to drink his milk at breakfast.

His mother explains that just as a car needs petrol to go, so the milk, is his petrol and it will make him swim better in the pool.

The child drinks the milk at once.

Has the mother fooled the child?

Not at all.

The petrol-car relationship is a more accurate description of the milk than is the physical appearance of a glass of milk.

The important point is that a change in the child’s perception of the milk has made a definite difference to his behavior.

Jean Liedloff in her account of her visits to the Yequana tribe in South America tells how the tribesmen seemed to treat the irksome job of portaging a heavy dug-out canoe as fun whereas the Europeans made a great fuss about this tiresome chore.

Again the perception of the situation changed the attitude and the behavior.

A group of thirty children aged between ten and twelve were doing the first lesson in a program devised to teach thinking as a direct skill.

The children were asked if it would be a good idea for each pupil to be given a weekly wage for going to school.

Every one of the thirty children was delighted with the idea—they could buy more sweets and comics and have fun.

The children were then asked to consider, quite deliberately, the plus and minus points arising from the suggestion (this exercise was the object of the lesson).

They now looked at a broader picture and wondered where the money would come from; they suspected they would be no better off because parents would withhold pocket money and schools would probably raise charges; older boys might beat up the younger ones to take the money.

Twenty-nine out of the thirty children had now completely changed their minds about the idea—simply through being given a direct strategy for broadening their perception of the situation. ¶¶¶

Although traditional religions distrust the mind, they do rely on the ability of perception to create the internal world in which man is going to live.

For example, a Christian’s acceptance of suffering, and self-infliction of suffering, arises from a perception of the world that has been completely altered by Christian beliefs.

The Buddhist is expected to develop a perception of the world in which his self belongs not to him but to nature.

Man acts according to his perceptions.

Religious meta-systems succeed by altering these perceptions.

The new meta-system treats perception directly as being all-important:

as the creative god of man’s being.

Perception as a self-organizing system

The eye (or another sense organ) is only part of the perception process.

It is the brain that does most of the work to organize the signals from the external world into recognizable patterns that have meaning.

To be more exact, the brain simply provides a structure within which the incoming sensory signals can organize themselves into meaningful patterns.

The nerves in the brain convert the sensory signals into a form that can self-organize itself into stable patterns.

The brain is quite passive in this respect.

It is not a matter of an ego choosing, sorting and organizing information.

The information does its own organizing.

The process is described in detail in my book, The Mechanism of Mind.

The outline given below is necessarily brief.

Towel and gelatine systems

The difference between the two fundamental types of information system can be illustrated with a towel model and a gelatine model. ¶¶¶

In the towel model an ordinary towel is spread on a flat surface such as a table.

Alongside the towel there is a bowl of ink.

From time to time a spoonful of ink is taken from the bowl and poured on to the towel.

An ink-stain results.

The towel corresponds to the receiving or memory surface that records the incoming information.

The spoonful of ink represents the incoming information or experience.

After a while the surface will bear a number of ink-stains, as shown in 3D055F91-2212-4656-8A55-8A46FCD01B2B ScrivenerLinkDeleted.

The ink stays where it was put and does not fade or alter in any way.

Thus a good record is kept of all that has happened to the surface.

If we wanted to use this stored information we should have to use a separate processor which would measure or relate the ink-stains in some way.

This towel model is the classic view of a computer:

perfect memory storage and then a separate processor.

It is also the traditional view of the human mind:

a memory storage system and then a thinking system.

The gelatine model is different.

The receiving surface is not a towel but a wide shallow dish of gelatine (table jelly or jell-O).

This time the bowl of ink is heated up.

When a spoonful of hot ink is poured on to the surface it dissolves the gelatine.

But the ink soon cools down and stops dissolving the gelatine.

When the fluid (ink and melted gelatine) is poured off, a shallow depression is left as the record of what has been done to the surface.

This depression corresponds to the ink-stain on the towel.

A number of spoonfuls are poured on to the gelatine surface in exactly the same way as was done with the towel surface.

But the effect is quite different.

At the end instead of there being a number of separate depressions corresponding to the ink-stains on the towel, there is a channel eroded in the surface of the gelatine ( F5A62374-E307-4CD8-97E0-8C3D475C82E2 ScrivenerLinkDeleted).

What happens is that the second spoonful of hot ink tends to flow into the first depression.

The third spoonful tends to flow into the second depression and then on to the first.

In this way a channel is formed.

Once a channel has formed the recorded information is now no longer separate:

it is linked up.

If we were to pour on some ink in the fourth-spoonful position it would flow along the channel and end up in the first-spoonful position.

In other words, a pattern has been established so that the information is linked together.

It is as if when we see a glass we know that it is suitable for drinking from, because the two things have been linked together. ¶¶¶

The gelatine model simply offers an ‘opportunity’ for the incoming information to organize itself into patterns.

In the section on self-organizing systems it was mentioned that ‘stickiness’ was a characteristic of such systems:

if something happened it was less easy for it to unhappen.

In the gelatine model the incoming information attaches itself or ‘sticks’ to preceding information to create a pattern.

Further information will tend to flow along these established patterns, making them deeper, just as water flowing through a river makes it deeper.

The gelatine model and the brain

As explained in The Mechanism of Mind, the functional relationship between the gelatine model and the process of perception in the brain is quite close.

Instead of gelatine there is a mass of interconnected nerves along which electrical excitation flows.

The junctions between nerves are called synapses.

Excitation will only spread across the synapse if the conditions are right.

A sensory input to the brain should cause a spread of excitation over all the surface giving rise to a sort of epileptic fit.

But the excitation is limited because each excited nerve feeds into a central pool as well as to its neighbor.

From this central pool an inhibiting influence is fed back to prevent the excitation spreading across a synapse.

This inhibitory influence is proportional to the total number of nerves that are in an excited state.

There comes a time when the inhibitory influence is just great enough to prevent a further spread of excitation.

This leads to a limited and single area of excitation rather like the single spoonful of ink.

If a particular junction or synapse is easily bridged (because it has been bridged before) then excitation will tend to flow that way.

In this way the area of excitation flows over the network much as the ink flows over the gelatine model.

Patterns are also formed in the same way.

Readers who find this explanation inadequate are urged to read the book referred to at the beginning of this sub-section. ¶¶¶

What is important is not the detail of the mechanism but the formation of patterns in the process of perception.

All the available evidence suggests that this is how perception works.

Indeed, it is difficult to see how a self-educating system could work except by allowing incoming information to organize itself into patterns.

The importance of patterns

The simplest definition of a pattern is that if one state tends to follow another state with a probability greater than chance, then a pattern is present.

We call a wallpaper pattern a pattern because once we have recognized the design we expect it to continue:

that design is more likely to follow itself than is any other. ¶¶¶

The simplest way to show a pattern is as a track or road.

Anyone going along that road is more likely to stay on the road than jump over the side (we are more likely to perceive a glass as a vessel for drinking than as a missile). ¶¶¶

If the mind did not use patterns we should be unable to use language.

Language is a code system in which a word indicates a whole pattern of meaning.

The word simply identifies the right road and then our mind goes down that road to use the meaning attached to the word.

If I hear or read the word ‘glass’ my mind explores the attached meaning-pattern at once.

When you visually recognize a particular person your mind explores the pattern of what you know about him.

A pattern is a sort of filing system in which one thing follows on from another.

Alternative patterns

A pattern is only a convenient way of linking up or grouping together features in the environment.

Just as the same classroom of children can be grouped in a number of alternative ways (by age, by height, by color of hair, by place of residence, by the first letter of the surname, etc.), so different minds can come to see the same thing in different ways.

The pattern shown in CF1604F3-6EB8-42B5-B009-D4DBF8341B6B ScrivenerLinkDeleted can be described in a number of different ways, all of which are right.

A bottle may be described as half full of milk or half empty.

A cow may be seen as a sacred animal by a Hindu, as a source of profit by a cattle-breeder, and as giving life to a landscape by an artist. ¶¶¶

When we look at a glass we see it as a drinking vessel.

How, then, could we come to use it as a missile in a bar brawl?

The answer is that we are looking round for a ‘hand-sized throwable object’ and this leads us to a glass.

The process is shown in 0237E993-24EE-473B-BB33-9373ED192B11 ScrivenerLinkDeleted.

The wide track leads from glass to drinking vessel.

The narrow track leads from glass to missile.

The narrow track cannot be taken at first because the other track is wide (more strongly established by experience).

But if we start at ‘missile’ then it is quite easy to move down along the narrow track and end up with a glass.

Puns are based on alternative tracks attached to the same words:

‘Vice’ as something used in carpentry or as some evil habit;

a ‘golf-club’ as something with which to hit the ball or as the place where golf can be played. ¶¶¶

Humor is based on the process of switching tracks:

of suddenly seeing something in a different way.

This is also the basis of insight and creativity.

It is also the aim of lateral thinking.

That is why the humor process or pattern-switching process is such a key element in the new meta-system.

This aspect is discussed in detail in another section.

Changing patterns

We have seen that perception is a self-organizing process that creates patterns.

A pattern is only one particular way of looking at things and does not exclude other ways.

A pattern is a prototruth.

We treat it as true and we use it until we replace it with another pattern.

In the evolution of our thoughts, both as individuals and as society, we may go through a series of patterns or ways of looking at the world.

Each one represents a stable plateau in the self-organizing process.

Life would be quite impossible if we did not have stable patterns of perception:

you would be unable to jump out of the way of a motor car in time unless your perception recognized its horn at once. ¶¶¶

So we have to use our stable patterns of perception as proto-truths, realizing that they are not unique and also that they are capable of being replaced by better patterns.

As usual, there is the balance problem:

how far do we adjust to the patterns we have and how far do we try to replace them by better ones?

An idea is a pattern or way of putting things together.

We have to be able to maintain a balance between using and enjoying ideas and creating new ones.

Influencing patterns

As we have seen, patterns are formed by the self-organization of incoming information.

This is a passive process.

In what way can a mind influence the patterns that are formed?

Although the pattern-forming is passive and self-organizing, the circumstances in which this happens can have a great effect.

If you take a course on cooking then you are more likely to form cooking patterns than if you do not.

If you choose to go to France you are more likely to form French language patterns than if you do not.

If you focus on a problem you are more likely to develop further patterns than if you do not.

When you put different things together by a deliberate effort of attention new patterns are likely to emerge.

The deliberate use of lateral thinking can provoke new patterns.

Logical analysis can clarify issues and direct attention and so encourage new patterns to emerge.

The use of notation as in mathematics can conveniently exteriorize complex matters so that new perceptions can be made.

Mental or physical models can help in the same way.

Thus although patterns form passively from the self-organization of experience, man can affect that experience and so influence patterns. ¶¶¶

The new meta-system is concerned with the use and change of the perceptual patterns that create the world in which each person lives.


Wisdom is a broad ability to look at the world and to look at one’s looking

If a man is to be master of his own enjoyment of life he is going to have to do some thinking for himself unless he is content to let circumstances and other people do it for him.

Bertrand Russell claimed that man was more frightened of thinking than of anything else.

This is because many people believe that thinking involves having to solve a complicated mathematical or logical problem.

But that is only a tiny part of thinking.

Thinking is having to decide whether you want a chocolate ice-cream or a vanilla one.

Thinking is telling a funny story.

Thinking is going over in your mind a pleasant experience.

Thinking is imagining what might happen next in the television thriller. ¶¶¶

Thinking is the exploration and use of experience.

That use includes enjoyment, problem-solving and the setting of objectives.

Thinking is like moving your finger over your own, personal, internal map of the world.

The roads are the patterns created by perception.

Some roads are more clearly marked than others and there may be areas with too few roads.

Purpose of thinking

Apart from direct enjoyment the purpose of thinking is to adjust oneself to the circumstances or to adjust the circumstances to one self.

Thinking involves active planning as well as passive contemplation.

Thinking is like using a telescope or a microscope or a sketch-pad or a screwdriver.

Happiness is a problem that is solved by developing an understanding of the world and of oneself, and then making use of that understanding in a practical manner.

Misconceptions about thinking

It is often mistakenly supposed that thinking requires a high IQ.

This is not the case.

Children with relatively low IQs (about 80) can still be effective thinkers.

When people are dealing with their own experience they can be much better thinkers than when they are required to absorb new experience before they can start thinking. ¶¶¶

People with high IQs are not necessarily good thinkers.

In fact the possession of a high IQ can often be counter-productive.

Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers because they can never allow themselves to be wrong.

They often take up an instant judgement position on a subject and then use their thinking to support that position rather than to explore the subject area before making a judgement.

The more effective they are in support of their instant judgement the less inclined will they be to change this.

The result is clever argument but ineffective thinking. ¶¶¶

There is a very dangerous misconception that has been encouraged by education, and this concerns the use of the critical intelligence.

Education has fostered the notion that the critical intelligence is the highest use of the mind.

This notion arises from the days when education was controlled by the Church and it was necessary to put a high emphasis on critical skills since it was the criticism of heresies that would have to preserve the integrity of the Church.

Criticism is a relatively easy form of intellectual achievement and much used by mediocre minds who are unable to be creative or constructive.

You cannot grow a garden just ‘by pruning:

there has to be some planting and fostering of plants as well.

We are apt to dismiss an idea because 10 per cent of it may be in error, ignoring the 90 per cent that is worth-while.

The meta-system suggested in this book is much in favor of the positive and constructive attitudes of thinking rather than the negative destructive ones. ¶¶¶

Many people open a learned book on philosophy and find that they can understand very little.

They ascribe this to their own poor level of education or thinking.

This is an unfortunate mistake.

The writer of the learned book on philosophy would, himself, have been just as lost had he opened a book on electronics or polymer chemistry.

Each specialized field of knowledge has its own concepts and its own jargon, and there is no shame in not knowing the jargon of all possible fields.

It is rather up to the writer to communicate if that is the purpose of his book.

Many learned people are experts in their own field because the depth of their focused knowledge does much of the thinking for them.

Outside their own field such people may be rather poor thinkers. ¶¶¶

Intellectualism has deservedly got itself a bad reputation.

It is possible to play logical word games in which one concept generates another in a sort of virtuoso ballet of ideas.

But it does not add up to anything except an amusing game played with the mind.

Intellectualism is like a steamer with its propeller out of the water and churning the air:

there is much happening but not much progress.

Thinking is definitely not reserved for intellectuals. ¶¶¶

Scholarship is too often the triumph of form over content.

A small and usually unimportant area is explored in great depth and detail.

Larger and more important areas which cannot be treated in the same way are ignored.

The emphasis which universities have placed on scholarship has contributed very much to their losing their once central role in the thinking of society. ¶¶¶

Traditionally thinking has been put in terms of debate, clashes and polemics.

This has arisen from our dependence on dialectics as the only form of developmental thinking.

The dialectic process tends to be negative (extremely so when converted into action) and can be replaced by a more positive process that is part of the new meta-system and is described in a subsequent section.

This new process of ‘exlectics’ seeks to draw out and improve what is good in an idea rather than to attack what is bad. ¶¶¶

Because philosophers have largely been involved in word games or mathematical games, logic has come to assume a dominant position in thinking.

In practice, when we are thinking about the real world rather than some artificially constructed world of words or numbers, perception is very much more important than logic.

Most thinking is a matter of dealing with perceptions.

Only a small part of thinking requires special logical manipulations.

The insistence on logic has a dangerous spin-off:

we assume that if an argument is free of logical error it must be valid.

This is nonsense.

Bad logic does make for bad thinking but good logic does not ensure good thinking unless the perceptions on which it is based are sound.

We would do well to pay much more attention to perception (the way we see the world) than to intricate logical skills.

The same thing applies to mathematics:

we often pay all the attention to the correct manipulation of the symbols and none to the initial translation of the world into symbols.

Ignorance and information

No one can know everything.

Thinking is usually based on incomplete information.

It is sensible to try to get as much relevant information as possible, but impractical to expect to get enough information to do your thinking for you on every occasion.

Thinking often involves guessing and speculation.

It is an impractical habit, fostered by education, to refuse to think unless information is complete. ¶¶¶

There are four different types of ignorance:

not having the information in the first place;

having the information but not using it because of inadequate scanning of experience;

having the information but putting it together incorrectly;

an arrogance which refuses to look beyond an apparently satisfactory solution based on only part of the situation.

The arrogance type of ignorance is the most culpable, the most dangerous and the most common.

Beauty and feeling

There is a notion that there is a divide between thinking on one hand and beauty and feeling on the other.

It is sometimes believed that thinking destroys spontaneous emotional response and also kills beauty by analysis.

It is imagined that the thinking person stands in front of a painting and instead of appreciating its beauty and responding with an emotion, analyzes the style of the painter.

This is a silly misconception fostered by those who equate thinking with intellectual games.

The appreciation of beauty and feeling itself are types of thinking.

The only difference is that they are not carried out with words or fixed concepts.

To be able to feel about something is as important as, or even more important than, being able to think about it.

But feeling should not exclude other forms of thinking since each can enhance the other.

The new meta-system in no way suggests that everything has to be reduced to intellectual formulas.

Thinking, in the ordinary sense of the word, is only a tool of feeling.

The tool is used to create those situations in which enjoyment and happiness can best be felt. ¶¶¶

There is a classical story of the centipede that was proceeding quite comfortably until someone asked it which leg followed which.

The result was that the centipede became unable to proceed further as it lay distracted in the ditch wondering which leg came before which.

There are those who feel that thinking will destroy their ability to feel or appreciate in an unintellectual way.

Again it must be stressed that there is a big difference between thinking and intellectual analysis.

Thinking enlarges the area in which feeling can take place and generates more opportunities for feeling:

there is no antagonism between the two.

A man who cooks brilliantly by ‘instinct’ is not made to follow an instruction book but benefits from being brought into contact with new ingredients to which he can apply his skill.


No one makes mistakes on purpose, but mistakes do get made.

The human mind is fallible and it is ridiculous to suppose otherwise.

Once this is realized, then thinking can be combined with the sort of humility that is described in the section on humor.

It is because the new meta-system replaces truth with proto-truth that people can be allowed to think for themselves.

Unless a person is capable of making mistakes then he is not capable of thinking.

The mistake does not matter.

What does matter is the attachment of arrogance to a mistake on the basis that no mistake could ever have been made.

A person gains a great deal from a mistake and even more from an admitted mistake.

He gains a new way of looking at things.

The ego and thinking

Thinking is too often regarded as an extension of the ego.

Clever children in school base their egos on being clever and on being right all the time.

They dislike group work because they cannot then show the rest of the class where the good idea originated.

When the ego and thinking are treated as the same thing there is a reluctance to be wrong and a need to defend a point of view rather than to explore the situation.

A person should be able to treat his thinking much as a tennis player treats his strokes:

he should be able to walk off the court complaining that his backhand was not working very well on that occasion or that it required more practice. ¶¶¶

The new meta-system is very much in favor of the self, but a self that is based on a proper sense of dignity, not on an inflated ego.

A person who dare not admit he is wrong inflates his ego but weakens his self.

Unsolved problems

There will always be problems that cannot be solved.

No thinker should pretend that he can solve all problems.

Sometimes a problem is not solvable because it is posed in a self-contradictory manner which makes solution impossible.

Here, attention to the problem is more important than attention to the answer.

Other problems may have a solution which cannot yet be found by a particular thinker or by any thinker.

There is nothing wrong with defining unsolved problems and coming back to them whenever one wishes.

This should be done in a relaxed manner and not with a sense of anguish or frustration.

The world will not be saved by the solution of a tantalizing problem.

Such problems are best treated as friends or ‘pets’.

Wisdom and cleverness

It must have become obvious in this section that the new meta-system is against cleverness and in favor of wisdom.

Cleverness is a sort of intellectual games-playing which is enjoyable for those who enjoy it but not necessary for everyone (any more than a liking for fishing).

Wisdom is a broad ability to look at the world and to look at one’s looking.

Wisdom is based on robust commonsense and humility—not on winning arguments.


Whereas dialectics seek to batter an idea into a better one, exlectics seek to build it into a better one ¶¶¶

Marxism claims to be based on dialectical materialism.

The dialectic process assumes that in time everything breeds its opposite.

This opposite splits off and there is then a clash between the two.

From this clash arises something new or a new idea.

In formal terms a thesis breeds its antithesis and then thesis and antithesis clash and from this arises a synthesis.

So capitalism gives rise to anticapitalism and from the struggle between the two there arises the utopia of Marxism.

The dialectic process was much considered by the German philosopher Hegel who became a strong influence on thinkers and doers of the nineteenth century.

There was, however, nothing new in dialectics.

The Greeks, and Socrates in particular, had based their discourse on the dialectic process, and the theologians and churchmen of the Middle Ages had done likewise.

It seems a convenient way in which to work from one idea towards a better one.

The evolution of better ideas is based on clash and struggle, rather as Darwin assumed the survival of the best-fitted species was based. ¶¶¶

The danger with dialectics is that the negative and destructive elements too easily become dominant.

Negativity becomes an end in itself.

The best brains become involved only in negative criticism and consider this a sufficient endeavour.

Destruction becomes an end in itself.

Destruction and opposition provide sufficient direction to become the basis of another religion-of-opposition as described in an earlier section.

Marx and Lenin were quite conscious of this and placed their full emphasis on the ‘struggle’ of the transition stage during which capitalism was to be destroyed.

They were right to do this because this is what has given Marxism its practical fervour—just as trade unions have been most effective when in opposition. ¶¶¶

We recognize the same dialectic process in politics in a democratic country with the added absurdity that an opposition feels duty bound to disagree with whatever the government proposes even if it makes sense. ¶¶¶

The emphasis on opposition and clash rests on the assumption that the system is robust enough to somehow produce something new and better.

But a system can only do this if it has derived a considerable momentum from somewhere.

For example, the Catholic Church thrived on the opposition that caused it to tighten up both its doctrines and administration.

But this easy assumption of a positive, constructive force, somewhere, may be mistaken.

Where Marxism has succeeded in its anti-capitalist struggle the new utopia is nothing like as splendid as was the struggle stage. ¶¶¶

So the major weakness of the dialectic method is the concentration on criticism and destruction on the assumption that ‘somewhere’ there is a constructive element.

Exlectics and dialectics

With the new process of exlectics suggested in the new meta-system the emphasis is on the positive, constructive aspects of the evolution of new ideas instead of on the negative clash aspects.

In Darwin’s evolutionary model the emphasis has shifted from the struggle-for-survival stage to the mutation stage.

‘How do we change an idea into a better one?’, instead of ‘How do we batter an idea into a better one?’

It is a matter of building on ideas, improving them and perhaps changing them rather than criticizing them.

The exlectic process recognizes that construction will be slow to happen unless someone sets out deliberately to be constructive.

It is not suggested that negatively minded people are incapable of being constructive but that they need to be pointed in a constructive direction.

The process of exlectics

The process is illustrated in 94966DE7-DE7C-4CD5-B666-5349768461F7 ScrivenerLinkDeleted.

The first stage is the exploration stage.

This is a cooperative exploration with both parties exploring the situation or idea.

Together they construct a sort of map.

This map will indicate their points of agreement and disagreement.

Disagreement may be based on fact, on interpretation and on different value systems.

There will be agreement on some positive points and agreement on some negative points.

There will be disagreement on some points which one side holds to be positive and the other to be negative.

The second stage is to extract a key-point from the situation.

This key-point is chosen because it is crucial.

It may be a point of agreement or of disagreement.

The third stage involves the ‘re-clothing’ of the key-point.

This can mean adding to it elements from the old situation, or new ones.

The new ones may have to be created or borrowed from other situations.

Only points on which there is an agreed positive attitude should be added.

If the total idea ends up by being incomplete and unworkable then a deliberate effort is made to complete it or the whole process starts again with a fresh key-point being chosen. ¶¶¶

‘At this third stage there is an alternative route.

Instead of the key-point being ‘re-clothed’ it can be changed deliberately to a new concept by the application of lateral thinking.

In practice this can mean a cooperative generation of new concepts until both sides agree that they have one with which they can work in a constructive manner.

The new concept would then have to be clothed as described above.

The fourth stage is the modification and development of the new idea to make it workable. ¶¶¶

In formal terms the extracted key-point may be called the ‘exthesis’.

The exthesis may be changed to give an ‘alterthesis’.

The clothing of the exthesis or alterthesis gives rise to a ‘neothesis’ and the final acceptable idea is a ‘proto-thesis’.

But the formality of these expressions is unimportant. ¶¶¶

It can be seen that the process of exlectics is one of building rather than knocking down.

Since it is impossible to build on an already complete idea some key-point is extracted and used as something upon which to build.

Both sides are now concerned in the building process.

If the starting-point proves unsuitable a new one is chosen or it is changed by lateral thinking (moving sideways to look at things in a different way.)

The lump effect

Words and concepts cover many meanings.

Quite often a dispute arises because one party is focusing on one aspect of the concept whereas the other party is focusing on another aspect.

For example, the expression ‘cow-like contentment’ seems to be a derogatory one if we look on cows as being stupid, unimaginative creatures that allow themselves to be exploited.

Who wants to be called a cow?

But if we focus on the simplicity and harmony of a cow’s life in a world with which it can cope then we can see some positive and indeed enviable features of cow-like contentment.

Similarly with the word ‘profit’.

This lump word can be attacked as meaning greed and exploitation because the early capitalists were only interested in what they could get away with.

This cannot be denied.

Nor can it be denied that profits do often come from exploitation of the worker or the consumer.

But if we escape the lump effect we can look on profits as a source for a reinvestment that can create new jobs, as a source for new ventures that may benefit new workers or consumers, as a measure of the efficieRcy with which an organization is run, as an incentive for people to save and invest their money in businesses capable of raising the standard of living.

All this is also correct.

The dialectic process would insist on a clash between the two opposing points of view.

The exiectic process might pick out the efficiency measure as a key-point and then in re-clothing it try to avoid the possibilities of greed and exploitation.

The attitude is one of building on the good points and leaving the bad ones behind instead of attacking the whole idea on account of the bad points.

If it proves impossible to build on any of the good points then an attempt is made to develop a new concept:

for example, in the case of ‘profits’ the new concept might involve reward for the investor based on the number of livelihoods he supports.

Changing ideas

An idea is an organization of features just as a pattern is an organization of features to give a perception.

It is quite likely that the features can be re-grouped or restructured in a different and better way.

It is possible that adding some features or dropping others can lead to a better idea.

It is possible that the change of a crucial feature can lead to a totally new idea.

All this can be done by a process of positive reconstruction supplemented by lateral thinking.

The critical and negative approach to new ideas is by no means the only method we have traditionally assumed it to be. ¶¶¶

The new meta-system, in putting the emphasis on positive aspects, would seek to develop the idiom of exlectics in place of dialectics.

The change-over may not be easy for those who can only think in terms of dialectics and clash.





“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




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