An exploration using General Living Systems Theory.

©1999 Carlisle Bergquist, LCMFT, Ph.D.c

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This essay is an exploration. Specifically, it will explore creativity as if it is a transcendental system. It will use James Miller's (1978) General Living Systems Theory as a platform for this exploration. First, this essay will examine Miller's theory and then explore and assess Livings Systems Theory's feasible application to transcendental systems. It will perform this exploration and assessment by modeling creativity as a transcendental system termed here as a transcendental creative system. It will, as described below, attempt to show the transformation from the transcendental space in which the creative system extends to the physical space of our empirical senses. Admittedly, it will not be a perfect fit.

There is a danger inherent in using this model to study creativity to which Miller alludes. He portends that one must be clear about whether they are describing an abstract system or a concrete system and refrain from mixing the two. Likewise, concrete systems exist in physical space while conceptual or abstract systems exist in other spaces; for example, pecking and dominance orders in animal groups, social classes, or the mathematical phase space in chaos theory. Miller writes:

Scientists who make observations and measurements in any space other than physical space should attempt to indicate precisely what the transformations are from their space to physical space. (1978, p.10)

Creativity paradoxically moves beyond physical space into transcendent space, the systems domain Boulding (1956) calls transcendental; thus, using living systems theory to describe transcendent space is fraught with difficulties. Boulding, Checkland (1972) and others refer to transcendental or transcendent systems; to my knowledge, they have presented no model. That remains the dominion of religion and philosophy. Jordan (1968) names eight kinds of systems based on three pairs of polar opposites; rate of change, purpose, and connectivity. Jordan's taxonomy would describe creativity as described in this writing as the eighth category - a Functional, Non-purposive, Organismic system, a part of the space-time continuum. I take exception and postulate that this transcendental creative system is purposive: it is our embedded perspective that makes its purpose incomprehensible. This essay therefore deals with transcendent systems as Functional, Purposive, and Organismic. Living systems theory is thus an appropriate model to explore it. Scientific study stops at the transcendent boundary, admitting its possible presence, but calling it unknowable. Heeding Miller's admonition, this paper will attempt to connect this creative system in transcendent space with physical space. Transformation will require the use of metaphor and symbol. This writing will use what St. Bonaventure called; "the eye of the flesh," the eye of reason," and "the eye of contemplation," as metaphors for such transformation. I will explain them in detail later in this paper. The transformation process from transcendent to physical space involves certain key terms that Miller defines for concrete systems. This essay will will now outline General Living Systems Theory and briefly discuss these terms as Miller uses them and though they may prove to be problematic in describing transcendental systems.

General Living Systems Theory

My central thesis is that systems at all levels are open systems composed of subsystems which process inputs, throughputs, and outputs of various forms of matter, energy, and information. (Miller, 1978, p.1)

The above quotation describes living systems. James Miller elaborates an extensive model of living systems, a subset of all systems described in general systems theory (Bertalanffy,1968). This explication will, of needs, reduce Miller's thoughts within the constraints of this writing. It has taken Miller hundreds of pages to construct his thesis: I can scarcely represent it properly in the pages of this essay. The limitations not with standing, there are good reasons to choose General Living Systems Theory as a model to understand further the creative process that will become evident in this writing.

Miller's method is a conceptual system used to describe concrete systems. Concrete systems have empirical components: they can be measured and studied. However, living systems theory ignores a key component of its systems; that component is life itself. Life is abstract and unobservable. We study its effects and describe its presence but, life itself remains a mystery. It is this that both gives credence to the value, and exposes the weakness, of using living systems theory in studying creativity. This writing will consider creativity synonymous with life for life processes are a continuous act of creation. To live is to create whether consciously or unconsciously. We unavoidably encounter creativity in everything from the processes of the simplest cell, to the theoretical thoughts of this paper.

Central Concepts in Living Systems Theory


As mentioned, living system are concrete, they exist in physical space. Over time the actual physical space occupied by a living system may change considerably. This may be a change in location, a change in form like growth and aging, or both. Time is the fourth dimension of the physical universe and living systems. Though free to move in any direction in the other dimensions, living systems only move forward in the temporal dimension. Thus, a living system will always change from one observation to the next with no ability to reverse the changes that have occurred. Living systems maintain their integrity, albeit changing, by imputing energy from outside their boundaries. Even so, eventually entropy (the tendency to move into a state of random disorganization), overtakes the system as its ability to move matter-energy across its boundary declines. The system then dies or disintegrates.


"Matter is anything which has mass and occupies physical space. Energy as defined by physics is the ability to do work" (Miller 1978, p.11). The total amount of energy and matter remains constant in the universe though it may change from one state to the other. This is the conservation of energy in physics. Living systems sustain themselves by ingesting matter and converting it to energy. Living systems are unable to receive energy directly, except for plants that use sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. All living systems primarily derive energy from sunlight stored in matter by earlier living systems that contained chlorophyll. Miller uses the term matter-energy since they are they are in an inseparable relationship, as sort of flux equilibrium. As mentioned, living systems must import matter-energy from outside their boundaries to maintain their integrity and perform their processes. If input stops, the living system ceases to exist. The import of matter-energy to minimize entropy within the system increases entropy outside the system, thus the physical universe conserves the flux equilibrium by decreasing order in one area to increase or maintain it in another.


Information means "the degree of freedom that exist in a given situation to choose among signals, symbols, messages, or patterns to be transmitted" (Miller, 1978, p. 11). This also seems true of receiving information. Miller uses "meaning" as the significance a given system places on information, that is, its usefulness to the system. In concrete systems (including living systems), information markers are quantifiable; for example, the digital signals found in electronic communication systems. Information may be of several types from which the system must find meaning. Information literally means to bring into form. Thus, information is the creative directive for a system in its use of matter-energy. The information selected determines what a system will do with input, how it will be throughput, and what its output will be.

Information transfers on what von Neumann (1958) termed markers. Markers are the observable bundles, or units of matter-energy that contain and communicate symbols from one place to another. Examples of markers range from the digital bits used by a computer, patterning of a DNA molecule, or the vibration of a radio transmission. The less energy needed to transfer the information marker from one place to another, the more efficient the system is and the greater the amount of information the system can process. Bremermann (1962), an information theorist, estimated a minimum amount of energy that can transfer information as a marker based on quantum-mechanical considerations and estimated that the maximum information a system can process is 2 x 1047 bits per second, per gram of its mass. Thus, in concrete systems markers can be measured and the information it can process estimated. This material is less useful in this paper's description of transcendental systems since we are at this time unable to measure and observe this realm but it will help to consider information markers in relation to the creative process later in this writing.

Before attempting a synthesis of General Living Systems Theory into a general theory of creativity, I will describe living systems as Miller's depicts them.

Section I: General Living Systems Theory

Living systems exhibit similarities though they express different levels of complexity. In Miller's system there are seven hierarchical levels: the cell, the organ, the organism, the group, the organization, the society, and the supranational system. Each level in this hierarchy subsumes those below it though they may exist in different spaces. For example, though all exist in physical space, groups, organizations, societies and, the supranational systems also exist in a conceptual space defined by consensus in the social sciences. Though expressing these differences, Miller asserts that these systems are isomorphic and that all of them inherently possess similar critical subsystems. Miller outlines 19 such critical subsystems. These subsystems, though obviously made up of different components at each level of the hierarchy, perform the same, or similar, functions and processes for their respective systems. This paper will now give a short description of each of these subsystems and provide some examples from different levels of the hierarchy. Describing all levels is imprudent in this writing so I will concentrate on the cell, and the society as examples and refer little to other levels. These two levels represent a concrete and a conceptual type of space respectively.

The 19 Subsystems

Component subsystems at each level of the hierarchy handle different processes for the system in which they exist. Some process matter-energy, some process information and, a few process both matter-energy and information. I will describe them below according to what they process.

Subsystems which process both matter-energy and information:

1. Reproducer

The reproducer subsystem is capable of producing another system like, or similar to, the one it is in. To accomplish this task, the reproducer transmits the information needed to organize, and the matter-energy necessary for construction of the offspring system. There are many processes carried out by this subsystem but the result is the output of an independent offspring that will replicate the system in the larger environment. Because there are several processes involved, reproducer subsystems at different hierarchical levels may be independently capable of reproducing the system or, at higher levels they may be downwardly dispersed and dependent on their component subsystems to reproduce as well as upwardly dispersed toward their suprasystems. For example, some cells can reproduce through one or both of two methods, asexual (fission), or sexual reproduction that requires combining genetic material from another cell (fusion). Organs are not able to reproduce themselves. An organ downwardly disperses reproduction requiring its cells (its subsystem), to generate new material. It also upwardly disperses reproduction by requiring its organism (suprasystem), to provide matter-energy and information. The process disperses further to a supra-suprasystem as the organism forms a mating dyad and inputs new genetic materials and information.

At the cell level, the reproducer subsystem involves both the components of the nucleus, and the cytoplasm of the cell. Again prudence does not allow explanation of the entire process in this example but, as mentioned, reproduction can involve either asexual or sexual processes. The nucleus divides through the process of mitosis in asexual reproduction and later the cell divides all its component subsystems to regenerate them in a new cell. In sexual reproduction called meiosis (a special form of mitosis), the chromosomes separate and eventually create four cells, each of which contain half the original chromosome chain. These cells (i.e., sperm, eggs, or certain conjugal protozoan), then merge with a cell from a mate to form a new cell, or eventually an organism.

A second process emerges as the reproducer from the group level on up the hierarchy. The reproducer subsystem in these cases implements the production of new systems through the process of chartering. In societies for example, chartering is the reformation or reorganization of components such that a new society comes into being. This may occur when a society becomes too large and separates for economic or geographical reasons, or when a leader emerges who brings revolution or independence within the society. In all these cases the parent society transfers matter-energy and information to the offspring. The process metaphorically resembles mitosis when it is a simple division of the component groups, or meiosis when the new society results from a recombination of component elements from more than one society, such as the Spanish settling Latin America causing both the Spanish and Indian cultures to merge in a new society.

2. Boundary

The boundary is the subsystem at the periphery of the system that holds it together separating it from its environment. It protects the system and allows needed matter-energy and information to pass in and out of the system and excludes what is either not useful, or harmful to the system. Living systems may have artifacts distributes along their boundaries that give added strength like the bark of trees, feathers, or fortifications such as the Golan heights between Israel and Syria.

In the cell, the boundary is a semi-permeable membrane that surrounds it. It may have flagella, cilia, or secreted substances that help protect it, or transport materials across the boundary. The boundary is more easily crossed in specific locations; i.e., near the ingestor and input transducer for importing matter-energy and information respectively, and near the extruder and output transducer for eliminating system products and byproducts.

In a society the boundary consists of organizations that protect the system and, as with the cell, regulate the transfer of matter-energy and information in to and, out of, the system. These organizations may be military, and administrative such as immigration services, or diplomatic stations. Services like diplomatic embassies may exist outside the system yet serve as access points to their original systems boundary.

Matter-energy arrives at the boundary as raw material for industry, immigrants, and products from other systems. Along with being a barrier, the boundary filters the matter-energy and maintains the flux equilibrium between the matter-energy outside and inside the system. Thus, a system retains a steady state.

Information boundaries are more complex. They may be the same as physical boundaries in some cases. Information boundaries might also include organizations that process and regulate the information in different localities like banks exchanging currency, agencies with society members on foreign soil, and electronic connectivity of many sorts that extend outward to the system's environment.

Subsystems which process Matter-energy:

3. Ingestor

The ingestor brings matter-energy across the boundary for use by the system. It enables a system to eat, or import matter-energy. There are many specialized ingestors that vary at each hierarchical level. In general, the more complex the system the more specialized is the ingestor. As examples, a cell wall may have only a gap in it, while an organization might have several groups that process various types of matter-energy input.

The cellular system level may also have a variety of ingestors. Much of the matter-energy that comes to a cell arrives in solution; thus, many cell boundaries are semi-permeable membranes that, by osmosis, allow fluid suspensions to enter the system. Some cells like amoebas and leukocytes can also pass solid materials across their boundaries. In free living cells there may be a more specialized ingestor at the base of a depression on the cell wall that ingests matter. Flagella or cilia might move the particulate matter to this opening at their base. Thus, even in a simple cell, ingestors involve a variety of processes.

A society diversifies multiple processes throughout many specialized groups. Societies ingest many forms of matter-energy including new citizens, tourists, raw materials from mining and agricultural imports, and many other forms of living and non-living matter-energy. These many forms require vastly different ingestor mechanisms. Societies who are capable of handling more information ingest different types of matter-energy. For example, a technologically advanced society generally imports more raw materials. This suggests a link between the ingestor and information input transducer though the process different elements. In a material sense, the ingestor system of a society is where the infrastructure meets the boundary. Ingestor artifacts are ports, airports, train depots, and everything that brings matter-energy within the system boundary.

4. Distributor

Once inside a system, matter-energy moves about its infrastructure by the distributor subsystem. It transports the matter-energy that is either input, or processed by another subsystem around the system to the appropriate component. In simple organisms the distributor may be a system of canals, or the vascular system in more advanced organisms. This subsystem is the viaduct that carries throughput, whether it is waist material or the final output while the system processes it.

The endoplasmic reticula (a system of minute tubules and vesicles that traverse the cell's cytoplasm), distributes matter-energy in most cells. In muscles cells, a similar system called the sarcoplasmic reticula is the distributor. A membrane encloses these tiny pathways that connect with the cell membrane (ingestor). As matter-energy enters the system it carried to the various organelles and components of the cell. There are other organelles that also participate in the distributor system in some cells: I will not mention them all.

Societies move massive quantities of matter-energy from one place to another to supply the needs of all its component members. To accomplish this task societies build mass transit systems that carry automobile, trucks, trains, and planes. All of these engage in the process of distribution. There are also electric power lines and pipelines that move materials through the system. All of these, and the organizations engaged in providing and maintaining them, are part of the distributor. The efficiency of distribution has much to do with the overall vigor of the system. Inefficient distribution systems lose much energy within the subsystem itself. As an example, imagine moving produce from west coast to the East by pony express as opposed to air freight; matter-energy would be subject to complete entropy in the first example.

5. Converter

Matter-energy brought into a system often needs processing to be useful to the system. The converter subsystem changes such matter-energy into an appropriate form. Converter subsystems are quite different from level to level as each level processes different matter-energy. For example, in a family group, a cook may prepare a meal by cooking, chopping and combining food stuffs that individual organisms chew and mix with secreted saliva enzymes that further convert the matter-energy to a useful form.

In the cell, the converter subsystem has several member components that include the mitochondria and other organelles. The various organelles contain or secret enzymes that change the substances entering the cell into the less complex chemical "building blocks" needed for cell process, and the energy needed to function. Mitochondria locate in places where the cell needs energy. In muscle cells this is often at points of contraction. The cell obtains energy by breaking down the larger molecules found in proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Enzyme conversions may extend beyond the organelles and occur as hydrolyzed matter-energy substances brought into the cell in solution. Oxidation furthers the process that occurs again in the mitochondria. I will describe any more of the cell's chemical reactions that are part of this process: there are too many for inclusion here.

Societies convert matter-energy in many ways. They convert matter into energy when they burn fuel to produce heat or electrical power for example. They convert matter into other forms of matter through various manufacturing enterprises such as raw ore into refined metals, or timber into lumber. Hydroelectric plants convert potential energy into electric power as another example. Societies then convert electric power back into heat and light for distribution throughout. The converter subsystem may disperse downwardly to organizations, groups, and individuals that convert energy for their own needs. Organizations that comprise the converter subsystem include power companies, smelting operations, mills of all types, refineries, and food processing plants among many others. In general, advanced societies rely heavily on artifacts for this operation in the form of tools created for the various operations. More primitive societies tend to use greater amounts of human physical labor.

6. Producer

The producer subsystem "forms stable associations that endure for significant periods among matter-energy inputs to the system or outputs from its converter." (Miller, 1978, p.58) Clearly the producer at different levels of this hierarchy forms associations of varying complexity. The system may use these associations for growth, damage repair or replacement, energy for moving or constructing system output, or for information markers to be transfers to its environment. Examples of this might be the production of artifacts by physically combining and bonding together converted materials as happens in the manufacture of an automobile through forming metals and plastics into parts and fastening them together in permanent relationships. In an organism it may be the synthesis of specialized products that occurs when bone marrow generates red blood cells.

Cell level producers include the mitochondria (a widely functioning organelle), ribosomes and other organelles that synthesize converted raw materials into more stable molecular structures like enzymes to continue cell processes, lipids to repair cell membranes, and energy to function. Cells that contain chlorophyll synthesize energy and produce glucose; they are thus able to provide their own nutrition. Other cells must use the substances from the converter subsystem and extend their synthesis in production. Production at the sub cellular level involves many chemical processes, some of which are still not understood. Thus I will not attempt to describe them here.

Producers in society make and repair artifacts, and contribute to the maintenance of societal subsystems. There are many such producer organizations some of which disperse downwardly by relying on groups and individual organisms. Examples include industries that combine matter and energy to create a myriad of products useful to societal subsystems or output as a product of the societal system. This also includes health care providers that help repair and maintain member organisms. Technologically advanced societies are generally more efficient producers while less advanced societies again require more man hours of labor to accomplish tasks. Likewise, there is a difference in the complexity of the products produced; for example, the basket woven by on individual in a primitive society compared to a computer and its component parts in a technological society.

7. Matter-energy storage

Matter-energy storage is the subsystem that preserves and maintains a reserve for the system to use later. This occurs in various ways at different system levels. A cell stores energy as rapidly available phosphate molecules or, for longer storage as glucose or glycogen. Some cells store fat and lipids for even longer periods. In organisms there are subcutaneous, and other, tissues that store fat as a reserve for the entire organism. Groups and organizations have storage areas that may include artifacts like pantries, batteries, water tanks and more. These store food and materials for later use. Societies extend this process with entire organizations dedicated to the storage process. All system levels involve three aspects of this process; putting matter-energy into storage, maintaining it, and retrieving it when needed. This subsystem's purpose is relatively clear; thus, I will not give more examples at the cell and society levels as I have with other subsystems.

8. Extruder

Systems process matter-energy that, after use, they must remove. The extruder transmits such matter-energy out of the system either as products or as waste. Often the system's output goal is producing a product useful to its suprasystem. However, some extruded matter-energy that is waste to the system may also be useful to the suprasystem. The symbiotic relationship between plant and animal life is such and example.

Like numerous subsystems at the cellular level, many components comprise the extruder that may play a role in other subsystems. The cell membrane, for example, serves as extruder in many cells. Some free living cells have specialized anal pores or cytoprocts or, contractile vacuoles that extrude waste from the system. There can be other non-waste output from cells that is useful to their suprasystem. For example, cells called electroplaques generate electrical charges that serve their suprasystem as a defense mechanism. Glandular cells and neurons extrude secretions that transmit information for the suprasystem: in some cases they are also part of the output transducer subsystem.

Societies process many kinds of matter-energy; thus, they have a wide variety of waste matter and products. A society's extruder subsystem must perform many functions and therefore often requires specialized organizations. Societies must safely transport waste materials from human industry and human life and dispose them where they are less harmful. Waste disposal is of such magnitude in modern societies that it often breeds contention between societies or among competing interests within a society as happens with nuclear waste products. Thus, waste management organizations and dump sites are part of a society's extruder subsystem including the many artifacts used to transport and process the waste. Societies may also extrude human members by permanently segregating them in penal facilities. Immigration services likewise remove non-members by sending them outside the system boundary. A society extrudes and transports output to other societies through trade in the form of products. The distributor subsystem moves these products that then leave the system through ports, airports, pipelines, electrical lines and so on much the same as when material entered the system through similar facilities. One additional product the system may extrude is information markers that convey messages to other societies with which the system interacts.

9. Motor

Motor subsystems move the system, or its parts, in relation to one another or their environment. In some cases they may be immobile and instead move their environment to meet their needs. Plants that move gases and liquids through their system for nourishment, input and, dispersing their output are examples of this. More complex systems may downwardly disperse the motor subsystem such that its member components can move themselves independently.

Cells may be free living or, component members in the tissue of organs and organisms. Thus, the motor subsystem in each type is quite different. Free living cells move about their environment with flagella or cilia in most cases or, as in the amoebae, by moving their cytoplasm into pseudopodia or "false feet." As members of tissue, cells move by the motor subsystem of their suprasystem, or they may be part of the muscle tissue that makes up the suprasystems motor. Thus, these cells upwardly disperse locomotion whether they are part of their environment's motor tissue or not.

Societies rarely move in full. On the occasion that they do, they require a massive mobilization. The exodus of the Israelites is perhaps the most noted example of such a move. However, societies often downwardly disperse their motor functions to organizations and individuals. In modern societies this includes the vehicles driven by individuals and all other forms of transportation. The companies that provide and maintain mobility are also part of the motor subsystem. Thus, society's motor serves to move its component parts around in relation to one another more frequently than it moves as a whole. Societies, like sessile life, may also move their environment to serve their purposes. Examples of this are the movement of water through dams and canals so the society can develop new settlements. They may even move mountains to provide a pathway for the distributor system. All these are part of society's motor subsystem in application.

10. Supporter

The supporter subsystem holds its system together. How it fulfills that function though differs greatly from on system level to another. The supporter is the skeletal structure that keeps member components in their proper physical relationship with one another.

The supporter in the cell is usually the cell wall that holds the periphery about the nucleus and nucleolus that remain near the center. Other organelles may also play a part in maintaining the relationships. For example, mitochondria properly arrange enzymes in the cell. Cells also have a network of protein molecules in solution that, in combination with the microtubules and microfiliments, make up a cytoskeleton.

Societies conversely, require an assortment of structures to maintain their integrity. The land upon which the society builds and its water ways are the primary supporters. Mountain ranges, lakes, and swamps determine component placement and maintain their separation. Changing this structure requires major construction projects like the building of dams, filling in swamps and land fills. These can change the relationships, but the land and water largely determine the kind, and structure, of society built in a given location. The irrigation canals in the central California valleys are examples of a change made by a society in its supporter that enabled it to expand and make uninhabitable land available for agriculture and life.

Subsystems which process information:

As systems import matter-energy, they must also input information. While not all matter-energy carries information for system use, all information is carried on matter-energy bundles known as information markers. Such markers may hold information needed by the system to, process matter-energy, adjust to their environment, respond to the needs of their suprasystem or their subsystems, or markers may be communication from other systems. Information as it arrives may not be in a form the system can use or understand. Therefore, information goes through a series of specialized subsystems that transform it into the appropriate forms needed for communication outside system boundaries, and for internal communication between components.

11. Input transducer

A system brings information markers in through the input transducer and changes it into the appropriate form for transmission inside the system. This process is similar to the way the ingestor brings matter-energy into the system. This transducer is specialized to respond to particular energies that convey information to the system; for example, heat, pressure, sound, chemical stimulants, or in larger systems electronic signals like blips on a radar screen. Input transduction requires specialization because the system may process many types of information. Thus, an organism may have several kinds of cells that handle particular signals. Some examples are, the rods and cones of the eyes, vestibular hair cells that react to the orientation of the head in space, auditory hair cells that react to sound waves, olfactory cells that react to smell, and gustatory cells that sense taste, to name a few. Likewise, organizations have special groups that similarly observe the environment like military scouts, researchers, intelligence groups.

Cells diversify how they process such information pending whether they are cells in an organism, free-living, or completely specialized cells like neurons and receptor. Though not yet observed, it is believed that cells have specialized molecular receptor regions on the cell membrane. Neurons, muscle, and glandular cells are subsynaptic regions that are also examples of such specialization.

Information enters societies through many gateways. These gateways bring in various sorts of information and, like the cell, specialized input transducers handle them. As examples, information enters through many electronic forms such as radio, television, and satellite transmissions and, telephone and telegraph. Messages may also arrive as signs from the natural environment, or information carried by individuals or organizations. Thus an array of matter-energy carries the information markers that enter the system. The input transducer is the first sorting of this information. The input transducer accepts some markers and passes them into the system while it turns information that is of little value away at the boundary. The immigration service, again as an example, selects who may enter the system, and why.

12. Internal transducer

Inside a system, component subsystems must pass information among themselves and the system itself. The internal transducer receives this information and changes it as needed to communicate with other components. Member subsystems may undergo changes that require action by other subsystems to restore balance in the entire system. They may also require information about processing matter-energy. For example, a group learns how it is functioning through the communication of members about their particular tasks in the group. They may communicate their needs to get assistance from the group. The internal transducer accomplishes this task. It may be verbal communication or by some other means.

Cells contain repressor molecules that react to other molecules produced by chemical reactions occurring in its metabolism. This is an internal transduction that communicates information about the processing state in the cell. Repressors control the synthesis of certain substances by the cell when they are sufficiently present. Thus, they conserve the cell's energy use. There are many substances that carry and transfer this information. Besides repressor molecules, some enzymes are internal transducers that recognize only the substances with which they react. Finally, other cell components may change information markers from one form to another; as an example, one neuron passes electrical current along to another in synaptic transfers and a few other processes.

Societies likewise must communicate internally. They dedicate many organizations to handling and transferring internal information. Societies may downwardly disperse this subsystem to groups and individuals or upwardly disperse it to interact with their suprasystem. Examples of internal transducers in society are organizations that gather information from its members and change the information makers into public policy like voting, legislative and presidential listening posts, various bureaucratic agencies, and organizations that arise from public concerns and then seek to change public policy like the Sierra Club. Thus various groups and organizations change and gather information by the d as needed and communicate with the system as a whole, and to other subsystems, so they may adjust accordingly.

13 Channel and net.

Systems pass information signals along either a single, or a multiple interconnected route. The subsystem may contain all, or part of the distributor subsystem's components but in this case it is transferring the information markers that the matter-energy carries. There may also be a separate subsystem like an organism's nervous systems that transfers information.

In the cell, the channel and net are the same as the distributor moving the matter-energy to its appropriate locations: the matter-energy carries the information as chemical markers of some form. As this process is quite similar to the distributor subsystem, I will not describe it in the cell.

The channel and net of society consist of the organizations, groups, and individuals that pass information from on component to another. Mass media, in all its forms, is such a communicator as are the telephone and telegraph. Thus, the net, may consist of transmission paths through the air, cables, in written form, or spoken by individuals. It is the nerve system of the society. Like the cell, it may also use the same components as the distributor but transfers the information instead of the matter-energy.

14. Decoder

Decoders change information from a public code to the private code needed by the system. The decoder receives information markers much as the converter receives matter-energy but the processes are different. The decoder differs from the input and internal transducers in that it changes the code of the information: the other two change the form of the information marker. For example, this paper is in English. If I sent the paper by fax the information code remains the same (not considering the digital coding and translation), but I change the matter-energy form of the marker bearing the information. If I translate this paper into German, I change the code of the information though the form of the marker remains the same. Decoding is often be done by the same sensory components as the input or internal transducers, but the decoder compares the information code and determines its meaning to the system.

Information enters the cell as either Alpha-coded information that arrives as markers on chemical molecules, or Beta-coded information as patterns of energies like light, temperature change, sound, pressure, or perhaps electrical transmissions. Sometimes a cell may use the information in the public form in which it arrives: in these cases the decoder subsystem does not function. However, other information may need translation into the system's private coding or its component's. The code may change several times as the information passes through the system until another subsystem encodes it again in a public form for output transmission. There are many examples of these coding processes. They will take too long to describe here s; I refer the reader to Miller (1978) for a complete explanation.

Interpreting the information arriving at society's boundaries, and the output from various internal components is the task of the decoder subsystem. Society downwardly disperses decoder tasks to individuals, groups and organizations. This involves using the perceptions of member organisms as the first level of decoding. The decoder then interprets the meaning of the information and then passes it up the system echelon. The decoding process uses many artifacts that help interpret information like, instruments that measure the signals from the natural environment in weather reporting, or detection of other potential events that may affect society. Intelligence groups are another example of the decoder subsystem for society as they decipher information received about other societies and activities of other components within the societal system. Thus, they change the code of such information, for example interpreting the meaning of troop movements along a neighbor's border, into a code intelligible to the system.

15. Associator

The associator subsystem forms relationships amongst information bits that endure for some time. It is the first part of learning for the system. The associator receives information from the input transducer, internal transducer, and memory from which it forms these relationships. Through this process a system can determine the required actions based on what has been successful in previous or similar sets of circumstances. For example if the decoder passes along information about troop movements with the message that this is a military action, the associator would compare that information to other bits of similar information from the input transducer, internal transducer, and memory storage and then hypothesize whether this is, or is not, a threat to the system. It would then output its information to the decider subsystem that would determine what action to take. Thus, the associator is predictive in that it can say that if action "A" is occurring than action "B" is the probable outcome by associating the information given with the ensemble of information related to the situation.

There is no definitive evidence now of structures that may comprise an associator subsystem in the cell. Miller believes that association may be the action of certain macromolecules. Free living cells show behaviors that suggest an associator, or learning but there are multiple explanations for some of these behaviors. At this level, the actions of the subsystem are not readily available for examples.

Societies modify their structure and behavior through experience. They compare new information to their experience and associate commonalties that suggest the right course of action in a current situation. The example of military troop movements is one such case. Information brought to the associator might also arise from the internal transducer. For example, a subsystem may require action by the system, or another subsystem, to restore balance. The possible impeachment of President Nixon by the legislative branch is such an example of how information about a current event is associated, in this case, with the constitutional and public expectations to monitor and correct the office of the Presidency. Then, had the process continued, the decider subsystem would have acted upon the associations. Notably, the decider may not act upon associations because the background noise (distortion), in the entire system is so loud that the associated information is isolated and ignored.

16. Memory

Associated information forms relationships. The system then stores the results of this process for use in future associations. This is learning. Memory is the storage and later retrieval of such associated information. A memory base grows if a system successfully accumulates experience that enables it to make better use of future inputs. Stored memory may no longer be useful after a time. It may also become unavailable due to entropy in the system or subsystems that work in with memory. New information may also replace data currently in memory. Thus, the memory subsystem must handle the storage, maintenance, and retrieval, of associated information much like its comparable subsystem matter-energy storage.

DNA is the primary information storage unit of the cell. It carries the necessary genetic information for the cell to develop and function over its life span. RNA also stores, and transfers, information about the synthesis of needed proteins in the cell. DNA does not change the data stored in it except, through long term evolution, or by invading viral attack. Yet, in consort with RNA molecules, it provides the repertoire of information with which to associate new information so the cell can function. This includes many memory like processes like enzyme induction, antibody formation, and circadian rhythm though they may not be direct learning. Free living cells appear to learn and remember the location of favorable environments and food supplies. Cells in other organisms may play a roll in the memory of the entire system though those processes are outside the reach of this writing.

Societies exist in some ways because they can store memory. Societies build traditions over time that characterize them and affect their activity in a manner that distinguishes them from other societies. Traditions are a collective memory of society. Societies downwardly disperse such memory to individuals, organizations, and groups including; religious groups, educational institutions, archives, libraries and others who handle specific kinds of information. They store this memory in physical artifacts like libraries, computers, and books in modern cultures. More primitive societies pass memory along orally from the elders to the youth. Societies change their memory either by, replacing outdated information with something more current, recording or retrieving information incorrectly, or losing it during storage. When the collective record of a society ceases to exist, so does the society.

17. Decider

Every system has an executive that receives input from all the other subsystems and transmits directions to them that determine their operations in, and for the system: this is the decider subsystem. The decider in a system may, or my not arbitrarily decide. The decider may make the same decision every time in the same situation and thus exhibit no free will. While the function of the decider requires there be only one, the subsystem may have more than one echelon. Thus, it is not always clear what structure, if any, comprises the decider in various systems.

The decider in the cell has two echelons; the "legislative" nucleic acids, and the "executive" enzymes or protein structures. In combination these two control cell processes. In the higher echelon, the nucleic acids contain the blueprint that governs cell processes. The blueprint contains regulatory genes that control, structural genes that are the templates of enzyme formation, and architectural genes that specify placement of proteins in the cell. A fourth set, temporal genes seem to regulate when to activate each of these other three primary gene groups. The higher echelon controls the processes of genetic replication and transcription of RNA from the DNA template. The lower echelon of the cell's decider, the enzymes, are modulators. They repress or increase the cell's metabolic processes in the cytoplasm without involving the higher echelon.

The decider subsystem in a society is its central government. In a democracy voters have a strong voice in the decider subsystem. In a monarchy, the king is obviously the decider. There may be echelons in a central government. The larger the society, the more echelons are likely needed to decide. Research organization, advisers, cabinet members, and local officials may be part of a decider's echelon as the society increases in size. The degree of centralization of power in the decider differs from society to society. For example, a Pharaoh was thought of as a God incarnate by his people. This is quite different from the office of the Presidency in the United States that is accountable to the people, the Congress and the Supreme Court.

18. Encoder

Systems communicate with their environment. As the decoder translates the public language coming into the system so the system can process information internally, the encoder translates the system's private language back into a public form. To continue with the language example given about this paper, (in the decoder section), the encoder would, after using, editing, and modifying this paper in German within the system, translate it back into English to communicate outside the system.

Cells that make up tissue in organisms show little evidence of encoding information for communication. Notable exceptions are the specialized cells such as neurons, and cells in certain organs that produce hormones. Free living cells encode information and communicate it as alpha-coded molecules. Also, some free living, one cell organism transmit beta-coded information in electrical pulses to which other organisms respond. The encoder subsystem exists only in highly specialized cases at the cell level; therefore, I cannot make generalities about the entire system level.

Society has many components in the encoder subsystem. Primary components might be the governmental agencies that communicate with other societies. In the United States, the Presidency and the State Department encode information from our government into a form communicable with the world. Congress signs treaties and declares war; both of these are examples of encoded information. Likewise, the judiciary branch writes opinions that encode legal language back into a code intelligible for transmission. This subsystem is also downwardly dispersed including those who write and produce official radio and television broadcasts and cultural missions. Individuals such as diplomats, and other societal representatives may also carry encoded information.

19. Output transducer

The output transducer converts the information marker's form from that useful inside the system, to a form transmittable from the system for use by its suprasystem or, another system with which it is communicating. As the encoder translates the information, the output transducer changes the matter-energy markers form. This is comparable to spoken communication that has occurred inside a system being written in a letter and sent to another system. This subsystem reverses the process of the input transducer though the new marker will be different after processing by the system. It is the output sent by the system to the input transducers of other systems.

Cells, often use the same components for extruding matter-energy as they do for output transduction because much of the information output from the system is born on chemical molecule markers. This process usually involves some area of the cell membrane that has either an opening or a permeable surface. Occasionally the output may be in the form of electrical charges as with the often herein cited case of electroplaque cells in electric fish. In neurons this is the presynaptic region of the cell that would pass its signal along to the postsynaptic region of an adjoining cell. There are several processes involved by the various types of cells but again I must avoid greater explanation and refer the reader to Miller for extensive details.

In society the chief of state or other governmental agencies are the prime component of this subsystem as they are of the encoder subsystem. Here again it is changing the form of the marker for dissemination that distinguishes it from the encoder that has translated the information. Likewise, many of the artifacts used in input transduction may be part of this subsystem; i.e., written materials, radio and television stations, telephone and telegraph cables, satellites and dishes and so forth. A system may use everything that brought the information markers in to transfer them out again once the system has used and processed them. This is the final step along the information processing network. The system has now communicated information about itself and its needs to other societies and the supranational suprasystem.

General living systems theory is a conceptual system of thoughts used to describe concrete systems. Miller stresses the importance of connecting the space described by one system, like the physical space of a concrete system, with the space described in any other system such as the abstract space of conceptual systems. He attempts to make such a conversion of space in his theory. However, some system theorists, Boulding (1956), Checkland (1981), Jordan (1968), refer to another category of systems, transcendental systems. They suggest that the transcendental is beyond knowledge; thus, it is difficult to model. Likewise, it is much more difficult to provide a defensible conversion of the space described in a transcendental system to physical space. This paper will now extrapolate from the living systems model and attempt to describe such transcendent systems. I will specifically apply this extrapolation to creativity as a transcendental system. The space described will be both abstract and physical; thus, I will attempt to express a relationship between the two.


Experience Carlisle Bergquist's creativity in his current book - "The Coyote Oak:  Burgeoning Wisdom."  Available here, at,  and booksellers worldwide.




Article Summaries

Transcendental Creative Systems:

An Exploration Using General Living Systems Theory

Creativity is the merger of matter/energy with new information.  The process of bringing something new into existence, is an inherent characteristic of life.  To live is to create whether we do so unconsciously, or with full awareness.  This essay is an academic approach to the creative process using James Miller's General Living Systems Theory to model the course from non-being to created work.

A Comparative View of Creativity Theories:
Psychoanalytic, Behaviorist, & Humanistic

Three streams of thought in contemporary psychology view our humanness is distinctly different ways.  This is nowhere more evident than in their efforts to explain creativity.  This essay explores and compares these divergent views and provides a foundation from which to develop a new transpersonal theory of creativity.

Dancing With The Whole:
A Theory of Creative Entrainment

The holistic theory models entrainment as a communicative occurrence. Examples are given from several disciplines and four stages of entrainment are delimited. The essay compares theoretical quantum physicist David Bohm's notions of order with the realms of spirit, mind, and body. It proposes stages of entrainment operant throughout these realms and suggests that they perform cumulatively in the creative or unfolding process. The systems perspective develops the thesis that humankind is an iteration of a larger system and that entrainment is a central factor in the transduction of information between individuals and across system levels.

Doorways In Consciousness:
An Exploration of Resonant Being

Many cultures around the globe embrace sound in their exoteric and esoteric traditions. This essay reviews the role sound plays in the religions, creation myths, and sacred technologies of various peoples. This review connects creativity with healing which is considered an act of regeneration thus creating health in the body. Several varieties of healing through sound are discussed including music, drumming, toning, chant, instruments, Kabballah, and prayer. The essay proposes that techniques of sound healing and therapy currently rely on the intuitive ability of individual practitioners. Acknowledging the need for effective healing modalities, it calls for research that can qualify the elemental effects of existing sounds, tones and prayers. Such categorization may help construct an applied holistic healing technology.

Building A Better Thought Trap:
Nutrition for Colossal Creativity & Peak Performance

Colossal creativity is a state of balance amongst the mind, the body, and the spirit that actuates human potential. This article concentrates on the vitamin and nutritional components of our system so that they resonate more clearly. The focus is on the brain which rests at the focal point of our physical, mental, and spiritual worlds. It traps and interprets inspiration that comes from deep within, transforming it from one world to another. Colossal creativity unfolds when we nourish every part of our being. Digest new thoughts and ideas to nourish your mind. Develop a daily practice -- whatever your faith -- that invites active participation from your Spiritual-Self.

Accessing Your Inner Creator

An essay for general audiences that explores the creative process comparing it with the duality described in many philosophical and spiritual traditions. Techniques are given to apply these strategies to ones individual work.

Creativity, Healing, & Shamanism

An academic, yet deeply personal essay about exceptional encounters in Brazil with alternative healing and spiritual tradition. It details a dynamical systems (chaos theory) model of creativity: at "The Valley of The Dawn" a spiritual healing community; in Amyr, a physical medium; and in my experience using Ayahuasca with "The Santo Daime Doctrine" in Rio de Janeiro.

Guest Articles

How Money is Created

by Paul Krumm

Toward an Economy Based on Curiosity and Caring Instead of Greed

by Paul Krumm


  • While the network of money transactions around the world is very complex, the way money works is really rather simple, and is understandable by the ordinary person.

  • The study of the operation of money is pivotal to any discussion of cultural values and social justice, as money is the basic language of economic relationships, and the values built into this language impact all social relationships.

In this paper we will describe how the present money game is structured.  We will show that the idea that money is value neutral is not correct, and go on to describe how money functions to promote greed.

Some preliminary suggestions will be given, based on theory and what has worked in the past, to change the values built into our money to ones that are more congruent with a curiosity and caring driven economy.

We will also show how the present money game is not sustainable, note that the same changes that lead to a curiosity and caring based system are the same changes that make money and our economy sustainable.

Transforming Reality Through The Arts

by Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger

Could this be the key to CREATIVE EVOLUTION?  Is the creation of a society that questions the reality of its fiction and the fiction of its reality be but a page turn away. Conceivably it is no longer a question of controlling what is real; instead, is it a question of controlling the market analysis that controls what the individual assumes to be real? Perhaps then, we will able to give birth to the new science that is no longer bipolar in its relations of the art and the social – a new science that is born out of a culture that was modified to be the perfect blend of both fact and fiction.

Staying Centered in Peace
by Lisa Hepner

An essay written in the wake of events on September 11, 2001.  This piece addresses the struggles we experience to see beyond the pain.  The author draws together the thoughts of many personal growth writers into an inspiring tonic for our wounded souls.