THE THEORY OF PROCESS 1|
by Jack Saloma & Ruth Young
A Selected Excerpt
THE THEORY OF PROCESS
In his major book, The Reflexive Universe, Young introduces the reader gradually and in logical sequence to the basic concepts of his integrative paradigm, known as the theory of process. Throughout his work, he seeks to establish points of contact with the scientifically oriented mind, attempting to win a hearing from science as well as philosophy. Young views all major theories of cosmology not as rivals but as "partial or tentative expressions of a unitary, universal theory leading to an ideal (and ineffable) center from which differences radiate like spokes of a wheel." "It is this faith," he remarks, "that is the cornerstone of The Reflexive Universe--the faith that if you follow any one theory to its ultimate limits you will get to the same center."
Though it is beyond the scope of this essay to provide a full explanation of the theory of process, we can portray the general features of the world-view provided by the theory.
THE PATTERN OF NATURE
The theory of process is first and foremost a contemporary statement of teleology-the study of evidences of design in nature or the idea that natural processes are directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose. Science excludes any suggestion of teleology, considering it a form of religious belief. Young replies that the design is there in nature to be seen by anyone who looks. Using the formalisms of the theory of process, he is able to describe the pattern he has perceived underlying the universe and evolution.
UNIVERSE AS LEARNING PROCESS
The theory of process asserts that the universe is a dynamic learning process rather than a static structure conveniently frozen in time for our observation. The essence of universal process is a "forward" thrust toward a transcendent goal-"forward" in the sense that the flow of time is irreversible, there is no "going back;" "toward a transcendent goal" in the sense that evolution demonstrates both direction and the property of continued self-transcendence. The manifest universe does not exist of and by itself but as part of a broader dynamic process-"self-realization," or in the words of the ancients, '"so that God might come to (consciously) know himself (through experience in time)."
The physical universe has its source in and is derived from a prior or
transcendent unity, a primordial unity or first cause, essentially non-material and spiritual in nature. First cause is immanent as well as transcendent. By assigning a formal category to first cause, the theory is "open-ended" in the sense that it includes a box marked "unknown." No matter how much our knowledge may expand we can never eliminate this box. The best we can do is define the theoretical limits of our knowledge (as in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and Goedel's theorem), but it is ever the nature of first cause that "it" is completely without limitation, qualification, or antecedent. No matter how vast our finite knowledge, it can never circumscribe that which is infinite.
Young's insight into the nature and significance of the quantum of uncertainty is an essential component of his theory and one of his most profound gifts to science. Modern physics since Max Planck accepts the fact that light or action is "packaged" in irreducible quanta or units known as photons. While the energy of a photon varies in direct proportion to its frequency, Planck determined that photons in nature must always package their energy in units of action of constant invariant size. Since all chemical and molecular activity is dependent on the transmission of quanta of action from one point to another, i.e., all activity comes from photons, the quantum of action can be viewed as the fundamental unit of the universe. Photons have no rest mass and no time. We observe them moving at the speed of light, which is more significant as a boundary condition of the physical universe than as a measure of the photon. They are as nonmaterial and ephemeral as anything in the manifest universe. The quantum of action also happens to be exactly the same size as the minimum uncertainty of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, suggesting that it is equivalent to a quantum of uncertainty. Action is totally unpredictable. Science can never penetrate its mysteries.
While science balks at the implications of its own findings, Young accords action and uncertainty primary status in his cosmology as the equivalent of first cause (that which has no antecedent) or free will.
Another principle recognized and reinstated by Young is that the physical universe has come into existence or been "generated" through a sequence of four stages, levels, or layers beginning with pure spirit or consciousness and concluding with physical matter. The "four elements" of the ancients (fire, water, air, and earth) are to be interpreted as representations of these four aspects of reality which can also be expressed formally as categories. Through an analysis of the ontology of dimension (the sequence through which the dimensionality of space and time comes into existence), four logically distinct categories can be established. They range from what is totally free and unconstrained and nonobjective to the complete constraint of the objective spacio-temporal realm.
These distinctions are not arbitrary but reflect an underlying set of divisions and associated qualities in the universe. They can be expressed visually in more than one form-for example, as coordinate axes (like the four directions of the compass) or as separate levels or layers (four separate areas on a diagram).
The theory of process demonstrates that the four basic entities of physical science (photons, elementary particles, atoms, and molecules) are an important expression of the ancient fourfold-important because they give access to the powerful conceptual vocabulary of modern science. Such an interface with science, it should be stressed, was not possible until the scientific discoveries of this century, most notably quantum physics. Before 1900 science did not have an adequate conceptual vocabulary to make a fourfold distinction in physics.
Now it is possible to use the language of physics and formally trace the path of light, in the expression of high-energy photons or quanta of action, as it transforms into matter. At each successive level the "uncertainty" of light becomes more bounded, in ways that can be precisely stated by modern physics. At the molecular level, the "imprisoned" light quanta retain only the capacity of "timing" in the formation and dissolution of molecular bonds. These "sparks of life" make possible "the turn" or reawakening of spirit and the beginning of the evolutionary phase of process. Thus the fourth level, the physical universe, serves as a pivot or turning point between the involution of spirit into matter (the descent) and the evolution of life and consciousness (the ascent).
After the turn, evolution-the ascent from matter-requires the mastery, control, and use of each of the levels of the fourfold structure inherent in the universe. What was first a constraint to provide determinate means for life to organize, becomes the power and freedom required for life to expand and diversify. The theory of process portrays the stages of descent and ascent through the fourfold structure as a seven-stage arc that emphasizes the reflexive nature of the universe. The final three stages are represented by the forms of life--plants, animals, and man. Young demonstrates that process requires three categorically distinct evolutions in the manifestation of life: the evolution of DNA, providing the basis of cellular organization (fifth stage); the evolution of animal instinct (sixth stage); and the evolution of consciousness in human and super-human beings (seventh stage).
Keeping these major elements of the theory of process in mind we can now get a better sense of the gestalt, the higher-order paradigm shift implied in Young's insights. Young has unlocked some of the basic secrets of evolution and cosmology. The quantum of action in process of realizing a goal reveals the dynamic pattern of evolution, a formally explicit pattern that is used and required for any evolving system, a pattern that can help to illuminate man's destiny in the universe and instruct the process of individual and social transformation. In deciphering the universal koan of process, Young has given us a basic vocabulary, the beginnings of a metalanguage for the higher-order paradigm shift that is so urgently required at this stage of human evolution.
PROOFS OF THE THEORY OF PROCESS
The reader may wonder whether the formalisms of the theory of process are arbitrary. The only way to answer that question satisfactorily is to delve into the theory oneself. For many readers, the first and overriding "proof" of the theory's validity is its "fit" with the observable data of nature. A careful reading of The Reflexive Universe suggests that the theory provides an accurate description and teleological explanation of evolution. The regularity with which seven-stage process recurs in evolution is convincing evidence of a fit. A certain amount of projection is involved in any such global mapping, yet nature supplies objective support for the theory again and again. It is hard to imagine that such a pattern is a complete projection of an individual thinker.
Even more impressive is the fact that this pattern of evolution revealed by the theory of process is not just a loose sketch of development or growth but a highly complex, interrelated, internally consistent structured process. When one considers the internal constraints of the theory--seven stages constructed reflexively through four levels of reality, stages on opposite sides of the arc mirroring one another in certain essential characteristics, a hierarchy of degrees of freedom (or, inversely, constraint), fourfold analytical distinctions, etc.-one would expect the theory, if unsound, to collapse of its own weight when confronted with data of the natural world. But the data support the theory as a whole. The logically inescapable conclusion is that Young has hit upon something fundamental. His insights into process can be a projection of the mind only in the sense that the physical universe itself reflects the same underlying structure as mind.
Any doubts about the adequacy of documentation in The Reflexive Universe have been eliminated by the further research into "bioprocess" by Frank E. Barr, M.D." Barr has shown how the seven stages of process can be used to describe and analyze cellular organization, the core dynamics of embryology, the germ layers (ectoderm, endoderm, mesoderm, etc.), the origin of neurosecretion, muscular development, and possible stages of the central nervous system. The remarkable mapping accuracy of process theory is repeated throughout. Not only is the arc-like pattern confirmed but also the inner dynamics and interrelationships predicted by the theory. Once again we are confronted by the signature of process and further questions about its meaning. Researchers and students of the theory of process may well effect a fundamental restructuring of medical science and education before a skeptical scientific community acknowledges the significance of Young's theoretical achievement.
While the first and main line of defense for process theory is its capability for mapping natural evolution, other "proofs" or supporting evidence should be noted. Young has developed a number of heuristic proofs or derivations of the fourfold involving for example Newton's laws of motion, the measure formulae of physics, real and imaginary numbers in mathematics, and the generation of spherical coordinates. While these may appear simple they are not trivial. Young's fourfold analysis of position, velocity, acceleration, and control, dealing as it does with the fundamental insights of Newtonian physics, is a rather profound statement. Mythology affords Young another kind of proof of fourness and sevenness, more numinous although less cogent to the rational modern mind. The most convincing proof of the fourfold remains the dependence of seven-stage process upon it.
In a similar fashion Young has collected "proofs" that the seven stages of process are fundamental. In Appendix 11 of The Reflexive Universe he shows from both topology and the postulates of projective geometry that seven categorical distinctions are necessary to a complete description of the physical universe.
To conclude, all of the evidence suggests that the theory of process Is a precise conceptual map of evolution and a sound theoretical base for a New Age paradigm. If we believe our findings, and can "see" in a gestalt a teleological universe moved by an active, nonmaterial principle, then we have made the higher-order paradigm shift that moves us beyond the scientific paradigm. The insights of process theory offer a powerful set of tools for advancing both science and an integrative understanding of the universe. It is probable that the answers to many of the enigmas that now confound science lie hidden within these simple yet profound insights as to how process works. Through Young's theory the universe is revealed to modern man as an open, creative process, a master game of ingenious design and marvelous complexity which now invites our full conscious participation.
(c)1991 John S. Saloma