The Theory of Enformed Systems:
Foundation for Wholeness Science
Don Watson
[read at the annual meeting of the ISSS, 6/30/99]

In my introduction, I spoke of a scientific revolution centering on wholeness. This revolution, like the ones that preceded it, won't soon be widely recognized, because their world-views and languages blind scientists to all but their own sets of concepts. Even the scientists who can see the advancing revolution will resist it, because humans instinctively, passionately defend their traditions. And as Thomas Kuhn noted, scientific revolutions shatter traditions, especially the "tradition-bound activity of normal science."

With my collaborators, Gary Schwartz and Linda Russek, I have developed a tradition-shattering paradigm, the Theory of Enformed Systems (TES). As you'll see, by explaining systems in general, TES conforms to Occam's Razor--the Law of Parsimony. That is, from a minimal number of postulates, it parsimoniously explains a wide range of data that are anomalous under the "normal" scientific world-view. These "paranormal" phenomena include life, death, evolution, quantum entanglement, and consciousness. The last named category--"consciousness"--includes self-awareness, memory, perception, telepathy, precognition, reincarnation--and the survival of these features after death.

Although TES is very simple conceptually, it can't be described well using today's scientific language. That's why we must develop a language of wholeness with which to express the science of wholeness. To do so, we must develop ways of describing, not only Nature, but ourselves--the observers imbedded in Nature.

I'm very lucky to have met my fellow panelists. Moonhawk showed me that the problem of expressing the central concepts of TES--such as spirit creating the physical world--simply can't be expressed in terms of the logic and language that gives primacy to nouns. He pointed me in the direction of Native American languages that allow their speakers to, in his words, "speak all day and never utter a single noun."

Moonhawk, in turn, introduced me to Andy. Andy has developed an elegant, comprehensive linguistic construct that is free of the fundamental errors that limit contemporary scientific thinking. His work, I believe, can provide the foundation for the scientific language of wholeness.

I'll describe the features of TES in the familiar scientific language in which we originally published it. I use this language for three reasons: First, to make it easier for you to understand. Second, to show why this language can't fully express the concepts of TES. And third, I don't speak any other language--yet.

It's easier to understand TES if you peek at its ending and see two of its conclusions concerning systems. First, a whole is the sum of its parts plus something. That something is a four-dimensional map that specifies the relationships among these parts in space and time. This map is the main subject matter of TES.

Second, organization per se is the essence of all holistic systems--including scientists themselves. Because TES is a general theory of organization, it's also a general theory of systems.

Here, now, is TES in a nutshell. (You can find a more complete treatment on my website and in our paper in the April issue of The Noetic Journal.)

TES is founded on the origin of organization per se. I posited the operation of a universal, conserved capacity to organize, and labeled this concept enformy. It's name reflects three reasons. First, it's root--the Latin word, informare--suggests it "gives form to;" second, the initial "e" distinguishes it from "inform" and "information;" and third, the terminal "y" creates a verbal form that suggests a similarity to energy. Indeed, as the capacity to organize, enformy is analogous to energy, the capacity to do work.

Enformy creates organization by the process of enforming. That is, it creates and sustains order at the most rudimentary level of abstraction. We labeled order at this level enformation"--spelled with an "e"--to indicate that it derives from enformy and it's fundamental to information.

Because enformation is fundamental to the physical world of energy, mass, matter, and information, we've characterized this level as "prephysical." Notice that the term prephysical corresponds to many applications of the term spiritual. Hence, TES--the theory of enforming--is a theory of spirit.

Under TES, enformy organizes sets of enformation into four-dimensional, prephysical fields. You'll recall the first conclusion I cited above: A whole is the sum of its parts PLUS a four-dimensional MAP that specifies the relationships among these parts in space and time. This map is an enformation field.

We've given a label to the spirit-map: SELF--the acronym for Singular, Enformed, Living Fields: "Singular" because each SELF is unique, "Enformed" because enforming creates and sustains them, "Living" because all SELFs exhibit animating properties and behaviors, and "Field" because the influences of SELFs extend in space-time.

By a happy coincidence, SELF corresponds to what we humans call our "self." Further, because TES is not anthropocentric, it also corresponds to the self of a photon--and of every other system.

Discussing these entities, we naturally ask, "What do SELFs do? How do they behave?" Fortunately, SELFs engage in only two types of fundamental behaviors: cohering in space-time and conforming.

Cohering in space-time is just as it sounds: SELFs and their subsets "hang together" in space-time.

Conforming--the second type of behavior--is a SELF's configuring to particular subsets of enformation. To maintain its uniqueness, a SELF configures to its own internal states--state-conforming--and to itself as distinct from other SELFs--self-conforming. Under TES, state-conforming is rudimentary to perception and thinking, and self-conforming is fundamental to self-awareness.

Notice that cohering and conforming are complementary behaviors. That is, by cohering in space-time, a SELF tends to lose its identity by joining with every other SELF. Yet, by conforming, a SELF maintains its identity.

To summarize TES, I'll focus on three of its aspects, and show how these normalize a wide range of paranormal phenomena.

First, by cohering in spacetime, SELFs are capable of what appears to us as organizing at a distance. Einstein called this kind of organizing "spooky action at a distance." Though he referred to the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, nonlocality also applies to telepathy, remote viewing, precognition, and psychokinesis. But with TES, nonlocal phenomena are spooky no more. They occur because SELFs are continuous in space-time, but discontinuous in 3-space. In effect, they produce the spooky phenomena because they extend forward and backward in time--extensions we can't observe from our 3-dimensional vantage point.

Indeed, all three-dimensional physical systems are enformed by SELFs--prephysical systems in space-time. We're not accustomed to thinking of systems in space-time. Yet, as Einstein said, "Time and space are modes by which we think, not conditions under which we live." So now compare how we think with how we live. Thinking in terms of space and time, we are conceived, we grow, we die. But this dynamic process in 3-space is a static object in space-time. Hence, our lives are bounded, not by time and space, but by the four-dimensional extent of our individual SELFs.

Because SELFs specify the relationships among the elemental parts of holistic physical systems in space-time, we can now easily discern the difference between a living body and a dead one: A living body is a system whose elements map to its associated SELF, whereas a dead body is a collection of elements that lacks an organizing SELF.

In the second aspect of TES, SELFs are independent of, and fundamental to, the physical systems they enform. Hence, they do not "die." They can be radically altered--divided, added to, subtracted from, made increasingly complex--but they don't disappear when they dissociate from the dead body. This aspect of TES predicts many paranormal phenomena, including the survival of consciousness, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, apparitions, and the "partial" reincarnation evident in memories carried by transplanted organs.

But we don't need to be psychic to see the results of this aspect. In our everyday lives, we benefit from what Sir John Eccles would call, "The SELF controlling its brain."

In the third aspect, human SELFs can report the products of their cohering and conforming to other humans. This is very valuable to us--indeed, it's the foundation, not only of science, but of all social interactions.

Because it is a general theory of SELFs, TES is the foundation for a general theory of psychology. For instance, memory is inherent in SELFs as enformation; perception is the SELF's state-conforming to enformation generated by the sensory apparatus; cognition, intuition, creativity, and imagination occur when subsets of the SELF cohere; and curiosity results directly from enforming's tendency to increase complexity. Emotion is the SELF's conforming to the general state of organization of its associated physical system. Emotion differs from cognition, which conforms to specific states.

After this brief introduction to the Theory of Enformed Systems, I'm sure that you understand it completely, and that you agree with me that it's the paradigm of the future.

What? You're not happy with it? Well . . . Neither am I. What's wrong?

What's wrong is, I have a private conceptualization of TES that I can't adequately express publicly. That's because the language I use isn't suited to the world I want to describe. We need to take the advice of Moonhawk, who wrote, "When the phenomena being studied are of such characteristics that the language you are using [does not describe] the phenomena effectively--change the language!"

And that's our project.

Let's begin to change the language by observing that the word enformy is a noun. Nouns propel us to think in two particular ways: First, when we use a noun, we automatically think of a thing or substance. And second, because in our language, nouns verb, we ask, "What does the thing do?"

In fact, I made those mistakes earlier when I said, "Enformy creates organization by the process of enforming." Privately, I know that enformy is not a thing that creates--or performs any kind of actions. I know it's a quantity that expresses the act of organizing. Yet, when I try to take my private thoughts public, my language compels me to suppress what I know, and express what I know isn't true.

Does this discussion of enformy seem too alien? It isn't. Consider a more familiar noun, energy. Do you realize that Carnot's First Law of Thermodynamics is meaningless? A century and a half ago, like all scientists, Carnot subscribed to the Caloric theory of heat. So when he posited that energy is conserved, he was regarding energy as a substance--Caloric. In other words, Carnot's first law posits the conservation of a non-existent substance--which, of course, nullifies the law.

This is not to say that energy isn't conserved. Helmholtz, regarding energy as a quantity that measures dynamic processes, showed that it is conserved. And that's the conservation law we must recognize.

But our language makes this difficult. Because energy is a noun, many scientists still commonly speak as if it were Caloric. Phrases such as, "Photons carry energy," "Earthquakes release energy," and "Chemical bonds contain energy" are commonplace. Yet, as an abstract quantity, energy isn't a "thing" that can be carried, released, or contained. And it isn't a "thing" that acts; energy doesn't DO anything.

So it is with enformy. Enformy is an derivative expression of a dynamic process--enforming. That is, a verb--enforming--is primary, and the noun--enformy--is derivative. That's why thinking the traditional scientific way--that enformy enforms--is backward--the reverse of reality.

Under TES, many common conceptualizations are seen to be backward. It's backward, for instance, to think that consciousness emerges from matter. Under TES, the dynamics of the spirit world are primary. And the physical world emerges from the prephysical--the level of consciousness.

With respect to Systemics, a critical feature of TES is that it addresses whole systems directly. Hence, there is no "binding problem." That is, there is no need to seek a mechanism that somehow binds or integrates elemental parts into wholes. Since Nature begins with whole SELFs, that would be backward.

In retrospect, it's a wonder that Gary, Linda, and I were able to see forward at all in developing TES. In fact, when I first read a few remarks by Moonhawk on the Quantum-mind list, I realized that we had been thinking forward, but speaking backward. We'll be able to correct this with the new language of wholeness.

At this point, I'll release the remainder of my time so we can hear Andy speak about how we can learn to always speak forward--and therefore easily think forward--in the direction of Nature.