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A Global Shift to Systemic Cognition

The Universe Institute (UI), San Francisco, USA and Symplicitus, Melbourne, Australia organised a small meeting in San Francisco some 7 years ago in August 2011 to develop strategies for intentionally advancing the evolutionary process on this planet. The meeting comprised evolutionary thought-leaders who are activist-orientated and who each embody strong cognitive capacities as well as highly developed consciousness.

Two areas of particular focus for the meeting were; how humanity can be organised into a sustainable and cooperative global society that can survive and thrive into the future; and approaches for training and transmitting higher cognition. A major focus of the meeting was to consider the development of strategies and techniques to produce a global shift to systemic cognition. Systemic cognition is the capacity to understand and manage complex systems and processes. Analytical/rational thinking is incapable of adequately understanding complex phenomena.

The spread of systemic cognition is of critical importance because:

Systemic cognition is essential if an individual is to be able to fully understand the large-scale evolutionary processes that have shaped humanity and other life on this planet and that will determine our future. It is therefore a pre-condition for fully ‘getting’ the evolutionary worldview and for experiencing the transformative epiphanies that accompany this.

The global crises and challenges that are confronting humanity cannot be understood and cannot be solved without a cognitive capacity that enables the management of complex systems and processes. Analytical/rational cognition cannot do this.

True systemic cognition is currently almost non-existent. Most ‘systems thinking’ is done with mental/rational representations and cognition. Post-modern cognition is incapable of rigorously understanding complex phenomenon, and people at this level are commonly anti-cognitive.

It seems unlikely that systemic cognition will develop quickly enough to meet global challenges unless it is spread intentionally and consciously.

What is needed is a New Enlightenment. It will be similar to the First Enlightenment in that it will be driven by a shift to higher cognition. But this time the shift will be from the analytical/rational thought of the First Enlightenment to systemic cognition and the shift will be developed and spread intentionally and consciously.

Currently there are no effective approaches to training and developing Higher Mind and systemic cognition. The Integral Movement and spiritual progressives tend to focus on the development of consciousness, not the development of higher cognition. Most members of these movements do not have the cognitive development to see that. The failure of the Integral Movement and spiritual progressives to make any significant contribution to resolving major crises such as global warming is due to their cognitive limitations. The ‘missing piece’ that is limiting these movements is systemic cognition.

In the past few years Otto Laske (Interdevelopmental Institute) has developed courses and supporting materials aimed at training and developing systemic cognition. His approach however does not recognise that the development of Higher Mind can be greatly accelerated by the use of the kinds of practices promoted by the world’s spiritual and contemplative traditions that develop consciousness. These practices train the capacity to dis-embed from lower forms of cognition, freeing attention and consciousness to access and build higher cognitive structures. An approach to training higher cognition, developed in Australia by Symplicitus was presented at the San Francisco meeting. This approach broadly combines Laske’s approach with practices appropriated from the spiritual traditions. These ‘spiritual’ practices train the ability to, dis-embed from analytical/rational thinking; see analytical/rational thought ‘from the outside’ as an object that can be contemplated and evaluated: eventually see systemic cognition itself as an object that can be contemplated, evaluated and improved; gain conscious and intentional control over attention so that it can be moved freely around the aspects of complex phenomena that are not represented effectively by analytical/rational thinking; and access and develop non thought-based cognitive resources, including pattern recognition capacities and intuition.

These capacities enable the individual to; identify the critical aspects of complex phenomenon that are not represented adequately by analytical/rational thought; and build new cognitive representations that include what is left out by analytical thinking. This enables the construction of new mental models that are not solely thought-based and that can adequately represent complex systems and phenomenon as they evolve and transform through time.

Not much has changed since August 2011. At present there is no body, process or system that has the responsibility or power to ensure that humanity continues to evolve successfully on this planet into the future, overcoming the global crises that threaten us. There is no driver of the planetary car. Furthermore, the cognitive capacities needed to steer and re-organise the human system are almost non-existent. And the few who are developing these capacities do not have the power to enact solutions. Worse still, humanity is currently organised in ways that encourage and incentivise the actions that produce the crises. Our current economic and social systems self-organise destructive behaviour irrespective of the intentions of the participants within these systems.

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