“The Hidden Connections” by Fritjof Capra


‘The Hidden Connections’ is a genre produced by Fritjof Capra in which Capra has revised the age-old questions of human existence and its relationship with the external and internal milieu, but with a new perspective. Capra has made a successful attempt in trying to provide an accurate picture of the human processes and this he has proved in a logical manner. In fact, Capra has introduced the universal framework of human existence in a sequence of phases that is from the biological domain to the social reality of developing complex mechanisms.

Miller (1991) replicates Capra’s opinion that ecology perceives the world not as a collection of individually separated entities but, as a network built on the foundation of unified objects which are unable to sustain independently (Miller, 1991, p. 19).

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Biological Existence

Capra has initiated part I of his book by contemplating upon the ‘true’ nature of human life and how this ‘cellular’ life has transformed into ‘social’ life. Of course, the transformation has undergone several chemical compositions and biological mechanisms in order to reach a concluding school of thought that life encompasses ‘bacterial’ cells. Capra has proved this notion by adopting a scientific strategy that entails an in-depth analysis of genomes. This strategy has established credibility from an ecological perspective since Capra has analyzed the relationship between internal and ecological aspects of sustaining life.

Meanwhile, he has also criticized traditional biological usage of studying organisms in isolation, as Capra believes that all living organisms sustain dependency upon each other and are unable to survive in isolation. Despite criticizing his fellow authors, Capra has given a genuine reason to the readers to upgrade contemporary philosophies of human existence. That is because what Capra has discovered has never been acknowledged by other authors for the reason that they never have bothered to contemplate upon the purpose of human existence and its relationship with the outer world. An example is that of the nucleated cell system which Capra denies others’ points of view and suggests possess one single interconnected membrane continuously in functioning with balancing other organs.

A living system according to Capra’s opinion is a process that works in collaboration with other systems, thereby supporting and regulating other metabolic processes. In contrast, when he discusses non-living organisms, suggests that since they don’t have their own metabolism, they live on others but that characteristic does not make them as ‘living’. In the case of Robots or machines that are proud to be named as ‘artificial intelligent’ sustain as long as they rely on other machinery, which they are composed of.

Capra talks about human composition in relation to mind and matter and after a deep analysis of examining Descartes and Cartesian view of the interconnected but ‘hidden’ relationship sees a fresh look upon cognition. In this respect, the Santiago theory of cognition is the process of knowledge and life, as it organizes all dimensions of human social processes. The Santiago theory concerns an ‘autopoiesis system’ that believes in a self-generating mechanism of life. This theory is akin to a particular pattern to which an organization is succumbed to fulfill all the interactions between human activities but on a mental level. This elucidates how various living organisms interact with each other in context with the external as well as internal environment to which they are subjected.

Santiago’s theory serves as the network in which various components are in a process of transforming each other in two ways – the components renew or reshape themselves in regular cycles, thereby creating new structures wherever possible. On the other hand theory of autopoiesis supports Santiago’s theory because it suggests that any living system possesses the ability to adapt to its structural environment. Here Capra has used the word “couple” while discussing the adaptability of human existence to the environment. ‘Structural coupling’ according to Capra’s analysis points out the difference between how living and non-living interacts with their environment.

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Whenever any living organism reacts or interacts with its surrounding, the reactions or changes that take place alters the future or the scenario of being in the future. Capra points out that such a structured system influenced by coupling is no more than a learning system, which provides an opportunity for the organism to take advantage of learning and development.

Cognitive neurophenomenological existence

Learning and development as part of cognition provoke consciousness which is achieved when the human mind is reached at a certain level of complexity. Human consciousness is a result of some complex neural activity that further invokes two levels of conscience – primary consciousness and high-order consciousness. However the difference between the two is that the former is present in all vertebrates whereas the latter present in humans in the form of ‘self-awareness.’ Capra has named such awareness as ‘reflective’ for it reflects human conscience in various forms and abilities like upholding opinions, values and beliefs. It is this reflective consciousness to which the author has related to the social constructs of life and has demonstrated a full understanding of ‘consciousness’ by analyzing it in various domains in the light of pros and cons and through the eyes of critics and many authors.

Such a yearning to acquire consciousness does not appear at a level in which knowing one’s own self and recognition are based upon wealth or poverty, but such knowing expresses the spiritual nature of a person, that aspect of a human being which recognizes that intrinsic as the material world is to our existence, there is something more fundamental to life. What a human is influenced by is the material nature of the product of physical evolution, which is shaped by the struggle for survival (Mustakova, 2003, p. 6)

The science of consciousness elucidates the inner experiences of the individuals which go hand in hand with language and social reality which gives us a clear picture that humans are not limited by biological presence; in fact, they fulfill a social world order in which like a living cell that develops with the coordination of other cells, humans are bound to form a society. When the word ‘society’ comes to mind, culture and communication are obvious and with communication, coordination of behavioral language takes place.

Apart from the traditional and mysterious theories of consciousness, the classical Cartesian suggests a unique connection between mind and matter. The theory proposed by Francisco Varela identifies it as “neurophenomenological theory” which takes into account the analysis of complexity theory in relation to the first-person experience of philosophy.

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Neurophenomenology according to Capra is the experience of an individual within his consciousness and deals with brain psychology (Capra, 2004, p. 46). Kriegel (2004) points out that consciousness is something related to our mental state as it is not possible to contemplate upon any particular mental state without considering the subject or matter encompassing that mental state (Kriegel, 2004). Such experiences with the coordination of various religions have gained philosophical strength and have risen with the metaphysical and cultural milieu.

While criticizing upon the basic premise of phenomenology given by Tononi and Edelman which they suggest converges, the various dimensions of brain physiology, Capra highlights that the conscious experience and brain activity should be taken into account for the similar characteristics that they uphold, instead of focusing upon the different properties of the two. He agrees with what Varela perceives it as a composition of various experiences known as ‘phase-locking’ which occurs on the basis of different neural activities associated with bodily movements and emotions.

The notion that brain and mind are one and the same, or, intimately related, is one that is today taken for granted by most citizens of the Western industrialised world. We may not think about the philosophical underpinnings of this assumption nor understand the neurophenomoenological research that has validated this view of the world, but in practical terms, we believe in everything from prescribing and using medications to accepting a doctor’s diagnosis that the death of the brain spells the death of the individual, although artificial support mechanisms may serve to keep the heart beating and lungs inhaling, we have embraced it (Stover & Erdmann, 2000, p. 58).

In context with the social dimension of consciousness, Capra takes an example of how Chimpanzees react with language and cognition and analyses the two-way communication of chimpanzees in a complex family. The main reason is to highlight the main existence of cognitive abilities experience by the human language. Tools like gestures, speech and syntax evokes the significance of technology in understanding language and culture.

Roger Fouts claims language as an outcome of gesture and human consciousness. Furthermore if we look into historical origins of linguistics, we would come to know how it has penetrated into our conscious automatically. McGinn (2004) suggests that consciousness is about knowledge of objects, which is acquired only whenever we subject to knowledge by acquaintance, which means that any knowledge of truth is logically independent of knowledge of objects (McGinn, 2004, p. 6).

The point is over the concern as to how could we conceive of the brain except in terms of concepts that trace back to the idea of the brain as a perceptible object that learns. We refer our ‘phenomenal world’ to those objects that we believe and perceive along with the concepts proper to these faculties, since we are limited to sustain biologically and cognitively to survive into this world. We need to remember that in this world where we are bound to obey the nature laws, we are in a continuous phenomenon to respond to environmental and structural influences.

In a spiritual context, we are eligible to experience our spiritual dimension which is related to be alert or mindful and is consistent with cognitive science. Our concepts are not just human constructs, constrained by biology but are based upon the separation of self and the world, as the contingent tools of finite beings. Abraham Maslow names it as ‘aliveness’ of the mind, body and soul which in turn composes life’s experience of organising with the rest of the world.

Social Existence

Capra presents the three dimensions of social reality in terms with the ‘pattern’, ‘structure’ and ‘process’ of organisation which when combines gives us a biological phenomenon. The material phenomenon encompasses the study of natural sciences and those characteristics that distinguish between living and non-living matter. In a nutshell, human life is not just composed of biological or material processes but is a combination of cognitive organisational processes which provides to the human a fresh dimension of social reality. However it all depends upon our inner world to how we grasp the concepts and ideas that seem vague in the real world, which according to John is “the mental character of social phenomenon” (Capra, 2004, p. 73).

Life in a social dimension is an integration of four perspectives, matter, form, process and what we perceive it as ‘meaning’. Durkheim suggested a social phenomenon is what is based upon functions and intentions that form a conceptual framework of cause and effect relationship, but for that there has been a need to integrate social structure and human agency in a convenient environment which is easily predictable.

Power and class relationships is an important but critical institution of the social system which Emile Durkheim names as ‘organic’ for there are various social forces in a society which are harmoniously adjusted to each other thereby following a ‘critical’ period (Tomer, 1999, p. 197). Critical theory understands social phenomenon as an institution which involves considerable turmoil and unbalanced conditions, over the periods in which the old social order is breaking down and new healthy social forces are beginning to appear.

Capra while analysing the theories of Giddens and Habermas of integrating the external world to the inner values, extends the cognitive philosophy of understanding life to the social domain by elucidating the above four perspectives of social reality. Without ‘network’ the concept of social existence is vague because there is a sequence of networking connections between metabolism and ecosystem that diverts our living systems to understand social reality.

From the autonomy of complex living systems to the dynamics of culture, the social network has produced a shared modern society which allocates the role of power and relationship in cultural defined communities. With culture come technology and human civilizations utilising technological advancements. Despite critics between technological and cultural values, there is an increase of ignorance on the part of social norms, rules and obligations.

Organisational Existence

Change Management has been the need of organisational existence in recent years and what is witnessed is the pressure of external environment on top executives. Things are getting out of control resulting in workforce insecurity in spite of hard work. The result is therefore the complex industrial society and intense working environment along with the unfulfilment of the promised results. There is a need to transform organisations, since humans possess the capability to reshape their components at every level of existence.

Capra proposes a unique solution to the problem that suggests organisational change to systematise human organisations by introducing complex linear networks and that can be acquired through ‘knowledge management’. Other new knowledge which can transform organisations is the ‘intellectual capital’ and ‘organisational learning’, through the contribution of which traditional management models would focus on how to control the information flow and information processing within the organisation. Another problem is that organisations are themselves considered as processing units for information processing, which is a problem solving activity centred on what is given to the organisation, not what is created by it (Nonaka & Nishiguchi, 2001, p. 13).

This view, conflicts with the basic idea of management which is to escort an organisation towards a particular goal and with a meaningful perspective. However failure to capture the essence of organisation as a knowledge-creating entity at a metaphorical level raises the questions that organisations create and define problems and then develop new knowledge to solve the problems by actively interacting with their environments and reshaping the environments.

Capra believes in a mechanistic view of organisational structure that expresses a company’s concern to run machinery under its operators. In this context the classical management theory seems somewhat realistic that it achieves its operations through a top-down control rather than a down-top control. Above all humans cannot be expected to perform like machines since they are not machines. In order to bring a change in an organisation, there is a need to understand the fact that an organisation’s change and evolution is only possible at the hands of its management and not the machinery.

Though the machine metaphor is powerful, it has no room to conduct training sessions, building adaptable environment or reshaping the workforce. The fact is that we lie somewhere in between the mechanistic approach and the humanistic approach and therefore are unable to meet our organisational roles. In this situation social networking provides us an opportunity to analyse major human processes instead of counting on the ones that are machine dependant, such as communication or decision-making or leadership, and highlight what process consultants, whether as hired help or employed managers, would observe about such processes and what they might do about what they observe, that is, how they might intervene (Shaw, 2002, p. 8).

The significance of human processes overrides the mechanistic processes which is perceived as the network of positions and roles that define the formal, or designed, organisational structure. Organisational structures are influenced by community settings of many social networks or agents which show three features of interaction within a community practice, mutual engagement of members, a joint enterprise and few rules of conduct (Capra, 2004, p. 108)

These features simulate the interaction of very large numbers of digital ‘agents’ of patterning behaviour depending on the number and strength of connections between agents, the diversity of agents and the intensity of information flows between them. Human organisations demonstrate a transitional regime of contributing between the networks that display a capacity for shifting organisation, producing patterns that propagate, grow, and split apart and recombine in complex ways that do not repeat themselves and a qualitatively familiar character of behaviour.

This behaviour gets intervened whenever the parameters are influenced by the way the network interact reaches certain critical values producing behaviour which paradoxically combines order and disorder at the same time. Complex networks are those that are not programmed to follow a single instruction set of interaction rules, but to evolve their own instruction sets as a result of interacting.

Human organisations entail social and informal networks, which serves as a cluster of interconnected practices within community settings. An organisation is influenced by interconnecting between formal and informal characters and such interplay gives a room to the company to form into structures. Emergent structures require learning capability and knowledge creating companies produces skilful managers in order to fill in the gap between design and emergence of business environment.

Capra believes in two leadership styles, the traditional leadership style and the one that provokes innovation. Since there is a tendency to consider leadership as a solution central to the success of any organisation, it is made to stand for all the qualities that are desirable in a top team or responsible managers who believe in clarity of vision, flexibility and innovation. Effective leaders are those who formulate organisations’ visions in context with their own inner environment in the form of images, pictures and stages. An organisation must welcome fresh ideas and knowledge as they act like catalyst. However leadership is dependant upon different situations and circumstances.

Globalisation in the context of capitalism has revolutionised social networking and from the usage of interactive isolated machines to the Internet evolution, there is a restructuring between design and emergence, as discussed above. Similarly capitalism today has witnessed and borrowed some features from the economic shift, productivity and competitiveness. The new economy profit-making is based upon newly formed internet companies which have rationalised the financial flows. Be it a global currency market or a banking industry, economies has affected since they are based on human values.

This era has generated social exclusion – the product of globalisation and social inequality which is also affecting ecological and conventional economists. Global capitalism in this era is not long term and is suffering the threats of unsustainability.

Biotechnology at this stage confronts a revolution emphasising the development in the field of genetic engineering. Darwin’s theory of evolution is under transformation and is escorting us to find the solution of molecular biology challenges. Work has been done and is still going on in the field of DNA processes which has helped understand us various stages of the self-replication processes. However there is a threat of Genetic instability in such processes because of inaccuracy and accidental damages to the DNA structure.

Genetic diseases have emerged as a common root cause of biological disorders which the biotechnological companies saw as business opportunity and never gained the expertise of dealing with the encountered problems. Genetic determinism have no doubt enabled the geneticists to seek reproducing new organisms through ‘cloning’ instead of sexual reproduction, but its success to some extent have raised ethical and moral concerns. Above all biological development problems have also occurred in agriculture and food production since organic farming has emerged as a worldwide phenomenon.

Organic farming has caused health problems as a consequence in context of genetic engineering. There is a need to develop human technologies closer to nature and to stick to the nature of ecology by following the basic principles so as to maintain a healthy environment. The answer to all the problems is ‘transition’ to a sustainable environment, which seems although difficult but not impossible if there is a focus on restructuring biological and social services.

Work Cited

Capra Fritjof, (2004) The Hidden Connections. New York.

Kriegel Uriah, (2004) “Consciousness and Self-Consciousness”, The Monist: 87(2), p. 182.

McGinn Colin, (2004) Consciousness and Its Objects: Clarendon Press: Oxford.

Miller S. Alan, (1991) Gaia Connections: An Introduction to Ecology, Ecoethics, and Economics: Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, MD.

Mustakova Elena Possardt, (2003) Critical Consciousness: A Study of Morality in Global, Historical Context: Praeger: Westport, CT.

Nonaka Ikujiro & Nishiguchi Toshihiro, (2001) Knowledge Emergence: Social, Technical, and Evolutionary Dimensions of Knowledge Creation: Oxford University Press: New York.

Shaw Patricia, (2002) Changing Conversations in Organisations: A Complexity Approach to Change: Routledge: London.

Stover David & Erdmann Erika, (2000) A Mind for Tomorrow: Facts, Values, and the Future: Praeger Publishers: Westport, CT.

Tomer F. John, (1999) The Human Firm: A Socio-Economic Analysis of Its Behavior and Potential in a New Economic Age: Routledge: London.

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