Gestalt Therapy, Holism, Holodynamics, and Holonomics are some of the disciplines that primarily focus on this idea. Here are a couple of dictionary definitions to start us off:
"Holism: the view that an organic or integrated whole has a reality independent of and greater than the sum of its parts."
"Gestalt: aany of the integrated structures or patterns that make up all experience and have specific properties which can neither be derived from the elements of the whole nor considered simply as the sum of these elements."
Several pieces put together can form a new whole with some kind of independent existence. We can break a whole into several parts and each part will have some kind of independent existence. It is all relative to where we see it from if we are talking about wholes or parts.
Simply put we can say that anything whatsoever is made out of consciousness and we can regard anything as either part of a whole or as a separate existence.
We can regard any portion of the universe as either a conscious self-contained unit, a being, or we can regard it as just an aspect of the whole universe. And that goes for beings, bodies, entities, space, energy, matter, awareness units, thought-forms, etc.
If we start with any arbitrary piece of existence we can go in two possible directions with it. We can integrate it into a bigger whole, or we can fragment it into smaller parts or aspects. Or, we could leave it alone, of course.
If we take a being, we can divide it into smaller somewhat autonomous units. Some people will vehemently refuse this theory, but I don't really care. It is practical to pretend that we can divide a being and it does make a lot of things easier to explain. For one thing beings usually have what they call a mind. That is a part of themselves, but they pretend that it is something else. The mind can have different portions to it, such as a conscious mind and a sub-conscious mind. It could have a reactive mind if you decide that it does.
There are awareness units. You can basically leave a piece of yourself in some location, or time, or on some subject, or person. That piece will basically stay there and perform some simple function for you, like reminding you or keeping you informed. You might leave a small or bigger portion of yourself, a smaller or larger number of awareness units. They aren't necessarily quantifiable, but it makes it easier to talk about them. And you don't necessarily have a limited supply of them either.
One might leave pieces of oneself around that act more or less as full beings. These might also potentially go off an become other people's entities.
Probably the bigger a piece of the whole we are dealing with, the more powerful and the more conscious will it be. But basically any being of any size or kind has the same right to exist and possibly the same right to determine its own destiny.
Then what if we go the other way and combine stuff into bigger wholes? See, it doesn't have to be the parts that "originally" went together. Put any set of pieces together and some kind of whole will come out of it. We can take a random collection of different people and put them together with some kind of common purpose or reality. They will then not just be some individual people, there will be a group reality that will start forming. That group reality will have a life of its own and a mind of its own.
There is such a things a mass-consciousness. Large groups of people will together create consciousnesses that are alive in themselves. They will get to influence their members beyond what can be explained by individual connections.
A body is a whole consisting of cells. Each cell is a separate unit, but when they are all together they form something much more impressive than just a bunch of cells. A billion amoebae in one place just don't form a human brain. But something can take place that makes a bigger whole out of the component parts.
An anthill full of ants becomes much more organized than one would expect from its component parts. A bunch of apparently aimless little ants running around and bumping into each other, and together they end up being this amazingly effective machine.
A specific inter-personal domain, group domain, a society, a solar system, all of them take on a life greater than the sum of their parts. And each domain represents a greater and greater conscious whole, all the way up to the domain of All-that-is which would be basically infinite consciousness as a whole.
So there is an incredible range of consciousness, going towards ultimate wholeness at the top, and towards ultimate fragmentation at the bottom. The scale is probably infinite and it probably encompasses anything and everything. A grouping of consciousness can occur on any level or combination of levels. A grouping will be an integrated whole that can function as a unit. Any such grouping will always be part of a bigger whole, and it will always have smaller parts or aspects to itself.
We are in lack of a name that would cover all of these groupings of consciousness. Beings, awareness units, particles, mass consciousnesses, domains, thoughts, identities, archetypes, entities, creations, etc.
Words have been used like Gestalt or Holodyne, but they are mostly addressed to the aggregate groupings and don't quite fit smaller units. We need a new word I think. The best suggestion I have heard is "Holon", a word originally coined by Arthur Koestler. It covers both the idea of being whole and of being one unit of something. It can be used about a being, an entity, any created structure, thought form, group agreement or whatever.
A Holon is an aggregate of consciousness working in some fashion as one unit. It might consist of smaller units with independent activities. It might be part of a bigger unit. What makes the holon a holon is that it has some kind of commonality of purpose with itself, and it has a game of its own. It has freedoms and barriers and purposes.
What we have called a being or a person is a Holon, a body could be regarded as a Holon, your bridge club could be a Holon, your thoughts on a certain subject could be a Holon, Mankind is a Holon, God or the Devil are Holons, Santa Claus is a Holon.
It all depends on the viewpoint one takes. If we just say "everything is Holons" we haven't accomplished much. It is all relative to what aspect of life you are studying and what you are trying to accomplish. If we are looking at the relationship between individual people we would probably regard each person as a Holon and their relationship as one Holon or maybe a few Holons depending on which kind of relationships they have in different situations. We wouldn't bother about the cells in their bodies or about mankind or the Andromeda galaxy.
In a way this can be regarded as a logical tool, a way of systematically studying or analyzing things. Korzybsky, who invented General Semantics, talked a lot about wholes and parts and different logical levels. He was trying to get people to take the whole into consideration and to think in infinite scales. He didn't intend this spiritually at all, it was purely in the realm of logic.
NLP deals a lot with different levels of logic also. One talks about chunk size, that is how big a chunk of everything that you are dealing with at one time. E.g. "Vehicles" is a bigger chunk than "Bus" which is a bigger chunk than "Wheel". One can "chunk up" to seeing things more generally, more globally, the bigger, broader, more simple all-encompassing picture. Or one can "chunk down" to study more detail, more practical, down to earth matters, more precise intricacies, complexities, special cases, exact application, etc.
One could probably base a business consulting approach on some technology of dealing with Holons presented in logical business language. There doesn't have to be anything metaphysical about it. One could work out what the logical conceptual units are that are involved in a business, e.g. "Customers", "Management", "Sales people", and the interesting ones would be the more hidden constructs like "The reorganization last year", "The Future", "The business climate". Holons could have been formed by group incidents, by some kind of common agreement, superstition or whatever. By then engineering some kind of process that aligns the relationships between these Holons one could probably create miracles.
If we regard a Holon as an alive spiritual entity or as a logical unit doesn't really matter much. Actually it is probably best to not make too many agreements on what it IS. It is whatever it is.
Now, in processing this could be used for making more of a unifying idea of what we are really addressing. See, it will always be some kind of Holon that will be the target of a process. There is no point in just generally doing a process, that easily gets lost in abstraction. It is done to benefit somebody or something. It is too glib to just say that it is for the person. That easily becomes a fixed idea, a way of not looking at what is actually going on.
The thing is, the actual You isn't really a Holon. You aren't really anything that is limited, that has any kind of categorization or fragmentation to it. More like a potential without any location, mass, wavelength etc. That is probably quite close. But if by "being" or "spirit" we mean something IN a universe, IN a body, AT a certain time, then it might not quite cover it. You might be operating such a thing, and it is a Holon, but it isn't the real You then. The true you is the observer that makes things happen, who is infinite potential, but who has no limited qualities.
For practical reasons you might identify with Holons. You might say, "I went to the store", or "I left my body", etc. talking about your Body/Mind/Spirit unit or about your Spirit. That is not a problem out in life as long as you don't take it too seriously.
But in session, it can easily become confusing what we are talking about when we say "Me" and "You" and "I". Those words really have no meaning in themselves, it all depends on what they are related to. If you don't connect them with a specific Holon you can get into all kinds of mish-mash of cross reaction and confusion.
The real You doesn't need any processing. Processing is always addressed at some specific unit, a Holon. If you want to address it to a viewpoint in your head, that is fine. If you want to address it to a certain Body/Mind unit, that is fine. If you want to address it to "Joe, the scuba diver" or some other specific Holon, that is fine. But, there needs to be a specific Holon we are dealing with.
It is not that you have to mention it every minute. The key thing is that the person must connect with what it is we are dealing with. Not just talk about it, but connect with it. That is a little hard to explain in words, but there is a certain quality of connecting with something rather than just with the idea of something.
We find the same concept in the difference between assigning a label to a feeling and actually FEELING it. You might know that you have a certain feeling sometimes and you might call it "An anxiety in my stomach". But if you don't actually connect with that feeling and feel it in PT we aren't going to process it very well. Many people have a hard time recognizing the difference between the actual thing and a symbol for it. One of the key objectives in TPS, in my opinion, is to get people to connect with what is actually there instead of with some idea of what is there. Aberration is observed when people act and react based on facsimiles, symbols, valences, ideas, and so forth, instead of what is actually there.
One of the ways of knowing the difference is that when you connect with the real thing it is beyond words. You might describe it with words, but it isn't words. It is specific perceptions, not any kind of precise label.
OK, there will be degrees of that also of course. It is doubtful if we can ever say that one connects with what is REALLY there. The best we can probably do is to connect with the actual present time perceptions, rather than with symbols, memories of old perceptions and so forth. Instead of getting secondary and tertiary representations we want the first hand information.
So, I am saying that whatever it is that we want to address or deal with in a session, there is something quite tangible and perceptible we can connect with in present time. There is a Holon there. That Holon is kind of an alive structure or entity that we can communicate with. It is a dynamic construct. If we get a fixed idea we also know that we don't have the real thing.
Let me give another example. I talked with Rowland Barkley about the subject of being an author and writing books and he put my attention on an angle of it that I had overlooked. See, I know the datum that to write a book it is a good idea if you visualize what kind of audience you are writing for. I had thought of that as just something you visualize and label, sort of a demographic profile. "New age professionals who want to be more successful" or some such description. What I realized is that there is a big difference between doing that and actually connecting with an audience out there. It is not just an idea. If I want to write a book, there is a potential audience out there. They are actual beings, or Holons if you will, that are there in present time. I can spiritually or psychically connect with them, link up with them, find out what they are about and what they want. Not guess at it, or calculate it, or visualize it - actually reach them and establish a connection. There needs to be an actual exchange of energy. When I put out my perceptions I realized that there was an actual audience there and that changed my whole sense of what I was doing.
There are many practical uses of this theory, which are my no means exhausted by what you find here.