Starting the Whole Systems list

11 June 1995.

The Whole Systems mailing list,, was activated 24th of November 1994.

I couldn't really claim to be an authority on whole systems. For that matter, I hadn't used the term much, or heard it much used. It just suddenly seemed to be in the air, and it fit with what I was interested in.

I must admit that I didn't even think much about where the term "whole systems" might come from. It just sounded and felt right. I saw Bob Hiltner mention it on some other list and I decided "Yes, that is what I am interested in too".

Buckminster Fuller wrote about "whole systems" in "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" in 1969, and possibly that is one of the early mentions. I had read it and enjoyed it greatly, but hadn't otherwise gotten much into Bucky before after starting the whole systems list.

A quick glance around provided me no references on anybody who officially laid claim to the term "whole systems", which made me all the more eager to use it. There is apparently nobody who has spoiled it by trying to over-define it with words or claiming to have invented it. That can allow us together to discover what it is all about.

I am also quite fond of the word "Holonomics". According to Jose Arguelles in "Earth Ascending" it was first used by George Leonard in "The Silent Pulse" in 1978 as a term defining entities "in the nature of a hologram. Arguelles says:

"Holonomic is a term descriptive of holistic knowing, i.e. knowing that is simultaneously intuitive and rational, scientific and artistic. Thus holonomics describes the order of reality as well as the way we come to know and express that order.

"Derived from holo-, 'whole' and -nomy, 'law or principle governing or pertaining to', holonomy refers to the law or principle governing whole systems, while holonomics describes the study or investigation of this law or principle. As a descriptive term, holonomy ultimately refers to the universe entire as a dynamic interwoven web, transcending partial or analytical definition. If the universe is holonomic, the composite subsystems of the universe, from atomic to galactic, are also holonomic. Each level or subsystem comprises a synthesis or holarchy ("whole order") that reflects the order of the total system - universe - expressible therefore by a single holonomic model or unit of information. By contemplating and understanding this holonomic model one may come to understand the whole, as well as the different subsystems, as facets of one mutually interacting, interpenetrating set of orders and operations."

The words "holarchy" and "holon" are coined by Arthur Koestler, as far as I know.

Jeffrey Stamps wrote a book on "Holonomy" which I still haven't gotten hold of, but which, I suppose, tracks some of this.

Anyway, back to the whole systems list. At the time of this writing it is certainly a success, and it is very inspiring both to read the dialogue there, and also to see the kinds of people who participate.

Currently there are about 230 members, and another 240 are on the companion Whole Info list, on which I post selected messages from wholesys, for people who don't have time to read everything.

I maintain a web area for Whole Systems where I post information I run into related to whole systems, and also selected postings from wholesys. Probably I favor my own posts the most, but well.

The activity on wholesys also inspired me to later start the New Civilization Network, which is intended as a more action-oriented network of people, working along whole systems principles to create a better world.

- Flemming Funch