Earlier this week, I posted the first six chapters of synergic science pioneer N. Arthur Coulter’s Human Synergetics on the Web. Dr. Coulter gives us an overview of that work here.
There will come a time, I know, when people will take delight in one another, when each will he a star to the other, and when each will listen to his fellow man as to music. The free men will walk upon the earth, men great in their freedom. They will walk with open hearts, and the heart of each will he pure of envy and greed, and therefore all mankind will be without malice and there will he nothing to divorce the heart from reason. Then life will be one great service to man! His figure will he raised to lofty heights for to free men all heights are attainable. Then we shall live in truth and freedom and in beauty, and those will be accounted the best who will the more widely embrace the world with their hearts, and whose love of it will he the profoundest, for in them is the greatest beauty. Then will life be great, and the people will be great who live that life.
OVERVIEW—THE SYNERGETIC PROGRAM
N.Arthur Coulter, MD
In previous chapters, the Mode Ladder was described, and the basic goal of synergetics was presented: to evoke traverse up the Mode Ladder to the synergic mode of function. The heurisms of synergetics were then described-basic principles that have guided the formulation, development, testing, and evaluation of synergetic ideas and tools. In this chapter, we complete the presentation of Basic Synergetics as it has evolved to date, with a description of another basic concept-the Status Cross-and an overview of the rest of this book.
It is pretty obvious that men are not created equal. The idea of equality, taken from a literal interpretation of the words of the American Declaration of Independence, can lead to some rather difficult ideological positions.
But Thomas Jefferson did not mean that men and women were identically equal. He meant that, in a just social order, all persons should be treated equally, that none should have special privilege by virtue of accident of birth, wealth, or social position. Each person is a unique individual; but each is entitled by inalienable right to equal protection of the law, to equal treatment by the law, and to equality of economic and social opportunity. Only when all men and women have social equality can the unique potential of each be realized, for the ultimate benefit of all.
In synergetics, we formulate this idea as the Principle of Equivalence of Status. This may be stated as follows: the flow of synergy, empathy, and communication between two individuals is optimum when they have equivalent status with respect to each other. Referring to the figure below, equivalent status is indicated by the center of the cross.
When one regards the other as Super, the flow of synergy, empathy, and communication (SEC) tends to go down.
When one regards the other as Sub, SEC goes down.
When one regards the other as Pro, as someone to be dependent upon, SEC goes down.
When one regards the other as Anti, SEC goes down.
The Status Cross is of basic importance in Group Synergetics. It is useful in analyzing dysergic group processes. For example, if communication is poor between two members or cliques in a group, it may be found that they do not occupy the Equivalence of Status point on the Status Cross. Corrective action to establish Equivalence of Status will then often lead to improved two-way communication. From a positive viewpoint, group synergy can achieve remarkable heights when a group is so organized that Equivalence of Status is maintained.
Two special applications deserve mention. In writing this book, I have collected into an organized whole a set of ideas and tools which, in my studies and experience, demonstrably promote synergy and/or reduce dysergy. But please don’t make me a guru. These ideas and tools should be independently tested and evaluated by each readersome may be in error, others are no doubt poorly stated. Furthermore, the experience of the reader doubtless includes data not available to me, about ideas and tools that promote synergy and reduce dysergy. Synergetics is not what the artcoulter says it is; it consists of ideas and tools which, in the collective experience of syngeneers, have been effective in promoting synergy and reducing dysergy.
The second application is in the domain of work methods, especially in the roles of the coach and the group monitor (discussed in more detail in later chapters). It is natural for a coach or a group monitor to be accorded a Super or a Pro status. (He also not infrequently acquires a Sub or an Anti status!) It is important that steps be taken to prevent this or to correct it whenever it occurs. Synergetics works far better when Equivalence of Status is maintained.
It is, of course, true that an experienced, well-trained, knowledgeable coach or group monitor can achieve more than an inexperienced or inadequately trained one. But this is all the more reason for him to operate from an Equivalence of Status position. If he’s really good, he doesn’t need a Super status; and if he can’t operate from a position of Equivalence of Status, he’s really not as good as he may think he is.
Basic Synergetics, then, as it has thus far evolved, consists of the Mode Ladder, the synergetic heurisms, and the Status Cross. Many more ideas and tools could be included, but I have deliberately kept this as simple as possible. Starting with Basic Synergetics, a creative syngeneer can readily formulate, develop, test, and apply other ideas and tools appropriate to other fields not covered in this book. And the ideas and tools of Basic Synergetics are used, directly and indirectly, in all the branches of Synergetics covered in this book.
Let us now consider the synergetic program. The basic goal of synergetics is to promote synergy and/or reduce dysergy in functioning systems. In this book, we apply this goal to individuals, to groups, and to communities. Part Two deals with Individual Synergetics, Part Three with Group Synergetics, and Part Four with Social Synergetics.
It should be emphasized that these three parts are not isolated from one another, but form an interrelated whole. Desirably, they should constitute a synergic whole. However, it is necessary to take them one at a time. This inevitably means that, on the first time through, the reader will get only a partial and inadequate picture. The reader who wishes to acquire a synergic grasp of synergetics, therefore, is advised to read the rest of the book twice. The first reading will gradually give him a picture of the whole. The second reading will enable him to place each detail in synergic relationship to other details and to the whole.
Even this will not provide full synergic grasp. In addition, experience with the concrete phenomena that are evoked when these tools are used is necessary.
Individual Synergetics consists of two main parts: ideas and tools for promoting synergy, and ideas and tools for reducing or eliminating dysergy. The two are not isolated, although considered separately. The production of synergy makes it easier to eliminate dysergy. The elimination of dysergy makes it easier to achieve the synergic mode. The two efforts thus reinforce each other.
Basic to Individual Synergetics is the synergetic session. This is analogous to, but distinct from, the production of special states of consciousness in yoga, in psychoanalysis, in hypnosis, etc. In psychoanalysis, for example, the patient lies on a couch and free associates, letting whatever comes to mind emerge without censorship and reporting verbally to the analyst. In a synergetic session, a technique called tracking is used. This induces a state of enhanced rationality in the tracker, occasionally punctuated by periods in which the synergic mode turns on. Many other techniques may also be used, but tracking is the basic technique.
A synergetic session may be carried out by an individual working alone or with the help of a friend who acts as a coach. In Part Two, it is assumed that the tracker is working alone. Tracking, however, is a skill that is not acquired without effort; it takes practice and an investment of time, energy, and thought. A coach who knows how to track can be very helpful to a person who is learning to track. Paradoxically, a competent tracker can also use a coach to assist him and often achieve more than he can working alone.
Coaching is also a skill that requires an investment of time, energy, and thought. It is defined and governed by a set of principles and policies called the Coach’s Guide. Although superficially similar to some forms of psychotherapy, it is not psychotherapy. This point needs to be, emphasized. The basic goal of coaching is different and the staging is different from that of psychotherapy.
Just as Individual Synergetics promotes synergy and red es dysergy in individuals, so does Group Synergetics promote synergy and reduce dysergy in groups. Group Tracking is the basic technique. Desirably, each member of a group should have learned how to track, or at least be learning how, in order for Group Tracking to be effective. Conversely, an individual can usually make better progress in Individual Synergetics if he concomitantly is a member of a synergetic group.
One remarkable and exhilarating feature of Group Synergetics is a special type of group called the Synergic Team. A Synergic Team is a group functioning in the synergic mode as a group. A wonderful spirit of mutual trust, love, and admiration emerges, combined with a synergy of interaction in thought and deed that has to be experienced to be understood. Some athletic teams develop a similar relationship, but perhaps not with the same degree of mental synergy. Being part of a Synergic Team is one of the most rewarding aspects of synergetics.
Part Four deals with Social Synergetics, a field pioneered by Lester Ward and Ruth Benedict and developed considerably in recent years by James and Marguerite Craig, Abraham Maslow, Walter and Nancy Strode, Wes Thomas, Donald Benson, Sadah Loomis, and the Committee for the Future, originators of the SYNCON type of conference, to mention only a few. Potentially, this is the most important single branch of synergetics. Most would agree, I think, that our strife-wracked planet could use a little more synergy.
The basic program of synergetics has these goals: to develop synergic individuals, synergic teams, synergic communities, and ultimately a synergic world order. Any objective, realistic appraisal of the condition of humankind quickly leads one to conclude that we have a very, very long way to go before these goals can be achieved. But humanity is young, as species go; in a short few thousand years humans have progressed at an amazing rate and have transformed the face of the earth. True, not all progress has been beneficial, and we now face a number of crises any one of which could lead to catastrophe if not resolved. But a species that has achieved so much in so short a time span should not be underestimated. We believe in humanity. We believe in the essential goodness of human beings. And we believe in the electrifying power of synergy — a new force in human affairs.