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The Synergy Principle, Human Action and Evolution of Consciousness

Yongming Tang, Ph.D

For a few years, the Synergy Project at the California Institute of Integral Studies, has been experimentating with a new, innovative methodology called Synergic Inquiry (SI) to transform human systems such as individuals, relationships, groups, organizations, communities, and societies/cultures. Due to the initial sucesses of our projects, the Global Synergy Network was created to expand our effort.

Our synergy work is based on a grand pattern – the synergy principle – of the evolution of the universe. It is a pattern that “connects all the living creatures” and “defines the vast generalization,” as Gregory Bateson (1979) puts. It is a pattern that “all existences follow” in their evolution of consciousness, as the ancient I-Ching philosopy states (Ni, 1990). Specifically, it refers to a life-producing pattern –the two inseparable processes of differentiation and integration – which exists in matter, life, and mind.

Several points are of capital importance here. One is the two inseparable processes – differentiation and integration – in all existences. As demonstrated in the Tao Te Ching, the Tao manifests by differentiating itself and integrating differentiaions (Wu, 1989). In the I-ching philosophy, Yin and Yang – the two cosmic forces – are used to describe the processes of differentiation and integration. All things are brought forth by the differentiation and integration of Yin and Yang, and such a process continues organically and indefinitely.

The same processes – differentiation and integration – were also discovered by the great metaphysician io the West, Georg W. F. Hegel. In his encompassing dialectic system, Hegel believes existence embodies multiple dimensions which can be integrated into a unitary whole (Tarnas, 1991). All existences unfold in a continuing evolutionary process whereby every thing brings forth its opposite. These opposites then interact with each other, resulting in a synthesis. The synthesis in turn becomes a basis for a continuing dialectical process of opposition and synthesis.

Also in the West, the predominant scientific and materialistic approach to understanding reality converges with the metaphysical approach. The processes of differentiation and integration are also discovered in matter, life, and mind (Wilber, 1995). The physical universe started with elementary particles which differente from and integratioin with each other, producing the galaxy system (Swimme and Berry, 1992). On the earth, the physcial system then continues its evolutionary process which produces a certain dynamics of light, solid, liquid, and gas which in turn created Aries, the first living cell. The cells, with its different order of creativity, then continue the processes of differention and integration, which subsequently produced prokaryotes, vikengla, eukaryotes, and the Argos, the first multicelluar animal. With yet another order of creativity, the multicellular organisms continue to differentiate and integrate to produce more complex organisms such as insects, clams, spiders, mammmals, and humans. The humans then become self-conscious and continues to develop mentally by continuing the processes of differentiation and integration.

Further, the two processes – differentiation and integration – are interrelated and inseparable. It is believed that reality differentiates to integrate into larger wholes. Then, the larger wholes continue to become parts that are further integrated into even larger wholes. Thus, from the evolutionary point of view, there is no absolute part nor whole; there are always parts/wholes. In this sense, the purpose of differentiation is for a further integration, and a further integration is for a even farther differentiation.

Furthermore, along with the two processes, the universe evolves with synergy, advancing itself with novelty. Synergy refers to the new and novel whole that is brought forth out of the processes of differentiation and integration. It is the whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts. It is with the new and novel development, the universe evolves. In Da Chuang, “life-producing is the process of Tao.” That is why we call the life-producing pattern the synergy principle.

Pathology occurs, when the synergic principle of the universe is obstructed. Pathology results from either (1) differentiation without integration, or (2) integration without differentiation. Differentiation without integration is a separation fallacy; and integration without differentiation is a unity fallacy (Johnston, 1991). In addition, pathology manifests itself in terms of problems or crises.

When pathology exists, corrective action is needed to eliminate those problems and crises. Corrective action here refers to the kind of action that will rectify the processes of differentiation and integration, producing synergy. In other words, corrective action work with underlying causes – the interrupted synergic process of the universe – rather than symptoms (i.e., problems and crises). Further, through corrective action, humans take on a journey of discovery or/and rediscovery which accelerates the evolution of our consciousness. When the synergic process is retained, consciousness will continue the journey of evolution, and our problems and crises will disappear. Furthermore, as we expand our own consciousness, we will understand more about the essence of the universe.

Synergic Inquiry (Tang, 1995; 1996) is a process-oriented action methodology that transforms consciousness at various human system levels such as individuals, relationships, groups, organizations, communities, and societies. It uses the essence of synergy – processes of differentiation and integration which leads to creativity and transcendence – to work with human systems. The purpose of the synergy work is mainly to cultivate capacities for various levels of human systems to practice the dialectics of synergy. In its process of inclusiveness and consciousness expansion, synergy is a spiritual action process that leads to acceleration of evolution of consciousness.


Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Aature: A Necessary Unity (New York: Bantam, 1979), p. 8, and p. 12.

Johnston, Charles,The Necessary Wisdom (ICP Press. 1991).

Ni, Huangching. I-Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth (Santa Monica: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1990).

Swimme, Brian & Thomas Berry, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Exozoic Era (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco?, 1992).

Tang, Yongming. The Cultural synergy model: A new knowledge tool for the 21st century. The proceedings of the third international conference on knowledge tools for a sustainable civilization. Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 8-10, 1995.

Tang, Yongming. Synergy and Evolution of Consciousness, Journal of Evolution of Consciouseness, in print, 1996.

Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 379.

Wilber, Ken Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution(Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1995), p. 69.

Wu, Yi. The Book of Lao Tzu (The Tao Te Ching) (San Francisco: Great Learning Publishing Company, 1989).

the_synergy_principle.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/31 23:55 (external edit)