46. The generalities of the cybernism with which a system is endowed are non-plastic.
The generalities of a system’s cybernism are also non-plastic, in line with the instructions that govern it. The particularities, in terms of which these generalities are differentiated, are, on the other hand plastic, so that they can be adapted to new environmental conditions in that way that will permit the preservation of the generalities, and hence of the cybernism’s basic features.
The cybernism thus maintains its own homeostasis in the face of environmental change. Lerner has shown how this applies to the genome and has formulated the principle of “genetic homeostasis”.  A F C Wallace has shown how societies will do everything in their power to preserve their world-view, or social cybernism, in the face of information that might cast doubt on the validity of its basic axioms. He referred to this as the principle of “cognitive preservation”. 
Significantly people can rarely be induced to abandon an obviously unadaptive world-view by rational arguments. Something approaching a religious conversion is required, as pointed out by William Sargent in his well-known book, The Battle for the Mind.  The process involved is isotelic (see Principle 24) to ‘genetic recombination’, which must be seen as the basic mechanism of radical evolutionary change. This religious conversion could be referred to as a ‘neural- recombination’, though it is, more specifically, the information organised in the neurons of the brain that is reorganised, or that is recombined, to give rise to a new world view or cybernism.
The vast literature on messianic or “revitalist” movements, as Wallace refers to them, is of particular relevance to this issue. These give rise to cultural transformations that are occasionally adaptive to new conditions.
The world-view of modernism, which rationalises and validates present suicidal policies, is, still firmly entrenched, and misguided efforts are being made to preserve it in the face of all the mounting evidence that it is both false and destructive. It is nevertheless under assault and must eventually lose all credibility and collapse. Revitalist movements – hopefully inspired by ecological ideas – may play a critical role in achieving this end, and may eventually give rise to homeotelic societies which would seek to recreate the order of the biosphere, in so far as this is now possible.Back to top
47. Instructions are provided sequentially.
If life processes are sequential, it is because they are mediated on the basis of a specific sequence of instructions that are interpreted in the light of the cybernism and hence differentiated from, and adapted to, existing conditions.
Each stage in a life process must be triggered off by the occurrence – or, as control becomes internalised, by the prediction of the occurrence – of a situation which will be influenced by the preceding stage. The more orderly the process (as in the development of an embryo), the more essential it is that the informational sequence be respected.
The information, what is more, must be derived from the appropriate source, that to which the system is called upon to adapt at each stage in the sequence. Thus a child in a vernacular society derives its earliest and most general cultural information from the family. Subsequently, it is subjected to the influence of its peer group, and it later emerges into the community as a whole, from which it will then derive the complementary information that is required at that stage in its upbringing. If the child is to be properly socialised, the information from the appropriate source must thereby be made available in the correct order.
Information from sources extraneous to the system (asystemic), or made available in the wrong order, is random to the developing system and can only interfere with socialisation and give rise to heterotelic behaviour.
The idea of subjecting a child to a massive barrage of random data in no particular order, simply on the principle that the more knowledge the better, is indefensible and an educational policy, such as ours, that is based on such a notion can only give rise to increasing social and ecological disorder.Back to top
48. The internalisation of control involves development of cybernismic complexity diversity.
The complexity of any life process not only depends on systemic complexity but also on the associated cybernismic complexity, which provides the instructions (see Principle 42) and the associated model – that is, the cybernism (see Principle 45) – in the light of which, the instructions are directed or orientated, and hence the information required to assure the mediation of those life processes that are adaptive to specific environmental conditions, and that are thereby homeotelic to the larger system.
In the same way, cybernismic diversity is required to ensure the mediation of a diversity of life processes that are adaptive to a wide range of possible environmental conditions (see Principle 26).
For more sophisticated organisms, there ceases to be the trade-off between complexity and diversity; in the development of the neo-cortex for example, both cybernismic complexity and diversity are correspondingly built-up. Were it not for this, individuals would have to sacrifice an increasing measure of systemic diversity in order to achieve a similar degree of adaptiveness to a specific range of conditions, and thereby correspondingly reduce their ability to adapt to the requisite range of possible challenges that they might encounter in a disorderly environment.Back to top
49. Natural Systems are homeotelic to Gaia.
All vernacular life-processes are geared to the achievement and maintenance of Gaian order and stability. I refer to such life-processes as homeotelic (from the Greek ‘homeo’ = same, and ‘telos’ = goal) . Life processes, on the other hand, which are purely egotistic, and that do not contribute to Gaian order, I refer to as ‘heterotelic’ (from the Greek world ‘hetero’ = different, and ‘telos’ = goal). Such life-processes are abnormal and indeed aberrant.
This view is diametrically opposed to that now in vogue in mainstream scientific, sociological and ecological circles. In such circles, living things are seen as seeking exclusively to maximise the random proliferation of their own genes – the ultimate goal of life within the biosphere – a principle clearly formulated by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene.
On the other hand, behaviour that is not altogether egotistic is referred to as ‘altruistic’. It is regarded as a special case, and explained away in a highly contrived way, so that it should not appear to invalidate the preposterous thesis of the ‘selfish gene’.
This is but a means of rationalising, and hence legitimising, the atomisation of modem society, and the competition and aggression that characterise it.Back to top
50. Homeotelic life processes are designed to satisfy the needs of the Gaian hierarchy as a whole, not just those of a constituent part.
Natural systems are all in dynamic interrelationship, not only at the same level in the Gaian hierarchy but also at different levels. A change occurring to one system will thus have a ‘ripple effect’, which will affect, to a different degree, all the other systems in the Gaian hierarchy. As Garrett Hardin put it, “You can’t do only one thing”.
What is important is that the ‘ripple effect’ should be beneficial – in other words, that it should contribute to Gaian stability. A homeotelic act does just this. It seeks to satisfy the needs of all the systems that make up the Gaian hierarchy, and hence those of the ecosphere itself. It is thus a solution multiplier.
A heterotelic act, on the other hand, is only designed to have an effect on one system – at most a few – without regard for its effects on all the others, and will thereby create a veritable wave of maladjustments, that will themselves create further and further waves of maladjustment, especially among cognitively maladjusted systems (see Principle 65), thus correspondingly reducing the stability of the Gaian hierarchy. It is thus a problem multiplier.Back to top
51. Vernacular man follows the Way.
The Way may best be defined as the behaviour pattern that conforms to the laws of the Cosmos (the ecosphere or Gaia) and is thereby homeotelic to it.
The socialised members of a vernacular society abide by the traditional law because that law has been enacted by the ancestors ‘in the Dawn Period’. They also observe the traditional law because they see it as being the law of the Cosmos, and hence of the whole cosmic hierarchy.
This law is best referred to as ‘the Way’. It is only by following the Way, as vernacular man fully realises, that nature can be induced to dispense its unique benefits and human welfare can thereby be maximised. As Hesiod wrote:
“When men do justice and do not go aside from the straight path of right, their city flourishes and they are free from war and famine. For them the Earth brings forth food in plenty, and on the hill the oak tree bears acorns at the top and bees in the middle; their sheep have heavy fleeces, their wives bear children that are like their parents.” 
Radcliffe-Brown noted how this was also true of the world-view of the Australian aborigines:
“Man is dependent upon what we call nature; on the regular succession of the seasons, on the rain failing when it should, on the growth of plants and the continuance of animal life. But, while for us the order of nature is one thing and the social order is another, for the Australian, they are two parts of a single order. Well-being, for the individual or for the society, depends on the continuance of this order free from serious disturbance. The Australians believe that they can ensure this continuance, or at least contribute to it, by their actions, including the regular performance of the totemic rites.” 
Many vernacular societies had a word for the Way, a word that often also referred to the order of the Cosmos. The ancient Greeks referred to it as ‘Dike’, which also referred to the order of the Cosmos that it served to maintain. The term also meant ‘justice’ or ‘righteousness’. Significantly, it was by observing the traditional law or ‘nomos’ that one also followed the Dike, and thereby helped to maintain both the order of society and that of the Cosmos.
The Chinese concept of ‘Tao’ also refers to the order of the Cosmos and to the path that must be followed in order to maintain it. As Jane Harrison writes:
“Tao is like Dike, the way, the way of nature; and man’s whole religion, his whole moral effort is to bring himself into accordance with Tao.” 
Among the Indians, the Vedic concept of ‘R’ta’ was very similar. As Maurice Bloomfield tells us:
“The processes whose perpetual sameness or regular recurrence give rise to the representation of order, obey R’ta, or their occurrence is R’ta. ‘The rivers flow R’ta’. The year is the path of R’ta. The Gods themselves are born of the R’ta or in the R’ta; they show by their acts that they know, observe and love the R’ta. In man’s activity, the R’ta manifests itself as the moral law.” 
The Vedic poet, as Krishna Chaitanya notes, knew that to obtain Nature’s bounty, man must obey R’ta.
“For one who lives according to Eternal Law, the winds are full of sweetness, the rivers pour sweets. So may the plants be full of sweetness for us.” 
The Avestan concept of ‘Asha’ was very similar, as is the Buddhist concept of ‘Dharma’. De Groot described Dharma as “the universal law which embraces the world in its entirety”. 
The Way is that behavioural strategy which all men must follow if they are to contribute to the critical order of the Gaian hierarchy, and hence to maximise their welfare. Indeed, it is the opposite to that strategy which we are today induced to follow and which, by contributing to the ephemeral order of the technosphere (which is heterotelically parasitical on the biosphere), must correspondingly lead to Gaia’s contraction and degradation.Back to top
52. Institutional society abides by a heterotelic law that is the law of the technosphere. It is best referred to as the anti-way.
If, in vernacular society, there is a clear notion of the Way – that is, of the correct path that man must take in order to maintain the order of his society and that of the Cosmos itself – there is also a notion of the wrong Way – that which violates the traditional law and thereby brings about a reduction in the order of the Cosmos.
Among the Greeks, the anti-Way was often referred to as ‘ou themis’, the opposite to ‘themis’ (which occasionally was used to mean ‘social order’ and occasionally to mean ‘the order of the pantheon’, as well as the path to be followed to achieve such order). Among the Indians of the Vedic period, it was referred to as ‘an-R’ta’, the opposite to R’ta, and among the Buddhists as ‘Adharma’, the opposite to Dharma.
In the language of the Melanesians, to adopt the anti-Way (and hence to divert from the traditional law) is seen as violating a taboo. As Roger Caillois writes,
“An act is taboo if it disrupts the universal order which is at once that of nature and of society. Such behaviour is the source of all disasters.”
As a result of breaking a taboo,
“the Earth might no longer yield a harvest; the cattle might be struck with infertility; the stars might no longer follow their appointed course; death and disease could stalk the land.” 
This notion is almost certainly common to all tribal peoples whether in Africa, Asia, America or Oceania and undoubtedly was also common to the tribal peoples of ancient Europe.Back to top
53. In a vernacular society, discontinuities such as epidemics, floods and droughts are seen as the inevitable consequences of diverting from the correct path or the Way.
If to divert from the Way is to cause a reduction in the critical older of the Gaian hierarchy, then it must lead to the destabilisation of the individual’s relationship with his society and the society’s relationship with its environment. Such destabilisation can only be reflected in all sorts of maladjustments or discontinuities, such as epidemics, floods, droughts, famines and wars. The vernacular diagnosis for such disasters, however simplistic it might seem to those reared on the scientific world-view, is in fact correct. What is more, it is the only diagnosis that will lead to a homeotelic solution, one that consists in correcting the offending diversion from the Way, and thereby restore the critical order of the Cosmos.
By contrast, to see the discontinuity as being triggered off by a single event or cause that is antecedent in time (see Principle 9), as we do today, is to justify the adoption of technological expedients aimed at neutralising the guilty ’cause’ (using pesticides for instance to kill off guilty pests; radiotherapy to kill off a guilty tumour etc.) but which are thoroughly heterotelic (see Principle 65) and which only succeed in masking the real ’cause’ of the problem.
To interpret the problem in terms of single causes is thus to be guilty of the Great Misinterpretation (see Principle 66).Back to top
54. Economic life processes in a vernacular system are homeotelic and follow the Way.
All natural systems, whether organisms, societies or ecosystems make use of resources and the distribution of those resources within them, must be governed by the same general laws (see Principle 2 ) – those that assure that it contributes to, and is thereby homeotelic to, the achievement and maintenance of the Cosmic hierarchy.
It must be obvious that resources are so distributed within that highly integrated system which is a biological organism. Food is digested and nutrients distributed to where they are required in order to keep the organism as a whole functioning as effectively as possible.
Starvation triggers off a highly homeotelic rationing system, assuring that nutrients are first provided to essential organs, such as the brain, the heart and respiratory system and only after that to less critical organs and tissues.
That the same principles apply at the social level among vernacular societies has been well documented by the more enlightened economic anthropologists and economic historians, such as Marcel Mauss, Karl Polanyi, George Dalton, Raymond Firth and others. In such societies, there is no formal economy, the units of economic activity corresponding to the basic social units – namely the family and the community – both of which are integral parts of the Gaian hierarchy. The economic activities undertaken by these social groups are, to use Polanyi’s term, “embedded in social relations”.  They thereby serve social rather than purely economic ends and are thus under social control and that of the Gaian hierarchy.
In a modern economy, such control has broken down. Institutional (economic and political) groupings, which have replaced social groupings, are an integral part of the technosphere and are thereby parasitical on the biosphere.
The goal of those who lead these institutions is the satisfaction of their own individual interests, regardless of the consequences on the biological, social and ecological systems that make up the Gaian hierarchy (‘politics are politics’ and ‘business is business’).
Indeed, instead of serving to maintain the critical order of the biosphere, which is the goal of homeotelic economic activities, the modern economy serves, on the contrary, to transform the biosphere so that it may serve to accommodate the maximum throughput (extraction, transformation, distribution, consumption) of resources.
Economic activity thereby comes to serve the opposite function from that for which it was designed. Not being subjected to the sophisticated internal controls of a climax biosphere – but only to the very much less sophisticated external controls of an increasingly degraded and pioneer-like biosphere – economic activity expands anarchically, as does a malignant growth, until such time as the biosphere becomes so degraded that it can no longer accommodate it.
Since in a truly vernacular society, economic activity is homeotelic and self-motivating (see Principle 23), no financial incentive is required to assure the homeotelic distribution of resources. Financial transactions are minimal, and hence Gross National Product (GNP) is zero, or near zero. As a society disintegrates, however, and as more functions previously fulfilled by vernacular processes must be paid for, so GNP increases. GNP thus provides a vague measure of the extent to which heterotelic economic processes have replaced homeotelic ones and hence, by implication, a measure of biospheric disintegration.Back to top
55. In a vernacular ecosystem, the consumption of resources is homeotelic.
If production in a vernacular ecosystem is homeotelic to the Ecosphere, so is consumption. This not only serves the interests of the consumer, but those of the Gaian hierarchy as a whole. Indeed, from the Gaian point of view, consumers, at each level in the food cycle (see Principle 56), must consume, since it is by doing so that they apply quantitative and qualitative controls on the populations on which they live, and thereby contribute to maintaining the critical order of the Ecosphere.
Under such conditions, ‘there is no free fast’, since failure on the part of the consumers to consume what must be regarded as the optimum resources would relax these controls, leading to a disruption of the biosphere’s critical order.
It is only once this disruption is under way and consumers start consuming more than the optimum, that Barry Commoner’s principle that “there is no free lunch” becomes applicable. Back to top