This was the final outline of what would become Edward Goldsmith’s great work The Way: An Ecological Worldview (first published in 1992).
Many of the key principles of ecological thinking which it discusses had already been published by Goldsmith in several different forms previously (see Related Articles on the right below).
Published in The Ecologist Vol. 18 No. 4–5, 1988.
I think we must be very grateful to Arne Naess for having coined the term Deep Ecology, a term that has certainly caught the public’s imagination and that is now here to stay. We are also indebted to him and his colleagues, George Sessions, Bill Devall and Warwick Fox, to name the most obvious ones, for having so ably sketched the views and policies of the Deep Ecology Movement.
I thoroughly agree with the eight principles set out by Naess in the Platform of Deep Ecology. Deep ecology seems to differ from the more pragmatic and matter-of-fact views and policies of the Ecology or Green movement that has developed during the last twenty years, largely in its very necessary subjective, emotional and slightly mystical approach.
Deep Ecology has of course been much criticised, and the criticisms have often been constructive. Henryk Skolimowski, for example, thinks that Deep Ecology needs its own cosmology and eschatology. I see eschatology as being very much a part of cosmology. Grover Foley calls for the formulation of the laws of ecology or Deep Ecology; but Arne Naess sees Deep Ecology more as a forum for those who share similar views on man’s relationship with nature, than as a clearly formulated world-view or cosmology and does not seem to think that such a set of laws is necessary.
I disagree. In my view, only a clearly formulated world view is likely to give rise to a comprehensive and clearly formulated strategy for assuring the preservation of what remains of the biosphere – and hence the survival of our species.
What I propose to do in this essay (if what follows can be thus termed) is to propose a very tentative world-view or cosmology in the form of a set of 67 laws or principles, which are seen as governing the Cosmos and the cosmological process.
I shall take the Cosmos to be the ecosphere or Gaia – that is to say nature, or the biosphere, taken together with its interacting atmospheric environment viewed subjectively, emotionally and mystically as it has always been viewed by vernacular man, and as I am convinced it must be viewed, if we are to survive.
I doubt if these laws will be accepted by the Deep Ecology Movement. Among other things, they are concerned with a host of theoretical issues, with which few are likely to be conversant.
Those who are – our mainstream biologists, ecologists and anthropologists – will certainly reject them. I hope they do. If they do not, then I know that the laws must be seriously wanting, for I regard today’s mainstream natural sciences (biology, ecology and anthropology) as being very seriously misguided – especially mainstream ecology.Back to top
The perversion of ecology
Thus if ecology is “the study of the structure and function of Nature”  or indeed of Gaia,  as Eugene Odum – possibly the last holistic ecologist in academia – sees it, then modern academic or scientific ecology is not ecology at all. It does not even admit that Gaia exists, let alone that the ecosphere (a more formal term for Gaia) has an overall structure or associated function.
Early academic ecologists at the turn of the century, on the other hand, might well have accepted the implications of the Gaia thesis, but since the 1940s and 1950s, ecology has been progressively perverted so as to make it conform ever more closely with modem reductionistic and mechanistic science, a story which is told very eloquently and very convincingly by Donald Worster in his seminal book Nature’s Economy;  a book which should be compulsory reading for all those in the ecology or Deep Ecology movement.
Significantly, modern scientific ecology has developed little theory and almost no laws. This point has been made by a number of the more thoughtful ecologists. Ramon Margalef, for instance, notes that
“ecologists have been reluctant to place their observations and their findings in the frame of general theory. Present day ecology is extremely poor in unified and ordered principles.” 
Peters has also noted that
“ecology has been criticised for being richer in metaphor than in true theory”.  Haskell has gone so far as to say that “It is no more possible to make present ecological theory produce accurate predictions than it is to make a wild cherry tree produce fancy dessert cherries.” 
This is not surprising. Laws are developed to explain observed regularities. A world displaying such regularities is necessarily an orderly world, but the order of our biosphere is denied by modern ecology. Glacken, for instance, tells us that “there is disorder in the universe and order must be proven not assumed”.  However, I regard it as fundamental to the world-view of ecology or Deep Ecology, that the world is, on the contrary, highly orderly.
Indeed, to accept the Gaia thesis, which even mainstream scientists will very soon have great difficulty in rejecting without serious loss of credibility, is to see the ecosphere as a cybernetic system, capable of acting as a single unit for the purpose of maintaining its stability, or homeostasis, in the face of environmental challenges. For this to be possible the ecosphere must be seen as highly orderly, indeed as a highly organised co-operative enterprise, very much as the Natural Theologists of the 18th century saw it, and very much too as are all other natural cybernetic systems – the human organism for instance. This means that, contrary to what Glacken tells us, the onus must be on mainstream ecologists to prove that the opposite can possibly be true.
In listing what I take to be the principles of ecology (or Deep Ecology), I was faced with the problem that the constraints to which the ecosphere is subjected, and hence the laws that govern its structure and function, are highly interrelated. This means that it is difficult to list any one of them without first having listed the others. I have only been able to get round this problem by resorting to cross-references and to a certain amount of repetition, for which I seek the reader’s indulgence.
Another problem has been that in order to list the laws in something approaching a logical order, I have been forced to intersperse the more fundamental laws with the very much more secondary ones. In order to accentuate the fact that the laws are not of equal importance, the statement of the more fundamental laws has been put in bold italics and the accompanying explanations in italics.
Finally, it may be worth noting that this essay is, in essence, a summary of a book I have been writing (on and off) for some decades, and which may yet, one day, appear somewhere in print.Back to top
1. Ecology is the study of the structure and function of Gaia, or of Gaia as a total spatio-temporal system.
Ecology, in the words of Eugene Odum, is the study of “the structure and function of nature”.  Since Odum accepts that nature or the biosphere, together with its atmospheric environment, constitutes a single living system which Lovelock refers to as Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the Earth, and which we can also refer to as the ecosphere, we can, and Odum agrees, consider ecology to be the study of “the structure and function of Gaia”, or we might say “the structure and function of the ecosphere”.
Because Gala is organised hierarchically, both in space and in time (see Principle 31), being made up of systems at different levels in the spatio-temporal Gaian hierarchy, ecology must include the study of systems or life-processes at all levels in that hierarchy. Studied ecologically, molecules, biological organisms, vernacular societies, populations and ecosystems must all be seen in the light of their role – both structural and functional – in assuring the stability (see Principle 37) of Gaia
This holistic definition is in stark contrast with the current, highly reductionistic definition of ecology as “the relationship of organisms with their environment”.Back to top
2. Ecology is the study of Gaian laws.
To study the structure and function of the ecosphere is to seek out their pattern and hence to determine how the ecosphere is ordered (see Principle 20). The basic or general features of this pattern, or order, are non-plastic (see Principle 46) which is but a way of saying that they display continuity or stability (see Principle 37). This means that a Gaian, or ecospheric, structure and function are subject to constraints; that is, they are governed by laws.
Such laws, moreover, are not mere statistical regularities, as mainstream science tells us but the conditions of order – constraints to which Gaian structures and processes must be subjected if they are to display that order. Such constraints can be violated, as in heterotelic life processes (see Principle 65) but then there is a price to pay – namely reduced biospheric order with all its consequent discontinuities and maladjustments.
The increasing incidence and severity of discontinuities of all sorts such as wars, massacres, droughts, floods, famines, epidemics, and now climate changes are but part of the price that our modern industrial society must inevitably pay for violating, in so drastic a manner, the fundamental laws of the ecosphere.Back to top
3. Ecology is a non-disciplinary study.
Ecology must accept von Bertalanffy’s thesis , that natural systems at all levels in the Gaian hierarchy (such as cells, organisms, vernacular societies, ecosystems, etc.) are similar in both structure and function (see Principle 24), which means that they are governed by the same laws. Those laws – the laws of General Systems – which von Bertalanffy sought to establish, must also be the laws of ecology, that is, the laws that govern the structure and function of the Gaian hierarchy. Ecology is thereby non-disciplinary.
At a lower level of generality, different specialised disciplines are required to study divergences in structure and function among different forms of life. Such disciplines, however, must share common ecological generalities. In this way, they can be co-ordinated, so that they may serve to paint between them a coherent picture of the structure and function of Gaia, which is impossible today using disciplines that have evolved in isolation and that are often very difficult to reconcile with each other; ecology and economics providing but the most obvious example.Back to top
4. Ecology is holistic.
The “individualistic ecology”  taught in our universities today is an aberration. Reductionist science looks at the parts in isolation but the ecosphere is more than the sum of its parts; it is also the way these parts are organised and, since the parts, both at a molecular and at a cellular level, are very much the same in all living things, that organisation is critical.
Biological, and hence ecological, diversity (see Principle 26) are thus achieved by organising the same basic materials in a multitude of different ways. It is because of the way these materials are organised that a mammal differs from a bird, a bird from a reptile and a tropical ecosystem from an Arctic ecosystem.
The parts, moreover, are organised functionally, indeed purposefully, if this term is to have a meaning within the context of the ecosphere (see Principle 22), so as to fulfil differentiated roles in Gala’s strategy (see Principle 37). They are organised by their evolution and hence their ontogeny and their behaviour (see Principle 17) to fulfil such roles. This means that their status, and meaning, can only be determined by considering what are these specific roles and how they are fulfilled.
To study systems in isolation is thus self-defeating. Such an enterprise cannot reveal either their status or their meaning. It is but an exercise in scientific obscurantism and mystification.Back to top
5. Ecology is subjective.
Because of the adaptive nature of the evolutionary life processes
– with their ontogenetic and behavioural components, that, over the last 3 billion years, have given rise to the complex and highly stable biosphere that industrial man has inherited – one must postulate that natural systems, including man (see Principle 18) have, in general, been cognitively adjusted to their specific environments. Goethe noted how this was true of man. In the words of Worster:
“Goethe considered that there was ‘a perfect correspondence between the inner nature of man and the structure of external reality, between the soul and the world.’ The World was thereby a reflection of man’s own image and man in turn reflected nature’s order, the two being inseparable. This called for a subjective and emotional attitude to nature.” 
It is only with the systematic destruction of the biosphere, or real world, and hence of the environment to which we have been cognitively adapted by our evolution and its equally systematic replacement with the technosphere, or surrogate world, of which we have had no evolutionary experience, that we have become cognitively maladjusted (see Principle 32) to our environment – as, indeed, have other living things to theirs. In such conditions, we are no longer capable of intuiting its basic features.
The attempt to replace subjective by objective knowledge is a vain one. Man has no more been designed to entertain objective knowledge than has any other living thing. Objective science is an illusion. Subjective, value-laden, metaphysical assumptions underlie all scientific propositions. This is admitted by the more thoughtful scientists and philosophers of science. Thus, the great C H Waddington admitted that “a scientist’s metaphysical beliefs have a definite and ascertainable influence on the work he produces”.  Karl Popper also realised that “scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which are of a speculative kind, and sometimes even quite hazy; a faith which is completely unwarranted from the point of view of science and which, to that extent, is ‘metaphysical’ “. Back to top
6. The generalities of subjective ecological knowledge are subconscious.
We are not necessarily aware of the metaphysical knowledge that underlies our world-view. Michael Polanyi referred to such knowledge – knowledge that we cannot formulate in words – as “‘ineffable”.  Such knowledge, being the most general and fundamental (see Principle 46 and Principle 47), plays a very much more important role in determining our behaviour than does the knowledge of which we are aware.
This does not seem to impress epistemologists, nor philosophers of science, nor scientists themselves, for whom knowledge remains conscious knowledge – that which we can formulate in words, or better still, in figures. Only such knowledge is taken to be based on observation and reason and, thereby, to be objective, scientific and true.
Ecological knowledge must refer to the whole hierarchical organisation of our knowledge (see Principle 46) – including the generalities that are largely subconscious and the particularities that are conscious. It is on the basis of such knowledge that behaviour is mediated at all levels of the Gaian hierarchy.
The role played in our behaviour by conscious, empirical and rational knowledge has in any case been grossly exaggerated. If our digestive systems, and the circulation of our blood were governed by conscious, empirical and rational decisions, we would not survive a single day.
If our adaptive relationship with our internal environment must be conducted by the unconscious parts of the brain, so must our adaptive relationship with our external environment; more precisely, it must be controlled by the predominantly subconscious knowledge, built into the cultural patterns of the vernacular societies in which man, until recently, lived. Things were then done not because they were deemed scientifically desirable, economically viable or politically expedient but because they were originally done that way by the society’s mythical ancestors who lived in the era in which the social laws were definitively established.
In this way, our external environment, like our internal environment, was protected from the depredations that would otherwise have been caused to it by out of control, conscious, empirical and rational knowledge. For this reason alone, as Jim Lovelock  points out, one must reject the thesis popular among environmentalists that man is, or can conceivably be, a conscious rational ‘steward’ of the natural world.Back to top
7. The most fundamental ecological knowledge is acquired by intuition.
Observation, and induction based on it, are taken by empiricists and mainstream scientists to provide the only means of acquiring scientific knowledge. This can be criticised on many counts. First of all, observation is not the objective measuring rod it is supposed to be. On the contrary, it is highly subjective, involving as it does, the interpretation of data in the light of the observer’s subjective model, or cybernism (see Principle 34) of his relationship with his environment.
Induction simply does not occur, except perhaps in very simple forms of life. Knowledge is not built up that way at all, as Popper and others have clearly demonstrated. It is built up instead by developing a subjective mental model or cybernism by means of a complex organisational process, much of which occurs at the subconscious level.
Other epistemologists and philosophers of science have attached greater importance to ‘reason’ as a means of building up knowledge, without taking a great deal of trouble in defining that term. In particular, such philosophers see deduction from basic principles as an important (rational) means of acquiring knowledge. This is yet another process that probably does not occur in nature, since it is not from isolated principles but from a subjective, partly subconscious, model or cybernism that knowledge is derived and the process involved is more akin to the model builder’s ‘simulation’ than to the epistemologist’s deduction.
All these cognitive processes, however, whether they be observation and induction, or reason and deduction, only provide a means of acquiring conscious knowledge. No legitimate method, however, is proposed for the acquisition of subconscious knowledge. Yet there must be such a method; indeed, it must be that which we make use of to acquire our most fundamental ecological knowledge.
This method is best seen as the process whereby the most fundamental features of this relationship are interpreted in the light of the largely subconscious generalities or metaphysical principles underlying our world-view, one that reflects the total spatio-temporal experience of our cultural group, in its dealings with Gaia. Such knowledge is usually referred to as ‘wisdom’ and the method of acquiring it is normally called ‘intuition’.Back to top
8. Ecology is emotional.
Ecology is a way of looking at the world, a subjective and emotional way, not just an objective and rational one. It involves seeing the world, as does the mystic, with wonder, with awe and with humility – as something to feel part of, to love and to cherish rather than to exploit, let alone systematically to transform as modern man is doing.
Thoreau considered that no true understanding of the Earth was possible that was not based on ‘love’ and ‘sympathy'; which for Worster “is the capacity to feel intensely the bond of identity or kinship, that unites all things within a single organism”  – which indeed man must feel if he is to behave as an integral part of Gaia, rather than as a heterotelic (see Principle 65) parasite that simply churns her up.
This attitude is of course irreconcilable with the paradigm of reductionist science which above all demands total objectivity, and in the words of Roszack,
“a Cosmos stripped clear of all the emotional and spiritual qualities men and women theretofore have found in the natural world.” 
But the elimination of such emotionalism as subjectivity from science – and hence from modem scientific ecology – is an illusion, as is clear from the outbursts of emotional indignation with which the scientific establishment greeted the publication of works such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Denis and Donella Meadow’s Limits to Growth, both of which undermined basic scientific assumptions and thereby threatened their status and prestige.
Reductionist science is in fact as emotional as it is subjective, for scientists are humans and as such have not been designed by their evolution to be unemotional any more than they have been designed to be objective.Back to top
9. Ecology explains events in terms of their role within the total spatio-temporal Gaian hierarchy, not just in terms of the single event or cause that triggered them off.
In terms of mainstream science, an event is seen as being caused by another event that preceded it in time and which can be correlated with it statistically, without necessarily justifying this correlation on the basis of any serious theoretical considerations. This notion of causality was essential to the Newtonian world-view. Indeed, in a world made up exclusively of space and motion, there was no need for anything more than this crude notion of causality – no appeal to serious explanation was required.
As shown elsewhere, it was necessary too that the cause should precede the effect (seePrinciple 22). Though the Newtonian paradigm has been abandoned, in theory at least, the notion of cause has been retained because it fits in so well with the present paradigm of science. Its retention, however, prevents us, among other things, from understanding pathological – i.e. heterotelic (see Principle 65) – events occurring within natural systems.
Infectious diseases, for instance, are not ’caused’ by microbes as modern medicine continues to assure us – an interpretation that is very convenient to the pharmaceutical industry that churns out vast amounts of poisons for killing off the microbes. On the contrary, as René Dubos, the founder of the ecological approach to health, pointed out: infectious diseases are caused by a break-down in the balance between man and the microbial population that inhabits him and indeed must inhabit him, if his metabolism is to function properly.
The true ’cause’ of an infectious disease is thereby not the microbe that triggered it off but the circumstances that led to the breakdown in this critical balance – or, more precisely, the local reduction in the critical order of Gala (see Principle 21).
Like all other discontinuities, infections can also, and perhaps more usefully, be seen to have been ’caused’ by a diversion from the optimum behaviour pattern, from the ‘Path’ or ‘Way’ (see Principle 49), which leads to the preservation of that critical order – a principle that was fully understood by vernacular peoples (see Principle 53).
But then the term ’cause’ is rarely used to refer to such general changes and theoretically cannot be, since the very notion of an optimum behaviour pattern to which behaviour must be geared, smacks of teleology (see Principle 22), hence of that ultimate scientific taboo – the final cause.
For that reason it is best to abandon the use of the term ’cause’ altogether and use instead the term ‘explanation’. An ecological explanation, of course, is one that examines the process in the light of an ecological model of the ecosphere as a total spatio-temporal system (see Principle 16).Back to top
10. Ecology studies natural Systems in their natural Gaian context.
Life processes can only occur normally within a certain range of environmental conditions (see Principle 35), those that bear some relationship to those in which the systems evolved and grew up (see Principle 34). It is only by studying life processes in these conditions that they can be understood and, in particular, that normal processes can be identified, and thereby distinguished, from abnormal processes – the physiological from the pathological and hence the homeotelic (see Principle 49) from the heterotelic (see Principle 65).
Life processes occurring in ‘controlled laboratory conditions’ – that is, in totally artificial conditions which have no counterpart in the real world – can provide little information on the role these processes play in assuring the critical order or stability of the ecosphere (see Principle 50) and cannot thereby serve as a basis for the understanding of the real world.Back to top
11. Ecology is qualitative.
In the 1940s, ecology was transformed into an ‘exact’ science. This meant, above, all expressing it in the medium of mathematics. The Oxford ecologist Arthur Tansley played an important role in this transformation. He denied the existence of anything in ecology that could not be strictly quantified and examined by the reductionistic (analytic) method of science. In this way, in the words of Worster, he sought to rescue ecology
“from the status of a vaguely mysterious moralising point of view and make it instead a hard-edged, mechanistic, nothing-but discipline, marching in closed ranks with the other sciences.” 
As the result of the work of Juday, Lindeman and also of Odum, the functioning of ecosystems came to be explained in terms of the energy that flowed through it from one trophic level to the next, and in terms of laws of classical thermodynamics. This had disastrous consequences. As Worster notes:
“By reducing the living world to ingredients that could be easily measured and graphed, the ecologist was in danger of removing all the residual emotional impediments to unrestrained manipulation.” 
This approach is, in any case, unjustified on purely scientific grounds, in that it means that the factors and the relationship between the factors that were now taken into account in ecological explanations, are no longer those that are relevant but instead those that happen to be quantifiable. Unfortunately, however, the most important features of ecosystems, indeed of natural systems in general, such as organisation, hierarchy, stability, creativity and so on, are not easily quantifiable. As Sibatani notes,
“systems in which the elements characteristically interact. are notoriously intractable to mathematical analysis.” 
What makes the enterprise even more futile, is that the scientific concepts that are routinely quantified have never even been properly defined. In biology, for instance, as Woodger notes,
“nothing is more striking. . . than the contrast between the brilliant skill, ingenuity and care bestowed upon observation and experiment, and the almost complete neglect of caution in regard to the definition and use of the concepts in terms of which its results are expressed.” 
An example is competition. Merrell  lists no fewer than 28 different ways in which the term is used. Clearly to quantify concepts that have never been defined is to endow them with an air of spurious accuracy,  when they are in reality vague and misleading.
The truth is that mathematics is not the language of nature. Nor, of course, it might be argued, is English, or any other man-made language. But then qualitative language is more flexible and can be used to express vivid metaphors that provide a more accurate picture of the ecosphere than can the more precise language of mathematics.Back to top
12. The ‘truth’ of an ecological proposition is the extent to which it fits in with the world-view of ecology.
All attempts to establish a rigid dichotomy between scientific (and hence supposedly valid) and non-scientific (and hence supposedly invalid) propositions have now been discredited.
The notion that ’empirical verification’ provides such a criterion – the underlying principle of Logical Positivism, – was discredited long ago by Karl Popper. The criterion of ‘falsifiability’, which Popper proposed to replace verification, has now also been shown to be unacceptable. Even ‘operational verification’ is no criterion, since the effects of any act or operation in which one has a strong psychological stake are still judged subjectively – its failure, for instance, being invariably attributed to various technical factors, rather than to the basic validity of the operation and of the principles that rationalise it.
Thus, in spite of the terrible failure of economic development in the Third World, its ‘desirability’ remains unquestioned. Instead, slight changes in the way development policies are implemented are proposed, to eliminate its worst abuses, hence ‘rural development’, ‘ecodevelopment’, ‘appropriate development’ and now ‘sustainable development’ – all of which are basically euphemisms adopted by the Development Industry to placate its critics.
The myth that a scientific proposition is radically different from other propositions has been exploded by enlightened epistemologists such as Alfred Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend and others. From their writings, it emerges that a scientific proposition is no more than one that conforms to the reigning scientific paradigm or world view.
One must thereby conclude that the validity of an ecological proposition can only be judged by the extent to which it fits in with the largely subconscious and subjective world-view of ecology. To ask more of it is to ask the impossible.Back to top
13. Ecology serves to rationalise the world-view of ecology.
Ecology reflects and serves to rationalise a specific world-view, one which we can refer to as ‘the world-view of ecology’, in the same way that science, economics and the other disciplines into which our modern knowledge of the world is divided, reflect and serve to rationalise the world view of modernism.
This means that in terms of the former world-view, man’s welfare and prosperity are seen as maximised by adopting that Path or Way (see Principle 51) that best serves to achieve and maintain the critical order (see Principle 21) of the ecosphere: by contrast, in terms of the latter world-view, welfare and prosperity are seen as being maximised by adopting that path that best serves to favour the development and preservation of the technosphere.
Since the biosphere and the technosphere are in direct competition with each other, the expansion of the latter necessarily leads to a corresponding degradation and contraction of the former. The two world-views are thus diametrically opposed to each other.Back to top
14. Gaia is One.
Deep Ecologists refer to this principle as ‘the central intuition’. It is well-named. The unity of the world has been intuited by all known vernacular societies. As Father Placide Tempels writes, “for primitive man the supreme wisdom consists in seeing the universe. as reflecting the unity of the order of living things”.  This intuition has been confirmed by Jim Lovelock in his seminal book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth.Back to top
15. Gaia is a spatio-temporal system.
Gaia, like all natural systems, exists in time as well as in space. There can be no atemporal system any more than there can be a non-spatial process. Julian Huxley noted how this is true of a social system:
“We are beginning to grasp that societies, like the individuals which compose them, and like life in general, have a time-dimension. They are process, and their direction in time is as important a part of their nature as their organisation at any particular time.” 
To see Gaia and her constituent natural systems (see Principle 24) as both entities and processes, is for us very difficult. Among other things, our language distinguishes clearly between the spatial and the temporal as if they were totally distinct. I shall thus continue to use the term ‘system’ or ‘natural system’ when I wish to accentuate the spatial aspect of a spatio-temporal ‘entity-process’, and ‘process’ or ‘life-process’ when I wish to accentuate its temporal aspect. This is far from satisfactory, but the alternative is worse.Back to top
16. Gaia is a total spatio-temporal system.
The visible living thing which we take to be the biosphere is but an ‘evolutionary stratum’ – the tip of an evolutionary iceberg, so to speak, for its past is still present, in the sense that the information transmitted from generation to generation, from one ‘evolutionary stratum’ to another, reflects the experience of the whole spatio-temporal system, stretching back into the mists of time. This means that the past still controls the present as indeed it does the future, and, from the cybernetic point of view, still exists.
This must be true since the most general and hence the most fundamental information (see Principle 46) is non-plastic, that is it is modifiable only over a very long period of time. This general information reflects the system’s total experience, while it is only the more particular information into which the former is differentiated that is plastic, and whose modification serves to adapt the general information to changing environmental conditions so that it may serve to adapt the total spatio-temporal system to such conditions, rather than merely the contemporaneous ‘evolutionary stratum’.
This is quite clearly so in a vernacular tribal society. Its pattern of behaviour conforms with the traditional laws, which coincide with the laws governing the Gaian hierarchy of which it is part (see Principle 18). These laws are seen as having been enacted by the original ancestors at what Radcliffe Brown calls “the Dawn period”  and are thereby regarded as sacred and inviolable. They thereby reflect the experience of the society as a total spatio-temporal system.
A tribal society has been referred to as a ‘gerontocracy’, in that it is governed by its elders. It would be more appropriate to refer to it as a ‘necrocracy’ in that it is really governed by its dead, or more precisely, by its physically dead, for the ancestors still control the behaviour of their descendants and, cybernetically speaking, still exist.
It is only by viewing Gaia and her constituent subsystems in this way, that one can understand evolution (see Principle 17) and its constituent life processes.Back to top
17. Gaia is evolution seen as a total spatio-temporal system.
More precisely, evolution is the process whereby the Gaian total spatio-temporal system achieves and maintains its maximum stability by adapting to its changing environment. Evolution involves life processes, both ontogenetic and behavioural, and occurring at each level in the Gaian hierarchy.
These life processes are highly co-ordinated, which means that they are interconnected by ‘feedback loops’.
The Gaian total spatio-temporal system, as it evolves, is best seen as throwing out ‘feelers’. The feelers are individual generations or ontogenetic processes and they themselves throw out further feelers in the form of behaviour.
Information is fed back by the behavioural feelers to the ontogenetic feelers and is further fed back to the Gaian total spatio-temporal system.
The notion that behaviour provides the information required to help mediate ontogeny – and indeed evolution itself – is one that serious students of evolution have found hard to avoid, in spite of it having been tabooed by William Bateson and August Weissmann and more recently by Francis Crick.
Lamarck’s original formulation offended neo-Darwinist susceptibilities, but the notion was reformulated by Baldwin and Lloyd Morgan and later by Waddington, Schmallhausen and, still more recently, by Piaget.
A life process mediated by blind, one-way instructions that cannot be monitored and which are thereby unamenable to correction when they stray from the optimum course or Way (see Principle 51), is unknown in the natural world, and indeed inconceivable. The neo-Darwinist contention that genetic instructions proceed in this manner to dictate the course of evolutionary change, cannot thereby be taken seriously.Back to top
18. Man is an integral part of Gaia.
Man, when organised into a vernacular society and when observing the traditional laws of his society, as they have been observed by untold generations of his ancestors, is an integral part of Gaia. Such societies have co-evolved with the ecosphere so as to fulfil their differentiated functions within its hierarchy. They thereby contribute to her overall stability, and are subject to all the basic laws (see Principle 2) governing life processes on this planet.
Man when organised into the institutions that are the essential constituents of the technosphere (see Principle 52) is no longer a differentiated member of a vernacular society, nor indeed of the Gaian hierarchy. However, both he and the technosphere of which he is now part, still depend on Gaia for their survival, since it is from the biosphere that they must extract the vast bulk of the resources that they require and it is to the biosphere that they must consign their wastes.
Attempts to show that man is qualitatively distinct from other living things, and is thereby not subject to the laws governing other forms of life within the Gaian hierarchy, are simply not serious. If man has a soul, or is endowed with ‘consciousness’, ‘reason’, ‘intelligence’, the ability to predict the future etc. then so are other forms of life. The notion that non-human living things are all mere robots reacting blindly to external stimuli, which trigger off responses like a light-switch triggers off an electric light, is demonstrably false.
To believe, as mainstream Neo-Darwinists do today, that the evolutionary process that has brought into existence the incredibly complex and sophisticated biosphere of which man himself is part, can be explained in these terms – or, more precisely, in terms of the functioning of a generator of randomness, in conjunction with that of a sorting-machine – while man’s misguided and paltry achievements – the production of computers, electric toothbrushes and atom bombs – are the product of intelligence, reason, consciousness and so on, is simply laughable.
If it requires intelligence and reason to produce these crude artefacts, then it requires incomparably greater intelligence and reason to create the biosphere and its constituent systems. Indeed, if man is intelligent and rational, then the evolutionary process must be incomparably more intelligent and rational.Back to top
19. Vernacuiar man plays only a minor role in the workings of Gala.
Being humans, we are understandably more concerned with the fate of man than of that of other forms of life. Deep Ecology, however, regards man as no more important than other animals, the ‘Principle of ecological egalitarianism’ being a lynchpin of Deep Ecology.
Jim Lovelock and Lynn Margulis consider that, from the Gaian point of view, man is of little importance. It is bacteria that are mainly responsible for developing the biosphere and its atmospheric environment, and for assuring the stable relationship between the two. It may be truer to say that it is Gaia herself, not just her microbial constituents, that by her own efforts has evolved (see Principle 23) to her pre-industrial climax state and that, in this process, man had a very much smaller role to play than did the bacteria – but he did still have a role.
In ecological terms, man is a carnivore and a herbivore, and his principle ecological function – though there are many others – is to maintain qualitative and quantitative controls on herbivore populations and on those of primary producers (vegetation). If he were eliminated, the populations on which he preyed would become less viable qualitatively and might indeed expand in an uncontrolled way. This would to a certain extent disrupt the critical order of the ecosphere (see Principle 21) and hence the latter’s stability, even though the human role would probably soon be assumed by other carnivores and herbivores.
Man and other carnivores and herbivores are thus necessary constituents of the ecosphere, for without them, the living world would be far less stable. Primary producers, who alone can harness the energy of the sun, are even more important, since without them there would be no herbivores or carnivores. Bacteria can be considered still more essential, since without them the world would not be capable of supporting any of these forms of life.
This is not an anti-human position to adopt, as critics of Deep Ecology would undoubtedly maintain. Man is an integral part of the ecosphere. It is only by maintaining the latter’s critical order or stability (see Principle 21) that man can maintain his own stability and that his real needs (see Principle 37) can thereby best be satisfied. Man’s interest and Gaia’s interests are one. It is the fundamental flaw of the world-view of modernism to ignore this perennial truth.Back to top
20. Gaia displays order.
The ecosphere is not a random assortment of living things, but, on the contrary, it displays order (see Principle 21 and Principle 22). It is hierarchically organised (seePrinciple 31) and is a highly differentiated and functional organisation of natural systems whose constituent parts, rather than being random, have specific roles to play, either as contributing to its homeotelic complexity (see Principle 26) or to its homeotelic diversity.
The ecosphere is equally orderly when seen as a life process. Indeed, its temporal order closely reflects its spatial order. More precisely, they are but different ways of looking at the same spatio-temporal order (see Principle 15).
Thus evolution, the Gaian life-process and its constituent life-processes (ontogeny and behaviour), are arranged in an ordered and correspondingly predictable manner. They proceed, for instance, in a hierarchical manner from the general to the particular (see Principle 46) and by the process of differentiation; they are cumulative in the sense that the different phases do not merge with the preceding ones, but rather supplement them; and they are sequential (see Principle 47) in that they occur in a specific order.
They also move by jumps from one level of organisation to another (see Principle 30), and they are highly co-ordinated, goal-directed or purposive, the goal being the achievement of overall Gaian stability (see Principle 37).
There is of course an element of randomness in all organisations or natural systems, but Gaia strives (see Principle 23) to reduce randomness to a minimum. This occurs as her constituent ecosystems develop from their pioneer state to their climax state (see Principle 39). As this occurs, Gaia evolves to achieve the maximum possible stability that her internal and external environments (see Principle 37) render possible.
To suggest, as do the neo-Darwinists, that randomness provides the basis for Gaian evolutionary change, is grossly to underestimate the sophistication of the evolutionary process and of its constituent life-processes (see Principle 17). It is also to mistake disorganised redundancy or randomness (see Principle 22) with the organised redundancy or diversity (see Principle 26) which provides the basis for genetic recombinations and the other informational (cybernismic) reorganisations that play a key role in important adaptive changes (corrections) at different levels in the Gaian hierarchy (see Principle 66).Back to top
21. Gaian order is critical.
There is an infinity of possible orders, corresponding to an infinity of possible ways in which Gaian resources could be organised so as to achieve an infinity of possible purposes. A mad giant could possibly reorganise Gaian resources on the planet to suit his specific purpose. It would display his order and life processes within it would be governed by his laws – those that prevented them from diverting from the achievement of his purpose.
The order of the ecosphere is also a special sort of order. What is more this order is critical. It is only if it is maintained that the ecosphere can achieve its overall goal, that of maintaining its stability (see Principle 37), thereby providing the optimum environment (see Principle 34) for its constituent natural systems at all levels in the hierarchy (see Principle 31), and thus of dispensing its unique and indispensable benefits.
This critical order is referred to in the early ecological literature as ‘the balance of nature’. Frank Egerton refers to it as “ecology’s first paradigm”  but this paradigm has been rejected, along with all other holistic ecological concepts, by modern ecologists seeking to reconcile ecology with the paradigm of reductionist science. This is largely because it cannot be reconciled with the principle of progress, which is fundamental both to reductionist science and to the paradigm of modernism which it reflects.
The order of Gaia when seen temporally as a life-process is also critical. When reductionist scientists insist on the random-ness of life processes, they imply that the latter are geared to the achievement of an unlimited number of possible end-states. This notion is irreconcilable with the spatio-temporal aspect of natural systems. A digestive system is indisassociable from the process of digestion, a reproductive system from that of reproduction, an organism from the associated life processes that it was designed to fulfil. Indeed if the physical structures display order, so must the associated life-processes. It is the order of the total spatio- temporal system that displays the requisite order, and it is this order which it is the overriding goal of Gaia to Preserve.Back to top
22. Gaian processes are teleological.
If the order of Gaia, seen as a spatio-temporal process, is critical, this means that it must necessarily tend in a very specific direction: in other words, it must be purposive or teleological, in that it seeks to achieve a goal or end-state.
For a number of reasons, this notion is irreconcilable with the world-view of reductionist science and that of modernism which it so faithfully reflects:
- The argument that the world is highly ordered and purposeful has always been one of the main arguments for the existence of God, the divine intelligence that alone could have created it. Paley, one of the chief proponents of natural theology, carefully studied science so as “to show that the universe was in all its details redolent of God’s purpose”. 
- Nineteenth century scientists were particularly keen to eliminate God from the emerging paradigm of science. ‘Naturalistic’ explanations were what they sought and that was one of the chief attractions of Darwinism.
- As Sir Peter Medawar writes, it is upon the notion of randomness “that geneticists have based their case against a benevolent or malevolent deity and against there being any overall purpose or design in nature”. 
- The postulate of randomness is also a defence against various vitalistic explanations, such as the entelechy of Dreisch and the elan vital of Bergson.
- Teleology also implies the perfect adaptation of the constituents of the biosphere. This had antievolutionary implications, and as Ospovat notes “made it attractive to the guardians of religion, morality and order” , and correspondingly less attractive to social reformers, and those who believed in progress.
- For the same reason, it is necessary to postulate a random world in order to legitimise the enterprise of global development. If the world were highly orderly – if its structure were critical – then how could one justify economic development which inevitably involves changing, indeed transforming, the way things are organised on this planet?
- Another essential reason for randomness, is that it is essential to the mechanistic concept of life processes and to one of its key components, the idea of physical causality.
- Teleology as a final cause – one that succeeds rather than precedes the effect – is thus unacceptable to mainstream science. The notion of a living thing “striving after a future goal retained as some kind of image or idea”, as Ernst Mayr puts it, is incompatible with the mechanistic view of the world.
Indeed teleology is taboo. Only man, because of his ‘intelligence’, his ‘consciousness’, and his ‘reason’ (see Principle 17) is seen to be capable of purposive behaviour. Other livings things are, at best, seen as behaving ‘as if’ they were purposeful or teleological, or else they are said (even by such great thinkers as Waddington and Monod) to be “teleonomic” a euphemism, as Medawar notes, for teleological – which implies that their goal-directedness is exclusively the result of having been programmed, like cybernetic machines, with the appropriate instructions. To suggest that natural systems are teleonomic instead of teleological means ignoring all the vital information organised by developing systems on the basis of data derived from the larger systems within which they develop.
More precisely, it ignores the way the instructions are directed or orientated (see Principle 46) by the larger systems, so as to assure that they help mediate homeotelic behaviour (see Principle 49), namely that behaviour which will assure the stability of the Gaian hierarchy as a whole – the ultimate goal of vernacular living things. It ignores too the fact that programming is not a random process. Who did the programming and why? If living things are endowed with instructions, it is because these instructions were developed over hundreds of millions of years, along with all the other adaptive features of Gaia, as part of a teleological strategy for achieving Gaia’s overriding goal of maximising her stability.Back to top
23. Gaia and her constituent life processes assure by their own efforts the development and maintenance of Gaian order.
Lamarck realised that evolution was the work of living things. He saw them as active, dynamic and creative. However, the Darwinian view of living things as passive and robot-like and as responding slavishly to the dictates of an unnamed external manager (selection by an undefined external environment) has unfortunately come to prevail. There is no evidence of any kind for the Darwinian view, but it is more in keeping with the paradigm of reductionist science and the world-view of modernism that it reflects.
Jim Lovelock, Lynn Margulis and their colleagues have now shown that it is to the dynamic, creative, co-operative and co-ordinated activities of living things (in particular, bacteria) that we must attribute the development or evolution of Gaia.
It is also to the sustained efforts of living things that we must attribute the maintenance of the critical Gaian order. If it were not for their co-ordinated efforts, Gaia would revert to her original randomness – to that state of chemical and thermodynamic equilibrium from which she sprang.
Vernacular people knew that it was by their efforts that the order of the Cosmos could be maintained. Indeed this was their most fundamental belief and their cultural behaviour pattern was geared to the achievement of this overriding goal (see Principle 51).Back to top
24. Gala is made up of natural Systems.
Gaia is made up of natural systems such as cells, organisms, vernacular societies and ecosystems. These are, in many respects, very different from each other, living as they do at different levels in the Gaian hierarchy, but their basic generalities are very similar. This so impressed Ludwig von Bertalanffy, one of the two founders of ‘General Systems Theory’, that he regarded them as ‘isomorphic’ (from the Greek ‘iso’ = ‘same’ and ‘morphos’ = ‘form’), although they could equally well be referred to as ‘isotelic’ (from the Greek ‘iso’ and ‘telos’ = ‘goal’). Paul Weiss defines a natural system as “a complex unit in space and in time, whose sub-units co-operate to preserve its integrity and its structure and its behaviour, and tend to restore them after a non-destructive disturbance.” 
This is a valuable definition. It states what must be the fundamental features of all natural systems if they are to preserve the critical order of Gaia. Significantly Lovelock defines Gaia in very similar terms.Back to top
25. Gaia is the source of all benefits.
It is only through the normal vernacular workings of Gaia that it is possible to derive those benefits that are alone capable of satisfying the real needs developed by all natural systems, including man, during the course of their evolution – namely, their biological, ecological, social, aesthetic and spiritual needs. Nonetheless, it remains fundamental to the world-view of modernism, that needs can best be satisfied through the functioning of the technosphere. This, of course, serves to rationalise the goal that modern societies have set themselves – that of economic development or ‘progress’, which involves the systematic substitution of the technosphere or surrogate world, for the biosphere, or real world (see Principle 40).
The surrogate world, however, mainly satisfies material needs and also generates money – the currency of the surrogate world. But there is no evidence that, in normal conditions, man has any real need for either of these commodities. He has lived for perhaps as much as 95 percent of his tenancy of this planet without them – primitive money fulfilling a largely social rather than economic purpose.
If we need material goods and money today, it is only because we have created aberrant, and necessarily short-lived, socio-economic conditions in which these commodities are required to gratify our real biological, ecological, social, aesthetic and spiritual needs, which, hitherto could be satisfied without them. Money, in fact, is not the currency of nature.
That the Cosmos is the source of all benefits is a fundamental belief of all vernacular peoples.Back to top
26. Gaia displays the maximum ‘complexity’ compatible with the maintenance of the requisite diversity.
The distinction between complexity and diversity is not normally made by modern mainstream ecologists, yet it is an essential one. Complexity and diversity, as I propose to use the terms, are in competition with each other.
A complex system is one whose structure is highly differentiated, so as to permit correspondingly differentiated life processes which achieve a correspondingly high degree of homeostasis, or homeorhesos, in specific environmental conditions. Julian Huxley referred to the development of complexity, used in this sense of the word, as “anagenesis”. 
By complexity, I mean ‘organised complexity’, not the ‘random complexity’ of mainstream ecologists, such as Robert May,  who see complexity as leading to increased instability or reduced homeostasis. This would be so, if by complexity they mean random complexity, for one cannot increase the stability of a system by introducing random elements into it (the rabbit into the Australian ecosystem, for instance). Systems in fact strive to prevent the development of randomness (i.e. of random complexity) and will seek to eliminate random elements.
Complexity is one of the means of enabling a system to increase its stability within a specific range of environmental conditions. This is only justified if the system can predict that such conditions will be maintained, since there must be a physical limit beyond which it cannot expand; one too that cannot be exceeded without adversely affecting Gaia’s critical order. To increase complexity must mean reducing diversity.
Diversity is organised, as opposed to random, redundancy. It is a measure of all the slightly different, but structurally and functionally, similar sub-systems of which it is composed, but which, rather than contributing to the complexity of the life processes it mediates, contributes instead to the number of slightly different life processes that the system is capable of mediating. Diversity is not thereby a measure of what the system does but rather of all the things it could do, if it were necessary to do them. It is a measure, too, of the improbability of the environmental conditions to which the system can adapt. The development of diversity in the sense in which I am using the term was referred to by Julian Huxley as “cladogenesis”. 
As controls become internalised (see Principle 48), systemic complexity and diversity are complemented by cybernismic complexity and diversity.Back to top
27. Co-operation is the primary Gaian relationship.
Co-operation (whether of the type referred to as ‘commensalism’, ‘symbiosis’, or ‘mutualism’) is the most fundamental interrelationship between natural systems both at the same and at different levels in the Gaian hierarchy.
Without co-operation between the parts of a natural system, be it a biological organism, a family, a community or even an ecosystem, the system could not hold together or exist as a unit of adaptive life processes – still less could it compete with other systems.
Jim Lovelock, as already noted, accentuates the essential co-operation between the constituents of Gaia, without which she could not maintain her homeostasis in the face of change (see Principle 24). Paul Weiss takes co-operation between the parts of a natural system to be one of its fundamental features (see Principle 24).
Unfortunately with the breakdown of social, economic and ecological systems under the impact of economic development, the level of co-operation in all these systems has drastically declined. Worse still, in taking the disintegrating biosphere as the norm, sociologists, economists, and ecologists have mistaken the tumour for the healthy organism and have thereby lost sight of the essential co-operative nature of the climax biosphere, their attention being monopolised instead by the radically increased level of pathological or heterotelic (see Principle 65) competition that is a necessary feature of disintegrating, atomised,
competitive, neo-pioneer systems.
Kropotkin’s attempt to redress the balance in his famous book Mutual Aid,  written as a reaction to T. H. Huxley’s Romanes Lecture, fell on deaf ears. There was little room in the world-view of modernism for co-operation and by that time the paradigm was already firmly entrenched.
In the late 1970s, ecologists began to rediscover co-operation, or ‘mutualism’ as they prefer to call it. Douglas Boucher’s recent Biology of Mutualism sums up changing attitudes in this field. The mutualism of today’s mainstream ecologists, however, is still of a reductionistic and mechanistic variety, as Boucher himself admits. Back to top
28. Competition is a secondary Gaian relationship.
Competition – an external type of control – is a secondary Gaian interrelationship. Co-operation is a primary interrelationship, since without it, there would be no living things capable of competing with each other, and indeed no ecosphere (see Principle 24); whereas without competition there would only be a reduction in the order of the ecosphere resulting from the elimination of the external quantitative and qualitative controls which it provides. It is to be noted that, in any case, these external controls play a greater role in a pioneer system (see Principle 40) than in a climax system (see Principle 39), where they are largely replaced by internal controls.
Unfortunately, mainstream scientists are members of a disintegrated neo-pioneer society (see Principle 40) which they misguidedly take to be the norm, and which provide a model of the biosphere as a whole. As it happens, in a neo-pioneer society the level of competition is very much higher than in a normal or climax society. Much of this competition is thereby heterotelic (see Principle 61).
However, in the light of the world-view of modernism, this heterotelic competition is regarded not only as normal but also as indispensable to the functioning of society, its economy, its ecosystem and of the ecosphere itself. Indeed, Herbert Spencer went so far as to decree that the “struggle for survival”, which leads to the “survival of the fittest”, provides the very basis for progress. Adam Smith transferred this notion to economics, Darwin to biology (his natural selection being but a biological version of the invisible hand), and modem mainstream ecologists to ecology.
More recently, the Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine and his many disciples have formulated the principle in a new language – that of ‘non-linear thermodynamics’ – which glorifies discontinuities or ‘fluctuations’, such as wars, famines and epidemics, which are seen as the basic conditions of progress, through the creation of ‘dissipative structures’, and hence as the best means of assuring our welfare and prosperity. 
What they have all failed to realise is that as a system moves towards its climax, and hence ‘progresses’ in the biospheric or Gaian sense of the term, its parts become more highly integrated, controls become internalised, and life processes become less competitive and more co-operative. In such conditions, those who prevail are not those who are ‘fit’ in the Darwinian sense of the term, but rather those who fit-in – that is, those who have learned to fulfil their differentiated functions within their social system, and who are thus properly socialised.
Far from being admired in vernacular society, the ‘fit’ – in the Darwinian sense of the most individualist and aggressive, the Rambos in fact – are, on the contrary, eliminated by society’s ‘immune system’, or ostracised for failing to observe its traditional laws and, hence, for behaving in a random way that threatens the critical order of their society and ecosystem – very much as a tumour is random to, and threatens, the critical order of a biological organism.
The Rambos, the tumours, the ecological intruders, such as the rabbit in Australia and the imported elm-bark beetle mutant in the United Kingdom, are, in fact, engaged in heterotelic (see Principle 65) competition with the normal differentiated members of the system on which they prey.
Today, the technosphere itself, or the surrogate world that is being systematically built up through economic development, is engaged in a similar heterotelic competition on a global scale with the biosphere or real world.Back to top
29. In vernacular systems competition and co-operation are homeotelic.
Within each natural system – and, hence at every level in the Gaian hierarchy – there is an optimum ratio of co-operation to competition, a state of affairs which is reflected in the homeotelic behaviour pattern of a vernacular society.
In a vernacular human family, co-operation predominates, as it does (but to a far lesser degree) in a lineage group and, again (to a still lesser degree) in a community, while in the society at large there is considerable competition, which increases as we move to the ecosystem in which it lives and that may be inhabited by rival social groups.
One could possibly draw a gradient to show the optimum rate at which co-operation gives rise to competition as we move from the family to the ecosystem. Co-operation and competition which is below or equal to the optimum required at a particular level in the hierarchy or along the optimum gradient, is homeotelic; that which occurs below the optimum is homeotelic but insufficient; and that which is above the optimum is heterotelic. The gradient would also measure the degree of order in the environment and hence in the larger system that provides this environment. It could thus be referred to as the ‘competition co-operation gradient’ or the ‘order gradient’. It also measures the proportion of complexity to diversity (see Principle 26) and could thus be referred to as the ‘complexity-diversity gradient’.Back to top
30. Gaian order is not homogeneous but varies at each level of organization with the type of organization that is achievable at that level.
Biological organisms display order but cannot expand to create Gaian-sized organisms. There is a limit to the size of organisms, determined, among other things, by the limit to the extendibility of the bonds that hold together their constituent parts.
In a social system, the bonds in question are the family bonds and they will not extend very far. There is thus a limit to the size of a society capable of acting as a unit of homeotelic behaviour. A monolithic nation state does not satisfy these conditions in any way, for it is not a vernacular, self-regulating homeotelic system but one that is asystematically controlled by an alien agent – the State. It is thereby tending in a biospherically random (heterotelic) direction – and does not display biospheric order.
This principle was not understood by the holistic ecologists of the Chicago School, which flourished in the 1940s under the direction of Warder Allee. They saw that co-operation and integration increased with ecological development, and assumed that this process could occur at a global level, giving rise to a vast co-operative and highly integrated global community from which war would be eliminated. They ignored, however, the factors that must limit the size of co-operative and integrated societies, and failed to distinguish the latter from the nation states, whose expansion is only limited by bureaucratic inefficiency, and the costs of the armaments required to control their alienated inhabitants.Back to top
31. Gaian Systems are organised to form a hierarchy or homearchy.
Gaia is organised to form a hierarchy. Thus, molecules are organised to form cells, cells to form organs and tissues, the latter to form biological organisms which, in turn, are organised to form families, vernacular communities, ecosystems and so on. Each system, as both Paul Weiss and Arthur Koestler, in particular, have pointed out, is at once part of a bigger system and at the same time composed of smaller systems. That is why Koestler chose as the symbol of the system, or of the “holon” as he called it, the double-faced Roman God, Janus, who looks at once in both directions. 
Since the relationship of the smaller systems to the larger systems, and eventually to Gaia herself, is one of homeotely, the term homearchy could be used to replace hierarchy, a much abused term that has never been properly defined. (Even in the two main symposia held on this subject, one organised by Lancelot Law Whyte and one by Howard Pattee, the term ‘hierarchy’ was used by the participants in a number of different and conflicting ways).
Koestler suggested that the term ‘hierarchy’ be replaced by ‘holarchy’. Gaia, when seen as a life process, is also organised to form a hierarchy or homearchy or holarchy. Thus behavioural processes must be seen as the spatio-temporally differentiated constituents of ontogenetic processes, and ontogenies as the spatio-temporally differentiated constituents of the Gaian evolutionary process (see Principle 17). This is rendered possible by the functioning of informational feedback, interrelationships within the hierarchy of life processes (see Principle 17).Back to top
32. The environment is the larger system.
The environment is a term that is largely undefined. Darwinists and Neo-Darwinists see it as somehow capable of displaying discriminatory and highly teleological behaviour in ‘selecting’ from among the members of a population those that are the ‘fittest’. Once one sees Gaia as a hierarchy, however, then it becomes clear that, at each level in the hierarchy, the larger system provides its constituent sub-systems with their immediate external environment, their less immediate external environment being provided by the systems higher up in the hierarchy.
It is thus not an undefined environment that ‘selects’, but the larger system itself, which like all natural systems, is capable of discriminatory and teleological behaviour (see Principle 22). In the same way, at each level in the hierarchy, a system’s internal environment (to use a term coined by Claude Bernard) is provided by the smaller systems lower down in the hierarchy. The ecosphere itself provides its constituent systems with their total internal and external environments.Back to top
33. The hierarchy is the field.
Natural systems are arranged to form a spatio-temporal ‘field’. Each system is, on the one hand, made up of the hierarchy of smaller systems that comprise it – its internal environment – and is, at the same time, part of the hierarchy of larger systems – its external environment. The ecosphere is its total field.Back to top
34. Systems are most stable when living within the internal-external environment; in other words, when situated in the field within which they evolved and grew up.
A natural system is designed by its evolution, and hence its ontogenetic development (see Principle 17), to live within a specific field, or limited range of internal-external environments. It is when doing so that a natural system is best able to contribute to the stability of the Gaian hierarchy and, hence, best to maintain its own stability and ensure that both Gaian needs and its own needs are best satisfied.Back to top
35. Adaptive homeotelic behaviour is only possible within specific ‘environmental parameters’
A system can only be maintained along its course or Way (see Principle 51) in an internal and external spatio-temporal environment or field that has not diverted too far from the optimum, i.e. that to which it has been adapted by its evolution and upbringing.
The range of environmental conditions to which a natural system can adapt is contained within its ‘environmental parameters’.
It is significant that vernacular societies have only been able to preserve their structure and culture in relatively unchanging or slowly changing environments. Few have been able to withstand the dramatic changes induced by contact with industrial man.
Modern economic development inevitably causes the internal and external environments of vernacular peoples to diverge beyond the limits of their environmental parameters. Once this point has been achieved, their cybernetic mechanisms break down. Others may take over, but then they can only maintain a lower level of stability, involving greater discontinuities. If this process continues, then eventually, only the most rudimentary external controls are operative; those, in fact, that are provided by the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. The rapid degradation of the global environment under the impact of our economic activities has reached a point where this state of affairs is beginning to obtain globally and at almost all levels in the Gaian hierarchy.Back to top
36. Systems at different levels in the Gaian hierarchy arc homeotelically mutualistic.
If the climax state is the optimum for an ecosystem, and indeed for the ecosphere, the overall ecosystem and, if such a system provides its sub-systems with their optimum environment – that in which their stability is maximised – it must follow that their ‘interests’ coincide and that life processes, that satisfy the needs of the climax whole (the ecosphere) must also be those that also satisfy the needs of its differentiated parts. Such life processes are thereby homeotelically mutualistic (whether co-operative or competitive) all the way up the Gaian hierarchy.Back to top
37. The goal of Gaian life processes is the achievement and maintenance of stability.
The goal of Gaian life processes is to achieve and then maintain the basic features of Gaian order in the face of environmental challenges. This is the same as saying that their goal is the achievement and maintenance of Gaian stability – defined, in a dynamic context, as the reduction to a minimum of discontinuities.
A stable developing biological system is said to be ‘homeorhetic’, a term coined by C. H. Waddington (from the Greek words ‘homeo’ = same and ‘rhesos’= flow). Such a system maintains itself on its critical path or ‘chreod’ (from the Greek for ‘necessary course’), that which will enable it both to attain its optimum end state or goal, and, at the same time, (though Waddington does not say this), to contribute to the stability of Gaia, that is, to behave homeotelically to her. Waddington’s chreod is thereby ‘the Way’ (see Principle 51) of a developing biological system.
A homeorhetic system will be capable of correcting divergences from the central chreod, and hence of maintaining its stability in the face of environmental challenges, so long as these occur within its environmental parameters (see Principle 35).
Once a stable system has achieved its climax state, it becomes ‘homeostatic’, a term coined by the physiologist Walter Cannon (from the Greek words ‘homeo’ = same, and ‘statis’ = state). A homeostatic system is one that maintains its basic order – and (though this was not noted by Cannon) that of the hierarchy of larger systems of which it is part. i.e. the Gaian hierarchy that is homeotelic to it – in the face of environmental challenges, and is capable of correcting any divergences from it, again, so long as these occur within the system’s environmental parameters.
Jim Lovelock has shown how Gaia herself is a stable system in this sense of the term. Paul Weiss regarded the achievement of stability as a basic feature of all natural systems, at all levels of organisation.
A stable system can also be regarded as one that is under control. An unstable system, on the other hand, is one that is out of control; its self-regulatory mechanisms (which are essential to control and to the maintenance of stability) having broken down – as is the case with our modem industrialised society. Such a society can only be kept functioning, very precariously, and at the cost of moving in the direction of ever greater instability, by such asystemic controls as the state bureaucracy, and market institutions.
Hollings distinguishes between stability and resilience,  a distinction that Waddington rejected.  The former is simply stability achieved by increasing complexity, the latter stability achieved by increasing diversity – as is adaptive to a disordered environment.Back to top
38. Gaian changes occur for the purpose of preventing more general and more disruptive changes.
Orderly or controlled change from a pre-established path or chreod (see Principle 37), leading to the establishment of modified chreods or Way, and a modified climax, occurs not per se nor as a means of achieving some anti-Gaian end-state (progress), but rather as a means of avoiding bigger and more disruptive changes that would adversely affect the generalities rather than the particularities of Gaia’s critical order.
The goal of evolution is thus what Julian Huxley called “stasigenesis” as opposed to “anagenesis”. Evolutionary change ceases to occur once an evolutionary climax is achieved. This explains the very long periods during which species underwent no change at all, and the very rapid and concentrated changes that occurred when conditions favoured the achievement of new climaxes – situations in which it could be predicted that stability would be increased; that is in which the probability of the occurrence of discontinuities, as well as the seriousness of such discontinuities, would be further reduced (see Principle 37).Back to top
39. When developing Gaian systems achieve their most stable state – their climax – they cease developing.
As vernacular systems evolve or develop, their relationship with their internal and external environments is marked by ever smaller and less frequent discontinuities until an end state is achieved, at which point stability can no longer be increased. When this point is reached, systems, at all levels in the Gaian hierarchy, can be said to be as well adapted as possible to their respective environments and hence to Gaia as a whole, which is thereby as stable as is possible in the circumstances.
This must be the ideal situation. At the level of the ecosystem, it is referred to as the ‘climax’ – the adult state, so to speak. Once achieved, the system becomes homeostatic rather than homeorhetic (see Principle 37). It then changes minimally since there is no need for further change and energy and resources are only used for maintenance and repair (see Principle 58). Because this principle makes nonsense of the idea of progress, which is fundamental to the world-view of modernism (see Principle 40), the principle has been abandoned by modern mainstream ecologists.
The first ecologist to do so was Arthur Tansley at Oxford. He decreed that man, with the aid of science and technology, could outdo nature and achieve a different, and better, climax which he called the “anthropogenic climax”, seeking thereby to rationalise and legitimise the idea of progress. This is very much the position of today’s mainstream ecologists.Back to top
40. Progress is anti-evolutionary.
If evolution is seen as random – as neo-Darwinists and reductionist scientists in general see it – then there can be no anti-evolutionary process. However, once evolution is seen as a teleological (see Principle 22) and homeotelic process, tending towards the achievement and maintenance of maximum Gaian order and stability – the climax – then if it is misdirected (see Principle 65) and tends, instead, in the direction of reduced Gaian order and stability – the disclimax – or its neo-pioneer state, then it must be regarded as heterotelic, pathological and indeed as anti-evolutionary.
A climax social system is one which is designed to fulfil its functions within a climax ecosystem – or, more precisely, within the climax ecosphere. That is why the tribal vernacular society is the most highly developed and why a modern institutionalised society, which can only subsist in a neo-pioneer or disclimax ecosystem, is a ‘neo-pioneer’ or ‘disclimax society’. This explains why what our scientists, sociologists and economists have taken to be social or economic development, or social evolution, is in fact regression to a lower state of evolutionary and hence of social development.
That the climax biosphere which man inherited cannot be improved by man and hence that any notion of progress is an illusion, was clear to vernacular man. Lao Tsu, for example, asks:
Do you think you can take the world and improve it?
I do not think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it
If you try to help it, you will lose it. 
Progress is regressive and anti-evolutionary. It involves, in effect, reversing three thousand million years of evolution, by systematically substituting a biospherically random (see Principle 22), atomised, low-complexity (see Principle 37), low diversity (see Principle 26), predominantly competitive (see Principle 28), externally and asystemically controlled (see Principle 48), heterotelically organised (see Principle 65), and hence immensely unstable (see Principle 65) organization of resources – the technosphere – for a biospherically ordered (see Principle 20), teleological (see Principle 22), organised, high-complexity (see Principle 26), high diversity (see Principle 26), predominantly co-operative (see Principle 27), internally and systemically controlled (see Principle 48) and homeotelically organised (see Principle 49), and hence highly stable, organisation of resources (see Principle 37) – the biosphere – with its associated atmospheric environment (Gaia, the Ecosphere).Back to top
41. Natural systems are self-regulating.
If natural Systems, by their own vernacular efforts, have succeeded in maintaining the critical order and stability of the biosphere for hundreds of millions of years, it can only be that they can function as cybernetic systems.
Walter Cannon has shown how biological organisms are capable of maintaining their homeostasis. Eugene Odum also sees ecosystems as cybernetic systems. Roy Rappoport, and Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and his colleagues have shown how this is also true of tribal societies in New Guinea and Amazonia respectively, and Jim Lovelock and his colleagues have shown that this is true of Gaia herself.
As systems disintegrate under the impact of economic development, they become less stable (see Principle 65): this implies that environmental challenges are less effectively countered and corrected, and that discontinuities correspondingly increase. As this occurs, sophisticated internalised controls become inoperative, and the only controls that remain are crude external controls.Back to top
42. A cybernetic system is endowed with a set of instructions, whose implementation, in the light of its total experience, enables it to achieve its goal of maintaining overall Gaian stability.
These instructions are organised hierarchically, with the more general, non-plastic instructions (see Principle 44 – those that reflect the experience of the total Gaian spatio-temporal system and which reflect the system’s basic features – being differentiated into the more particular and more plastic instructions (see Principle 44) which reflect the system’s most recent experience, that of the sub-system in the latest evolutionary stratum, and which determine the system’s less basic features.
As the system disintegrates, so is the continuity of the instructions with which it is endowed, disrupted. It is then endowed instead with a new set of instructions that reflect no more than its most recent experience within the technosphere, whose implementation enables it to achieve the heterotelic goal of contributing to the technosphere’s continued expansion and, hence, to the further degradation of the biosphere on which it is (heterotelically) parasitical (see Principle 65).Back to top
43. The instructions with which a system is endowed are non-plastic.
General instructions, which reflect the experience of the total spatio-temporal system, as opposed to that of its most recently developed spatio-temporal parts, are non-plastic and hence immutable in the short-term at least. This is the only way in which continuity and hence stability can be maintained. That is why genetic information is non-plastic. If it were plastic, then there would be nothing to prevent zebras from engendering baby wildebeasts and vice-versa.
That is also why cultural information – that which serves to mediate the behaviour of climax societies – must also be non-plastic. If it were plastic, then it would display no continuity or stability, nor would the societies involved; each generation being forced, as it is today, to develop ad hoc heterotelic (see Principle 65) expedients for dealing, ever less successfully, with its growing problems.Back to top
44. A self-regulating system is endowed with a model of its relationship with its environment.
Kenneth Craik was perhaps the first to show the role of the mental model in the mediation of human behaviour. Enlightened anthropologists, such as Reichel Dolmatoff, are now making it clear that the cybernetic behaviour of vernacular societies (see Principle 41) is based on a cultural model, formulated in the language of mythology.
The model, however, is indisassociable from the instructions (see Principle 42) with which the system is also endowed, and is thereby subjective.
It provides a picture, not of the environment itself, but of that relationship between a system and its environment that seems relevant to the achievement of the former’s goal. In other words, it is not just an academic model but a teleological model – the one that best serves to guide the mediation of an adaptive (homeotelic) behaviour pattern. More precisely, it provides the system with the information required to implement its non-plastic instructions by enabling it to adapt its less plastic instructions to changing environmental conditions.
Such an instruction-model complex, I refer to as a ‘cybernism’ (see Principle 45 and Principle 46). A genome falls within this category, as does a gene-pool, a brain and the cultural pattern of a vernacular society.Back to top
45. All information within the biosphere is organised into a cybernism.
The normal scientific concept of information, as developed by Shannon and Weaver, is undoubtedly of use to communications engineers, but it plays no role in the strategy of the biosphere.  Biospheric information is not divided up into atomised and isolated ‘bits’, but is organised instead into a cybernism. In fact, it is best defined as a cybernismic organisation, to which both cybernismic complexity (see Principle 48) and cybernismic diversity (see Principle 48) contribute.
It is in the light of the information organised in a cybernism that data relevant to the achievement of a system’s goal are detected, interpreted and transformed into information that is used for mediating adaptive (homeotelic) life processes. This must be true at all levels in the Gaian hierarchy, including that of the vernacular human society.
As such a society breaks down, the model, like the instructions, and hence the cybernism itself, ceases to reflect the system’s total spatio-temporal experience, and comes instead to reflect the recent short-term experience of its cognitively maladjusted parts (see Principle 64). Under such conditions, the cybernism serves to mediate heterotelic, as opposed to homeotelic, behaviour.Back to top
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
56. In a homeotelic economy all resources must be recycled.
All life processes require material resources. The biosphere, however, though it may be an open system from the point of view of energy, is a closed system from the point of view of materials. This means that in order to prevent the running down of the biosphere, and to permit the increase in order that has characterised the last few thousand million years, the raw materials of life are exploited in an extremely subtle way, each of them being recycled via complex social and ecological processes, thus permitting their constant re-use and avoiding their accumulation as waste.
The most basic of such processes is the ‘food chain’, which should really be referred to as the ‘food cycle’, whereby the primary producers (grass, algae, phytoplankton) which alone can harness the energy of the sun, are eaten by herbivores, who in turn are preyed on by carnivores, while their dead bodies, together with other dead matter, are eaten by scavengers and what remains is broken down by micro-organisms into the nutrients required by the primary producers.
All living things (including vernacular man) co-operate in assuring the success of this key cycle, without which life could not be sustained. Vernacular man believes that what is taken from the Earth has to be returned to it, often as a reparation for what they see as a crime.
This seems to have been the case among the ancient Greeks, as is implied in the sole surviving fragment of the writings of Anaximander:
“Things perish into those things out of which they have their birth, according to that which is ordained; for they give reparation to one another and pay the penalty of their injustice according to the disposition of time.” 
Gerardo Reichel Dolmatoff shows how this attitude is also held by the Kogi Indians of Colombia.  The anthropological literature on the subject is in fact considerable.
This principle is also clearly reflected in the moving grace repeated before each meal by those who follow the teachings of the British philosopher John Bennett:
All life is One,
And everything that lives is Holy.
Plants, animals and men,
All must eat to live and nourish one another.
We bless the lives that have died to give us food:
Let us eat consciously,
Resolving by our Work
To pay the debt of our existence. 
Unfortunately, few in the modern world see things that way any longer. Our industrial society ignores this critical constraint. Economic growth is a one-way process, the biosphere being systematically transformed into the technosphere and technospheric waste, both of which, from the point of view of the biosphere, constitute waste or randomness – a process that cannot continue indefinitely.Back to top
57. In a homeotelic economy, no wastes can be generated which cannot serve as the resources for other life processes.
As Barry Commoner points out, nature does not generate a chemical substance for which it does not also generate the appropriate enzyme for breaking it down into those elements required as the resources for other life-processes.
Our modern science-based society, however, generates an increasing number of materials (synthetic organic chemicals, for instance, in which category we must include most modern pesticides) which have played no part in the strategy of nature and which must simply accumulate in some form, which, because of their toxicity, must seriously interfere with Gaian life processes.
Today, our ground water supplies are increasingly contaminated. Pollution is rapidly reducing the capacity of the seas – in particular the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and the Adriatic – to sustain complex forms of life. Forty percent of the flatfish in many parts of the North Sea suffer from tumours; the seal population is dying off, having been in an increasingly diseased state for many years; sea bird populations are ever less capable of reproducing themselves, with ever worse breeding failures; and vast algal blooms are invading the North Sea and the Baltic, depriving the infested areas of oxygen.
Chemical waste disposal on the land is increasingly difficult. About $100 billion (some say $300 billion) are required to clean up America’s 40,000 or so known waste dumps – a sum that will never be made available. Not surprisingly, more and more chemical wastes are now being dumped in the Third World with the connivance of crooked politicians. The problem is, in fact, completely out of control and the biosphere becomes ever less capable of supporting complex forms of life.Back to top
58. As a developing homeotelic system approaches its climax, and thereby ceases to grow, so does it make use of less resources, which are now only required for maintenance and repair.
As this process occurs, so the system becomes correspondingly less dependent on the availability of such resources. In addition, it has a lower impact on its environment, whilst its consumption of resources and its generation of wastes (which will serve as the resources for other processes (see Principle 56) reach their optimum, that which will prevent any shortages and at the same time prevent the accumulation of wastes, and thereby any in-crease in randomness.
By contrast, our modern society, committed as it is to the uncontrolled, or runaway, process of economic growth, (which multiplies problems rather than solving them, and which interprets these problems in such a way as to rationalise expedients that require further economic growth and hence the use of further resources) will, as it develops, make use of ever more resources, which will still further increase its impact on its environment; thus causing ever greater resource shortages and the accumulation of ever greater amounts of wastes or biospheric randomness – further increasing overall instability.Back to top
59. As a system develops towards a climax state, so it comes to generate an increasing proportion of the resources that it requires.
In order to ensure its necessary supplies, a system will not allow itself to become dependent on external sources of nutrients and other resources unless it can predict that supplies can be maintained. This is most likely when they are generated by the system itself; hence systems will tend to generate more and more of the resources they require as they develop towards their climax state – and reduce their consumption of resources that they cannot generate. Eugene Odum notes that this applies to ecosystems as they develop towards their climax. 
Our industrial society, on the other hand, in order to exploit the so-called ‘economies of scale’, and in order to specialise in the production of those products that it is best capable of producing (the principle of comparative advantage), increases its consumption of those resources that it does not itself produce (the components of the products it manufactures and those products which are produced most ‘economically’ by other societies) thus increasing rather than reducing instability.Back to top
60. The technology made use of by vernacular societies is homeotelic and thus follows the Way.
In a vernacular society, all technological activities like all the economic activities that they serve are ’embedded in social relations’. They fit into the society’s cultural behaviour pattern, playing a differentiated role within it. Technology is thus under social and ecological control and is homeotelic to Gaia.
This being so, technology transfer is very difficult in a vernacular society and indeed rarely occurs. Mary Douglas describes, for instance, how the Lele, who live on one bank of the Congo River, persist in making use of their own relatively simple technologies, although they are well acquainted with the more sophisticated technologies made use of by the Bushong who live on the opposite bank of the river. It does not occur to the Lele to make use of Bushong technology, since the latter does not fit in with their own cultural pattern, nor is its use rationalised (and hence validated) by their metaphysical beliefs and mythology. 
As a society disintegrates, however, these controls become less effective and technology, like the economic activities that it renders possible, gets out of control and comes exclusively to serve the interests of one or more interest groups, at increasingly intolerable social and ecological costs.Back to top
61. In a vernacular society, political activities are homeotelic and thus follow the Way.
In a homeotelic society, the units of political activity, like those of economic and technological activities coincide with the natural social groupings; the family; the community; the society itself. There are no formal institutions or governments. The elders, and in some cases the chiefs, are first and foremost citizens – that is, differentiated or properly socialised members of the social system, rather than professional members of a socially heterotelic institution. Nor do they gain financially from their political activities, although these provide them with social prestige. Nor do they really govern in the sense in which the government of a modern nation state governs, their role being limited to enforcing the traditional law – that which assures social homeotely, and that which thereby best helps to maintain the critical order of the Cosmos.
This does not mean that all changes are avoided, only that changes are measured or controlled and occur only as a means of preventing bigger and more disruptive changes (see Principle 38)
The modern state is alien to society and to the Gaian hierarchy. It is under no effective social or ecological control. It is, in effect, just another interest group, concerned with little more than its own petty interests, which almost invariably conflict with those of the society it is supposed to serve.  Unfortunately, this particular interest group also controls the police, the army, and to a large extent the media and the law-courts. For that reason, and there are many others, the policies that serve its petty interests, and which largely coincide (in both capitalist and socialist nation states) with those of the most powerful economic interest groups, are very difficult to bring back under Gaian control.Back to top
62. In a vernacular society, education is homeotelic and thus follows the Way.
Margaret Mead defines education as “the cultural process. the way in which each new born individual is transformed into a full member of a specific human society, sharing with the other members a specific human culture”. In other words, education is differentiation within a social system. It is thus the means whereby a vernacular society reproduces itself, so as to maintain its continuity or stability, and hence the preservation of its critical order and that of the Gaian hierarchy of which it is part.
As a society disintegrates and becomes heterotelic, such education becomes impossible, since if there is no society, new-born individuals cannot be socialised into it. One cannot learn to become a differentiated member of something that is no more. Education then degenerates (as it has in our modern society) into institutional, as opposed to vernacular, education: it involves no more than the communication to youth of socially random information (see Principle 47), which is designed to enable them to fulfil their heterotelic functions within the technosphere, which being (heterotelically) parasitical to the biosphere, can only contribute to the latter’s further degradation.Back to top
63. In a vernacular society religion is homeotelic and thus follows the Way.
The gods of a vernacular society are the spirits of the biosphere. They are organised, what is more, in a way that reflects the society’s subjective view of its critical order.  In this way the organisation of the gods serves to sanctify that of the biosphere.
Reichel Dolmatoff convincingly demonstrates (with reference to the Indians of Colombian Amazonia) that the pantheon of a tribal system provides it with a model of its relationship to its natural environment, on the basis of which it can mediate an adaptive behaviour pattern, monitoring any diversions from it and correcting them.  With the social and economic destruction that necessarily accompanies economic development, this homeotelic religion is disrupted. The gods cease to have any relationship with society and with the biosphere of which it is a part, which become desanctified. This desanctification of the real world provides modern man with a licence to destroy it.
Religion, instead of being homeotelic, and thereby serving to maintain that behaviour pattern or Way, that leads to the preservation of the critical order of the Cosmos, becomes ‘otherworldly’. Its concerns shift to a different world and the behaviour it gives rise to, becomes purely heterotelic, as is that inspired by the mainstream religions of today. The role of such other-worldly religions is then but to provide the alienated inhabitants of the degraded world that economic development brings into being with individual succour, which may help them to accept their lot but which does not lead them to improve it.
Earthly protagonists of such religions even go to considerable lengths to rationalise economic development and the conditions it brings about, in theoretical terms, as did the nonconformists, who as Max Weber  pointed out, so convincingly played a decisive role in triggering off the industrial revolution. In this way, the adepts of such religions can at once serve God while systematically annihilating his creation.
We have no alternative but to recreate, along with a homeotelic society, a homeotelic religion, in which the gods are those of such a society and of the Cosmos of which it is an integral part – Gods which can only be served by restoring their creation and preserving it with religious zeal.Back to top
64. As the environment at each level in the Gaian hierarchy diverts from the optimum, so will maladjustments at all these levels correspondingly increase.
The more Gaian order is disrupted and the environment diverts from that to which a system has been adapted by its evolution, the less well can they satisfy the system’s real needs. Stephen Boyden refers to this as the principle of “phylogenetic maladjustment” (more recently he has used the term “evo-deviance”). 
Boyden regards the ‘diseases of civilisation’ – ischaemic heart-disease, tooth-caries, most forms of cancer, diabetes, peptic ulcer, appendicitis, varicose-veins – whose incidence increases with per capita GNP, itself a measure of the rate at which the technosphere is expanding and biospheric order is being disrupted, as the symptoms of evo-deviance.  More precisely, they should be seen as the symptoms of evo-deviance at a biological level.
Crime, delinquency, alcoholism and drug-addiction (over and above what, in a given society, is homeotelic to it), child-abuse, schizophrenia and suicide (as Durkheim showed in his famous study Le Suicide  must also be regarded as the symptoms of growing alienation – or of evo-deviance at a social level – as experienced by people living in any anonymous mass-society in which they are deprived of their normal social environment (the family and the community) (see Principle 53).
Epidemics affecting man and non-human animals and plants are but the symptoms of evo-deviance at an ecological level, caused by the disruption of ecosystems and, hence, of the cybernetic controls that prevent population explosions among pathogens and their vectors.
Floods and droughts are also the symptoms of evo-deviance at the ecological level, since those conditions created by economic development necessarily involve deforestation, erosion and desertification and must necessarily increase the incidence and severity of floods and drought. By contrast, in a climax ecosystem, everything conspires to reduce their incidence to a minimum.
Finally, the pathetic failure of our scientists, economists and sociologists, armed with all their computers, laboratories and, sitting as they are on mountains of ‘scientific knowledge’, to understand the world they live in, is, above all, a symptom of ecodeviance at the cognitive level or of cognitive maladjustment – of which the most fatal manifestation is the ‘Great Misinterpretation’. (see Principle 66).
The world they have helped create is unintelligible to man; he is simply not designed by his evolution to comprehend it. It has no meaning to him. As economic development proceeds, man is thereby condemned to living in a world to which he is ever less well adapted biologically, socially, ecologically and cognitively, and also, aesthetically and spiritually. He thereby becomes increasingly alienated from a world ever less capable of satisfying his real human needs.Back to top
65. Instructions that are interpreted in the light of a cognitively maladjusted system will give rise to misdirected, and hence heterotelic, life processes.
Misdirected life processes must be seen as heterotelic. Heterotelic processes may satisfy, albeit imperfectly, some specific needs of a natural system. However they are unlikely to satisfy all its needs, and will in any case do so in a way that prevents them from contributing to the overall goal of maintaining Gaian order.
Thus, by taking a mistress, a man may at least satisfy sexual and psychological needs. However, insofar as this diverts him from fulfilling his husbandly functions towards his wife, his paternal functions towards his children, and thereby prevents him from maintaining the critical order of his family – an essential component of the critical order of the Gaian hierarchy – it is a heterotelic relationship.
Technological solutions to problems caused by the disruption of natural systems are of necessity heterotelic. They are what Stephen Boyden calls ‘pseudo-adaptations’.  Consider the present epidemic of tooth decay which is known to be largely caused by eating junk food. The homeotelic solution is to correct the diversion from the appropriate heterotelic diet by readopting the appropriate homeotelic diet, that which man has been adapted to by his evolution. Such a solution, however, would be cognitively unacceptable. It would be seen as reversing the course of scientific and technological ‘progress’ that has brought the junk food into being.
It would also be politically and economically unacceptable – that is it would not be tolerated by all those asystemic institutions (political and commercial) whose very raison d’ etre is to provide heterotelic expedients.
Hence the problem is dealt with by providing those whose teeth have decayed with false teeth – a ‘pseudo-adaptation’ which mainstream scientists have failed to distinguish from a real adaptation, or, in the language of this essay, a ‘heterotelic adaptation’ as opposed to a homeotelic one.
The principal failings of such a heterotelic adaptation are,
- firstly, that the false teeth are no real substitute for the real ones:
- secondly, that they must be paid for whereas the real ones are free; and,
- thirdly, that it only addresses one of the very many problems caused by the consumption of junk foods.
These tend to be considerably devitalised, containing less proteins and trace elements than fresh food, thus leading to malnutrition and hence a reduced resistance to disease. Moreover, junk foods also tend to be contaminated with pesticide residues and chemical additives of all sorts. For both these reasons, and there are others, junk foods are the main cause of such diseases of civilisation as cancer, diabetes, diverticulitis, peptic ulcer, appendicitis, ischaemic heart-disease, and indeed tooth-decay, all of whose incidence increases with per capita GNP.
In addition, the production of junk foods on the present scale has altered the character of agriculture, which is now largely geared to producing the raw materials for the food-processing industry. Such an agriculture involves large-scale monoculture and the intensive use of machinery and chemicals. It is environmentally very destructive, leading to erosion and desertification on a grand-scale. It is also socially destructive, leading to the annihilation of sound rural communities, and to the concentration of the population in vast overcrowded cities.
In other words, we are faced with the typical ‘ripple-effect’ or ‘chain-reaction’, caused by the widespread adoption of a set of associated heterotelic expedients in the food industry. Tooth decay is only a minor ripple, a small almost insignificant link in the chain reaction that must cause maladjustments throughout the Gaian hierarchy. To treat it heterotelically, by providing its victims with false teeth, will do nothing to stem the tide of the destruction. It does little more than mask one of its symptoms, rendering it correspondingly more tolerable to the public, thereby helping to perpetuate the chain reaction towards disaster.Back to top
66. Cognitive maladjustment in the modern world leads to the Great Misinterpretation.
Cognitively maladjusted modern man invariably refuses to face the indisputable fact that the problems that confront him are of his own making, or, more precisely, the inevitable consequence of economic development or progress – a totally heterotelic enterprise – to which he is fully committed politically, economically, psychologically and, indeed, quasi-religiously. On the contrary, modern man will persuade himself that if these problems occur, it is because economic development, and hence ‘progress’ has not progressed far enough. Thus if so many Third World people suffer today from malnutrition and famine, it is, he will persuade himself, because they are underdeveloped. If their agriculture could be modernised sufficiently, if they could be induced to buy from us a sufficient number of tractors, combine-harvesters, artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides and, of course, build more dams to provide the requisite irrigation water, then these problems would rapidly be eliminated.
If they suffer from poor health, the same principle holds; economic development would provide them with the modem hospitals, the trained doctors and the pharmaceutical preparations that would rapidly make them healthy.
I refer to this as the ‘Great Misinterpretation’. It is consistent with the dogma basic to the world-view of modernism, that nature provides man with no real benefits (see Principle 25), and that all benefits are man-made (see Principle 25), the product of scientific, technological and industrial progress, which is thereby seen as providing a panacea for all man’s problems.
The Great Misinterpretation is of course very convenient; it is the only interpretation in fact, that can justify progress, and by the same token, satisfy the political and economic interests of the institutions that provide these man-made ‘benefits’, and on whose functioning, as development proceeds, we all become increasingly dependent.
Not surprisingly, the Great Misinterpretation has become institutionalised as the fundamental dogma of the world-view of modernism.Back to top
67. The development of the world-view of ecology is the Great Reinterpretation.
I have sketched very tentatively indeed what I take to be some of the more important laws or principles of the worldview of ecology. The reader will see that they are closely interrelated, relatively consistent and thereby provide at least a vague idea of the lines along which we should proceed in the development of a coherent and comprehensive ecological world-view. It is only once we are all imbued with such a world-view that it will be possible to reinterpret the nature of the terrible problems that confront us today – to undertake, in fact, the Great Reinterpretation.
These problems must be correctly identified as but the symptoms of the degradation of natural systems at all levels (biological, social and ecological) in the hierarchy of the ecosphere under the increasingly intolerable impact of our economic activities.
In the light of this world-view, it must also become clear that the impact of these activities must be systematically reduced, and that this, in effect means creating a new society that is structurally and cognitively geared to the achievement of a very different goal from that of the society we live in today. It means building up our biological, social and ecological wealth, the only wealth that can satisfy the real needs of living things including man. It means, in effect, a return to the Way – to a pattern of behaviour that recognises that the earth is sacred, and that it is only by respecting its sanctity that it will continue to dispense to us those unique blessings that must constitute the only real and lasting wealth.Back to top
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|2.||Eugene Odum, personal communication.|
|3.||Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy Sierra Club, San Francisco, 1977.|
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