Integrative philosophy (2)

The next examples are rather complicated. The sciences involved are relatively young, and there is some unfamiliar terminology to study (unless one has biological, medical and organizational knowledge). For those who want to be able to follow this posting, it will be necessary to do a little study of anatomy and the functions of the human nervous system. It will also be necessary to study Stafford Beer’s work “Brain of the firm”. They will be amply rewarded by a broader view on natural process. Life is a complicated business. There are so many influences to balance, structures to organize, valuations and decisions to be made. Let's have a look.

The brain/nervous system.

This is a section which is very tentatively formulated. To be expanded in future postings, in combination with the work of Stafford Beer (see below).
The brain is an exceedingly complex organ. Neuro-scientists have dissected it, and attributed all kinds of functions to ever varying combinations of structures and components. Brain-science is still a very young discipline.
I will try to elucidate some features of the brain, as found in several textbooks. The interweaving of structures, and the innumerable connections between parts makes one wonder where to draw the lines, or how to make divisions of the brain. It may be that the following scheme has to be revised.
We will keep in mind that components may be involved in multiple functions and vice versa (mathematically speaking: a n:m relationship exists between subsystems, in the Jim Miller sense, and components.
In my old blog I give an overview of these subsystems - I will repost that here at some point).
Nevertheless, let’s proceed with the layers:

Higher functions/neocortex; intellect; meta-emotion; emotion?
Concerned with pattern. Volition. Also, there is the limbic part of the cerebrum which can signal danger and distress to the hypothalamus;
Basal nuclei are usually classified today with the neocortex. The limbic system is a so-called functional system that contains structures that are part of the diencephalon and some other structures that are classified with the cerebrum.
'Animal' C.N.S./diencephalon, basal nuclei connection?: sorting, switching, relaying(thalamus); hormones; emotion;animation;
hypothalamus: “controls activity of autonomic centres in brainstem and spinal cord. Center for emotional response and behaviour. Activates sympathetic system in fight or flight response. Helmsman of endocrine system”.
Deals with the stimuli of the (outer) world, together with neocortex: evaluation of interactions with world and integration of info. Information processing.
Control function.
Branches of nerves spring from the brainstem.
These nerves control/interface with organs, muscles and senses which form part of layer four. Contains structures which control the release of neurotransmitters (which work peripherally).
Controls autonomic function (together with the hypothalamus).
Integration of activities of the branches and functions. Alerting function (arousal) through the reticular activating system (ascending reticular formation).
Peripheral N.S. : divided into sensory and motor division.
Motor division is subdivided into autonomic and somatic N.S.
The autonomic (or vegetative) N.S. is subdivided into sympathetic and parasympathetic N.S.
Data capture and initial processing. Collect and disseminate info.
Mediates afferent and efferent info.

Explanation: C.N.S. = central nervous system; N.S. = nervous system

The large neocortex is associated with the human type. Higher (abstract) functions are expressed e.g. as art, science, and complex social interactions, together with the diencephalon. Basal nuclei are often classified with the neocortex, but have a functional relationship with other layers (brainstem, diencephalon?). See anatomy & physiology textbooks for explanation of terms pertaining to brain structures.
Meta-emotions regulate/modulate basic emotions. More on that in another posting.

The ‘animal’ CNS, diencephalon, takes care of the interaction (information exchange) with the environment. (as does the brainstem in a more primitive way, see below). That involves the use of the several divisions of the peripheral N.S. and the processing of information from sense data. The name ‘animal’ for this part is misleading, because plants also interact with the environment, and can process stimuli. Plants also produce hormones, and are considered to have a kind of ‘proto-nervous system’ in their roots.
Senses are receptors that take in impressions, convert (transduce) them and send electrical impulses to the brain for further processing.
Example: fight or flight reactions come to mind. There is a coupling to the autonomic (vegetative) N.S. as the body must be prepared for action.
Hormones influence behavior.

Brainstem: “rigidly programmed, automatic behaviors, necessary for survival.”
(double quotes from Marieb, “Human anatomy and physiology”)
Contains centers that control neurotransmitters. Filter for incoming information.
Arousal mechanism (ascending reticular formation).

The vegetative (autonomic) NS is responsible for the homeostasis (maintaining equilibrium) of the organ systems. That is an internal thing, although exchange of matter-energy with the environment is a necessary condition.
Metabolism, secretion, excretion, growth and reproduction are usually attributed to the vegetative functions.
The peripheral somatic NS is concerned with spinal reflexes.
Distributed expression of inward flow of impulses.

Interconnections between the levels/layers, expressed through organ systems, are still under research. This is a very complex matter! The idea seems to be that layers three and four can be considered largely autonomic layers, comparable with the threefold prana - linga sharira - sthula sarira (organizational forces - mediating etheric body - physical body). That threefold is considered (relatively) autonomous in theosophical literature. Mind/soul can split off during deep sleep from body.
On a separate note, scientists think there is a collaboration between neocortex and limbic system in decision processes. Perhaps more on this in another posting.
The Dutch professor Piet Vroon has written a really interesting book on the brain, in the Dutch language, and I will use some of his ideas (and, separately, Alexander Luria's work) later on to elucidate the above partition of the brain.


I will briefly touch upon the topic of organization, especially using ideas from Stafford Beer. He has written extensively on viable organizations. He utilizes the way the human brain is organized and functions for his design of viable (sustainable) organizations. I will use a lot of (cybernetics-based) ideas from his work “Brain of the firm”, since he understands the use of analogy between the process control occurring in the human brain and in organizations and tries to model the control process for organizations in accordance with that of the human nervous system. The idea is that evolution of the brain has solved a number of control problems that are faced also by current organizations. Why not use that solution? He has formulated a hierarchical five-tier recursive or fractal/holographic model for a viable organization , as follows, see:

I can’t go into this much deeper at the moment, since his work is very comprehensive and takes a lot of time to study, certainly in relation to brain anatomy and function. Also see Schwaninger (2006): “the evolution of organizational cybernetics”, from which I take some quotes.

Suffice to say that there is a senior management (system 5) which deals with: the overall functioning of the organization; moderating interactions between systems 3 and 4; identity of the organization; embodies the core values; decision making, together with:
system 4 (long-term adaptation, development, research, diagnosis of relation organization-environment, knowledge creation).
System 3: “management of the collective of primary units”; providing for synergies and resource allocation (executive corporate management).
System 3*: “Investigation and validation of information flowing between Systems 1-3 and 1-2-3 via auditing/monitoring activities”
System 2: “Amplification of self-regulatory capacity; attenuation of oscillations and co-ordination of activities via information and communication”
System 1: “Regulatory capacity of the basic units”; autonomous adaptation to their environment, optimization of ongoing business areas of a company.

Systems 1,2,3, 3*: operative level (compare layers four and three in my model?)
Systems 4 and 3 comprise the strategic level (layer two and one in my model?)
System 5 the normative level (layer one reflected in layer two in my model?)

Hopefully, all this info will lead us to more understanding of organization of processes in the natural world. My main emphasis will be on biological and psychological processes as well as on the threefold social order.

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Comment by Heidi Ann Maycroft on October 3, 2010 at 8:14am
Good Morning Martin,

I am reading your blog and It will take a while to digest.

My companion and I are personally interested in the work you do and the knowledge you present. We have "illnesses" (that is not the word I want but I can't think of one right now) related to your blog i.e. spinal disorders, nervous fluid fluctuation, etc. Medically there are explanations concerning the human body and its components.

Intuitively I have made some connections concerning the hidden plane. Kundalini is at the top of my research currently.

I will keep studying your blog--THANK YOU!

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