Bateson’s Sacred Unity for Healthier Climates

Bateson’s Sacred Interdependent Unity: ReConsilience of Healthy MindBody Systems

In 1968,

while college campuses were burning ROTC buildings,

when the Beatles were finishing their initial invasion on a peace-loving multiculture,

Gregory Bateson reconvened his colleagues

to reconsider the Moral and Aesthetic Structure of Human Adaptation,

with these words,

as later published in Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 253-257:


[with post-millennial ‘both-and’ upgrades in brackets,

to indicate how Bateson might further embellish 48 years later,

in today’s urgent ecopolitical climate]

By the word ‘moral’ [health] and the words ‘human [climate] adaptation,’ I intend to indicate that this conference is a continuation of last year’s conference on the “Effects of [Health] Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation.” At that meeting we reached consensus that certain sorts of shortsightedness which ignore the systemic [health] characteristics of man, human society, and the surrounding ecosystems are ‘bad’ when implemented by a powerful [powering over] technology. The word ‘immoral’ was not used for these deluded attempts to achieve human [peace with justice] purposes but, at least where the shortsightedness [Buddhist ‘ignorance’] is almost [anthropocentrically supremacist] willful, I see no reason to avoid the word.

It also became clear at the last conference that these immoralities form a [paradigmatically resonant/resolving climate] ‘class’ of cases such that practice in analyzing one [potential integrity as positive health] case will facilitate the understanding of others. It is not just a matter of learning to analyze all the relevant [sacred love] relationships and [positive with dipolar negative co-arising] variables whenever we set out to tamper with organisms: we can learn something about the characteristic interlocking of these [Basic Health Attendance moral] relationships—whether we describe the interlocking in cybernetic terms or by means of occurrence graphs.

In fact, hand in hand with the repetitiveness of [interdependent = notnot empty] relations in the undisturbed [eco]systems, there is a repetitiveness of the sorts of [dissonance as negative suffering potential for] immorality whereby these systems become [ecopolitically] corrupted and pathological. There is a general [double-negative binomial not-not pathology of interdependent irresolution, imbalanced tense, stress] structure of those mental [bicamerally un-reiterative stuck in ruminating] processes which would avoid such [RightBrain sacred immunity toward EmptyOnly ignorant] shortsightedness.

Our first conference dealt at considerable length with these matters but we said very little about what adaptive actions can be undertaken by man and still be [Left-health/Right-wealth] ‘moral,’ in the sense of not deteriorating the larger systems of which man [human bilateral-balancing nature] is a part.

I hope that in the coming conference we may work toward a consensus regarding the structure of such moral [health] planning and [aesthetically effective, fluid, resonant, grace-filled, sacred] action, including also some planning toward the correction of those popular false [LeftBrain too dominantly deductive language monopolistic ecopolitically competitive WinLose, EitherOr] premises which lead to harmful action.

What is lacking is a Theory of [Healthy Climate] Action within large complex [bicameral as binary binomial balanced polypathic] systems where the active agent is him[her]self a part of and a product of the [natural regenerative matriarchal=notnot patriarchal health-nurturing] system. Kant’s “Categorical Imperative” [secularized EmptySet Universal Closed Assumption] might provide a first step in this direction. It seems also that great teachers and therapists avoid all direct attempts to [power-over compete against and not with] influence the action of others and, instead, try to provide the [co-mentoring] settings or contexts in which some usually imperfectly specified) [therapeutic] change may occur [to recenter (0)-sum ecopolitical balancing network regenerative structure].

I think, however, that we are not yet surely ready to tackle this gigantic problem of  planned [moral health climate] intervention.

At the first conference I held the group back from problems of action for several reasons.

I believed that we had what the Bible calls “beams” [though still interdependent, however dissonant] in our own eyes [and ears, stomachs, guts, noses, mouths, skin, etc.]—distortions of perception so gross that to attempt to remove [pathologically dissonant] “motes” from the eyes of our fellow [wo]men would be both presumptuous and dangerous [LeftBrain monocultural male ego-competitive dominance]. After all, we, too, are creatures of a civilization which certainly since the Renaissance and possibly for a much longer time has cherished such irrational principles as reductionism [secularization of what was Interdependence-organic sacred], the conceptual division between [enspirited] mind and [naturally dynamic] body, and the belief that [economic wealth] ends justify [politically unhealthy] means. It was therefore probable that any plan of action which we might devise would itself be based upon these erroneous premises.

Indeed, the very errors that we would set out to correct, e.g., the cultural [climate] errors of reductionism and mind/body separation, are themselves buttressed by [monocultural supremacist] homeostatic [climate-health/pathology] mechanisms. We were in agreement that to try to alter any variable in a homoestatic [diastatically thriving-peaking monocultural eco]system without [urgent, climatic, critical, high-stressed] awareness of the supporting homoestasis [endosymbiotic evolution] must always be shortsighted and perhaps [playing god] immoral; and yet, we would boldly go out to attack epistemological errors which are deeply rooted in our [growing LeftBrain competitive global ecopolitical] culture and supported by complex vested interest in all branches of that [global ecopolitical anthrocentric] culture—in art, education, religion, commerce, science, and even in sport and international relations.

Moreover, there may be a whole order of  [ecologically regenerate] explanation and determinism that is still unexplored. It is surely not an accident that the alpha animal of the group is commonly the most beautiful, even to human eyes, and that it is this animal that is the most decorated with hair and the ‘dominance’ of the alpha animal determined and/or supported by aesthetic [rich, resonant, fertile, healthy, vigorous] determinants? For lack of a better term I am calling this aesthetic [therapeutic resilience, fluidity, grace] determinism [default preference toward health v. pathology; How is trust action and good intent predicted by healthy wealth of co-empathic beauty?].

It seems to me that, quite without an exhaustive analysis of the relevant cybernetic factors, some people are guided away from the courses of action which would generate ugliness—that there are people who have [positive deviant] ‘green thumbs’ in their dealing with other living systems. I am inclined to associate this phenomenon with some sort of aesthetic [health-wealth nondual optimizing] judgment, an awareness of criteria of elegance and of the combinations of  [healthy ecopolitical] process that will lead to [regenerate] elegance rather than [pathological] ugliness.

In our previous conference we were concerned with the [behavioral and verbal body-goodness health] moral aspect more than with the [mind beauty RightBrain proportional, non-languaged and intuitive] aesthetic. It may be that the latter is a totally separate [appositionally dipolar-reverse temporal] order of explanation, but I suspect that the two are closely related [political analogical v geometric biologic-languaged (0) sum=soul health regenerate] and that the difference between them is only a difference of [eco]logical type [way, frame, dialectal climate].  As I see it, moral judgment is concerned with discriminating and identifying [hierarchical frames, sets, ecologic systems, interdependently networking] classes of [organic synergetic shared-purpose identity-memory] cases; and this is especially true when the moral system is condensed into a [criminal v.] legal code [as ego-pathology v Earth health/wealth eco-climate]. The aesthetic, on the other hand, seems to be more intimately [interdependently cooperative, organically fertile] concerned with the relationships which obtain within each particular [bio/ecosystemic] case. In spite of many attempts, the rules of aesthetic [truth through beauty alone] judgment have never been satisfactorily condensed [although there is something to be said for combining Golden Rule with Golden Ratio and applying these nondually co-arising both space-here and time-now ego-opportunity/ecological risk].

It may be, however, that the dichotomy between [LeftBrain trust] moral and [RightBrain empathic notnot wu-wei cognitive/affective confluent] aesthetic is a by-product of the premise of [Right]mind/[Left-dominant]body division or of the similar division between [linguistic] consciousness and the [intuitive] remainder of mind. Certainly occidental people expect to be more aware of and more articulate about [Emptiness/Interdependence Balance] moral judgments than about aesthetic. We say, “de gustibus [digestible] non disputandum” as though the aesthetic were no suitable subject for [ecological and biological eisegetical] doubt or scientific [affect-effect-cause-reverse causal decompositional] analysis. And yet we agree that some people, more [healing] skilled in these [eco-feeling] matters than others, are able to contrive [nature-spirit dipolar memory] objects [icons] or [root] sounds which those others can agree are [naturally, humanely, divinely, sacredly] beautiful.

We know little of what makes some teachers, some political leaders, some gardeners, some psychotherapists, some animal trainers, and some aquarium keepers great [outstanding polypaths, transensory health/pathology attendant listeners and responders]. We say vaguely that these skills depend upon art [grace, co-empathic messianic-cooperative Self/Other absorption-digestion] rather than science [ecologically regenerative fertility of creative/deductive bilateral deep learning decompositioning skills]. Perhaps there is [bilaterally revolutionary] scientific truth behind this [climate of incommensurable yet equivocal] metaphor[ic health of legal/moral multiculturing health].

We know virtually nothing about the processes whereby a baseball pitcher computes his[her and Earth’s and Sun’s and Wind’s] action or whereby a cat estimates her jump [through emerging empty space] to catch a[n interdependent] mouse. But it is certain that these [ecological] computations are not done the way an engineer [mechanical] would do them; the cat and the pitcher do not use the differential calculus [although possibly appositional calculations].

Even, it would seem from Gertrude Hendrix’s paper last year that there is some sort of opposition between [LeftBrain dominant] verbal understanding and that more total and nonverbal understanding [of RightBrain mutual interdependent acclimation] which is necessary for transfer of learning [about ecological health of bilateral reiterative learning itself].

We also touched briefly last year on the notion that the conference group was, in some sense, its own [0-empty-set] ‘central metaphor’ [mandala, network]. That in our deliberations we were using the [sacred healing potentiated] group itself as a sort of analogic [ecologic] computer from which insights into [nature-spirit nondual] systemic [climate] process could be derived [deriving health-trends].

These considerations suggest that the cat and the baseball pitcher might achieve their miracles of precision by some similar [re-creation story-storied body memory]) using themselves as [(0) sum-soul ecopolitically natural] “central [Interdependent-Uniting OVER Empty-Universe] metaphors.” (What happens when the cat and the pitcher practice their skill?) [They become better fed health of notnot pathology equivalent.]

In sum, what is here suggested is that [LeftBrain reified] systemic shortsightedness, reductionism, the grosser forms of [Yang]body/[Yin spirit-only exegetically repressed]mind dichotomy, etc., may be mitigated or avoided by [balanced] mental processes in which the total [sacred] organism…is used [within an Earth-logical development regenerating network] as a [health/pathology] metaphor. Such mental processes will not probably follow the long and tedious path of computing all the relations between [interdependent] relevant variables but will use various [EmptySpaceTime climate] sorts of short cuts and best [quasi-resonant, quasi-resolving eisegetically aptic rather than synaptic exegetically well-worn BusinessAsUsual] guesses. But they will still reckon with the [WinWin v WinLose v LoseLose] fact that the [Earth’s fertile] ecosystem [climate] or [sacred nature-spirit learning to balance] society is alive [and continuing to evolve regenerative health trends and, sadly, sufferingly, negentropically pathological climate stress trends].


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