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In normal usage, the word "whole" means simply complete, entire, undivided, not ill or injured. Holistic science and philosophy and the study of systems have added new dimensions to our understandings of wholeness, understandings which are still developing.

In co-intelligence work, "wholeness" refers to the inclusive, ever-evolving coherence of life and its various parts and of the relationship dynamics between those parts. This coherence underlies familiar concepts like health, integrity, wholesomeness, holiness, and other holistic concepts. Wholeness, itself, has many dimensions and dynamics which we are exploring in co-intelligence work.

That said, the fact is that wholeness is both central and not precisely defined. It is something to "get the feel of." When we talk about "wholeness" on this site, we are often embracing many overlapping phenonena, among them these:

  • Attending to the whole means attending to "the big picture" instead of engaging in narrow-minded glorification of limited information.
  • In a common definition of co-intelligence -- "Accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole" -- the whole can include the whole group, community, or nation; all the parts of a system or all the adversaries in a conflict, in generative conversation with each other; and/or the larger wholeness or Spirit of Life as a source of wisdom.
  • Wholeness includes long term perspectives and realities. Although immediate problems, realities and outcomes may be important, they are not the whole story,
  • Taking wholeness seriously means looking beyond narrow self-interest to "the common good" -- and even pursuing self-interest through pursuit of the common good.
  • Concern for wholeness requires moving beyond shallow appearances and symptoms. It requires moving into fuller meanings, deeper causes, greater complexity, subtlety and ambiguity.
  • The wholeness of things of course includes their parts. But when we're considering living beings and living systems we must also address their overall health, responsiveness, development, special gifts, etc. -- their unique aliveness -- and also their context and history. We must especially transcend our focus on their utility to us.
  • Wholeness almost always involves the healthy mutuality (synergy) of relationships, a dimension of life that can be neglected by an exclusive focus on the entities involved in those relationships. Whole-system dynamics and structures are often the dynamics and structures of relationships that characterize the whole.
  • To attempt to understand the whole means to humbly recognize the fact that "there's always more to it; to appreciate the limits and evolution of knowledge and certainty.
  • Wholeness often refers to the unity of spirit -- and commonality of story -- that underlie the details of life. Unity and commonality are often overlooked when we focus too much on differences and separateness (although these, too, are part of wholeness!).

"Wholeness" is the concept that best embraces "new paradigm" efforts to create a more just, sustainable and wise society. As the essays below make abundantly clear, wholeness is far more than unity.

Co-intelligence is intelligence that arises out of wholeness and takes wholeness seriously. Co-intelligence can be considered the cognitive and responsive dimension of wholeness. Because it underlies all the co-intelligence work, wholeness is given considerable attention on these pages, especially in the articles below.

6 Parts of Wholeness

Four Dynamics of Wholeness

A Cycle of Dynamic Coherence

Wholeness, Interconnectedness & Co-creativity

Using Synergy, Diversity and Wholeness to Create a Wisdom Culture

Wholeness, Explicit and Implicit

Wholesome Power

Holistic Intelligence

More comprehensive but complex articles:

Wholeness catalogue (aka 100 facets of wholeness)

Dimensions of Wholeness Model

See also:


Creative Uncertainty

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