Towards A Science Of Life As Creative Organisms ~ Norm Hirst June 1, 2008
Read Norm Hirsts paper published in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy  Click Here

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Conversation on Epochal Nature of Living Process

Conversation between Florence Bradford, author of The Epochal Nature of Process in Whitehead’s Metaphysics and  Norm Hirst, author of Life as Creative Organism, towards science of Life-itself

 Norm HIrst

Reality is a reality of living organism and because it is, it had to develop among other things, awareness of the incredible complexity that is something that we totally lose in our usual thinking of materialism. Any living organism, because it is an organism, will generate overwhelming complexity. To solve the living problem of life, we have to see the living conditions of environment. What's going on is: Whitehead rejects the notion of time - along with his laws of obligation and what not, has seen the need of dividing the process up into segments that can respond to this living nature. Time has so much baggage as a linear progression and he saw that it can't be there, so he doesn't use the word at all.

Life is a very deep puzzle because we were unaware that we were living entities in a living environment. The fundamental nature of the world is a living organism. The fundamental nature was thought to be machines/materialism. If we stayed with machines/materialism, the epochal nature would make no sense at all. And in machines it is one linear progression. Epochal destroys all sense of linear progression. Our Cosmos article brought in all the Whitehead criteria process metaphysics as foundation to life.
When I think of how disconnected elements can cause cancer it's machine like thinking that keeps us from seeing the solution. The solution is not and cannot be machines/materialism.
The be holism, all the body/field has to be happening in-sync, simultaneously functioning together with everything else. When connections get lost, that produces disease.

Florence Bradford

I thought I'd take a moment to explain my understanding of Whitehead's epochal theory of time. It is, after all, one of the primary discoveries I claim to have made in my own study of Whitehead. I even named my book after it, "The Epochal Nature of Process ... " Whitehead's theory of time seemed to me to be one of the most remarkable discoveries of Whitehead that absolutely nobody was noticing. But I'm not convinced I completely understand it myself. I think I'm on the right track, but I don't know that I've got an adequate grasp of Whitehead's idea. So whatever I say here is just my own thoughts about time, derived from reading Whitehead.

The first thing to notice is that Whitehead uses the term "epoch" instead of "duration" or "time" or "period" or "instance" or any of the other standard words to denote a moment of time or the passage of time. He does occasionally use more standard terms like "time span" and "timespace" (to emphasize the time aspect of Einstein's spacetime). But to talk about his own philosophy, he has chosen the word "epoch" over "time."

Why is this? Why another customized word for a common concept? My understanding is that he wants to use a word that connotes the idea that a unit of time is FULL, it is full of activity, full of being and reality. There is NO empty time or space for Whithead. There is NO flowing by of time separate from the flowing, the ongoing process, of reality. He wants to bring out that idea. There are only epochs, rich with the realities "within" them, so to speak -- though they are never empty. (Even to speak of time is to speak of it separately from reality.) There are no empty epochs. The very word "epoch" is chosen because it's obviously a concept referring to a fullness of being. It has been too easy for us to imagine time without space, space without time, and both without reality, rather, both beyond reality.

"Time" is just a concept; but we almost always project it into reality as though it had a real existence in and of itself. We think "time" exists, though it is just a concept. Take the concept "tree" for example. We know that "tree" or "treeness" does not exist except as an idea, only trees exist. But "time" seems to us to exist, rather than "times," except in phrases like, "He beat me at chess many times." "Times" is used the same as "instances" here. "Time" seems to be a word like "sheep," the same in the plural as in the singular. The word "epoch" has the advantage that there is clearly a difference between "epoch" and the plural "epochs." No one is going to use "epoch" in the broad conceptual way that "time" is used, as though there is "epoch" and there is "space." It's a word that definitely conjures up concrete existences, realities in the plural, or one reality among many others, "the dinosaur epoch," or "the epoch of navigating around the world by sea" for example.

So to speak of an epoch in Whitehead's philosophy is to speak of the time aspect of the existence of an actual entity. It is to say that an actual entity IS an epoch, it IS a unit of time. And all units of time, being epochs, are FULL of their realities, they are actual entities, units of reality. So "epochs" and "actual entities" and "actual occasions" and "nexus" are all synonymous expressions that emphasize different aspects of units of reality. The term "actual entity" emphasizes that a unit of reality is a concrete existent item -- it is real ("actual") and it is concrete (an "entity" -- not abstract, not an idea). The term "epoch" emphasizes that an actual entity is in process, it has duration, it has a beginning and an end -- to speak in our ordinary way: it proceeds through a period of time. The term "actual occasion" emphasizes that an actual entity is a momentary existence, however long its "moment" may be; there is no existence that is not in process, or, to speak in the positive way, all actual entities are in process. And all processes have a beginning and an end so there is no process going on the same forever. The term "nexus" emphasizes that every actual entity includes other actual entities, or parts thereof, in some way in its own being. Each actual entity imbibes or is internally connected to other actual entities, remotely to ALL others. There are no isolated actual entities, no empty actual entities, no gaps between them, no empty space, no empty time.

With all this new language a picture emerges of reality as being wholly composed of real, concrete existences that are invariably processes that incorporate other processes into their being and have a beginning and an end. It is just as well to note, as you have done, that "energy" better fits this view of reality than "matter" and "substance" and the like.

So you see, it's my view that "epoch" is just another way of referring to an actual entity, ANY actual entity, with an emphasis on its fullness and its limited duration -- the fact that its a process that's full of 
other processes with a beginning and an end.


Autognomics: Exploring Living Processes (Life-itself) Between & Beyond


The exploration study of Life-itself through combined empirical and metaphysical research of the practical and theoretical

Getting to minimum structures of natural Organism law;

Self-law, self-organization, connectivity, coherence laws of values & multi-co-relational creativity.

Join us


Transforming the Workplace into a Life Giving Experience by Tess Jette


Six pillars of process that must be maintained to insure a life giving, productive workplace.


I.              Embrace change; it is the essence of life and growth.

II.            Get personal and be present

III.          Work is a privilege and it is creating

IV.          Create a nurturing and sensory rich environment

V.            Love the workers and the workplace before the work

VI.          Make time for community and celebration


It begins with an understanding of the value of each individual as singularly unique and as a significant part of the whole.  It begins with a philosophy that everyone is here for a reason and that there is a reason for every result.  It begins with a desire to create, to be aware, to be involved, to be passionate, to relate, to nurture and to love.  It begins with an act.


Every act contributes uniquely to the makeup of who we are. Recurring results of specific acts become stored data that form our physical and emotional reality.  That reality is confirmed each time an act is repeated and causes a similar effect.  The reality from that act becomes a rule for living that we incorporate into the conceptualization of who we are and what we can expect.   If the act of a child is to reach out for affection and that child is pushed away or abused that child eventually stores the information that reaching out for affection is not an effective act. 


The living being is continuously acting out on its environment. If a person matures cataloging negative results the outcome is an erosion in the trust of oneself to effectively act with positive results.  The reality we begin to form from the moment of the first act, whether it is a conscious memory or not, is the emotional reality that we draw on every day to make decisions.


When a group of people are drawn together in a work environment,   each relates and communicates according to his/her own accumulated set of rules.  They bring with them a singular perception of the world, their value in it and an expected result of how they will be received and treated.  The possibility of ending up in a work environment that includes only people who feel well adjusted, centered, self-assured, confident, and valued is probably zero.  We live in a culture that glorifies technology and we live and work amongst people who have learned to not trust in their own felt sense.  They no longer act from the heart but rather based on the result of information received from external sources, hence the lost of trust in their own “gut” feeling of what is good or bad for them. 

Our first acts are based on instinct. The act is formed from within, from a feeling of pure self-interest, self-motivation or self-protection.  It is only in an environment that allows freedom of action without retribution that each being can truly follow a path that is genuinely true to that being’s sense of self.  Each individual, allowed to test acts without fear, in a trusting environment, is then truly in a place of learning.


The highest and best goal for any manager is to try to create this learning environment.  The only way to achieve this is with trust.  By trust we mean trusting that each person’s activities, creations, ideas and feelings are no less valued than anyone else’s.  One must trust that every person is emotionally and spiritually exactly where they need to be in their life and that you have no control over their unique decisions for themselves.  The role management plays is to serve, to create a safe haven, a trusting environment that allows people to feel.  Once a person truly believes that it is o.k. to feel and express those feelings honestly without fear of injury something wonderful  begins to happen.  You get to know the people you are working with. 



Recent Papers

Value-Intelligence In All Creative Organisms ~ Skye Hirst with Assistance from Norm Hirst. August 2010

Robert Hartman discovered a value intelligence inherent in all life as early as the 1950's but he was ahead of his time.  Now learn how this value lens is formed within and how we can access it using the HVP.

Using the Hartman Value Profile as used in coaching by Hirst she discovers the absolutely unique inner landscape within that each individual has developed, we discover the world of values and value dynamics/intelligence from which we human beings and perhaps all organisms find effective action for life and living.
Published in The Robert S. Hartman Institute Annual Journal CLICK HERE

What People Are Saying

 What I Learned from Norm and Sky Hirst And How It Changed My Life
by Rodney Plimpton

Before I met Norm and Skye I had a pretty good handle on how Life worked, or so I thought.  I had a PhD in Social Psychology from Stanford, had studied Human Potential for Five years with Jean Houston, knew all about stimulus-response and something about cybernetics.  I didn’t consciously realize how much my model of life was based on a popular concoction Darwinism, materialism, elitism, and computer science.

Medicine in a New Key

Conventional medicine is dying ultimately because it is based on an obsolete dominant mechanistic model that does not recognize the coherence of the organism

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho explores how a science of the organism could underpin a new organic medicine that would best serve the nation.

Visit to learn more.

New organic Way for Medicine

The philosophy of Hans Jonas inform this paper by Schwartz and Wiggins to surmount the mind-body dualism plaguing Western thought. They show us the ways of organism; the difference between inorganic and organic reality and how each being must begin from its own direct experience of life in self and in others; and then how the two meet in the living being.  Since life is ultimately one reality, their theory presents the polarities that must be reintegrated by psyche with soma such that no component of the whole is short-changed, neither the objective nor the subjective.  Here they define the polarities within living beings and the requirements of organisms to live and thrive.



"The real value of science is it provides knowledge of how to do things, based on how a process or thing actually works." ~ Norm Hirst