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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Words from Norm HIrst on freedoms


"the ultimate goal of life is to increase value. What values and how they’ll be manifested is a free expression of organisms. Purposes (final cause) do not lend themselves to prediction by the hard sciences. Being creative organism, life comes with value intelligence: its creativity has direction and purpose that becomes its own free gift to the universe.
Hope for Humanity

Norm Hirst

July 2, 2006


A multi-millennia cycle is coming to an end. An evolutionary shift is occurring.  The old worldview is passing. Science is investigating ideas that never would have been acceptable in the past.  Many of our institutions are in ruin.  Spirituality comes to the forefront as we now learn about how life-itself functions. Societies are evolving by spiraling and oscillating through the next stages 6 and 7 from Learning to Live Together to Restoring Viability to a Disordered World.


A well-known philosopher-scientist wrote a book setting forth his view of current science and where it seems to be going. A reviewer expressed her disappointment.  She expected to learn some science but found the author was a new age advocate who did not understand science. I am sufficiently well acquainted with the author’s work to know that he understands science as well as anyone.  Yet, the book, in parts, did have a rather new age flavor.  For many leading scientists our views of reality are changing radically.


What is now happening is the paradigm change that so many have been expecting for so long.  A paradigm change is a change in consciousness.  It is happening now.  We are beginning to glimpse the new reality.  It is not unprecedented. The psychologist Claire Graves studied the evolution of reality. Grave's work indicates that societies evolve by spiraling and oscillating through the following list of existential problems:


  1. Maintaining physiological stability, staying alive
  2. Achieve relative safety
  3. Live with self awareness
  4. Achieve peace of mind
  5. Conquering the real universe
  6. Living with the human element
  7. Restoring viability to a disordered world
  8. Accepting existential dichotomies


Each problem requires different ways of perceiving and thinking.  As each problem is solved, a change of consciousness is required to solve the next problem, i.e., a paradigm change.  I believe we are finishing up Stage 6, Learning to Live Together and beginning Stage 7, Restoring Viability to a Disordered World.   We might ask how the world became disordered.


Western philosophy and science were based on Greek metaphysics producing worldviews consisting of things along with cause and effect.  Current science today is based on how forces can be applied to effect things.  It has been the view that if we want things to act or be the way we want them, there has to be controlling forces. However, something alive has the ability to just get up and go as it pleases and it will.  Life cannot be controlled. As the human element comes together in all its diversity, there appears to be chaos and plenty of would-be leaders who want to remove the chaos by getting control by force.  What they get is death and destruction instead. Control simply interferes with life's unity and its ability to manifest of its own accord.


Now I believe I see a world-wide change in consciousness preparing us to solve the problems of stage 6.  A great deal of new information and ideas are developing.  I would like to briefly present some of them.

From the Path of Greed to Path of Love

Greed or Love?  - Gene Pendergraft

For our western culture, the first principle of genuine love is fully summed up in the simple formula we call the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We attribute this principle to God as received through Christ. In India, nevertheless, it appears quite independently during the Gupta dynasty. Within Buddhist philosophy it is perceived, correctly I believe, as a bionic force.

This conception of the Golden Rule as a bionic force entered into western culture during the nineteenth century as a basic part of Peircian cosmology. The conclusion of Peircian semiotic brings three modes of cosmic evolution before us: evolution by fortuitous variation, evolution by mechanical necessity, and evolution by creative love. The propositions that absolute chance, mechanical necessity, and this law of love are severally operative in the cosmos receive from Peirce the names 'tychism," "anancism,' and agapism.'

Agapism, accordingly, exhibits the principle of creative love most clearly. The good evolutionary result is here brought to pass, first, by the bestowal of spontaneous energy regarding loveliness, loving, and love by the parent upon the offspring or by the senior upon the junior. Second, in order to complete this transfer of energy, is the disposition of the offspring or junior to learn from the parent or senior about loveliness, loving, and love and thus subserve the highest cosmic purpose of society, to adapt and so survive.

Two other principles are important to an understanding of agapism in relation to the self's motives toward loveliness, loving, and love. Firstly, there are three logical possibilities for this bestowal of energy: from the self to itself; from the self to a limited class of others sharing common interests and feelings with it; and from the self to mankind at large.

Hence the self loves itself better than it loves any other; and as the class of others loved by it widens, a progressively weaker kind of love is bestowed. The others loved best by the self are the ones most like itself, and so they make up the class, the group, to which it bestows most of its energy or from which most of its energy is received.  The love of mankind at large by the self, it follows, is least.

The gospel of Christ says that progress in society comes from every individual merging his or her individuality in sympathy with neighbors in life. On the other side of this argument is the conviction that progress takes place by virtue of every individual striving for himself or herself with all his or-her might and trampling any neighbor under foot whenever there is a chance to do so. The former may accurately be called the Gospel of Love; the latter, the Gospel of Greed. At first blush these seem to be counter-gospels. But, for Peircian philosophy, greed is taken to be merely defective love.

It was Peirce who first recognized that this  exchange of energy between members of different generations -was an inquiry into the nature of loveliness, loving, and love. He added to evolutionary love this further rule, called the Rule of Reason, that in order to learn one must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you are already inclined to think or feel. To this rule one corollary follows: Do not block the way of inquiry.

In other words, this love proclaimed as the great evolutionary agent of the universe occupies the highest position that love can attain. It is unconditional, passionate, and cherishing love; let us say Eros, the exuberance love. Notably, it is unencumbered by restrictions placed upon it by traditional morality, sensibility, or custom. It is healing: this love, detecting germs of loveliness even in the hateful, gradually warms hatefulness into life, and makes it lovely. It is circular in that the same tender impulse projects its participants toward independency and draws them into harmony.

Religious symbols in the future will still represent our ultimate aspirations in regard to feeling. But the blissful states of loveliness, loving, and love will be experienced by humanity as manifestations during life, not supposedly after death. Humanity's next evolutionary step will probably be a religious renaissance of the sort that, over time, will lead to the total destruction of religion as it has been understood. Art, rather than religion, will then gradually become the most magnificent ornament, and the most unfailing occupation, of our collective lives

Having concluded through our semiotic research that our culture is becoming ever more greedy and violent for this reason, Norm and I along with other scientists and scholars interested in these societal problems, formed Autognomics Institute. In a nutshell, the purpose of this institute will be to try to steer contemporary society, as we move into the twenty-first century. from the path of greed into the path of love.

Life IS..A Citizen Contemplation & Knowledge Lab

  Life IS contemplations and conversations, going deeper into life's nature and ways

  • Grow new Life-Aware knowledge and mind towards citizen science
  • Contribute your life-time of lived experience and knowing
  • Develop insights about shifting consciousness
  • Explore and experience how this emerging philosophy works for today's reality, for life
  • Join this new citizen science in the making.
  • No fees, no charges,
  • Lets' go deeper and learn together what we know about the ways of Life-itself


Radical Self-Knowing: A Peoples' Life-Knowledge Lab

Autognomics is a discipline of "wholistic" thinking that can help us identify order amongst the chaos of our lives and competing priorities. TAI brings new possiblities into focus to grow a new worldview of live processes; a radical perspective on change for finding our way as human beings with consciousness of live, ever changing, creative processes in and with life’s inherent ways.


Join our forum conversation and knowledge lab - a citizen science - sharing our living experience to more fully know our living selves and our relatedness as "wholistic" beings. 


Basically the word Autognomics translates from Greek to say “know yourself at the deepest possible level”. Some of the most basic and important aspects of who you are can be mysterious and obscure so our journey must look at those aspects and probe them to discover the laws of human behavior that are embedded within Life-itself.  These laws help us know, correct, grow, create and organize our lives.  Autognomics looks at how our values shape our societies and when understood, makes our communication and our relationships coherent and effective. The intention here is not to “fight” for dominant perspective, but to elucidate a fuller perspective than what holds mainstream science and popular consciousness.


Purpose:  To do philosophy of the ways of Life-itself - to explore realms of direct sense, intuitive experience – not so much to argue perspectives, but to share perspectives, to learn from one another with intention towards more complete understanding of organizing ways common throughout living/live experience.  Dare we say to discover organizing principles (realities so obvious there is no other) towards a new science of Life-itself? 

We see this effort not as problem solving, but to create anew, to grow beyond that which has taken habit and to encourage the forming of conscious presencing to see that if by taking a wholistic/live perspective we might experience a shift in what is possible; that in changing the focus of perspective – new ways become possible, and that we learn how much we know already; that we have experience as living beings but have not had the awareness or “language” for recognizing what we live all the time 


·       To explore these mysteries that we might better know ourselves (to self-know) as human beings/becomings (not human fixed things) within a wholeness of constant initiating, changing, becoming, creating, transforming and knowing.

·       To learn from our collective experience pool – how life organizes itself in and with each of us and to learn where we intersect in our experience – to be in our “receptive mode” of intuitively knowing more of the ways of wholeness.


Background: So much of the current dominant worldview is formed from having learned, known and grown a perception of reality as an object-based representational view of reality in which we live. It’s a world of thingness and fixedness. Going beyond this “fixed” worldview opens opportunities for deeper knowing of softer, subtle living process, energies and capacities such as intuitive awareness, sensing, of knowing meaning-making, valuing beyond the concrete, object-based view of reality.  


Since 1992, The AutoGnomics Institute, Inc (TAI) a non-profit group doing research, consulting, facilitation and education bringing together 75 years of study exemplified by a paper authored by Norm Hirst on the emergent field  “Towards a Science of Life as Creative Organism” published in the Cosmos and History Journal of Natural Philosophy.



·       A more fully developed working hypotheses from which to seek deeper knowing, a more complete worldview/life-view on ways of Life-itself.

·       Develop a working infrastructure for sharing experiences – for capturing our stories (nested levels of sharing).

·       A means of distillation – through selecting the most coherent and comprehensive examples of hypotheses on ways of Life-itself.


Follow on Twitter @autognomics.



Reflections on What Is Life? Norm Hirst

What is coming out in today's research requires understanding how living processes are free to act and combine in societal unities. It is life itself that produces evolution, not random processes or survival of the fittest. Life evolves based on values, which requires an awareness of holism. At all levels, living entities are choosing acts based on values characteristic of their level. That the molecules in cells are living is contrary to what biologists have traditionally thought. Now laboratory evidence shows signals and behavior indicating that they are living and acting.


In life, valuation processes are pervasive. We have lived with materialism too long to remember the qualities of life. It seems to me that many are trying to live as if they are machines; we are not well suited to being robots. It is the adventure of living fully that gives life meaning.   Life is< philosophy gives us new assumptions about reality and that's where we discover value dynamics in living processes by which we find our emergent ways.


I began at MIT delving into the foundations of knowledge from physics and mathematics to metaphysics, logics, biology and theology—and then into new findings in biophysics and quantum physics. 


…Instead, I would discover through a lifetime of inquiry that physics and it's foundations in substance metaphysics and accompanying logics is totally inappropriate for applications to understanding life. Way down deep human knowledge developed in a way that became committed to errors that destroy life.


Recent experiments of the past 20 years in physics and biophysics are producing results that cannot be explained with the traditional scientific materialism and substance philosophy. A new worldview is required. Not only is a new view of reality required, we also need to change protocols of inquiry to cope with it.


Following my tour of duty in the Korean War— I became deeply concerned about the causes and destructiveness of war and when I met Robert Hartman, the founder of the first formalism of values, I was inspired by Hartman and dedicated my life to more fully develop Hartman's science of values.


The current reality change is making a transition from a rigid, mechanistic, and materialistic worldview to one that is built on a foundation of interconnectedness, cooperation, and the intersection of science and living processes and experiences.


Living entities can initiate acts. In acting they add an uncontrollable quality that cannot be calculated through any physical laws of force.  Living entities do not passively await an external force to do something. For life there is no cause and effect. No determinism. Life is holistic from bottom to top. Using reductionism destroys knowledge of our living organization and how best to work with it; the very aspect we should be trying to understand.  In structure, an organism may appear to have many parts, but in process and function organism consists of societies of actors, acting on the basis of communication and coordination with all that organism’s societies and actors. Thus organisms function as a single holism.


But scientific materialism has provided technology by which the internal workings of living organisms can be observed as they live. But how living organisms work is unlike anything ever imagined! As we learn how living entities function, it turns out that it is nothing like we thought. Living entities are not machines, nor machine-like. Their workings are not subject to cause and effect, and they are not carrying out calculations. Living entities are capable of initiating their own acts based on values. They live in societies that give them maximum freedom within coherence conditions required by life. That is true even in the cells in our bodies. It is true of the molecules in cells, and, in nature. It is true of us on the living earth. Reality is not just rocks with accidental creation of life as epiphenomena here on earth.


Life itself is fundamental.


Matter isn’t fundamental, some form of, not yet defined, energy is. Physicists have discovered the Dirac Sea; zero point energy that fills all of what we thought was empty space. The physicist, P. A. M. Dirac, made a change to Schrödinger’s quantum equations that lead to discovery of this pervasive energy; thus it is named the Dirac Sea. Much of fundamental reality occurs in the Dirac Sea from which it becomes manifest in our space-time of material. Rather than matter being fundamental, energy flows in the Sea of Dirac are fundamental. The reality-underlying quantum theory is a living organism. That is why quantum theory is so difficult to interpret. The dynamics of those energy flows are, I believe, the dynamics of life. The energy flows manifest matter and living entities. All life is one, a living organism. Due to its connectedness we have primary unmediated experience.


To be alive is to be able to act. There is nothing in our history of ideas, whether philosophical or scientific, that deals with living self-making entities.  Everything in our philosophy and science is an attempt to imitate life with non-living entities not capable of action.  We will talk about life as energies within the electronics nature of living organisms; mysteries - such as how can bodies of so many parts be holistic? The answer is: the living processes within it are holistic. The living processes within it are “meta-stable” and constantly have to be maintained by energy. If the living processes are gone, all that's left is hardware.


Unfortunately, given a materialistic meta-physics, scientific explorers have been limited to a minor territory, the domain of the physical/non-living. Can all those deterministic forces possibly account for our experience? Is there any way to combine them all together in such a way as to produce what we experience? Simply, no. There is no way. So biologists explain that it’s “random processes” and survival of the fittest. There is no chance in hell that random processes can produce what we have in our experience; nor produce us for that matter. Life charged with creating novelty under conditions of great co-intelligence can create life and evolution.  We must quickly create a philosophy and science for the 21st Century and for what Life is<. 


Brown's The Living Universe

 William Brown's fresh look at Life itself.  Here is his summation of a wonderful article linked here from his blog

In Summation, life is synonymous with existence and is eternal, and the most fundamental fabric of reality is consciousness.  It is a Field of pure abstraction and intent, and through self-interaction it produces manifestations from endless potentialities.  Therefore the Universe itself is intelligent, and this reality construct is the result of intelligent design.  Every aspect is intelligently designed and contains consciousness itself.  This does not mean it is a controlling factor and that there isn’t randomness, because the spirit of free will is intrinsic.  Indeed the process of randomness is a testament to the sublime intelligence of Cosmic Consciousness.  In that a system can be allowed to evolve completely independently – and yet the state of each constituent of the system is known at all times and the behavior upon the addition of a particular influence can be precisely predicted.  However this terminology is misleading, because it indicates that the system would be outside of and apart from the Intelligence, when in fact it is an aspect itself of the Unified Consciousness – as everything is truly One


Values are "coherence conditions" of life.

 Norm Hirst on Coherence Conditions of Life

  Organisms(Living Entities) Require Coherence. (I think of coherence as conditions permitting freedom to act in parallel with a multitude of acts without destructive interference.) Life is the process of forming a coherence or unity within, which is developed through a multiplicity of events within and coupled with events without. It is a series of evolving events of birth, growth, maturation, integration and fulfillment.

Values are the coherence conditions that life imposes on living processes and entities. I have come to think of values as the "coherence conditions of life." Strictly speaking I believe it is valuation processes that are important to living entities. The necessary autonomy of living entities prevents their having any informational inputs. Yet they do need to discover what works in their living context. They do that by acting, to find effective acts. Acts that produce the organism’s intentions are effective acts. (see definition of Autonomy).

Substance metaphysics (started over 2500 years ago) has forced upon on us worldviews precluding values.  With a few
exceptions, the literature on values is rather ridiculous. Values are not things.  They are conditions on living processes.

·       I think of coherence as conditions permitting freedom to act in parallel with a multitude of acts without destructive interference.  For example, driving on a designated side of the road.  That gives maximum significant freedom to drive anywhere without crashing into someone else. Living entities are autonomous; they are intended to individuate; to develop their unique potential to become a unique actor while staying within the coherence laws of their identity. I think of coherence as conditions permitting freedom to act in parallel with a multitude of acts without destructive interference..  A good simple example is driving on a designated side of the road. It makes coherent traffic flow, gives us greater freedom to drive to a destination and really doesn’t need enforcement.

·       Reviewing the characteristics of life gives the concept  “harmonize” a specific emphasis.

·       Life is the process of forming a coherence or unity within, which is developed through a multiplicity of events within and coupled with events without. It is a series of evolving events of birth, growth, maturation, integration and fulfillment.

·       Living processes are carried out by living entities capable of acting.  Actions are based on perceived facts of experience when an event is starting.  Those facts set the stage for what is possible. Value processes select the most effective acts. The living entity acts and the stage is now changed to include a mixture of old and new perceived facts ready for the next event.

·       Harmonization is the process by which we creatively find a way to resolve differences between conflicting coherence conditions to find a new coherence unity.   Understanding the role of values and valuation is essential to carry out this process.

·       Talking about values with our current linguistic habits turn values into ideals to live by.  For example, always tell the truth.  However, there are times when truth is essential and there are times when truth is better not said. What life requires of us are the value process skills to know when truth is required and when it is not.

·       If you think values are ideals, then you make harmonization impossible because your values are right and theirs are wrong and there is no room for harmonization. Rather, ideals are abstractions. Abstractions do not hold the entire reality in which they are thought to function. Thus they cannot be achieved, and even if they could be, given the dynamics of life, there is no absolute right and wrong set of ideals that apply to everyone all the time.


I suggest that in Hartman’s hierarchy systemic valuation and extrinsic valuation are in consciousness.  Intrinsic valuation is in awareness. Intrinsic valuation is the highest because it provides the ground for the others to develop.


Living Process Coherence Events called valuation

To talk about values I want to look at the events in a living process, i.e., those events when you choose a set of acts for the next step in your evolving process.

History of TAI
The Autognomics Institute was founded in 1993 as a non-profit research and education organization, (a 501C 3) in New York and Connecticut, USA.

Skye Hirst chose the word, Autonomics which points to a unique characteristic of how life-knows itself.  Gene Pendergraft added the “g” to make it Autognomics for greater clarity of meaning drawing from the word gnostic, to know. So the word Autognomics was born.


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.



"Life as organisms is process. Life is not a thing." ~ Quote from Life As Creative Organisms by Norm Hirst