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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Life before Matter, Floyd Merrell

Life before matter, possible signification before tangible signs: Toward a Mediating View

floyd merrell

Abstract: Life is a creative response to creative nature. This notion heeds Norm Hirst’s call, by way of Robert Rosen, that life as creativity follows a ‘logic’ that is radically distinct from classical logical principles. This alternate ‘logic’ of creative life follows differentiating Identity and Included-Middle Principles. Charles S. Peirce’s process philosophy and his concept of the sign, offer a sense of the nonlinear, nonmechanistic, creative emergence of signs and life through possibly possible signification and living forms as illustrated by means of amorphous topological variability.

Keywords: Included-Middle, Interdependence, Interaction, Interrelatedness, Incompleteness, Inconsistency, Overdetermination, Possibility, Process, Underdetermination.

[W]e can see parallels between chaos and emergent properties. Both involve unpredictability, though arising from different sources. With chaos, it is sensitivity to initial conditions that makes the dynamics unpredictable. With emergent properties, it is the general inability of observers to predict the behavior of nonlinear systems from an understanding of their parts and interactions.

Ricard Solé and Brian Goodwin (2000: 20)

see full paper pdf here:

Values are "coherence conditions" of life.

Coherence Conditions Essential of Life


I believe the most serious mistakes result from the failure to understand Life itself and the role of values.  Life itself needs a huge variety and harmonization. The many different societies are like different cells in the larger organism of unity.  Each society has it's own coherence. However, too often people have different criteria for coherence. Some societies are seen as analogous to cancer cells needing to be destroyed.  Finding ways to harmonize and utilize that variety creates a healthy body/world. However, not being aware of the possibility of harmonization we resort to violence and destruction.


n this moment of now, what might you be aware of?  It is certainly not restricted to sensory input. If you only believe in what you can touch and measure, you are disconnected from primary knowing based on connectedness of all life. Your intuitions and feelings are telling you all about this connectedness, unless you choose to ignore it.  In your holistic awareness of the moment, there are three distinct interwoven value domains. Each value requires a different way of knowing.

The three distinct domains of value are: Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic described as follows:

1)             Living entities that are self-defining, self-valuing and self-acting. Any interaction with a living entity will produce results beyond our expectations and, perhaps, beyond our control. Living entities are valued intrinsically; living entities must be valued for their own uniqueness; that is called unconditional loving.

2)             Things that are passive. They cannot violate forces of nature.  Otherwise we can control what they do.  Things are judged extrinsically by comparison to other members of the class concepts to which they belong, i.e., chairs or jobs.

3)             Structures and rules that are invented by us.  They are invented to provide order, reason, agreement and the possibility of creativity.  Since we invent them, they are what we say they are.  We judge them by applying them to our experience and then judging them as to whether or not they work, judging them as right or wrong. This is the domain of systemic values.


Now begins valuation leading to harmonization-valuation


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. It makes coherent traffic flow, gives us greater freedom to drive to a destination and really doesn’t need enforcement. 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. 

·       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.


It is the sailor in me that wants to say, “values are navigation aids”. When I set sail I may know where I want to go, but I have no idea how I am going to get there.  It all depends on the wind and tides.  A sailboat has to be in equilibrium with its environment.  Motorboats can crash through the environment.  Sailing is a good teacher for life. I am free to go wherever I like, provided I maintain coherence with the sea.


New mind for New Government By and For the People

New mind for New Government By and For the People

What is happening and how?

Winning, at all costs, to what end?  What mediates such excess, and drive?  The answer is lots of people who care about something other than JUST winning.  When there are people with lots of money who want more of lots of money, when the ends justify the means, we get a fools game like we’ve witnessed in the US Congress.  We can point to that set of events and say how is this happening? 

A world breaking down

Constellations of events have converged to create a world that doesn’t work, a world that breaks down trust, hope, morale and ethics agreements of centuries in the making. For example; rule of law, checks and balances between branches of government, rules against nepotism, no conflict of interest in leadership roles, regulation where the masses are protected against the control of the few (monopolies) control of public air ways (FCC), and communication rights (TV, Radio, Cable and now Internet), Protection of Environment for all (EPA) to name but a few.

Totalitarianism in the making

When there is no one to do the protecting, when the police and military become those in charge with no counter balance of justice or consequence, when leadership is singularly driven by acts of self-aggrandizement, using money, legal minds who can work around the laws, and psychological trickery to manipulate people vulnerable to advertizing, persuasion by distractions, anxieties and fears, then you have what we have today, a totalitarianism in the making.  The people who are participating unwittingly in this making are like fools in play land; US Congressional players with their hands in the pot grabbing what greed wants as the system falls apart.

Becoming a counter balance

Maybe a new idea is to wake up, to re-member – by being an active counter balance, an antidote, to provide energy for new direction, actually, with renewed capacity, to be a government by the people, and for the people.  Can there exist a government such as this?  Even if the American ideal was just that, an experiment in the making, can what was put in place by founding fathers be re-invented with new minds that have deeper understanding of how life works, how consciousness creates structures from spirit of intention, from highest values of inclusion, valuing life-itself as highest value, (inalienable rights)?  To make choices that are life-giving, that grow, not kill, that support, not constrain, that free, not entrap, that create hope, trust, and working together towards what works for the whole good of life-itself in which we all share. 

Growing a New Mind

How this can occur, many here know already, is best exemplified by Open Space Technology.

Harrison Owen put a name to this living process he describes as Open Space Technology. Over twenty years ago, he began to talk of this universal process that goes on in nature, plays out over and over again when certain conditions arrise. People closest to the work to be done, people most impacted by what needs to change, come together, sit in a circle, listen to their own passions and knowing and find ways to act with new awareness. Through listening, being responsible for what needs to happen, plans for actions emerge. Often action begins immediately in times of crisis. Leaders emerge around projects and work to be done. Hearts and minds are changed with new ways of knowing the situation at hand reveal.  Movement towards harmonization happens with no controllers, no force required.

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.


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 functions of our identity require love and loving. Being ourselves is the only way we can be and yet, our society has structured itself in such a way that makes it difficult to feel the love that is our very nature; it breathes, forms, and creates us. By being turned outward towards that which is merely tangible, we have become stuck in false measurement, unknowable capricious rules; we have collectively and individually become lost to ourselves. Love is always operative within us and yet we can't feel it or know it except in those fleeting moments of being in nature, with animals, a moment of heart felt sharing or an aesthetic moment experienced in the arts. Loving draws us to oneness. Loving draws us home to ourselves as living beings." ~ Skye Hirst, PhD