Source of "Holarchy" is

by Arthur Koestler
Random House New York

If we look at any form of stable social organization, from the
insect state to the Pentagon, we shall find that it is
hierarchically structured; the same applies to the individual
organism, and, less obviously, to its innate and acquired
skills. However, to prove the validity and significance of the
model, it must be shown that there exist specific principles
and laws which apply (a) to all levels of a given hierarchy, and
(b) to hierarchies in different fields - in other words, which
define the term 'hierarchic order'. Some of these principles
might appear self-evident, others rather abstract; taken
together, they form the stepping stones for a new approach to
some old problems.
'A good terminology', someone has said, 'is half the game.' To
get away from the traditional misuse of the words 'whole' and
'part', one is compelled to operate with such awkward terms as
'sub-whole', or 'part-whole', 'sub-structures', 'sub-skills',
'sub-assemblies', and so forth.

The nature of the code which regulates behaviour varies of
course according to the nature and level of the hierarchy
concerned. Some codes are innate - such as the genetic code, or
the codes which govern the instinctive activities of animals;
others are acquired by learning - like the kinetic code in hte
circuitry of my nervous system which enables me to ride a
bicycle without falling off, or the cognitive code which
defines the rules of playing chess.
Let us now turn from codes to strategies. To repeat it once
more: the code defines the permitted moves, strategy decides
the choice of the actual move. The next question is: how are
these choices made? We might say that the chess-player's choice
is 'free' - in the sense that it is not determined by the rule-
book. In fact the number of choices confronting a player in the
course of a game of forty moves (while calculating the
potential variations which each move might entail two move
ahead) is astronomical. But though his choice is 'free' in the
above sense of not being determined by the rules, it is
certainly not random. The player tries to select a 'good' move,
which will bring him nearer to a win, and to avoid a badmove.But
the rule-book knows nothing about 'good' or 'bad'moves.
It is, so to speak, ethically neutral. What guides the player's
choice of a hoped-for 'good' move are strategic precepts of a
much higher complexity - on a higher level of the cognitive
hierarchy - than the simple rules of the game. The rules a
child can learn in half an hour; whereas the strategy is
distilled from past experience, the study of master games and
specialized books on chess theory. Generally we find on
successively higher levels of the hierarchy increasingly
complex, more flexible and less predictable patterns of
activity with more degrees of freedom (a larger variety of
strategic choices); while conversely every complex activity,
such as an writing a letter, branches into sub-skills which on
successively lower levels of the hierarchy become increasingly
mechanical, stereotyped and predictable.
If we descend even further down into the basement of the
hierarchy, we come to visceral processes which are self-
regulating, controlled by homeostatic feedback devices. These,
of course, leave little scope for strategic choices;
nevertheless, my conscious self can interfere to some extent
with the normally unconscious, automated functioning of my
respiratory system by holding my breath or applying some Yoga
technique. Thus the distinction between rules and strategies
remains in principle valid even on this basic physiological

I proposed the term 'matrix' as a unifying formula to refer to
these cognitive structures - that is, to all mental habits,
routines and skills governed by an invariant code (which may be
explicit or implicit), but capable of varied strategies in
attacking a problem or task.
When life confronts us with a problem or task, it will be dealt
with according to the same set of rules which enabled us to
deal with similar situations in our past experience. It would
be foolish to belittle the value of such law-abiding routines.
They lend coherence and stability to behaviour, and structured
order to reasoning. But when the difficulty or novelty of the
task exceeds a critical limit, these routines are no longer
adequate to cope with it. The world is on the move, and new
situations arise, posing questions and offering challenges
which cannot be met within the conventional frames of
reference, the established rule-books. In science, such
situations arise under the impact of new data which shake the
foundations of well-established theories. The challenge is often
self-imposed by the insatiable exploratory drive, which prompts
the original mind to ask questions which nobody has asked
before and to feel frustrated by dusty answers. In the artist's
case, the challenge is a more or less permanent one, arising
out of the limitations of his medium of expression, his urge to
escape from the constraints and distortions imposed by the
conventional styles and techniques of his time, his ever-
hopeful struggle to express the inexpressible.

The captain of a ship sets out with a sealed order in his
pocket which he is only permitted to open on the high seas. He
looks forward to that moment which will end all uncertainty;
but when the moment arrives and he tears the envelope open, he
finds only an invisible text which defies all attempts at
chemical treatment. Now and then a word becomes visible, or a
figure denoting a meridian; then it fades again. He will never
know the exact wording of the order; nor whether he has
complied with it or failed in his mission But his awareness of
the order in his pocket, even though it cannot be deciphered,
makes him think and act differently from the captain of a
pleasure-cruiser or of a pirate ship.
I also liked to think that the founders of religions, prophets,
saints and seers had at moments been able to read a fragment of
the invisible text; after which they had so much padded,
dramatized and ornamented it, that they themselves could no
longer tell what parts of it were authentic.