A first evaluation of Arthur Young's  Theory of Process (TOP)

By Martin Euser (March, April, May 2005)

Over a year ago, I encountered Arthur's teachings on the internet. It stroke a chord with me immediately, because of it's derivation from teachings from the Mahatma Letters. Sure, Arthur's teachings deviate a little, perhaps, from the sketched model in these Letters, and he filled in a couple of stages that were not very clearly delineated by the Mahatmas. He left out a couple of important notions, like cyclical development, but the system seemed a good try, as a starting point, and I decided to study Arthur's work more closely. Now, after about a year of study of Arthur's works, notably "Reflexive Universe", "Geometry of meaning" and "Which way out", I feel that his TOP really has potential to organize knowledge and provide some insight into the "natural order" of things. In order to be able to follow my remarks and reasoning you have to have studied the above mentioned three books from Arthur M. Young (AMY), available at http://www.arthuryoung.com/. If you find the following part a bit too theoretical you can jump to the "making some connections" part, where the levels get some flesh and blood.


There are quite some remarks that one could make respecting TOP, and I will do so gradually when the system unfolds before me, in my articles. For now, I want to make some connections between TOP and notions from organizational theory. While  TOP is a theory of process, it is essentially a theory of development, as Arthur states in his writings. Development is associated with stages, structures (temporary or permanent) and processes. I feel that, until now,  the discrimination between temporary and permanent stages  has not been sufficiently recognized by TOP adherents. After all, what exactly is left as a permanent structure when, e.g. stage two or three has been "traversed" by a being? Are these stages only temporary or do they remain as some vestigial structure? Such questions simply have to be asked (and answered)! Also, the connection between TOP as a developmental theory and mature process per se is not made very clear in Arthur's work. We will have to develop some insight into these matters.

TOP as interpreted by me

Now, in order to make TOP productive, one has to assume certain things, because the model as left by Arthur is not always clear, for example, as to what exactly is meant by the fourth stage ("work done"), how the turn is effected, what is meant by control, how are the characteristics of the stages on the left and right sides of the arc related, etc. The general thrust of the model is fairly clear however.

I will first outline my assumptions. Let's start with some diagrams and tables.  The fourfold division (categories or relational aspects of a situation):

Purposive intelligence - projective general - Self to Self relation

Substance/Force - projective particular- Self to Object relation

Form/Organization - objective general - Object to Object relation

Combination/control - objective particular -  Object to Self relation

We must pose some difficult questions such as "How do independent categories as Substance and Form correlate to real life phenomena?" , "Can there be substance without form?", "Can there be form without substance?" Is putting these categories as "levels" of natural order process as AMY does, correct or not?

 AMY identifies level 2 as timelike and level 3 as spacelike. We will have to investigate these designations in due time. For now, I have some doubts about separating time and space.

 The first point that I like to make is that "time" is an abstract concept (as is space).  These categories are philosophical constructs. Western philosophers, and certainly scientists,  make the mistake of formulating abstractions and then treating these abstractions as entities ("entification" of abstractions). That is, first they talk about abstract notions and then they make entities out of these abstractions, like force, time, energy, etc., while these things cannot be divorced of the entities or consciousnesses that produce these forces, experience actions, etc.  


My second point is about elementary particles as second stage phenomena according to AMY. These particles, like e.g. an electron, obey the Schroedinger equation. Space and time are essential variables in that equation. From experiments on electrons where researchers tried to constrict the uncertainty about place by applying a strong electromagnetic field to the electron, a most interesting result ensued: when the constriction exceeded a certain point, the electron increased its spin (in popular terms: revolution around its own axis), thus preserving the Heisenberg uncertainty relation. It is as if the particle needs a certain amount of freedom, not to be violated by the environment. 
Elementary particles are  in space as well in time, contrary to what AMY seems to suggest in his books. Could it be that the entire left arc designations: light, elementary particles, atoms have their correct placement as substages of the fourth stage? Perhaps so, but that would put the burden on us to find new candidates for the first three stages, which isn't very easy to do. This is something to look at only much later in our research. First we must get a better idea about the model as a whole.

Now a bit on level 3 (form/organization):

Level 3 is a level of manifestation, and we must find subtle patterns in substance there that serve as molds or prototypes for level 4 real-world bodies. For example, tissues are classified by AMY as stage 3 phenomena on level three, as with plants. Now this is clearly a substantial business or else you are talking nonsense or something else is implied. You can't have both abstraction and concretion on level 3 or you must designate this level as just an aspect of reality (but then it is difficult to call it a stage any longer). [As we will see later, this kind of confusion arises because the model has not been sufficiently differentiated. A hierarchy or holarchy of systems and sublevels is needed to bring clarity into this matter. At some point we will have to differentiate between physical motion/space and mental emotion/space. Physical life is not the same as intellectual life/experience or spiritual life. These levels have all to be differentiated]

 No, we have to proceed differently, as I will show.

In Kabbalah and other esoteric teachings there is no such confusion: just subtle energies/consciousness and forms working together in an orderly fashion.  
In other words, the levels each have a different mix or dominance of some principles to be formulated in due course. See also my article on the relation to esoteric sources.

We now go back to a discussion about time.

What is time? Time is just experienced motion (or even emotion), e.g. rotational motion plus something else that relates that motion to the larger environment.

That something is "consciousness" which orients itself in space. So, instead of independence of time from space another picture arises: "time" is experienced by consciousness (as a motion in space), or measured by an observer, in relation to movement and position in a larger context, be it the starry heavens or an atomic clock. So, we have to rethink the relations between level 2  and level 3. Level 2 has to do with experience/life and  level 1 has to do with the origination/manifestation of consciousness in and through the Fire element) .

The crux of this matter is that at level 1 differentiation starts, the potentialities of substance and form are being developed gradually on level 2 and 3, to coalesce all on level 4, the concrete feedback level - earth. This is the ancient notion in esoteric philosophy. BTW, Level 2 and 3 do work together in a developed system, as do the other levels as I will show later on. [Level 2 and 3 together are sometimes designated as the astral light (field)/prana combination, the domain of psychophysiological forces and substances]

Level 2 has to do with "(active) external relations" or even  "environmental relations" or "social interaction". It seems that the Self (level 1) develops the Self-Other (I-You) relation or duality on level 2. Whether level 3 entails the third person (He/She) as a consequence of the mental abstraction occurring on this level remains a topic to research.

Level 2 is also closely associated with flow-organization, flux, force, synchronization of force, so those labels fit level 2 as well. Time and experience do play a role on this level, as they do on level 4 where all the influences come together. In fact level 2 and 4 are closely related, as you will see later when you study my diagrams. You can also say that subject to object relation can only exist together with an object-subject relation. There simply can't be a flow without a closed circuit. This will become clearer in my example of business flow of money and materials. Also, one can see level 4 as the level where level 2 and 3 come together for producing real-life phenomena. In this view, the levels can be seen as aspects of phenomena on level 4.

Now let's make this abstract philosophy of categories of relationship a little more concrete.

I will draw from organizational theory/systems theory, especially the Katz and Kahn characteristics for open systems,  a little management research and other sources where necessary.

Making some connections

Arthur Young gives useful descriptions of his four level-model in "Geometry of meaning", p. 154, upper half of page. I saw that table over a year ago and stumbled upon it recently after some necessary tours of study of other relevant material. I will come back to that table shortly. First I want to mention my discovery of a model of cognitive style mentioned in the book "Management Information Systems" (MIS) by Davis and Olson, McGraw Hill. I have the Dutch translation, so I will have to reversely translate some terms used. McKenney and Keen, mentioned in MIS, have written about "How Manager's Minds Work"  in Harvard Business Review, May-June 1974. Their findings, mentioned in MIS, include two dimensions for classification of cognitive style (an aspect of the decision making process): gathering of information and  evaluation of info.

The first dimension, the gathering of info shows a relational approach vs.  a detail oriented approach: global approach , relations between data vs.  detail (sense data/factual detail-info). The other dimension, evaluation of information, concerns the way in which people analyze data: systemic-analytical vs. intuitive-heuristic (trial and error strategy). BTW, these dimensions are continua, but what struck me particular was the match with  Young's categories or levels: intuitive (first level) vs. systemic/analytical (third level) and relational (second level: self to object) vs. fact/detail (fourth level).  The big discovery for me was that I could map the relational keyword (self to environment) with the second level. Some questions remain such as: the mapping of subject-other subject relation but we will have a look at those things later. We will discover that a relationship entails a process, so, all the levels are concerned in relations.

Also connected with the second level is the function of  distribution or redistribution of materials, substances; transport; synchronization (time-factor!) and coordination.

The third level, reasoning, analytical, is associated with form and "relationship within object" according to Arthur Young.

Ok, so we have internal relations mapped to the third level! I'll come back to that later, when I give real-world examples of applications of TOP. The research of McKenney  and Keen shows that cognitive style is a continuous variable, people are not purely analytical or intuitive/heuristic, so levels work together. All this seems to be connected  with the left and right hemispheres in the brain, but that is outside the scope of my current article. The main points can be illustrated as follows (levels 1-4):

In the above figure I have put some descriptive terms for the levels. On level three I have added a storage function, which is speculated about by AMY in his books. It occurred to me as a natural position for this function since impressions must be stored as a form somewhere (esotericists say in "the astral field") and I know from esoteric literature that forms or blueprints for body-forms are stored in such a field. I think AMY had another argument for this: plants store sunlight/energy as mass and plants are a fifth stage phenomenon. We'll see how it works later on. About memory: I now think that each stage has a memory function connected to it. Think of some metals that have form-memory. Think of cellular memory/ DNA. Think of frozen experience. Think of instinct as a repertoire of  behavioural strategies. Think of thinking as a habit. And so on.

 Control as learned experience: you know that Arthur puts control as the fourth stage in the learning cycle. I added the words " as learned experience" because it shows clearly that is something that is at the end of a cycle of learning. The rest of the descriptive terms stems from AMY's works, except for the term "infrastructure". You may add the term "assembly" to that. The fourth level is a combinative level par excellence. It is also a level where all the influences from prior levels come together. It is a balancing level, on itself nothing but a screen, a shell. Withdraw the life force and all you've got is a corpse!

We will have to study control and feedback to understand the finer workings of a system. Consider the input of raw material, the application of procedure, planning and machines that yield an end-product. This product is fed back into the chain, either directly (recycling, using synthesized starch in the respiratory cycle in plants) or indirectly (via storage, distribution, selling) by the profit got from selling the product. Control systems will have to be studied later, but cybernetics tells us that all the levels and stages work together simultaneously. This is like all the stages on the sevenfold arc working together, all the kingdoms are needed to maintain homeostasis (as James Lovelock states in his book on Gaia.)

A further elaboration brings me to the following diagram:

Level 1: steering, intention, directing

This level corresponds with level 1 in the ancient division of four "castes" in India, i.e. the Brahman or spiritual guide/priest. In Plato's system it corresponds with the King-Philosopher, clearly a directing function. Fire.

The King or director steers his kingdom or company.

Level 2: relational exchange is based on organizational theory, i.e. it is recognized that import of energy, goods, hiring of persons, etc. is a necessary precondition for an organization to function properly. There is an output too that we will study later: an end-product or service that implies in business terms a "transformation of the product to money" (stage 6) and realized profit (stage 7). The profit is fed back into the system: more personnel is hired if things go well and growth is possible (an example of  positive feedback).

Export to the environment from a cell could be on this level, like enzymes needed for the metabolic system or hormones going to target organs via blood. We'll have to research this later.

This implies a lot of things: 

-exchange of energy,  flow of something, input/output, processing, etc. It is associated with a regulative force as we will see later. Transport, distribution and timing are also keywords here.

I have put the following keywords at the border between level 2 and 3: 

Boundary, defense and immunity. It is clear that a boundary or separation must exist between the outside world and the inside system, otherwise it would not be two systems (micro/macro) but one! A semi-separate state is necessary to evolution, otherwise there is only the unconscious pleroma! Hence, defense becomes necessary, the development of an immune-system, and the necessity of membranes or a skin or even air for Gaia to regulate the influx of sunlight and development of heat. 

This level corresponds with level 2 in the ancient divisions: Ksatriya or warrior/defender/protector. With Plato it also is the warrior/soldier.

Level 3: internal organization, form, structure, identity.

In order for an entity to have identity, and indeed to experience identity, it must have memory. If experiencing identity is a level two process, then it has to draw from stored memories (level 2?) of events in order to maintain the sense of self.

However it is, I think that identity develops partly by interaction with the environment and from within.
If storage is a level 3 function as would make sense from an internal organisation perspective, there would have to be a medium for storage, not unlike the vesicles in a cell that carry substances for transport. Furthermore, stage 5 is positioned on the upward arc and is associated with involution of form and evolution of mind (manas) or organization (see examples text referring to esoteric insights). Is there an internalization of form as a kind of imagination, an image forming function, a concept-forming function? Psychology teaches the internalization of rules by children, so, yes, this kind of internalization exists and we will have to investigate that as well at some point.  

Observation as a function is put on level three by Arthur. This has to do with the learning cycle: unconscious, spontaneous action; unconscious reaction; observation; control. Observation involves selective attention (a filter based on level 2 values and level 3 knowledge). 

This level corresponds with level 3 in the ancient classification: the vaisha, the merchant. Ditto with Plato. Note how interesting this confirmation is: the merchant is responsible for maintaining the cycle of goods and services for society as a whole and a system. So, when we view society as a system, its internal functioning depends on business people. Economy. Also, law and rule play a role as third level "forms". Metabolism is a level 3 "vegetative" function that helps maintain conditions for cells and body.

Level 4: level of assembly. Here concrete, localized, action takes place, or work is done.

It is the level where all influences from the prior levels come together. It is the combination level par excellence.

In the ancient classification it corresponds with the fourth level: workmen, rendering their service (and muscles) for concrete action.

Here all levels interpenetrate each other, similar in the way one's body shows: the organs are made up of multiple layers that themselves are constituted of several elements (nerve cell, muscle, epithelial cells, connective elements, and many other specialized cells).

The end-product of this stage is being used in interaction with other "systems", as for example a product from a factory is being stored, transported,  distributed and sold for profit. This profit is used to sustain the company, buy raw materials, hire people, process the raw material, etc. In other words, a cycle is being maintained that ensures the continuity of the company. In biological systems, "end-products" maybe used directly as the starch (end-product of photosynthesis) in plants is being used in the respiratory cycle.

Examples are in preparation. They are split off this document and will become available later, as it takes quite a lot of time to sort things out and the document becomes larger and larger. I think I will collect links to examples in a separate document called "examples.html". Feedback from the Arthur Young discussion list participants is not only welcomed but really necessary as so many people who are subscribed to this forum will have some qualification that enable them to contribute their insights. A joint effort to develop a theory is potentially much better than isolated individual efforts as co-developers can enrich each other's understanding and pitfalls may be identified and avoided.