.. A Partnering Cosmology

Toward A Dynamic Partnering Cosmology

A World in I-Thou - Partnership

Veronika Kauffmann


The paper presents the concept of a multi-referential open system as a thought model for a global age in a dynamic universe. The Dynamic Partnering model introduces a basis for a new cosmology as an alternative to our dominant hierarchic model. The first section of the paper discusses structural limitations of the hierarchic society in the modern world; the second section develops the concept of the Dynamic Partnering Cosmology; the third section provides a graphic conceptualization of the cosmology with reference to familiar patterns.

Model Profile

The Dynamic Partnering Cosmology links individual entities in mutual relationship to create a complex system. This basic archetypal unit, a holon, joins with others to become an integral partner in the Dynamic Partnering Cosmology. The partnering dynamic is inclusive as it incorporates polarity within the system boundaries. It holds diversity essential for requisite variety, thereby providing resilience to the system. In its multiplicity, the system affords manifold observing and feedback levels as a higher order cyber system.

The ethic underlying the Dynamic Partnering model presumes the other as thou, coequal in his or her uniqueness; a cosmology based on coordination of individuals, dynamic units dancing in in multi-dimensional coordination.




As an ancient thought construct, hierarchy presumes a flat earth and rises to include a Ptolomaic universe governed by an anthropomorphic godhead.The cosmology is transcendental, divinely ordered and fixed. Its structure rests on a broad base with ever narrowing levels above, culminating in a pinnacle . The ordering principle maintains internal stability through exclusion by way of class or caste subordination. Established on classifying principles, hierarchy is inherently dualistic; membership stratification is established on the basis of criteria of compatibility; rank and privilege are determined by the prevailing value system. Although internal upheavals may occur, the system is regulated and maintained through its structural framework. Thus hierarchic relationships are essentially static; everyone and everything can be accounted for categorically. The hierarchic cosmology permits unequivocal clarity; shunning ambiguity or controversy, it provides for clear and efficient action.

Historic Map

The hierarchic structural model has governed our world view and our social interactions for so long, throughout recorded Western history, that we take it to be a natural law. However, hierarchy is a map, it is not the territory. It is a thought construct superimposed upon life as a classifying and ordering schematic. It is a norm employed as a tool to control for uncertainty and irregularity and so to preserve the status quo. In my view, we find ourselves lost in the thicket of dynamic complexity because we adhere to such an outlived linear and dualistic cosmology.

The Territory

For the past 4,000 to 6,000 years, our civilization has moved with the terrible efficiency of linear directness, intensified by the hierarchical world view. At the dawn of the historic era, the development of horsemanship, the discovery of the wheel, and their lethal combination, the chariot, enabled migrating and warring peoples to overcome settled indigenous cultures through technological advantage. Might established right; gods supplanted goddesses; patriarchy usurped partnership societies. Eventually, monotheism and the Code of Hammurabi (ca 1780 BC) forged the rule of "law and order" thereby legitimizing the religious and legal foundations of the dominator society.

In modern times when social stratification is considered penetrable, the model acts as a catch 22: an individual is expected to pass beyond his or her group/class/caste classification by way of personal accomplishment. Perfidiously, however, merit rating still occurs "on the curve," as it must in a hierarchical setting. Participants in the hierarchic meritocracy must continually strive, first to gain, then to keep their positions, status and identity on the slippery slope of success. Consequently, environments and individuals, (the other,) are seen opportunistically as superior or inferior, as helpful or hostile, as good or bad - to be conquered. Hierarchy presupposes antithesis as a matter of definition. Individuals and societies locked in the hierarchic model require an other as an object, a foil, to profile themselves and, so it is believed, to develop their potential. We call it "survival of the fittest."


However porous a society perceives itself to be, the hierarchical model presents a stratified equilibrium as a condition of its structural constraints. It is this structural condition that thwarts all efforts to raise up the underclass. Hierarchy can't exist without a bottom. Inevitably, upward movement by some must be offset by the decline of others. In the face of this inevitability, individual achievement rarely overcomes glass ceilings that disqualify by virtue of class/caste membership; to break through such a ceiling, a contender must rank at the top of the next higher tier. I submit it is the incongruence between our democratic ideal butting up against feudal structural limitations that accounts for our pernicious racism and sexism.

Closed System.

It appears at this moment in our history we have come close to a breaking point, the end of our world is conceivable. Information and technical know-how have grown exponentially. Obversely, cultural gains appear to be lost: in many places entire peoples are reverting to barbarous aggressor modes of relating which ignore all societal restraints. Yet, though the danger of our ways is obvious, we appear to face a Faustian dilemma: dammed if ever we should say 'enough!' The pyramid scheme cultivates insatiable appetites in order to postpone its inevitable collapse. However, we may avoid disaster if we shift our attitude from the current antagonistic mode to one that supports the common good. Such an attitudinal shift can happen when we recognize that the hierarchic model is no longer adequate: in a world of dynamic complexity the static model constrains us in an atavistic framework. In an environment in flux, ever-changing conditions demand an adaptive model for sustainability. In becoming aware of the structural coersion in the hierarchic model, we can attend to our manner of relating, from contenders to partners, from boxing to dancing.

I-Thou - Partnering


The partnering concept engages individual entities in dynamic bond to create a complex system, a composite whole greater than the sum of its parts. The basic unit of the Dynamic Partnering Cosmology, a holon, consists of two spheres drawn together by a mutual attractor to join in equality in I-Thou -partnership. Individual spheres connect or disconnect freely as distinct coequal entities. . In their combining, each retains uniqueness and gains the perspective of the common ground; partners honoring essential difference in one another.

Consensual Coordination

The Self-Referential "I"
In our model, the self-referential I contains multiple levels of awareness and polarities. Complex beings each, as self-aware individuals we can affirm our many facets as legitimate aspects of our personalities. Responsibly reflective, we avoid acting on impulse. The self, the I constitutes the primary unit, the holon, of the Partnering Cosmology.

I and Thou
Holons embracing the polarities of selfhood gain exponentially when relating with one another in I-Thou -mutuality. The unique insights, sensibilities and talents of each partner contribute distinctive characteristics to the greater whole. In merging separate and joint affinities, distinct spheres in their interplay form a highly charged three dimensional gyro unit. When a holon incorporates with an other as essential counterpart, a new system arises comprising an emergent quality greater than the sum of its parts, beyond the capacity of each and both.

In the dialogue among the multiple aspects of separate and mutual awareness, second order knowing happens. Neither partner dominates, none possess privileged access to transcendental Truth. Together they emerge a highly charged self-referential system. The entity retains dual exposure to its environment while being held together introspectively in mutuality. Communal values direct the tenor of living of the joint entity. The I-Thou-relationship realizes Humberto Maturana's definition of "love" as "recurrent interactions in mutual acceptance". Individuals engaged in I-Thou-mutuality find themselves relating in Maturana's "domain of constitutive ontologies."

Partnership Society

Religions and philosophies extol love as unconditional acceptance of the other In Jesus Christ's counsel "love thy neighbor as thyself," the notion promises a new world. The Buddhist view extends this attitude to the universe of sentient beings. Many indigenous cultures relate as partners within an inclusive environment.

As recent scholarship unearthed, earlier partnership societies precede recorded history in environments of high culture. Anthropological finds confirm peaceful societies living in abundance with high living standards. Proof of the resilience of the model persists in our time in the partnership archetype, marriage. The ancient symbol of the heart remains to signal the wish for union. It surely represents two spheres joining to create an environment for emergence, to maintain a lineage . To this day, couples exchange rings (spheres) as a reminder to 'honor' the other in the joint estate. Forgotten in our day, but clear in the symbol, spheres must join in mutual acceptance to attain a viable unit. If either dominate the other - or if both submerge their identities within the unit - the symbol of love dissolves . I-Thou -partnering collapses having lost its structural inclination towards mutuality.

In contrast to the competitive hierarchic relationship that requires antithesis, partnering means alliance, by definition. How then to engage with an alien other in I-Thou -relationship? The essence of dynamic partnering idea lies in the embracing of essential difference. Each individual retains uniqueness with allegiance to her or his own environment while joining with another in selective affinity. Accepting difference as fundamentally valid, the perception of other as 'alien' disappears. Such second order consideration releases ego-bound self-centered judgment (and defensiveness) to reveal domains of mutuality and of distinction. Non-judgmental dialoging when exploring varying perspectives, creates a new dynamic, creative environment of emergent creativity.

When more entities join an existing partnership, complexity and viability of the system increase as each sphere contributes to requisite variety with additional relationships. The symbol of emerges referencing uncertainty (which hierarchy abhors). Encircled, the figure represents the lotus, seat of the Buddha, awareness and emergence.

Attractors and Environments
We find ourselves inclined toward relating in equality when we join in the shaping of a common interest. We validate one another and ourselves when we participate creatively in a mutual pursuit. The appeal of the creative interaction often decreases with the attainment of the initial quest. At that point we may enter a new phase of mutuality or separate to follow other attractive propositions. The I-Thou-relationship is forged and maintained freely by mutual affinity. An environment for such engagement can be designed with enticing questions/challenges; the organization of those who connect is shaped and directed by mutually accepted values and constraints. Individuals attend to their manner of relating towards themselves and towards those with whom they interact. In their mutual awareness of themselves and of each other, they create the open space, the crucible for emergent awareness which invites appropriate action.

Infinite Beginnings

Holons join in partnership and partners connect again with related entities and may join as composite units to form the next step in the cosmology. The differences among them provide ever more diverse possibilities for linkages in a multidimensional universe .


The I-Thou- Partnering attitude is aware of our biological interdependence with the environment as a whole system. The model provides the generative, evolving pattern of an open system that adapts to changing conditions in the interplay of diverse perspectives. AsI-Thou- holons combine dynamically in multiple relationships, dynamic energy (trapped in a static hierarchic structure) becomes available to satisfy the needs of the entire system. Multiple spheres combining in mutual affinity for sustained living - each contributing its unique properties, each affirmed in its difference as essential to the whole for its contribution of whatever kind - spheres merging as self-regulating system thrive in chaos, a natural environment.

As fractals linking in ever larger clusters produce a giant, multi-layered global interactive network. Patterns that connect. Throughout the expanding and contracting system, a pooling of essential difference sustains dynamic unity. In its ultimate extension, immanence joins transcendence, matter and wave function, unio mystica. Diversity dancing in mutual relationship realizes the unifying mechanism that makes up the Dynamic Partnering Cosmology.



Graphic Conceptualization: The Dynamic I-Thou-Partnering Model.

The hierarchic structure is by definition static, dualistic and restrictive.
Individual spheres viewed obliquely at an angle.
holon is the basic unit of the I-Thou - Partnering model. Two spheres join together drawn by a mutual attractor. Their combining 'in equality' creates a joint unit where neither dominates. The shape of four hearts points to our symbol of love.
Each entity retains and contributes her or his diverse perspectives; jointly they create a space of emergent qualities, a symbolic hearth. In their alternating dynamic a third dimension opens. The holon becomes a gyro unit.
Hearts and holon disappear when the relationship among the spheres is unequal ... and when individuality is submerged in favor of the union.
When another entity joins the unit, the symbol of energy emerges. New dimensions open . And more hearts. The unit increases its dynamic spin.

Complexity, uncertainty and resilience of the system increase as each entity contributes variety with additional linkages.

The hexagonal sided core of the sphere resembles Buckminsterfullerines It is thought that they represent a state between organic and inorganic matter.

e pluribus unum

The schematic of this complex system presents the Lotus, the seat of Buddha: awareness.

Composite units behave as single entities and may join equally into partnering to form the next step.
In their multiple combining, I-Thou-units span the globe, micro and macro cosmic, in a multidimensional interactive web of untold possibility, fractals ever contracting and expanding with chaos complexity.
In modern monotheistic religions, God is omnipresent, not confined to a throne t our zenith, and the earth is no longer flat. Pictured with this understanding, the hierarchic icon - erected unpredictably "anywhere" upon the globe - assumes dynamic quantum dimensions. It parallels the multiple I-Thou configuration.
The ultimate partnering of immanence and transcendence, matter and wave function, unio mystica.



In feudal societies, the pronoun thou reflects the intimate, subjective relationship to another; third person verb forms were used in addressing those of different status, signifying the reification of the 'other' as role or function in hierarchic relationships. My development of the I-Thou concept is independent of Martin Buber's treaties and does not reference Buber's thoughts in the context of this article.

In modern monotheistic religions, God is everywhere, not confined to a throne above .

See Riane Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future. Harper & Row, 1987. Also Ralph Abraham: Chaos, Gaia, Eros: A Chaos Pioneer Uncovers the Three Great Streams of History. Harper, Collens, 1994.

The collection of laws engraved in stone is the oldest known codex. Hammurabi, King of Babylon (1728-1686 BC) unified several small states under his rule.

Room at the top is ever limited while the feet of the underclass continue to be held to the fire. According to modern dictum, society's stability requires a specified level of unemployment and low wage jobs lest the economy heat up.

Everyone needs to count for something, be it by virtue of dysfunction in a hierarchy of victimhood.

The recent backlash against Affirmative Action confirms the hierarchic understanding of the buoyant tier that it will not maintain its customary privilege if others are admitted to its rank.

Humberto Maturana: "The Search for Objectivity, or the Quest for a Compelling Argument" in Conference Workbook for Language, Emotion, The Social, And The Ethical, A Conference of The American Society for Cybernetics, Seabeck, WA, p.11 and p. 44, 1992.

Open Space Technology, a large group process developed by Harrison Owen for organizational transformation, functions on the principle of mutual alignment and coordination. Participants come together attracted by a mutual interest. They use "the law of two feet" if they find their interest waning or avoid othersŐ disrupting or dominating the group process in dominance. Harrison Owen:Open Space Technology: A User's GuideAbbott Publishing, Potomac, Maryland.

"Buckminsterfullerines" or "Buckyballs" are the carbon-60 and carbon-70 formations discovered by Sir Harold Kroto, University of Sussex, and Robert F. Curl and Richard E. Smalley, Rice. U., the 1996 Nobel Prize winners in chemistry. Carbon-60 and carbon-70 constitute a third carbon manifestation next to diamond and graphite.

Copywrite: Veronika Kauffmann. 1997