Generally True Patterns

a new natural history of recognizing ourselves as a part of nature

Disbelief in interconnection has led to multiple environmental crises.

In fact, all things, events, and processes are interconnected. Generally true patterns are those that repeat themselves or behave in similar ways through dissimilar systems. Commonalities exist on a broad scale in complex, ever-changing physical, biological systems, and social systems. Lessons drawn from the patterns can provide guidance for our actions in the world.

To begin your journey into this systems theory thought problem, click here to begin on Part 1 and follow through to Part 22 in the Essays section. Return to this section for technical definitions and a list of patterns by chapter


There is a widely held belief that we are exempt from the laws of nature, that we can treat the living earth without regard to consequences. The sense of unease that many of us feel in our personal, societal and environmental lives comes out of a disconnection from nature.

Pattern recognition is deep immersion into how things, events and processes are connected. Patterns represent the dynamical spirit of nature in the forms of chance and creativity pushed forward by instability. The purpose of this work is to identify patterns that demonstrate our connection to the natural world, to replace the person/nature split with a person/nature connection. It is for those of us who have decided to take responsibility for decisions made in our personal and public lives. It is for anyone seeking a mutually healing relationship with nature.

Generally True Patterns by Chapter with term definitions

Chapter 1 Patterns: Above All Else, Nature Is Characterized by Movement.

The natural history I propose is based on the premise that commonalities exist on a broad scale in complex, ever-changing physical and biological systems, and, as well, in the structures and organizations we ourselves have created.

All actions have consequences.

Person/nature split. The misconception of human separateness from nature, based on a perception of loss or exclusion. Contrast with person/nature connection, perception of relationship with nature based on inclusion.

Generally true patterns. Things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems. In other words, generally true patterns are those that repeat themselves or behave in similar ways through dissimilar systems. A particular pattern must be identifiable in examples common to the non-living and living realms, including the special case within biological nature—us.

Pattern recognition. Deep immersion into now the things, events and processes of the entirety are connected.

Systems theory. “The transdisciplinary study of the abstract organization of phenomena, independent of their substance, type, or spatial or temporal scale of existence. It investigates both the principles common to all complex entities and the (usually mathematical) models that can be used to describe them.” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, pg. 784-785.) In this work, my model is the discipline of natural history. In this form it is a kind of philosophically-defined ethical naturalism in which moral judgments can arise from or be informed by sciences such as physics and biology, and structurally informed by the concept of evolution (change) in its broadest sense. Other integrative models have been suggested by the authors referenced in this work.

Enfolded order of potentiality. A generally true pattern is an enfolded potential that exists across the three realms; a specific occurrence of something is an unfolded realization of a thing, process or event.

Three realms: Our universe consists of three realms accessible by sensory means: the physical realm represented by the reductive sciences of physics and chemistry that includes classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. The second is the biological realm of all living things organized on an ecological model. The third is a special case of the second, basically, us, called by various names, but summarized as the social realm.

Process integration. Nature explained in terms of nonlinear and emergent properties arising from the actions of many agents—the means of connection of aggregates is usually more important than any one individual or individual event, although an aggregate is composed of individual events. The operations of process integration have been explored in complexity science and systems theories.

Chapter 2 Historical Connections of the Anthropocene.

Beginning thoughts on how all things are connected (simple rules leading to complex outcomes), including historical antecedents for this belief. Nature in its three realms is about relationships.


No thing is one thing alone.

Relationships evolve over time.

All things, events, and processes arise in our perception from somewhere.

A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or actual occasion of something.

Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable.

All things of the entirety change and evolve.

The processes of reality are always in motion, regardless of time scale.

Inferences: inductively (individual instances supporting a general conclusion); deductively (general observations leading to specific instances); abduction (provisional acceptance that the explanation, if shown to be correct, gives clarity to the question under study); an idea should be examined in light of its consequences (Peirce).

Process structures: interconnections within or among systems (Jantsch).

Realized: the unfolded form of a pattern manifested as a specific thing, process, or event in just one realm which, connected to related instances in other realms, comprises a generally true pattern; an individuality may also be termed an example of specific separateness.

Chapter 3 The Search for Boundaries.

How we imagine the presence of boundaries and the paradox of non-predictable but inevitable outcomes to events. In any situation, as energy dissipates, the very occurrence of that dissipation creates disruptions.


Energy moves through all systems.

Instability within a system leads to change.

Dissipative structures: the changing form of systems over time (Prigogine)

Forms of conversion: processes whereby the movement of energy restructures a system into a new form.

Chapter 4 Connection and Separation.

The inevitability of change and how the connection or separation we find may be the connection or separation we seek. Everywhere we look in nature, we find a primacy of change. All situations of things, events, processes, and organizations exhibit motion and change.

There is no situation of un-change.

Expanded: All  situations of things, events, processes, and organizations exhibit motion and change—there is no situation of unchanging condition.

Chapter 5 The Order of Connection/The Connection of Order.

How recognition of inevitable change disproves the notion of static order, with particular attention to the concept of time. In trying to find meaning, we must look at relationships and the entirety.


Change compounds change.

Each emergent state includes the properties of the previous stages.

All systems have a history in time.

As things, events, and processes evolve, so also all the relationships among them

Specific separateness. Identification of a particular thing (e.g. a leaf form, a genetic sequence) as a thing in and of itself, but not disconnected from the rest of nature.

Absolute separateness. An unlikely or impossible state where something in nature is disconnected from all other things, events and processes.

Static constancy. A belief holding that things, events, and processes exist largely outside of time and are for all practical purposes, changeless. In Western civilization, expressed as the Great Chain of Being: The universe (and all creation) envisioned as existing in a permanent, unchanging state. (Lovejoy) Basically, the opposite view from generally true patterns.

Plentitude. Phenomena expressed in terms of “reasonableness” (Lovejoy). Everything that exists must exist for a sufficient reason; conversely, there is equal reason for things not to exist. The absoluteness of this is refuted by the existence of mathematical probability.

Principal.Parts of the entirety that are more inclusive of other parts, e.g., consciousness; the more principal parts are more dependent on other parts.

Basic. Parts of the entirety that show less inclusion of other parts of the entirety, e.g. atoms are more basic than molecules; the more basic parts are more independent of other parts. Principal and Basic are foundational concept in systems theory (von Bertalanfy, Jantsch, Laszlo. Wilber: “fundamental” and “significant.”)

Increasing inclusion. The idea of changing, compounding relationships over time, including the definitions of Basic and Principal.

Numerical quantification. The description of physical dimensionality. Time example: linear time is realized, quantitative.

Reasoned qualification. The description of our perception of order. Time example: development time is potential, qualitative.

Chapter 6 Organization, Leadership and Imprecision.

The application of Generally True Patterns in our public and private lives. Patterns describe potential, generally rather than precisely. Imprecision provides guidance compared to the hopelessness of certainty.


All agents within all systems operate with some degree of imprecision.

All systems change and evolve over time.

All systems of the three realms are ultimately, even if distantly, connected to all other systems.

A functional system is one in which the inflow of energy is sufficient to maintain its operations.

The vitality of any system depends on the free flow of information.

As organizations (social, biological, physical) increase in size and complexity, differentiation occurs. Information (or energy) does not move in a vacuum but through an already occupied space.

Information exhibits the quality of continuance over time.

All production is associated with certain costs.

Major changes in a system can come suddenly.

A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment.

Reciprocity is inevitable.

Systems must be built through the necessary developmental stages.
Evolution is a constant in nature.

Longevity is subject to limitations.

Agents, acting separately or collectively, claim a portion of physical space as their own.

The closer a system gets to equilibrium, the less resilient it becomes to any changes in the environment;

All systems are dynamic and evolving or in stasis and dying.

Change compounds.

Systems follow natural processes of renewal to maintain themselves, including the ability to evolve into a different form.

Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity.

Energy moves through all systems.

Structures of organization are systems of signals expressed in the form of energy, matter, and information in physical and cognitive systems.

Organizational structures adapt to fit needs (or events or situations) as need arises.

An alteration or change in an agent or process can send permutations through a system.

Systems evolve where movement of energy pushes the system to the edge of chaos, the place where creativity and adaptation to changing conditions takes place.

Diminishment of energy into a system leads the organizational structure to resemble a closed system.

Energy input is needed to maintain any system over time without running down.

Unpredictable determinism. The agent of creativity through chance—unfolding realizations of enfolded potential over irreversible time. That is, a particular thing, process, or event has an outcome which is both inevitable and unpredictable, an application of imprecision.

Chapter 7 Loss.

Wild-nature pattern lessons are about transformation, including loss of meaning in our relationships and to ourselves.

Systems follow natural processes of change to maintain or transform into a different form.

Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity.

Conscious loss. the policy to diminish, extirpate, or eliminate something.

Chapter 8 Inclusion.

Being somewhat precise (generally true) sometimes is more important than being entirely precise (absolutely true). We and everything are connected.


A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or process

Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable.

In terms of outcomes of situations, there are not infinite possibilities; there is instead one possible, unknown outcome.

Isomorphisms. Similarities or organizational structures in different systems (von Bertalanffy).

For a different format, you can purchase Generally True Patterns as an e-book on Smashwords or Amazon. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This